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Protesters disrupt start to Washington special session

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Protesters disrupted the start to Washington's 30-day special session. Lawmakers have returned to the Capitol to deal with a $1.4 billion budget shortfall.

Students and others associated with the Occupy movement took over the House and Senate galleries and delayed a budget committee hearing.

The day started with advocates for the disabled rallying on the steps of the state capitol. The sang and chanted in support of Governor Chris Gregoire's proposed half-penny sales tax increase.

But soon the protests got more intense. A small group of teachers with a group called Social Equality Educators unfurled a banner from the House gallery and started chanting "Tax the rich, fund our schools," to the lawmakers below.

Across the rotunda, students and Occupiers – some in face masks and bandanas – took over the Senate's upstairs galleries. A few Democratic senators cheered and took photos.

Later in the day, protesters swarmed the House budget committee and forced a delay.

Peggy Myers of Tacoma, who told The Olympian newspaper she is paid by the state to care for two disabled people in their homes, didn’t have a preference for what lawmakers should choose instead of the cuts they say will be devastating.
However, Myers told the Olympian she would be willing to pay more in taxes to avoid the cuts: ”I will pay a half cent. I will pay a penny. Because we’re talking about people’s lives here. There’s not a price tag on people’s lives.”

The State Patrol reports one arrest for disorderly conduct.

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.