After the 2013 Legislature required two special sessions before approving a new budget, Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) introduced legislation aimed at avoiding future delays and removing potential conflicts of interest from fundraising loopholes.
"It's time to end legislative sessions on time," said Fain, who represents the 47th Legislative District that includes Auburn, Kent, Covington and Renton. "In the three years I have been in the Senate I've witnessed seven special sessions, ranging from a few hours to 30 days. While some are necessary, many drag on leaving the public rightfully frustrated."
Fain's legislation is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14 and can be viewed online at www.tvw.org.
Fain seeks to address this issue by closing a loophole in Washington's campaign finance laws. Lawmakers are prohibited from fundraising 30 days before and during any regular or special session to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. However, state law allows elected officials to solicit donations during breaks between sessions. That issue was on display in 2013 when the governor called for a two-week intermission between the end of the regular session and beginning of a special session even though a new operating budget had yet to be approved.
Fain's legislation would expand the fundraising freeze to anytime the Legislature has yet to adopt a new two-year budget, regardless of whether or not legislators are actively in session.
"People have the right to expect that lawmakers will remain focused on their most important job, which is to do the people's business," Fain said. "Legislators should be working to get their job done before working to keep their jobs."
Fain also joined his colleague, Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond), in proposing two additional bills aimed at expediting the budget process. The first would move the state's revenue and economic forecast from March 20 to Feb. 20. The forecast provides budget-writers with revenue projections upon which spending plans are based. By receiving that information one month earlier lawmakers could begin building consensus on a final plan much earlier. The final proposal would change the state's constitution to prohibit pay increases for legislators if they failed to pass a budget during the regular session.
"By giving state officials the tools and the proper incentives to get their work done on time, I'm hopeful that the state can avoid needless and costly special sessions while staying focused on the people's priorities."