The third week of the legislative session included early floor action to address basic education issues, committee hearings involving property crimes, and bill proposals to change Washington’s public records laws. The state Senate also experienced some changes to its membership with two appointments to positions within the new presidential administration. Sen. Brian Dansel, R-7, resigned his seat immediately thereby creating a virtual tie in the state Senate (24 Republicans; 24 Democrats).
Friday ended Week 2 of the 2017 Washington State Legislative Session and a healthy round of bill introductions, committee hearings, and press conferences probing the process of budget-sausage making. Both fiscal and policy committees continued to hold hearings to flesh out a variety of issues, including increasing penalties for driving under the influence, legal financial-obligation changes, the Voting Rights Act, and matters related to cyber security.
State lawmakers began their 2017 session with a flurry of activity, with budgetary issues a main priority for legislators, who are under pressure to come up with a plan for funding basic education. Fiscal committees held hearings on Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed 2017-2019 budget. Policy committees opened hearings on statewide civil legal aid services, and legislators introduced bills on issues ranging from water rights to administrative procedures. Newly-elected members of the Legislature, statewide offices, and the Supreme Court were sworn in.
The 2017 regular legislative session is now underway in Olympia. Lawmakers have significant issues to tackle this year, including closing a budget deficit upwards of $5 billion that encompasses fully funding basic education under the McCleary decision, mental health obligations, and other emergent public policy needs.