Prepared by Marie Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
After a week of long nights, sometimes into the next day for the House, and some difficult policy discussions in both chambers, the Legislature reached the third major milestone of the session on March 8th – the deadline by which bills needed to pass out of the place in which they started. Action now returns to policy and fiscal committees and their consideration of bills from the opposite chamber.
Here’s a quick look at bills that died at cutoff (bill details can be found here):
- HB 1239 would have established a uniform system for complaints related to, and instituting a code of educator ethics for, conduct within or involving K-12 schools.
- HB 1244 would have increased the maximum per pupil limit for enrichment levy authority.
- HB 1305 would have required districts to make initial student evaluations for special education and to develop IEPs, including requiring the evaluation to take place within 60 calendar days, with a few exceptions.
- HB 1670 would have changed the 101% revenue growth limit for local property taxes to 100% plus population changes and inflation, with a capped limit of 103%, starting with the 2024 calendar year.
- HB 1692 would have created student advisory groups (supported by WSSDA).
- SB 5344 would have established a public school revolving fund. SJR 8203, the constitutional amendment, also didn’t pass; bill would have asked voters in the November 2023 election to create this new public school revolving fund.
- SB 5527 would have added AP courses to the list of courses approved as a graduation pathway option.
- SB 5647 would have required school safety policies and procedures to be shared with temporary employees.
- SB 5670 would have permitted 10th grade students to participate in Running Start in online settings.
Mitigating Gun Violence
The final bill of the day March 8 was SHB 1240, the bill that would prohibit assault weapons in Washington State. This is the first time the House has passed legislation on this topic; surprisingly the debate took less than four hours and passed by a margin of 55-42.
The bill would define the term “assault weapon,” and would prohibit the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, or offer for sale, of any assault weapon. Some exceptions are provided, including sales to the U.S. Armed Forces or to any law enforcement agency for the purpose of law enforcement, or to any person who does not reside in Washington.
Violation of the prohibition would be classified as a gross misdemeanor and would be tried under the Consumer Protection Act. The bill has been referred to the Senate Law & Justice committee, where similar measures have been passed in previous sessions.
The House also passed, by a slimmer margin, SHB 1562, which would make changes to the crime of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, including adding crimes that would prohibit a person from possessing a firearm. The bill would also revise certain provisions that govern restoration of firearm rights, including establishing additional eligibility requirements and procedures applicable to the petition process.
The previous day the House passed E2SHB 1143, by a vote of 52-44. This bill would not allow a firearms dealer to sell or transfer any firearm until the completion of a background check indicating the person is eligible to possess firearms, and 10 business days have elapsed since the dealer requested the background check. It also would prohibit a dealer from transferring a firearm to a purchaser or transferee unless the person provided the dealer with proof of completion of a recognized firearms safety training program, with a few exceptions.
For its part, the Senate passed SSB 5078, which would hold the firearms industry accountable for the manufacture, distribution, importation, marketing, or offering for wholesale or retail sale a firearm or related product to minors or individuals who are legally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, or that foreseeably would promote conversion of a legal firearm or related product into an illegal firearm or related product. Under the bill, the state Attorney General would be authorized to file legal suit under the Consumer Protection Act for violations and could seek and obtain punitive damages up to three times the actual damages sustained by the state, reasonable attorney fees, and costs of the action.
The bill has been referred to the House Civil Rights & Judiciary committee. It is scheduled for a public hearing March 14 and for executive action March 17th.
The committee will also hear SSB 5006 the same day. This bill would create a new civil infraction for an individual who is found to have a firearm in their possession or control after filing a voluntary waiver of firearms rights. The legislation also would address other aspects of waivers of firearms rights, and would encourage mental health professionals and substance use disorder professionals to discuss with their patients about voluntary waiver of firearm rights when they reasonably believe that it could avoid or minimize an imminent danger to the health or safety of the individual or other individuals.
Senate and House education committees will hold public hearings this coming week on the special education bills. While the House phases out the cap on enrollment for special education funding in the 2027-28 school year, the Senate’s multipliers are higher and the cap is increased to 15% next school year.
Here’s how they compare:
Unfortunately, the grand idea of fixing the convoluted student transportation funding formula from the start of the session, and providing 100% reimbursement for special passengers (e.g., students with disabilities, students who are homeless, and students in the foster care system) has been ditched in favor of a “transportation safety net” grant program. Under the program, districts could apply for additional funds for special passengers only after “convincingly demonstrating” the need for additional transportation funding for special passengers.
Under E2SSB 5174, as passed by the Senate, OSPI would establish rules and processes for transportation safety net applications and awards, and the funding would be limited to what was appropriated in the two-year operating budgets. SHB 1248 died in Rules. One difference between the two was that the House version would have required private transportation contractors to provide their employees comparable health and pension benefits to school district employees doing similar work.
Perhaps holding out a bit of hope for formula reform, Section 3 of the Senate bill would direct OSPI to conduct an analysis of school district transportation costs and allocations following the 2024-25 school year and send a report to the education and budget committees of the Legislature by June 1, 2026. This would help inform future discussions on revising the overall student transportation allocation model to a more transparent and predictable funding model.
Isolation and Restraint
At 1 AM March 10, the House took up E2SHB 1479, a bill that would modify provisions related to student isolation and restraint, including prohibiting chemical and mechanical restraint, and prohibiting the use of isolation or isolation rooms in grades 3-12 starting January 1, 2026. For grades K-2, isolation rooms would be prohibited starting next school year. The bill passed 63-31, three excused.
Under the bill as passed the House, OSPI would be required to offer technical assistance and other forms of compliance monitoring and support. Professional development would be prioritized in schools with the highest incidents of reported isolation and restraint, and would be prioritized first for educational staff, including principals and building administrators, working with students with disabilities in grades pre-K-5.
The floor striker, offered by bill sponsor Lisa Callan, D-Issaquah, would add a definition that a “room clear” was not isolation, except as provided in rule by OSPI, and would require the report on the use of room clears to identify best practices on the use of room clears, and would change the report due date to September 1, 2024 (instead of 2026).
Dueling Dual Credit bills
2SHB 1316 would increase the combined maximum FTE student rate from 1.2 to 1.6 for students participating in Running Start. In addition, the bill would direct OSPI to adopt rules to fund the participating student’s enrollment in Running Start courses provided at an institution of higher education during the summer academic term. This would make permanent the summer Running Start pilot program.
In a new twist, students that graduate from high school would also be allowed to enroll in Running Start courses during the summer academic term when the student has 15 or fewer college credits to earn before meeting associate degree requirements. Under the bill, funding would be appropriated for summer Running Start for 11th and 12th graders, and for students who have graduated but are short on degree credits. If funding is not provided, the bill would not go into effect. The bill passed 60-36 and is scheduled for a public hearing Monday, March 13 in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee.
Before the gavel fell March 8, Senators unanimously passed 2SSB 5048, a bill that would eliminate College in the High School (CHS) course fees for any student in grades 9-12 taking the course at a public high school. The bill would direct the state operating budget to appropriate funding for CHS courses administered in the prior academic year, funded at a rate of:
- $6,000 per CHS course administered by a state university;
- $5,500 per CHS course administered by a regional university or state college; or
- $3,500 per CHS course administered by a community or technical college.
Beginning in the 2025 fiscal year, the rate of CHS courses would be adjusted annually for inflation as measured by the consumer price index (CPI). The bill has been referred to the House Postsecondary Education & Workforce committee; it has not been scheduled for a hearing yet.
Transition to Kindergarten
Many school districts offer a “transitional kindergarten” course for 4-year-olds who will turn 5 before September 1st, the deadline by which students can enroll in kindergarten. The successful program has led to improved outcomes, as measured by the WaKIDS assessment which is administered in the first few months of kindergarten and assesses basic skills, mainly through observation. School districts have been counting these students as “basic education” kindergarteners, although the classrooms and curriculum are different, which means the districts are receiving a basic education allocation, plus categorical support, for these 4-year-olds.
2SHB 1550 would seek to eliminate transitional kindergarten and replace it with a “transition to kindergarten,” state-authorized program limited by amounts appropriated in the budget, similar to how the State funds the Early Childhood and Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). ECEAP is a state preschool program that provides no-charge services and support to eligible 3-5-year-old children who are not age-eligible for kindergarten and meet family income requirements or have qualifying disabilities. The program is administered through the Department of Children, Youth and Families, and DCYF contracts with school districts, nonprofit organizations, and other entities to deliver the program. ECEAP is scheduled to become an entitlement for eligible children beginning with the 2026-27 school year.
Over the years, transitional kindergarten – or TK – has grown in school districts, creating fear that it is encroaching on the state’s preschool program, among other perceived issues. The House, in particular, would like to rein in TK, make it follow ECEAP rules and practices, and fund it subject to appropriations from the budget, at a rate less than ECEAP, and based on a limited number of slots.
The bill passed the House 72-22, with a mix of Republicans and Democrats voting No, primarily from districts with strong TK programs. It has been referred to the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee but has not been scheduled for a public hearing at this time.
The Week Ahead – Remote Testimony is available for ALL public hearings
Action returns to policy and fiscal committees. The next cutoff is for bills from the opposite chamber to pass out of policy committees by Wednesday, March 29. Fiscal bills are given until April 4th.
Schedule is subject to change – public hearings only, check full Weekly Schedule for all events:
Early Learning & K-12 Education (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 3/13 @ 1:30pm
- HB 1308 – Public Hearing – Concerning high school graduation pathway options. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Medium)
- 2SHB 1316 – Public Hearing – Expanding access to dual credit programs. (Remote Testimony Available). (Monitoring)
- E2SHB 1565 – Public Hearing – Supporting and strengthening the professional education workforce. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support)
Education (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 3/13 @ 1:30pm
- ESB 5462 – Public Hearing – Promoting inclusive learning standards and instructional materials in public schools. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support)
- SSB 5626 – Public Hearing – Expanding and enhancing media literacy and digital citizenship in K-12 education. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support)
Local Government, Land Use & Tribal Affairs (Senate) – SHR 3 and Virtual JACB – 3/14 @ 8:00am
- E2SHB 1181 – Public Hearing – Improving the state’s response to climate change by updating the state’s planning framework. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support)
- HB 1575 – Public Hearing – Modifying the sales and use tax for cultural access programs by allowing the tax to be imposed by a councilmanic or commission authority and defining timelines and priorities for action. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support)
Civil Rights & Judiciary (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 3/14 @ 10:30am
- SSB 5006 – Public Hearing – Clarifying waiver of firearm rights. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Medium)
- SSB 5078 – Public Hearing – Protecting public safety by establishing duties of firearm industry members. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Medium)
Education (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 3/14 @ 4:00pm
- E2SSB 5243 – Public Hearing – Concerning high school and beyond planning. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Medium)
- E2SSB 5311 – Public Hearing – Concerning special education funding formula. (Remote Testimony Available). (Concerns/High)
Early Learning & K-12 Education (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 3/15 @ 1:30pm
- SHB 1109 – Public Hearing – Providing funding for school districts for special education. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Low)
- SHB 1346 – Public Hearing – Creating the purple star award. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Low)
- ESHB 1436 – Public Hearing – Funding special education. (Remote Testimony Available). (Concerns/High)
Health Care & Wellness (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 3/15 @ 1:30pm
- SSB 5189 – Exec Session – Establishing behavioral health support specialists.
- 2SSB 5555 – Public Hearing – Creating the profession of certified peer specialists. (Remote Testimony Available). (Monitoring)
Appropriations (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 3/15 @ 4:00pm
- E2SSB 5174 – Public Hearing – Providing adequate and predictable student transportation. (Remote Testimony Available). (Concerns/High)
- ESSB 5702 – Public Hearing – Expanding the students experiencing homelessness and foster youth pilot program. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Low)
Education (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 3/16 @ 8:00am
- SB 5019 – Exec Session – Concerning classified staff providing student and staff safety. (Neutral)
- SB 5031 – Exec Session – Concerning safety net award distributions. (Monitoring)
- ESB 5355 – Public Hearing – Mandating instruction on sex trafficking prevention and identification for students in grades seven through 12. (Remote Testimony Available).
Early Learning & K-12 Education (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 3/16 @ 1:30pm
- E2SHB 1238 – Public Hearing – Providing free school meals for all. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Low)
- HB 1622 – Public Hearing – Supporting the needs of students experiencing homelessness. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Low)
- SHB 1701 – Public Hearing – Concerning basic education services to youth who are served through institutional education programs. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support)
Appropriations (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 3/16 @ 4:00pm
- SSB 5561 – Public Hearing – Extending the expiration date of the law enforcement community engagement grant project. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/Low)
Environment, Energy & Technology (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 3/17 @ 8:00am
- ESHB 1589 – Public Hearing – Supporting Washington’s clean energy economy and transitioning to a clean, affordable, and reliable energy future. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support)