Housing Advocacy in Action! Week of March 20
Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy
We are now over two-thirds of the way through this 105-day legislative session. Over 2000 bills are already dead for the session. If a bill is dead, since it is the beginning of the two-year budget/bill cycle, it will be able to start the process over in 2018 without being reintroduced. But there is also a saying in Olympia that a bill is never really dead until “sine die”. Sine die, basically meaning “adjournment”, is called to close a legislative session. Even if lawmakers are called back for a special session, they will call Sine Die by (or before) April 23, which is the last day allowed for this session.
1473 bills have been introduced in the House (an average of 15 per Representative). 566 of those House bills have been passed out of House committees. 376 of them have been passed out of the House, and are now in the Senate. Two House bills have already passed the Senate.
1297 bills have been introduced in the Senate (an average 26 per Senator). 484 Senate bills have been passed out of Senate committees. 283 of them have been passed out of the Senate, and are now in the House. Four Senate bills have already passed the House.
The Legislature is set to release budgets this week: action needed!
The state Senate will be the first to release their budgets this year. The Senate Republicans are holding a press conference on Tuesday, March 21 to discuss their Operating Budget proposal. They are expected to release the Capital Budget a little later in the week. Once the first legislative budget is out, hearings will begin. The Housing Alliance will be weighing in with either concern over cuts to safety net programs or with thanks if our budget priorities are protected. The House is currently expected to release their budgets next week (during the week of March 27). Watch this blog and Housing Alliance social media for updates on the budget proposals and for urgent action requests. In the meantime, now is a critical time to weigh in with lawmakers with a request to fund the Housing Trust Fund at $200 million. This week is the last week to influence the Capital Budget proposals before they are finalized and released. We need a groundswell of voices asking for the Housing Trust Fund to be prioritized. Please take action today and ask your board, your colleagues, and other networks to join you.
Do you want more background on the state budget? Here are some useful resources:
- Washington State Budget & Policy Center on why lawmakers need to implement new revenue this session, even considering last week’s positive revenue forecast.
- A Guide to the Washington State Budget Process, by the Office of Financial Management
- And if you really want to get into the weeds of the budget, here’s the Senate Ways and Means 2017 Operating Budget Briefing Book
Federal budget proposal is draconian and irresponsible
via Washington Post
Last week, President Trump released a budget blueprint for the 2018 fiscal year (October 1, 2017 – September 30, 2018.)
His priorities are clear. In order to significantly increase military spending, make a down payment on his wall, and fund school vouchers, the President has proposed deep cuts that would devastate communities across the country and take life saving services away from people who rely on them.
His proposal cuts HUD by 13%, or $6.2 billion compared with 2016 levels. Compared to funding levels needed for 2017, the budget is a $7.5 billion, or 15% reduction.
The President’s budget eliminates Community Development Block Grants that provided $51 million for housing and infrastructure in Washington in 2016 and the HOME Investment Partnership program that provided $19 million to our state and local communities to build and preserve affordable homes. It also eliminates Choice Neighborhood grants, the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, and the Section 4 Capacity Building Program.
It also eliminates:
- Legal Aid – which helps low-income tenants avoid unwarranted evictions and remove barriers to rental housing.
- US Interagency Council on Homelessness – which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 agencies and reduced homelessness among veterans by half since 2010.
- LIHEAP – which heats the homes of low-income seniors and families during the winter.
While this budget is just a starting point, and has critics among both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, fighting it is one of the most important things we can do right now. Because the budget is so extreme, there is a risk that restoring some high profile programs and adopting smaller cuts could be seen as a reasonable compromise. Given the enormity of the housing affordability crisis in Washington and across the country, any significant cuts will increase homelessness and cause greater suffering.
One thing we know is clear: advocacy can defeat this budget proposal! Over the coming weeks and months, the Housing Alliance will send out more information and resources on the federal budget, but for now, here are some important resources that will provide more background:
National Low Income Housing Coalition resources:
- Archive of all NLIHC webinars, including one from Monday, March 20, which provides an overview of the budget proposal and advocacy needed to defeat it.
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities resources:
- Potential impact on housing programs in Washington state if the Trump budget were enacted.
- Overview of impact of proposed cuts to HUD (Housing and Urban Development) administered programs, including Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers
Additionally, if you are part of an organization, you can sign onto a letter telling Congress to protect affordable housing and transportation funding.
We will continue to update you on progress and opportunities to make your voice heard.
Ask a Lobbyist: What is a “Special Session”?
We’ve been hearing that the use of the terms “regular session” and “special session” are a bit confusing. Here is some background on what they mean:
The short answer is that a “special session” is an extended session. It is necessary if the legislature is unable to finish the budget during the “regular session”. Here is the longer story:
According to the book Sine Die by Edward D. Seeberger, Washington voters adopted a constitutional amendment in 1979 that provided for the current legislative calendar which sets a 105-day “regular” session during each odd-numbered year and a regular 60-day session in each even-numbered year. Prior to that, sessions were held every odd-numbered year and were limited to just 60 days.
We are currently about two-thirds of the way through the regular 2017 105-day session, which must adjourn no later than April 23. And an Operating Budget for the next biennium must be finalized (voted on by both chambers and signed by the Governor) before July 1 – the date that current budget expires. If the legislature is not done with the budget process by April 23, they will need to be called back for an additional session. If they are unable to finalize it within that first special session, they will be called back for another. Each special session can last no more than 30 days and can be called by the Governor (which is most common) or by a two-thirds vote of all members of the legislature. Even though they are called for 30 days at a time, they can adjourn before the 30 days are up. Usually during a special session, only budgets and items that are necessary to implement the budget can be considered. Special sessions have become very common in recent years, with the 2015 session requiring several in order to reach agreement between the House and Senate on the final budget. That year, it took until June 30 to reach final agreement, with the Governor signing it just hours before the deadline. It is assumed that budget deliberations this year will be hard and will require at least one special session. The Housing Alliance will keep advocates updated on all budget deliberations, so if a special session is called, you will know.
Have a question? Ask a Lobbyist here.