State Relations

February 12, 2021

Session news: Regents and trustees advocate for higher education; Furlough bill update

It’s week five of session and the legislature is quickly approaching policy and fiscal cutoffs. Feb. 22 is the last day for bills to pass out of the fiscal committees in their house of origin. If bills do not move out of fiscal committee by that date, they are considered dead and will not become law this year unless they are considered necessary to implement the budget (NTIB).

The UW Office of State Relations continues to monitor Senate Bill 5323, which suspends merit increases during the 2021-23 biennium and requires all state employees to take 24 furlough days. The bill was heard in the Senate Ways & Means committee on Jan. 28 but has not yet been scheduled for executive session and moved to the Senate floor for a vote. Leaders across the higher education community have expressed strong disapproval of this proposal and the UW’s Office of State Relations continues to emphasize the detrimental impacts this proposal when speaking with legislators. It remains to be seen if the bill will be voted out of fiscal committee.

Here are some highlights from the past two weeks:

UW Regents participate in a panel discussion with higher education colleagues and legislative leadership

The annual higher education regents and trustees lobby day was reimagined this year due to the virtual format of session. Instead of individual meetings with legislators, regents and trustees participated in panel discussions with House and Senate Democratic and Republican members, including Reps. Vandana Slatter, Steve Bergquist and J.T. Wilcox and Sens. Emily Randall, David Frockt, Andy Billig, and Jeff Holy.

Regents and trustees had the opportunity to speak with legislators about priority policy and budgetary requests for higher education, including the request to not cut higher education budgets as was done during the Great Recession. They were also able to discuss the continued importance of keeping higher education affordable and accessible to students, especially during these hard economic times.

Thank you to the UW Regents who participated in the conversation!

Regent Pogosian provides testimony at Senate confirmation hearing

The confirmation hearing for Regent Kristina Pogosian was held in the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee on Feb. 10. All members of the UW Board of Regents are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. The confirmation hearing is the first step the Senate takes before bringing appointments to the floor for a final vote.

In her testimony, Regent Pogosian expressed her pride in being the daughter of Armenian immigrants and shared how higher education contributed to her sense of belonging by helping her learn about the value of diversity. She emphasized the importance of ensuring “college is accessible and attainable for all who want to pursue it” and shared the work she has done to support that goal, including helping to pass legislation to expand higher education support. She outlined her commitment to the higher education and UW communities and stressed that all of her work is and will continue to be deeply rooted in relationships.

Regent Pogosian was unanimously confirmed by the committee. Her appointment must now go to the Senate floor for consideration and a final vote. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Senate may not bring forward floor votes on gubernatorial appointments until next legislative session.

The UW is extremely fortunate to have the leadership of Regent Pogosian.

UW Deans and UW Tacoma’s Chancellor meet with budget writers on legislative agenda priorities

College of Engineering Dean Nancy Allbritton met with capital budget leaders to request $45.4 million for a new Interdisciplinary Engineering Education Building in Seattle. This 75,000 square foot building is shovel ready pending state funding and will support more than 7,000 engineering students and accommodate future program growth.

UW Tacoma Chancellor Mark Pagano also met with capital budget leaders and legislators representing the South Puget Sound to champion $36 million to construct a new business and engineering building in Tacoma. The 50,000 square foot building is ready to break ground and will house the fast growing Milgard School of Business and high demand new programs in civil and mechanical engineering.

School of Dentistry Dean Gary Chiodo met with legislators on the health care and fiscal committees to request $1 million per year in ongoing funding to support the School of Dentistry’s (SoD) role as critical safety-net oral health care providers in the state. State funding is vital to help SoD reduce the state’s backlog of Medicaid and uninsured patients with urgent oral health care needs. The funds will also increase comprehensive care, teach and train the state’s future and current oral health care providers, and improve outreach to underserved populations throughout the state to further reduce health care disparities.

UW leaders ask legislators to support environment education and preservation efforts

The Governor’s proposed 2021-23 budget included $600,000 for the UW’s College of Education to collaborate with stakeholders to develop K-12 climate science curricula for teacher preparation programs. Last week, Dr. Philip Bell and Dr. Deb Morrison met with key education and climate legislators to encourage the preservation of these funds in the legislature’s final biennial budget. Legislators were happy to hear about the great efforts underway to educate the next generation of science teachers.

On February 10th, Washington Sea Grant (WSG) spent the day meeting with legislators to educate them on the importance of limiting the spread of the invasive European Green Crab on Washington’s coast and in the Puget Sound. WSG is working with its Tribal and nonprofit partners to secure $1.2 million in this year’s budget to protect the shellfish industry and coastal communities from this invasive species. The meetings were met with support from legislators who recognized the threat to their communities.