Fiscal committees at work ahead of Monday's next cutoff deadline
The Legislature's fiscal committees were busy this week hearing the fiscal impact of bills that made it past Monday's policy committee cutoff deadline. The Senate Ways and Means Committee is in an all-day hearing today and House Appropriations Committee will hold its marathon hearing tomorrow.
On the Senate Ways and Means Committee agenda today is SSB 5194 — Providing for equity and access in the community and technical colleges. We'll cover the system's testimony on that bill in next week's Legislative News.
Diversity, equity, inclusion bill heard in Senate Ways and Means
Feb. 17 — At its hearing Wednesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee took up SSB 5227, the bill that would establish annual diversity, equity and inclusion professional development and learning opportunities for college and university students, faculty and staff. The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard the bill Jan. 26, voting it out of the committee on Feb. 4.
Ha Nguyen, director of equity and diversity at the State Board, told the committee that the bill would complement diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work already underway throughout the community and technical college system.
“We hope that the Legislature will consider that our college leaders, along with their faculty, staff and students, will continue to create meaningful DEI trainings to ensure the anti-racist reform efforts across our state,” she said.
Testifying next, Doug Mah suggested to the committee it consider amendments to the bill that would give the system and individual colleges more control over DEI efforts. As the bill is currently written, oversight for DEI professional development would lie with the Washington Student Achievement Council. Colleges would also be required to conduct a campus climate assessment to understand DEI on their campuses. Mah recommended that colleges be allowed to pick their own assessment tool, instead requiring a standard one that would be used statewide.
“It is important that we enable and empower local trustees in colleges to determine what is best, as well as what works best for within their own communities,” he said.
Mah serves as a trustee at South Puget Sound Community College, president-elect of the Washington State Association of College Trustees, and co-chair of the association’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
Dr. Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap, president of South Seattle College, told the committee that she believed the bill would provide an opportunity for colleges.
“The intent is going to accomplish systemic change that no one college could do alone,” she said.
She asked the committee to consider amending the bill to focus its equity education component just to degree-seeking students.
House Finance Committee hears fiscal implications of Customized Training Program tax credit extension bill
Feb. 17 — The House Finance Committee heard testimony at its hearing Wednesday on SHB 1033, the bill that would extend the Customized Training Program’s business and occupation tax credit for five years to June 30, 2026. The CTP is an interest-free loan program that provides training and education for Washington state businesses. The State Board pays up-front costs, and businesses have 18 months to complete repayment. Businesses qualify for a B&O tax credit equal to 50% of the cost of the training. The House College and Workforce Development Committee heard the bill on Jan. 18 and voted to pass it during its Jan. 21 meeting.
“This is all about workforce training, something businesses in our state say they desperately want more of, and it’s about families having jobs that will sustain them over the course of a career,” said Rep. Mari Leavitt, the bill’s prime sponsor and vice chair of the House College and Workforce Development Committee. “Our small businesses are struggling right now, and anything we can do to ensure their workers get training and they can continue to improve their business is a good thing.”
Lewis McMurran, a co-manager of the Future of Work Task Force at the Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, told the committee that businesses need training opportunities for every career level, and that need has only accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The task force was firmly in support of continuing the work of the Customized Training Program as one component of increasing the skills of workers and profitability of businesses,” he said. “The reality is training workers at scale is expensive, and this program helps to bridge that gap particularly for small and mid-sized businesses.”
Mike Nielsen, director for corporate and continuing education at Green River College, testified that the Customized Training Program has been very successful for small businesses.
“The businesses that I’ve worked with who have used this program have really benefited from it. It helped them expand and grow in the challenging times that they’ve had in the past,” he said.
With the tax credit set to expire, though, Nielsen said businesses have been reluctant to use the program this year so they’re not liable for repaying the grant without the tax benefit.
Peter Guzman, a workforce education policy associate with the State Board, told the committee that since 2006, the Customized Training Program has served 95 businesses and trained 3,177 workers.
“Since the Customized Training Program began in 2006, Washington business owners have turned to the program for affordable employee training,” he said. “The program helps employers and employees alike stay up to speed in a competitive marketplace, boosting profitability and employability.”
Testifying last, Jeana Ball provided Jamco America’s experience with the Customized Training Program. Jamco is an Everett-based aerospace manufacturing company.
“I appreciate what it can do for our businesses, especially right now. The 18 months to be able to pay that [loan] back during this time is really important, but we also see a lot of reorganizing and redefining of people’s job duties, which is requiring more training,” she said. “So I think now more than ever, if we could extend this for a while and give some of these small businesses an opportunity to provide the training that usually gets put to the bottom of the priority list and the budget during these kinds of times will be great.”
Bill status roundup
The bills listed below have been featured in this year's Legislative News. This bill status is as of noon Friday.
|Bill number||Bill title||Bill status|
|HB 1016||Making Juneteenth a legal holiday.||Feb. 17: Placed on second reading by Rules Committee.|
|HB 1033||Concerning the Washington customized employment training program.||Feb. 19: Executive action taken in House Finance Committee.|
|HB 1044||Creating prison to postsecondary education pathways.||Feb. 19: Referred to Rules 2 Review.|
|HB 1166||Expanding access to the homeless and foster care college students pilot program.||Feb. 17: Placed on second reading by Rules Committee.|
|HB 1176||Concerning access to higher education.||Feb. 17: Placed on second reading by Rules Committee.|
|HB 1468||Increasing student access to mental health counseling and services at community and technical colleges.||Feb. 15: Referred to House Appropriations Committee.|
|SB 5083||Concerning the capital budget.||Jan. 12: Public hearing in Senate Ways and Means Committee.|
|SB 5092||Making 2021-2023 fiscal biennium operating appropriations.||Jan. 12: Public hearing in Senate Ways and Means Committee.|
|SB 5194||Providing for equity and access in the community and technical colleges.||Feb. 22: Scheduled for executive session in Senate Ways and Means Committee.|
|SB 5227||Requiring diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism training and assessments at institutions of higher education.||Feb. 19: Scheduled for executive session in Senate Ways and Means Committee.|
|SB 5288||Increasing access to the Washington opportunity scholarship program.||Feb. 5: Passed to Rules Committee for second reading.|
|SB 5323||Freezing wage and salaries and providing for furlough days during the 2021-2023 fiscal biennium.||Jan. 28: Public hearing in Senate Ways and Means Committee.|
|SB 5401||Authorizing community and technical colleges to offer bachelor degrees in computer science.||Feb. 19: Scheduled for executive session in Senate Ways and Means Committee.|
Coming up next week
Fiscal committees on Monday will wrap up their work on bills originating in their chamber. The full House and Senate will then have 15 days to debate and vote on bills ahead of March 9 House of Origin cutoff deadline. That date is when bills coming from the House need to be approved by the full House of Representatives and Senate bills need to be approved by the full Senate in order to continue in the legislative process for this session.