State Legislative Update

The 2023 legislative session is almost over! This year's session is scheduled to run through April 23rd.

This session, the EJC supported the Office of Civil Legal Aid’s 2023-25 biennial budget request by focusing on basic civil legal aid services, including the vendor rate adjustment for Northwest Justice Project and subcontracted volunteer attorney and specialty legal aid providers. OCLA’s request for basic civil legal aid services and the vendor rate adjustment is vital to protecting existing client service capacity. Over the last couple of months, our lobbyists and several advocates met with legislators to communicate this message and gain support for our ask. 

We are thrilled to share that both the House and Senate fully funded our basic civil legal aid request and the vendor rate adjustment in their recently released Operation Budgets. We now must wait until the House and Senate agree on a final Operating Budget bill. However, we have every reason to expect that the bill will also fully fund our request. We could use your help to ensure that this happens! Email your legislators and thank them for including our ask in the House and Senate Operating Budgets and urge them to make sure it’s included in the final Operating Budget bill. View your legislators’ emails here.

Sample Email:

Dear [insert legislator title and name],

[Introduce self and/or organization if applicable] I am reaching out to thank you for the funding provided to the Office of Civil Legal Aid in the [House or Senate] Operating Budget. Particularly, OCLA’s appropriation for basic civil legal aid services, including a Vendor Rate Adjustment to protect existing client service delivery capacity at the Northwest Justice Project and subcontracted volunteer attorney and specialty legal aid providers. This appropriation is essential to maintain the capacity to provide civil legal assistance across the state and I am grateful for your support. Please ensure that the final Operating Budget bill includes this appropriation.

A photo of the Washington State Capitol Building from the view of the sundial at the front entrance of the campus.

Pending Funding Issues That Need Your Support:

Currently, there are two areas of the FY 23-25 operating budgets passed by the Senate and House which affect civil legal aid funding across the state that you might be interested in acting on.

Tenant Appointed Counsel Program (AKA Right to Counsel in Evictions)

Let Senate leaders, budget writers, and policy leaders know that you respectfully and urgently request that the final FY 23-25 operating budget fully fund the Office of Civil Legal Aid's Tenant Defense Program at the same amount passed by the House's budget: $4.42 million dollars.

The level passed by the House funds the program at staffing levels requested by OCLA and funds a 4% vendor rate adjustment. However, the current Senate-passed budget funds the program at just $2.8M. The Senate budget is insufficient to protect the tenant defense program from uninterrupted client service capacity. If enacted, it will result in the loss of existing positions.

Civil Legal Aid and Other Essential Services for Victims of Crime

Federal crime victim services funding is being drastically reduced across the state. Part of this funding provides civil legal aid services to victims of crime (approximately 8.7%). Unless this loss is mitigated, starting July 1, 2023, this funding will be reduced by 34% and will result in the loss of more than 12 FTE attorneys (a loss of 34% or $1.7M/FY).

The House budget provides $20.6M/FY to help mitigate the loss of federal funding, including civil legal aid services. But the Senate budget does not appropriate funding for civil legal aid as one of the included programs to serve crime victims. Civil legal aid is a vital service for victims of crime and it's important that this funding is included.

Request that the conferees incorporate the House number into its final operating budget.

Stay tuned for more updates!

1325 4th Ave #1335, Seattle, WA 98101

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