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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

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.

Transportation budget moves up critical SR 26 improvements

The transportation budget approved by the Legislature over the weekend and sent to the governor’s desk advances the schedule for previously funded safety improvements on State Route 26 between Dusty and Colfax.

With safety for WSU students and others traveling across the state to and from the Pullman campus in mind, the Legislature in 2017 approved $11.15 million in the transportation budget to construct new climbing lanes. Construction was slated to occur in two stages. Some of it was to occur during the 2023-25 biennium and the bulk of it was to occur during the 2025-27 biennium.

But legislative leaders — at the urging of WSU student leadership – advanced that schedule in this year’s transportation budget so that all construction will occur in the 2019-21 biennium that commences July 1.

This represents a significant enhancement that will improve safety for everyone driving to and from WSU.

Governor signs WSU-supported animal research bill

Gov. Jay Inslee this afternoon signed into law a bill requiring higher education institutions that use dogs and cats for research offer the animals up for adoption before considering euthanasia.

Senate Bill 5212 was passed out of both the Senate and the House unanimously, with stakeholder support from the University of Washington, Washington State University, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. WSU has used cats and dogs in research projects related to pharmacology, nutrition, orthopedics, arthritis and cancer therapy, helping to improve overall animal health and comfort.

The legislation was sponsored by Senator Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, who serves as Chair on the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee and operates his own dog boarding business in South Snohomish County.

Under the bill, any animal made available for adoption would first be assessed by a university’s attending veterinarian to determine suitability for adoption. The bill does not preclude universities from using research animals for other educational uses before making them available for adoption.

Sen. Palumbo, Zoey, and Gov. Inslee

State budgets meet WSU priorities

The Legislature adjourned its 2019 session just before midnight Sunday, having approved budget compromises. Most notably, the Legislature fully funded WSU’s $14.4 million request for core funding to support the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

The operating budget package completes funding for the College of Medicine’s existing cohorts of 60 students per year as well while also funding first- and second-year instruction for an additional 20 students, allowing the college to admit 80 students this fall. This request was WSU’s top legislative priority.

We are working jointly with the Budget Office on a comprehensive analyst. In the meantime, here is an overview:

Operating budget:

  • ESFCOM $14.4 million
  • Comp and Central Services Support (Foundational Support) 5.353 million
  • Clean energy legislation (WSU Energy Program) $1.411 million
  • Maintenance and operations for new buildings FY20 $383,000, FY21 $1.06 million
  • Children’s mental health legislation $264,000
  • Domestic Violence legislation $173,000
  • Opioid overdose medication legislation $53,000
  • Soil Health Initiative $500,000

Capital budget:

  • $36.4 million to complete construction of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab in Pullman
  • $27 million to construct a new academic building at WSU Tri-Cities
  • $500,000 for pre-design of a new Biomedical and Health Sciences Building at WSU Spokane
  • $10 million to support a land purchase to support future growth at WSU Everett
  • $21.4 million for minor works preservation
  • $5.328 million for minor works program (MCI & omnibus equipment). Funded for the first time in ten-years

The capital budget agreement did not fund WSU’s $4 million request to design a Life Sciences Building at WSU Vancouver.

In general, this was a very good year for Washington State University in the biennial budget process. We appreciate the support and leadership of the Washington State Legislature.

Go Cougs!


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.

WSU Start-Up featured in University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase in DC.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association of American Universities co-organized an annual University Innovation & Entrepreneurship Showcase to highlight the role of federally-funded university research in fueling entrepreneurship, innovation and economic opportunity nationwide. Washington State University students were featured in this showcase through their work forming Eco Carbon Technology (ECT) Inc startup. Through the Showcase, the ECT team and WSU were recognized nationally for their exemplary work at the intersection of science, technology, and business.

The ECT startup is a unique, multidisciplinary team of students working together to solve the problem of bee death and colony collapse. This startup was created after the development of the Beetoxx technology in 2017. The invention team for Beetoxx consists of two Washington State University researchers, Brandon Hopkins, Entomology Professor and Waled Suliman, Postdoctoral Research Associate for Biological Systems Engineering. They developed a food supplement that helps bee colonies survive the toxic effects of pesticides by using a carbon micro-particle beekeepers can add to meals that removes pesticide residue from the bees’ digestive system. The entire ECT effort is comprised of two teams working in parallel. The research team worked on generating more data about the effectiveness of the Beetoxx technology under different conditions. Within the research team, they have one graduate student who works closely with the inventors; his name is Saffet Sansar, Master of Science Student at Entomology department. The Commercialization team worked on planning and strategizing towards marketing the technology and now consists of Rachelle Muzones (2018 Bioengineering Graduate), Jason Williams (Entrepreneurship, Business Management expected graduation 2019), and Tru Petrilli (2018 Entrepreneurship Graduate); all of whom had a background in business and entrepreneurship enabling both the research and commercialization team to co-found their startup; Eco Carbon Technology Inc.

Jason Williams (right) and Tru Petrilli (left) represented ECT and WSU at the University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase on April 9th, 2019.