After a near shutdown of the state government, Washington’s legislative session ended on July 10 after going into three special sessions. From the beginning many suspected this would be a challenging year given the Legislature’s consideration of a transportation revenue package and its need to fund K-12 education to fulfill the State Supreme Court’s McLeary ruling. After many months of negotiating the Legislature is nearing completion of its work and it’s shaping up to be a great year for health policy in Washington.
Newborn Screening for Critical Congenital Heart Defects
On April 21 Governor Inslee signed Substitute House Bill 1285 into law. This bill ensures that every newborn in Washington is screened for critical congenital heart defects. Washington joins more than 35 other states in requiring this lifesaving screening. Our thanks to the many advocates across the state who shared with lawmakers the importance of this simple, inexpensive, lifesaving screening.
On June 29 the Legislature passed an operating budget. The budget includes a $14.5 million appropriation to the Department of Health, a portion of which will be used for tobacco prevention education. As many of you know tobacco prevention and control is a top priority for the American Heart Association and this investment will allow the state program to work closely with communities with high rates of tobacco use to educate youth and adults about the dangers of tobacco. This is the state’s most significant investment in tobacco prevention since the economic downturn.
Safe Routes to School and Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Investments
After a hard-fought campaign to increase state investments in active transportation programs that help Washingtonians get active and healthy we are excited that Governor Inslee signed a historic transportation package into law on July 15 that does just that. The 16-year package includes more than $164 million for bicycle and pedestrian safety projects and more than $56 million in state funds for Safe Routes to School. This is on top of $11.4 million in federal dollars for Safe Routes to School and the 2015-2017 biennial budget Governor Inslee signed further investing in both programs. These investments will ensure kids and adults across the state can safely commute via foot and bike, while also getting the physical activity needed for a healthy lifestyle. Our heartfelt thanks to our campaign partners at the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition and Washington Bikes for a fantastic collaborative effort.
Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools
AHA has advocated for a $5 million investment in the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools program that would fund school grant applications for water bottle filling stations, physical education equipment, playground equipment, and kitchen renovations to enable scratch cooking. These investments will help shape the school environment for our kids, providing healthier food, beverage and physical activity options.
In all it has been a tremendous year for heart health policy in Washington. We share our sincerest thanks with you, our advocates, for all of your work communicating with lawmakers and talking with friends and neighbors, all to build a healthier state for all Washingtonians.