It is true, bipartisanship really does still exist! The 72-hour notification bill (SB 5147/HB 1250), one of the Coalition’s legislative priorities, passed the Senate unanimously and easily passed in the House this past week with only seven voting against it.
This bill sought to reinstate an important part of the Becca Bill which gave youth shelters up to 72 hours to notify a youth’s guardian after she or he checked into a youth shelter. Because the law “sunset,” the number of hours before a shelter staff person had to contact authorities suddenly decreased from three days to only eight hours. Eight hours is not enough time for the adult staff working at a shelter to engage with youth and be able to develop rapport. Many youth come to shelters after they have run away from disturbed or dangerous family situations, and they need time to feel secure, calm down, and assess their options in a safe place. Thanks to the legislators of our State, youth will now be less likely to avoid shelters for fear that their families, police, or child protective services will be alerted right away. Advocates are now asking Governor Jay Inslee to sign the bill into law on Youth Advocacy Day this Friday, February 22, to show the youth of Washington State that their governor and legislators are behind them.
Even though we have a very exciting win, our advocacy does not stop here. As Youth Advocacy Day approaches, one of the Coalition’s priorities, the Youth Opportunities Act (HB 1651 / SB 5689 ), is still under consideration. Currently Washington is one of only eight states that makes juvenile records open to the public and available to be published online. This means that people with criminal records from their youth, before the age of 18, are subject to additional barriers accessing housing, education, and employment. The Youth Opportunities Act would seal juvenile records to the public, except in the case of serious violent offenses, and prohibit courts from disseminating or selling this information. This information is currently sold to background check companies who make money at the expense of youth and young adults.
The Youth Opportunities Act would remove barriers for young people seeking opportunities, and keep them from paying for childhood mistakes in their adult lives. Please take action to move this bill out of committee and onto the house floor by making a public comment on the Senate version of the bill or by calling your legislators using the legislative hotline, 1-800-562-6000.
P.S. For a great summary of youth advocacy around these and other important issues, check out Senator Frockt’s blog post!