To adjourn “sine die” needs to be struck from Olympia’s list of nebulous terms. It means without a date or indefinitely, although lawmakers understood for weeks that a special session was inevitable. (After Sunday’s sine die, Gov. Jay Inslee announced he would call lawmakers back May 13th.) Legislators should embrace crystalline language. Adjourn solo estamos bromeando (Read: “We’re only joking” in Spanish.)
The special session’s to-do list is Exhibit One of legislative inertia. It includes the operating and capital budgets. A transportation package that calls for a 10-cent gas tax. A get-tough DUI bill. Education reform, the Reproductive Parity Act, and the Dream Act.
In triage, the budget comes first, yes, but that’s not a chew-gum-and-legislate excuse to punt on a DUI proposal that is 95 percent complete. As committee chairs and caucus leaders horse trade behind closed doors, the non-honchos can earn their $90 per diems by managing the DUI bill, agreeing on the Dream Act (something Senate Majority Coalition Chair Rodney Tom supports) Reproductive Parity and a sprinkling of ed measures. Oh, and transportation. This is what happens when you spend 105 days of the regular session explaining that Olympia is in no way gridlocked like the other Washington.
From a general perspective, Democrats are right about closing loopholes to fund education, and have a more farsighted, do-no-harm approach to higher ed. Republicans are right to demand that school reforms be embroidered into K-12 funding mandated by the McCleary Supreme Court decision.
Overdue school-accountability measures shouldn’t be a political football. Reforms include giving principals the authority to hire and fire bad teachers. Grading schools, a brainstorm then-candidate Inslee supported but backpedaled on, is a clear index that promotes accountability. Radical, these are not. Republicans have good reason to take a “reform first” approach.
Snohomish County is fortunate that 39th District Rep. Dan Kristiansen has been elected House minority leader. One former colleague describes Kristiansen as “a very honest, pragmatic ideologue.” If Kristiansen can corral the political cats before 30 days, he will demonstrate that “pragmatic ideologue” is not an oxymoron. He also might maneuver to ensure that safety improvements to U.S. 2, Washington’s highway of death, be part of a comprehensive transportation package sent to voters for their decision.
There have been 40 heel-dragging special sessions since 1981. Legislators work hard, but getting out on time has not been a priority. Until the pattern is broken, it’s adjourn solo estamos bromeando. No more sine die.