Legislative Update: Governor convenes special session after Legislature adjourns without a supplemental budget

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

Last night, the Legislature adjourned on the 60th day of the legislative session without passing a supplemental budget. While each chamber had previously passed competing supplemental budget proposals, they could not reach a final agreement by the deadline on how much more to spend for the upcoming year and whether to use the Budget Stabilization Account (the rainy day fund) to cover some expenses such as the wildfires from last summer and homelessness.

Within an hour of adjourning, the Governor called a 30-day special session starting immediately for the Legislature to complete the supplemental budget. While all special sessions are automatically 30 days, the Governor indicated there was no reason for the Legislature not to complete their work by next Monday.

Now that we are in special session, the whole process starts over, and technically, all bills (even previously considered dead bills) are once again alive until the 30 days ends, however, it is unlikely that the Legislature will want to take up bills that previously were dead during the special session unless it is part of a final agreement on the budget. In addition, legislators can introduce new bills for the upcoming session. It also means that proponents of an alternative carbon tax initiative have more time to convince the Legislature to pass a competing carbon tax proposal that would go to the voters this fall along with Carbon Washington’s carbon tax proposal (I-732), but unlikely this will happen.

Governor follows through on veto threat after Legislature fails to complete budget

The Governor also followed through on his threat earlier in the week to veto dozens of bills that were on his desk if the Legislature did not agree to a final budget by midnight last night. Specifically, the Governor vetoed 27 bills on his desk and signed 10 into law. The bills he signed into law focused on public safety and essential services such as human trafficking and criminal matters. The Governor explained that he vetoed the bills, not because they were unworthy, but because of the Legislature’s failure to finish sessions on time in recent years. Among the bills that were vetoed include the following bills:

• Industrial Hemp Growing (ESSB 6206) authorizes the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to comply with federal requirements in establishing an industrial research program, licensing program and seed certification program.

• Apple Commission (SSB 6290) updates and clarifies the statutes governing the Apple Commission.

• Cultural Foods (SB 6398) requires the State Board of Health in considering the rules for food service to consider scientific data regarding time-temperature safety standards for Asian rice based noodles and Korean rice cakes.

The bills that were vetoed could be reintroduced and passed again during the special session, or the Legislature could override the Governor’s veto with a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. If neither happens during the special session, the bills will be dead for this year. There are also several other bills that have been delivered to the Governor’s Office awaiting his signature that were not part of the bills that the Governor took action on last night. Bills that are delivered fewer than five days before the Legislature adjourns have 20 days to be acted on by the Governor. The bills that the Governor took action on last night had been passed more than five days prior to adjournment so the Governor had a deadline of last night to take action on them. It is unclear if the Governor will continue to veto additional bills currently awaiting his signature until the Legislature reaches an agreement on a final supplemental budget.

Legislature passes supplemental transportation budget

Earlier in the week, the Legislature passed a supplemental transportation budget that has been delivered to the Governor for his signature. Since the supplemental transportation bill was delivered to the Governor within five days of adjournment, he has 20 days to take action on the bill. The supplemental budget makes about $507 million in changes to the state’s two-year transportation budget. The supplemental transportation budget can be found here.