March 24, 2019

2019 Legislative Session – Week 11

Snow gives way to sun as legislative pace quickens
Prepared by Marie Sullivan, WSPTA Legislative Consultant,

Sunglasses, sandals and short sleeves graced the Capitol last week, as temperatures hit the mid-70s and snow piles in parking lots finally melted. Spring was in the air, and committees resumed action, scheduling full hearings of bills from the opposite chamber. Even the magnolia tree outside the bill room was sporting buds!  In the education committees, the topics of assessments, teacher shortages, CTE, school meals and special education were at the top of list. In the fiscal committees, levies and school construction brought people to Olympia to testify.

The latest Senate levy proposal, proposed substitute 5313, had a public hearing March 21st, with some speakers in favor and others with concerns. The proposal would try a different approach than the previous levy proposal:

  • Districts would have a choice of $2.50/$1,000 assessed value or a per pupil maximum of $2,500 (districts with fewer than 9,600 students) or $3,000 (districts with 9,600 or more students) – whichever is less;
  • Local effort assistance (LEA) would increase to $2,100; and
  • An LEA hold harmless clause would be in place for Calendar Year 2020, to ensure no school district would get less LEA under the new levy authority structure during the 2019-20 school year.

Senate Ways & Means Committee members asked questions during the hearing; it wasn’t clear if Chair Christine Rolfes will move the bill forward or hold for further refinements. Staff released charts to show the impact on the state’s 295 school districts for CY2020 and CY 2021. (Look under the SCS tab for the charts.)

In the House Capital Budget, bill sponsor Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, explained the need for his school construction assistance bill, ESSB 5853, which would start increasing the student space allocation from 90 square feet/student to 110 square feet in FY22 (July 1, 2021), 120 square feet in FY23, and 130 square feet in FY24. The bill also would set an artificial limit on the size of the SCAP as part of the overall budget, with the limit 30 percent of the total state general obligation bond appropriations. While most speakers were in favor of the legislation, which would boost funding for one of the formula levers, the limit on the state’s bonding capacity drew some concerns and requests to remove the cap or change the requirement to “may.”  In the past the House Capital Budget committee hasn’t been very interested in this Senate bill, but it is a start and may be viewed as a step forward this year – minus the 30 percent cap. Read more here.

Keep up with the bills and committee hearings related to WSPTA member-generated Legislative Priorities and long-term positions by utilizing the WSPTA Bill Status Report.

Category: Advocacy , Legislative

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