Thursday, April 30, 2015

Washington State Senate Opens Special Session By Sending Presidential Primary Bill Back to the House

After adjourning the regular session last Friday, the Washington state legislature was back at work on Wednesday, April 29, starting a special session mainly focused on lingering budget differences between the divided chambers.

But one other unresolved issue -- among others -- that has some potential impact on the budget for fiscal year 2016 is whether the state will conduct a presidential primary. State Democrats have already committed to a caucuses/convention system for 2016. The question now is whether (and when) Washington will hold a presidential primary in 2016 and whether it is worth the $11.5 million price tag to hold a partially meaningful primary just for Republicans.1 The Republican-controlled state Senate provided the first move on the matter on the opening day of the special session, passing SB 5978 again -- by a vote of 31-13 -- and sending it back to the Democratic-controlled House for the lower chamber's consideration.

As was the case during the original Senate passage of SB 5978, there were a handful of Democrats who voted with Senate Republicans to hold a presidential primary in 2016 and schedule it for the second Tuesday in March (March 8). But the bigger issue now before the legislature is the budget and the $11.5 million for the presidential primary may serve as a bargaining chip, albeit small in the grand scheme of the budget, as that gets sorted out.

1 Washington Republicans in the past have split their delegate allocation nearly evening between the primary (when there is one) and caucuses.

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