Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the 24th day of the 105-day session.
ONLINE UNIVERSITY HEARING
A bill proposed by Sen. Jim Kastama would allow the state to partner with a nonprofit online university to expand access to undergraduate degrees.
Senate Bill 5136, which had a hearing in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on Tuesday, would express the Legislature’s intent to work with the regionally accredited Western Governors University to set up the Western Governors University-Washington, which would be recognized as a state degree-granting institution, although it would not get state funds.
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“Clearly, we need an innovative way to address the shortfall in access we have in Washington state in higher education,” Kastama, D-Puyallup, said at the hearing.
According to data from the Higher Education Coordinating Board, Washington is behind the U.S. average in number of bachelor’s degrees produced per 1,000 residents.
Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, introduced House Bill 1808 at the request of Gov. Chris Gregoire that would set up the senior year of high school as a “launch year” by offering classes and exams that would allow students to earn a year’s worth of college credits. A companion bill, Senate Bill 5616, already has been introduced in the Senate.
Rep. Deborah Eddy, D-Kirkland, introduced House Bill 1728, which would require that service animals be allowed into any business where food is sold.
Kastama also introduced Senate Bill 5637, which would require the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board to set up an online forum to connect students seeking internships with employers.
Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, introduced House Bill 1764, which would require the state auditor to give letter grades to state agencies for efficiency, productivity, customer satisfaction and other measures in an effort to increase public accountability.
Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, introduced House Bill 1785, which would prohibit boat paint containing copper to reduce water pollution.
Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, introduced House Bill 1800, which would create a registry of people who have been convicted of animal cruelty that would be available to the public. A companion bill by Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, also a Bothell Democrat, already has been introduced in the Senate.
Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, introduced House Bill 1804, which would prohibit the state government from spending any money planning for or implementing the federal health care reform law until 2013.
The supplemental budget bill, House Bill 1086, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill already passed in the House. It would make some of the cuts needed to make up for shortfalls in the state budget that ends in June.
An unemployment insurance bill, Senate Bill 5135, that would cap or reduce unemployment insurance taxes paid by employers is scheduled for a vote in the Senate.
The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee will hold hearings on one bill and one joint resolution that would change the role of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, removing a possible obstacle to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to create an Education Department. Both proposals, Senate Bill 5522 and Senate Joint Resolution 8212, would make the superintendent an appointed official under the authority of the governor.
House Bill 1666, which would set degree goals for the state universities and college and give them tuition-setting authority starting in 2013, is scheduled for a hearing in the House Higher Education Committee. The bill was introduced at the request of the governor and would implement many of the recommendations from the Higher Education Funding Task Force Report, released in January.
The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 5315, which would allow branch campuses of the University of Washington and Washington State University to offer doctoral degree programs.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 5242, a motorcycle-profiling bill. Its companion, House Bill 1333, had a hearing Tuesday in the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
The Senate Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 5249, which would move Fish and Wildlife Department enforcement officers into the State Patrol.
The House Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 1136, which would authorize special license plates for volunteer firefighters.