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Facts about the legislative process

The state Capitol may seem like a distant place sometimes. Part of my job is making it easier for constituents to understand what happens in their citizen Legislature. With the uncertainty of the last few days of the 30-day special session, I thought it might be nice to just pause for a moment and share some facts about the legislative process. I hope to provide you with an update on the special session next week. Here are some fast facts:

When does the Legislature meet?

  • The Legislature meets every year – for 105 days in odd-numbered years like 2013, and 60 days in even-numbered years. Legislative sessions begin the second Monday in January each year. Why longer in odd-numbered years? To give state lawmakers more time to develop and pass the three state budgets.
  • Special sessions are called by the governor to address specific issues. There can be any number of special sessions within a two-year cycle, and they can last no more than 30 days.

State budgets

  • The state has three primary budgets: the operating, capital and transportation budgets. The 2013-15 operating and capital budgets have yet to be determined, which are the focal points of the ongoing 30-day special session that ends June 11. The 2013-15 transportation budget passed and was signed into law.

How many state lawmakers does Washington have?

  • There are 49 legislative districts. Each legislative district has two state representatives and one state senator. State representatives serve two-year terms, and state senators serve four-year terms.
  • Of the 98 state representatives, there are currently 55 Democrats and 43 Republicans. Of the 49 state senators, there are currently 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans. Two moderate Democrats joined the 23 Republicans to form the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus – a unique political structure that has led to a lot of bipartisan outcomes in the state Senate. These state House of Representatives and state Senate numbers are subject to change every two years, or if there are off-year special elections.

The governor’s role with legislation

  • When a bill reaches Governor Inslee’s desk, he has three options: sign it; veto it; or allow it to become law without a signature. The governor must act within five days, not counting Sundays, during the legislative session. He must act within 20 days, not counting Sundays, after the legislative session adjourns.

Legislation

  • The state House of Representatives numbers its bills starting at 1000, while state Senate bill numbers start at 5000. House joint memorials and resolutions are numbered starting at 4000, while Senate joint memorials and resolutions are numbered starting at 8000.
  • At the end of each biennium, meaning a two-year legislative period, the slate of bills is wiped clean and new bills are introduced beginning in the next biennium.
  • There have been 2,070 total bills introduced in the 2013 regular and special sessions. Out of 1,096 House bills introduced, 176 were signed into law by the governor. He vetoed House Bills 1422 and 1652, and partially vetoed House Bills 1341, 1471, 1723 and 1552. There were 974 Senate bills introduced and the governor signed 161 of them. He partially vetoed Senate Bills 5024, 5077 and 5518. No bills introduced in the special session have been signed into law yet.
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