We recently gathered our thoughts about what works to persuade lawmakers to act in kids’ interests over the course of special session. Now that the Legislature has begun its special session to complete its work on the two-year budget, we share these three tips in the hopes that they can help us all be more effective advocates for kids.
Advocate close to home: First, don’t go to Olympia this week hoping to see your legislator. It’s possible most legislators won’t actually be at the Capitol at all. Often a core team of legislators with leadership positions or responsibility for budget negotiations will stay in Olympia while many lawmakers and their staff work from their districts. When budget writers reach a draft agreement, leaders will call legislators back to the Capitol to finalize the budget and pass budget-related bills.
New and different: With prolonged work on the budget, now’s a good time to get creative, or to bring a bit of new information to your lawmakers’ attention. Here’s an example: Our KIDS COUNT in Washington predictions of early learning’s potential to close the opportunity gap. Make sure your legislator sees the power of preschool to build racial equity.
Persistence: In-person meetings, e-mails, phone calls and other forms of advocacy over the weeks and months that remain will keep your lawmakers focused on what kids need. In-district advocacy like letters to the editor in your local paper or sending a handwritten note to the legislator’s in-district office are great forms of advocacy during a special session. No matter how many members of the House and Senate are in Olympia—only the budget negotiators or all 147 lawmakers from both chambers—kids need us to raise our voices. That’s especially true when legislators are in the midst of negotiating a budget that will set the state’s course through June 2019.
We at Children’s Alliance spent the Monday before Special Session helping members tell their legislators about the need for affordable health coverage through House Bill 1291.
Since then, we have provided budget negotiators with our priorities for the final agreement, including: greater access to quality preschool; passage of House Bill 1291 for affordable access to health care for Washington parents who’ve been denied it for too long; and a unified Department of Children, Youth & Families rooted in racial equity and accountability. We’ll continue to oppose cuts to affordable child care for working families and to State Food Assistance for immigrant families.
Kids can thrive when we all share the responsibility to invest in basic services, quality schools, health care and other public goods. That’s why we will mobilize Children’s Alliance members for an April 26 hearing on a bill that raises crucial revenue and improves our outdated, upside-down tax system.
We’ll also remind state lawmakers that federal policy underpins our state’s ability to deliver for kids. That’s a timely reminder now that President Donald Trump is threatening to take child care from thousands of Washington working families.
Last, we’ll emphasize the need to do the budget right—not just to get a budget done. Washington’s kids deserve more than a rush job.