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.