A Day in the Legislature – Potato Day!

Baked PotatoToday was “Potato Day.” The Potato Farmers of Washington hand out baked potatoes larded with condiments. The line stretches down the stairs of the rotunda and almost out the door. I passed on this opportunity and had a sandwich in my office. I’ll stand in line for the BBQ beef sandwich on “beef day” but not a baked potato, despite how tasty they are.

Tomorrow (2/13/13) is “Gun Day,” with several bills being heard in the Judiciary committee at 8:00 AM. We’re expecting to have, again, random people with assault rifles slung over their back wandering the halls of the capitol. There was a protest last week with several hundred people. This is larger than some protests, but not really all that big. We typically have more people here for PTA focus day, or any of the large lobby days. I’m not involved in these bills in detail, but am a co-sponsor of the bill (HB 1588) requiring background checks for all sales of guns in Washington, including private sales and those at gun shows. This is a pretty rational requirement that is supported by large majorities (over 80%) of the American public and that I’ve supported since my initial run over a decade ago, when only 75% of the people in my district supported it. For more thoughts on gun safety you can read my post from a few weeks ago.

This morning I had an opportunity to talk to Karen Kramer’s 4th grade class from Ben Franklin Elementary in the reception room in the capitol building. It’s a lovely room that is useless for receptions because they won’t let you have food or beverages in it. The irony of life… I’ve spoken to Ms. Kramer’s classes several times over the past few years and they’re always interesting, though you never know what 4th graders will ask. While it’s great to bring kids to the capitol to see how we make laws, its more interesting to start in the fall with a classroom visit, and then to track a piece of legislation through the process. This way when the kids come down here they’re looking for something and not just marveling at the marble. Call our office to set something up – I love doing these.

In addition to the 4th graders, I had 13 other meetings today, starting with Gov. Inslee in the morning and ending with a review of several issues with the budget committee staff. I’m struggling to work out details of a specific proposal on school funding and the numbers just don’t want to line up and do what I want them to. We’re on version 9 or 10 of this particular proposal.

In the Appropriations committee today we had a public hearing on HB 1043, which limits differential tuition at our universities. You can watch the hearing through the miracle of the Internet (thank you Al Gore) here. Two years ago I supported differential tuition as a tool to help the UW and our other 4-year schools find a way to offer more engineering courses. I’ve since been convinced it’s a bad idea for a number of reasons.

  • It makes our guaranteed education tuition (GET ) program have a large unfunded liability – over $600 million. (We can solve this by eliminating differential tuition and not raising tuition in the next 2 years.)
  • It makes some careers prohibitively expensive for lower and middle-income kids. These are exactly the careers we want them to qualify for.
  • Having a student in college makes me aware that they change majors with some frequency.

We are expecting to pass the bill out of committee tomorrow. To replace the ability of the universities to raise more money for expensive programs I think we are going to have to negotiate for and provide the funds directly.

 

About the Author

Ross
I am the Director of the Department of Early Learning for Washington State. I formerly represented the 48th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives, chairing the Appropriations committee and spent many a year at Microsoft.