The 2013 Washington state legislative session was especially challenging given the complex realignment of Senate leadership. Because the two chambers were dominated by groups with disparate views on many issues of concern to FCWPP, it was generally difficult to get legislative agreement. However, in spite of this, we are pleased that significant FCWPP-supported measures have been enacted into law. For issues we supported without resolution, we feel we have laid the groundwork for success in the future consistent with our values and testimonies.
The Senate and House budgets both support Medicaid expansion to cover state residents with incomes below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. This creates health coverage for 250,000 people who currently have none. In addition, increased federal funding reduces current state expenditures by $300 million. But the two budgets need to be reconciled to preserve many social services for disadvantaged citizens and to raise the necessary revenue.
A bill to compensate those wrongly convicted was enacted into law, while an attempt to restrict judicial discretion for juveniles illegally in possession of a gun was stopped.
A climate legislative and executive work group was established to recommend a state program of actions and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Repealing the death penalty, universal firearms background checks, establishing a corrections ombuds, and higher education for prisoners did not progress to a full vote this session but good groundwork and support have been set.
Our Legislative Advocate and Policy Analyst, Steven Aldrich, walked the floors of the legislative buildings again and again to meet with legislators, their aides, and allied groups and to identify and monitor bills that are consistent with our priorities. A total of 13 Action Alerts and Updates were emailed to activists and posted on the FCWPP website (www.fcwpp.org) during the past year. Thanks to Friends who contacted their legislators!
In addition, FCWPP supporters who live in the districts of crucial “swing vote” legislators were individually contacted and encouraged to lobby those legislators when their votes were most needed. We thank all of you who participated in lobbying efforts by contacting legislators through phone or email, speaking with them in person, testifying at public hearings, and encouraging friends and neighbours to do the same.
Quaker Lobby Day: February 18, 2013
Our fifth annual Quaker Lobby Day attracted 51 Friends, who met at Olympia Friends Meetinghouse. Participants split into small groups for discussions on the three major FCWPP issue areas in preparation for lobbying. The Criminal Justice group focused on gun violence, abolishing the death penalty, and creating a corrections ombuds. The Economics Justice group covered Medicaid expansion, health benefit exchange funding, and creation of a Washington Health Security Trust. The Local Responses to Global Challenges group dealt with establishing a Washington Investment Trust and micro-hydro renewable energy. Then, on the capitol campus, we met and talked with legislators and their aides from fourteen legislative districts. Friends spoke with enthusiasm about their experiences at Quaker Lobby Day. Be on the lookout next year for another opportunity to bring our Friendly presence and Quaker testimonies to the seat of public policy decision making in Washington State.
Much work is left to do in support of Economic Justice; however, the fact that both the Senate and House budgets support Medicaid expansion to cover state residents with incomes below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level is cause for celebration. This supports receipt of $1.6 billion by the state from the Federal government to pay for this benefit. Thanks to all who worked to persuade legislators who were not sure using government to help the uninsured was such a good idea. The remaining economic justice issues are connected to the Budget, which is being negotiated during the Special Session. The Budget proposed by the House increases revenue needed to enhance funding for education as required by recent Supreme Court rulings, to maintain support for early education and other programs needed by economically challenged Washingtonians so all get the full value of the investment we make in their children’s K-12 education, and to protect what remains of our social safety nets after three years of cuts. The House Budget also devotes $71 million to housing, including $56 million for the Housing Trust in the Capital Budget. Instead of closing loopholes to find new revenue, the proposed Senate Budget creates 13 additional ways special interest groups can avoid paying taxes. Money needed for education in the Senate budget is taken from the poor and disabled. This budget cuts much of what remains of our state’s disability lifeline, taking away the $197/month that 22,000 aged, blind, and disabled Washingtonians currently rely on for basics like toothbrushes or fix-a-dent, toilet paper, and quarters for the Laundromat. In addition, Real Estate Excise Tax deposits that were previously used to fund the Housing Trust Fund are shifted to the Education Legacy Trust. Vocational education, college financial aid, and community job training are all cut. Parks are significantly under-funded; many would close.
1) Death Penalty. FCWPP worked closely with Safe and Just Alternatives, supporting repeal of the death penalty and, for now, the alternative of life without parole. Despite a strong effort, the opportunity for testimony before the House Judiciary Committee came only after legislative cut-off, and the issue did not come to a vote this year. We, however, are encouraged by the progress in gaining new supporters.
2) Corrections Ombuds (SB 5177). Initiated by FCWPP in 2007, an ombuds office would consist of individuals independent of the Department of Corrections to act as researchers and advocates for addressing potential problems and lawsuits with the prison system. Although we worked closely with the prime sponsor, Sen. Carrell, and testified in support, the bill did not attain a vote by the whole Senate, probably because of its fiscal note.
3) Support for Prisoners. HB 1341, which provides redress and money for those wrongly convicted, was enacted. HB 1429, which would provide support for post-secondary education for prisoners, passed both its policy and appropriations committees, but did not reach a full House vote.
4) Gun Violence. FCWPP played a significant role in stopping SHB 1096, which would have restricted judicial discretion by requiring detention of juveniles illegally in possession of a gun. We supported HB 1588, which was intended to provide background checks for all sales of firearms, but it did not come to a vote due to lack of majority support.
Local Responses to Global Challenges
1) Governor’s Greenhouse Gas Emission bill. Creates a climate legislative and executive work group to recommend a state program of actions and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Although watered down in the Senate, the bill passed in both chambers and was signed into law.
2) Washington Investment Trust (State Bank). This proposal — to place state tax revenues in a state owned bank for in-state benefit avoids state constitutional issues that have stymied passage in the past — did not move forward this session. 3) A bill for renewable energy from micro hydro was initially supported by FCWPP, but we opposed an amended version that could result in a reduction of 5-10% in new renewables. The bill was not enacted.
The FCWPP Legislative Committee, May, 2013