Special session starts today; expectations high and muted

Today begins the (first?) 2015 special legislative session. Few expect a swift resolution of the budget stalemate that has taken lawmakers into OT. Some see the extended session as an opportunity to address items that didn’t make the first cut, many of which tie directly to the fiscal/education priorities that will dominate the special.

The Associated Press offers a rundown of must-do items and an inventory of legislation passed during the general. The must-dos:

Legislators’ to-do list for the coming days is weighty. The Democratic-held House and Republican-led Senate must work out their differences on the state budget, education spending and a transportation package or risk, respectively, a government shutdown, contempt penalties from the state Supreme Court, and still more decay and burdens for state transit and roads systems.

The Seattle Times also offers a similar list of things done and left undone

The Times editorial board weighs in with an appeal to lawmakers to meet in the middle, saying some new revenue will be necessary and encouraging lawmakers to “look at” some kind of “small capital gains tax with restrictions.” 

The frequency of these sessions leads the Columbian editorial board to wonder whether it’s time to amend the state constitution to add days to the regular session, currently capped at 105 days in budget-writing (odd) years. The editorial also notes that the philosophical differences between the House and Senate makes a “meet in the middle” resolution difficult to achieve.

Senate Republicans are insistent upon no new taxes; House Democrats are equally adamant that the Senate budget was formed using smoke and mirrors. That would seem to leave little room for the kind of compromise that will be required.

Meanwhile, as we posted yesterday, the state Supreme Court wants to know how lawmakers satisfy the McCleary mandate.  The Attorney General asked the court to allow the Legislature to finish the job in the special session. The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin seconds the request.

Lawmakers have been serious about the need to boost education funding since lawmakers went into session in January. The plan, as of now, is for the Republican-led Senate and the Democrat-controlled House to make substantial progress during the 30-day session that starts Wednesday. Lawmakers are also expected to address the unconstitutional use of local school district levies.

…The court needs to give the legislative branch and the executive branch the time needed to meet constitutional responsibilities.

And if that goes beyond the special session, the court must wait…

As must we all.