Student agendas fighting for their spots in this year’s legislative session
Over the past month, I have seen and experienced the legislative process, and it has made me vividly understand that legislation usually beings with a story, an idea, or a passion of an individual or a group of people. When those concepts receive a bill number, get scheduled for public hearing, and pass their chamber of origin, that’s when we see the significance of the legislative process. As the Legislature’s frenzied-pace lulls with the session’s first cutoff, it also places emphasis on future of legislation that hasn’t received consensus yet. Over the last two weeks, it’s felt like the session has been racing to the finish line, but that has not stopped the drive legislators have to address issues and get policy to that line.
As the sun sets on many bills that did not make it out of their chamber of origin, it’s a good time to examine which bills relating to the WASACTC agenda were moved forward before today’s “cutoff” deadline.
- SB 5393 and HB 1340 (Washington College Promise Scholarship): This bill represents the students’ dream: community and technical college will be free for all eligible resident students of Washington state. These bills have been voted out of their house of origin policy committees and is now on their respective fiscal committees. SB 5393 had a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 14 and HB 1340 has not yet received a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee. This legislation will provide the extra support many students need to successfully complete their degree, and it is my honor to encourage the Legislature to pass them.
- HB 1041 (New Hope Act): Sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen, this bill addresses applications of higher education. It eliminates certain conviction records when requirements are met. Many community college students — like me — plan to transfer to a 4-year university. However the same standard that the community colleges have set is not regulated among the 4-year institutions in Washington. This bill would ensure students in the community college system would have a fair chance and overall access to higher education by keeping the same standard. This bill made it through the next process and it currently in the House Rules Committee. That committee decides on which bills to pass to the floor for a full House vote.
- HB 1702: Sponsored by Rep. Luanne Van Werven, this bill provides incentives for the use of open source instructional materials for higher education. The bill will also require ctcLink to specify “low cost” materials for courses; “low-cost” being defined as $50 or less. This bill is derived from a student-led survey led by WACTCSA this past summer which received over 10,000 student responses. The bill has been voted out of House Committee for College and Workforce Development and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee. That committee considers bills with operating budget fiscal impacts.
- HB 1893: Sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman, this bill addresses areas of food insecurity within the community and technical colleges system. It does this by providing emergency funds to college campuses with the intention of reaching out to students directly who may be in need of support to basic needs, (such as food, transportation, etc.). We have learned that almost every college in our system has some type of response to address food insecurity. But the problem of poverty and hungry students is pervasive. On Feb. 20, the House Committee for College and Workforce Development took executive action on the bill to vote it out of committee.
Another update is the Washington Student Engagement Networks (WA-SEN) Advocacy Day. Due to the snow storm, the day was rescheduled to March 24 and 25. WA-SEN is an unified network comprised of students from independent colleges, public institutions, and community and technical colleges from all over Washington who come together to share their stories with legislators. WA-SEN is currently highlighting the State Need Grant (SNG)/Washington College Promise and how vital that financial aid is to students. Currently, 21,000 students that were eligible in the last year for the SNG and did not receive funding because the grant is not fully funded. Networks comprised of students like WA-SEN and WACTCSA are vital to educating our elected officials on what matters to students and has proven to show progress for student issues like HB 1340 and SB 5393 (Washington College Promise).