As Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune reports:

My sincere best wishes to Senator Carroll in his recovery. But... if Carroll—a Republican—is absent from Olympia for the duration of the special session, that would leave control of the state senate in a 24-24 tie. Which would give Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen—a Democrat—the tie-breaking vote. And that means that Democrats could effectively take back control of the state senate, and with it the power to control the senate agenda throughout the special session.

As far as the budget goes, that won't necessarily make a huge difference. There are enough fiscally conservative Democrats outside of Rodney Tom's "coalition caucus" to make substantial movement on revenue very difficult. But when it comes to some other high-profile bills—like the Reproductive Parity Act, the State Dream Act, the Voting Rights Act, and other election reforms—Carroll's absence should give Democrats the power to push these bills to the floor and pass them.

Assuming Democrats are willing to use this power.

I've got a call in to deposed Senate Majority Leader Ed Murray to ask him what he plans to do in Carroll's absence, and I'm crossing my fingers that his answer is "play hardball." Some will argue that the Democrats would be acting in bad faith to seize back control in the wake of a senator's illness, but what about keeping faith with the voters who put the Democrats in control of the senate prior to Tom's betrayal? And if Democrats won't do what it takes to pass the Reproductive Parity and State Dream acts out of some fit of unrequited collegiality, then won't Democrats ultimately be responsible for their failure?

It'll be interesting to see if Murray can show the leadership in Olympia that he touts on the campaign trail.