State budget includes money for Tacoma law school

Staff writerMarch 13, 2014 

On August 12, 1999, as Seattle University's law school prepared to move from Tacoma to new facilities in Seattle, temporary employee Melissa Joyner examines and tosses old, unneeded law school records in the Registrars Office.

FILE/THE NEWS TRIBUNE — THE NEWS TRIBUNE

The Legislature's budget compromise includes seed money for a Tacoma campus of the University of Washington Law School.

State lawmakers unveiled their supplemental budget deal Thursday and were getting ready to take votes on it before adjourning their 2014 session at midnight. The budget proposal has bipartisan support and cannot be amended.

Among the many details in the 291-page document: The House accepted the Senate's call for $400,000 for the University of Washington-Tacoma to develop a law school. UW has distanced itself from the proposal but a group of civic boosters are trying to raise from private donors the $2.25 million they say would be needed.

"They should not (use the state money) until they actually get the private money," said Rep. Ross Hunter, the lead budget writer for majority House Democrats, "and at that point they want to actually create a self-sustaining law school there. I feel that's an entirely reasonable thing to do."

The South Sound has lacked a legal education program since Seattle University bought the University of Puget Sound law school and moved it from Tacoma to Seattle in 1999. The new proposal is for a campus with five instructors teaching evening classes to a first class of just 30 students.

Sen. Steve O'Ban, R-Tacoma and a member of the Senate majority, pushed for the funding. "Establishing a law school at UW-Tacoma will do more than just provide local students with more opportunities to follow their dreams," he said in a statement. "It also has the added benefit of encouraging business development and job growth in the greater south Puget Sound region. I’m proud to support this budget and I’m excited about bringing a law school back to Tacoma."

The plan had bipartisan support among Pierce County's delegation to the Legislature.

"It's a step toward getting us there," Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, said of the money, "and I think for being the first year we talked about it, it's not a bad outcome."

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