Monday, April 25, 2011

Governor credits Legislature for work so far, calls special session to begin Tuesday

A special session of the Legislature will convene Tuesday to complete the work of adopting operations, capital and transportation budgets for the 2011-13 biennium, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Friday. 
“This is a special session to address the budgets, period,” the Governor told reporters.  “This is a special session to get the job done that we’ve already started.”
Not only will the House and Senate attempt to reach agreement during the special session on their differing versions of the budget, they will also act upon 40 to 60 separate pieces of legislation necessary to implement the final budget, the Governor said.  “Within each are very tough policy decisions,” she said.
Among the pieces of legislation the Governor’s special session proclamation mentions as necessary to implement the budget are bills addressing changes to Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program, and the Higher Education Funding Task Force recommendations.
Governor Gregoire said she was proud of the work accomplished by the Legislature during the 2011 regular session. She noted that the number of bills passed during the session was down dramatically from previous years, a sign that legislators were reluctant during the current fiscal crisis “to start new programs that drain our resources.”
One bill that did pass during the regular session and received special mention from the Governor Friday was E2SHB 1808, or the Launch Year Act. It requires higher education institutions to develop master lists of postsecondary courses that can be completed while a student is still in high school, through such programs as Running Start.  The Governor said the act will make it possible for more students to begin their postsecondary training while still in the 12th grade. 
Governor Gregoire said one disappointment for her during the session was the Legislature’s lack of action on education governance. Before the session, the Governor proposed establishing a new Department of Education with a Secretary responsible to the Governor for improving educational performance.  Under the Governor’s proposal, the department would have incorporated various state-level agencies and functions from early learning through postsecondary education, and would have housed the independently elected Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Although the proposal was opposed by the state schools superintendent and others, the Governor said she would continue to work on governance with supporters in the Legislature.

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