Voices’ Blog

Fostering Futures in the 2016 Legislative Session: Budget Conference

Posted:  -  By: Voices for VA's Kids

Update, 2/25/16

The budget conferees have been announced, & the conference process is set to begin.

The Senate conferees: Norment, Hanger*, Newman, Wagner, Ruff, Howell*, Saslaw

The House conferees: Jones, Landes*, Cox, O’Bannon*, Greason, Torian

likely to be conferees for the Health & Human Resources (HHR) budget

See below for advocacy strategies (emails & calls) that we’ll want directed toward the conferees for the next two weeks.

  • For the Senate conferees (especially Sens. Hanger and Howell), we want to ask they hold strong on Fostering Futures staying in the budget.
  • For the House conferees (especially Dels. Landes and O’Bannon), we want to (politely) ask that they reinstate funding for Fostering Futures in the final budget.


The Short Story: We’re still in the game, but we have a long way to go…

We’re now past Crossover, and the Senate and House have each released their versions of the budget bill. They’ll likely vote on these versions of the budget (which will have some differences) this week, and send the budget into the conference process, when a few members from each chamber will negotiate the final budget. I wanted to give you all an update on where we are on Fostering Futures heading into crossover (find the recent legislative history of the program here):

Fostering Futures

Advocacy opportunities: 

Over the next two weeks, the House and Senate budget conferees will be negotiating the final budget bill, which the legislature will vote on and send to Gov. McAuliffe for amendments and eventual signature. The Senate and House budget conferees should be named in the next few days, with two members from each chamber “assigned” to the Health & Human Resources portion of the budget. Here’s how you can help:

Most critical: for the next two weeks, we need to encourage the Senate and House HHR budget conferees to include the funding for Fostering Futures in the final budget bill. Until we know who the budget conferees are, so we can advocate with them specifically (we will update this post at that time), here are some ways to help:

You can still send a personal email to/call the office of HHR subcommittee members:

  • We want to THANK the Senate members for including Fostering Futures in their budget, and ask them to “hold strong” and demand it is included in the final budget.
  • We want to strongly, but politely ask the House members to restore the funding in the final budget. This message will be most effective with the conferees, but delivering this general message to the other HHR members in the House can still help, for now.

You can find a “strategy sheet” with the committee members and their contact information here. Focus on the Finance & Appropriations HHR subcommittee members, along with Delegates Kirk Cox and Chris Jones.

You can find a template for an email or phone call here (but please remember to personalize your message and use the tips below).

  • Use your own thoughts and incorporating our talking points and other supportive information.
  • Make sure to reference the proposal “Fostering Futures” in your email subject line, or in the first thing you say on your call.
  • State your “ask” in the very first line of the email/call, e.g., “Preserve funding in the budget for “Fostering Futures,” the program to offer transition-to-independence support to youth aging out of foster care up to age 21…”
  • Keep your email (and especially your call) brief, succinct, respectful and personal.
  • You can send an email to/call the office of each of the committee members, but if you are a constituent, please make sure to note that clearly.

You can also (politely) use social media to encourage these members to support Fostering Futures. Suggestions here.

The Bills:

SB 436 (Favola): This version of the Fostering Futures bill (which supports the funding Gov. McAuliffe included in his introduced budget) has successfully made its way through both the Senate and is now parked in the House Appropriations Health & Human Resources subcommittee. As I’ve mentioned in the past, while having this bill pass is ideal, we are mainly focused on keeping the funding in the final budget bill. The House may not hear the bill until the end of session, as they’ll be considering the funding piece up until that point. We’ll keep you posted on any opportunities to testify on the bill, and how it’s progressing.

HB 203 (Lingamfelter, Peace, Toscano): the fate of the House version of Fostering Futures is not as positive. The bill was left in the House Appropriations Health & Human Resources subcommittee, which means it effectively died.

But even though the House left this bill in committee, that’s not necessarily a final result in the House: the House budget conferees could still agree to restore the funding for the program during the final budget negotiations, and include the bill language in the budget bill, which has the force of law for its two-year existence.

Next steps: we’ll announce the budget conferees once they are named, and update you on more advocacy opportunities at that point.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions! Email Amy Woolard (amy@vakids.org).

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