Announced Today: Governor’s option for reopening schools

Today, Governor Inslee has announced that all school districts in the state must offer the option of in-person learning for all grades. As chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education committee I am thrilled to hear this from the Governor and am in full support.

Thanks to the availability of vaccines for educators and school staff, along with guidelines from the Department of Health, we are finally able to begin returning to normal.

We have long recognized that the pandemic has been a challenging and even traumatic experience for our students and their families. Many students have been struggling emotionally without the in-person environment or with distance learning, or both. At the same time, others have thrived in the remote environment.

This response is a balanced way of meeting the requests for in-person learning and keeping our communities safe while accommodating the varying needs of families across our state.

This is a bipartisan issue and I am sure that I’m joined by members on both sides of the aisle in saying that we are delighted by this response.

Vaccine Information

As numbers are continuing to decrease, and more of our community gets vaccinated, we must continue to follow the advice of health experts: practice social distancing, wear masks, and avoid mass gatherings. There’s still work to do, but we’re on the right track. I am pleased to share some resources on vaccine information. These resources include the Department of Health’s Vaccine Finder and this Vaccine Finder resource.

Chamber of Origin Cutoff

For the first half of the legislative session, policy and fiscal committees review legislation sponsored by their members. At a certain date, in this case, Tuesday, March 9th at 5pm, most bills must have received an affirmative floor vote in the chamber they originated in to continue forward. The exception to this are bills that are considered necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) which are not subject to any cutoff dates and can continue through the legislative process at any time until the end of session. If a bill is not NTIB and has not received a floor vote by this cutoff date, it is considered dead until next legislative session.

Seven of my bills made it through by cutoff and will now start over in the House. I’ll be tracking them to make sure they get through committee, floor votes, and onto the Governor’s desk. They are:

Senate Bill 5249 49 yeas 0 nays: Directs the mastery-based learning workgroup to build a profile of skills a student must have at the time of graduation. The workgroup must also consult students, families and educators who have been underserved by the education system. You can read more about it here.

Senate Bill 5299 49 yeas 0 nays: Allows students to substitute an approved computer science course for a third year mathematics or science course in order to meet graduation requirements. You can click here to read more.

Senate Bill 5383 43 yeas 3 nays: Enhances equitable access to telecommunication by providing public utility districts the option to provide retail telecommunication services in unserved areas.

Senate Bill 5128 35 yeas 14 nays: Adjusts the funding formula for student transportation to ensure bus services and staffing can be used to deliver meals, homework, and supplies to students during a local, state, or national emergency. To read more about this bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support, click here.

Senate Bill 5017 47 yea 0 nays: Modifies the list of school district purchases that require public notification and bidding to include construction work by a contractor who meets the public works responsible bidder criteria. This allows districts to assess a firm’s fit and retain the same firm for multiple projects at a lower cost.

Senate Bill 5403 49 yeas 0 nays: Expands the expiration of the Interagency, Multijurisdictional System Improvement (SYNC) Team, allowing it to continue its work until June 30, 2025. The SYNC Team identifies, implements, and reports on improvements that can maximize value of community projects based on considerations such as unique needs of the community, technological changes, and environmental concerns.

Senate Bill 5441 48 yeas 0 nays: Requires informed consent to be obtained from any patient undergoing breast implant surgery with proper risk information. More information on the bill, which likewise passed unanimously, is available here.

Town Hall

Thank you to those who joined me, Rep. Senn, and Rep. Thai last night for our virtual town hall. If you were not able to virtually join, you can watch the event on Facebook here or YouTube here. We answered a range of questions, from digital equity, to police accountability, to re-opening schools. I am grateful for the opportunity to hear from you, and I urge you to continue reaching out to our offices and sharing insight on how we can best serve the needs of our community.