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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

Regent Chilton appointment confirmed by Senate

Reanne Chilton was confirmed by the state Senate yesterday morning on a 49-0 vote as student Regent at Washington State University, with several legislators lauding her confirmation in floor speeches.

Senator Sam Hunt (D-Olympia) called Chilton a “true cougar.” Chilton is a fifth-year student at WSU in clinical psychology, currently working towards her Ph.D. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WSU. Hunt noted her extensive experience before heartily commending her for confirmation. Senator Perry Dozier (R-Waitsburg) also conveyed his support for Chilton’s confirmation – culminating his remarks with an enthused “Go Cougs.”

In addition to her academic pursuits, Chilton has previously represented her Coug peers as the president of the WSU Graduate and Professional Student Association. She was nominated by Governor Inslee to fill the student regent position. During Chilton’s Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 13th, Chilton provided a moving testimony on her experience as a first-generation student and shared her family caregiving experience while attending graduate school.

As student regent, Chilton represents all WSU students providing a valuable student perspective on the university’s Board of Regents.

You can view the floor action from Regent Chilton’s Senate confirmation below:

WSU, faculty, students declare support for Native American Scholarship bill

WSU was represented in force today at the state House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee hearing with the university, faculty and students all registering support for House Bill 1399 to establish a Native American Scholarship Program.

The bill, if funded in the biennial budget the governor will sign this spring, would provide funds equal to resident tuition and fees to eligible applicants who are members of a federally-recognized Indian tribe, fill out a financial aid application, and enroll in a Washington college, university or apprenticeship program. If students have secured additional aid to cover tuition, the scholarship can be used for other cost-of-attendance expenses.

Zoë Higheagle Strong, WSU’s Vice Provost for Native American Relations and Programs and the university’s Tribal Liaison to the President, told the committee the bill will give back and provide generational impact on communities.

“There is a Nez Perce word ‘pinee tipits’ which means ‘reciprocal giving – making sure everyone is taking care of,’ Higheagle Strong said, herself a Nez Perce tribal citizen. “This deep meaning of reciprocity represents a strong value that native people hold on to and why I believe that when we invest in native students and communities that Washington state will greatly benefit as we increase the number of native people in the work force.”

You can view Higheagle Strong’s testimony below.


Steve Bollens, WSU’s faculty representative to the Legislature and a professor in the School of Biological Sciences, told the committee that “after two centuries of repression, discrimination and unjust treatment, providing increased opportunities for native American students to enter higher education is simply the right thing to do.”

You can view Bollens’ testimony below.


Collin Bannister, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Associated Students of WSU, signed in supporting the bill on behalf of WSU students.

Dairy Day returns to the Capitol

The Capitol building was filled with dairy farmers and industry advocates to celebrate Dairy Day Wednesday, commemorated with the sweet taste of Ferdinand’s Grabbers.

Sponsored by the Washington State Dairy Products Commission and in coordination with the Washington State Dairy Federation, members and staff from the Commission and Federation along with Dairy Women and county and state ambassadors use this annual opportunity to share real-life experiences from the farm and the products their milk produces with lawmakers as they contemplate important issues before them in the legislative session.

500 Grabbers were shipped from Pullman to Olympia this week to contribute to the annual event. The dairy industry continues to be strong supporters of WSU, which provides the industry with a workforce and valuable research. The popular ice cream sandwiches went fast as Capitol campus occupants lined up.

Back in person – Coug Day at the Capitol

Dozens of WSU students are swarming the state Capitol grounds today to press their priorities as part of the annual Coug Day at the Capitol.

Held remotely for the past two years, students from five WSU campuses returned in force before dawn this morning. Agenda items for a series of meetings with legislators include requests for resources to support mental health, support for a bill to establish a Native American scholarship program, legislation supporting students’ basic needs, and legislation extending terms of the Washington College Grant to match that of the federal Pell Grant.

Students are breaking into groups to meet with legislators and are paying visits to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and the Secretary of State’s Office. More than 50 students are participating from WSU’s Tri-Cities, Pullman, Vancouver, Everett and Global campuses. Visits today support the work of two full-time student lobbyists from the Vancouver and Pullman campuses, who have been roaming Olympia’s halls since the beginning of session.

Organized by the Student Government Council of Washington State University, this effort is geared to enable WSU students systemwide the opportunity to meet with state lawmakers and discuss higher education priorities.

Today marks the beginning of week three of this year’s 105-day legislative session.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post attributed the organization of Coug Day to the Associated Students of Washington State University (ASWSU). Coug Day is actually organized by the Student Government Council, a collective and joint effort between ASWSU and the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA)

Bill to set tuition earlier now awaiting floor vote

Legislation that would allow Washington’s public universities to set tuition sooner was unanimously moved out of Senate Higher Education committee last week and is now in the Rules Committee awaiting a floor vote.

Senate Bill 5079, supported by WSU, would require the Office of Financial Management to communicate the maximum allowable increase in tuition under state law to public higher education institutions by October 1 for the following academic year. Currently, the cap is not communicated until May, just months before students arrive on campus.

Setting tuition rates sooner means financial packages can be prepared sooner and prospective students can learn financial impacts before they decide whether to pursue a college education at all.

ASWSU Director of Legislative Affairs, Collin Bannister testified in support of this bill along with Council of Presidents Interim Executive Director Ruben Flores during its hearing on January 11th. They both touched on the positive impact to the students should the bill be passed. You can find more on the testimony from this hearing and its impact here.

Three days on the hill: President Schulz engages Legislature

WSU President Kirk Schulz visited with legislators in Olympia last week, advocating for the institution’s top legislative priorities.

Over three days, Schulz met with over two dozen legislators discussing employee compensation, the university’s social work and public health degree proposals, nursing reaccreditation efforts, and multiple building projects. You can find WSU’s 2023 legislative agenda here.

With the full Legislature meeting in person for the first time in three years, additional contacts were made in hallways and at the annual Council of Presidents reception.

Earlier in the week WSU Vancouver Chancellor Mel Netzhammer participated in visits with legislators from the Southwest Washington delegation as well. Among WSU’s legislative priorities is funding to operate and maintain the Vancouver Life Sciences Building, previously funded for construction by the Legislature in 2020.

During his visit, Schulz also met with WSU students participating in the Legislature’s internship program as well as student government representatives from Pullman and Vancouver. Starting in 1955, the Legislature has welcomed students to serve as non-partisan, full time legislative interns in Olympia to earn academic credit and valuable work experience.

The state Legislature enters their third week of the 105-day legislative session today.

PIC. 1: Left WSU Pres. Schulz; Right Sen. Hunt (D-Olympia)

PIC. 2: Left to right – WSU Pres. Schulz, WSU Vancouver Chancellor Mel Netzhammer and Rep. Stonier (D-Vancouver)

PIC. 3: Left to right – WSU Pres. Schulz, WSU Senior Director of State Relations Chris Mulick, ASWSU Director of Legislative Affairs Collin Bannister, ASWSUV Director of Legislative Affairs Jessica Smith, WSU students in the Legislative Internship Program, WSU Assistant Director of State Relations Connor Haggerty.

WSU testifies on House climate resiliency work session

Climate change is going to drive meaningful impacts in agricultural productivity, WSU’s Chad Kruger recently told the state House Environment and Energy Committee.

Kruger, Director of the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources, revealed data comparing the current agricultural ecological zones in the Inland Northwest region to where they are projected to be mid-century. WSU researchers have presented wheat producers’ data to promote understanding of the anticipated changes, which include increased variability of crop yields.

Irrigation pattern changes are anticipated as well, Kruger told members of the committee meeting last week. “The focus is, if the future is not what the past was, we need better mechanisms to help our producers figure out what a resilient plan looks like.” Kruger further compared WSU’s findings to other areas in the nation that currently demonstrate a similar climate to the projection. “[Washington State] will look a lot more like the northern parts of California.” Kruger noted.

The House Environment and Energy Committee is considering several bills this session aimed at climate resiliency. Kruger’s full presentation to the committee can be viewed below.

Senate committee advances Regent Chilton confirmation

The Senate Higher Education Committee has recommended confirmation of WSU Student regent Reanne Chilton.

Chilton, appearing at a confirmation hearing Friday, received several positive remarks from the committee, with committee Chair Emily Randall noting Chilton’s “history of service.”

Chilton, a fifth-year student in clinical psychology is currently working towards her Ph.D. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WSU and represented her Coug peers as the president of the WSU Graduate and Professional Student Association until 2022.  She was nominated by Governor Inslee to fill the student regent position, which is designated to provide a student perspective on the WSU Board of Regents.

In her testimony Chilton spoke about growing up in Tri-Cities as a first-generation college student, raised by a single mother who inculcated higher education as her pathway and resourcefulness as a tool for survival. Chilton shared her caregiving experience as she supported her mother during her illness while attending graduate school.

“This was possible because I go to WSU – a university where not only am I receiving excellent training as a future psychologist, but also where I’m seen as a whole human being, part of a large ecosystem with important ties to family and community,” Chilton said. “Because of this I’ve had the opportunity to achieve a level of education no one in my family has before while also getting to be with my mom in her final months.”

The committee recommended approval on a unanimous vote, sending the confirmation to the full Senate for consideration. You can view Regent Chilton’s confirmation hearing below.

WSU testifies on governor’s proposed operating budget

WSU Senior Director of State Relations Chris Mulick testified on the governor’s proposed operating budget at two hearings last week, flagging concerns about compensation but praising investments in nursing, public health and energy research.

WSU urges the legislature to support the University’s top priority – cost-of-living adjustments for faculty, staff and graduate students. In his testimony, Mulick pointed out “the funding in this budget is sufficient to provide COLAs of just 2.5 percent and 1.3 percent for fiscal year 2024 and  fiscal year 2025.” He further clarified the delta between that and the 4 percent and 3 percent advertised in budget documents is “explained by the assumption that there will be new tuition revenue to cover that gap. Unfortunately that tuition revenue is just not there.”

The governor’s proposed operating budget would include support for nursing reaccreditation, establish a new bachelor’s degree program in public health, covers maintenance and operations of the Vancouver Life Sciences Building, a new energy research center at WSU Tri-Cities and provides funds to enhance core support for Ruckelshaus Center among other proposals.

Washington State University has identified cost-of-living adjustments for faculty, staff and graduate students as its top priority in advance of the 2023 legislative session and has submitted a number of other requests to support high demand degree production and the university’s physical infrastructure. You can find WSU’s 2023 legislative agenda here.

You can find WSU’s testimony on the governor’s operating budget below.

WSU testifies on governor’s proposed capital budget

During a committee meeting of the Senate Ways & Means committee last Thursday, WSU testified on the governor’s proposed capital budget noting the historic deferred maintenance support, the matching of state dollars to philanthropic giving, while noting two projects that went unfunded.

Those omitted projects included the renovation of the Knott Dairy at WSU Pullman and the design of a simulation space in the Team Health Building at WSU Spokane. In testimony, WSU Assistant Director of State Relations Connor Haggerty asked legislators to “reference WSU’s request as you build your budget to help keep the university’s priorities in order.”

The budget did provide a strong minor works preservation investment, which would allow the university to address deferred maintenance projects throughout the system. It also matched philanthropic support to construct a new engineering student services building in Pullman. It also provided funding to design a new science building and renovate parts of three others to accommodate it.

You can find WSU’s testimony on the governor’s capital budget below: