Board Chair Calls Advocacy Efforts Critical to Achieving Policy and Systems Change to Benefit Children
LOS ANGELES– As part of its mission to ensure that young children in Los Angeles County get the best start in life, First 5 LA today announced its 2016 State Legislative Agenda that advocates for an extension of subsidized child care (AB 2150 by Assembly Members Miguel Santiago and Shirley Weber), a statewide kindergarten readiness assessment tool (SCR 125 by Senator Ben Allen) and mental health intervention and prevention services for preschoolers (AB 1644 by Assembly Member Rob Bonta).
“The best way to be effective on our issues is to engage with lawmakers and share the truly compelling stories of the children we serve” - Sheila Kuehl
The unanimous approval by First 5 LA’s Board of Commissioners provides a focus for the agency to engage in advocacy activities related to First 5 LA’s policy priorities to benefit children prenatal to age 5, including early care and education, school readiness and health care delivery systems. These priorities are part of the agency’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan.
“The best way to be effective on our issues is to engage with lawmakers and share the truly compelling stories of the children we serve,” said First 5 LA’s Board Chair L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who also served as a member of the State Assembly and State Senate for 14 years. “The combination of good data and personal stories helps convince legislators who have to balance competing priorities. Our efforts in Sacramento are critical to helping our kids in L.A. County.”
In addition to the legislative agenda, First 5 LA Commissioners recently attended Advocacy Day in Sacramento, meeting with state representatives from L.A. County about First 5 LA’s priorities and programs including voluntary home visits, Welcome Baby and early care and education.
“The Commission’s approval of our State Legislative Agenda enables us to direct our advocacy activities where they will make the greatest impact,” said Kim Belshé, Executive Director of First 5 LA. “Through collaboration with local experts, grantees, funding partners and the leadership of our Commissioners, First 5 LA can continue making an impact for children in the public policy realm.”
Belshé added that First 5 LA’s position on legislation is informed by internal staff and partners in the field, including the Intergovernmental and External Affairs Branch of the L.A. County’s CEO Office.
In March 2015, the Commission approved a set of criteria for staff to use in focusing its advocacy activities during the state legislative and budget seasons.
The criteria include opportunities to advance First 5 LA priorities related to early learning and home visiting; policies that directly affect First 5 LA, such as tobacco taxes, bills or proposals that affect Proposition 10; near-term opportunities related to the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan; and opportunities that support First 5 LA's current investments.
Using this criteria, the presentation made to First 5 LA’s Board of Commissioners last week lists the legislation supported and being tracked by First 5 LA, including sponsors, status and fiscal analysis.
Advocacy activities include letters of support to lawmakers, testimony at legislative hearings and meeting with legislators and their staff. First 5 LA also works with stakeholders to educate the general public and elected officials about the importance of these items to the health, well-being and early care and education of children prenatal to age 5 and their parents and caregivers.
In addition to the 2016 Legislative Agenda, First 5 LA is also monitoring a number of other bills for potential action in the coming months. These are measures that are in development, which provides First 5 LA an opportunity to suggest amendments to better serve young children.
Bills on First 5 LA’s watch list include measures to require that trauma screening be included in early and periodic screening under the Medi-Cal program (SB 1466 – Mitchell) and a bill that would declare that it is the intent of the Legislature to enhance and expand the state’s early care and educational system (AB 2660 – McCarty).
First 5 LA’s 2016 Legislative Agenda is below. The full list, which includes support measures and those being tracked, can be found here.
First 5 LA’s 2016 Legislative Agenda
Child care: state preschool programs: age of eligibility
Defines 3-year-old children, for purposes of state preschool programs, as children who will have their 3rd birthday on or before December 1 of the fiscal year in which they are enrolled in a California state preschool program.
School-based early mental health intervention and prevention services
Renames the Early Mental Health Initiative (EMHI) as the HEAL Trauma in Schools Act, expands the program to serve preschool and transitional Kindergarten students. Requires DPH to provide outreach to LEAs and county mental health agencies to inform them of the program.
Subsidized Child Care and Development Services
Extends eligibility for child care assistance to families for a period no less than 12 months. The bill changes existing thresholds by establishing income eligibility upon the most recent State Median Income (SMI) data published by the US Census Bureau and raises the income limit of eligibility from 70% of the current SMI to 85% of the most recent SMI.
Cigarette and Tobacco Product Licensing: Fees
Requires a fee to be submitted with each license application. Requires a retailer to file an application for renewal of a retailer's license accompanied with a fee per retail location, in the form and manner prescribed by the State Board of Equalization. Two hundred sixty?five dollars ($265) shall be submitted with each application.
Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Tool
States that the Legislature will work towards the adoption of a statewide, developmentally appropriate kindergarten readiness assessment tool to assess the readiness of children entering transitional kindergarten and kindergarten