Washington State University’s pursuit of an independently accredited medical school passed two major milestones in the past 36 hours. The Washington House of Representatives Monday night voted 81-17 to change a 1917 law limiting the delivery of medical education to the University of Washington. The Washington State Senate followed suit Tuesday morning with a 45 – 4 vote. The bills are identical, and one of them must be approved by the opposite chamber to be sent to the governor’s office.

What was most heartening about both votes was the passion and deep understanding of the importance of a second state-supported medical school in our state by those legislators supporting it. One after another, in both chambers, they spoke about the critical need for more doctors in the communities they represent. They spoke about the lack of opportunity for Washington residents who want a medical degree, but must go out of state to pursue it. They spoke about the incredible economic development engine a second medical school will be in terms of attracting new research dollars to the state.

We absolutely could not have made this much progress without the committed leadership of the co-sponsors of the bill, Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Rep. Marcus Riccelli, both of Spokane. They have been articulate and energetic advocates for the bill and have generated incredible bi-partisan support from every corner of the state. I am deeply grateful for their work on our behalf.

Besides gaining the final passage of the policy bill, there is work to do in the budget arena. WSU is requesting $2.5 million to begin the accreditation process for the new medical school. We welcome the opportunity to work through that and other issues with the goal of improving the lives of all Washingtonians with better access to health care.