Washington State Legislature

From Ballotpedia
Revision as of 13:37, 13 June 2013 by Taylor Kempema (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
Washington State Legislature

Seal of Washington.jpg
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 14, 2013
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Brad Owen (D)
House Speaker:  Frank Chopp (D)
Majority Leader:   Lisa Brown (D) (Senate),
Pat Sullivan (D) (House)
Minority Leader:   Mike Hewitt (R) (Senate),
Richard DeBolt (R) (House)
Members:  49 (Senate), 98 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art II, Section 2, Washington Constitution
Salary:   $42,106/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 6, 2012
24 seats (Senate)
98 seats (House)
Next election:  November 4, 2014
Redistricting:  Washington State Redistricting Commission has control
The Washington State Legislature is the state legislature of Washington. It is a bicameral body, composed of the lower Washington House of Representatives, comprised of 98 Representatives, and the upper Washington State Senate, with 49 Senators.

The State Legislature meets at the Legislative Building in Olympia.

The legislature begins each legislative session annually on the second Monday in January. In odd-numbered years, such as when the state budget is debated upon, the State Legislature meets for 105 days, and in even-numbered years for 60 days. The Governor of Washington, if necessary, can call legislators in for a special session for a 30-day period at any period in the year. Legislators also can call themselves into special session by a two-thirds vote by both the House of Representatives and the State Senate.

Article II of the Washington State Constitution defines the powers, duties and privileges of the legislative branch of Washington's state government.

As of April 2015, Washington is one of 7 Democratic state government trifectas.


The Washington State Legislature traces its ancestry to the creation of the Washington Territory in 1853, following successful arguments from settlers north of the Columbia River to the U.S. federal government to legally separate from the Oregon Territory. The Washington Territorial Assembly, as the newly-created area's bicameral legislature, convened the following year. The legislature represented settlers from the Straits of Juan de Fuca to modern Montana.

Votes for women

From nearly the start of the territory, arguments over giving women the right to vote dogged legislative proceedings. While some legislators carried genuine concerns over women deserving the right to vote, most legislators pragmatically believed that giving women suffrage would entice more Eastern women to immigrate to the remote and sparsely populated territory. In 1854, only six years after the Seneca Falls Convention, the issue was brought to a vote by the legislature. Women's suffrage was defeated by a single vote.

A decade later, the Wyoming State Legislature would become the first body in the United States to grant women's suffrage in 1869.

The issue over female suffrage did not diminish. In 1883, the issue returned to the floor, this time with the Territorial Assembly successfully passing universal suffrage for women. It quickly became one of the most liberal voting laws in the nation, giving female African-American voters the voting franchise for the first time in the U.S.. However in 1887, the territorial Washington Supreme Court ruled the 1883 universal suffrage act as unconstitutional in Harland v. Washington. Another attempt by the legislature to regrant universal female suffrage was again overturned in 1888.

After two failed voter referenda in 1889 and 1898, the now-Washington State Legislature approved full female voting rights in 1910.


With more than two decades of pressure on federal authorities to authorize statehood, on February 22, 1889, the U.S. Congress passed the Enabling Act, signed into law by outgoing President Grover Cleveland, authorizing the territories of Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana to form state governments. The Territorial Assembly set out to convene a constitutional convention to write a state constitution.

Following its successful passage by the legislature, Washington voters approved the new document on October 1. On November 11, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison authorized Washington to become the 42nd state of United States. It was the last West Coast state of the Continental U.S. to achieve statehood. The modern Washington State Legislature was created.


This image shows the state capitol under construction in the 1920s.

Article II of the Washington Constitution establishes when the Legislature is to be in session. Section 12 of Article II allows the dates of regular sessions to be determined by statute. Current law calls for the legislature to meet on the second Monday in January.[1] Section 12 of the constitution limits the length of regular sessions to 105 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years.

Section 12 also establishes rules for convening special sessions of the Legislature. It states that special sessions can be called by the Governor of Washington or by resolution of two-thirds of the members of each legislative house. Special sessions are not to exceed 30 days in length.


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature will be in session from January 14 through April 28.

Major issues

The budget remains the most pressing issue for the state. Other agenda items include marijuana, child sex abuse, gun control, wolves, small businesses, human trafficking, and healthcare.[2]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in session from January 9 through March 8.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature was in session from January 10 through April 24. [3]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature was in regular session from January 11 to March 11. Additionally, the Legislature was in special session from March 15 to April 12 to deal with issues related to the economy and the state budget.[4][5]


Records exemptions

The Washington state legislature is one of several states that exempts many of its own records from public disclosure. According to the state's Public Records Act, legislators are not required to reveal all their email correspondence and other internal communications to the public. Adam Kline, according to the Seattle Times, has expressed hostility toward the idea that these records should be public.[6],[7]

Television coverage

Debates within both the House and Senate, as well as committee meetings and other special events within or relating to the legislature are broadcast throughout Washington on TVW, the state public affairs network.


The Washington State Senate is the upper house of the Washington State Legislature. The body consists of 49 senators. Each member represents an average of 137,236 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[8] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 120,288.[9]

Senators serve four years terms, without term limits. Senators are elected from the same legislative districts as House members, with each district electing two representatives but only one senator.

Like other upper houses of state and territorial legislatures and the federal U.S. Senate, the state senate can confirm or reject gubernatorial appointments to the state cabinet, commissions and boards.

Leadership of the Senate

The Lieutenant Governor of Washington serves as the President of the Senate, but only casts a vote if required to break a tie. In his or her absence, the President Pro Tempore presides over the Senate. The President Pro Tempore is elected by the majority party caucus followed by confirmation of the entire Senate through a Senate Resolution. The President Pro Tempore is the chief leadership position in the Senate. The majority and minority leaders are elected by their respective party caucuses.

Partisan composition

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 24
     Republican Party 25
Total 49

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Washington State Senate from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Washington State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The Washington House of Representatives is the lower house of the Washington State Legislature, the legislature of the U.S. State of Washington. It is composed of 98 Representatives, two from each of Washington's 49 districts. All members of the House are elected to a two-year term without term limits. Each member represents an average of 68,617 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[10] After the 2000 Census, each member represented an average of 60,144 residents.[11]

Leadership of the House

The Speaker of the House presides over the House of Representatives. The Speaker is elected by the majority party caucus followed by confirmation of the full House through the passage of a House Resolution. As well as presiding over the body, the Speaker is also the chief leadership position, and controls the flow of legislation. Other House leaders, such as the majority and minority leaders, are elected by their respective party caucuses relative to their party's strength in the House.

Partisan composition

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 51
     Republican Party 47
Total 98

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Washington State House from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Washington State House.PNG


See also: Redistricting in Washington

Legislative redistricting in Washington has been handled by the Washington State Redistricting Commission since 1983. The majority and minority leaders of the state House and Senate each appoint one member, and collectively select a non-voting chairperson. If they cannot agree on the chair, the judgepedia:Washington Supreme Court decides. The Governor does not hold veto power, and the Legislature can only make changes by two-thirds vote.

2010 census

Washington received its local census data on February 23, 2011. The state increased in population by 14.1 percent from 2000 to 2010. The major outlier was Franklin County, which jumped 58.4 percent. As far as the most populous cities, Seattle grew by 8.0 percent, Spokane grew by 6.8 percent, Tacoma grew by 2.5 percent, Vancouver grew by 12.7 percent, and Bellevue grew by 11.7 percent.[12]

The Commission released first draft maps on September 13, 2011. For the third time in a row, the Commission went down to the wire in agreeing on new legislative districts, finishing two hours and five minutes before New Year's Day 2012, at which point the Washington Supreme Court would have taken over. The Commission had mainly been concerned with the eastern districts and how to distribute Yakima Hispanics. The Legislature followed with tweaks, approving the final maps on January 27, 2012.



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Washington Legislature are paid $42,106/year. Legislators receive $90/day per diem.[13]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Washington legislators assume office the first day of session.

Joint Committees

Joint legislative committees of the Washington State Legislature can be found on the Legislature website, here.


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Washington
Partisan breakdown of the Washington legislature from 1992-2013

Washington Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Washington State Senate for 16 years while the Republicans were the majority for six years.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Washington House: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Washington State House of Representatives for 15 years while the Republicans were the majority for four years.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states have divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Washington, the Washington State Senate and the Washington House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Washington state government(1992-2013).PNG

External links