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Analysis: Looking ahead to the 2019 legislative session

In this Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, photo, the afternoon sun illuminates the Legislative Building, left, and the Insurance Building, right, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press
In this Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, photo, the afternoon sun illuminates the Legislative Building, left, and the Insurance Building, right, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

Washington’s Legislature convenes for the 2019 session in less than a week. Lawmakers will come together starting Monday for a 105-day, budget-writing session. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins joined Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick to talk budget and the many other issues on the docket.

A lot has shifted in Olympia heading into the next legislative cycle, Jenkins stressed.

The Capitol welcomes 28 new legislators, and Democrats hold a 57-41 advantage in the House, as well as a 28-21 majority in the Senate. It’s also more diverse, as 41 percent of the 147 members are women.

“As lawmakers convene, the state economy is churning right along with state revenues for the next two-year biennium expected to be up $4 billion over the current biennium,” Jenkins said. “But Gov. Jay Inslee is already warning that demands for spending are outstripping the growth in revenues and that taxes will be needed. Finally, this is the first session of the post McCleary school funding lawsuit era.”

Jenkins added that the latter is an issue that isn’t going away. Education spending makes up more than 50 percent of the state budget. “There’s pressure on lawmakers this year to increase funding for special education,” he said. “Also, Inslee is proposing to rollback the recently imposed caps on local levies. That’s sure to generate a fight.”

Other issue that are likely to get attention include Tim Eyman’s initiative to return to $30 car tabs, an initiative to repeal and replace I-200 that effectively banned affirmative action more than 20 years ago, and separate pushes to raise the smoking age and limit magazine capacity for firearms.

As for wild-card potential this session, Jenkins said the state could see an activist session with Inslee’s potential bid for president in 2020 and Frank Chopp’s last year as House speaker, the longest anyone has ever served in the role.

Listen to the full conversation with Jenkins above. 

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." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Kari Plog is an award-winning reporter covering the South Sound, including Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties. Before transitioning to public radio in 2018, Kari worked as a print journalist at The News Tribune in Tacoma.
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