January 16, 2023

Flurry of Hearings Kick Off Week 1 of the 2023 Session

Prepared by Marie Sullivan,  

The first week of session started with pomp and circumstance, the swearing in of members of the 68th Legislature, and a state of the state address by Governor Jay Inslee. Hear Governor Inslee’s address to legislators here.

Usually, the first week of a long session starts off a bit more leisurely, but last week the pace felt more like a 60-day session than a 105-session. Budget committees held marathon meetings on the Governor’s proposed operating, capital and transportation budgets, and policy committees began public hearings and even took some votes. In addition, by the end of the first week, more than 300 bills had been introduced in the House and nearly 400 bills had been introduced in the Senate.

Here’s a quick peek at some of the hot topics:

Increasing funding for students with disabilities (special education)

As mentioned in last week’s report, the Governor proposed $75 million to lift the 13.5% cap on student enrollment in special education programs to 15% and added $10 million for continued professional development for inclusionary practices. The policy bills to lift the cap have been introduced and SB 5311 will be heard next week in Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education. The companion bill is HB 1211; it was referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

In addition, several bills have been introduced by legislators taking different approaches to special education programs, access, and development of IEPs. OSPI’s request bill to remove the cap and increase the multiplier is expected to be introduced soon. That’s the set of bills expected to receive the most external support but face the biggest challenges due to the price tag, likely in excess of $300 million a year.

Filling transportation funding gaps

Last year legislators introduced bills to designate special categories of student passengers: special education, students who are homeless, and students in foster care. The bills didn’t pass, but a small amount of funding was appropriated to support districts meet extraordinary costs for these students in particular.

Most districts are underfunded by the STARs pupil transportation funding formula, a complex formula that reimburses districts in the following year based on the lesser of two numbers. OSPI and legislators are trying to simplify the formula. Two bills have been introduced: SB 5174 is OSPI-request and sponsored by Senator Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island; and HB 1248, proposed by Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver. A comparison of the bills has been prepared and is available.

SB 5174 had a hearing in the policy committee last week. The general consensus was supportive, although school districts requested several changes to clarify language and ask that unique characteristics and small districts receive different considerations with reporting and automatic state audits. The House bill was originally referred to the House Education Committee but has been transferred to the House Appropriations Committee.

Behavioral health, mental health and workforce shortages

Various committees will begin discussions about creating a category of “behavioral health specialist”; seeking interstate compacts and other innovative ways to improve workforce availability to support mental and behavioral health; and boost services through Washington colleges and universities.

Nothing has specifically been introduced in this category for K-12 education. The Governor’s proposed operating budget included the funding to begin increasing school staffing in physical, social and emotional support, with the 2023-24 school year getting a bigger lift. At this point in session, the appetite to increase ratios beyond current law in these categories isn’t there.

Gun violence and youth suicide

Next week begins the policy committee meetings that will be discussing prohibiting military-style assault weapons, modifying permit access and requirements, and other measures designed to reduce gun violence and improve public safety.

The House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on HB 1143 and HB 1144 regarding requirements for the purchase or transfer of firearms, and HB 1240, the assault weapons ban. All three bills have companions in the Senate: SB 5211, SB 5232, and SB 5265. Not surprisingly, the Con list is long. Washington State PTA will be participating on panels being scheduled by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

In addition, Rep. Lisa Callan, D-Issaquah, has introduced HB 1230, relating to sharing information about the safe storage of firearms and medications that can be used in youth suicides. The bill would direct the Department of Health to develop easy to access information and school districts to link their district and school websites to that information and share it in social media at least twice a year.

School safety and seismic investments

As shared last week, Governor Inslee proposed $40 million for seismic safety retrofits in his 2023-25 capital budget. This is in addition to the $100 million that was appropriated to OSPI in the 2022 session but that isn’t under contract yet.

WSPTA testified last week on the Governor’s proposal, thanking him for the investment but asking the Legislature boost the level another $100 million for this biennium. As OSPI’s government relations lead on capital budget issues shared when responding to questions in Senate Ways & Means, once the projects gets planning completed, the $100 million will easily be spent by 2 or 3 projects.

Other bills we’re watching

Keep an eye on this space but check below for the committee schedule and attached for the bill list for bills we’re already tracking this session. Already introduced are bills to create a simple majority for bonds; enhance graduation pathways for high school students; increase the enrichment levy; advance climate resiliency; create a “baby bonds” bill linked to enrollment in the state’s Apple Health program; encouraging the use of student art in school construction; eliminating fees for dual credit courses; and expanding free school meals for all kids.

Advocacy in Action

  • Kicking off the first week of the 2023 legislative session, Advocacy Director Lizzy Sebring testified on Governor Inslee’s proposed 2023-25 operating budget in the Senate Ways & Means Committee Tuesday, January 10th. On behalf of WSPTA, Lizzy thanked the Governor for the increased funding for students with disabilities and funding for training in inclusionary practices but pointed out it falls short of what is needed to ensure student success. Hear testimony here.
  • Parent advocate Natalya Yudkovsky asked committee members in the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee to take “affordability out of the equation” when speaking in favor of SB 5048, eliminating College in the High School dual credit course fees for low-income students. Natalya’s testimony from January 11th can be found here.
  • After waiting more than three hours to testify on January 11th, parent advocate Jennifer Crespi asked House Appropriations Committee members to fully fund the cost of delivering services to students with disabilities. After thanking the Governor for his investments in this year’s budget proposal, Jennifer pointed out it wasn’t enough and urged lawmakers to remove the arbitrary cap on special education enrollment, increase the multiplier, and make the safety net easier to access. Listen here.
  • School safety issue proposer Rebecca Medendorp testified in both the House Capital Budget and Senate Ways & Means committees Thursday, January 12 in support of boosting the state’s investment in seismic safety for the 2023-25 biennium. Governor Inslee proposed $40 million; WSPTA is asking for $100 million. Listen to her testimony in the House here and in the Senate here.

Focus Day Returns: February 20

After several years of closed campus at the Washington State Capitol, legislators are back and taking in-person meetings. Washington State PTA will host a Focus Day in Olympia February 20th – President’s Day. WSPTA has reserved the Columbia Room in the Legislative Building (the one with the dome) for all day. The Columbia Room is on the main floor and will be a great spot to gather, share information, decompress, organize yourselves, and hear from guest speakers on the hour, from 10 AM to 1 PM. Also, if you haven’t toured the Capitol, we are arranging for two tours just for WSPTA members.

The centerpiece of Focus Day, however, are your meetings with legislators. February 20th may seem like a long way off, but in scheduling terms, it’s right around the corner. Please use this handout to help guide your requests for meetings with legislators. And if you can’t make it to Olympia, legislators are still meeting virtually, so you could request that option as well. Please know that most legislators are limiting office meetings to no more than 4 visitors. If you know you’ll have more than four people, please ask them if scheduling a conference room for the meeting is possible.


Coming to Olympia? Here’s a rough outline of events planned for the day:

  • 9:30 AM – Welcome and Overview of the Day, Messaging
  • 10:00 AM – Alissa Muller, State Board of Education, Mastery-based Learning
  • 11:00 AM – Tania May, Assistant Superintendent, Special Education Programs, OSPI (invited)
  • 11:30 AM – Tour the Capitol (up to 40 guests, including children)
  • 12:00 PM – Jenny Plaja, Government Relations Director, OSPI
  • 1:00 PM – Maddy Thompson, Governor’s K-12 Policy Adviser
  • 1:30 PM – Tour the Capitol (up to 40 guests, including children)

Watch for registration on the WSPTA Events page. No cost to attend unless you would like to purchase lunch.


Focus on Advocacy Week: February 6-10

When WSPTA gathers in Olympia February 20th, it will be the week after bills must pass out of their policy committee to remain under consideration during the session. This year we will hold our “Focus on Advocacy Week” February 6-10. Each day will focus on a specific issue from our Top 5 list and will bring up timely information.

During Focus on Advocacy Week, WSPTA develops targeting messaging for members to send to their legislators. It’s always best to include a personal story if you have one related to the daily topic. Start thinking about your compelling or personal stories for each of the Top 5 by review the list here.

 The Week Ahead

Human Services (Senate) – SHR 2 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 1/16 @ 10:30am

  • SB 5125 – Public Hearing – Creating the Washington future fund program. (Remote Testimony Available).

Early Learning & K-12 Education (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 1/16 @ 1:30pm

  • SB 5126 – Public Hearing – Providing common school trust revenue to small school districts. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 5180 – Public Hearing – Adopting the interstate teacher mobility compact. (Remote Testimony Available).

Environment & Energy (House) – HHR C and Virtual JLOB – 1/16 @ 1:30pm

  • HB 1170 – Public Hearing – Improving climate resilience through updates to the state’s integrated climate response strategy. (Remote Testimony Available).

Civil Rights & Judiciary (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 1/17 @ 10:30am

  • HB 1143 – Public Hearing – Concerning requirements for the purchase or transfer of firearms. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Medium)
  • HB 1144 – Public Hearing – Enhancing requirements for the purchase or transfer of firearms. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Medium)
  • HB 1178 – Public Hearing – Concerning local government authority to regulate firearms. (Remote Testimony Available). (Monitoring)
  • HB 1240 – Public Hearing – Establishing firearms-related safety measures to increase public safety. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/High)

Law & Justice (Senate) – SHR 4 and Virtual JACB – 1/17 @ 10:30am

  • SB 5078 – Public Hearing – Protecting public safety by establishing duties of firearm industry members. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Medium)

Health Care & Wellness (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 1/17 @ 1:30pm

  • HB 1242 – Public Hearing – Creating a behavioral health work group to study the root causes of rising behavioral health issues in Washington communities. (Remote Testimony Available).

Postsecondary Education & Workforce (House) – HHR B and Virtual JLOB – 1/17 @ 1:30pm

  • HB 1176 – Public Hearing – Developing opportunities for service and workforce programs to support climate-ready communities. (Remote Testimony Available).

Education (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 1/17 @ 4:00pm

  • HB 1015 – Public Hearing – Concerning minimum employment requirements for paraeducators. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • HB 1109 – Public Hearing – Providing funding for school districts for special education. (Remote Testimony Available).

Civil Rights & Judiciary (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 1/18 @ 8:00am

  • HB 1195 – Public Hearing – Prohibiting the open carry of certain weapons in public parks and public hospitals. (Remote Testimony Available). (Monitoring)

Early Learning & K-12 Education (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 1/18 @ 1:30pm

  • SB 5072 – Public Hearing – Advancing equity in programs for highly capable students. (Hearing is on the Proposed Substitute.) (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 5257 – Public Hearing – Ensuring elementary school students receive sufficient daily recess. (Remote Testimony Available).

Human Services, Youth, & Early Learning (House) – HHR D and Virtual JLOB – 1/18 @ 1:30pm

  • HB 1094 – Public Hearing – Creating the Washington future fund program. (Remote Testimony Available).

Education (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 1/19 @ 8:00am

  • HB 1207 – Public Hearing – Preventing and responding to harassment, intimidation, bullying, and discrimination in schools. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • HB 1277 – Public Hearing – Establishing rules to improve the consistency and quality of the implementation of the fundamental courses of study for paraeducators. (Remote Testimony Available).

Environment & Energy (House) – HHR C and Virtual JLOB – 1/19 @ 8:00am

  • HB 1216 – Public Hearing – Concerning clean energy siting. (Remote Testimony Available).

Health & Long Term Care (Senate) – SHR 4 and Virtual JACB – 1/19 @ 10:30am

  • SB 5189 – Public Hearing – Establishing behavioral health support specialists. (Remote Testimony Available).

Capital Budget (House) – HHR B and Virtual JLOB – 1/19 @ 1:30pm

  • HB 1050 – Public Hearing – Expanding apprenticeship utilization requirements. (Remote Testimony Available).

 Early Learning & K-12 Education (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 1/19 @ 1:30pm

  • SB 5031 – Public Hearing – Concerning safety net award distributions. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 5311 – Public Hearing – Concerning special education funding formula. (Hearing is on the Proposed Substitute.) (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 5315 – Public Hearing – Concerning nonpublic agencies operating special education programs for students with disabilities. (Remote Testimony Available).

Environment, Energy & Technology (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 1/20 @ 8:00am

  • SB 5093 – Public Hearing – Improving climate resilience through updates to the state’s integrated climate response strategy. (Remote Testimony Available).
Category: Advocacy , Legislative

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