One of the questions I get most often from Pullman centers around the status of the higher education regulatory reform package in the Legislature. And it’s routinely one of the most difficult to answer.
By way of background, last year our state’s universities were asked to develop a list of measures that might offer some measure of relief at a time when budgets are being cut and staff is being increasingly overburdened. Some of the measures that were forwarded would save the universities actual money. Others would relieve staff of certain burdens.
Generally, the individual measures ranged from relieving universities of some duplicative reporting requirements to easing restrictions on purchasing practices.
Initially, all of these things were intended to move forward as a single package. But due to title and single subject requirements in the Senate, the measures got broken up into multiple bills, which were then sent to a series of different committees. As such, those of us advocating for the bills have been hard pressed to continually remind legislators that the single bill they’re reviewing is part of a larger package that we were asked to produce.
The status of the package is decidedly murky.
Senate Bill 5520, a measure to ease WSU’s municipal stormwater costs, did not advance from committee. Senate Bill 5517, which would have allowed universities to pay only for state archiving services they actually used, has been put down. So has Senate Bill 5518, which would have required direct deposit for state government employees.
Senate Bill 5516, which would allow universities to pay in advance for certain maintenance costs in order to get reduced rates, is alive and well. So is House Bill 1663, which would remove a requirement that universities purchase 2 percent of materials, supplies, services and equipment from the Department of Corrections.
A series of other measures are likely to end up in House Bill 1795, which is Rep. Reuven Carlyle’s tuition flexibility bill. These could include ones that provide relief on reporting requirements, purchasing restrictions and a relief from a series of limitations on things such as personal service contracts, equipment purchases, out-of-state travel and hiring.
Some measures may show up in budget language. This would include measures to eliminate or change the floor and raise the ceiling for minor capital projects and make pre-design for capital projects under $10 million permissive but not mandatory.
And still others that don’t make the cut this year may be moved into a process for discussion this summer and fall leading into next year’s legislative session.