This story was updated on Nov. 13 to include priorities from four new advocacy groups. The Standard will continue to update this story until the legislative session starts in January.
Ahead of every legislative session, dozens of nonprofits, industry groups, unions and government agencies let lawmakers know what they want done — more money for schools, less restrictions on certain types of housing, programs to recruit and retain police officers, exemptions from the state’s new climate programs.
But in a short session like next year’s, lawmakers only have 60 days to act. And they will have a lot more money to spend than they anticipated, with a range of revenues ahead of expectations. While issues around climate, transportation, and mental health care are likely to be top of mind for most lawmakers, a host of other matters are certain to grab their attention.
One thing’s certain: there will be winners and losers, as the tight timeline and finite space on the agenda limit what legislators can accomplish.
As we get closer to the 2024 session, the Standard will track priorities from advocacy groups. This rundown will be updated throughout the weeks before Jan. 8 with new asks. If your group has priorities they want to see included, email us at email@example.com.
Organizations advocating for youth are asking the Legislature to put more money into mental health and substance abuse prevention programs for children.
The Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is asking the Legislature to increase funding for children’s behavioral health services and to improve access to where children can get this type of care.
The Children’s Alliance, a coalition of organizations that advocates for kids, has made youth mental health a top priority. The group is asking the Legislature to improve behavioral health care coordination throughout the system, increase funding to school districts for behavioral health care and create a stipend program to help recent graduates in the behavioral health field pay for supervision hours.
Police accountability and law enforcement
The Coalition for Police Accountability plans to keep pushing three bills that failed to pass last session. HB 1513, or Traffic Safety for All, would prevent cops from making traffic stops over minor infractions, like a broken taillight. HB 1579 establishes an independent prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office to handle crimes related to police use of force. The bill aims to reduce conflicts of interest — it’s an issue that came up in the Manny Ellis case. And HB 1445 authorizes the state AG’s office to investigate law enforcement agencies for violations of the Washington Constitution or state law.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington is also advocating for the Traffic Safety for All bill and the bill calling for the attorney general’s review of law enforcement agency violations.
Meanwhile, more help will be sought to fill the ranks of law enforcement agencies. The Association of Washington Cities wants the Legislature to update the local Public Safety Sales Tax to allow councils to use the funds to boost officer pay and increase behavioral health resources. It’s also asking the state to offer more classes at the Basic Law Enforcement Academy and expand regional academies.
Washington’s Community and Technical Colleges are urging the Legislature to provide about $1.8 million over three years for a program intended to lower the cost of professional and technical textbooks for fields like welding, early childhood education and law enforcement.
The group is also asking lawmakers to fund at least 15 more undergraduate level computer science programs across the state. The information and communications technology sector is facing a skills shortage in Washington, according to the group, and colleges need resources to train more students.
Community and technical colleges are also asking the Legislature for $103 million to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their proposal includes installing energy submeters in buildings to ensure they are meeting emissions standards and creating decarbonization plans for campuses.
Along with its K-12 priorities, the Washington Education Association is asking the Legislature to increase wages for support staff, including bus drivers and food service, and adjunct faculty in higher education. A lack of livable wages in these positions leads to high turnover and shortages, according to the union’s priorities.
The Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics wants lawmakers to update a statute surrounding the state’s universal purchase program for vaccines.
They say the definition currently includes a “narrow and outdated” definition of what qualifies as a vaccine. The program provides free vaccine access to anyone in Washington under 19 years old.
The group says the current vaccine definition creates a technical barrier that limits the state from acquiring newly developed, life-saving immunizations.
The Association of Washington Cities and the Washington State Association of Counties are the heavyweight organizations lobbying on behalf of local governments.
In addition to recruiting more law enforcement, their priorities include increasing funding for infrastructure and creating greater access to behavioral health services and substance use disorder treatment.
Cash-strapped local governments want greater flexibility in how they spend revenue they collect and will seek again to get rid of the 1% cap on annual property tax increases that voters imposed a generation ago.
Counties will push for increased state funds to cover the cost of counsel for those facing criminal charges who cannot afford an attorney. They’ve made the request for several years. They’ve also sued to force the state to provide adequate funding or means to raise revenue on their own. Cities and counties also want more financial support for removing thousands of locally-owned culverts and other structures that are blocking waterways used by migrating salmon.
Combatting plastics pollution and climate change will be focal points of the 27 statewide environmental organizations that make up the Environmental Priorities Coalition.
They want to get the Washington Recycling And Packaging Act, better known as The WRAP Act, across the finish line. The legislation to modernize the state’s recycling system and impose tougher rules on packaging incited much debate last session but did not reach the floor in either the House or Senate.
Getting school districts to replace diesel-powered buses with electric ones is another priority.
Funding increases, resources for staff and inclusive learning are top of mind for education organizations across the state.
The Washington Education Association, which is the union that represents public school educators, is calling on the Legislature to continue work it did last year and fully fund special education. The Washington Association of School Administrators is also urging the Legislature to fully fund special education across the state. In their priorities, the administrators say school districts often spend substantially more on special education than their allocated funding.
Similarly, school administrators are asking for policy changes to get a higher ratio of administrative staff per student.
The Washington Education Association is also asking the Legislature for additional resources for students with behavioral health challenges, including increased staffing and professional development for those educators.
School administrators are also urging the Legislature to provide more equitable access to education resources for school districts and more tools and resources to help ensure equitable opportunity for all students.
Lastly, amid book bans across the country, WEA is also asking lawmakers to support inclusive curricula and to oppose the removal of books from libraries and classrooms.
The top priorities of the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, a coalition of immigrant leaders and organizations, are providing unemployment insurance and benefits for undocumented workers and expanding health care access to immigrants.
Secondary priorities for the group include improving resources for newly arrived migrants through legal services and emergency housing, getting clarity on the process for undocumented people applying for professional licenses, and the bill that came up last session to end traffic stops for non-moving violations.
The group is also supporting a long list of tertiary priorities, ranging from personal data privacy rights to independent investigations for incidents where police use force to a violent extremism commission.
by Washington State Standard Staff, Washington State Standard
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