Halfway to Sine Die, What Comes Next?

Milestones will come quicker now that we’ve passed the halfway mark in the 105-day session. Having passed the house of origin policy and fiscal committee cutoffs, we spent this week and will spend half of next week focused on floor action.

Both the House and Senate have been working late into the evenings, sometimes until 11 pm or later, and plan to work this weekend, as well. Bills are being passed at seeming breakneck speed, and it can be hard to keep up with all of the bills and amendments at any given time.

While the cutoffs have reduced the number of bills, a lot more bills have moved out of committee and are being passed off the floor than seems normal for a long session.

At some point, it seems inevitable that the number of bills will outweigh the amount of time and/or money needed to pass them, and a backlog will be created. At that point, a lot more bills should die.

Come Wednesday at 5 pm, all bills that are not necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) must have passed out of their houses of origin in order to continue in the process. Committee hearings will resume in earnest next Thursday, allowing the Senate to hear House bills and vice versa.

But, for the second “half” of session, time moves much more quickly. While the policy committees had 40 days to hear and pass bills during the first half of session, and the fiscal committees had 7, the next policy committee cutoff comes just 20 days after the house of origin cutoff, and the fiscal committees get 6 days.

The 12 days of house of origin floor action dwindle to just 8 days for the opposite house. The last 10 days of session are spent passing budget bills and reconciling differences between bills as they passed one house versus the other.

A couple of bills are already moving past both houses and toward the governor’s office. Washington State does not have what’s commonly referred to as a “pocket veto.” Meaning, if the governor wants to veto a bill, he must affirmatively act. He can’t make it go away by ignoring it.

In Washington State, ignoring it means it automatically becomes law. When bills are sent to the governor within 5 days of the end of session (sine die), he has twenty days from the end of session to act on them.  However, when bills are sent to him this early, he only has 5 days to act. Midsession bills, however, are the exception rather than the rule.  The preponderance of the legislation that passes will be subject to the 20-day rule.

At this stage in the game, much of the legislation WSAC staff are following are still alive. Many have been amended.  Many are sitting in the Rules Committees, awaiting their fates. After the 5 o’clock bill next Wednesday, it will be time again to take stock and assess strategies and plans.

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Mellani McAleenan

Mellani joined WSAC as the Director of Government Relations and General Counsel. Mellani has worked in government relations since 2000, most recently as Director of Government Affairs for the Dental Association. Mellani has also represented the state judicial branch of government as the primary legislative advocate for the Board for Judicial Administration, Administrative Office of the Courts, and Supreme Court. Mellani earned her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Seattle University and her BS in Human Services from Wayland Baptist University.
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