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Monday, March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

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Deal paves way for legislative session to end

Class-size initiative was holding up adjournment

By , Columbian Political Writer

A deal struck in Olympia on Wednesday could mean the end of the state’s longest single-year legislative session on record.

“It will be nice to put a period on things,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver.

Lawmakers are in the midst of a third overtime special session. They were originally scheduled to adjourn in April.

The latest gridlock was over a high school biology test, which Democrats didn’t want to be required for graduation.

Republicans agreed to suspend the requirement for two years. In turn, Democrats will give the necessary number of votes to delay the voter-approved Initiative 1351 from taking effect. Without a delay of the class-size initiative, there would be a $2 billion hole in the budget.

Still, Cleveland said legislators should have spent more time this session on figuring out how to fund the initiative.

“If there was a willingness to truly, seriously talk about revenue and new revenue,” the measure could be funded, she said.

Republicans hailed the $38.2 billion “no-new tax” budget signed by the governor this session as a victory.

Despite the deal, Cleveland said she won’t be one of the senators who changes her vote to delay the class size initiative.

“This is a lonely job, it’s a tough job and at the end of the day, when I’m facing something difficult, I ask myself, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ ” Cleveland said. “And dependent on that answer, I determine that vote. I’ll be asking that long and hard today to make sure I come up with the same answer every time.”

Gov. Jay Inslee praised the announcement from the Senate, saying in a statement, it will allow the Legislature to adjourn.

“The testing fix means nearly 2,000 high school students will graduate this year and no longer have to fear that their college plans are in jeopardy. Those students and their families can thank Senate Democrats for insisting this was taken care of. The agreement includes a two-year suspension of the state’s end-of-course biology requirement, bringing short-term clarity to an issue that will need further work in the future,” the governor said.

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said it’s time for lawmakers to return home to be with their families and constituents.

“Something I would like to highlight: It was long, but we got some good things out of it,” Rivers said of the session.

Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, said the House is expected to be called back on Friday. The House is expected to vote on several key components of a transportation package.

If lawmakers do adjourn this week, several plan to start fundraising. Lawmakers are in a fundraising freeze during the legislative session. Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, converted her fourth-annual hootenanny fundraiser scheduled for Saturday into a constituent appreciation event, but could reverse course if the Legislature does adjourn.

“Who would have thought we would still be under a fundraising freeze on July 11, for crying out loud?” Pike said.

Columbian Political Writer