FAN said poor fared well in 2016 WA Legislative budget
Elise DeGoyer, co-director of the Faith Action Network of Washington, reported that when the Washington State House and Senate adjourned a 30-day special session on March 29, “the poor and the vulnerable in our state fared pretty well in regards to the 2016 supplemental budget.”
She recently shared highlights of four budget victories that were in FAN’s legislative agenda.
• Washington’s mental health system received about $40 million in funding for more staff, particularly at the state’s largest mental health hospital, to help provide better care and reduce the boarding of mentally ill people.
• Housing and homelessness programs gained about $13 million, particularly to address youth homelessness.
“It was a good example of FAN’s work with one of our community partners, Columbia Legal Services, to help get HB 1682 passed and funded in the budget at $2 million. This establishes a voucher system for homeless students in public schools,” said Elise.
• The Office of Civil Legal Aid was funded at about $550,000. This office coordinates the statewide effort to provide various legal needs for those in the state who are otherwise unable to afford legal assistance, which helps keep them in their homes and at their jobs.
• Post-Secondary Education in Prisons was the fourth budget victory. Sen. Mike Hewitt was determined to see that, even though his bill, SB 6260 on post-secondary education in prisons, was stalled in the Senate, a proviso (amendment) that captured the essence of his bill was put into the final budget that was adopted.
“This proviso will only be in effect for the remaining year of this biennium, but we believe it will give some who are getting ready to come out of prison a ‘step up’ in regard to having better skills to be successful in their re-entry to society,” she said.
Elise added that policy bills on FAN’s legislative agenda passed during this session, thanks to the efforts of our advocacy work and individuals, who told their legislators their concerns and hopes for the state.
These successes include:
HB 1553 – The Certificates of Restoration of Opportunity bill will establish a program that will reduce the chance of someone coming out of the prison system to re-offend.
HB 1682 - The Homeless Student Stability Act will begin a voucher system in public schools to give homeless students and their households more stability, allowing them a better chance to succeed in school.
HB 2545 – The Toxics Free Kids and Families bill will require the elimination of certain chemicals in kids’ products that are sold and manufactured in this state.
HB 2908 - The Use of Deadly Force bill will establish a task force of about 17 members that will meet four times before the next session to bring recommendations on police-community standards and reforms on the use of deadly force by law enforcement.
SB 5342 – The Human Trafficking Definition bill will expand how the state legally understands human trafficking in terms of enforcement. This bill defines human trafficking taking place not only in the sex industry but also in the labor industry. The state attorney general’s office will be a key focus for its implementation.
FAN’s advocating faith communities will meet at annual Spring Summits to discuss the legislative agenda in the past session and plan the rest of the year.
This year, there will be conversation about FAN’s new effort to establish work groups around specific issues, such as economic justice, criminal justice, the environment, and health care, to name a few possibilities.
The 2016 summits will be held from 3 to 5 p.m., Sunday, May 15 in Seattle; Sunday May 22, at Bethany Presbyterian in Spokane; Sunday, June 5 in Vancouver, and Sunday, June 12, at Toppenish United Methodist for Yakima.
FAN is now located at 3720 Airport Way South in Seattle.
For information, call 206-625-9790 or visit fanwa.org.
Jessie Dye of Earth Ministry, which has partnered for years with FAN to promote the bill to ban toxic flame retardants in children’s products, said that “parents, consumers, firefighters and children can now breathe a sigh of relief, knowing some of the worst toxic flame retardants will not be used in furniture and children’s products.”
The Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act bans five of the worst flame retardants, including TBBPA, used in children’s car seats. It establishes a process to address six other flame retardants in products, she said.
For information, visit earthministry.org.
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