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.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

The Red Lion Inn at 1 South Grady Way in Renton is being used as temporary site to relocate individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo.
Renton battles King County over temporary shelter at Red Lion Hotel

County officials believe emergency health order will supersede city’s move.

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

A train route that would shuttle people between Eastern and Western Washington could tie in with the proposed ultra-high-speed rail between B.C. and Portland. Photo courtesy RobertStafford/Pixabay.com
State receives King County to Spokane rail study

It would take about eight and a half hours to reach the Inland Empire from Puget Sound.

Bret Chiafalo. File photo
Supreme Court says state can punish WA faithless electors

Justices: Presidential electors, including Everett man, must keep pledge to back popular vote winner

Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance allowing the resumption of self-service buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, drink stations and other types of communal food sources in Phase 2. File photo
Buffets and salad bars back on the menu in King County

Gov. Jay Inslee has revised rules to allow self-serve food areas in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening.

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Most Read