2/15/17 Bill to close Fircrest School bad for disabled citizens, Federation members tell Senate budget writers
A just-introduced bill to close Fircrest School in Shoreline within five years would “weaken the safety net” for all developmentally disabled citizens in the state.
That’s what Federation advocates and allies told the Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday (March 15) on a package of four bills affecting residential habilitation centers (RHCs).
“We should preserve our safety net,” Federation Lobbyist Matt Zuvich told the committee.
The Fircrest School closure bill, sponsored by Sen. Dino Rossi of the 45th Dist., resurrects the closure effort he pushed around the turn of this century. SB 5889 would lease or sell excess property on the Fircrest campus and put the proceeds in a trust account for community DD services.
But the memories of Rossi’s previous efforts and the actual downsizing efforts marked by “transfer trauma” deaths were as fresh today as they were some 15 or so years ago.
Julianne Moore (Local 1326), who works at Yakima Valley School in Selah, said most RHC residents require total assistance. Many are non-verbal. Many can’t walk, she said.
“These people are people...they are not things to be moved from place to place to place,” Moore said. “They are not just a dollar sign.”
“We don’t think that closing an RHC is going to help people with disabilities in this state,” Zuvich said. “We actually think that it’ll help weaken the safety net.”
While the Federation adamantly opposes SB 5889 (the Rossi Fircrest Closure Bill), there appeared to be room for support or compromise on the other three RHC bills up for hearing.
Moore and Zuvich repeated support for SB 5646, the bill sponsored by Sen. Jim Honeyford of the 15th Dist, that would repeal the downsizing of Yakima Valley School enacted in 2011 and boost crisis stabilization and respite service at the Selah facility.
A similar bill (SB 5887) sponsored by Sen. Curtis King of the 14th Dist. follows the spirit of much of Honeyford’s bill supporting Yakima Valley School, but Moore and Zuvich questioned the bill’s caps on long-term admissions at the RHCs.
And SB 5594 from Sen. Karen Keiser of the 33rd Dist. on transition services for Fircrest School was still described as a work in progress. There’s room to compromise, Moore and Zuvich said.
The four RHC bills have been exempted from committee cutoff deadlines because they may be “necessary to implement the budget”
Bill to deal with backlog of Parks maintenance needs praised
A bill to raise an estimated half billion dollars in state bonds to alleviate the backlog of needed improvements to state parks got widespread support at a hearing Tuesday (March 14).
Local 1466 Parks member Brian Yearout said SB 5838 would “ensure that our parks are brought back to health and that they stay Washington’s crown jewels.”
SB 5838 would allow the state to issue general obligation bonds to pay for the maintenance needs at state parks over the next eight years. It makes clearing this backlog a priority of the state.
“This bill would help the agency meet public needs faster, yielding significant long-term savings,” Yearout said.
The bill only makes sense, said Alia Griffing, the Federation’s director of research and policy.
“What’s very clear is that the people love their parks and take pride in them and take ownership in them,” Griffing said.
Whistleblower bill has no opposition in House hearing
The Federation-supported Whistleblower bill had no opposition in its first hearing in the House.
SSB 5374 is the Whistleblower bill that includes the amendment from the Federation and State Auditor that would add more protections for state employees who file such complaints. The bill would close a loophole and remove from public disclosure state employees who file whistleblower complaints that aren’t investigated.
“It’s in the public interest that our members have protection under whistleblower protection laws,” Federation Lobbyist Matt Zuvich told the House State Government, Elections and IT Committee Wednesday (March 15).
SSB 5374 passed the Senate 49-0 last month.