Lawmakers waited until the last minute to award veterans in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities, but ultimately the popular legislation made it through the Legislature before it adjourned Thursday.
Senate Bill 5318 will automatically provide former members of the military and out-of-state military members with in-state tuition at Washington schools. Typically, a person has to live in Washington state for a year to meet residency requirements for in-state tuition.
The state House approved the legislation unanimously Thursday. It now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee to be signed into law.
Inslee, as well as leaders of the House and Senate, identified the legislation as a priority this year. But while both chambers of the Legislature unanimously passed identical versions of the bill earlier this year, for several days neither would take up the legislation sent over by the opposite body.
Last week, several House members said they questioned why one state senator, Republican Barbara Bailey of Oak Harbor, should get credit for sponsoring both the in-state tuition bill and another bill to extend state financial aid to immigrant students who arent legal U.S. residents. A House member, Democratic state Rep. Zack Hudgins of Tukwila, had worked on that proposal for several years.
Another House member, Democratic Rep. Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo, had also sponsored a version of the veteran in-state tuition legislation.
The debate over who would get credit for the bill ended Thursday when the House took up Baileys version.
I will sleep well knowing we valued this policy for our veterans more than we did the politics, Appleton said after the vote.
Bailey expressed a similar sentiment.
I am very pleased that we did the right thing and passed this bill so our veterans dont have to wait to get in-state tuition, Bailey said.
Veterans would have needed to serve for at least two years in the military to qualify for in-state tuition without the customary waiting period. The in-state tuition benefit would also extend to the families of past military members who enroll at Washington colleges and universities.
Senate Bill 5315 would also grant resident tuition to active-duty military members who are stationed out of state, but have maintained a home in Washington.