One more piece of the Legislature’s reform package is on its way to passage today as lawmakers work toward a Tuesday adjournment of their special session. The House voted 68-to-26 today to repeal Initiative 728, which earmarked tax money for smaller class sizes and other improvements in K-12 schools.
More important to some, House Bill 2824 creates a task force that will look into ways to pay for basic education in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling that said the state was failing to meet that constitutional duty.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee is hearing a similar version – Senate Bill 6616 – as the two chambers work toward agreement.
Democratic Rep. Deb Eddy of Kirkland sponsored the House measure, which voters approved in 2000 but that lawmakers have funded inconsistently during tough economic times. Last year lawmakers suspended I-728 yet again for two years, and if left in place it would have added about $915 million to the state’s liabilities in the next two-year budget cycle (2013-15).
Eddy said the bill’s elements will make it easier for policy makers to go to the public to seek out support for funding schools.
The Senate is expected to adopt the bill, according to key negotiators in that chamber.
The House took two separate votes – and in the second one, 38 Democrats and 30 Republicans voted for the repeal while 17 Democrats and nine Republicans voted no.
Democratic Rep. Chris Reykdal of Tumwater was among those who have fought for increased school funding but voted for the bill. He said after the vote that the more important part of the bill sets up the task force to find a better way to pay for schools. “That’s why I am here – I’m all about tax reform and paying for our priorities.’’
Also today, the Senate approved a reform bill that changes the sanctions for criminal offenders released from prison into community supervision. The vote on Senate Bill 6204 was 43-to-2, and Republican Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood said it ensures quicker sanctions and surer sanctions that don’t live up to terms of their release.
Democratic Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, the bill sponsor, said research shows it will be more effective with fewer felons reoffending and it is cheaper for taxpayers. The bill reduces the maximum incarceration time for some violations but also reduces the number of court hearings and is predicted to save as much as $9.3 million, largely from reduced incarceration costs.
Republican Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn voted against the bill and said she is not in favor of reducing supervision. But Carrell said that the bill “does not reduce supervision. What it does say is we will have very swift and sure results’’ by imposing sanctions more quickly.