Because the House and Senate were unable to agree on a supplemental operating budget during regular session, we are currently in a 30 day special session. (As a reminder, there was a philosophical shift in the Senate during the last week of regular session, when three conservative Senators voted with Republicans to move a Republican written budget out of the Senate. This changed the dynamic of Majority Democrats in the House negotiating with Majority Democrats in the Senate, and pushed us into a difficult to resolve situation resulting in our special session.)
The majority of legislators, myself included, are back in district, not collecting per diem. The leadership and budget teams are the only legislators doing hands-on budget work and until they get close to completing their task, no other legislative action is necessary. Once a budget proposal is agreed to, legislators will return to Olympia for hearings and votes on the budget and on the variety of bills needed to pass the budget.
Since the end of special session, Governor Gregoire has been meeting regularly with leaders from all four caucuses to iron out the major areas of difference between the budget approved by the House and the budget approved by the Senate (some are calling it the Republican plus three budget). In the midst of the negotiating meetings, the Senate Republican leaders released another budget proposal to the media. This new plan appears to be moving in the right direction for funding our public schools and higher ed system, (no cuts to education is the same position the Democrats have taken) but the Republican +3 budget contains some pretty major differences in other important areas.
Those differences are relatively small, dollar-wise, but represent very divergent values. If the newest Republican +3 proposal is passed as written, some of the most vulnerable people in our state will be devastated:
- 14,500 disabled people will lose their medical coverage
- 10,000 disabled people will lose their homes
- 3,350 low-income families will lose their only source of income during this recession
- 12,300 low-income families will lose their food assistance
I want to get the budget written and approved as soon as possible, but we can’t sacrifice our basic values for simple expediency. A budget isn’t just about numbers, it’s about people.
You can get more information about the latest proposal, as well as comparisons between it and the budget passed by the House and the earlier budget passed by the Senate, here. I would also suggest that you watch the papers. While they don’t have the full story, inside the negotiations, they are providing timely coverage of the differences between the two party’s budgets.
Peer to peer car sharing
Each session I sponsor bills I think will make Washington a better place to live. This year I’m particularly excited by the passage of SHB 2384—Peer to Peer Car Sharing. P2P car sharing updates car insurance laws so that individuals can get insurance coverage to rent out their personal vehicles for profit. For car owners who have a vehicle which sits idle in their driveway, this is a great opportunity to make extra cash. For folks who need access to a car, this opens up access to more vehicles. This new business model is already in action in California and Oregon. Check out this King5 News story and Sightline article for more information.
I am trying a new video format for my updates. Think Charlie Rose meets Enrique Cerna in two minutes or less. Tell me what you think of these videos: Each is only 2 minutes long!