Senator suggests fining lawmakers for OT sessions

OLYMPIA — One senator says lawmakers need a greater incentive to avoid multiple overtime legislative sessions, so he plans to introduce a bill next year that would fine lawmakers $250 for every day they are in an overtime session.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Democrat from Medina who leads the predominantly-Republican Majority Coalition Caucus, said he will also propose stopping lawmakers’ $90-per-day per diem during special sessions, meaning they’d have to pony up their own money for meals and expenses.

“We don’t have enough of a forcing function to get us out of town,” said Tom, who leads the coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats.

The state constitution sets the duration of legislative sessions at 105 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered ones.

Tom said his goal is to avoid another session like this year, which brought lawmakers to the brink of a government shutdown. Lawmakers couldn’t agree on a budget within the 105-day regular session, and required one full 30-day special session, and adjourned on day 18 of the second overtime session. Lawmakers reconvene for a 60-day session in January.

State Rep. Ross Hunter, a House Democrat from Medina who is chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, said he thinks Tom’s proposal has little chance of moving forward.

Hunter said the challenge this year came in part from a state Supreme Court order to put more money into basic education.

“This was a very difficult budget to negotiate,” he said. “We are going to fight like cats and dogs for the next four or five years to get this problem resolved.”

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