Committees again at work, hearing bills from opposite chamber
Wednesday (Feb. 17) marked the cutoff date for bills to pass out of their chamber of origin. On the budget front, the Office of Financial Management on Wednesday released its revenue forecast which will inform budget writers as they develop the state’s supplemental budget. House committees got back to work Thursday, holding testimony on bills from the opposite chamber.
Feb. 18 — The Senate Higher Education Committee held confirmation hearings for Robert Gregory, Lower Columbia College, Cathy Pearsall-Stipek, Bates Technical College, and Harriette Bryant, Olympic College.
OFM releases revenue forecast
Feb. 18 — The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council on Wednesday released its projected Near General Fund revenue collections, showing a decline of $78 million for the current two-year budget. The collections projection for the 2015-17 biennium now stands at $37.8 billion.
The forecast council blamed slowing national and international economic growth for the projected revenue decline. The decline was slightly offset by the forecast council’s prediction that fewer people will need state assistance for welfare and nursing homes.
Floor action in House and Senate
Feb. 15-17 — The House and Senate spent Monday and Tuesday at work debating and voting on bills in order to meet the Wednesday house of origin cutoff date. Bills, unless they are necessary to implement the budget, had to be voted out of their originating chamber by 5 p.m. in order to continue in the legislative process.
The House passed HB 2769, which would create a pilot program for five community and technical colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees, on Monday on a 68 to 29 vote.
Rep. Tana Senn, prime sponsor of the bill, spoke in favor of the bill.
“Currently, we have over 25,000 openings in high tech fields and other high-demand areas, whether it’s nursing or teaching or other professions, and we want to be sure that our community and technical colleges can provide those baccalaureate degree programs for the people exactly in their community where they are,” she said.
Also speaking in favor was Rep. Hans Zeiger.
“I think there’s room for our community colleges to demonstrate that they can produce a four-year degree, and they can do so for a lower cost and they can do so for even a higher quality,” he said.
The House also passed HB 2619, the system-request corrections education bill, on Tuesday on a 84 to 13 vote.
Rep. Larry Haler, the bill’s prime sponsor, spoke in favor of its passage.
“Through this bill the Department of Corrections will be able to fund higher education or technical training for those people who are in prison, but are also looking to the future and hoping to have a future,” he said.
Also speaking in favor was Rep. Roger Goodman.
“This is a very important bill for public safety and to reduce recidivism, and help for the reintegration of prisoners back into society,” he said. “When you’re a prisoner in your mind, not much changes, but when you’re a student in your mind, all of a sudden you never want to go back to prison.”
Coming up next week
On Monday, the House will release its version of the supplemental operating budget at 12:30 p.m. followed by a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee at 3:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, the Senate Higher Education Committee will hold trustee confirmation hearings and take testimony on HB 2615, regarding full-time faculty and staff at community and technical colleges, and HB 2769, establishing pilot bachelor's degrees at five community and technical colleges.