Washington legislation considers new bills

By Katie Dunn, Staff Writer

Bills under current consideration in Olympia may impact Eastern’s future students.

This year, a speed limit increase for Interstate 90, Washington State primary elections and college tuition and textbooks are all areas of interest for the Washington State House of Representatives and Senate.

Senate Bill 5228, introduced Jan. 15 to the Senate Transportation Committee, proposes a study that could allow for an increase in the maximum speed limit for Interstate 90, bumping it from 70 mph to 75 mph in rural counties.

Rep. Joe Schmick of the 9th District is the primary sponsor of the bill.

“I drive that road a lot and when I looked into fatalities they had for I-90 I thought, ‘Maybe we should look at raising the speed limit out there where there’s not a lot of traffic’,” said Schmick.

Schmick said the bill allows the Department of Transportation to take a look at road conditions of that portion of I-90 to determine if it is safe to allow an increase in speed.

The bill also gives authority to the secretary of transportation to make the speed limit increase if the road is determined to be safe enough.

Originally the bill did not specify in which rural counties the increase would occur, but on Feb. 18 the committee passed a substitute bill specifying the portion of Interstate 90 from Ellensburg to the Spokane and Lincoln county border.

According to Schmick, the House passed the bill and it is now moving to the Senate Transportation Committee.

Senate Bill 5954 calls for a reduction in college tuition and was read to the Higher Education committee on Feb. 12.

This bill would place a limit on how much public colleges and universities could charge for tuition depending on the state’s average wage.

According to the Office of Financial Management, in 2012 Washington’s average wage was $52,945.

Under RCW 50.04.355 of the bill, the tuition for regional universities like Eastern Washington University and The Evergreen State College would not increase for the 2014-15 academic year and would be no less than 10 percent of the state’s average wage.

Senator John Braun of the 20th District is the major sponsor of this bill. On March 11, the bill passed from the Senate to the House.

The purpose of Senate Bill 5978 is to modify Washington state’s current way of conducting primary presidential elections. The bill was introduced Feb 13. to the Government Operations and Security committee.

According to the bill, the current presidential caucus restricts people who are disabled, who work in the evenings, are members of the armed services and anyone else who is unable to attend the caucuses. The purpose of bill 5978 is to allow for more people to participate by relying on primary elections instead of caucuses.

If the bill is passed, a primary will be held on the second Tuesday in March of a year where the United States president is being elected.

The main sponsor for this bill is Rep. Sam Hunt of the 22nd district.

One bill in Olympia that would have impacted students at Eastern has already met its end.

According to EWU legislative liaison Jordan Martin, House Bill 1973 that would have allowed EWU to take part in a pilot program to use open-source materials for textbooks did not pass out of House Appropriations committee in time for the Feb. 27 cutoff date.

“So it looks like this bill is dead,” said Martin. “However, Rep. Stambaugh and others are working to get the program funded in the final budget, so we will have to see how that shakes out in a few months.”