Archive for January, 2013

How a bill becomes a law

The clouds have grayed, there’s a chill in the air, and you’ve started layering like nobody’s business. This can only mean one thing: The 2013 Legislative Session is underway! It’s that special time of year when bills are introduced, caucuses are formed, and laws are made (or not). It is true democracy in action!

But how does a bill become a law, anyway?

  • First, a legislator from the House or the Senate offers a bill. Legislators begin working on the idea and language for bills before the session begins. Bills can start being dropped into the hopper (submitted) as soon as the legislative session begins in January and have until Cutoff Day to be dropped. Similar bills can be introduced in both the House and the Senate.
  • After a bill is introduced, it is decided which committee should hear the bill. Once in committee, it has its first reading. The chair of the committee decides if and when a bill will be allowed a public hearing. The public hearing is where members of the public can express their support for or opposition to a bill to committee members. The committee chair also decides if the bill will be read in Executive Session and put to a vote in the committee. If the votes are in the bill’s favor, it goes to the Rules Committee, where leadership decides if a bill meets the legal criteria to move on in the process.
  • If all goes well in the Rules Committee, the bill goes to the floor for a roll call vote.
  • Depending on which chamber the bill originated from (the House or the Senate) it is then sent to the other chamber and must go through the process again. If the House or the Senate want to tweak the bill, it is first sent to a conference committee and then back to the House or Senate to have amendments approved.
  • If the majority of legislators vote in favor of the bill, it is sent to the governor’s office to be signed. The governor may decide to sign the bill, veto sections of it, or veto the bill all together.
  • Once the governor signs the bill, it becomes a law.

It is important to note that although this is the ideal procedure for a bill to become a law, there are many exceptions and paths a bill can take along the way. Some alternate routes include rewriting the bill and attaching to a separate bill as an amendment or “carryover” which allows the issue to be taken up again in a subsequent session.

Posted in: Legislative session

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We Need Common Sense Discipline

andaiye-qaasimThis blog post was written by LEV Organizer Andaiye Qaasim

Every year, tens of thousands of students across Washington state are suspended and expelled. We can only speculate how these numbers translate into loss of classroom time, failed courses, and decreased graduation rates. Let alone the damage done to a student’s psyche, self-esteem or confidence. Thankfully, this situation is about to change.

Yesterday, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee reviewed four different bills on discipline. This long awaited movement in the Washington state legislature is the result of the unceasing advocacy from various community groups, parents, non-profit organizations, and policy makers. The list of supporters for this cause included the Kent Black Action Commission, WA Appleseed, TeamChild, the Maxine Mimms Academy, and the League of Education Voters just to name a few.

As a community organizer I have heard several community members express their frustration with the way discipline is carried out in schools. When we analyze disproportionality in school discipline we begin to realize that it’s not just about ineffective policies, bogged down bureaucrats, and “unintentional” consequences. Many of us ask about equity, cultural competence, inclusion, student dignity, and the constitutional right to an education. These conversations are forcing people in Washington state to finally explore the pernicious inequity in our schools.

As we delve deeper into this issue we also begin to explore some key questions such as “How is it possible for education to level the playing field, when the field in education has yet to be level?” “How can we possibly argue that public education is accessible to all, but still engage in discriminatory practices?” “What does equity in education really mean?”

It was evident in the spirit, hearts and stories all who testified yesterday that transforming school discipline and reclaiming Washington state students is going to take more than well thought out policies. The policy will provide the infrastructure, but the people must provide the implementation. An equitable implementation of school discipline will require a cultural shift—one that is intentional and uncompromising.

We are hopefully beginning to see this cultural shift in the way we go about the practice of public education and create a system that does not continually exclude students, but one that unconditionally accepts and incorporates all students into a learning community. I sincerely hope that we are finally able to have these conversations without being afraid of the words ‘racism,’ ‘inequity,’ ‘low-income,’ and ‘cultural competence.’

Yesterday was a monumental day for Washington state, and we will all hold our breath while the Senate decides the fate of the four discipline bills that were heard. We thank our legislators for the taking up this issue. We hope that they may be filled with the same righteous indignation of Martin Luther King, this week and the next, as they deliberate over their decision, and thus over the lives of tens of thousands of children in Washington. We look forward to change and band together in solidarity with communities across Washington state, ready to take up the fight.

Join us in the movement.

Posted in: School Discipline

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