February 28, 2007

Washington Learns Bills Survive Cutoff — Session Halfway Point Arrives

By Randy Hodgins

Today is the 52nd day of the legislative session, the official halfway point for 2007 and the first real cut-off deadline for standing committee action.  After today, Senate and House policy committees cannot take action on measures from their chamber of origin.  This is “parliamentary speak” for “if it isn’t out of a policy committee by today, it’s dead for this session.”

Of particular interest to the UW are progress of the Governor’s higher education Washington Learns bills which are SB 5806 (Schoesler) and HB 1882 (Wallace).  Both of these measures designate the Global Challenge States as the benchmarks for measuring per student funding progress for institutions of higher education and create a multi-year plan for increasing both state appropriations and tuition (up to 7% per year for resident undergraduates) to close competitive funding gaps.  The bills also establish new financial aid scholarship programs and expand eligibility under the State Need Grant program.

SB 5806 easily cleared the Senate Higher Education Committee on February 20 and will be heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee tomorrow.  HB 1882 passed out of the House Higher Education Committee on Monday of this week, but on a party line vote of 6-3.  It has now been referred to the House Appropriations Committee where it could be scheduled for a hearing this weekend.

The UW has also been working to amend itself out of legislation dealing with the problems of parttime faculty members in higher education – a problem more pronounced in the two year college system.  The House version of this bill, HB 1875 did not pass out of the House Higher Education Committee.  In the Senate, SB 5514 did not pass out of the Senate Higher Education Committee when they ceased meeting last week.  However, the substance of that measure was amended onto SB 5020 and passed out of the Senate Labor, Commerce and Research Committee yesterday afternoon.  The measure was sent to the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the UW continues to oppose the measure.

To keep track of the progress of legislation of interest to the University, check out the link under my website Spotlight section on Bills of Significant Interest.

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