On Monday the state legislature gathered in Olympia for the start of

On Monday the state legislature gathered in Olympia for the start of what’s sure to be a grueling 105-day session. In theory at least, bills will be passed, progress made, and the will of Washington’s voters represented. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Forgive us for our skepticism.

Rest assured, however, that the storylines coming out of Olympia over the next three months will be plentiful. Here’s a look at three that will likely prove particularly important:

For the Kids No one subject will loom as large this legislative session as the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary v. State of Washington ruling, which found that the state was failing to meet its “paramount duty” to fund public education. Lawmakers will need to do something this session, which means finding $3.35 billion in the 2015–17 budget cycle (not to mention another $4.48 billion in 2017–19). And it won’t be easy. Republicans, thanks to an improving economy, believe the money can be found in the state’s coffers, while Democrats generally believe new revenue will be required. Shocking, right? Which brings us to . . .

All About That Budget (No Taxes?) Taking McCleary into consideration, the governor’s office estimates a shortfall of roughly $3 billion, which is why Democrat Jay Inslee is proposing a capital-gains tax (among other things). Republicans, meanwhile, want to see new taxes as a “last resort,” and like to say that the state should “live within its means.” “We just passed the biggest budget in state history less than a year ago, and we have 10 percent more money now,” argues Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane). Making matters even more contentious, on the first day of the session, the Majority Coalition Caucus-led Senate passed a rule that—if it holds up—will require a two-thirds majority on all “new” taxes. Clearly, whether it’s McCleary or a new transportation package, additional revenue will be hard to come by.

High Time for MMJ Legislation Washington voters were ahead of the curve on the legalization of recreational marijuana use for adults. The bad news is the regulatory system for medical marijuana—legal in Washington since 1998—is all kinds of messed up, and has been for some time. Now, with a newly created, heavily regulated recreational market and a Wild West, anything-goes medical market fighting to hold on, something’s got to give. Patients, of course, worry about losing access and/or being forced into a heavily taxed recreational market that doesn’t fit their needs, while proponents of the Initiative 502-created legal-pot landscape worry about being undermined by a loosey-goosey “medical marijuana” system with little to no oversight. Will the legislature be able to remedy this conundrum in 2015? Stay tuned.