BC student Trustee Bill passes in House, goes to Senate

The process for the bill to become a law. Image by Jwanah Qudsi

Two bills proposed by Bellevue College have been traveling around Washington State Congress this past week.

The Senate of Washington State approved Senate Bill 5127 on Feb 13. The bill’s purpose is to place a student on each of Washington’s Community and Technical Colleges’ (CTCs) board of trustees. The bill is now making its way through the House of Representatives.

The Senate of Washington also held a public hearing on Wednesday February 15, discussing House Bill 1568. This bill adds to the last one that a student should be placed on the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC). The board is composed of 9 members who are responsible for the administration and coordination of the 34 community and technical colleges in the state.

Don’t stop reading yet!

As uninteresting as a precise political decision like this may seem, if these bills are passed the typical student can have a significant amount of impact on issues that directly concern him or her. Be it about financial aid, budget cuts or student public transportation, having a fellow student on the Board that makes such important administrative decisions would be an enormous advantage. Wouldn’t it be easier to get in touch with a young student who attends college, than with a distant unknown representative hidden away in a mythical office someplace?

BC’s OSLA and ASG have played an essential part in the legislative process of both articles. They’re the reason these bills exist and might be passed for the benefit of other CTCs. This week, OSLA and ASG members made their way to Olympia to attend a hearing and offer public testimonies. “Sometimes we bring students down there,” said Monica Mendoza, Organizing Director of the OSLA, “which give a lot more impact because they’re gives their own personal opinions.”

The whole idea of student trustees originated 5 years ago among 4-year colleges in Washington, when they proposed a bill and it was passed into law. BC, in an attempt to give CTCs the same privilege as these 4-year colleges, followed suit.

The process of passing a bill into law is complicated enough to make any reader want to put down this paper and RUN. [The following graph however should sum it up nicely]

Here’s the simple quick version. First, a person needs a sponsor in Congress to propose the bill to the House or the Senate. Then several committees dissect the bill. After lots of hearings and long legislative procedures take place until the bill finally reaches the floor and is voted upon. Once one branch of Congress approves the bill, it’s sent to the other branch and goes through the same process before ending up on the Governor’s desk for a signature. If Christine Gregoire signs, the law takes effect 90 days later.

BC managed to find not one, but two sponsors in Congress. Senator Paull Shin sponsored SB 5127 in the Senate, and Representative Mike Sells sponsored HB 1568 in the House of Representatives.

The problem was that the first version of HB 1568, despite being approved by 76 v. 20 Representatives of the House on February 26 2011, didn’t appeal as much to the Senate, and especially to Sen. Rodney Tom. “He said […] that it would be easier to be voted upon if it were to be changed into a Pilot bill,” said Monica Mendoza, Organizing Director of the OSLA, “where not all the CTC’s would have this program, but instead about 5 schools throughout Washington State (including Bellevue College) have it to test it out, hence the name Pilot Bill.”

OSLA therefore proceeded to change the language of the bill with the permission of BC President Laura Sanders and the help of the OSLA Legislative Director Jake Atwell-Scrinver.

Abshir Mahamad, however, the ASG’s Chief Justice, is skeptical on whether or not the Senate will ever pass HB 1568. “It has to jump through loops and loops” he said, describing the complexity of the legislative process, “Basically you can’t just walk in and tell them ‘let’s vote on this, let’s go’”.

The ASG and the OSLA have clearly dedicated themselves to the cause of these two bills.  “So much can happen if this bill were to get passed,” said Mendoza.