OLYMPIA -- Many offices where lawmakers once dwelled now are dark. Phones for legislative assistants do not ring. Constituents and lobbyists no longer crowd the halls.
The chambers of the House and Senate have been equally vacant. Only a couple of lawmakers attended the Senate sessions during week two of the special legislative session. The Senate sessions, which last a minute or less, are pro forma, or for the sake of formality.
Most Tri-City lawmakers have returned to their districts.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, is back at his post as a deputy for the Benton County Sheriff's Department and a school resource officer for Kiona-Benton City School District.
Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, will start a part-time job as a museum docent giving tours of the Hanford B Reactor.
Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, though a retired Richland police officer, has kept busy with various public meetings through the week. On Thursday, Delvin spoke about anti-human trafficking legislation at a movie night offered by Tri-Cities Soroptimist Against Trafficking.
But the lawmakers have not forgotten about the special session or budget negotiations.
Haler said leaders in Olympia will work out basic budget negotiations, often unseen by the public, while the rest of lawmakers wait at their district offices to be called back for voting.
Klippert told the Herald he keeps in constant communication with leaders in Olympia, waiting to be called back.
"The special session is a high priority ... right now," he said.
Delvin said he answers emails from constituents about the special session, statuses of bills and budget negotiations.
Unlike other lawmakers in the Tri-Cities, Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, is at the center of negotiations.
As Senate Republican Leader, Hewitt has participated in many talks with Gov. Chris Gregoire, budget writers and other party leaders.
The talks have been scheduled daily this week and Gregoire has said this is an improvement on the lack of communication last week.
But in multiple news conferences during the week, Gregoire has voiced her frustrations with the lack of progress made by the lawmakers. She said the talks need to lead to a budget, but they have not so far.
Klippert agreed with Gregoire that budget negotiations should be further along.
"I am extremely frustrated. This is absolutely, positively not fair to the taxpayers," he said.
Haler said lawmakers already have drafted a budget worth supporting -- the one passed by a coalition of Senate Republicans and three Democrats during the regular session.
But Haler shares a concern with many Democrats about skipping a $140 million payment to pension plans, which he called a "political gimmick."
"I don't consider it reform when it skips a pension payment," he said.
Gregoire has said she would veto any budget with more than $70 million in skipped payments, and she urged Republicans and Democrats to compromise on the pension reform and the Democrat-supported $330 million delayed payment to schools.
Delvin said if negotiations continue to progress, lawmakers could be called back as soon as the middle of next week.
But no information has been released what sort of an agreement -- if any -- lawmakers have reached.