Capitol News Feb. 19

WA capdomeHeadlines: House Passes Surveillance Bills; Legislature Approves Immigrant Financial Aid Bill; Senate Defeats Educator Evaluation Bill; State May Be Limited In How It Spends Federal Dollars; House Passes Bill Aimed At Oil Train Safety.

House Passes Surveillance Bills
The House on Monday passed two bills that would restrict the use of drones and government surveillance in Washington state. Under the measure, state agencies and municipal governments could only obtain drones or other unmanned aircraft after getting approval from their governing body. The drones could only be used with a search warrant and in other circumstances including: emergencies with an immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury, for military training on a base; training and testing of devices if no personal information is collected; a governor-declared state of emergency; or for an operation such House Bill 2789, which was approved by an 83-15 vote, would limit the purchase and use of unmanned aircraft systems by state and local agencies. The other, House Bill 2178, would ban the "unauthorized use of drones, or other unmanned aircraft with sensing devices, above private property." It passed by a vote of 92-6. Both bills now head to the state Senate.

Legislature Approves Immigrant Financial Aid Bill
The Washington state Legislature has given final approval to a measure to expand college financial aid to include students who were brought to the state illegally as children. Senate Bill 6523 passed the House Tuesday on a 75-22 bipartisan vote now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee, who strongly supports the measure. The bill is the first to pass both chambers of the Legislature this session. The current 60-day session ends March 13. Once the bill is signed into law, Washington will become the fourth state in the country to approve state financial aid for college students illegally in the country. California, Texas and New Mexico have passed similar legislation.

Senate Defeats Educator Evaluation Bill; State May Be Limited In How It Spends Federal Dollars
The state Senate has defeated a proposal that would have mandated the use of statewide standardized tests in educators' evaluations, and education officials say that means the state will be limited in the way it can spend about $44 million in federal dollars. Senate Bill 5246 failed by a 28-19 vote Tuesday. It would have revised the state's new teacher-principal evaluation system to accommodate a demand from the federal government to mandate using statewide standardized tests as a factor in evaluations. Washington state currently has a waiver from provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. It could lose the waiver and some federal money by only suggesting the tests be used in evaluations instead of mandating them. Democratic Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe says she voted against the bill because using state tests to measure student growth has not been proven to be an effective way to judge teachers. She says a better solution can be found before the end of the legislative session to extend the waiver and keep the federal dollars coming to Washington state.

House Passes Bill Aimed At Oil Train Safety
A measure aimed at addressing potential risks as more crude oil is shipped by rail into the state has cleared the House. House Bill 2347 passed early Tuesday on a 57-37 vote and now heads to the Senate. Environmental groups supported the bill, saying it would provide more transparency about the movement of oil through communities. The measure authorizes the state Department of Ecology to come up with new rules requiring tug escorts for oil tankers entering Grays Harbor and the Columbia River. The bill was amended to limit when the agency would have the authority to make those rules. The bill also would require refineries and other facilities that receive oil shipments by vessels or rail cars to submit transit data to Ecology.

February 19, 2014