Legislative Team Sports

The legislative clock began ticking on Monday, Jan. 10. The session proceeds not unlike the academic quarter. Deadlines and midterms impel bills forward. First the Senate and House hold hearings on their own bills. Then the Senate and House vote on their own bills. Then they exchange surviving legislation and start again.

In the first few weeks of session hundreds of bills will be introduced. At each deadline, bills that don’t pass a procedural hurdle die. That means as deadlines approach the intensity builds. The first deadline is Feb 23. That’s the last day legislators may introduce a bill.

What’s on the agenda this week? The House Higher Ed Committee will get a profile of the students each baccalaureate serves. The Senate Higher Ed Committee is hearing reports about accountability, technology, articulation, academic credit for prior learning, fiscal systems, and the Lottery Commission’s “Opportunity Pathways” program. Both committees will take public comment on the governor’s budget plan for higher education.

With so much going on, how do you know whom or what to watch?

You could focus on the issues. The most important higher education issues are money issues: construction, enrollment, tuition, and financial aid. That means you should keep an eye on the money committees. In the Senate it’s the Ways & Means Committee. In the House, watch Ways & Means, Capital, and Education Appropriations.

You could focus on key decision-makers. Democrats hold majorities in the House and the Senate, which means they set up the rules for their respective chambers and have the final word on what proposals move forward.

– Key Democrats in the Senate are the Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, Caucus Chair Karen Fraser, Majority Leader Tracy Eide, Ways & Means chair Ed Murray, and Higher Education Committee Chair Rodney Tom.

– House Democratic leadership includes Speaker Frank Chopp, Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, Capital Budget chair Hans Dunshee, Education Appropriations chair Kathy Haigh, and Higher Education Committee chair Larry Seaquist.

Count on Republicans to provide vigorous and energetic debate throughout session. Senate Republican leaders include Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, Ways & Means ranking Republican Joe Zarelli, and Higher Ed ranking Republican Andy Hill. In the House, Republican leaders include Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, Ways & Means ranking Republican Gary Alexander, Education Appropriations ranking Republican Glenn Anderson, and Higher Ed Ranking Republican Larry Haler.

Find out for yourself if TVW has lived up to its motto, “Dare to be Dull.” This public access station puts hours of state government debate at your fingertips at http://www.tvw.org.

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About Linda Schactler

Linda is the former Director of Communications for the Washington State Senate, and former deputy director of the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board. From 2000 through 2010 Linda was the proprietor of Schactler Communications, an Olympia-based public affairs business. She holds a master of arts in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Linda can be reached at her Ellensburg office schactler@cwu.edu, 509-963-1384, or on her cell phone, 509-607-4103.
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