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Legislature to adjourn, special session begins Monday

April 21, 2017 by SBCTC Communications

The Legislature's regular session is scheduled to end Sunday, but with no budget deal in place, Gov. Jay Inslee announced today that he will call a special session to begin Monday at 10 a.m. The Democratic-led House and the Republican-led Senate are at odds over how to pay for the Supreme Court's McCleary K-12 school school-funding case.

Senate Ways and Means

April 19 — As part of ongoing budget discussions, the Senate Ways & Means Committee Wednesday took up a bill that would exchange land managed by the Department of Natural Resources to the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

Grays Harbor, Green River, Highline and South Seattle colleges have part or all of their campuses on Charitable, Educational, Penal and Reformatory Institutions (CEP&RI) federally-granted trust land. Scott Morgan, interim president of Green River, Jim Minkler, president of Grays Harbor College, Elizabeth Pluhta, vice president of administrative services at South Seattle College, and Jeff Wagnitz, acting president of Highline College, testified in favor of the bill’s passage.

Morgan told senators of challenges presented to colleges by having to follow DNR trust rules in order to make capital decisions on campuses.

“In some cases it can take months and months to get an easement. Under this bill, we’ll be dealing with the State Board for Community [and Technical] Colleges, we make a phone call, we get that paperwork exchanged, we get that easement taken care of in a week rather than months and months,” he said.

Minkler testified next, saying that because of DNR trust rules, Grays Harbor cannot complete a land transfer with the Aberdeen School District to build a new elementary school. The partnership with the school district, Minkler said, would benefit the district and the college. The college is used as an evacuation site for the elementary school, but is currently 40 minutes away. By transferring the land and building the new school, children would be a few minutes walk away.

In addition, Grays Harbor is starting a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in teacher education. An elementary school located next door to the college would allow additional partnerships between the new program and the school.

Pluhta echoed Minkler’s desire to create partnerships, saying that South Seattle’s Georgetown campus could serve as a community center for area organizations.

“We’ve had significant interest from community groups and others to use some space on campus where they could rent space, they could have office space, they could host gatherings,” she said. “We’ve been unable to secure appropriate tenants due to the requirements of being on DNR land, so this bill would enable us to do so.”

Finally, Wagnitz outlined three benefits he saw for Highline and the three other colleges affected by this bill. He said the bill would result in equal building rules across all colleges, remove bureaucratic rules, and foster partnerships within the colleges’ communities.

“The exchange of paperwork, the headaches and the conversations that go into this don’t advance the interests of either agency,” he said. “And it allows for some public-private partnerships or public-public partnerships that benefit our communities as well as our campuses without having to jump through the hoops of another agency’s interests.”

Testifying on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources was Dave Warren, the agency’s director of legislative and external affairs.

“It is a neutral swap as we see it, and actually the CEP&RI may actually have a slight advantage because they get more trust revenue-generating opportunity by having a swap for working timber land,” he said. “We get out of managing a no-cost trust so it’s actually a slight benefit to us, and for the streamlining of the processes all around it, it seems to have benefits for all parties.”

Bill signings

Gov. Inslee signed the following bills affecting the college and technical college system:

Bill round up

Check Legislative Relations' latest Bill Status Report for information on bills monitored by the college system throughout the session.

Coming up

Negotiations over the operating, capital and transportation budgets will continue when the special session begins Monday. We’ll publish a new edition of Legislative News as action develops.

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Last Modified: 10/9/17 11:50 AM