Tick-tock-tick-tock! The first day of the Washington State Legislature’s 2016 session is January 11. Since it is a short session ending on March 10, the clock is ticking.
Last year’s 176-day session focused primarily on the development of the biennial State budget and meeting the mandated requirements under the McCleary ruling to fund education. It was a long and difficult session. This session will present its own unique challenges.
First, the Legislature needs to wrestle with the impact of Initiative 1366, decided by a very small number of voters during the November election. A little over 19 percent of registered voters in the state voted to require legislators to have a two-thirds majority vote on all tax issues and if not, the sales tax is dropped by one percent. What does this mean? It means $1.5 billion less money each year for programs and services for our communities across the state.
Second, many legislators are up for reelection. With such weighty issues as funding education, finding new sources of revenue, and preparing for their own election campaigns, it will be difficult to introduce extensive amounts of new and complex legislation while still ending the session on time.
AARP’s work for this legislative session began months ago by building and strengthening relationships with our partner organization and coalitions and focusing advocacy on three areas:
- The CARE Act—AARP is working in states across the nation to enact the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which would help family caregivers as their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home. Recognizing the critical role family caregivers play in helping keep their loved one at home and out of costly institutions, the CARE Act features three important provisions:
- The name of the family caregiver is recorded when a loved one is admitted to the hospital.
- The family caregiver is notified if the loved one is to be discharged to another facility or back home.
- The facility must provide an explanation and live instruction of the medical tasks—such as medication management, injections, wound care, and transfers—that the family caregiver will perform at home.
- Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults—The incidence of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults is on the rise. AARP is working with the State Long Term Care Ombudsman’s Program, the Attorney General’s Office and the King County Prosecutor’s office to amend the criminal statutes to give stiffer penalties to those who choose to financially exploit vulnerable adults.
- Restore Hearing Aid Coverage in Medicaid—Hearing loss is a public health issue, as untreated hearing impairment increases the risk of costly health outcomes from falls, disability, cognitive impairment, and dementia. Nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74, and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss. AARP will push to restore the Medicaid adult hearing hardware and services benefit discontinued in 2010.
AARP’s advocacy and outreach efforts are not possible without you. Last year your support helped us pass and create the Washington Small Business Retirement Marketplace, which will give more than 1.1 million Washingtonians a chance for a more secure and independent retirement.
Your voice is important, so get involved. Visit www.aarp.org/wa for the latest on what’s happening at the state capitol. If you are interested in attending hearings in Olympia, volunteering your time, or contacting your legislator, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 1-866-227-7457.
Contributor Cathy MacCaul directs advocacy efforts for the Washington state chapter of AARP, a membership organization that leads positive social change and delivers value to people age 50 and over through information, advocacy, and service.
Photo credit: (top) Washington State’s legislative building interior by Sally, accessed via Flickr Creative Commons at www.flickr.com/photos/quiltsalad/3824992056. Smaller photos courtesy of Cathy MacCaul, AARP Washington.