State Relations

April 2, 2007

WA Learns Higher Ed Bill Takes Yet Another, “Positive” Turn

Last week, I wrote about the saga of the Governor’s Washington Learns bill for higher education.  House Bill 1882 actually managed to pass the House Appropriations Committee early last week, but then ran into a buzzsaw of problems in the House Democratic Caucus.

The provision included in the bill by Rep. Jim McIntire (D-Seattle) which would have granted “limited” tuition setting authority to governing boards in the event the legislature failed to provide sufficient state funds to achieve the global challenge state funding benchmarks was the cause of the confusion.  Sources indicated that there simply weren’t enough votes in the caucus to pass the bill with this proviso included, but that there also were enough votes to take the provision out.  By the middle of last week, we were worried that the bill was in enough trouble that it might not pass this year.

The Governor’s office made it clear to legislative leadership, however, that the measure was important and she wanted it to pass.  Higher education representatives reinforced this message with a number of House members.  As HB 1882 sat motionless in the House, all eyes seemed to turn back to SB 5806 — the Senate companion measure sponsored by Republican Senator Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville).  Last Friday during a hastily called noon meeting of the House Higher Education Committee, SB 5806 was passed unanimously and sent to the House Appropriations Committee.

This afternoon (in what seemed to have all the familiarity of Groundhog Day), the Governor’s Washington Learns higher education bill (SB 5806) passed the House Appropriations Committee one week to the day they passed HB 1882.  Because this bill has not been amended in the House, if and when the full House of Representatives passes the bill, it can be delivered directly to the Governor.

The “floor watch” on SB 5806 begins tomorrow.  Stay tuned.