(Way too early) Legislative Session Update
We have 3 priorities this year and we're seeing progress on all 3! Plus two unexpected opportunities . . .
Update on this very young legislative session.
Skookum is focused on 3 priorities this year:
1.) Direct & Fund WSIPP to study outcomes created by Skookum House & other similar facilities.
2.) More flexible rules for Skookum House.
3.) Support DCYF in their effort to modernize their database.
So far we have movement on all 3 of those and two other unexpected opportunities have arisen.
So, on the funding for a study of Skookum House. Mikaela met with Representative Van Werven last week and she has agreed to put this forward as a budget proviso which would give it a simpler path than if it were a bill. Stoked about that.
And Representative Shewmake agreed to support it when the time comes. So, that's all good news. We're on track with that one.
Second, we came to a verbal agreement with the department about some increased flexibility specifically on the training hours requirement. So it looks like that might get done without legislation. Which is fantastic news. Still some details to be ironed out, but we agree in principle.
Third, DCYF included money in their decision package to modernize their database. And Governor Inslee also had that in his budget, so we've spoken with the lead budget negotiators in both the house and the senate, letting them know we'd like this to be a priority for them. Neither of those bodies has released it's budget yet, but that'd be the next step on that front.
Finally, a few months ago in a conversation with Senator Steve O'Ban, we got to talking about the Skookum Mentors program, and we pointed out that the way the original bill was written, we're unable to get reimbursed when volunteers are involved, and volunteering is kinda our thing.
So he sponsored a bill this year, SB 5096, which modifies the language in the original from "employees" to "employees and volunteers". Fantastic news.
I'm meeting on Thursday with the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation, and asking for a hearing on that bill so we can get it out of committee and onto the Senate floor.
Also, our friends over at the Washington Association of Children and Families (WACF) worked with Representative Sullivan on a bill that would conduct a contract review and rate study for foster care agencies like Skookum. That's fantastic news. Much needed. And it already has a hearing on Friday at 8a, so I am going down to Olympia to testify about it. So, watch for me on WTV, I guess.
Our plan right now is for Mikaela to make a trip down to Olympia once every two weeks or so, and for me to travel down whenever one of our priorities is being heard in a committee.
That's where we're at. It's early, but lots to be hopeful about.