This year, the Legislature adjourned its regular session two days early, even though we hadn’t passed a budget yet. And a special session did not begin until four days later. I suspect the break was designed to take advantage of a loophole that allows legislators to raise campaign funds immediately before a special session. That’s why I introduced HB 2250, which would close this loophole and prevent legislators from raising money up to 15 days before the start of a special session. As The News Tribune reports:
A state lawmaker from Auburn wants to stop legislators — including himself — from raising campaign funds during short breaks between legislative sessions.
Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, introduced a bill this week that would ban lawmakers and statewide elected officials from fundraising 15 days before the start of a special session of the Legislature.
State law already imposes a campaign fundraising freeze while the Legislature is in session, as well as 30 days before the regular session starts. But legislators are free to raise campaign money between regular sessions and special sessions.
That means that sitting lawmakers — including state Rep. Carol Gregory, a Federal Way Democrat who is facing a special election in November — were allowed to raise money in the four-day break between the end of the Legislature’s regular session Friday and the start of its special session Wednesday.
Stokesbary said the ability to raise campaign funds leading up to special sessions provides too much incentive for the Legislature to adjourn early, as it did last week, and for the governor to delay the start of a special session to allow more fundraising time.
Had lawmakers adjourned as scheduled on Sunday and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee called a special session to begin the next day, there would have been no time for lawmakers to accept campaign donations under the state’s rules.
Stokesbary said he trusts that his colleagues’ votes aren’t swayed by campaign contributions from lobbyists, but it can give the appearance of impropriety when lawmakers can accept donations the day before they return to Olympia to vote on legislation.
“We need to have the people’s confidence and their trust,” Stokesbary said. “By not raising money the day before the special session begins, I think that’s one way to show them we’re representing them instead of lobbyists.”
While the 2015 special session will be focused on the state budget, I’m optimistic that the House will consider this bill when it reconvenes for the 2016 session.