Good morning. Today is Thursday, Feb. 25, the 46th day of the 60-day legislative session.
After the Senate Democrats announced a $918 million revenue package Tuesday, the other shoe has yet to drop in the House. House Finance Committee chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, is expected to announce his counterproposal by Friday at the earliest.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee could move the operating budget, known as Senate Bill 6444, as soon as Friday. The majority Democrats still hope to vote on it in the full Senate as soon as Saturday.
The Senate also is waiting until Monday at the soonest to release its capital construction budget. The Senate Democratic Caucus spokesman said the lawmakers are waiting to see what level of revenue the Senate can produce. The state is bumping up against its limit for bonded indebtedness, but the lid raises if there is more undedicated operating revenue available for the calculation of the debt ratio.
• Christian Homeschool Network will hold “home educators day” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Columbia Room and Rotunda.
• The Washington Cattlemen’s Association will hold a barbecue on the north lawn of the Cherberg Building from noon to 3 p.m.
CELL PHONE BILL ADVANCES
An attempt to dilute a bill that makes holding a cell phone up to one’s ear while driving a primary offense failed Wednesday in the House Transportation Committee.
Rep. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, proposed eliminating the part of Senate Bill 6345 that would allow police officers to pull drivers over for talking on a handheld phone. That currently is a secondary offense, meaning drivers can’t be ticketed for talking on cell phones unless they have been pulled over for another violation.
Roach suggested that talking on a cell phone is no different from talking to a passenger, eating or putting on lipstick, all of which are legal.
The committee rejected the amendment on a voice vote, then moved the bill on.
The bill allows speaker phones to be used, which Rep. Mike Armstrong, R-Wenatchee, said is confusing. “I have concerns about what a speaker phone usage is,” he said. “If it’s on speaker phone, do you have to have it six inches from your ear, or on your lap, or on the seat next to you? I’m not real clear on that. I know law enforcement’s not.”
But Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, said it would reduce danger on the roads.
“It will increase public safety if we tell people to put down their damn cell phone and drive,” he said.
TRANSPORTATION BUDGET UNVEILED IN HOUSE
The Washington state House unveiled its transportation budget proposal Tuesday, calling for a $1 billion jump from last year’s budget thanks to an influx of federal stimulus money.
Lawmakers say the $8.5 billion budget would create 3,000 jobs while focusing spending on existing projects statewide. The increase in federal money would go to projects such as a $590 million high-speed rail corridor, increased funding for the North Spokane Corridor, and reconstruction work on State Route 410, which was damaged by a landslide.
The state’s transportation budget for the 2009-2011 biennium faces a $121 million drop in revenue, and unlike the Senate’s $8.6 billion proposal released Monday, the House’s version calls for no additional cuts. House leaders instead say the deficit will be covered by construction bids that are lower than expected. The slower economy is forcing contractors to make lower bids to get work, they said.
In addition to including federal stimulus money, the House’s proposal calls for $32 million more for fuel costs and $3 million for stormwater treatment.
Compiled by Brad Shannon. Staff writer Jordan Schrader and The Associated Press contributed to this report