All done: Legislature heads home after longest session

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In the final act of a record-setting 178-day legislative session, the Washington House on Friday approved $5.3 billion worth of bonds by a 63-29 vote. The bonds are needed to make a $16-year, $16 billion transportation package work.

Bills on bond issuance require a 60 percent of the House — 59 votes — to pass.

With lawmakers ready to head home almost six months after the Jan. 12 opening of the session, Friday’s speechifying was almost nonexistent.

The transportation package covers hundreds of big and small projects across Washington. The package calls for completing work on several major state transportation projects, including the state Route 520 overhaul, upgrading I-405, finishing work on state routes 509 and 167, tackling I-5 congestion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and continuing work on a new I-395 corridor through Spokane.

Last week, the House passed an 11.9 cents per gallon gas tax increase — to be phased in across two years — to also pay for the transportation package. Most of the House “nay” votes on both the gas tax and the bonds bills came from the Republican side of the aisle.

Also Friday, the House passed 89-1 a revamped bill that provides a two-year delay in the implementation of an end-of-course biology exam as a graduation requirement.

As soon as Gov. Jay Inslee signs the measure, the bill will enable 2,000 seniors who failed the exam this year to gradate from high school. The Senate Democrats forced the Senate Republicans to allow a stripped-down version of a larger House bill overhauling testing requirements in return for providing enough votes to delay implementation of Initiative 1351. The initiative was set to impose $2 billion worth of class size reductions in Grades 4-12.

The House had already passed a more sweeping version of the school testing bill three times, but the Senate Republicans would not let that bill out of committee. Friday’s vote was the fourth time that the House passed the measure — albeit this time without addressing other assessment test issues.

“To the students today without that diploma, this bill today means they get that diploma,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.

With the House action on the bonds and testing completed, the Senate and House officially adjourned for the year at 12:25 p.m. Friday.

This story was originally posted on Friday, July 9.


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John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8