Pursuing pursuits, erasing advisory votes and spending battles begin

It’s Day 73. Budgets are in the forecast as lawmakers enter the final month of the 2023 session

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112

2023 Washington Legislature, Day 73 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, March 22, 2023 — Welcome to Wednesday. It’s sunny again in Olympia. Rain — and a budget — is forecast tomorrow.

Senate Democrats will post their proposed operating budget online at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. A public hearing is set for 2 p.m. Friday.

Expect this two-year spending plan to be the least fiscally ambitious proposal this session. We know it’ll be smaller in scope than Gov. Jay Inslee’s offering in December because the lead budget writer said so.

House Democrats tend to be bigger spenders in their initial proposals. We’ll see when they trot theirs out, likely Monday. Word in the hallways is the Senate and House are ‘far apart’ meaning some hard conversations loom to reach agreement.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s capital budget should get voted out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee today and off the Senate floor Friday.

Republican Sen. Mark Schoesler’s amendment caught my eye. It opens the door for getting up to the top of the legislative dome and says the director of the Department of Enterprise Services, “upon request, shall provide access to any legislative member and the member’s guest.” Plan ahead. Legislative dance cards may fill up fast.

If this pans out and you are up there, look for folks working to re-open the building’s skylight system in order “to restore each chamber to its original amber-tinted glow”in time for the Capitol’s 100-year birthday in 2028. And this $7.8 million project “literally and symbolically contributes to more open and transparent legislative proceedings,” reads the budget.

Looking for more deets like these? Bookmark fiscal.wa.gov as it’s the go-to site for all things budget.

Advisory votes: maintain or repeal?

Democratic lawmakers are poised to eliminate a requirement for advisory votes and excise a political pimple irritating them for the better part of two decades.

Senate Bill 5082 cleared a House panel Tuesday. It would erase a remnant of Initiative 960 giving voters the last word on tax measures passed by lawmakers, even though what they say doesn’t change anything because the results are nonbinding.

While lawmakers can ignore the outcome, they can’t ignore the tab for producing information on measures for voter pamphlets. In 2013, for example, five advisory measures occupied several pages and cost tens of thousands of dollars in staff time and materials to produce.

Advisory votes are the handiwork of anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman back in 2007 when he wasn’t the disgraced provocateur he is today. He had a good retort to critics then: “I wish they hadn’t raised taxes at all then there wouldn’t be any advisory votes.”

Lawmakers have tried for at least five years to get rid of them. All eyes are now on the House to see if they go.

Pursuit politics

Those clamoring for a public hearing on Senate Bill 5352, the vehicle pursuit bill, are not likely to get one. This legislation no one entirely likes but may entirely become law may pass out of the Community Safety, Justice and Re-Entry Committee next week anyway.

House rules allow committee chairs to skip right to executive session with Senate bills that are companion to ones a panel already acted on. That’s the case here. It’s what I anticipate will happen.

Brace for disappointment on the Republican side of the aisle should the Senate bill eventually reach the House floor.

The Senate rewrote the title from the very broad “act relating to vehicular pursuits” to a very specific itemizing of exact crimes for which an officer can engage a chase. Auto theft and many other transgressions didn’t make the cut.

Since the House doesn’t allow amending of titles, the choice for legislators will pretty much be take-it-or-leave-it. If they get a choice.

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