We’re in the final weeks of Session with the ability to have a little better perspective of where we will end up on Sine Die. There were a handful of bad bills for counties, some very good ones, and those that we perfected along the way. There are certainly bills and budget items that remain outstanding, but, overall, counties have had a pretty successful year.
Several bills that would have a significant fiscal impact on county budgets, like HB 1108 (Resentencing Persistent Offenders) and SB 5474 (Eliminating Juvenile LFOs), were set aside for another year. Other costly bills we were able to amend prior to passage were EHB 1324 (Juvenile Points), removing the requirement that counties conduct resentencing hearings, and 2SHB 1470 (Private Detention Facilities), removing Martin Hall and public health duties from the bill.
Some bills that will have a positive fiscal impact on counties include SSB 5604 (Expansion of 1406 and 10% admin) and SSB 5386 (DRF Complexity). We are also excited about the passage of one of our four WSAC priority bills, E2SHB 1515, that will lead to the creation of behavioral health network adequacy standards.
Other than the bills that will ultimately end up in conference committees, the final budgets are the remaining looming unknowns. The Legislature passed 2SSB 5046 (Post Conviction Access to Counsel) for which counties will incur prosecution costs. The Senate Operating budget includes funding for defense counsel and the Court of Appeals, but not prosecution costs. We have asked that funds for prosecutors be included in the final budget. One of the bills that we thought we fended off was HB 1492 (Blake Expansion) which expanded the crimes that would qualify as a Blake crime beyond the crimes included in the Blake decision in addition to expanding the definition of what legal financial obligations (LFOs) can be refunded under the Blake decision. While the actual bill failed, language from the bill was included in the House Operating budget. We have asked the Legislature not to include these provisions in the final budget because they would cause counties to have to not only redo a lot of the work that has already been completed under Blake and cost more money, but they would impose requirements on counties that could set them up to fail. Finally, we are hopeful that our entire priority proviso that creates a Jail Study and Jail Modernization Task Force is included in the final Operating Budget. This proviso will allow us to gather and analyze jail data and help us provide recommendations to the Legislature to better the entire jail system. We look forward to the release of the final budget sometime next week.
WSAC, Policy Director