Here we go again, with the Washington Legislature in special session for the sixth time in seven years, this time after lawmakers couldn’t agree on a supplemental budget during the 60-day regular session. Gov. Jay Inslee tried to avert this scenario by threatening to veto bills if the Legislature didn’t get out on time. It didn’t, and the governor largely followed through on bills that required action by midnight Thursday; he vetoed 27 bills and signed 10 others.
One major measure not affected — it was approved late in the session and was not subject to the governor’s veto deadline — is the legislative fix that addresses state Supreme Court concerns about how the state funds charter schools. The issue has hung in abeyance long enough, and Inslee should sign the bill and let the schools go about educating their 1,100 students.
Inslee’s veto action ironically could prolong the session, assuming lawmakers vote to override the vetoes — that requires a two-thirds majority — or pass the vetoed bills again. Inslee said the 10 that he signed regarded public safety, public health and law enforcement, including one to ensure employment rights for members of the National Guard.
Other important and worthwhile bills, in addition to charter schools, passed late in the session and weren’t affected by vetoes; they have a 20-day window for action by Inslee.
One grants a pay raise for Washington State Patrol troopers as part of the transportation budget. Another seeks to make police body-camera videos available to the public while setting rules on what camera footage is presumed to be private under the Public Records Act. Lawmakers also approved a bill to study the state’s laws concerning law-enforcement’s use of deadly force, and they agreed to toughen DUI laws.
On education, a bill aimed to fixing a statewide teacher shortage won approval. Lawmakers also voted to start a traditional 529 college savings plan while reopening the former prepaid GET program, which has been frozen since last year. These also fall under the 20-day window for action by Inslee
Inslee already has signed one of session’s first actions, which was to not take action this year on meeting the state Supreme Court’s McCleary mandate to fully fund basic K-12 education. Lawmakers did agree to set up a committee to develop fixes that they will consider next year, ahead of a 2018 court deadline to find a solution. The court has held the state in contempt over what justices say is insufficient action to address the funding issue.
Budgetary differences involve new revenue and whether to tap the state’s reserve fund for wildfire costs and homelessness. The monetary difference between the Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat House is small by legislative standards — it runs into the millions of dollars, not the billions that kept the Legislature in session for half of 2015 before it finally approved a biennial budget.
So Inslee is probably right that the special session should last only a matter of days. In the meantime, he would serve the interests of the state by signing the worthy legislation that won approval in the regular session’s final days — especially the charter school fix.
* Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.