Gov. Jay Inslee calls a special session for May 13, a curious decision that removes all pressure for lawmakers to reach a deal on the state budget anytime soon. In a news conference Sunday night after the final gavels fell to end the 105-day regular legislative session, the governor said he expects budget negotiators for the Democratic House and the Republican-leaning Senate to make significant progress while rank-and-file lawmakers return home for R&R. More important: The governor appears to be signaling he hopes to be a player, not a referee.
On the penultimate day of the Legislature’s 105-day regular session, not a whole lot was going on. But at least lawmakers were owning up to the truth everyone has known deep down for more than a week. There’s no possible way they’re going to get done on time, and they’re going to be coming back for a special session. Exactly when is the only remaining question.
Members of the Senate Majority Coalition staged a pre-emptive strike on Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday, blasting plans for a layoff between the regular session and an all-but-certain special session – even before anything has been announced. They say that if Inslee allows lawmakers to go home Monday, not only will he let up pressure for a budget deal — he’ll also be giving Democrats a chance to raise money for political campaigns. Trouble with that argument is it goes both ways. Senate Republicans have planned a fund-raiser Monday.
While the state House staged a lengthy debate Wednesday on a $900 million tax bill that staked out the Democratic position on the budget, the real drama was playing out in the Capitol’s conference rooms. Gov. Jay Inslee declared that the Legislature must swallow a set of highly partisan policy bills in addition to any deal it works out on the budget – and Republicans choked. You better believe there’s going to be a special session. But the real question is whether there’s going to be any compromising going on.
Top Republicans say consensus seems to be forming around Dan Kristiansen as new leader of the House Republican Caucus. A week after longtime minority leader Richard DeBolt stepped down from the leadership post due to health reasons, Republicans have set a reorganizational meeting for May 10. But acting leader Joel Kretz says Kristiansen’s support seems firm enough that some members now are saying the meeting ought to be held sooner rather than later.
The fizz has gone out of a House tax proposal: A new version of the tax bill voted out of the House Finance Committee Tuesday ditches a plan to retain a ‘temporary’ tax on beer that had been set to expire in June. That and other changes whittle down the House Democrats’ original tax proposal from $1.3 billion to $900 million. And while the numbers don’t match the spending bill that passed the House last week, it probably doesn’t matter — there’s still plenty of negotiating to do before this session finally wraps.
Leaders of the state’s Latino community, fed up with what they say is disinterest from state government, say they are forming a new organization to promote Hispanic-community interests. Where most talk in political circles these days is about harnessing the Hispanic vote, the new Washington Latino Roundtable plans to lead — and it could have a major effect. Organizers say Democrats and Republicans might want to take notice. For once.
The United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers is reportedly the first union to officially call for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The health care law is prompting some serious buyer’s remorse in Big Labor, which worked hard on behalf of the administration to pass it.
Looks like an effort to promote a transportation package this year is in deep trouble because of Senate opposition to a bridge project at Vancouver, and the clash could deliver a decisive defeat for Gov. Jay Inslee. The new governor has staked much of his prestige on convincing a balky Senate to swallow a plan that many believe is fatally flawed. And while it might have been accidentally publicized, you have to love the talking-to federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave the Senate Majority Caucus last week: Seems it just made ‘em mad.