Since there was little if any access to the Capitol because of the over foot of snow, the legislature had no choice other than to cancel hearings on Monday. They were back at it on Tuesday but even then it was a late start. It is very unusual for the legislature to close down during session (some legislative veterans couldn’t recall it happening over the last couple decades). That’s because they are on tight deadlines to get their work done on time.
They are back at it putting in a couple extra hours here and there to get back on schedule.
There are a couple paraeducator bills; SB 5413 – improving paraeducator ability to become a teacher and HB 1658 – perfecting upcoming paraeducator training under consideration. Also being considered are a couple of school transportation bills; HB 1057 – cameras and seat belts on busses, HB 1813 – requiring transportation contractors to provide SEBB like benefits to employees, SB 5263 – reducing hiring restrictions and training of bus drivers.
Requiring school districts to purchase new (big) busses with shoulder and lap seat belts and installing stop paddle video cameras on all busses was an issue I was most interested in this week (read an earlier blog). In the hearing there wasn’t much opposition (PSE signed in with concerns). The high costs of the bill is likely to slow down HB 1057 in future debates.
Another major issue I was closely tracking (read a previous entry) was changing state law to recognize the recent US Supreme Court Janus decision. HB 1575 received positive support from unions and not surprisingly hostile opposition by the Freedom Foundation.
Next Week’s Hearings
There are numerous hearings next week that bring up a variety of issues that we like and don’t like (I think democrats are giving courtesy hearings to republican bills that bring up issues important to them but hostile to us). On the “like” side are the rights of workers bills HB 1575/SB 5623, ensuring employer neutrality while employees exercising their rights (SB 5169), bilingual teacher and paraeducator bonus (HB 1468), updating paraeducator training requirements (HB 1658), requiring subcontractors provide their employees same insurance benefits as are provided by SEBB (HB 1813), paraeducator conditional scholarship improvements (SB 5413), sign language interpreter supports (HB 1623), and, simple majority passage of bonds (HJR 4203).
On Monday, it was great to see 350 PSE members and staff who attended legislative conference lobbying their legislators for our funding priorities this year: Funding for our Higher Education Agreements, Funding the SEBB Agreement, and Funding Paraeducator Training. Additionally, there was a great hearing on SEBB in the Senate Ways and Means Committee that I will cover in a separate entry.
After yesterday’s House hearing on Governor Inslee’s budget, the Senate Ways and Means Committee took public comment on the same Budget. This gave me the opportunity to deliver the following remarks about PSE’s financial priorities for this session:
PSE enthusiastically supports Governor Inslee’s budget proposal because it responds to our 4 highest priorities this legislative session.
….our Central Washington University and Western Washington University Collective Bargaining Agreements
….the Union coalition agreement on PEBB funding
….the Union coalition agreement on SEBB funding (something PSE has sought for 24 years)
….Paraeducator training. However, we look forward to working with the legislature to provide funding for each year of the Budget.
We can’t thank Governor Inslee enough for his leadership on SEBB and Paraeducator training. His Budget makes Washington State a National leader for its recognition of and respect for the important work of classified employees in education. We hope you will join him in supporting classified employees.
Yesterday, PSE’s President, Charlotte Shindler did a great job representing PSE’s financial objectives for this legislative session. Here is what she had to say:
Starting this coming Monday, the legislature will have the opportunity to put the final (and most critical) touches on two issues PSE has been lobbying for over the last 24 years: affordable quality health care for all classified employees, and, paraeducator training. At the same time, they will be taking up consideration of funding for our higher education employees collective bargaining agreements (including their insurance funding), union rights in the Janus environment, and workplace safety.
On health insurance, we were pleased when on December 13, 2018, Governor Inslee’s Budget funded the SEBB coalition insurance agreement. PSE will be lobbying the legislature to join him and provide the same funding. There’s much at stake since no State in the Nation is offering the same State funding for school employee insurance benefits for all employees who work 630 hours of more per year. If the legislature agrees with Governor Inslee, 9,000 classified employees and 30,000 of their dependents are going to get insurance they never could afford before.
Over the last several years, PSE’s efforts to increase State recognition for the important role paraeducators play on the instructional team has been successful. So much so that the National Center for Paraeducators decided to have their annual conference in Seattle to share with National organizations what we have accomplished. All of our efforts now come down to convincing the legislature to again agree with Governor Inslee and provide $25 million per year for the next four years to train all 28,000 paraeducators. If we are successful, paraeducators will get 28 hours of paid training each year over the next four years. And again, we will be leading the Nation since no State comes anywhere close to providing the paraeducator training Washington will be providing.
However, as you can tell, this may be a historic year. But it will depend upon PSE’s advocacy efforts over the next 105 days.
I hope you will join us and make history for all classified employees.
Governor Inslee has taken action (signed, vetoed, or partial vetoed) on hundreds of bills before him with only a couple left on his plate. The good news is the bills PSE worked on have already been signed and will take effect within the next 90 days. Here is the summary of his actions:
Paraeducators – SB 6388 was signed into law. It takes effect on June 7.
SEBB Improvements – SB 6241 was signed into law. It takes effect on June 7 with a couple emergency clauses that take effect immediately.
McCleary Fix – SB 6362 was signed law with a couple of section vetoes that didn’t directly affect classified employees. It has a variety of effective dates.
2018 Supplemental Budget – SB 6032 was signed into law with a couple of section vetoes that didn’t directly affect classified employees. It has a variety of effective dates.
Pro union bills – HB 2751 (requiring union member dues deduction) & SB 6229 (requiring employers to provide unions access to new employees within 90 days of hire) have both been signed into law. Both are effective on June 7.
Yes there were several hundred other bills that he signed but the bills noted above are the ones which will have the most direct effect on classified employees in the years ahead.
Budget negotiators announced their final agreement last night, the day before the end of the session. Most of the major differences between the House and Senate budgets were ironed out previously so this final deal didn’t change any major issues. PSE had one additional measure we wanted the legislature to fund: $250,000 to develop paraeducator training modules. Good news is that the budget included that funding.
K 12 salary allocations will be fully funded in the 2018-19 school year at a cost of $776 million. The classified employee salary allocation will increase from $34,180 to $46,784.33 starting September 1, 2018. Normally, when there is an allocation increase, we get the same percentage increase to negotiate with our school districts. However, this 37% allocation increase does not mean we will get that full increase. In another bill, SB 6362, which hasn’t been voted on yet but must be voted upon before the end of the session, the legislature limits how much we can negotiate of the 37% increase. More on that after we see what the bill looks like.
Other details that didn’t change but are important to note:
On a final vote of 48-1 (Senator Hasegawa the only “no”), the Senate gave its final approval to SB 6388. It now only has one step to go; Governor Inslee’s signature. This fix-it bill gives paraeducators one additional year, until September 1, 2019, to meet the minimum employment requirements. It also gives school districts a full year to implement the training if the legislature funds the four day course of study for paraeducators in the 2019-21 budget.
PSE’s paraeducator fix-it bill, SB 6388, easily passed yesterday. Because there was a small change in the House education committee, the bill will have to go back to the Senate to get their approval of the change.
As a reminder, passage of this bill will give paraeducators one additional year, until September 1, 2019, to meet the minimum employment requirements.