Washington State Legislature

Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

With the state Legislature back in session for a 30-day extra inning, Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday narrowed his agenda to three key items: the budget, a roads-and-transit funding package, and a crackdown on impaired drivers.

Two Washington state lawmakers are defending their frequent dinners with lobbyists. The meals show up in monthly reports filed with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

State Rep. Marcus Riccelli is a freshman Democrat from Spokane. On four occasions from January through March, he dined out with Michael Temple, a lobbyist for the state’s powerful trial lawyers association.

When asked Riccelli about those dinners, Riccelli joked, “I’m an Italian kid. I have a big appetite.”

Austin Jenkins

In the first three months of this year, lobbyists in Washington state spent more than $200,000 on entertainment. Much of that money was spent to wine and dine state lawmakers during the just-concluded 105-day session.

The spending begs the question: What are lobbyists and their clients getting in exchange for picking up the tab?

When Washington lawmakers return to Olympia in two weeks for a special session, Governor Jay Inslee is demanding they approve funding for the new Columbia River Crossing. The Democrat wants that funding included in a broader gas tax measure. But the governor faces opposition from the state senate - especially one powerful southwest Washington Republican: Senator Don Benton.

Gun control advocates in Washington are launching an initiative campaign after state lawmakers declined to expand background checks on gun sales.

The group Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility announced its plans Monday. Supporters will need to collect nearly 250,000 valid signatures, with state officials recommending the submission of more than 300,000 to account for duplicates and invalid signatures.

Students heading off to college in Washington state next fall will have to wait awhile to find out how much tuition they'll be paying.

Since the Legislature hasn't finished the state budget, no one is sure whether lawmakers will recommend a tuition increase, or cut, or neither. All three ideas have been proposed this year.

With just one day before the end of session, Washington lawmakers appear to be making little progress toward the ultimate goal of a final budget agreement.

Leaders in both the House and Senate seemed to resign themselves Saturday to the prospect of an overtime session, with the regular 105-day period coming to an end Sunday night. A spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee said that no decision had been made on when a special session may start.

The House has approved a measure prosecutors and crime lab scientists say is needed because of concerns that a provision in Washington's new legal marijuana law jeopardizes their ability to go after any pot crimes at all.

The measure, passed on a 95-1 vote Friday, defines marijuana as part of the cannabis plant containing more than 0.3 percent of delta-9 THC and THC acid. Supporters said the change was a technical fix needed to help police and prosecutors distinguish marijuana from industrial hemp, which is grown for its fiber.

State lawmakers have reached an apparent deal on a transportation budget.

The state House is expected to vote on the compromise $8.8 billion budget over the weekend, with the Senate likely to follow suit before the regular session ends on Sunday.

Austin Jenkins

An expected special session of the Washington state Legislature would mean another freeze on political fundraising.

State law prohibits lawmakers from soliciting contributions while they are in session. For most members, that’s probably not a huge concern since this is an off-election year. But a few legislators will be on this year’s ballot.

Gov. Jay Inslee is like the gambler. He says it would take an “inside straight” for the Legislature to complete its work by Sunday’s deadline. 

A nearly $1 billion tax vote in the Washington House Wednesday has cleared the way for budget negotiations to begin in earnest at the Capitol. But an overtime session still appears likely. 

Democrats in the Washington state House are moving ahead with a tax plan valued at $900 million over the next two years.

The House narrowly approved a variety of tax changes Wednesday, including the permanent extension of business taxes to raise more than half a billion dollars. The plan would also repeal tax breaks for travel agents, bottled water and fuel.

The search for ways to reduce Washington’s more than $1 billion budget shortfall has led Gov. Jay Inslee to suggest eliminating some little-known tax breaks long enjoyed by various industries.

One of these loopholes saves millions each year for an industry that didn’t even exist in the state when the tax break was created.

U.S. Department of Transportation

Gov. Jay Inslee and lawmakers want to move swiftly to crack down on repeat drunk drivers. This after two recent high profile tragedies in Seattle. But on Thursday, they got some pushback from judges, prosecutors, civil libertarians and even the restaurant industry.

It’s a classic case of the devil’s in the details. Take ignition interlock devices. There’s a proposal to install them at the impound lot after a drunk driver is arrested. But the installers say that isn’t technically feasible and lawyers question whether it’s legal prior to a conviction.

Gov. Jay Inslee says he would apply a “broad” interpretation to the term “law enforcement” when issuing fictitious driver’s licenses to undercover agents. The governor’s comment follows our report that the CIA has obtained nearly 300 so-called confidential Washington driver’s licenses since 2007.