Key bills are down to the wire

Trust us, it will come together. That’s the rule-bending, finish-line mantra of Olympia heavyweights juggling multiple interests and a ticking clock. Those last 48 hours, we knuckle it out, we close the loop, they say. The question is whether those final days sharpen judgment or magnify errors.

Two key matters deserve better, sine die notwithstanding. In-state tuition for veterans is a no-brainer, hitched to the passage of the Real Hope Act, formerly the DREAM Act, which already passed both houses and was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on Feb. 26. The Real Hope Act is a bipartisan law to ensure that undocumented Washington high school graduates are eligible for the state’s Need Grant, which helps the poorest undergraduate students pursue degrees.

During negotiations, Sen. Barbara Bailey emphasized her long-term commitment to veterans and her bill, SB 5318, which limits the waiting time for veterans and active duty service members to be eligible for resident tuition. SB 5318 is a first-rate bill that shouldn’t be a political football.

“It would be wrong to pit these good students against our brave veterans. So I applaud the Senate for passing both measures and not creating a false choice between kids and soldiers.” said Rep. Zack Hudgins, House sponsor of the DREAM Act, a couple weeks ago. But politics can be petty. Some Democrats (not Hudgins, to his credit) still smart over the title “Real Hope.” To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, bill-title politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small.

Sen. Bailey’s SB 5318 sits in the House Appropriation’s Committee awaiting action. Rep. Sherry Appleton has her own version of in-state tuition sitting in Bailey’s Higher Education Committee. Because the bill is deemed necessary to complete the budget, it will get cast into the budget stew. It mustn’t get sandbagged by quibbles over who gets handed the governor’s pen.

Another issue that can’t get sidelined is the teacher-evaluation bill. Teachers feel battered, smarting from no salary COLA and a test-centric culture. But no evaluation bargain, and the state will lose federal Title I dollars because of Leave No Child Behind. The Everett School District would take a $786,000 hit, Edmonds, $537,000. SB 5880, a Republican bill that passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Monday, is identical to Democratic Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s bill that was earlier voted down (the politics are too webbed to unsnaggle in under 1,000 words.) Find common ground, perhaps linked to a COLA, and don’t punt.

The 11th-hour horse trades are about to start. Fasten your seatbelts and pray for no wrong turns.

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