After 105 days, our state legislative session came to a close on April 25. During this time, we made significant progress that will have a positive impact on our kids’ lives for years to come.
Going into the session, we knew that mental and behavioral health was a top concern for many Washington families. As part of the Health Coalition for Children and Youth, we worked to pass several bills that aim to address this issue. One such important piece of legislation is House Bill 1580, which will create a statewide support system for youth with complex behavioral health needs that are boarded in hospitals. Right now, dozens of children are stuck in hospitals, unable to access appropriate care. This bill provides crucial staffing and funding that will help these children get the support they so desperately need.
Working alongside our partners within the Early Learning Action Alliance (ELAA), we were able to pass meaningful legislation that strengthens our early learning workforce and increases families’ access to affordable quality child care. Senate Bill 5225 will expand eligibility for Working Connections Child Care to child care employees, immigrant families, and families in therapeutic courts. This bill not only expands access to child care for working families but also grants affordable care to educators who need care for their own kids. Another piece of legislation that will help our hardworking child care providers is Senate Bill 5316. This legislation will lower barriers to employment for early childhood educators by waiving the fees they face to submit background checks.
After over a decade of advocacy from community members, dental professionals, and Tribal leaders, the legislature made a huge step forward this year by passing House Bill 1678, which will expand the practice of dental therapy in community health clinics across the state. Due to inequities in our health care system, kids of color and families with low incomes have historically lacked access to dental care, which has led to unacceptable disparities in oral health. Dental therapy is one way to help address these disparities. We look forward to monitoring the implementation of this legislation and seeing the positive impacts it has on Washington’s kids.
Although proposals for a wealth tax (which would apply to extreme wealth derived from assets like stocks and bonds) and Guaranteed Basic Income (a program that would allocate no-strings-attached cash to people with low incomes) did not make it across the finish line this year, we were encouraged to see both public and legislator support grow. As the state Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the capital gains tax demonstrates, Washington is ready for progressive revenue generated by a more equitable system of taxation.
Now that the legislative session is over, we can take a pause to celebrate and reflect on the progress we’ve made. But only briefly, as there is still much work to be done. If you’d like to stay informed about the legislation that passed this session, and what we’ll be working on in the coming months, please sign up for our action alerts. We need every voice to continue to speak up for a better future for all Washington kids.
More at Seattle’s Child:
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Children’s Alliance to lawmakers: Kids first in 2023