OLYMPIA - Washington state lawmakers are back in session and already taking action.
Minutes after restarting a 60-day session on Monday, lawmakers in the state House began debate on a bill that would expand state financial aid to students who are living illegally in the country. The House approved the measure by a 71-23 margin and sent it to the Senate, where the proposal languished last year.
The House and Senate have different ideas on what issues will be addressed this year. For the first time in several years, lawmakers aren't dealing with a budget shortfall, and it's unclear whether they will approve any revisions to the existing state budget.
Leaders in the House and Senate have been exploring the possibility of raising the state's gas tax to pay for transportation projects, but that plan also has an uncertain fate.
"We've got some work that is undone, particularly transportation," said Governor Jay Inslee, D-Washington.
Inslee wanted lawmakers to pass a transportation package last year.
"I've seen a bridge in the water and I don't want to see one again," said Inslee.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said his caucus is still negotiating the transportation package.
He said recent problems with the new 520 bridge and the Alaskan Way viaduct replacement project need to be fixed before voters will be support any gas tax increases.
"How do we show the public that when they are putting their hard-earned money into those projects, it's money well spent?" asked Tom.