Taking Action in Olympia - April 2, 2021
Session Week 12
Having pro-education legislators whom we helped elect advocating for a budget that supports students and educators is critical. Last week the House and Senate state democratic caucuses released their budget proposals. This week the Senate passed their proposal off the floor and over to the House. Next week the House will approve their proposal setting up the conference process. Read more about what’s in these proposals.
What happened this week?
Today is the cut-off for bills to pass out of the fiscal committees which include the Senate Ways & Means and House Appropriations committees. Any bill from the opposite chamber that doesn’t generate new revenue to the state and hasn’t been passed on to the Rules committee would be considered dead.
Legislators spent much of this week amending their budget proposals and passing bills from the fiscal committees.
Fully fund schools
- K-12 COVID Levy Safety Net– HB 1476 – The early version of this bill would have created an enrollment safety funding formula for school years 2020-21 and 2021-22. As this bill passed the House, the safety net portions were removed leaving only the changes needed to hold harmless local levy calculations for this period. State funding is needed to restore the lost K-12 revenues as a result of the pandemic. An intent section was added to this bill stating the legislature will provide funding relief as part of their budget this biennium. WEA will continue advocating for a K-12 budget that provides equitable funding and safe learning environments for students and educators. It takes more resources, not less to meet the needs of students during a pandemic, especially for schools in communities that have been historically underfunded. This bill was amended in the Senate Ways & Means committee on Tuesday changing the levy fix from two to just one year and is now in the Rules committee for second reading.
- Wealth Tax - HB 1406 - will create a tax of less than one percent for the wealthiest in our state who hold stocks and bonds valued in excess of $1 billion. This bill would create a wealth tax based on a constitutional amendment WEA helped pass in the 1930’s and will help balance the state’s upside-down tax code. WEA members passed a new business item in 2020 to lobby the legislature to pass progressive tax reform that lowers the tax burden on most Washingtonians and requires wealthy individuals and corporations to pay their fair share. WEA members testified in support of this bill. It passed out of the House Finance committee on Wednesday and has been referred to the House Appropriations committee. Because it is a funding bill, regular policy cut-off dates do not apply.
Improve equity, dismantle racism, meet the needs of all students
- Professional development on equity, cultural competency, and dismantling racism – ESSB 5044 – This is a WEA priority bill that would forward racial equity in our schools by ensuring that every educator has an understanding of equity issues. WEA members testified in favor in the Senate. Members also testified in favor during its House Education committee hearing. It was heard in the House Appropriations committee on Wednesday and passed out of committee on Thursday.
- Close the homework gap by expanding broadband access – SHB 1336 – Would make broadband accessible to more students by allowing more entities to provide the service. It has been placed on second reading awaiting scheduling for a Senate floor vote. This bill has been amended in the Senate requiring the House to concur with these changes before it can be considered passed the legislature.
- Expand working families tax exemption – HB 1297 – If funded, this bill would make more Washingtonians eligible for the working families tax exemption in order to balance our state’s upside-down tax code. WEA supports this bill. It had a public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means committee on Tuesday and passed out of the committee today (Friday).
- Diversity and equity training for higher education – E2SSB 5227 – Would establish training for higher education faculty and staff a professional development program on diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. WEA supports. This bill had a public hearing in the House Appropriations committee on Tuesday and passed out of that committee on Wednesday. It is now referred to the Rules committee.
- Increase equity and diversity at community and technical colleges – E2SSB 5194 – Would require development of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plans and implement student success programs. WEA supports. This bill had a public hearing in the House Appropriations committee on Wednesday and passed out of committee on Thursday.
- Behavioral health resource information - SHB 1373 – Would require public schools to publish on their websites contact information for depression, suicide prevention, and other mental health support organizations. WEA supports this bill. It was placed on second reading and is awaiting scheduling for a Senate floor vote.
- Mastery-based learning – SSB 5249 – Would continue a work group to develop a WA state profile describing the cross-disciplinary skills a student should have developed by the time they graduate high school. It had a hearing in the House Appropriations committee on Thursday and has now been sent to Rules.
- Institutional education programs- E2SHB 1295 – Would provide a plan to improve the educational programing and outcomes for students who are incarcerated. It is now on second reading awaiting scheduling for a Senate floor vote.
- Higher ed supports for homeless and foster care students - SHB 1166 – Would expand access to the homeless and foster care college students pilot program. WEA supports. This bill had a public hearing in Senate Ways & Means on Wednesday and passed out of committee today (Friday).
- Provide menstrual products in schools – ESHB 1273 – Would create a requirement for school districts to provide sanitary napkins and tampons in all female- and gender-neutral-designated restrooms. WEA supports this bill. It had a public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means committee on Tuesday and has been sent to Rules.
- School based health centers -- SHB 1225 – Would allow districts to establish in-school health centers. WEA testified in support. It had a public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means committee on Tuesday and passed out of committee today (Friday).
- Eliminate indigenous mascots - HB 1356 – Would prohibit the inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images as public school mascots, logos, or team names. WEA supports. It is now in the Senate Rules committee.
- Make Juneteenth a holiday – SHB 1016 -- Would recognize the importance of June 19, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved Americans. Read more about Juneteenth. It passed in the Senate State Government and Elections committee. It had a public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means committee on Wednesday and now has been sent to Rules.
- Creation of a public investment cooperative – ESSB 5188 - WEA’s continuing resolutions supports the creation of a public cooperative bank. This bill passed in the House Appropriations committee on Thursday and is referred to the Rules committee.
- Allow districts to build affordable educator housing – SB 5043 – Would update the current provisions allowing districts to construct housing to provide tax incentives to build affordable educator housing on school district land. WEA testified pro in the Senate. It had a public hearing in the House Committee on Capital Budget on Tuesday. The bill has not been scheduled for executive action and is dead for this session.
Address the challenges presented by COVID-19 recovery in schools
- Create a bridge year pilot program – 2SSB 5265 – Would create pilot programs in high schools allowing students to defer graduation from high school in order to pursue additional learning to make up for COVID challenges. It had a public hearing in the House Appropriations committee on Wednesday and passed out of committee on Thursday.
Ensure school safety
- Safe drinking water – E2SHB 1139 – Would direct testing for lead in the drinking water of schools, disclose lead testing levels publicly, and make available technical guidance to help districts reduce lead levels. WEA supports this bill. It had a public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means committee on Thursday and is scheduled for and passed out of committee today (Friday).
What’s new next week?
Next Sunday April 11th is the cut-off for passing bills in their opposite house, with the exception of initiatives, budgets, and bills that need to resolve differences between the two houses. Because of the cut-off, this week will be heavy on floor votes which are often scheduled last-minute.
Legislators continue to amend budget proposals.
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