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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

Senate approves HSSA of Spokane County bill

The state Senate yesterday approved legislation reauthorizing the funding mechanism for a key WSU Spokane research partner.

The 12-year-old Health Sciences and Service Authority of Spokane County helps drive funding to support life and health sciences research. For instance, the HSSA is a partner in WSU’s new Gleason Institute for Neuroscience. It has also helped fund the development of laboratory spaces for WSU researchers.

The HSSA’s funding comes from a local sales tax that is credited against the state sales tax. That authority expires Jan. 1, 2023.

Senate Bill 5596, which is supported by WSU, would extend that authority to Jan. 1, 2038. It was approved by the Senate Monday 48-0 and now heads to the House.

You can watch floor debate below.

2019 Future Leaders in Science Recipients

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) selected the 2019 ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Future Leaders in Science Award. Halle Choi with the Sustainable Seed Systems Lab of Washington State University was one of 18 graduate students members who received the award in recognition of her interest and engagement in science advocacy. Award winners received a trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in the annual ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Congressional Visits Day on March 5, where they met with their members of Congress to advocate for food, agriculture and natural resources research.

Congrats to Halle Choi and Go Cougs!

Health sciences training bill clears House

A bill to enhance health sciences training opportunities brought by student leaders at WSU Spokane cleared the state House of Representatives 95-0 late Monday afternoon.

House Bill 1726 now heads to the Senate.

Under current law, nursing, pharmacy and medical students taking basic vital signs at health fairs and other such events must be supervised by faculty from their specific discipline. That requirement can limit such opportunities when faculty supervisors can’t be scheduled.

The bill approved Monday would allow supervision for all students by a single faculty member from any one of the disciplines. It is being supported not only by students but WSU itself as well as the state Nurses Association.

Watch the video below to see the House Floor Debate on HB 1726:

Bill benefiting WSU V&E program approved in House

The state House of Representatives on Friday 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 the classroom. HB 1563 extends on legislation passed in 2015 to include grape-growing areas and wine production facilities as allowable places for supervised students to sip and expectorate wine as part of their educational training.

The bill, supported by WSU, passed through the House 89-6. It now moves to the Senate where it will begin the process again.

Watch the video below to see the House Floor Debate on HB 1563.

Higher Education Act Reauthorization; Senator Murray’s speech

Senator Murray participated in a Center for American Progress event in DC on February 28th 2019; she was the keynote speaker and outlined her Higher Education goals.

As per a Politico Pro article “Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, on Thursday outlined her priorities for overhauling federal higher education policy this year as she begins “good-faith negotiations” with Republicans over a bill.

But she also suggested she’d be open to reaching a deal that doesn’t include any of the various free college proposals championed by many of the Democrats running for president in 2020. Such proposals are a non-starter with most congressional Republicans.

Murray (D-Wash.) said she wants to reach a deal with Sen. Lamar Alexander, (R-Tenn.) the committee’s chairman, on a comprehensive overhaul of the Higher Education Act rather than a more modest compromise.”

In her speech, she made specific remarks of note for the following areas:

In regards to Higher Education affordability;

“…our HEA reauthorization must include a state-federal partnership to promote new investments in our students and families and to pave affordable pathways to higher education.  And we should increase investments in need-based aid like Pell Grants, The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant—or the SEOG, and Work Study. We also need to address the total costs of college, not just tuition—but food, text books, housing, transportation, child care and more.”

“We need to fix the path to loan forgiveness already laid out in federal law, for students who have been cheated by their schools, for our public servants, and for those who can no longer work because of a disability.  And our system of federal student loan servicing has to work for borrowers not against them—which we know is far from the case today.”

In regards to Higher Education access;

“…we need to expand access to students who have been traditionally left out of higher education by enhancing federal investments and support systems that help those historically underrepresented students, including: students of color, first-generation college students, student parents, homeless and foster youth, women, students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, working students, veterans, service members and their families.

And it’s not just about expanding admissions—colleges need to do more to support students while they are in school with: access to peer mentoring, providing counseling to help them navigate financial aid, get academic support, and career counseling, connecting students with food and housing benefits, ensuring they have a safe place to sleep, and reducing the cost of textbooks and supplies.”

In regards to Higher Education Campus Safety & Civil Rights:

“One of my top priorities in this HEA reauthorization is to address the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses across the country…we must also address discrimination on campuses.”


Her speech can be viewed here

If you would like to read further information on her speech or read the full speech, you can view that here

UPDATE: House Health Care passes ASWSU Health Sciences student-led bill

A panel of WSU College of Pharmacy students convened before the House Health Care & Wellness committee this week to show support for a bill they’re spearheading concerning services provided by health care professional students.

HB 1726 aims to address issues with the current law governing inter-professional student health care training by widening the scope of possible preceptors allowed to supervise health care student service activities. Under the current law, students are required to have a professional from their own discipline supervising them if they provide any type of health care service. In the event that preceptors are unavailable or forced to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances, students lose out on invaluable opportunities for hands-on training in their communities despite the fact that other health care service supervisors are available just outside their given fields. HB 1726 would 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.

ASWSU Health Sciences students put a monumental amount of work into the construction of this piece of legislation. Pharmacy Students Brandy Seignemartin, Jennifer Robinson and Johanna Pantig led the production of the proposal 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. Stakeholders are now in full support of the bill, as is the WSU Colleges of Nursing and Medicine.

UPDATE: HB 1726 passed unanimously out of the House Health Care Committee. The bill will now move to House Rules where it will be considered for a vote on the House floor.

You can view the panel’s testimony in the video below.

WSU presents medical school progress report to Senate committee

Members of the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee held a work session on meeting workforce demands in Washington State’s Health Care Industry this week and called WSU forward to present its case for how the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is addressing this major issue. Since the medical school’s authorization in 2015, the university’s mission has been to provide more physicians in core disciplines to rural and underserved areas of Washington. According to Ken Roberts, Vice Dean of Academic and Community Partnerships at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the university is seeking to address this demand by focusing on the admissions process and curriculum structure to influence the outcomes of their mission goals.

By creating a targeted approach to their admissions process the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine has seen the formulation of a student body that positively represents the communities which the university seeks to serve. The combined first two classes of the medical school have included a student demographic which are:

  • 28% first generation college students
  • 31% students of color
  • 38% low-income students
  • 58% women
  • 44% over the age of 25 (higher than average and indicating a slightly more mature student body)
  • from 60 Washington communities
  • 100% are Washingtonians

“You don’t have out-of-state tuition at the medical school,” noted Senator Jeff Holy, “There’s a reason for that.” This is because the University is pulling its medical student pool directly from local communities around Washington State. As Dr. Roberts points out “if you want physicians to go back and practice in areas where it’s needed most, you need students coming into your medical school that represent residents from those places.”

The second focus on curriculum is driven by the selection of core disciplines the university will train students in and also where they will be trained in. The university will anchor student education at its four medical school campuses in Everett, Vancouver, Spokane and the Tri-Cities, before getting students “out into more rural spaces so they have a chance to bond and connect with the communities and medical practices there — and most importantly with the patient population that they are seeing in those places.” Currently the University as 79 clinical affiliation agreements with medical practices across the state – from Forks to Goldendale and from Grand Coulee to Longview.

Additionally, the University continues to raise funds to offset student costs. “I’m happy to report that we’ve raised over $21 million for the medical school that’s helping reduce the cost of education for our students,” says Chris Mulick, Director of State Relations at Washington State University. “Every student so far as has been offered a scholarship, and we have had students who can afford tuition reject the scholarship asking us to repurpose it towards other students who have greater needs. These are the type of students we’re recruiting.”

Check out the video below to watch the full presentation, including more information on WSU’s admission selection process and its curriculum plan.

Legislature cancels Monday schedule

Legislative leaders in both the House and Senate have cancelled Monday’s legislative activities due to uncommonly adverse winter weather conditions. This marks the first such cancellation for weather in recent memory – at least 20 years.

Many legislators spent the weekend in their home districts across the state, which has been pounded by snow to varying degrees with another system moving in today.

As of Monday morning, the Legislature was planning to returning to full operations Tuesday. That could be subject to change depending on the outcome of additional adverse weather expected for Monday afternoon.

Senate briefed on WSU hydrogen vehicle technology research

WSU Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Jacob Leachman was called before the Senate Transportation Committee today to provide an overview on his research in hydrogen fuel cell technology and its applications in the transportation sector. Leachman, founder of the Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research Lab at WSU, gave a brief introduction on the science behind hydrogen fuel cells before explaining to legislators how this technology can be applied as an alternative fuel source in all forms of transportation – from cars to buses to tractors – as a way to dramatically reduce fossil imports and CO2 emissions.

Leachman’s presentation also addresses the public misconceptions around safety with this form of technology and outlines what the infrastructure looks like for refueling and recharging hydrogen vehicles – infrastructure which is already being applied in other areas around the country and the world.

Video of the presentation can be viewed below.

Federal policies impacting fundamental scientific research update

The Science Coalition Round up for February 5th 2019 provided useful information which may be of interest:

Following the agreement to reopen the federal government through February 15, recent news coverage focused on the residual impacts the partial government shutdown will have on science. News outlets have largely examined the impacts to federal science agencies and the fundamental research they support. Some press have also highlighted the lasting effects on research universities, and the problems created by a lack of access to critical funding and resources over the five-week shutdown. Here is a sampling of top articles from the last few weeks:

Infographic: Science Caught in the Middle of the Shutdown

The federal government shutdown is over, but its affects are still being felt by America’s leading research universities. At least $1.3 billion of fundamental scientific research funding was put on hold at federal agencies such as NSF, USDA, NASA, and others. Even though these agencies are open again, it will take them time to get back up to full speed, halting essential research projects for weeks or even months to come. The below infographic gives a snapshot of how funding instability hurts scientific research and how universities get caught in the middle.

To download the infographic from the TSC please click on: reports and resources page.