Laws and rights

The 105-day 2007 Legislative session ended in Olympia 10 days ago. The results brought joy, relief and the inevitable disappointments — and a long list of what needs to be done next time.

Here is a list of the good stuff. Lawmakers voted to expand in-state college enrollment by 9,700 students, and steps were taken to provide healthcare for uninsured kids. Money was set aside for cleaning up Puget Sound. A family leave law was passed, but left unfunded.

Requirements for high school graduation were changed, delaying the requirement that students meet state (WASL) standards for math and science, to earn a diploma until 2013. That will allow many districts and students some needed breathing room. There is more money for teachers who earn advanced degrees. A bill passed that requires all Washington state students be given medically accurate information about sex and reproductive health. As it now stands, the state only requires an HIV-AIDs curriculum to be taught. If approved by voters this fall, a simple majority will approve school funding levies. Yet levy lids that cap a district’s ability to collect funds was left in place. The Legislature did not move much closer to the establishment for a long term reliable funding formula for schools. But citizens will vote in November on the establishment of a state rainy day fund.

There were disappointments to be sure. There is uncertainty about the state economy and the size of the state budget, how to fund transportation fixes, and still thousands in our state are without the means to pay for healthcare.

At the very end, the Legislature sent mixed signals on one of the most basic tenets of our democracy — free speech and freedom of the press. Legislators passed a bill that would grant professional journalists absolute privilege for protecting confidential sources — the same exemption from testifying in court that applies to certain parties: spouses, attorneys, clergy and police officers. House Bill 1307, which would have given high school and college students greater First Amendment protections, passed the House. Yet when it reached the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, the protection for high schoolers was deleted. The amended bill never reached the Senate floor for a vote. Not good.

This is a nation where much is asked of young people, and where we wish to encourage original thinking and questioning thought. In return, we need to extend our trust and set an example.

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