Two young children playing at day care

Notes From Olympia: Jan. 22, Week 2 of the 2021 Legislative Session

In this week’s Notes From Olympia: Fair Start Act hearings, trivia’s back, Start Early Washington resources, highlights of the week and early learning updates.

Erica Hallock January 22, 2021
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog

Trivia’s Back!

With the focus at the U.S. Capitol this week, I became curious about federal connections to our Washington State Legislature. As a result of my late night Internet searches, we have a two-prong trivia question this week:

  1. The Washington State Congressional delegation is comprised of two U.S. Senators and 10 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. How many members of our Washington State Congressional delegation previously served in the Washington State Legislature?
  2. Of those current members of our delegation who served in our Legislature, who was the most recent member to serve in our state Legislature and who was first elected to our state Legislature?

Start Early Washington Resources

As an organization just celebrating its one-year anniversary, Start Early Washington is working to build out its website and while it is a work in progress, we wanted to flag some resources that may be helpful:

Highlights of the Week

Settling in to this virtual session. We are now on day 12 of a 105-day virtual legislative session and navigating this new system is already “old hat” to lawmakers, staff, lobbyists and citizens engaging in the legislative process alike. Well, kind of.

One of the biggest takeaways so far is the continued realization that this process is simply going to take longer.  Last week we discussed the logistics involved for pulling off virtual hearings and while the legislative staff is really doing a herculean job, hiccups are bound to happen in nearly every hearing and floor session.  For those who had growing their patience as a 2021 New Year’s resolution, there will be ample opportunity to build that muscle.

Revenue collections to exceed forecasts. On Thursday, the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its January report.  The good news is that General-Fund State contributions for December 11, 2020 – January 10, 2021 are $260.7 million (or 14.9%) higher than forecasted.  Our state’s hot real estate market continues to help fuel these increases.  The next official revenue report will come out on March 17, 2021 and those numbers will influence the 2021-23 budget building process

Fiscal committees hold work sessions. With the focus largely on policy committees in the first few weeks of the legislative session, the Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations Committees often use that time to educate their members on the budget process and do deep dives on specific issues.  On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee had a briefing on budget basics.  The state budgeting process is incredibly complex and opaque, but this powerpoint provides some insights into the overall process and the decision points facing legislators engaged in budget writing.

On Tuesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee received a bipartisan report from the Washington State Senate Special Committee on Economic Recovery.  Chaired by Senators David Frockt and Shelly Short, the special committee was formed in May 2020 and was charged with evaluating the impact of the pandemic on our economy and developing recommendations on how to help workers and employers in our state’s recovery.  Child care was a key focus of the select committee’s review and recommendations.  The report calls for investments in Working Connections Child Care reimbursement rates support for providers to increase supply and additional capital investment in early learning facilities.  I understand Senators Frockt and Short will be on an upcoming episode of TVW’s “Inside Olympia” where they will discuss this report and the importance of child care in our state’s recovery.  I will include a link in next week’s Notes.

“Early Action Bill” to be announced. Either tonight or over the weekend, details are expected to be released about an “Early Action Bill” meant to respond to imminent needs resulting from the pandemic, funded by dollars received from the federal stimulus package passed at the end of 2020 and some state funding.  We expect this Early Action Bill to include funding to address issues like vaccine distribution, rental and food assistance and support for child care providers.  As the name suggests, once introduced, the idea is this proposal would move swiftly through the legislative process so dollars can get out and respond to needs.

Early Learning Updates

Fair Start Act heard in policy committees. The big early learning news of the week centered on public policy committee hearings on the Fair Start Act.  (Another reminder about the availability of Start Early Washington’s summary of the bill as introduced).

On Thursday, the House Children, Youth and Families Committee devoted its full hearing to this bill and even with that dedicated time, not everyone who signed up to testify was able to present. As you are sipping your coffee and reading this newsletter, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee is likely holding its hearing on the bill. These bills are companion bills which means they are currently identical.

This year the policy committee timeline is a bit compressed to provide ample time for floor votes down the line. This means that all bills must be out of policy committees by February 15th and we are seeing bills moving at a quick clip. The House version of the Fair Start Act (HB 1213) is expected to be voted out of the House Children, Youth and Families Committee on Wednesday, January 27th. As of this writing, a vote date has not been set in the Senate. We will update next week on how that went and what amendments were adopted.

Additional early learning bills. The Fair Start Act would create a comprehensive early childhood system and there are a number of other bills in play this year, including:

  • HB 1278 by Representatives Dent and Eslick.  This bill is scheduled for public hearing in the House Children, Youth and Families on January 28th and would suspend certain professional development and higher education requirements until Sept. 30, 2025.
  • SB 5023 by Senator Claire Wilson was heard in Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee on January 15th and aims to ensure that certain unemployment benefits do not render families ineligible for Working Connections Child Care.
  • Heard in the Senate Health Care Committee on January 18th, SB 5062 by Senator Karen Keiser would create health equity zones.  The social determinant of health focus of this legislation could weave in early childhood strategies.
  • Scheduled for hearing this morning in Senate Early Learning and K-12, SB 5136 by Senator Claire Wilson would waive licensing fees for child care providers.  This is intended as a provider support strategy.
  • Also scheduled in Senate Early Learning and K-12 this morning, SB 5151 is the Department of Children, Youth and Families licensing bill.  Sponsored by legislative early learning champion Claire Wilson, the bill includes a provision to move the outdoor preschool effort from pilot to a permanent option for families.
  • Finally, SB 5277 by Senator Shelly Short would continue the current suspension of Early Achievers through July 1, 2022.  It has not been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee.

Trivia Answers

Answer 1:

A total of eight members of our 12-member Congressional delegation served in the Washington Legislature at some time. Both of our Senators served (Sens. Murray and Cantwell) as did the following U.S. Representatives: Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Congressman Derek Kilmer, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Congressman Dan Newhouse and Congressman Adam Smith.

And while Congresswoman Suzan DelBene did not serve in the Legislature, she was the Director of the Washington State Department of Revenue under former Governor Christine Gregoire. Further, Congressman Rick Larsen was once a lobbyist for the Washington State Dental Association. I can’t, of course, ignore our two other members of Congress, Congresswoman Kim Schrier is a physician who became politically active in health care policy and the newest member of our delegation, Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland was the Mayor of Tacoma where, I’m sure, she engaged in state-level advocacy.

Answer 2:

The member of our Congressional delegation to most recently serve in our Legislature is Congresswoman Jayapal who was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2016. She was serving in the Washington State Senate prior to her election to Congress.

Now if I were in an official trivia contest, I would have answered the second part of this question incorrectly. I would have definitively responded that the person elected earliest to our Legislature was Senator Patty Murray. The mom in tennis shoes. I would have been fully confident. And I would have been wrong.

In fact, Senator Murray’s colleague in the Senate, Senator Maria Cantwell, was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives in 1986 at the age of 28! (Senator Murray was elected to the State Senate in 1988). I did a little Internet searching for pictures of Senator Cantwell from her Washington State House days and could only find this thumbnail picture:

It’s a blurry picture, but the big hair does scream late 1980’s. In looking at her colleagues in the class of 1989, I stumbled upon some familiar faces, including our current Governor Jay Inslee who was representing Yakima in the House at that time. He, too, has a different hair look:

The class of 1989 also included former Governor Gary Locke. The only legislator in the class of 1989 that is in the Legislature today is now Senator Mike Padden of the Spokane Valley, but he did take a break from the Legislature for a period to serve as a judge.