It was an eventful and action-packed first week in Olympia. The 105-day legislative session began at noon on Monday, Jan. 14, with the swearing in of the newly-elected legislators.
In the House of Representatives Chief Justice Barbara Madsen gave the oath of office and in the Senate Associate Justice Charles Johnson performed that service. There are 98 House members and 49 Senators representing each of the 49 districts across the State.
Both bodies then organized for their session's work, choosing a Speaker and Speaker pro-temp in the House and a President pro-temp and deputy President pro-temp in the Senate. The Lieutenant Governor is the President of the Senate and presides unless he is absent on business or taking the place of the Governor in his absence.
That was a bit more unusual in the Senate this year because of the majority coalition formed by the Republicans and moderate Democrat Senators Tom and Sheldon. We all watched to see if the votes would go as planned and they did. Senator Sheldon was elected President pro-temp and Senator Paul Shinn, a Seattle Democrat with a great story, was selected the deputy.
Tuesday was the day for the outgoing elected officials. A joint session of all the Senators and Representatives was held in the larger House chambers. Short speeches were made by Secretary of State Sam Reed and State Auditor Brian Sonntag who are retiring from public office. It was wonderful to hear that Sonntag will be the new financial officer at the Tacoma Rescue Mission.
Then Governor Chris Gregoire gave her last State of the State speech. All three were given many standing ovations as they have served well. There were some receptions after the noon ceremony, but the House and Senate had scheduled committee meetings so they were off to work.
Wednesday saw the new incoming officials sworn into office and the Governor's Inaugural Ball. After the joint session introducing new Secretary of State Kim Wyman and new Auditor Troy Kelley, the new Governor gave his inaugural address. Earlier in the morning he had been sworn in under the dome in the rotunda as he had requested instead of in the chambers. Then everyone settled down to do the people's business of running the state.
The Ball was held on the Capitol Campus after all. Planners wanted to have it at the Saint Martin's College gym, but when people didn't buy tickets they brought it back. Huge white tents covered the parking lot between the Legislative building and the office buildings. Bands were in the tents, the Legislative building and the Temple of Justice. Some people danced but others just walked around chatting, eating, and drinking. It began at 7 p.m. and ended at midnight. Because it was so cold, many left earlier than midnight because they had checked their coats instead of wearing them. But it didn't rain!
Thursday started at the usual 8:00 hour with committee hearings. The work had taken priority over festivities. I heard one young staffer say she felt it was like the first week of school. She didn't know her way around very well, but said it was great to see all her friends again.
Friday was a work day, but it was also a birthday party for the Temple of Justice. One hundred years ago the building housing the State Supreme Court was opened for the Inaugural Ball of Governor Ernest Lister. It was a much different place then as you can imagine.
We'll talk more about the Temple of Justice and the Supreme Court next week.
So that was week 1.
- Jerri Honeyford of Sunnyside, wife of Sen. Jim Honeyford, provides her "Across our State" columns why the couple is in Olympia during the legislative session.