The Session Begins
We are two weeks into the 2016 session. The intent of this shorter session is to tweak the budget and address issues which have come up during the past year. Some of those include the early releases of prisoners, charter schools, the Washington Promise Program, and the K-12 education funding.
As you have most likely heard in the news, over the past few years the state has mistakenly released approximately 3200 prisoners early due to malfunctioning computer software. What makes this problematic is the fact the responsible state agency knew about the botched release times for some time but did not bring it to the attention of the proper authorities until recently. The legislature is now attempting to deal with this issue in order that proper oversight can be put in place, and that the responsible entities are held accountable.
Since the last legislative session, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled public charter schools unconstitutional because of how they are funded. This was not anticipated due to the fact the voter approved charter schools were succeeding so well, and a lot of under-served students were finally getting the focused attention they needed in a school environment. The Senate has already moved a bill that will allow for funding and answer the Supreme Court’s concern. It is now in the House for their review.
A bill recently submitted in the House and Senate, called the Washington Promise Program, would provide two years of tuition free community college. This is in response to the President’s State of the Union address in which he touted this program as good for America. We don’t know yet how much traction this will get from both sides of the aisle; however, the major question at this time is how it can be funded. There are definitely two sides to this argument. I would be very interested in hearing your opinions and comments.
Last week, a judge ruled that I-1185 was unconstitutional. This was the initiative that required a 2/3 vote by the legislature to raise taxes. It also required it be sent to the people for a vote this fall in the form of a constitutional amendment, or in the case it did not go to the people the state sales tax would be reduced 1%. At this time both chambers are looking at the options available. I hope to have additional information in my next newsletter.