A skinny spending plan from the state Senate demonstrates there’s still plenty of bipartisanship in the Legislature’s upper chamber. But maybe the most important bipartisan agreement of all is the idea that everyone wants to go home on March 13. Controversial topics like the Supreme Court’s demand for $5 billion in increased education spending are ducked until next year, and not a single tax break was harmed in the writing of this bill. Will the House Democrats go along with it? There are only 16 days left to argue before the scheduled March 13 adjournment.
Washington State Wire’s favorite correspondent, Melvin G. Ashton, was having a cup of coffee the other day and had something of a eureka-moment as he contemplated the arguments being sounded by consumer advocates in the Washington Legislature — and just about everywhere else, too. Nothing is ever good enough. Therefore legislation is required. In this piece, Mr. Ashton argues that perhaps what consumers really need is a choice.
How soon they forget! Senate Democrats voted en masse against a teacher evaluation bill during a dramatic floor vote Tuesday night, after heavy lobbying from the Washington Education Association convinced them of the horrors of it all. Yet in olden times they actually thought the bill was a good idea. This was seven whole weeks ago. And it is always a convenient thing when both sides of the argument are advanced by the same person. While Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s speech Tuesday night might remind Washington State Wire of the sort of statements that come from prisoner-of-war camps, perhaps the best thing to do is to let McAuliffe debate herself. Here we present the press release that disappeared from McAuliffe’s website Thursday.
A stunning vote on the Senate floor Tuesday night that shot down a rather modest teacher-evaluation bill is sending shock waves across the state. Heavy lobbying from the Washington Education Association, the politically powerful state teachers’ union, prompted Senate Democrats to kill a bill they had written. In fact, one they called absolutely necessary. The result? Dstricts across the state are likely to lose $40 million in federal funding, and worse, virtually every parent may soon receive a letter declaring that their local school is failing — triggering an uproar with dire consequences for school levies and bond issues.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom has hired a campaign manager — a Republican. And not just any Republican, but the guy who until last week was the communications director for the state Republican Party. And from that we can draw an important conclusion. Not the one that will probably have Democrats chortling, but rather about the GOP’s plan for the 48th District Senate race. If you wanted an indication the Rs won’t be running anyone against Tom — well, he just hired someone who ought to know better.
Lawmakers always save the big show for the end on cutoff day, and there was no disappointment Tuesday as the House finally passed a bill that provides college financial aid for the children of illegal immigrants, and the Senate shot down a teacher-evaluation measure. But the traditional “5-p.m.-follies” did little to obscure what appears to be the real product of this year’s session – policy-wise it is rather thin soup. There aren’t many big bills this year. At session’s midpoint it appears lawmakers might go home on time, for once.
If you’re in on the joke, you can’t help laughing when you read the latest bill from state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane. It declares that the state Supreme Court is failing to meet its constitutional duty to hear cases in a timely fashion – and so it requires that august body to shape up or risk contempt charges. But it’s not just dry legislative humor. GOP lawmakers say the Supreme Court and the governor’s office are stepping on legislative authority over K-12 funding, the death penalty and possibly low-carbon fuel standards. They say people better worry.
The Senate Majority Coalition threw down the gauntlet on transportation Thursday, saying its members stand ready, willing and able to negotiate a gas-tax increase right now – and it even booked a room at the Capitol for the talks next Wednesday just in case the other team decides to come. In a statehouse where the popular thinking is that anti-tax Republicans in the Senate are standing in the way of a $12-billion-or-so transportation deal, the move demonstrated that things are not as they seem. Democrats found a thousand reasons to balk.
Not that it came as a surprise to anyone, but the state Department of Ecology announced Wednesday that it will conduct a broad environmental review of a proposed coal-port terminal in Longview. It will encompass the burning of coal on the other side of the world, the impacts of train and ocean transport — and it won’t register the fact that any potential harm is likely to occur anyway, no matter what Washington does. Business and labor groups complain the state is jiggering the criteria to appease well-organized environmental groups, and warn that all industry is at risk.
Switch in time saves nine! Gov. Jay Inslee, who twice voted for the death penalty in Congress, announces no executions will take place as long as he is in office. Inslee promises to offer a reprieve — but not a commutation — to any inmate whose death warrant crosses his desk. Inslee backed the death penalty when he represented Eastern Washington in Congress; now he says he wants to launch a debate about ending it.