Voices’ Blog

Fostering Futures in the 2016 Legislative Session: We’re (Almost) Halfway There

Posted:  -  By: Voices for VA's Kids

The Short Story: We’re doing well, but we have a long way to go…

The official halfway point for the 2016 legislative session isn’t until Tuesday, Feb. 16th, but most all of the child welfare-related bills we’ve been working on or monitoring have cleared their committees and are either waiting to be heard during floor sessions or waiting to be assigned to a committee in the opposite chamber (unless they’ve already met their untimely end). 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 few days, both the House and Senate money committees will be making their final decisions on their respective amendments to Gov. McAuliffe’s introduced budget. The Senate and House versions of the budget will be released on Feb. 21. Here’s how you can help:

Most critical: from now until about Tues. Feb 16th or Wed. Feb 17th at the latest, we need to encourage Senate Finance and House Appropriations Health & Human Resources committee members to preserve the funding for Fostering Futures in the budget bill. Ways to do that:

Send a personal email to/call the office of HHR subcommittee members:

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., “Maintain 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 Rehab & Social Services and Finance committees. The full Senate will likely vote on the bill on Monday, Feb. 15th, but it’s very likely to have a positive result there, as well. Also positive: Senate Finance Co-Chair Sen. Hanger has been indicating his strong support for the program, as did the Finance HHR subcommittee. This means the program stands a good chance of being included in the Senate’s budget proposal that we’ll see on Feb. 21st.

HB 203 (Lingamfelter, Peace, Toscano): the fate of the House version of Fostering Futures is a bit murkier. The bill is still in the House Appropriations Health & Human Resources subcommittee, which as of 2/11 does not have an additional meeting scheduled before Crossover (when all bills must be out of their original chambers). A few things could happen still:

  • The Appropriations HHR sub could schedule a special meeting before Crossover and take action on the bill, either passing it or “tabling it” (with this action, the bill essentially dies).
  • If the subcommittee takes no action on the bill, it stays in committee and does not move forward to the Senate.

If the subcommittee tables the bill or leaves it in committee, that’s not necessarily a final result in the House: the budget decision-makers could still keep the funding for the program in its budget proposal, and include the bill language in the budget bill, which has the force of law for its two-year existence.

If the subcommittee passes the bill (much less likely, to be honest), that would be a great signal that the House is prepared to keep the program funding in its budget proposal.

Next steps: wait to see where the bills are at Crossover, and await the Senate/House budget proposal releases on Feb 21, then reassess where we are.

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

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