Crickets announce the opening day of legislative special session

Yesterday’s special session was heralded with the sounds of, mostly, silence. In the Spokesman-Review, Jim Camden reports,

The Legislature’s special session opened quietly Monday morning to mostly empty chambers and routine paperwork.

The gavel came down to open the session promptly at 10 a.m. in the Senate, with four of the state’s 49 senators, Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib and members of the chamber’s administrative and caucus staffs present.

We’d like to think that’s because behind the scenes a lot of important work is being done. And that’s in part the case. The Associated Press reports,

Republican Sen. John Braun, the key budget writer in the Senate, said that budget meetings within his caucus are occurring, as are meetings with nonpartisan staff to discuss the differences between the two budgets. He also noted that the bipartisan meetings on the education portion of the budget are taking place three times a week, twice a day.

Still the fiscal impasse remains. From the S-R story,

On Friday, the last day most lawmakers were present, Senate Republicans tried to make a point on taxes House Democrats have proposed but say they will not bring to a vote until a budget deal is reached. They brought versions of tax proposals on a capital gains tax and changes to the state’s business and occupation tax to a vote in the Senate, where both failed 0-48…

Budget negotiations have not yet been scheduled, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane. A group discussing improvements to the state’s public school system, and the money that would be needed to pay for them, is expected to meet Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, he said, but there are no formal negotiations on the remainder of the 2017-19 operating budget.

Ormsby called the Senate vote on the House tax proposals political theater, but rejected any suggestion that Democrats jump-start the negotiations by submitting a revised budget.

The Columbian editorial board wants lawmakers to “do better.”

Rather than arriving at this year’s session with a framework for negotiations, lawmakers have been content to engage in stare-down theatrics while waiting for the other side to blink first. The fact that they have arrived at a special session without being deep into the negotiating process — and that Gov. Jay Inslee has been unable to nudge the process along without doing more than blaming Republicans — is an embarrassment.

Throughout the process, both sides have engaged in cynical political displays rather than statesmanship. It is shameful that lawmakers have approached one of the most important policy debates in state history without a sense of urgency or a desire to put solutions above politics. The people of Washington deserve better.

Eventually, there will be a deal. But from all appearances, not just yet.