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Washington legislative session

The End of the 2014 Legislative Session

On March 13th, just a couple of minutes before midnight, the 2014 legislative session adjourned.  This was the first time in several years that the legislature adjourned on-time.
The final days of session were mostly spent finding a compromise between the House and Senate on the supplemental budget.  An agreement was reached and a conference supplemental operating budget was released and passed by both houses.
There are many programs that we support at WithinReach that saw funding included in this final budget (amounts listed are the Totals included both state funds as well as other funding sources such as federal):-    Healthiest Next Generation – $350,000 in funding is provided for the Department of Health to support this initiative to improve children’s health by promoting healthy eating, making more breastfeeding friendly environments, increasing physical activity, and improving access to healthy foods and drinking water among children.
  • Medicaid Plan Choice – $3.9 million in funding is provided to implement functionality with the Washington Healthplanfinder website so that Medicaid clients can select the Medicaid managed care organization of their choice. This option will be available in FY 2015.
  • Autism screening – $1.256 million in funding is provided for the Health Care Authority to reimburse for autism screenings provided to children at the age of 18 months.
  • Farmers Market Program – $200,000 in additional funding for this program that offers vouchers that help some of Washington’s most vulnerable populations purchase fresh, and nutritious produce at farmers markets.
  • Emergency Food Assistance Program – $800,000 in additional funding for this program that supports food banks around Washington.

Unfortunately some of our other top priorities did not pass this year, including creating a Breastfeeding Friendly Washington designation system (HB 2329/SB 6298) and Breakfast After the Bell (HB 2536/SB 6444).  Both of these efforts had some really great hearings where Alison Carl White was able to testify about the importance of these issues and the work we have already done at WithinReach to promote them.

It’s worth noting that this was the first year that both of these bills were introduced and it is fairly rare for a bill to pass on its first year.  I think you can expect to see both of these issues come back again!

I wanted to end by highlighting a win this session that could easily slide under the radar, but it was really important to immunization policy in Washington.  A bill was introduced this year (SB 6297) that would have had the Department of Health make resources available for pregnant women about childhood immunizations.  It was a nice bill that we were supportive of at WithinReach.  However, at one point, an amendment was passed that would have had had the resources include information about flexible approaches to vaccines.  At WithinReach, we support the only schedule that has ever been proven safe and effective; any deviation from this schedule puts our communities at risk because it lacks a scientific foundation and likely results in immunization delays or opting out of immunizations entirely.  Alison testified about the dangers of this amendment when the bill went to the House Health Care committee.  That committee successfully removed the dangerous amendment language.  While the bill didn’t ultimately pass, we were able to prevent bad policy from passing.  As Alison said in our recent WithinReach staff meeting, “Having no bill is better than having a bad bill”.  It was a great win to get that language removed and prevent bad policy from going though, and it was also good to have the opportunity to speak to the importance of immunizations and the work we do at WithinReach.

Thank you to everyone who supported our legislative priorities this year.  A nice, long interim lies ahead where we can lay a lot of groundwork and prepare for the 2015 legislative session.

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