A Preview of the 2014 Regular Session of the 63rd Legislature
The Washington State Legislature will convene at noon Monday, January 13th, for its 2014 Regular Session. This will be a “short” 60-day session in an even-numbered year, and is scheduled to adjourn on March 13th. The legislature meets for “long” 105-day sessions in odd-numbered years. The Governor can also call special sessions, as he did three times in 2013.
It is likely lawmakers will try to adjourn on time, motivated at least in part in this election year by the legal constraints state law places on fundraising while members are in session.
Here are some factors that will affect the Legislature’s work this session:
- There is no immediate spending or revenue crisis this year. Legislators passed a balanced 2013-15 budget with broad bipartisan agreement and by a larger vote margin than has been the case in decades. During the 2014 session lawmakers will debate and may pass mid-course changes to the two-year budget, and that may change the revenue and spending picture.
- Partisan control is split between the House and the Senate. As they have for years, the Democrats control the House with a 55-43 majority. The Senate is controlled by the Majority Coalition Caucus, a rare alliance made up of 24 Republicans and two Democrats, under the leadership of Democratic Senator Rodney Tom (D-Medina). The Majority Coalition strengthened its position by one seat last fall when Representative Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) was elected to a Senate seat vacated by a Democratic senator who had been elected to Congress.
- Last week the state Supreme Court issued its latest order under the McCleary decision, virtually laying out a budget for how the justices believe education should be funded to meet the state’s constitutional responsibilities. The court order says the legislature must adopt a spending plan by April 30, 2014.
- The legislature will consider a major transportation package for the 2013-15 budget period, which may include an 11.5-cent increase in the gas tax.
- There have been more than a dozen changes in the legislature’s membership, including House members who moved to the Senate. WashingtonVotes.org News will report on all membership and leadership changes once they occur when the legislature convenes.
- There are 2,223 bills left over from the last session. They will be reintroduced at their latest status when session begins. Additionally, lawmakers have pre-filed 160 new bills so far, covering everything from insurance regulation to marijuana retailing. The number of bills will quickly grow, and WashingtonVotes.org will list each new bill as it is introduced.
As in the past, WashingtonVotes.org will keep track of all bills, amendments and roll call votes, and will provide expanded coverage of bills on the move. WashingtonVotes.org News will provide special insights and perspectives on the most interesting and significant bills as session moves forward.