OLYMPIA — Spokane legislators introduced a pair of bills today that would pave the way for Washington State University to start its own medical school.
Rep. Marcus Riccielli, a Democrat, and Sen. Mike Baumgartner, a Republican, introduced matching legislation that would remove the provision in state law that gives medical school education exclusively to the University of Washington.
In the works since late last year, the legislators delayed introducing the bills until today while they gathered bipartisan support from around the state.
Riccelli’s bill, HB 1559, already has 60 co-sponsors in the 98-member House. Baumgartner’s bill, SB 5487, has 17 co-sponsors in the 49-member Senate.
The bills are expected to get their first reading on Thursday, the same day that WSU President Elson Floyd and UW President Michael Young are scheduled to appear before the Senate Higher Education Committee to explain their respective school’s plans for medical school education in Spokane.
Some 130 government, business and education representatives from the Spokane area are also in the capital lobbying for their legislative priorities this week, and medical school expansion in Spokane is prominent on their list.
Since 1917, state law has put limits on some of the academic “major lines” the two universities can offer. Those restrictive majors have changed over the decades, but right now only UW can offer medicine. The identical bills introduced today would remove medicine, as well as forestry, from the majors exclusive to UW and add them to the list of majors available to both of the state’s major four-year research universities.
UW operates a section of its School of Medicine at the WSU-Spokane campus with 20 students per year, and has plans to expand. It is seeking $8 million for the coming two-year budget cycle.
WSU is proposing to start a separate medical school program on the Spokane campus, with the first class of 40 students starting in 2017. It wants $2.5 million to complete the accreditation process, and is already advertising for faculty for its proposed program.
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