April 10, 2023

Senate Passes Preventing Gun Violence Legislation in Week 13 Report

Prepared by Marie Sullivan, 

By a vote of 27-21 (and one excused), the Senate passed legislation that would prohibit the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, or offer for sale, of any assault weapon, with a few exceptions, effective upon the governor’s signature. SHB 1240 passed Saturday afternoon after more than 22 amendments and three hours of debate. Because it was changed on the Senate floor, the bill will be returned to the House for approval of the amendments, which are expected.

The previous night, the Senate passed E2SHB 1143, by a vote of 28-18 (three excused). The bill would require a 10-day waiting period for completion of a background check to determine eligibility on the sales or transfer of a firearm and would prohibit a dealer from transferring a firearm to a purchaser or transferee unless the person has provided the dealer with proof of completion of a recognized firearm safety training program. This bill also will return to the House for concurrence with the changes.

In addition, on April 6, the Senate unanimously passed HB 1599, a Washington State Patrol-request bill that would allow the WSP Firearms Background Check Division to access files and records of Involuntary Treatment Act court proceedings for conducting background checks for firearms transfers, firearm rights restoration petitions, firearms-related licenses, and release of firearms from evidence.

And back on March 24th, the House passed, in a vote of 61-35, SSB 5006, which would create a new civil infraction for persons who have in their possession or have under their control a firearm after filing a voluntary waiver of firearm rights. The bill also would encourage mental health professionals and substance use disorder professionals to discuss with their patients the voluntary waiver of firearm rights.  The bill was amended in the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee, so will return to the Senate for concurrence.

This is truly historic legislation and has been many years in the making. Washington State PTA is honored to be a part of the discussion over the past few sessions, and congratulations to WSPTA members who have diligently testified, written action alerts, and engaged in other advocacy to support this legislation.

Three bills remain this session in the “preventing gun violence and suicide” Top 5 adopted by WSPTA members in fall 2022:

  • HB 1230 would require information sharing about safe storage of firearms and medications by schools and school districts; and
  • SSB 5078 would hold the firearms industry responsible for putting in place reasonable controls to prevent the sale and distribution of firearms to certain individuals; prevent the loss and theft of firearm industry products and ensure compliance with state and federal law; and to take reasonable precautions to prevent the sale or distribution of firearm industry products to distributers and retailers who have failed to establish and implement reasonable controls.
  • SSB 5561 would extend the expiration date of the Law Enforcement Community Engagement Grant project.

SSB 5078 is ready for floor action in the House. HB 1230 and SSB 5561 remain in their respective Rules committees.

Done for the session

As the Legislature winds down the 2023 session, it is reaching the final deadlines for bill consideration. Tuesday, April 4th signaled the end for several bills in fiscal committees, including the following bills:

  • HB 1109 would have provided school districts with funding to do early identification and evaluation of students for special education services during July through September.
  • HB 1565 would have created a teacher residency pilot program and would have directed OSPI to research the viability of an online portal for hiring educators. It is possible at least the Teacher Residency three cohorts will show up in the final budget.
  • SB 5102 would have required class 1 school districts to hire a certificated teacher librarian for every 1,000 students and would have exempted class 2 districts from being required to offer a school-based library and information technology program overseen by a certificated teacher librarian.
  • SB 5126 would have created a funding stream for the Small District Modernization Grant through common school trust revenue, but the bill died in House Capital Budget. Not to be deterred, the bill requirements were added to HB 1044, which passed out of Senate Ways & Means April 4th.
  • SB 5626 would have expanded media literacy and digital citizenship in K-12 education.
  • SB 5711 would have extended the terms of eligibility for the Washington College Grant but funding is provided in both operating budgets, although at different levels.

The next deadline is April 12th, when bills from the opposite chamber need to pass by 5 PM to remain under consideration.

What did the Legislature pass last week?

The following bills passed the opposite chamber. All of the bills except for HB 1210 were amended, so they will return to the chamber in which they started (e.g., House bills return to the House, Senate bills return to the Senate) for “concurrence” or “dispute.” In the case of the bills below, changes are likely to be agreed to.

  • E2SHB 1170 would direct the Department of Ecology to compile an updated Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy by September 30, 2024, and to provide recommendations to the Governor and Legislature on a durable structure for coordinating and implementing the state’s strategy, including a process to prioritize and coordinate state agency funding for climate resilience.
  • SHB 1207 would require OSPI to develop model student handbook language that includes information about policies and complaint procedures related to discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying, and would require school districts to include the language in their handbooks and publish it on their websites beginning in the 2024-25 school year.
  • HB 1210 would require school board of director’s meetings, when final action is taken or when public comment is offered, to be audio-recorded and retained for public disclosure for one year. The bill is not funded. The bill was not amended, so it will make its way to the Governor’s desk.
  • HB 1308 would establish an additional graduation pathway option of completing a performance-based learning experience in math and English Language Arts.
  • SHB 1306 would establish the Purple Star Designation to recognize school districts that demonstrate educational and social-emotional support to students of military service members as they face transitions to a new school.
  • HB 1622 would modify the requirements for two existing grant programs supporting students experiencing homelessness.
  • SHB 1658 would authorize high school students aged 16 and over to earn up to two elective credits through paid work experience if specified requirements are met.
  • SSB 5189 would require the Department of Health to develop rules for the certification of behavioral health support specialists, a new type of behavioral health professional certification available to individuals with a bachelor’s degree who meet other requirements.
  • E2SSB 5243 would make changes to requirements associated with High School and Beyond Plans and direct OSPI to review and adopt an online platform for these plans.
  • ESSB 5072 would expand the Students Experiencing Homelessness and Foster Youth pilot program.

What’s next for the last two weeks?

All the attention has moved to the floor for legislation and behind closed doors for budget negotiations. Most of the focus will be on getting bills passed out of the opposite chamber by Wednesday, and then attention will turn to agreement, dispute, or conference committees to hash out the differences.

Here’s what we’re watching this week:

Special Education

The House and Senate take different approaches and, therefore, have different funding levels for special education.

  • E2SSB 5311, as passed the Senate, would increase the cap on enrollment from 13.5% to 15%; would increase the multiplier for students receiving educational instruction; and would make accessing the safety net easier for school districts with high-cost students. The bill was amended in the House Appropriations Committee and now contains only the language of HB 1436, as it passed the House. The Senate operating budget includes about $378 million for the biennium.
  • ESHB 1436 began life as an OSPI-request bill that removed the enrollment cap and increased the multipliers so that the funding gap of about $400 million a year would have been closed during the next biennium. Unfortunately, the cost was too great, and the bill was scaled back in several ways: the enrollment cap is phased out over the next five school years, and the multiplier is inched up during the same period. The bill would also direct a study to determine disproportionality in identifying students for special education services, and a JLARC/State Auditor’s Office performance review of spending. The bill was amended in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, leaving only the two studies. The House operating budget includes about one-third the level of funding for the cap and the multiplier compared to the Senate budget.
  • As mentioned above, HB 1109 failed to pass out of the Senate fiscal committee, but the House budget included funding to support early evaluation of students for special education services. In addition, HB 1479 failed to pass out of the Senate policy committee the previous week, and that bill had an additional $15 million for professional development to reduce the practices of isolation and restraint.

The bills and the various budget items related to special education are under negotiation. At this point in the process, we are hoping for funding at the Senate level for the cap and multiplier, and House level for professional development. Stay tuned.

Transition to Kindergarten/Transitional Kindergarten

As passed the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, E2SHB 1550 looks nothing like the bill as it passed the House. The legislation to establish a new “transition to kindergarten” program faces an uncertain fate. As amended by the Senate committee and passed unchanged through Senate Ways & Means, House co-sponsors Sharon Tomiko Santos and Tana Senn have said they don’t believe it has enough protections or looks enough like an early learning program to support the changes.

If the bill doesn’t pass by the April 12th deadline, it may be dead. House members will likely try to restrict or otherwise limit the existing transitional kindergarten program in the budget, like they did last year. That section was vetoed by Governor Jay Inslee, so that might be the situation for this session.

ESSER Funding Redirection

Both the House and Senate budgets would redirect ESSER III funds appropriated to OSPI and now out under other contracts to school districts, ESDs, non-profit organizations, state agencies, and other entities to supporting recovery following the pandemic. OSPI has notified the budget writers about the issue, as has OFM, the state’s budget office. Last Friday a letter was sent to budget writers describing various school district and ESD programs under contract and the types of services being offered that would be put at risk if the legislature proceeded to take this money back and reallocate it to programs it wants funded.

All told, the funding represents a significant amount, so it will be challenging to resolve this issue over the next few weeks.

Experience Factor & Regionalization

Last week Rep. Beth Doglio, D-Olympia, organized a meeting between school district lobbyists and House members. As a reminder, the Senate budget provides zero cushion for rebasing regionalization and the experience factor; the House cuts the percentage decline in half. To restore all districts to a hold harmless would cost another $23 million (or $46 million total) for 2024 fiscal year.

The House plans to hold firm on its level at 2%, and also offers a bit of a safety net this school year in the 2023 supplemental budget with LEA funding to 131 districts. The LEA adjustments range from a low of $165.00 to $2.5 million. The total adjustment is also valued at $23 million, which makes the difference between the House and the Senate about $69 million combined.

Dual credit

2SSB 5048 would cover fees for students in grades 9-12 who are taking College in the High School (CHS) courses in public schools. The Senate operating budget includes funding to support CHS courses this biennium and into the future biennia, with funding adjusted by inflation. The bill was amended by the House Appropriations Committee and would limit state funding for CHS courses to $300 per student, per course up to the maximum rates identified in the bill and would reduce the maximum rate per CHS course administered by a regional university or the Evergreen State College from $5,500 to $5,000.

The House focuses on Running Start courses, using 2SHB 1316 as the vehicle. As passed by the Senate Ways & Means Committee, the bill would allow Running Start (RS) students to be funded up to a combined maximum enrollment of 1.4 FTE, rather than the current ratio of 1.2 FTE.

The fiscal committee changes also would direct OSPI to adopt rules to fund student enrollment in RS courses during the summer academic term up to a maximum of 10 college credits per student. The final change removed the provision that allowed students who had graduated to continue participation in Running Start during the summer academic term.  Both bills are in their respective Rules committees.

Small Schools School Construction

SSB 5126 would have created a dedicated funding stream for the Small District Modernization Grant program. The bill died in the House Capital Budget. Not to be deterred, Senator Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, added the entirety of SSB 5126 onto Cathlamet Republican Rep. Joel McEntire’s bill, SHB 1044.  The House bill will be returned to the House for possible concurrence or dispute. As passed by the House, SHB 1044 would create a new capital construction and planning grant program for financially distressed school districts that meet certain enrollment and eligibility criteria.

Category: Advocacy , Legislative

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