March 10 was the last day of the 2016 regular session, but with lawmakers unable to come to an agreement on the budget, a 30 day special session was declared.
Early in the week Governor Inslee held a press conference where he declared that he would veto bills that had already reached his desk if the Legislature failed to deliver a budget to him prior to the end of the regular session. He held true to his threat and proceeded to veto 27 bills in a closed door bill signing event at 10:00 pm last night. All of the bills that were vetoed were Senate bills. Needless to say, this action has been viewed not only by the Senate but by the House as an attack on the institution (i.e. the Executive branch vs. the Legislative branch).
The Governor subsequently held a press conference where he chastised the Legislature for failing to fulfill what he calls their primary responsibility, which is to produce a budget in a timely fashion. He also called for a Special Session immediately. Under the constitution, a special session can last for up to 30 days. Given the Legislature’s frustration over his veto tactics, we may see the Special Session last longer than it otherwise would if the budget was the only issue left to be addressed. Most Olympia watchers now expect the Legislature to seriously consider veto overrides on all 27 of those measures.
The Senate convened a Ways and Means Committee hearing at 2:00 pm on Friday where they unveiled a new budget proposal. The word on the street is that this budget is supported by Senate Republicans and Democrats as well as House Republicans. The House Democrats, however, appear to be taking issue with its provisions. Clearly this does not bode well for a timely resolution to the impasse, and most House members have already gone home for the weekend. We expect House and Senate members to convene at the beginning of the week and discuss a pathway to finish the Special Session. Given where things stand right now, it could take more than a week or two to reach final adjournment of the 2016 Legislative Session.
Carbon Policy: Rumors of an alternative have been floating around (732-B), however, no bill has been introduced. With a week and a half left in session, it is unlikely to build much momentum if it is introduced at this point.
House Bill 2346 related to solar incentives continues to be alive and part of the final budget negotiations. However, there are significant concerns over the total cost of the program.