OLYMPIA -- Two days left in the session, and there are still some significant differences to resolve over budget, and a policy issue or two.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signaled Tuesday that she's bracing for a special session, saying it's more important to get things done right than get them done by deadline. "We'll face that on Thursday."
Speaker Frank Chopp said it is possible to get things done by midnight Thursday, but didn't rule out a special session, either. He declined to give odds.
Lobbyists who circle the hallways around the rotunda, the parapets of the battle, are bracing for an extra session.
Smart money, however, is on the over, rather than the under, if you know what we mean. Here's why: As Gregoire said, the two houses must get a majority to agree to three things in the budget. How much they will spend (and on what); how much extra they will raise (and from what taxes); and how much they leave in an ending fund balance, which is what provides some cushion against things coming off worse economicalllyi than the experts now expect (Gee, do you think that could ever happen.) And when they agree to it, she has to sign off on it.
Thus we have the math of 25, 50 and 1. The minimum majorities in the Senate and House, and gubernatorial approval. There may be a lot of references to those three numbers in the next 38 hours.
Both houses have sessions scheduled throughout the day and into the evening. The press corps is girding for a couple of long nights, but then, we eat this stuff up.
For a brief discussion on how special sessions can be called, go inside the blog.
The state constitution sets up a system where the Legislature meets for 105 days in odd numbered years and 60 days in even numbered years. But it also recognizes that all the work might not be completed in that period, and that things might happen in between those periods that would require the Legislature's immediate attention.
So it set up two basic ways for the Legislature to go into special session.
One is for the governor to call a special session. This is often used when an emergency happens and the Legislature is out of session. Republicans wanted Gregoire to call a special session as early as last July to deal with the budget problems, but she declined.
If the governor calls a special session, it can go for 30 days, and address anything legislators want. " She can recommend what they should do, but they aren't bound by it
The other is for the Legislature itself to call a special session. This would have to happen before Thursday night, and both houses would have to pass a resolution by a two-thirds majority on what the purpose of the session is. They can add things during the special session, but only by a super-majority approval of both houses.