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Eye On Olympia

Special session: governor, Senate sound like yes; House sounds mighty lukewarm on coming back anytime soon…

Lawmakers wrapped up around 1 a.m., adjourning even though several bills necessary to implement the budgets never made it to a vote. Among them: bills affecting school levy rates and another to require the deportation of non-violent foreign criminals.

Gov. Chris Gregoire sent out a statement saying that she would meet with lawmakers soon “to determine when the Legislature will reconvene.”

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown indicated that she wants to hold a special session to finish the unfinished budget bills.

“We believe these are important bills that fit within the budget,” she said. Asked when a special session could be convened, she responded that it wouldn’t be Monday, but could be this week.

“Presumably, we would come back and have a very short list,” said Brown. “The good news is that almost all the key things were done.”

During any special session, she said, lawmakers in the Senate would probably also try to resurrect a couple of critical bills: a cap and trade bill and SB 5840, a controversial revamp of voter-approved renewable-energy requirements for utility companies.

“That would be a Senate priority,” Brown said of the latter bill.

In the House, however, leaders sounded a lot more lukewarm on the idea of a special session.

“There’s nothing that was left undone that would force us into a special session,” said Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes. “…There’s nothing critical that has to be resolved in the next sixth month.”

If there is a special session, it won’t be this week, he said.

“We were required to get three budgets done, those budgets are passed and on the governor’s desk,” he said.

“Usually when you have a special session there’s something you can’t live without. That isn’t the case here,” said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam.

One House Democrat said the budget fallout from the stalled levy bill could be serious, however. Without that legislation, he said, school districts will not be able to collect tens of millions of dollars in voter-approved levies that were based on the assumption that lawmakers would approve hundreds of millions of dollars in smaller-class-size dollars and teacher cost-of-living increases. Since levies are capped at a percentage of state and federal dollars, that matters.

“If we don’t pass that bill, the voters will have written a check and they won’t be able to cash it,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina. “That’s real damage to our school districts, and I’ll make it clear to leadership.”


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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