United Ways of Washington Legislative Update 2023 - Week 7

The first major legislative hurdle – the policy committee cutoff – was cleared last Friday. Unless a bill is related to the budget, it must be approved by a policy committee to receive any further consideration this session. The next cutoff for non-budget related bills is this Friday when they have to clear fiscal committees. Read on.

Bill Would Set Standards for School District Early Childhood Education Programs
Last week, the House Committee on Education approved H.B. 1550 which establishes in state law a program, “Transition to Kindergarten” and terminates programs known as Transitional Kindergarten. The bill sets educational standards for school programs for four-year-olds who would benefit from additional preparation but who are unable to access it. The bill was amended in attempt to ensure local coordination with existing pre-school and child care providers. The bill now is in the House Committee on Appropriations. In calling on her committee to support the legislation, Chair Sharon Tomiko Santos spoke positively of programs in Walla Walla, Bellingham and Vancouver but argued that this bill is necessary to fulfill the promise of universal early childhood education.

Fine Tuning of Working Families’ Tax Credit 
The House Committee on Appropriation now has before it two bills which would adjust eligibility for the Working Families Tax Credit - a program which can provide up to $1,200 annually to individuals and families. H.B. 1075 would lower the eligibility to age 18 regardless of whether a dependent is involved and H.B.1477 would allow individuals filing as "married filing separately,” making it possible for survivors of domestic violence to apply without having to file a joint return. The bill also allows for seeking unclaimed benefits up to three years.

Let Your Legislators Know How Much You Love 2-1-1
Key legislators have been briefed and committee staff have the details of the Washington 211 funding request for $10.4 million. As we wait for the budget to emerge, now is a good time for 211 supporters to let their legislators know how important this funding is to ensure equitable access to essential services such as food, housing and legal support. You can contact your legislators individually using this list or call the hotline (1-800-562-6000). You can find more advocacy information here.