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Posts tagged: sine die

Budget still ‘A work in progress’

OLYMPIA — Here's a bad sign for anyone expecting the Legislature to conclude its business by midnight Thursday: Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler this morning described the supplemental budget, and two controversial bills, as “a work in progress.”

Budget leaders of both chambers have been negotiating differences in the supplemental budgets passed by the House and Senate. No deal has been announced yet, and time is running out to do the work of double-checking and printing the massive spending document before the deal can be introduced in the Senate for a vote.

Two other controversial issues, a bill to add scores on statewide tests for students to teacher evaluations, and the continuation of a fee on document recordings to help projects to fight homelessness, were on a list of bills presented to the Rules Committee as items the Senate could take up today. When Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson said her caucus has problems with both bills, Schoesler said they are, like the budget, a work in progress.

That prompted a question from Lt. Gov. Brad Owen as to when the Legislature might adjourn for good.

The state Constitution, Schoesler said, says it will sine die by midnight Thursday.

“That wasn't my question,” Owen replied. Schoesler offered no response, and the Rules Committee approved the list of bills for floor action.

If the Legislature doesn't pass a budget before midnight Thursday, or has other major issues hanging fire, they could be called back into an overtime session by Gov. Jay Inslee.


Special Session 1 over. Special Session 2 ahead

OLYMPIA – The Legislature closed for about 17 hours overnight Tuesday – the amount of time between its ineffectual first special session and a second special session that some say could bring the state to a fiscal cliff.

Gov. Jay Inslee criticized the largely Republican Senate majority for pushing ideology over budget compromise as he issued the proclamation for a second legislative overtime period Tuesday morning.

“The budget is our primary duty. That’s where our focus should be,” Inslee said. “They need to come to a common-sense position, so that we can fulfill the obligation to our kids”. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Legislature adjourns. Must come back Monday

That's all folks…the gavel comes down in the Senate on the 2012 regular session. The Legislature returns Monday for a special session.

OLYMPIA — The Legislature adjourned at midnight Thursday without passing a new general operating budget, and Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered them back to work Monday.

“They haven't gotten the job done,” Gregoire said after issuing a proclamation for a special session, which can last up to 30 days. She added that she hoped they would finish much quicker.

“They need to go  home and get away from each other,'' the governor added. “Tensions are high. People are tired. It's hard to get them to focus.”

After legislators return for the noon Monday start, most can leave while leaders try to come up with a way around what's largely been described as a logjam over sources of revenue to make the $30 billion budget balance. (Editor's note: an early version of this story had the wrong time for the start of the special session.)

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, go inside the blog.

House to vote on new budget; will it pass Senate?

OLYMPIA — With time running out on the regular session, House Democrats are poised to vote on another general fund budget plan sometime today, a compromise between the budget they passed more than a week ago and the Senate Democratic budget that never came to a vote in that chamber.

Senate Republicans, who passed their own budget with the help of three breakaway Democrats, seem confident that it won't pass the Senate.

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, acknowledged shortly before noon that he doesn't have the 25 votes to pass the bill if it comes to the Senate. “Not yet,” he added.

Details of the spending plan are available here.  It contains one of the main sticking points between the two parties, a delay of a $323 million payment to schools, which Democrats support and Republicans oppose. It does not skip a pension payment worth about $133 million, which Republicans favor and Democrats oppose.

Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, the top Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, was confident the working majority the GOP formed last week for its budget will hold against this proposal, which he said was negotiated between the Democrats in each chamber.

“We haven't  had one conversation, we wasted six days,” Zarelli said. “It's a little juvenile, and its posturing. It's like hanging up the phone on somebody you don't like instead of talking it out.”

Murray said that if the House passes the revised budget as expected, it would come to the Senate where Republicans could offer amendments to add or subtract things they want for a compromise. That amended budget could then go back to the House for final passage.

“We could be done by midnight,” Murray said, adding that was a goal. “Once you go into special session, everybody wants to bring up everything.”

The 60-day session is scheduled to adjourn sine die by midnight tonight. 

WA Lege: The final day or final daze?

OLYMPIA — On the legislative calendar, this is Day 60 of a 60-day session. The two chambers are scheduled to adjourn for good no later than midnight tonight.

Whether they'll go until 24:00:00 or not is unknown. What is known, however, is that they'll be back. They'll need more time to finish the budget. See previous blog post for more details.

It's not clear yet when, or how long a special session will take place. There might be some hints around noon, when Gov. Chris Gregoire signs a bill that revises the state's teacher evaluation rules. There's no connection between teacher evaluations and the special session, but after the governor signs legislation, she takes questions from reporters. First question is likely to be something like:

“So governor, about that special session…”

Stay tuned. We'll keep you updated.

WA Lege Day 46: Will they finish on time

OLYMPIA — With two weeks left in the 2012 session, and the Senate's budget proposal still about four days away from being released, some legislators are expressing doubt that they will leave town on time.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said Thursday, however, she thought finishing work without the need of a special session was doable. . “That's the plan. . .

House Democrats and House Republicans have each released budgets, which have no visible support from members of the opposing parties.

Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has been working with Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, the ranking Republican on that panel, on a different operating budget that might garner bipartisan support.

“I can't speak to the number of (Republican) votes,” Brown, a Spokane Democrat, said.

The Senate operating budget will be released Tuesday, leaving just 10 days to wrap up everything.

Along with the changes to the beleaguered operating budget, the Legislature must also pass a Capital construction budget (sometimes known as the Jobs package), and a revised transportation budget. There's legislation on medical insurance exchanges to meet federal health care reforms which Gov. Chris Gregoire wants but Republicans insist aren't necessary. 

There are some proposals for government reforms, a proposal for a constitutional amendment on balanced budgets.  And there's a question of a tax increase. Gregoire proposed a temporary sales tax increase, which Republicans in both chambers oppose. The House Democrats' budget doesn't have a state tax increase in it, but offers plenty of chances for local taxes to go up, though. The Senate budget will balance without a tax increase, but there may be a proposal to ask voters to approve some sort of increase.

“We have not completely ruled that out,” Brown said.

So with all that on the table, can the Legislature really finish on time? Yes it could, Brown said: “There will still be controversies before we're done. Everybody's talking. When you need to get worried is when they're not talking.”

Gregoire, Lege leaders praise ‘historic session’

From the president's rostrum in the Senate chamber, Gov. Chris Gregoire points to twin screens showing the leaders of the House and Senate gaveling the session to a close Wednesday evening.

OLYMPIA — Shortly after the gavel came down on the 2011 Legislative session, Gov. Chris Gregoire and several legislative leaders used some of the following terms to describe it:

“Truly bipartisan. It's a new trend in  how we're going to do business,” said Gregoire.

“It's hard to say 'What a great session'.. when so many sacrifices were made,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.

“It was one of those times when the Legislatured did what the Legislature should do — solve problems,” said Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla.

“A historic legislative session,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.

They passed budgets in tough economic times without raising taxes. Republicans got some of the reforms they wanted, Democrats saved some of the social safety net programs that were on the chopping block.

There were a few things that didn't get done, like a transportation fee bill that got hung up in the Senate because it didn't have enough votes, Brown said. And some business tax exemptions that got hung up in the House because folks got tired and ran out of time, Sullivan said. While he wouldn't necessarily agree with the term “hostages” — a term that was used by lobbyists watching the bills and some members, Sullivan did say there wasn't a lot of enthusiasm for them among majority Democrats.

“Having passed a budget that didn't fund some of our priorities, it was difficult to get our members to turn around and pass tax breaks,” he said.

Speaking of the budget, the $32.2 billion general operating budget that was hailed as a model of bipartisanship when it passed the Senate Wednesday had to make it through the House the previous day without a single GOP vote. Same budget, very different partisan opinions. How could that be, the group was asked.

You'd have to ask the House Republican leadership, they said. Unfortunately, House GOP leaders were invited to the press conference but didn't attend.

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.

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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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