2023 legislative session update: A setback and forward momentum

2023 legislative session update: A setback and forward momentum

Our two bills (Senate Bill 5601 and House Bill 1386) passed out of their policy committees but did not receive a vote in their respective budget committees. In addition to $50M in grants for program providers, our ask included small but critical, state infrastructure investment to help the field deepen and sustain equitable outcomes for our youth. While we experienced overwhelming engagement from both lawmakers and community advocates, we now understand that budget constraints stemming from a decrease in state revenue collections resulted in the end of our bills this session.

So what do we take away from this?

Our strength lies with our community.

SOWA’s advocacy team had the opportunity to present at several work sessions with testimony from youth development organizations, young people, and our legislative sponsors. Lawmakers heard from programs serving youth in rural, urban, and tribal communities. We are so grateful to the following organizations for their time and willingness to share their stories and perspectives on the value and impact of this work.

  • Communities In Schools, Federal Way-Highline
  • Communities In Schools, Rural Eastern Washington
  • Krownless Kings, Tacoma
  • Foundation for Youth Resiliency and Engagement (FYRE), Omak
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington State
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Thurston County
  • Lopez Island Family Resource Center

We also thank Senator Claire Wilson, Representative Alicia Rule, and others who helped champion these bills and spread our message. These legislators know that youth programs already reinforce the academic, social-emotional, and prevention goals of many state and local agencies. And like any critical system, youth development requires resources, reliable data, and dedicated funding to continue delivering high-quality, equitable programming for Washington’s youth.

Get inspired and watch the recordings here.

Youth voice rings the loudest.

In addition to their participation in the legislative workshops, hearings, and Advocacy Day rally, young people also shared their personal views on what youth development means to them via social media. As we continue to advocate for programming that impacts the lives of Washington’s youth, we must ensure that their experience and input are core to the decision-making that will shape our field (and the lives of youth) for years to come.

We were heard. And this is just the beginning.

While we’ve been advocating in this space for a long time, our efforts were new to most state legislators who have never seen us this coordinated or loud. Ultimately, this work requires a year or two of momentum-building to solidify new legislation. Our first bill (HB1386), which included the 50M dollar youth development grant program passed UNANIMOUSLY in the House Committee. This was a big deal and signals that with sustained effort and increasing visibility, we can secure a win in the coming years.

Learn more about our advocacy work here.

What’s Next

The Senate and House budget proposals will be released by Monday, March 27. The YDST Legislative Committee will be looking for budget opportunities and potential funding sources to move forward with a youth development funding request. This request would likely be related to post-pandemic learning recovery for students. We will have more information next week.

Regardless of what happens in this year’s budget, we will leverage the current momentum and start gearing up for the next legislative session.

Please continue to follow our advocacy efforts on SOWA’s social media or join the YDST mailing list.