In the end, the Legislature went out not quite with a whimper, but certainly without much of a bang. Maybe after a record 176 days, nearly halfway into their third overtime session, most were too tired to fight about things and the rest just stayed home.
Shortly after the gavels came down for the final time, Gov. Jay Inslee took pains to assure all 7 million Washingtonians that they, in fact, were the winners. But that suggests the session was a preschool tee-ball league where no one keeps score and everyone gets a trophy at the end of the season. In my old neighborhood, we had a different saying: You win some, you lose some and the rest are rained out.
Teachers and other school employees: They get a raise and a separate school year pay-bump from the state, and a promise that the Legislature will try to work out a better system than the current one, which often requires local school districts to dip into their property tax money to pay voter-mandated raises in years when the Legislature doesn’t. Good luck with that.
State employees: They get raises, too.
The state’s youngest students: The state expanded early education programs and will drop the number of students in kindergarten through third grade.
High school students who flunked the biology assessment test: An end-of-session deal in the Senate allows this year’s seniors who had all their credits except for a passing grade on that test to get their diplomas. Next year, seniors in that situation will be allowed to graduate, too. After that, most legislators expect the state to be using a different, better science test.
College students (or the people who pay their tuition): They all got a 5 percent cut this year, and some will get another 10 percent to 15 percent cut next year.
Medical students in Spokane: UW gets 60 new ones in each of the next two years. WSU gets money to start a school for more.
Party discipline: The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus – 25 Republicans and one Democrat – had it. Anything they didn’t want to vote on, they found a way to block procedurally. Even if some members actually would have voted for the underlying issue, they closed ranks to keep it from getting a vote. In the third overtime session, Senate Democrats exerted some discipline of their own and refused to pass legislation to suspend major parts of the class-size reduction initiative, even though many knew it had to be suspended, so they could horse-trade on another education issue.
Openness: We’ve railed previously about budgets that are negotiated behind closed doors and approved by legislators who haven’t had the time to read, let alone consider, the contents. But this came back to bite legislators big time on a bill to suspend parts of Initiative 1351, the class-size reduction law. Negotiated by leaders of House Democrats and Senate Republicans, it never got a hearing and foundered when Senate Democrats refused to go along.
High school freshmen: Before you graduate, you’ll have to pass some kind of science assessment test, which some will flunk because, well, it’s a test and not everyone passes a test that has any merit to it. And if you think your classes are crowded, too bad, because the Legislature put off any talk of shrinking them for four years, which will be just about the time you’ll be graduating and going to college, where tuition likely will be going back up.
Gun-rights advocates: They gathered on the Capitol campus in December and stormed the building in January, seeking to overturn the new initiative expanding background checks to many private gun sales. They didn’t get that or any of the promised gun-rights legislation promised by legislators who attended their rallies. Openly carried firearms are permitted in the Capitol, but the Legislature tightened rules and banned them from the galleries.
Medical marijuana dispensaries: What some described as a Wild West of pot sales got a new sheriff, the Liquor Control Board, which has been renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board. Customers got a tie: They will pay more because of taxes but get more quality assurance because of testing.
Carbon reduction plans: Inslee is a strong advocate for some sort of system to reduce the production of carbon that contributes to greenhouse gases. He thought a fee on carbon pollution was preferable to a hike in the gasoline tax, but many members of his own party were lukewarm to slapping a fee on this possible contributor to global warming, and Senate Republicans were downright opposed. Inslee suggested they were “in the stranglehold of the oil and gas industry” – without noting that House Democrats also did not pass such a plan. Which brings us to:
Comity: Politics ain’t beanbag, as the saying goes, so there’s always some hard feelings when a bill gets blocked or defeated. But as the session dragged on, some tempers got shorter and some comments more pointed. It may have hit its nadir when a House Republican accused Senate Democrats of being inebriated late at night when they refused to go along with the four-year delay in some class-size reductions, an accusation later denied by other House members who he said were there with him.
Rules for reporting dark money in campaigns, bans on “gay conversion” therapy : Passed the House but couldn’t get through the Senate.
Wolf management, making a fourth DUI a felony : Passed the Senate but couldn’t get through the House.
Technically, these and thousands of other bills that didn’t pass could come back in 2016.
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