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Spin Control

Posts tagged: daily briefing

TPM: Wednesday in 100 seconds

If you took yesterday off from the news, here's what you missed, courtesy of the folks at Talking Points Memo.

Special Session Day 22: Both chambers working

OLYMPIA — It's a rare day for the Special Session: Both the Senate and the House are scheduled for floor sessions today to vote on bills.

Which might cause Gov. Chris Gregoire to feel a little better. As she observed rather pointedly yesterday: “It's very hard to negotiate when you have only one  house in at a time.”

The House also has a morning Ways and Means Committee hearing with a potpourri of bill topics like nursing homes, opportunity scholarships and adoptions of hard-to-place children, and a Capital Budget committee hearing on a proposal to lower the state's debt limit, a half-percent a year for four years, starting in 2016.

(Admittedly, that doesn't sound terribly draconian or pressing, but one source on the House Capital Budget Committee said the Senate is demanding the House pass this or there's no deal on the capital budget. With time running out in the session, with is already 70 percent gone, that would mean no bonds would be sold and only projects that could be funded by sales on state timber lands would move forward. And no, the proposed Medical School for Spokane is not one such project.)

A group of House and Senate Democrats, calling itself the Working Families Caucus, had scheduled a 10 a.m. press conference this morning on proposed changes to the Worker's Compensation System, presumably to say what a terrible, horrible, no good really bad deal it is. But it was postponed indefinitely, and no word if they've reconsidered their stance, or just decided they needed to polish the message.

Both the new limits on state bond debt and a workers' comp change that includes voluntary settlements for workers at least 55 are among the roadblocks to the Legislature settling on a general operating budget, Gregoire said yesterday.

Special Session Day 21: Senate in, House out

OLYMPIA — The Senate returns from its long weekend to a morning of caucusing, and possibly voting, although the schedule for bills probably won't be available until post-caucus.

Heavy lifting of the day might be done in the Ways and Means Committee, which has an afternoon hearing on fees for teacher certificates, proposed changes for quality education and consolidating natural resources agencies. They're also scheduled to vote on whether to send to the floor the latest plan on the state's liquor distribution system and some other government “streamlining.”

House is in pro forma, which is to say, they aren't around until Tuesday.

Special Session Day 18: House in, Senate out

OLYMPIA — The House returns for votes on some bills, sometime today.

The bills to be voted up or down (presumably up, else why bother with the vote?) haven't been released yet, but the list of potential bills offers plenty of  interesting items from which to choose.

The House will have the spotlight all to itself, because most of the Senate is gone until Monday. Leadership is reportedly around, working on the budget and trying to reach compromises on sticking points like workers compensation changes but the public won't see that until there's something close to agreement. (Think of it as getting the sausage when it's ready to toss on the grill.)

After signing about 30 bills yesterday, Gov. Chris Gregoire may have developed writers cramp. She isn't scheduled to sign any more bills until Monday.

Special Session Day 17: Senate in, House out

OLYMPIA — The House of Representatives has the day off, but the Senate convenes this morning. There's no schedule yet, so they'll probably go into caucus after handling routine things.

There are rumors of votes on bills later in the day.

The process will reverse on Friday, and the House will be in session and caucus, but the Senate has nothing scheduled. Nothing scheduled over the weekend for either chamber.

It would seem the Legislature gets its work schedule from the folks in the Merry Old Land of Oz: “We get up at 12 and start to work at 1/Take an hour for lunch and then at 2 we're done. Jolly good fun.”

The governor, meanwhile is closing in on finishing off the signing of bills from the regular session. She'll autograph more than two dozen in the afternoon, including a bill that cancels the state's 2012 presidential primary and another that sets up day use fees and season passes for state parks. Click here for a complete list of today's bills.

Special Session Day 16: Medical pot in a.m., medical bills in the p.m.

OLYMPIA — Both House and Senate Ways and Means committees have hearings today with long lists of bills on the agenda.

Among the bills in the Senate is the latest iteration of a medical marijuana law, introduced late Tuesday and scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. hearing today. The fast-tracking of the bill prompted legislative watchdog Jason Mercier to wonder “Dude, where's my public process?” this morning.

SB 5955 avoids things most objectionable to federal prosecutors and Gov. Chris Gregoire, like state oversight of growing and dispensing medical marijuana and concentrates on other aspects like a voluntary registry. The Cannabis Defense Coalition, which represents the existing medical marijuana operations, calls it hastily drafted and devastating. Not clear yet whether it has the necessary OK from leadership of both parties in both houses to get a floor vote in this “all budgets, all the time” special session.

House Ways and Means has a longer agenda, with hearings on a couple of business tax changes, including one that blends rates for print and online advertising in newspapers, and a vote on a bill that would eliminate the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

In the afternoon, Gregoire is set to sign a series of health care related bills designed to get the state in position for federal health care reform.

Special Session Day 14: They’re back

OLYMPIA — Both chambers of the Legislature are scheduled to be in session today after a long weekend.

No details yet on what they'll be doing. Senate will go straight to caucus after their 11 a.m. start, and is expected to take votes on some bills in the afternoon.

House will get going late morning, but it, too, hasn't kicked out a list of legislation yet. The start of anything serious may be delayed a bit by waiting for the end of the Education Committee hearing, which is running long.

Not to make too big of a deal over it, but Tuesday will be Day 15, which is also the halfway mark in the special session.

Special Session Day 11: Nothing doing

OLYMPIA — Don't look for anything out of the Legislature today. Both chambers are gone through the weekend.

No committee hearings until Monday, either.

Perhaps they are resting up for the grueling pace yet to come. It's unlikely they'd need to rest from the pace so far.

Tuesday will mark Day 15 of the session. That's the halfway mark for those keeping track at home.

Special Session Day 10: Stereo Ways and Means

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.

Special Session Day 1: Here we go again

OLYMPIA — After a three-day Easter break, the Legislature gets back to work today for the start of the Special Session.

The Senate got started at 1 p.m., taking up a handful of bills that got kicked back to them when time ran out last Friday. The Senate Ways and Means Committee begins hearings at 2 p.m., with several bills, including one that would expand state funding for family planning services and another that deals with what some consider a budgeting “gimmick” — delaying a state payment to schools from June 30, the last day of the current biennium, to July 1, the first day of the next biennium, to make it easier to balance the current budget.

The latter one of those things that few people will say they like, but members of both parties seem likely to approve.

WA Lege Day 103: Last day of regular session

OLYMPIA — This is scheduled to be the last day of the 105-day regular session, and the announcement of the first day of the special session of undetermined length.

Gov. Chris Gregoire's office expects to announce the start date for a special session sometime today, after resolving a basic conflict between the House and Senate.

That is, the Senate Democrats and Republicans want to start back up as soon as possible. House Democrats and Republicans want the budget writers to work on the primary reason for the special session — the unfinished budget work — before bringing everyone back.

While that decision is being pondered, the chambers will be running through bills on which they basically agree, trying to give final approval to as many as possible and getting them off to the governor for a signature.

Why does a 105-day session end on Day 103 with unfinished work? Once everyone acknowledged they weren't going to get the budget done, leadership decided to give folks Easter weekend off.

It's Good Friday. It's also Earth Day, which features a “Procession of the Species” in Olympia, a parade in which people dress up as their favorite animal or vegetable.

Today is also a furlough day for many state employees. They are taking the day off, without pay, to get some budget savings. That means some state offices like the Department of Licensing are closed, so don't get all dressed up and try to renew your drivers license today.

But don't think you can put pedal to the metal on I-90 if you're heading to grandma's house today for a weekend egg hunt. The Washington State Patrol is not on furlough today.

WA Lege Day 102: Medical marijuana, workers comp

OLYMPIA — The Legislature is moving toward its temporary adjournment today, trying to pass as many bills as possible on which both chambers agree.

And the House may have a bit of fireworks over a bill on which there isn't universal agreement, SB 5566, which would allow for voluntary settlements on workers compensation claims, a process known as compromise and release. The bill has passed the Senate and has Gov. Chris Gregoire's support, but House Democratic leadership does not support the system and has not allowed a vote on it. House Republicans and some moderate Democrats may try to push it to the floor this afternoon.

Among bills on the Senate's plate is the latest version of the medical marijuana bill which passed the House in an amended version earlier this month.

In other back-and-forth action, the House refused to agree to Senate amendments to HB 1267, a bill on domestic partner parent laws and surrogacy, and asked for a conference committee. The Senate voted this morning to strip out the provisions on surrogacy, and send it back to the House on a 27-21 vote.

“I have a problem with the Legislature changing the meaning of mother and father,” said Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, who voted no.

That wasn't what the bill did, replied Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley. “The law needs to recognize we have non-traditional families.”

WA Lege Day 101: More than just a survey course

OLYMPIA — As the Legislature moves toward temporary adjournment today, the Senate is likely to take up the 2011-13 Transportation Budget now that a key question has been resolved.

The Senate began debate on the budget bill Tuesday afternoon, but quickly stopped when Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, proposed an amendment to require anyone seeking a new drivers license to present proof that they were a legal resident of the state. (For previous post, click here.)

Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, objected, saying essentially that's a policy change that should be made separately, not tacked onto a budget bill, and that it's outside the scope of the bill that is written as a plan for spending money on road and bridge projects. Her point of order had to be reviewed by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who decides such points as president of the Senate.

This morning Owen ruled Brown was correct and Benton's amendment was out of order. Previous rulings have declared that budget bills “are not an appropriate place to develop substantive law”. Requiring new license applicants to show proof of legal residence was the subject of a separate bill that didn't pass the Senate previously, he added: “Out of order.”

The Senate quickly adjourned and the parties went into caucus. When they return, expect some votes.

WA Lege Day 100: Hitting the century mark

OLYMPIA — Both chambers are in a concurring mood this morning, moving relatively quickly through bills they have both passed previously, albeit in slightly different forms.

Heavier lifting may await the afternoon. The House may debate its Capital Budget sometime after lunch, while the Senate Ways and Means Committee has a hearing on a pair of changes to state agencies and a vote on terminating a property tax deferral program.

Among bills on the Senate concurrence calendar likelly to be approved are a proposal for cameras in school buses, a ban on “shark finning” and one to change the way personnel contracts are negotiated at the University of Washington.

WA Lege Day 99: Senate to debate budget

OLYMPIA — The Senate is expected to take up its version of the general fund operating budget today, the last day of the session that can be counted without three digits.

Legislators and Gov. Chris Gregoire conceded  late last week that a special session is going to be needed to get general fund, capital and transportation budgets passed out of both chambers and the differences negotiated. The real question now is how much will get done before the Legislature takes a break for Easter, sometime late this week.

Secondary question: How long will it take them in a special session to finish the job?

WA Lege Day 96: A morning of concurrence

OLYMPIA — Both chambers decide whether they'll agree with changes the other made to bills that have bounced back and forth this session. Known as concurrence, it's usually a smooth process for passing legislation that's been honed to an acceptable edge.

Senate Ways and Means Committee has the 2011-13 budget on its calendar for its 1:30 p.m. meeting, giving the panel a chance to debate and possibly pass the spending plan on to the Senate floor. But the Senate won't be taking the budget up before next week; a message from staff says the Senate is not working this weekend…and the prospects for a special session seem to be growing day by day.

In the House, the Capital Committee had a morning session on the combined version of its capital projects and bonding legislation, and passed it out of committee. House Ways and Means has a 3:30 p.m. hearing on a proposal for a 144-vehicle ferry, and votes on a slew of bills needed to make the House general operating budget work.

There are two “Tax Day” rallies planned for the Capitol Campus, even though technically today is not tax day. The deadline for filing your 1040 is Monday, April 18, this year, so slackards have the whole weekend to procrastinate.

WA Lege Day 95: Tax plans cometh

OLYMPIA — Some Senate Democrats are going to unveil tax plans at lunchtime. They've filed a series of new bills that call for everything from a temporary increase in the sales tax to changing excise taxes to repealing some tax exemptions “to provide funding for essential government services.”

All  have been referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which is a bit busy right now trying to move the general operating fund budget to the floor. It also has a hearing on the capital projects budget this afternoon.

But maybe when that's done, and before the session runs out in 10 days, the committee can take up those tax bills.

In other action, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the bill that bans phosphorus in lawn fertilizer for most uses. Don't worry about rushing down to Home Depot to stock up, though. The ban doesn't take effect until January 2013.

Among other legislation also signed this morning were a bill to try to cut down on home foreclosures, another to allow wine and beer sampling at public markets and another that allows state employees to attend meetings with legislators in state facilities as long as they are informational rather than political in nature.

WA Lege Day 93: Senate budgets after day of votes

OLYMPIA — The Senate releases its 2011-13 general operating and capital budgets this evening, sometime after 5 p.m.

Why so late? Because today is one of those make-it-or-break-it days for legislation. A non-budget bill that started in one chamber has to pass the other chamber by 5 p.m. (give or take) or be dead.

In honor of the long list of bills it faces, the Senate is cutting back on debate and taking a shorter lunch

The give or take involves when the discussion starts. As long as debate starts before 5 p.m., the vote can take place afterwards, so the gavel doesn't come down exactly at 5:00:00 p.m. But it means neither chamber is likely to go into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, because legislators eventually get hungry for dinner.

The budgets will be released shortly after the Senate recesses for the day.

The big question will be how different they are from House versions. The House passed its 2011-13 operating budget Saturday on a largely party-line vote, but Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said there will be some changes in the Senate plan. It will try to keep Basic Health, Disability Lifeline and Children's Health programs, but not necessarily at the same levels as the House, she said. The governor's plan eliminated those programs entirely.

The Senate is also not likely to propose selling or leasing the state's alcohol distribution center and using the money to pay for programs.

WA Lege Day 92: Clock is ticking, bills will be moving

OLYMPIA — Both chambers are likely to be busy today trying to pass bills sent them by the other house. The bell tolls for all non-budget bills Tuesday at 5 p.m., and there's a boat load in the queue.

Meanwhile, freshman Democrats in the House are introducing a bill to close two state tax exemptions — one that affects banks and another that allows non-Washington shoppers to avoid the state's sales tax when buying items here. The money would be dedicated to reducing class sizes in kindergarten through Grade 3, said Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, a co-sponsor.

These were among the “loopholes” that protesters targeted last week during the demonstrations. Prospects for passage with less than two weeks remaining in the regular session? Not good, considering they'd need a two-thirds vote.

Prospects for getting at least a floor vote that could used in campaigns next year? Somewhat better, because both sides might like to score  political points with this

WA Lege Day 89: Union rally and budget debate

Protesters gather near the World War I memorial on the state Capitol Campus Friday.

OLYMPIA — The last of four days of protests in and around the Capitol over a proposed “all-cut” budget will feature thousands of labor union members joining other demonstrators on the north steps at noon.

How many thousands isn't clear, but the steps were already filling up at 11 a.m., as buses dropped off more demonstrators on the Capitol campus. The unions brought their own “marshalls” to keep some semblance of order, and a healthy complement of state troopers is visible inside and outside the building.

Sometime this afternoon the House is expected to begin debate of the 2011-13 budget that demonstrators don't like. There are actually two budgets, the House Democrats' version that was reported out of the Ways and Means Committee, and the House Republicans' alternative, which the GOP will likely try to swap out through a striking amendment.

If there aren't other amendments as well, it would be a very rare budget indeed. All this is a way of saying that although the debate is scheduled to start today, it's not possible to predict whether it will finish today, too. The House is scheduled to be in session on Saturday as well.

Meanwhile, the Senate is running through a long list of appointments and bills that are not part of the budget.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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