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Draft report backs reauthorization of aerospace research center

The state’s legislative auditor is recommending the reauthorization of a state funded research collaborative designed to serve the aerospace industry.

The Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation was established by the Legislature in 2012 and given a $3 million biennial appropriation to fund seed grants for research at state universities. Since then, $9 million in total state funds have leveraged $7 million from industry partners participating in funded research projects and more than $22 million in additional extramural funds to support research. Some 109 projects with 64 aerospace companies have pursued advancements in areas such as aviation biofuels, power systems, composites manufacturing, space systems and more.

Aerospace companies in 13 Washington counties have participated, with at least one on each project, involving a total of 392 students.

Supportive of the legislation at the outset, WSU has been a heavy participant in funded research. Mary Rezac, Dean of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, is also a member of the JCATI Board of Directors.

The center is scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2020. Before the Legislature considers reauthorization, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee is required to conduct a sunset review. A draft of the report was shared with the committee Wednesday in advance of a final report in December. Committee staff is recommending reauthorization.

The draft report indicates the center is meeting legislative intent by funding research, enhancing student education and working with Washington aerospace companies. It further states the center is unique, efficient and economical.

“In my seven years on JLARC, you don’t see too many reports that we checked every single box,” said Sen. Mark Mullet, an Issaquah Democrat who chairs the committee.

He reminded the committee that part of its charge is to make sure effective programs don’t get terminated and that its members are uniquely qualified to speak to JCATI.

“If we don’t speak up for that program it will get terminated. We have to carry that forward. I hope everyone keeps that in the back of their head as we approach the January session.”

You can watch Wednesday’s hearing here:

WSU Cannabis Research: Progress, challenges & next steps

WSU is aiming to be “the nexus for cannabis scholarship, policy, outreach and community engagement in Washington State” reported Michael McDonnell during Thursday’s work session on Marijuana-Related Research in the House Commerce & Gaming Committee.

McDonnell, Associate Professor at the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and Chair of the Collaborative for Cannabis Policy, Research & Outreach (CCPRO) gave an overview on WSU’s progress in cannabis research, including where the university is receiving its funding and how it’s been applied. McDonnell also spoke to the opportunities and challenges associated with research around a substance still federally illegal and how the university is using innovative collaborations with industry partners to support cannabis studies.

You can view McDonnell’s full presentation below:

Washington student loan debt among nation’s lowest

College student loan debt in Washington was sixth lowest in the country in 2018, the House College and Workforce Development Committee heard Thursday.

In addition, loan default rates are less than half the national average.

“When you’re comparing us to other states we look really good,” Council of Presidents Executive Director Paul Francis told the committee, meeting on the first of two days of Olympia committee meetings for the House of Representatives. The Council of Presidents represents Washington’s six public baccalaureate institutions, including WSU.

The high rankings do not yet account for new state investments in financial aid, approved earlier this year, that will further reduce financial pressure.

Francis referenced a report published in August by LendEDU which showed that among students who graduated from Washington baccalaureate institutions in 2018 with loan debt, average debt was $23,671. That’s higher only than in the states of Utah, New Mexico, Alaska, California and Nevada. And half of students graduated with no debt at all.

Francis’ presentation also referenced unemployment rates that fall with higher levels of education, from 4.1 percent for high school graduates in Washington down to 1.5 percent for graduates with a professional degree.

You can watch Francis’ presentation below.

Gov. Inslee celebrates WSU Medicine expansion in Spokane

Governor Jay Inslee visited the WSU Health Sciences Spokane campus today to celebrate the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine expansion from 60 students per year to 80 students in the coming fall. The expansion was WSU’s top legislative priority during the 2019 Legislative Session and was fully funded in this year’s budget along with completed funding for third- and fourth-year instruction for the existing cohort of 60 students.

Governor Inslee greeted medical students before giving a speech on the importance of the WSU School of Medicine and its value for the State of Washington. “This is an investment worth making,” Gov. Inslee said. The event included presentations from students who revealed the impact this program has already had on their lives – including one student who used her knowledge from the program to aid a stabbing victim.

University Leadership also spoke on what makes the WSU Medical School so significant, including Dean John Tomkowiak who noted “our college of medicine is all about community.”

The event was also attended by legislative members of the third district — Rep. Timm Ormsby, Sen. Andy Billig and Rep. Marcus Riccelli — who each spoke on behalf of the local and statewide impact of the medical school and the push to get the expansion approved in the legislature this year. “This has never just been about Spokane,” said Rep. Riccelli. “This has been about the whole state.”

For their support in the continued development of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the Governor and legislators were each announced as Adopted Cougs.

Health Science training bill signed by the Governor

Health Science students have cause to rejoice today as Governor Inslee signed into law House Bill 1726, a student-led and WSU-supported bill designed to enhance training opportunities for students in nursing, pharmacy and medicine.

Currently students are required to have a professional from their own discipline supervise them if they provide any type of health care service. This policy has led to lost opportunities for students who can’t find available preceptors in their fields or are left in a bind when a supervisor is forced to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances. HB 1726 will increase opportunities for inter-professional training by allowing students in the fields of pharmacy, medicine and nursing to be supervised under certain circumstances by preceptors licensed in any of these fields so long as the students have documentation from their respective colleges showing they’ve met competency in the services being performed and also show coverage by appropriate professional liability insurance.

The bill was pulled together by a group of ASWSU Health Science students in the WSU College of Pharmacy. Brandy Seignemartin and Johanna Pantig led construction on HB 1726 and worked with stakeholders from Washington State Pharmacists Association, Nursing Association, Medical Association, Osteopathic Medical Association, as well as the WSU Colleges of Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy, and the Nursing and Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commissions to get their input on the bill and address their concerns before presenting it before legislators.

Students journeyed out to Olympia back in February to testify on their work in putting together this piece of legislation, which passed through the House and Senate with unanimous votes. Today they returned all smiles to watch their hard work get the seal of approval from the Governor.

Viticulture, enology bill signed into law

Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1563 into law this afternoon, enacting legislation that will allow students under 21 enrolled in viticulture and enology programs at four-year universities to taste, but not consume wine as part of their educational experiences outside of the classroom.

The law will now include grape-growing areas and wine production facilities as allowable places for supervised students to sip and expectorate wine. This means students in these programs will now have the opportunity to better understand flavors and identify flaws in wines while out on field trip trainings in vineyards and wineries.

WSU has enthusiastically supported the bill since its first hearing in January, testifying that legislation such as this will improve the educational experience of enology and viticulture students.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser, and also was supported by the Washington Wine Institute and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. It amends law approved in 2015 that allowed minors to taste but not consume wine in the classroom setting.

Governor signs university research bill

Governor Jay Inslee this morning signed a bill that will cut red tape for university research efforts.

Senate Bill 5786 was supported by WSU. It removes higher education institutions from state laws governing the release of public records for research to protect individuals’ privacy rights. These laws were written before the implementation of a series of federal laws with the same aims.

Eliminating the state requirements for universities will retain existing protections via federal law while relieving the administrative burden of seeking compliance with two sets of duplicative laws that have until now slowed down research efforts.

Before being signed into law, the bill was approved 46-1 by the Senate and 97-0 by the House.

Senate sends student-led health sciences training bill to governor

Legislation that would enhance training opportunities for health science students passed unanimously out of the Senate today with a vote of 48-0.

HB 1726 is a student-led bill put forward by a group of WSU College of Pharmacy students seeking to widen the scope of possible preceptors allowed to supervise students performing basic medical care services at health fairs and other such events. Currently students must be supervised by a professional from their own discipline in order to provide any type of health care service, but this has led to a number of lost opportunities for students if a preceptor in their designated field is unavailable or forced to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances. HB 1726 would limit these situations from occurring and allow for increased opportunities for inter-professional training by allowing students in the fields of pharmacy, medicine, and nursing to be supervised under certain circumstances by preceptors licensed in any of these disciplines.

The bill previously passed off the House floor with a unanimous vote of 95-0. In February, the ASWSU Health Sciences students leading the bill testified on the benefits of this legislation and shared the monumental amount of work they put into constructing the bill in partnership with several state and national stakeholders. The bill will now head to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.

Viticulture, enology bill headed to Governor’s desk

Today the Senate approved legislation that would allow students under 21 enrolled in viticulture and enology programs at four-year universities to taste, but not consume wine as part of their educational experiences outside of the classroom.

With the backing of WSU, HB 1563 would include vineyards and wineries as allowable places for supervised students to sip and expectorate wine as part of their educational training. Such authority already exists inside the classroom.

The bill previously passed out of the House with a vote of 89-6. Today’s Senate floor vote of 43-1 means the bill will now move to the Governor’s desk to be acted upon.

You can watch the Senate Floor debate on HB 1563 below.

UPDATED: Senate releases operating budget proposal

Leaders in the state Senate today introduced their operating budget proposal that, like the House of Representatives’ plan unveiled earlier, partially funds WSU’s request to support the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

WSU requested $14.4 million over the two-year budget cycle and both budgets, like the governor’s, provide $10.8 million over 2019-21 budget cycle.

Funds provided for compensation – for several biennia now funded through a complicated mix of appropriation and tuition – are still being analyzed.

The Senate budget proposal will be heard on Monday afternoon and is scheduled to be voted out of the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.

Update: WSU testified on the Senate budget this week. You can view video of the testimony below: