Not long ago, the Washington State Legislature adjourned its 2016 regular session Sine Die, following the adoption of HCR 4417 by the House and Senate.
Though the regular session is now officially over, lawmakers cannot head home just yet, as their work is unfinished (surprise, surprise). Governor Jay Inslee plans to call a special session of the Legislature so that supplemental budgets can be completed, but he says he wants an agreement drawn up tonight — and he’s prepared to start vetoing bills if legislative leadership can’t get something worked out.
Inslee will take action on a number of bills tonight at 10 PM, his office announced. There will be no public bill signing ceremony. Around 10:30 PM, the governor will hold a media availability and will disclose details regarding the special session that he plans to call. Special sessions can last for up to thirty days, but it’s unlikely members of the House and Senate will want to burn up the clock in an election year.
“It’s legislators’ job to pass a budget, yet Republicans in Olympia seem to think they work in Washington D.C., not Washington State,” said Washington State Democratic Party Chair Jaxon Ravens. “They have been more focused on hyper-political attacks on the Governor rather than doing their job.”
“Perhaps if they didn’t waste their time on political stunts like firing Lynn Peterson or spending precious floor time for a bill to discriminate against the transgender community, we could’ve gotten a budget done on time.”
The banging of the gavels was preceded by several retirement announcements.
Longtime Senators Mike Hewitt and Jim Hargrove announced today that they will not be seeking reelection later this year, which means some reshuffling is about to happen. (Hewitt represents a district that usually elects Republicans to the Legislature; Hargrove represents a district that usually elects Democrats.)
Also not seeking reelection are Senators Karen Fraser (D), Bruce Dammeier (R), and Don Benton (R). Fraser and Dammeier have opted to seek higher office rather than run for new terms in the Senate. Fraser is one of four Democratic legislators running to replace Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen (also retiring), while Dammeier wants to become the next Pierce County Executive, succeeding Democrat Pat McCarthy.
The Washington State Constitution stipulates that in even-numbered years, regular sessions shall not be of a duration longer than sixty days, which is why legislative leaders need Inslee to buy them more time by calling a special session.
Though legislators were able to agree on raises for the State Patrol and other minor improvements to public services, they did not take any meaningful steps to address Washington’s chronic school funding crisis. Instead, the Legislature passed a symbolic bill which committed the next Legislature to work on the problem.
If we had to grade the Legislature on this year’s session, we’d have to stamp an F at the top of the report card. Our public schools badly need more funding, and the Legislature has refused to take any meaningful steps towards making that happen, despite being sanctioned by the Supreme Court.