Dozens of state House members are homeless at the Capitol.
Effective today, the 64 lawmakers and their aides are losing temporary offices they’ve used near the Capitol this year. The modular buildings are scheduled to be removed by May 15.
The upshot: Many lawmakers must use their desks on the House floor as primary offices during the 30-day special session that begins Tuesday. And their aides must hole up in other lawmakers’ offices in the Legislative Building.
“I’m fine,” shrugged Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, who never thought highly of the modular buildings that were brought in late last year. “They were not comfortable. They were very loud.”
Other lawmakers and staffers have had complaints about heat – too much or too little. The modular buildings were brought in to replace space in the O’Brien building, which has office space for most House members as well as committee hearing rooms. The project is continuing, and contractors have been making seismic upgrades and improvements to electrical, fire-suppression, plumbing and other systems over the past two years.
Under an agreement with the builders, the House retained access to its committee hearing rooms during the regular session, but it loses all access to the building after May 2. It means the House committees must share hearing rooms with the Senate.
House Chief Clerk Barbara Baker said the Legislature had made promises to residents of the nearby historic South Capitol neighborhood to move the structures as soon as possible after session. To keep the modular buildings in place another couple of months would have cost another $250,000, Baker said.
That cost compares with the maximum cost estimated for a 30-day special session, $426,000.
Republican Rep. Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish was the first to suggest having lawmakers use their desks, more than a year ago. House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis said his caucus members were nonplussed when they learned it would happen in special session and that it saves money.