Despite its short length, this legislative session bore significant victories for kids and families. And for the second year in a row, advocates from across the state were able to make their voices heard in Olympia by signing in to support or oppose bills and give testimony remotely. We hope to see the legislature continue this increased accessibility in the years to come, so that even more Washingtonians can participate in the process.
We were thrilled to see the state’s one-year supplemental budget make unprecedented investments in kids and families. We’ll see major new funding for fighting poverty and creating access to health care. Everything from enhanced reimbursement rates for pediatric oral health care, to continuous Apple Health coverage for kids 5 and under, to higher payments for low-income families to cover the cost of diapers, to greater support for universal free meals at more schools statewide, to a dramatic increase in support for affordable child care.
And an incredible number of new bills passed to safeguard child and family health and economic security.
Senate Bill 5793 improves the health of our democracy by ensuring that people with lived experience who serve on state boards and commissions that shape the future provision of services can be compensated for their time;
By passing House Bill 2050, the legislature is eliminating the requirement that parents pay for the cost of their child’s confinement in juvenile detention facilities;
Senate Bill 5883 ensures that homeless youth can consent to preventative and routine healthcare decisions;
House Bill 1878 requires that the state assume financial responsibility for serving free school meals to hungry children. This is really good news for hungry kids and academic achievement as we continue to recover from the pandemic’s shocks to health care and economic wellbeing.
However, we were extremely disappointed that legislators ignored hundreds of hours of work by the Dental Therapy Task Force, and strong support from advocates, and yet again refused to expand the practice of dental therapy statewide. Dr. Stephan Blanford, executive director of Children’s Alliance, points out: “Access to good oral health care has long term consequences for children, but for too many children of color and children from low-income families, lack of access becomes the source of a lifetime of disparities. The licensure of dental therapists in Washington state could easily address this disparity, yet we continue to allow self-serving special interests to block this game-changing solution.”
Smart revenue measures like House Bill 1406, a tax on excessive wealth, and House Bill 1465, addressing the inequities in our estate tax, also did not move forward. Coupled with the recent court decision to strike down the capital gains tax, the lack of movement on these bills illustrates the intense resistance we face in the effort to fix our state’s racist and regressive tax system.
Thank you to everyone who spoke up and took action for kids this session. With your support we will continue our work to ensure all Washington kids have what they need to thrive.