Washington State Legislative Session March Update

Earlier this month, we hosted our Lobby Day in collaboration with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. This was our first in person Lobby Day since February 2020. We were thrilled to host board members, American Heart Association staff, and volunteers to help push forward our important legislation. We also hosted students from Chief Umtuch Middle School DREAM Team, who were fierce advocates on our issues.

We are now a month out till the end of Washington's legislative session. Next Wednesday, March 29th, is Opposite House Policy Cutoff, which means the policy bills from the "opposite house" (House bills that moved to the Senate, and Senate bills that moved to the House) must pass out of committee. Opposite House Fiscal Committee Cutoff is coming up on Tuesday, April 4th.

Here's a quick update on the bills we're working on:

HB 1238/SB 5339 - Providing free school meals for all

HB 1238 passed out of the House with strong bipartisan support. The version that passed had major changes due to monetary concerns, and instead focuses on providing free meals to the youngest learners and highest poverty elementary schools. While we are disappointed the bill no longer will serve breakfast and lunch to all students, this bill is a step forward to alleviating child malnutrition and hunger.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education, where it passed and was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 28th at 4 PM. Thank you to all of those who sent their legislators and House Appropriations Committee members a message in support of this important legislation!

SB 5365/HB 1497 - Preventing use of vapor and tobacco products by minors

SB 5365 passed out of the House Regulation and Gaming Committee with additional amendments and has yet to be referred. One of the House members told the Committee that if this bill makes it to the House floor, to expect there will be additional amendments. Due to the ongoing changes, we are continuing to evaluate and decide if we can support the bill in its updated form.

Commercial Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding

The revenue forecast has predicted that Washington will be down close to $1 billion over the next four-year period, so we have been hearing from legislators that budget asks will not be funded to the levels we are hoping for. The Senate recently released their operating budget on Thursday, March 23rd, where they dedicate $5 million for the biennium for commercial tobacco prevention and cessation program funding. Washington State historically spent $1.6 million/year for this funding, with the exception of one time funding of $5 million for 2023. While this does represent an increase, this amount is nowhere near adequate. This proposal falls under 3.5% of what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to have an effective program. The House will be releasing their operating budget this Monday, March 27th.

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