Calling it Now: Special Session

Less than a week into the session, lawmakers have already set themselves up for overtime.

OLYMPIA — Time is running out on the 2017 Legislature.

As of Wednesday, there are only 102 days remaining in the regular session, even less when you figure lawmakers won’t work many weekends.

Given their things-to-do list, they’ve pretty much assured themselves of one, and possibly two, special sessions. And it’s an even-money bet state agencies will be prepping for a shutdown of nonessential services July 1 as they have twice before under Gov. Jay Inslee.

It’s a new year and, yes, the session is only three days old. But lawmakers face an old problem —finding a way to fully fund public schools — and a familiar chasm between Democratic and Republican leaders on an approach to solutions. It’s also a budget-writing year, so there’s more than just schools on the agenda.

Lawmakers predict the session will be a “slog”, “marathon” and “never ending.” They say are “ready”, “prepared to be patient” and with a mood of “cautious apprehension” as opposed to “cautious optimism.”

And legislative honchos declare confidently “We will get this done this year,” not the traditional “Our goal is to get out on time.”

Inspiring, right?

For some, their attitude is punctuated by a degree of disappointment that eight lawmakers handpicked by caucus leaders to provide some direction on the school funding conundrum, didn’t complete their assignment.

This collective of Democratic and Republican legislators met for a final time Monday, adjourning without agreement on a single recommendation for ensuring the state is amply funding public schools as intended by the state Constitution and ordered by the Supreme Court.

The McCleary 8, also known as the Education Funding Task Force, delved deep into the challenge.

Democratic members came up with four pages of policy changes with a price tag of $7.3 billion. They also listed the taxes they’ve considered creating or raising to cover the cost. Republicans developed a set of guiding principles for the same issues addressed in the Democratic proposal and said it will be February before they’ll be ready to release anything more detailed.

In the end, they couldn’t figure out a way to meld both approaches into one — let alone agree to staple them together, attach a cover sheet and deliver it as a final report to their colleagues.

What this means is the Legislature is starting out as it did in 2016 and 2015: in contempt of a Supreme Court order demanding a blueprint of how-in-the-heck they will meet the Sept. 1, 2018 deadline set by justices in the McCleary case.

Plus a $100,000-a-day fine levied by justices in August 2015 continues to mount, reaching $50.7 million as of Wednesday.

None of this should come as much of a surprise as this is pretty much how the 2016 session began.

Then, eight lawmakers spent the last months of 2015 discussing the best course for the Legislature to take on this issue. That McCleary 8, like the current incarnation, couldn’t reconcile its differences. Then, like now, the fine isn’t fueling a quicker pace — at least not visibly — and some lawmakers continuing to resist any action viewed as placating justices.

Lawmakers ended last session agreeing to find a final solution in 2017.

We’re here now. Probably be here awhile.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.comand on Twitter at @dospueblos.

More in News & Comment

A woman works on a drawing next to an unused viewing scope as a smoky haze obscures the Space Needle and downtown Seattle last August as smoke from wildfires moved across the region. (Photo courtesy of The Herald/Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)
Why Do Washington Voters Struggle With Climate Change Policies?

Despite environmental awareness and the public’s apparent desire for reform, statewide initiatives keep failing

Mary Lynn Pannen, founder and CEO of Sound Options, has consulted thousands of Washington families on geriatric care for 30 years. Photo courtesy of Sound Options
Seattle Takes on Elder Abuse as Reported Cases Rise

Local agencies and geriatric care managers aim to increase public awareness about the epidemic.

The Ride2 transit app will offer on-demand rides to and from West Seattle starting on Dec. 17. Courtesy of King County Metro
Climate Action Coalition Urges City to Respond to Seattle Squeeze

MASS asks the city to prioritize reducing traffic and increasing pedestrian safety ahead of the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s closure.

State Supreme Court Strikes Down I-27; King County Will Pursue Safe Consumption Sites

The decision upholds a court ruling keeping the anti-consumption site initiative off the ballot.

Seattle’s Hockey Team And Stadium Are On Their Way

Key Arena renovations will be completed without the use of public funding

Andrea Bernard, Allycea Weil, and Phoenix Johnson (left to right) are Licton Springs K-8 parents who want their kids to stay in the Native-centered program. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Licton Springs K-8 Parents Dismayed by Potential School Move

The PTO says children have benefited from the Native-centered program, and that transferring the pupils would disrupt their progress.

Seattle Municipal Court’s warrant outreach event on Nov. 30, 2017. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Seattle Takes Steps to Quash Warrants

City Attorney attempts to address inequities in criminal justice system and enhance public safety.

The King County Courthouse. File photo
King County Council Acknowledges Report on Juvenile Solitary Confinement

Report also says youth of color face a disproportionate amount of disciplinary measures

Federal Way Megachurch Slapped With Another Sexual Exploitation Lawsuit

Lawsuit calls for removal of Casey and Wendy Treat, and CFO, from church leadership roles.

The Centralia Power Plant is a coal-burning plant owned by TransAlta which supplies 380 megawatts to Puget Sound Energy. It is located in Lewis County and slated to shut down by 2025. Aaron Kunkler/Staff Photo
National Report Outlines Climate Change’s Course For Northwest

More fires, floods and drought appear to be on their way for Washington state.

Mustafa Getahun and other Washington Federation of State Employees laundry workers picket University of Washington Medicine at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery on May 17, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Washington Federation of State Employees
University of Washington Laundry Workers Feel Hung Out to Dry

The Rainier Valley facility’s imminent closure leaves over 100 people looking for new jobs.