Nearing the session halfway point, legislative work is evolving as the first round of cutoff dates pass. Legislators are now moving from hearing bills in committees to debating bills on the chamber floor. For community and technical colleges this means closely monitoring bills for amendments, tracking budget discussions, and providing information to decision makers.
This edition of Legislative News contains highlights from the week where CTCs monitored and testified on a number of bills and CTC students rallied support for higher education in Olympia.
Postsecondary education for inmates
A measure to reduce recidivism rates through prison education received a public hearing before the Senate Human Service and Corrections Committee on Thursday, Feb. 6. Sponsored by Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, Senate Bill 6344 would allow the Department of Corrections (DOC) to offer post-secondary education degree programs within its existing budget. Current law limits prison education to basic skills, vocational, and high school diploma or equivalent courses.
Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, clarified that the bill would not cost the state more money. “This bill would not ask for additional money,” Brown said. “We’re actually here, we hope, to save you money on recidivism.”
Bernie Warner, DOC secretary, agreed, saying the bill would allow for a broader spectrum of prison education. “This really is one of the best investments in our portfolio of services to reduce recidivism and increase public safety,” he said.
Ed Brewster, Grays Harbor College president, cited research on the impact of education on recidivism rates. Education provides an opportunity for ex-offenders to find jobs, he said, which “contributes to lower costs of incarceration, increases public safety, and decreases the cost associated with the criminal justice system in general.”
CTC students rally, make voices heard
Sporting colorful T-shirts, scarves and banners representing community and technical colleges, hundreds of students rallied on the capital campus on Friday, Feb. 7 to urge continued legislative support for two-year colleges. This year’s event titled, “Washington’s Greatest Investment,” was emceed by Peninsula College student Emma Sackett, Washington Community and Technical College Student Association (WACTCSA) acting president. A large crowd of elected officials, legislative and staff members, and higher education stakeholders gathered in support.
Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, kicked off the event followed by student speakers Kary Ortiz-Rangle of North Seattle Community College, and Robert Lasker of Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. Marty Cavalluzzi, Pierce College Puyallup president, and Debrena Jackson Gandy, Highline Community College trustee also rallied the crowd.
Other legislative speakers included Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton and Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, both members of the House Higher Education Committee. Speaking on behalf of the Senate were Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.
After yesterday’s first policy committee cutoff, here are bills still in play that impact community and technical colleges:
· ESHB 1769: creating efficiencies for higher education institutions.
· ESHB 1817: allowing undocumented students to be eligible for state financial aid (Dream Act).
· SHB 1858: awarding academic credit for prior military training.
· SB 2285: studying state dual credit programs.
· SHB 2336: increasing higher education transparency by posting departmental budget information online.
· HB 2396: increasing participation of underrepresented students in Running Start.
· HB 2398: allowing CTCs to award honorary applied baccalaureate degrees.
· SHB 2486: allowing state funds to provide associate degrees for incarcerated adults.
· SHB 2546: making modifications to outdated higher education statutes.
· SHB 2651: promoting higher education transparency by requiring budget information by category is posted online.
· SSB 5969: awarding academic credit – tied to a degree or certificate – for prior military training.
· SB 6523: allowing undocumented students to be eligible for state financial aid and providing $5 million for the State Need Grant (Real Hope Act).
Click here for a longer list of high priority CTC bills still in play.
Click here for a complete list of CTC bills being tracked this legislative session.
Session cutoff dates
Mandated cutoff dates determine which bills will continue through the legislative process. Here is the next round of important session cutoff dates approaching:
· Feb. 11: fiscal committee cutoff – bills in fiscal committees must receive a hearing and be passed.
· Feb. 18: house of origin cutoff (5pm) – bills in their original chamber must be passed.
· Feb. 28: policy committee cutoff – bills in opposite house policy committees must receive a hearing and be passed.
· March 3: fiscal committee cutoff – bills in opposite house fiscal committees must receive and hearing and be passed.
· March 7: opposite house cutoff (5pm) – bills in the opposite chamber must be passed.
· March 13: Sine Die – last day of the regular session.
SBCTC Government Relations provides updated legislative resources throughout session:
· The Bill Watch List – important bills being considered that may have significant impact on the CTC system.
· The Bill Status Report – all bills being tracked by SBCTC staff during session.
· The Weekly Hearing Schedule – schedule of weekly hearings where CTCs are testifying and/or monitoring bills.
· Legislator information – contact information for legislators organized by college district, committee, caucus, etc.