OLYMPIA -- The House of Representatives will have to wait at least 24 hours between the time a budget bill is written and a final vote is taken under rules adopted today on a party-line vote.
Republicans objected, saying there should be a 72-hour delay, and when they lost that vote, tried unsuccessfully for a 48-hour one.
In a debate that veered from the public's demand for transparency to a quick recipe for tuna casserole, Republicans said complicated budget bills are sometimes changed just before a vote, leaving them to make a decision without knowing everything that's in them. A three-day waiting period would help solve that, they said.
Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, countered that the final vote comes after two readings and at least one committee hearing, so the public does have a chance to see what's in them and offer input. The proposed rules were already being changed to add a one-day wait, but under the GOP proposal the bill couldn't be changed even if they or the public found something objectionable.
"You can't change it even if you get input. It's 72-hours of doing nothing," Hudgins argued. The first reading is like assembling a tuna casserole in a dish and the second reading is like pulling it out after some baking time to add cheese. The third reading is like taking it out and setting it on the table but waiting three days to eat it.
After the GOP amendment for a 72-hour wait failed 42-55, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said "You don't l ike 72, we're gong to try 48." If the bill is as fully cooked as that casserole, he added, why are Democrats willing to wait 24?
A rule like this would have made the one-day budget session in December, that both parties have said was a success, impossible Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said. The Legislature already holds more budget hearings than ever but "there comes a time when we have to move forward."
That amendment failed, too, 42-55.
The House later approved the complete rules package, that included the 24-hour wait, on a 56-41 vote, but not before Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, warned that Democrats will still be able to essentially rewrite budget bills wholesale with what's known as a striking amendment. That creates a budget that's "not cooked. It's brand new," he argued.
With these rules, he said, "the sun will have set on bipartisanship, the doors of transparency will have been closed."