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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Legislature opens amid protest, calls for action

OLYMPIA – Washington lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Monday to expectations that they can pass a $4.4 billion construction budget, make changes to state water law and reach agreements on a grab bag of other issues in the 60 days set aside for this election-year session.

They were greeted by environmental protesters who set up replicas of Native American teepees near the steps of the domed Legislative Building and called for greater protection of the state’s rivers and stream as well as native species like the orcas, and demanded an end to net pens for raising Atlantic salmon in the Puget Sound.

Some of the protesters later interrupted formal opening ceremonies with chants from the House and Senate galleries, shouting “We are in a climate crisis! Please act now!”

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, urged members of both parties to continue focusing on the concept of “one Washington” and move quickly to address issues like equal pay for women, voting rights, more jobs in rural areas, expanded mental health care and programs to fight drug addiction. He also urged them to pass the $4.4 billion capital construction budget, which stalled last year, to help school construction and infrastructure.

House Democrats have scheduled a vote on that budget later this week.

House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, said Republicans also want to pass a capital construction budget. He agreed the Legislature should work for the state as a whole, but remember that Washington is a diverse state.

Legislation should not just focus on one part of the state, but “serve all the needs of Washington,” Kristiansen said.

Control of the Senate formally switched from Republicans to Democrats with Monday’s official opening, but the tenuous nature of the one-vote majority showed up briefly as Democrats tried to pass amended rules for the chamber.

A proposal to require any amendment to a budget bill be filed at least an 18 hours before the vote didn’t get the support from two Democrats, and a compromise was made to strike that provision but require at least 24 hours between the time the budget bill is filed in the Senate and a vote on the floor.