OLYMPIA — The special session finishes its first third today with both chambers in “pro forma” session.
Pro forma is Latin for “nothing much going on and most of the members somewhere else.” They won't be doing floor work until next week.
House and Senate Ways and Means committees are having what amounts to stereo sessions in the Cherberg Office Building because the House office building has started its major remodel. They've got hearings on gaggles of the bills needed to make the budgets work — if and when they reach an agreement on the budgets.
During a break in bill-signing ceremonies this morning, Gov. Chris Gregoire was asked about progress or the lack of it, and repeated her belief that the Legislature should be able to come to an agreement and “get out of town” now that the state has come up with a couple hundred million extra in money from businesses taking advantage of the tax amnesty.
“They now have the capacity to reach agreement. That doesn't mean they have,” she said.
Gregoire also insisted that reporters were the only ones talking about a special session (not quite true…we only ask about it because sources in the Legislature keep talking about it.) Earlier in the week she said she doesn't want the Legislature to quit without reaching an agreement on changes to the state's workers compensation system, a major sticking point between the two chambers. Today she said that's not a reason for a second session, because the Senate won't vote on the general operating fund budget without “a resolution on workers comp.”
A possible solution to differences between the Senate and House education proposals is also in the works regarding teacher's salaries, she said. The Senate has proposed all school employees get a 3 percent cut, which would be equal to the cuts proposed for state employees but problematic for school districts that have already signed contracts with their teachers. The suggested compromise would take into account the loss of training days and lower the salary cut to about 1.9 percent for teachers, Gregoire said. Administrators and classified staff would still face a 3 percent cut.