Friday, April 10, 2015

Another bill deadline approaches, budget talks continue

The Legislature is quickly approaching an April 15 cutoff date for House bills to pass out of the Senate, and for Senate bills to pass out of the House.

A system-request bill (HB 1706) to waive building and student activity fees for active duty military personnel has passed the House and is now in the Senate Rules committee awaiting a floor vote. Another system-request bill to streamline statutes (HB 1961) has passed both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature.

Meanwhile, budget writers continue to work on 2015-2017 operating and capital budget proposals.

Senate Ways and Means approves capital plan

April 9 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved its version of the capital budget, which is now in the Rules Committee to be scheduled for a floor vote (EHB 1115).
·         The proposal provides $269.5 million for community and technical college capital projects, which is 73 percent of the system’s overall request of $367 million.
·         Similar to the governor’s proposal, it follows the system priority list but funds only the first 16 of 24 projects on the list.
·         Similar to capital proposals by the governor and the House, the plan cuts funding for construction projects on the list by 5 to 13 percent.

Community and technical college system representatives shared concerns at an April 8 hearing.

Dr. Jean Hernandez, Edmonds Community College president, urged full funding of the system’s capital priorities list, including design funds for a new Science, Engineering and Technology Building at that college.

“This is a building that will allow us to both address the capacity and the need for the science areas, including allied health, engineering, natural sciences, materials science and construction programs at the college,” she said. “In addition, it will allow us to train teachers in the science and math fields through our partnership with Central Washington University.”

Stuart Trippel, Shoreline Community College executive director for business and student support services, discussed the need for design funding for a new Allied Health, Science and Manufacturing project. The project will replace five, one-story buildings that are about 50 years old with one, four-story building for STEM programs that serve educational needs between Seattle and Tacoma. With full funding, the system can “move forward with first-rate projects advanced by the State Board for the 2015-2017 biennium,” he said.

Bruce Riveland, Olympic College vice president for administrative services, shared concerns about additional reductions in construction funding for a College Instruction Center. The project replaces an aging art, music and theater building with a single new multipurpose facility for health occupations and other programs.

“By going through OFM’s budget evaluation study last year, we validated the program needs and the cost estimate and have already cut millions of dollars from the original project budget. Further trimming the funding…doesn’t account for the infrastructure necessary for this project.”

Steve Ward, Centralia College vice president for finance and administration, expressed appreciation for construction funds for a new Student Services building, but explained that the proposed funding is significantly less than the estimated costs of construction. “We’ve kept the costs consistent with our design phase request and the project is now ready to bid. Our students and community are already contributing $5 million to this project and the proposed substitute is a $1.5 million cut to the construction budget.”


Senate Ways & Means hears bill on dual credit opportunities

April 6 Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on dual credit opportunities provided by colleges and universities for high school students (E2HB 1546). The bill now prioritizes funding for students of low-income and those attending small and rural high schools. It also clarifies the definitions of “Running Start” and “College in the High School” dual-credit programs.

We strongly support dual credit programs as a key to higher education access,” Brown said. “We support the subsidies that are provided here, we support eliminating the use of Running Start funds for courses offered in the high school, and we support the small and rural school provisions.”

The bill was passed out of the Ways and Means Committee April 7 and is now in the Rules Committee awaiting further action.


Coming up later this week


The House and Senate will continue to vote on each other’s bills next week to meet the April 15 cutoff date for floor passage. Budget discussions will heat up as the Legislature counts down to the April 26 end of regular session.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Operating, capital budgets take center stage


The House and Senate focused on their proposed operating and budget plans last week. The House sent both its operating and capital budgets to the Senate. Meanwhile, the Senate voted into the night on its own operating budget plan, only to put it on hold until this afternoon. The Senate has not yet introduced a capital budget proposal.

Senate to resume floor action on operating budget today

April 3 — The Senate worked overnight and into the early morning hours on Friday, April 3 to pass its version of the operating budget. Fatigued, the Senate decided to resume the debate on this afternoon. For details on SB 5077 and a summary of earlier testimony, see the March 31 entry below.
House approves proposed operating budget

April 2 – The House of Representatives approved its operating budget proposal and sent it to the Senate. Contained in ESHB 1106, the plan:

·         Freezes tuition and provides institutional support to help offset inflation and other costs.

·         Includes funding for the State Need Grant. For 2013-14, 33,557 eligible students were unable to receive a State Need Grant due to insufficient funds. Just more than half of those students — 18,774 — attended community and technical colleges.

·         Fully funds collective bargaining agreements, including salary increases, as negotiated by the governor’s office: 3% the first year, 1.8% the second (including Highline College and Yakima Valley Community College). Those increases are also given to I-732-covered employees. Remaining compensation items (health benefit contributions, pension contributions) are also fully funded.

·         Provides funding to expand the MESA Community and Technical College Program to seven more colleges, bringing the total to 13. The program helps under-represented students succeed in college and pursue STEM careers.

Two floor amendments addressed topics that had previously received testimony from the community and technical college system.   

·         One amendment, supported by the college system, would allow the Department of Corrections to use existing state funds to offer associate degrees in prison.

·         The other amendment would allow, for the 2015-2017 biennium, community and technical colleges to use local funds to pay for increments when the state fails to do so. System representatives had previously expressed concern that this would draw funds away from programs and services needed by students and use one-time funds for ongoing expenses.

Earlier in the week (March 30), SBCTC Executive Director Marty Brown and Pierce College District Chancellor Michele Johnson testified before the House Appropriations Committee. 

“This is a good budget for our system of 34 community and technical colleges and the nearly 400,000 students we serve,” said Brown.  “Thank you for the tuition freeze coupled with the institutional support to reflect inflation and other costs so our students and colleges can successfully plan for the future.”

Johnson applauded the House for fully funding collective bargaining agreements negotiated through the governor’s office. 

 “As you know, [faculty and staff] have not received an increase by the Legislature since 2008 or a COLA under I-732. Not only will this boost morale, but it will go a long way in helping us retain and recruit quality faculty and staff,” she said. 

Link to testimony  (starts at 3:00:07)

House approves proposed capital budget

April 2 — The House of Representatives approved its capital budget proposal and sent it to the Senate. Contained in EHB 1115, the plan:

·         Provides $272 million for community and technical college capital projects, which is 74 percent of the system’s request of $367.

·         Follows the system priority list but funds only the first 15 of 24 projects on the list, one less than the governor’s capital budget proposal.

Earlier in the week (March 30) A panel of community and technical college representatives  expressed concern that many projects only received partial funding and nine were left off the list altogether.

Denise Yochum, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom president, discussed the community and technical college system’s competitive process for selecting and ranking projects on the capital priority list. Each year, the system uses a predetermined set of criteria to classify and prioritize capital projects. That list is submitted to the Legislature as its capital budget request.

“The scoring process gives colleges a level playing field in which to compete for the state’s limited capital budget resources,” Yochum said. “This competition is tough and only the best proposals are added to the system’s request. While we appreciate the [House] following our prioritized list, we are concerned with the reduction in funding for projects that have already been designed, and we are concerned with the overall funding level which is proposed to be the lowest in recent history.”

The panel also stressed that new projects and building renovations were necessary for colleges to continue delivering high quality programs to meet student, employer and community demand.

 Linda Schoonmaker, Clover Park Technical College vice president for finance and administration, discussed funding to design the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies.

 This project will allow us to continue providing relevant professional and technical education in a broad range of career fields to meet the needs of local students and businesses,” she said. “By consolidating our manufacturing programs into this new space, we will have a facility that allows us to serve more students as well as one that serves the high-dollar and state-of-the-art equipment across the programs.”

 Bruce Riveland, Olympic College vice president for administrative services,

pointed out that building projects serve not only an economic development purpose, but also a practical one. The college’s request for design funding to renovate a Shop Building — which houses welding, composites and precision machinery programs — would help meet local demand for aerospace training and also include an elevator or ADA access to programs on the building’s second floor.

 Steve Ward, Centralia College vice president for finance and administration, discussed a proposed $2.4 million cut in construction funding for a Student Services building.

 “Our students and community are already contributing $5 million to the project,” he said. Funding the construction phase as proposed will require us to raise more money or reduce the scope of work before it could be bid.”


·         Yochum starts at 15:52
·         Riveland starts at 17:57
·         Schoonmaker starts at 19:44
·         Ward starts at 21:21

Senate Ways and Means approves budget plan

 April 2 – The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved its version of the operating budget proposal. Contained in SB 5077, the plan:

·         Freezes tuition the first year and reduces it the second year by 2% starting at 16 credits. It fully offsets lost tuition revenue, but includes no institutional support for inflation.

·         Reduces the State Need Grant to reflect lower tuition.

·         Rejects collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the governor’s office (including Highline College and Yakima Valley Community College).  For employees covered by those agreements, the Senate proposes a $1,000 increase per employee for each of the next two years and is dependent upon agreement being reached by June 30. The $1,000 increase also applies to nonrepresented employees. I-732-covered employees are scheduled to receive COLAs anticipated to be 1.8% the first year and 1.3% the second year. The plan provides state funding for 85% of the above salary increases with the colleges providing the remaining balance from existing resources, a $3 million cost to the system. The remaining compensation items (health benefit contributions, pension contributions) are funded at 65% an additional cost of $3 to $4 million.

·         Includes an estimated $3.6 million “lean savings” cut in the back of the budget.

 Earlier in the week (March 31) Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified on the measure before the Senate Ways & Means Committee. He thanked the committee for freezing tuition and backfilling the second year reduction, and for providing funding for I-732. However, he expressed concern about the rejection of negotiated collective bargaining agreements and the compensation-funding burden placed on colleges.

 Coming up later this week

 The Senate will resume floor action on its budget plan today. Policy bills that have survived thus far have until April 7 to pass fiscal committees.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Committee work continues in week before second policy cutoff date

Committee work continued at a fast pace this week as the next policy cutoff date arrives Wednesday, April 1. Community and technical college system request bills on fee waivers, streamlining statutes and corrections all received hearings. The House operating and capital budget proposals were released today at 11:30 a.m. with hearings scheduled for Monday, March 30. Details will be provided in next week’s edition.

Tuition reduction bills heard in House Higher Education committee

March 26 — Bills to reduce student tuition and find dedicated funding for higher education received public testimony before the House Higher Education Committee.
ESSB 5954 would tie resident undergraduate tuition to a percent of the state’s average wage for all public colleges and universities. The percentages vary depending on whether the college is a community or technical college, a regional university or a research university.
With a cap of 6 percent of the state’s average wage, the community and technical college system would lose about $7 million per year.
The Legislature would also be required to keep, at a minimum, the allocations provided in the 2013-15 operating budget, plus additional funding to backfill any reductions in tuition revenue.
The second bill heard, HB 2201, would place tax revenue collected on financial institutions’ investments or loans into a fund to backfill any tuition reductions in the 2015-17 operating budget. The proposal would be sent to voters as a referendum.

Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified with concerns on both bills.

“We share the anxiety legislators and students have about high tuition and student debt, and respect the Legislature’s efforts to hold tuition study. But we can’t maintain the quality for our nearly 400,000 students with no additional state funds if tuition is held constant or reduced,” he said.

Link to testimony (starts at 68:19)

Corrections education focus of Senate committee hearing

March 24 — A wide array of people testified before the Senate Law and Justice Committee in favor of HB 1704, which would allow the Department of Corrections to use existing funds to offer associate degrees in prisons. Three community college representatives appeared before the committee to voice their support.

Luke Robins, Peninsula College president, pointed out that education helps offenders find jobs, re-enter society and avoid returning to a life of crime. For every dollar invested in prison education, taxpayers save $20, he said.

Sarah Sytsma, Tacoma Community College director of correctional education, discussed how education turns prisoners’ lives around. “Seeing how transformative postsecondary education is to offenders is truly inspiring,” she said. “Classrooms that encourage discussion and critical thinking are key places to promote civil behavior and will lead to long-term safety in our communities.”

David Murley, Spokane Community College dean of corrections education, said he sees the value of prison education despite being a “staunch conservative.”

“The question isn’t ‘why do we pay for this?’ We’re going to have to pay for them for the rest of their lives if we don’t do this.”

John Carlisle of Allegiance Staffing testified from a business perspective. “Having a skilled worker come into our office is very important. It gives them a trajectory. They can see the vision. They can see where they’re going in their life as opposed to a dead end job,” he said.

Link to testimony (starts at 1:15:47)

Senate committee hears system request bill, votes on system supported bills

March 24The Senate Higher Education Committee heard the community and technical college system-request bill on cleaning up statues related to the colleges (HB 1961). Alison Grazzini, SBCTC legislative director, testified in favor of the bill.

“[It] expires old statutes, it cleans up provisions when technical colleges joined our college system in the early ‘90s, it adds technical colleges to existing provisions, and provides general cleanup to make things read a little easier,” she said.

The committee later voted on appointments and bills advancing them to the next step in the legislative process:

·         Merisa T Heu-Weller, Bellevue College Board of Trustees
·         Douglass Jackson, Shoreline Community College Board of Trustees
·         Megan S O'Bryan, Skagit Valley College Board of Trustees
·         SHB 1052: Requiring institutions of higher education to make an early registration process available to spouses and domestic partners of active members of the military.
·         HB 1706: Authorizing waivers of building fees and services and activities fees for certain military service members.

Link to testimony (starts at 1:15:18)

House committee hears sexual violence prevention bills and fee waiver bill

March 24Three bills of interest to the community and technical college system were heard Tuesday by the House Higher Education Committee. Two — SSB 5518 and SSB 5719 — address campus sexual violence and prevention. The third bill, supported by community and technical college system, would waive building and activities fees for active duty members of the military (SB 5620).

Joe Holliday, SBCTC director student services, testified in favor of SSB 5518 and SSB 5719, taking the opportunity to remind committee members of the uniqueness of community and technical colleges.

“We appreciate how the bill is more closely aligned with federal requirements, as we testified in the Senate,” Holliday said of SSB 5518. “We are literally awash in federal requirements both legislative and executive and trying our best to keep up with those so we are very appreciative that the bill is seeking to be aligned with federal requirements.”

Community and technical colleges are already working to implement a model student conduct code and developing procedures and connecting students with resources, which SSB 5518 would require colleges to do. The bill would also require the 34 colleges to conduct a campus climate survey of employees and students and develop memoranda of understanding with local law enforcement agencies.

SSB 5719 would create a taskforce on sexual violence prevention. The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges would participate in the taskforce along with the state’s other colleges and universities, the Washington Student Achievement Council, the Council of Presidents, law enforcement and the attorney general’s office.

“Community and technical colleges’ environments are fundamentally different than university environments,” Holliday said while testifying on SSB 5719. “We’re happy to see our representation on the taskforce. We’d like to see identified best practices in non-residential campuses, [and] best practices involving adjunct faculty as supporters.”

Committee members also heard from Nick Lutes, SBCTC’s operating budget director, who testified in favor of SB 5620.

“It’s a very important bill for a number of current active duty members who are receiving tuition assistance on our campuses who would come the next semester or next quarter and find that they have an extra $200 on their bill,” Lutes said.

·         Holliday on SSB 5518 starts at 29:49
·         Holliday on SSB 5719 starts at 45:53
·         Lutes on SB 5620 starts at 50:36

Dual credit bill heard in Senate education committee

March 23Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified Monday before the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee on dual credit opportunities for high school-aged students (E2SHB 1546). He expressed the community and technical college system’s support of Running Start and College in the High School, which provide 11th and 12th graders a chance to earn high school and college credit at the same time.

“Dual credit is a very valuable tool for access to higher education in our state,” Brown said. “We urge you to expand it and at the same time continue the rigor that is needed while returning programs to their original intents.”

The community and technical college system in the 2013-14 academic year saw more than 20,000 high school juniors and seniors taking classes through Running Start. Nearly 4,000 high school students were served by six community and technical colleges through College in the High School programs.

The bill with amendments passed the committee Tuesday and is now waiting a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The amended version allows a program called “Running Start in the High School” to be offered only at high schools that are 30 miles away from institutions of higher education, which already offer dual-credit programs in high schools and on college campuses.

Link to testimony (starts at 1:14:28)

Coming up next week


Next week, policy committees wrap up their work on bills by the Wednesday cutoff date. Policy bills must be voted out of those committees in order to continue in the legislative process. The House operating and capital budget proposals are scheduled for public hearings on Monday and voted out on Tuesday.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Committees start work again hearing opposite chamber bills

House and Senate committees picked up the pace on hearings after last week’s chamber cutoff date. House committees now hear bills that passed the Senate, and Senate committees now hear bills that passed the House. Community and technical college system request bills on streamlining statutes and waiving fees for active duty military both received hearings.

Senate committee hears bills on veteran-spouse registration and fees

March 19 — The Senate Higher Education Committee heard testimony on HB 1052, which would require colleges and universities to offer early registration to spouses and domestic partners of active duty service members. Scott Copeland, SBCTC student affairs policy associate, testified in favor of the measure.

“With a lot of the benefits, there is a limited timeframe and you must take the courses that apply to your [certificate or degree]. This would not be a big impact at all and it makes the most sense,” he said.

Nick Lutes, SBCTC operating budget director, testified in favor of HB 1706, which would grant permissive waivers for building and student activity fees for active duty military. The system request bill would remove a financial burden on service members who, under Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program rules, must now pay out-of-pocket for non-tuition expenses.


·         Copeland starts at 1:09:32
·         Lutes starts at 1:17

Minimum credit hours for aid, resident requirements receive House Higher Education hearing

March 18 — Currently, students may take as little as three credit hours per quarter (or the semester equivalent) to receive or renew State Need Grants. Already in effect under the budget, this threshold would become permanent under SB 5638. Scott Copeland, SBCTC student affairs policy associate, testified in favor of the measure.

“Life gets in the way sometimes and this allows [students] to keep the momentum going,” he said.

The committee moved onto SSB 5355, which would modify the definition of resident student to comply with federal requirements established by the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. Copeland testified in favor of the measure.

·         SB 5638 starts at 45:54
·         SSB 5355 starts at 50:40


Senate Higher Education Committee hears budget detail bill

March 17Alison Grazzini, SBCTC legislative director, shared concerns about HB 1893 before the Senate Higher Education Committee. The bill would require all of Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges to post online detailed budget information about non-state appropriated funds, including ending fund balances. 

“As you know, our system of 34 colleges has always supported transparency in a variety of ways,” Grazzini said. “This information is already posted on our website and is available going years back. On students’ tuition statements we provide, by college, all sources of revenue and how those funds are spent. The work under this bill is new, it is real, and it has significant impact to our college staff.”



House committee hears Senate version of regulation cleanup bill

March 17Alison Grazzini testified before the House Higher Education Committee Tuesday in support of SB 5977. The community and technical college system request bill would clean up statutes related to the colleges. It also expires old bonds, defunded programs, pilots and waivers.

“It’s a good cleanup bill,” Grazzini said.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate March 4. Its companion, HB 1961, unanimously passed the House March 2.


Coming up next week


Next week, the Senate Law and Justice Committee will hear the community and technical college system request bill on corrections education (HB 1704). Bills waiving fees for active duty military members and streamlining statutes related to the colleges are scheduled for committee hearings and votes.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Session reaches halfway point – floor-vote cutoff nears

Thursday, March 5 marked the halfway point of this 105-day session and the next cutoff date is just around the corner. Bills must be voted out of their originating chamber by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11 to move forward in the legislative process. The only exemptions are budget bills and bills considered "necessary to implement the budget."  

Along with higher education bills, the House and Senate have taken votes on sweeping measures with a statewide impact. The Senate approved a broad transportation package, while the House approved legislation to increase the minimum wage and expand paid sick leave requirements to more businesses. 

House, Senate pass community and technical college-request bills

At the time this blog was posted, the following community and technical college-request bills were making their way through the Legislative process:

Fee waiver for active duty military
HB 1706, prime-sponsored by Rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell), passed the House on a unanimous vote Monday (97-0-1). The bill and its companion SB 5620 (passed the Senate 49-0), prime-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor), would grant permissive waivers for building and student activity fees for active duty military. Due to a recent change to the Department of Defense’s Tuition Assistance Program, only tuition is covered for students, but not the associated fees. Students using the assistance program to attend college need to make up the difference in costs.

Statutory clean-up
HB 1961, prime-sponsored by Rep. Hans Zeiger (R-Puyallup), passed the house unanimously Monday (97-0-1). The bill’s Senate companion, SB 5977, prime-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor), passed that chamber on a unanimous vote Wednesday (49-0). The bills would expire old bonds, defund programs, pilots, and waivers within the community and technical college system to improve efficiency and streamline provisions within state statutes.

Corrections education
HB 1704, prime-sponsored by Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle), is on the House Floor Calendar awaiting a vote. The bill would allow community and technical colleges to provide associate degrees in corrections institutions. Currently, CTCs partner with the Department of Corrections to provide basic skills and vocational training to help offenders be job-ready when they re-enter society. The bill has no fiscal impact as this work will be part of the existing educational contract.

Other bills important to the community and technical college system are also moving through the legislative process:
·         Campus safety provisions (SB 5518)

More details are available in our latest Bill Watch List.

Coming up this week

Committee hearings on bills related to higher education will take a temporary hiatus in the beginning of this week as the House and Senate focus on floor voting in time for the Wednesday, March 11 cutoff. Committees may resume hearings on higher education bills, although the committee agendas are still in flux.