Today the Washington Legislature convened the 2013 legislative session. The session will focus on several large issues including the budget, K-12 funding, and healthcare. The session starts with a new governor and a Senate led by 23 Republicans and two Democrats.
This week will focus on organization of the Legislature, work sessions, and some bill hearings. Both the House and Senate will likely spend a good deal of time over the next few weeks in learning mode.
Here is a snapshot of the week ahead as it relates to higher education:
- 8 a.m. - House Higher Education Committee, which will hear about the newly formed Washington Student Achievement Council (which replaced the Higher Education Coordinating Board).
- 11:30 a.m.- Gov. Gregoire will deliver her final State of the State Address to a joint session of the House and Senate.
- 3:30 p.m. – House Appropriations. Public hearing on Gov. Gregoire’s operating budget proposals focused on K-12 and higher education.
- Noon - Governor Inslee’s Inaugural Address will begin; look for a Republican response to immediately follow.
- 1:30 p.m. - House Higher Education will hold a work session on the Higher Education Policy Priorities for 2013 of the Council of Presidents and the public, baccalaureate institutions.
- 3:30 p.m.- Senate Ways & Means Committee will discuss the state’s operating and capital budgets.
- 9:00 a.m. – House Education will get an update on the K-12 Student Longitudinal Data System and hear from the Education Research and Data Center on current projects.
- 10:00 a.m. – House Higher Education hold a work session on the higher education priorities of stakeholders for the 2013 session
Today the House and Senate will formally organize the leaders for each chamber and swear in new members.
All eyes will be on the Senate Monday when it convenes at noon for what is expected to be a historic moment . Senate “rules” state that the party with the most seats is the majority; with the power shifting to Republicans, look for procedural floor motions to name Tom as majority leader and Sheldon as President Pro Tem, cementing the new Majority Coalition.
On the first day of session, typical business is to officially approve committee chairs, ranking members and committee membership, committee schedules, cutoff dates, and other operating procedures. This year’s opening events may also see the election of six (or more) committee chairs and vice chairs led by Republicans. It is also possible there may be votes for committees to be led by Democrats or co-chaired between the two parties.
In the House, the Democrats have a clear majority (55-43). Not unlike the Senate, the House will experience the addition of several new members to the chamber. In the House 20 new members have joined the chamber (9 Democrats and 11 Republicans).
Seattle-based Frank Chopp is expected to continue as Speaker of the House. In addition, Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor) will lead the House Higher Education Committee and will be joined by Rep. Gerry Pollett (D-Seattle) as vice chair. The ranking republican members will be Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland) joined by Rep. Hans Zeiger (R-Puyallup).
Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) will continue as chair of the House operating budget committee, which has been renamed as the Appropriations Committee. Republican Gary Alexander (R-Olympia) has been named the ranking member.
New this year is a true subcommittee on education appropriations that will be chaired by former school director Kathy Haigh (D-Shelton). The subcommittee will meet once during the week and will be comprised solely of legislators who are members of the larger Appropriations Committee.
Tomorrow Governor Gregoire will give her departing speech. On Wednesday Governor- Elect Jay Inslee will outline his vision for the state in his inaugural address before a joint session of the House and Senate at noon.