A couple of questions will dominate the coming week in Olympia.
Will State Auditor Troy Kelley, returning from an out-of-state on vacation, talk about why the feds searched his Tacoma home a week ago, and subpoenaed records from his Olympia office last Thursday?
And will the House Democrats unveil their 2015-2017 operating budget with expected proposed tax increases during the week -- or the following week?
Regarding Kelley, the big mystery is why the feds are investigating him and auditor's office employee Jason Jerue, who also worked with Kelley at a mortgage records firm prior to Kelley becoming state auditor in 2012. So far, the feds and the state attorney general's office aren't talking.
The Legislature has been in a holding pattern on its most controversial issues this month. That will end when the House Democrats unveil their 2015-2017 operating budget proposal, which will have actual revenue and spending figures to debate. The Senate GOP will announce its budget proposal several days later, and everyone will find out just how far apart the two sides are on running Washington for the next two years.
Here is what else is happening in Olympia this week.
Monday: The Senate Government Operations & Security Committee will hold a hearing on a bill by Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, to allow county commissions, school boards and city governments to tackle racial representation shortcomings on their governing bodies. The House measure sets up procedures for residents to seek changes in the way their local governments elect commissions, councils or school boards. A city council or school board, for instance, could then decide to establish district rather than at-large election of its members or change the boundaries of existing districts. The House passed the bill 52-46, mostly along party lines.
Also, the House Commerce & Gambling Committee will hold a hearing on four marijuana research and sales bill that easily passed the Senate. Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing a bill by Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, to reduce the taxes in the state's recreational marijuana system. His bill would eliminate 25 percent taxes on grower and processor sales of marijuana, while bumping the retail tax from the current 25 percent to 30 percent. Carlyle believes that this measure, if passed, would adjust recreational marijuana prices to where they are only 10 percent higher than medical marijuana prices.
Tuesday: The House Higher Education Committee will hold a hearing on a pair of unanimously passed Senate bills to address college campus sexual violence. And the House Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing on a bill by Sen. James Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, which easily passed the Senate, to set up post-prison supervision for property crime convicts in an attempt to reduce recidivism.
The House Technology & Economic Development Committee will hold a hearing on a bill by Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, to tweak Initiative 937. Initiative 937 requires that 15 percent of state utilities’ electricity must come from alternative sources — wind, solar, biomass and others — by 2020. Overall, 17 power utilities in Washington are covered by I-937. Ericksen's bill would give those utilities a choice between continuing to seeking alternative power sources or reducing carbon emissions by other means. Those would include investing in electric vehicle charging stations or converting their own vehicles to using liquefied natural gas. The Senate passed Ericksen's bill 26-23, mostly along party lies with the losing Democrats protesting that it waters down the purpose of I-937.
Wednesday: The House Technology & Economic Development Committee will hold a hearing on three nuclear-related bills by Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick. The chief bill would order the Washington Department of Commerce to scout sites for manufacturing and distributing small modular reactors. The Senate passed that bill 27-21, mostly along party lines. The nuclear-oriented Tri-Cities would be the most likely site for such a project.
Thursday: The House Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the Senate's transportation revenue bill designed to pay for $15.1 billion in projects over 16 years. The bill includes an 11.7-cent gas tax increase. And it contains the so-called "poison pill" that would shift much of the package’s transit, pedestrian and bike-path money to work on roads if Gov. Jay Inslee installs low-carbon fuel standards. Most Democrats object to that provision. The Senate passed that bill 27-21, with six Republicans objecting to it because of the gas tax hike. Seven Democratic Senators crossed the aisle to vote for the package to get it to the negotiating table with the House.