House Speaker Frank Chopp presides over the opening day of the session.
OLYMPIA -- The House moved swiftly to reiterate its support for expanding college aid to qualifying students who aren't legal residents, passing the so-called DREAM Act less than an hour after the session started.
Legislators rarely vote on legislation on the opening day because bills routinely must go through the hearing process first. But in a 71-23 vote, the House re-approved legislation it passed last year and sent it back to the Senate, where it died in committee last spring.
HB 1817 allows any graduate of a Washington high school who is eligible for state-sponsored college aid to receive it, regardless of whether he or she is a legal resident. . .
"This is an opportunity to compete, not a giveaway," Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, said.
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, used part of his welcoming speech to recognize immigrant students in the gallery and talk about his ancestors who immigrated from Croatia.
"This is not only personal to me, it is fundamental to our state and nation," he said. "Life is short and so is the session. Let's get to work."
While most of the speakers during the 15-minute debate were in favor of the bill, Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, said it's an expansion of aid programs the state can't afford: "The statistics, unfortunately, trump the dream."
The bill now returns to the Senate, where minority Democrats have said it is one of their priorities but the predominantly Republican majority may still resist it.
Senate Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, signaled her priority by reintroducing legislation that the Senate passed but the House did not vote on last year. SB 5317 which guarantees any veteran would pay in-state tuition at a Washington college.
"It's time to do right by our veterans and give them the same opportunities we provide for other Washington state residents," Bailey said.
Also on the first day, House Democrats moved to refight last year's battle over abortion coverage, holding a hearing on a bill that would require most medical insurance plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortion services. The House Health Care Committee held a hearing the Reproductive Parity Act, and was presented with much of the same arguments for and against as last winter. Abortion foes said it was not fair to force people with moral objections to abortion to pay for insurance that covers it while abortion rights advocates said women deserve to have all options and not be restricted by insurance companies, employers or legislators.
The House passed the Reproductive Parity Act last year, but it was held in a Senate committee and parliamentary efforts by Democrats to force it to the floor for a vote failed.
How they voted
HB 1817, also known as the DREAM Act, passed the House 71-23. Here’s how Spokane-area legislators voted:
Yes: Susan Fagan, Joel Kretz and Shelly Short, all R; Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli, both D
No: Leonard Christian, Jeff Holy, Kevin Parker, Joe Schmick and Matt Shea, all R.