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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Legislature Heads Into Fraught Home Stretch

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

For the second time this week, minority Democrats in the Washington Senate have tried to force a vote on a controversial insurance measure that deals with abortion coverage. The parliamentary move Wednesday highlights partisan tensions as the deadline for adjournment approaches.

Democrat Karen Keiser led the effort to revive the so-called Reproductive Parity Act. On the floor of the Senate, she said the bill has enough votes to pass. “But," she said, "the Majority Caucus leadership has been not inclined to bring this bill to the floor.”

That brought an immediate protest from Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler.

“The member’s remarks should be directed to the issue and not members of the body.”

This partisan dust up comes as the legislature heads into the home stretch with just over 10 days left in the session. The House and Senate still have to agree on a final budget deal – and whether taxes should be a part of that. Plus any budget deal will hinge on agreements over several controversial policy measures – especially around education reform and injured workers compensation.

At a news conference, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom joked when asked how he intends to avoid a special session. “I think the secret plan is we just pass out [of the] Senate a fully baked budget, we go home.”

Tom says he still thinks it’s possible to adjourn on time, but acknowledged legislative history may suggest otherwise. The 105 day session ends on Sunday, April 28th.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."