Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sine Die Day!

Sine Die day dawns with no budget agreement.

Today marks the 60th day and the end of the regular session, and while budget negotiators say they have agreed on the "size of the box" for the budget, don't look for an agreement and voting by both chambers today. While no one has an exact date, it would appear that the Governor will call legislators back in on Friday to complete their work, which could take up to another week.

In a positive sign of movement, the Senate Ways & Means Committee held a hearing and voted on a handful of bills Wednesday afternoon. None of the bills was related to WSPTA priorities

However, of interest to WSPTA members is that Breakfast after the Bell may be unstuck, and part of the final negotiations in the operating budget. Lawmakers in the Senate were stuck on the mandate of the bill, which required all school districts with students who meet a 70 percent eligibility for free and reduced price meals to offer an expanded breakfast program. Some legislators balked at what they saw as another unfunded mandate for school districts.

Senator Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup) offered a compromise of a voluntary program, with one-time start-up grants capped at a total of $500,000. The amendment to the bill, if adopted, would pass after or at the same time as the operating budget. While not everything  advocates had hoped for, a bill this session would at least begin the program in another 83 or more schools across the state.

Small increases in K-12 construction funding may be part of the 2016 supplemental capital budget, which as of Wednesday afternoon hadn't been finalized. Typically the capital budget and the bond bill that supports it will be the final bills of the session, wait - special session.

House Democrats spent most of Wednesday closeted in caucus discussing the charter schools bill, SB 6194. The bill passed with all House Republicans voting for it along with 10 Democrats. The Senate spent a good portion of the last few days recognizing the retirements of Lt. Governor Brad Owen, Senators Benton and Fraser, and long-time legislative employees. 

The House returns to the floor at 10 a.m., while the Senate begins work at 11 a.m. The main work of the day is to concur or dispute any bills that were changed in the opposite chamber, and send bills to the Governor's desk. Only a handful of bills met the 5-day rule under which Governor Inslee threatened a veto. Bills that are delivered today are given 20 days to be signed or vetoed before they become law. Bills become law 90 days after today, unless they have a different effective date.

Marie Sullivan
Legislative Consultant

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