We’re all waiting for that “puff of smoke” from the governor’s office that lets us know that the Legislature’s big dogs, now meeting behind closed doors, have finally reached a deal on the budget and all those other issues that stand in the way of adjournment.
Frankly, even though nobody is saying so, an on-time adjournment today is already a practical impossibility. It takes a while to print up those budget and reform bills so that they can be dropped on the bars of the House and Senate, and even if all the procedural rules are waived so that no public notice is required, it’s hard to imagine that the folks in the code reviser’s office can get everything done by midnight tonight. But no matter. The announcement of another special session never comes until well after the point that it is obvious to all of humanity. And if lawmakers pretend as if there’s a reason to rush, they might actually get something done.
Gov. Christine Gregoire told reporters late Monday night that she doesn’t even want to talk about a special session when there’s still a chance compromise might be reached. “That’s not healthy,” she said.
And so the dickering continues, even though the deadline is already blown.
But that “puff of smoke” idea? Reporters have been using that metaphor for at least the last 25 years, and maybe even longer than that – 25 years is simply as long as Washington State Wire can remember. It is derived, of course, from the “puff of smoke” that is released from the Vatican chimney whenever the cardinals elect a new pope.
And it prompts a recollection from John Barnes of the Washington Policy Center. It used to be that the cardinals would find themselves in prolonged deadlocks. In 1268, when one such impasse had lasted three years, the city of Viterbo forced the cardinals to meet in the town’s episcopal palace and refused to send in anything except bread and water. When even this failed, the townspeople removed the roof. And finally the cardinals relented and elected Gregory X.
Might not be such a bad idea today, he suggests. Maybe the weather is nice right now, but this is Olympia, and you never have to wait long for the next rainstorm. Whatever the members might think about it, though, you have to figure that the folks in the Capitol facilities office might have a few problems with the idea. Barnes says, “And I was told my degrees in history wouldn’t be ‘economically viable.’”