Tuesday, February 27, 2024

2023 Legislative Session: Committee work continues as floor debates approach

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The legislative session has begun its third week and much work is occurring. The session itself is based on a rigorous schedule involving committee work, bill consideration, and budget development. The first major phase of each session is the committee work, which includes separate groups of legislators hearing briefings and testimony on proposed legislation. If the legislative proposals receive committee approval, they advance to the next stage in the process, which could include floor debate. If a Senate bill advances through the Senate chamber, it must also successfully pass the same process – including committee approval and floor debate – in the House of Representatives. The same is true for a bill that originates in the House. Before the House or Senate can debate legislation, usually later in the legislative session, it must receive approval from its assigned committee within the initial weeks of consideration.

Legislative committee assignments

The Legislature actively participates in committee meetings throughout the session, but more so during the first several weeks to start each session and then also weeks later following the deadline for bills to advance to their other legislative chamber (House bills to the Senate and Senate bills to the House). Committee time is always a busy phase of the session. This year I will again serve on three Senate committees described below. This session will be very busy for me with work on these committees:

Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee

This will be my fifth year on the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee and my fourth year as its ranking Republican member. This position is the highest-ranking minority member of the committee and the one who works most closely with the committee chair on the issues and bills that come before us. I enjoy serving on this committee because the state invests significantly in K-12 education (43 percent of the operating budget expenditures) and I bring 10 years of experience serving on the boards of the Eastmont School District and North Central Educational Service District to my committee work.

Higher Education and Workforce Development

This is a new committee for me for this year, offering a change from State Government and Elections. The Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee considers issues related to higher education institutions, including our community and technical colleges and state universities. These issues include connecting with the K-12 education system, higher education governance, financial aid, and workforce training. I look forward to learning as much as I can about higher education and workforce issues.

Transportation Committee

My third assignment includes serving on the Transportation Committee, which develops the transportation budget. This budget funds the construction and maintenance of the state transportation system, including the maintenance and preservation of roads, bridges, and ferries, as well as the state agencies and commissions that serve our transportation system. These agencies and commissions include the Washington State Patrol, Department of Licensing, Department of Transportation, Washington Traffic Safety Commission, County Road Administration Board, Transportation Improvement Board, Transportation Commission, and Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board.

Following the legislative process

If you are interested in following Senate or House committee meeting agendas, committee schedules, bill introductions, and other documents this session, visit leg.wa.gov. On the legislative website, you can search for a specific bill or information about it. Since this is a “long” session of 105 days, there will likely be hundreds of proposals introduced. Senate policy committees will have 6 weeks to consider and

approve Senate policy bills that are introduced or reintroduced as February 17 is the cutoff date for the policy bills. During this period, hearings will be held on bills to receive public testimony. The Senate fiscal committees (Transportation and Ways and Means) have until the Legislature adjourns on April 23 to pass Senate proposals that were forwarded from these budget committees.   

Brad Hawkins is the state senator for the 12th District.

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