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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

Higher education bills signed into law

Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a fleet of WSU-supported bills into law.

House Bill 1751, in part, requires anti-hazing training for new students and institutes new transparency requirements for institutions of higher education and social fraternity and sorority organizations for violations of hazing laws, codes of conduct, and other protocols. WSU issued a statement this afternoon hailing the bill’s passage, which can be found here.

House Bill 1835 in part establishes a marketing campaign to promote the Washington College Grant in an attempt to encourage more low-income students to pursue college post-secondary credentials. House Bill 1736 establishes a state-run low income student loan program.

Last week the governor signed House Bill 1622, directing the WSU College of Nursing to offer training for nurses seeking to become certified as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. WSU testified in support of the bill and plans to offer in-person simulation training in Spokane and Yakima.

Operating budget funds compensation increase, cybersecurity programming, pharmacy residency program

Leaders in the House and Senate this evening approved a supplemental operating budget agreement that funds a series of WSU priorities and sent it to the governor.

The two chambers’ compromise provides $7.5 million for compensation enhancements. It improved upon the formula used to fund such increases consisting of a mix of new appropriation and tuition revenue. Such funding splits most recently have been 53 percent new appropriation and 47 percent tuition. This year’s budget improves that ratio to 65 percent new appropriation and 35 percent tuition, recognizing the formula has been frustrated when new tuition revenues don’t materialize as total enrollment ebbs and flows.

The budget compromise also provides $2.1 million for WSU to establish a new academic degree in Cybersecurity Operations at the Pullman, Tri-Cities and Everett campuses. It will be offered by the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. A second cybersecurity proposal — a new Information Assurance major to Business Administration degree offered by the Carson College of Business — was not funded.

The compromise also provides funding for WSU to develop a one-year psychiatric and behavioral health residency program in Eastern Washington. The state’s $341,000 investment will allow WSU to develop a program with two residents a year providing care to patients in clinical settings, specifically in Eastern Washington where access to behavioral health services is limited. The advocacy effort was a cooperation with the University of Washington which will establish a similar program.

The budget also funds a series of other priorities involving WSU, including an array of assignments brought by legislators.

  • House Bill 1622 directs the WSU College of Nursing to provide training for nurses seeking to become certified as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. The budget provided $122,000 in annual funding to implement it.
  • The budget provides an additional $608,000 per year in core support for the Washington State Academy of Sciences, for which WSU is the fiscal agent.
  • Costs to implement apprenticeship and anti-hazing legislation are fully funded.
  • Funding for WSU research or work group assignments is provided for stormwater, an agricultural symbiosis initiative, community solar projects, energy code education, catalytic converter theft policy, and policy associated with towing vehicles used by homeless individuals as a residence.

The operating budget compromise now goes to the governor for his signature. Today is the final day of this year’s 2022 legislative session and adjournment is expected by midnight.

Capital budget compromise funds Holland Library shelving

The state Senate and House released their compromise capital budget this afternoon, providing $2 million to WSU for high-density compact shelving in Holland library on the Pullman campus.

The shelving would start a broader effort to consolidate some library collections and reclaim space in the campus core that could be repurposed at a later date. The reclaimed space could serve as a venue for new student study spaces.

The funding was previously proposed in the separate Senate and House capital budget proposals, in addition to the governor’s proposal which in December proposed $8 million for the effort. The compromise budget now awaits a vote by both chambers before it goes to the governor for consideration.

Legislative leaders said today that agreements on operating and transportation budgets will be revealed tomorrow in advance of floor votes in the House and Senate. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn this year’s session Thursday night.

SANE nursing bill sent to governor

A bill that would direct the WSU College of Nursing to provide sexual assault nurse examiner training was voted out of the Senate last night with a unanimous 47-0 vote. House Bill 1622, sponsored by Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, cleared the House in late January with a unanimous 97-0 vote.

If signed by the governor and funded in the operating budget agreement now being negotiated, the College of Nursing would establish a training program to prepare nurses to become certified as sexual assault nurse examiners. The training would include online didactic instruction and on-site training providing enough simulation experience to qualify participants for SANE certification. This would enhance training availabilities in Eastern Washington with simulation programing located in Spokane in the first year and expanding to Yakima in the second year of implementation.

Last night’s floor debate can be viewed below.

Senate, House air operating budget proposals

Following an impressive economic and revenue forecast last week, state budget writers released their supplemental operating budgets for the 2021-23 biennium on Monday. Both the Senate and House proposals provide funding for WSU’s top legislative priority of employee compensation.

Like the governor’s budget, the House budget provides $7.32 million for compensation enhancements and the Senate budget provides $7.67 million.

The Senate’s proposal would provide WSU the requested $4.448 million in annual funding to establish two undergraduate degree programs focused on cybersecurity at the Pullman, Tri-Cities and Everett campuses. These programs, a Bachelor of Science degree in Cybersecurity Operations and an Information Assurance major within the Business Administration degree, would equip students with the tools needed to enhance the state’s cybersecurity workforce. While this was funded in the governor’s proposal, it was not funded in the House proposal.

The Senate and House operating budget proposals both provided the requested $341,000 for WSU to develop a one-year behavioral health residency program in Eastern Washington. The program would see two residents a year providing care to patients in clinical settings. This effort was brought to the Legislature in collaboration with the University of Washington.

Also released today was the House supplemental capital budget, which provided $2 million for WSU to begin to purchase high-density compact shelving units for collections in Holland Library on the Pullman campus. This would allow space to be reclaimed that could be renovated for other uses in the future. The Senate budget also provided $2 million for this, while the governor’s budget provided $8 million.

With all three operating budget proposals and all three capital budget proposals now released, budget writers will begin working on negotiating compromises  to send to the governor for his consideration.

Senate capital budget plan funds compact shelving in Holland Library

The state Senate released its proposed 2021-23 supplemental capital budget Wednesday afternoon, which would provide $2 million for WSU to acquire high-density compact shelving to consolidate some collections in Holland Library on the Pullman campus.

This would contribute to a broader effort to consolidate collections in both Holland and Owen libraries allowing reclaimed space to be repurposed as part of future renovation projects. Reclaimed space in Holland, for example, could be repurposed to provide new student study spaces.  The governor’s proposed capital budget provided $8 million for this purpose in December.

The proposal will be heard in the Senate Ways and Means committee on Thursday. The House will also put forward a proposed capital budget in the days to come before budget writers begin negotiations to compromise on a final budget.

Strong growth signaled by state’s revenue forecast

The state’s revenue outlook projected strong growth in an updated state economic and revenue forecast released Wednesday morning. The forecast for the current 2021-23 biennium was increased by $1.4 billion and for the upcoming 2023-25 biennium it was increased by $1.3 billion. This increases the total budget to $58.9 billion in the 2021-23 biennium and $62.1 billion in the 2023-25 biennium. The first forecast for the 2025-27 biennium shows a budget total of $66.5 billion.

The forecast was encouraged by a steep decline in COVID-19 infections and continued retail and real estate transactions. Tax collections since the last revenue outlook in November came in $452 million above forecasted, largely driven by the increase in the cost of retail goods and subsequent sales and business & occupation tax in addition to strong real estate sales. However, possible downsides to the outlook include higher inflation which may dampen consumer spending, geopolitical risks, and a possible return of COVID-19 infections.

The budget writers in the state Senate and House will now finalize their supplemental budget proposals for the current 2021-2023 biennium, which are expected to be released early next week.

Nurse training bill clears House unanimously

The state House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill last night that would expand Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner training opportunities in Eastern Washington. HB 1622, sponsored by Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, passed off the House floor with a 97-0 vote.

If signed into law and funded, the bill would authorize the WSU College of Nursing to establish training programming. The program would consist of online didactic instruction in addition to require on-site facility training, first available in Spokane with expansion to Yakima a year after implementation.

Similar training currently exists at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. This bill would make opportunities available in Eastern Washington to support nurses seeking to gain SANE certification.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

You can watch floor debate on the bill below.


WSU infectious disease expert briefs Senate committee

The Senate Health Care & Wellness committee held a work session on the COVID-19 pandemic this morning, including a presentation from WSU professor Guy Palmer for his insight on where we’ve gone through the pandemic as a state and where we might be heading.

Palmer, Regents Professor of Pathology and Infectious Disease at WSU in the Paul G. Allen School of Global Health, began his remarks by detailing the state’s “just-in-time” health care system that was in place before the pandemic. Public health systems throughout the state began the pandemic lacking the necessary resources to navigate the situation as it transpired. Many county health departments in the state had insufficient epidemiology and logistic resources needed to address the challenges presented by the virus, “They didn’t really have surge capacity,” said Palmer in his remarks to the committee, “It’s noted as a point of reference that Seattle and King County Public Health are basically the same size as all of the other county health offices put together.” The lack of resources resulted in counties being unaware of what transmission looked like in their communities early in the pandemic, compared to the rest of the state and country.

With the state currently facing a large increase of COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant, Palmer, who is also providing scientific counsel to WSU’s COVID-19 response, shared his thoughts to where the pandemic may go from here. He noted that the omicron variant appears to be following the pattern that many viruses tend to, with a decrease virulence, or severity, but increased transmissibility. “Traditionally, many viruses maintain a high level of transmissibility but decrease their ability to cause disease. Will COVID follow this pattern? Obviously there is a lot of hope that this will, because that would be one of the major steps towards decreased impact on society.”

For the virus to spread it must enter the cell, antibodies created by vaccines or by previous infection can prevent that virus from binding and entering the cell. The question remains, shared Palmer, “How much can that virus change, while allowing it still to get into a cell and escape immunity?”

The scientific community continues to assess the impact of multiple infections on immunity. With other coronaviruses and the flu, multiple infections and vaccination have shown to provide that immunity to the virus over time. “In a common cold and flu season, your children are more likely to infect you, because they don’t have much built up immunity – over time they build that immunity,” Palmer told the committee.

The question to ask then, according to Palmer, is if we will we see this with COVID-19. “We’re hopeful that it’s true, because these things would lead us to the end game where we have an endemic infection with minimal impact on healthcare services and severe health consequences.”

Following Palmer’s remarks, Senator Ann Rivers of La Center asked if it would be better to call the COVID-19 vaccine a ‘shot,’ rather than a ‘vaccination,’ because of the incorrect assumption people may make that vaccination provides complete immunity. Palmer responded that “very few vaccines against any disease – any viral pathogen – do that. Even our most effective vaccines such as measles do not prevent infections, what they do is they prevent severe disease – which is really what vaccines are intended to do.”

Dr. Palmer’s full presentation to the committee can be viewed below.

College affordability bill heard, WSU testifies in support

A number of bills seeking to address college affordability were heard in front of the House College & Workforce Development committee this morning. Among these was HB 1659, which WSU supported with public testimony during the hearing.

HB 1659 would expand access to the Washington College Grant program by expanding the income eligibility thresholds and allow bridge grants to be awarded to College Grant recipients who receive the maximum grant benefit. These bridge grants could be spent on non-tuition expenses that students incur, such as textbook and housing costs.

“What started as an effort to fully fund the State Need Grant has turned into the advent of the Washington College Grant, has turned into this effort to bring the full power of the Washington College Grant to even more families” said Chris Mulick, WSU Director of State Relations in virtual testimony to the committee. Bridge grants could be spent on important non-tuition expenses that students incur during their academic journeys, such as textbook and housing costs.

The bill now waits for a vote by the policy committee which has not yet been scheduled. You can view Mulick’s full testimony below: