Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Tracking committees during legislature’s special session

by Matt Rosenberg November 27th, 2011

Front and center in the Washington state legislature’s special session starting Mon. Nov. 28 is revising the state budget to close a $2 billion gap between planned spending and anticipated revenue, perhaps setting the stage for a statewide voter referendum March 13 on a half-cent sales tax hike Gov. Christine Gregoire is advocating to ease cuts. But though the budget – and its proposed spending reductions in social services, health care and education – will dominate the special session, legislative committees will also be continuing difficult work to retool state government and programs in a time of continued and pronounced fiscal challenges. They’ll be digging further into funding of state transportation projects, state parks, and local infrastructure; 10-year state capital budget needs; water quality; chemical contamination of the environment; the future of higher education in Washington state, and other topics, such as whether Washington needs its own meat inspection program.

Though a raft of new legislation is probably the last thing to expect in the next few weeks, the committee work does open a window into current challenges facing state government, and emerging priorities of the next regular session, starting January 9, 2012. Let’s take a look at some of what’s on tap for legislative committees during the special session.

Online tools for tracking Washington state’s legislative committees
An online hub provides access to the agendas of upcoming meetings of Washington House and Senate committees, and joint, select and other committees. You can also explore committee meetings and agendas, by day. (UPDATE, 12/2/11: Links to important documents are typically added after the scheduled meeting’s start and found via the “Committee Meeting Documents” link at a committee’s main Web page, in a left-hand column, by meeting date, in downloadable pdf files. We’ve begun adding primary document links posted after meetings began.) You can watch committee proceedings on TVW, Washington state’s non-profit public affairs cable TV channel. Following are selected highlights of some committee meetings the week of Nov. 28. Links are included to supporting documents available from the Web at this writing – some are primary documents; others are background.

Higher Ed funding
The House Higher Education Committee will hear a report from the Higher Education Coordinating Board and another from the Governor’s Higher Education Task Force on the future of Higher Ed in Washington, and will review a report on efficiencies at Community and Technical Colleges. (Dec. 2, 10 a.m., O’Brien D; upcoming agendas). The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee will be briefed by the governor’s higher ed task force, will hear from state fiscal staff on the higher ed budget, and will hear a presentation on the state’s Gauranteed Education Tuition (GET) program. (Dec. 1. 8 a.m., Cherberg 3; upcoming agendas.)

Proposed cuts to the state’s education budget
The House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee discussed the governor’s revised education budget proposal for 2011-2013 at Dec. 1, 1:30 p.m., O’Brien hearing room A.

Revenue concerns for state parks
The House General Government Appropriations and Oversight Committee will discuss the budget outlook for the session, hear an update from the State Parks & Recreation Commission on below-anticipated revenues from the the “Discover Pass” state parks annual parking sticker introduced in July (click on item E-4 – “Bridging The Gap” in the commission’s Nov. 17 meeting agenda); and get a briefing from the Department of Corrections on recommendations of the Statewide Security Advisory Committee, developed in response to an inmate slaying of a prison guard at the state’s Monroe correctional facility. (Dec. 1, 1:30, O’Brien C; upcoming agendas.)

Transportation mega-projects and funding, including tolling
The House Transportation Committee will hear a report of the Governor’s Connecting Washington Task Force, plus updates on the transportation budget and revenues, the state transportation department’s strategic facilities plan, and mega-projects and tolling. (Dec. 1, 3:30 p.m., O’Brien B; upcoming agendas). The Senate Transportation Committee will hear about the state’s transportation budget outlook, Washington’s statewide tolling program, the state’s passenger rail program, and from the firm Inrix on mobile traffic information technologies. (Dec. 1, 3:30, Cherberg 1; upcoming agendas.)

10-year capital project needs
The House Capital Budget Committee will discuss the state’s 10-year capital budget needs, jobs multipliers and capital projects, and preview the 2012 legislative session. (Dec. 1, 1:30 p.m., O’Brien D; upcoming agendas.)

Local infrastructure funding needs and tools
The Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee will hear an overview of local infrastructure needs, get updates on the state’s Local Infrastructure Financing Tool (LIFT) and Local Revitalization Financing (LRF) programs, and discuss how to modernize infrastructure assistance. (Dec. 1, 1:30, Cherberg 2; upcoming agendas.)

Water quality, chemical pollution to environment
The Senate Environment Committee will discuss water quality status in the state of Washington, and efforts to clean up chemicals in the environment. (Dec. 1, 8 a.m., Cherberg 4; upcoming agendas.)

Meat inspection, forest health
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will discuss proposed legislation for a state meat inspection program, and get an update on the recently implemented Tier Two Forest Health Warning program. (Dec. 2, 8:00 a.m., O’Brien A; upcoming agendas.)

Mixed martial arts, regulation of banks and insurers
The House Business and Finance Services Committee will discuss “mixed martial arts” and “impacts of state-based regulation on financial institutions and insurers.” (Dec. 2, 1:30 a.m. O’Brien hearing room B; upcoming agendas.)

Child protective services, juvenile court record sealing
The House Early Learning and Human Services Committee will discuss the strategy of “differential response” in the state’s child protective services system, and hear task force recommendations on juvenile court record sealing. (Dec. 2, 1:30 p.m., O’Brien D; upcoming agendas.)

K-12 school accountability
The House Education Committee will hear an update on the state’s school improvement and accountability system, and discuss waivers and flexibility under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and health and nutrition in schools. (Dec. 2, 1:30, O’Brien A; upcoming agendas.)

Possible cutbacks at state hospitals
The Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee will discuss prevention programs and a proposal to close some wards in state hospitals. (Dec. 1, 1:30, Cherberg hearing room 1; upcoming agendas.)


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One Response to “Tracking committees during legislature’s special session”

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