Saturday, April 25, 2015

Time Ran Out on Washington Presidential Primary Bill

As mandated by the state constitution, the Washington state legislature must wrap up the business of its 2015 regular session by April 26. However, both chambers of the legislature ended their regular session work on Friday evening, April 24.

One of the bills -- ideas really -- left in limbo as the session closed was SB 5978. Originally, that legislation was intended to entice the state parties into using the presidential primary election to allocate at least some of their national delegates. That version passed the Republican-controlled state Senate, but has stalled in the Democratic-controlled state House. And, in fact, that bill was amended to make the presidential primary contingent upon the parties using the election to allocated at least 75% of their national convention delegates. If the parties -- both parties -- fail to use the primary and at that allocation threshold, the presidential primary election is automatically cancelled.

FHQ made the case earlier this week that that maneuver was a function of the combination of the Washington Democratic Party opting for a caucuses/convention system in 2016 and a Democratic-controlled state House moving, in part, to reflect that decision. However, there were institutional reasons driving that House Appropriations Committee amendment. As FHQ commenter, jimrtex, astutely pointed out, SB 5978 and other bills faced a number of deadlines recently. Most importantly,  that includes the April 15 deadline for bills to have passed the chamber opposite the bill's originated chamber. For SB 5978, then, that means it would have to have passed the House by April 15.

It did not.

There is, however, an exception to that cutoff: bills that have some budgetary effect. SB 5978 did not originally have any budgetary impact. It called for a presidential primary election to be held as usual,  but proposed shifting the date and the delegate allocation formula. To keep the bill alive, it had to have some effect on the budget. Adding the amendment with a trigger to automatically cancel the primary, SB 5978 now has a potential $11.5 million impact. As in, it would save the state $11.5 million in the next budget if the primary is cancelled. And really that if is a when. Again, both parties have to opt into the presidential primary and allocate 75% of their delegates through the results of that election. State Democrats have already voted to hold caucuses in 2016.

That fact -- that both parties are likely headed for caucuses -- and the fact that SB 5978 died in the House as the regular session closed means that Washington essentially has a meaningless $11.5 million expenditure in the state budget for the next two years. But that projected budget and its different versions across the two legislative chambers were not reconciled prior to the close of the session. That work will continue in a special session to convene next week.

There might be an $11.5 million presidential primary appropriation that may become part of that discussion.

EDITORIAL NOTE: The original version of this post was written Friday morning, April 24 and scheduled to run Saturday morning, April 25 to fill a travel-related gap in FHQ's postings. That post ran as scheduled, but the Washington legislature adjourned on Friday evening after the original post was in the can. The post has been edited to reflect the earlier adjournment and the upcoming special session in the Evergreen state. 

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1 comment:

jimrtex said...

The Washington legislature adjourned its regular session on Friday, two days before the constitutional deadline. It returns in special session beginning Wednesday.

The legislature has yet to pass a budget. The legislature has twice before suspended the primary, and one time did it during a special session.

If you had a budget deadlock between a Republican-controlled senate, and a Democratic-controlled house, and had a $11.5 million item for what will amount to a beauty contest, what would you do?