A labor-backed ballot initiative in the city of SeaTac would give airport workers and those in nearby hotels and car-rental companies the highest minimum wage in the country by nearly $5 an hour, the latest move in an effort to set the rules at North America’s 17th-busiest airport. It hasn’t made the ballot yet, but already it is causing yelps of pain from business groups. And it is looking like this local initiative might be one of the hottest items on the November ballot, anywhere in Washington state.
It was slam-bang action in the House and Senate Monday as gavels fell to open the first special session of 2013 — not that anybody was really paying much attention. There’s really nothing cooking under the Dome. Even the much-touted drunk-driving bill, if it passes this year, won’t see a vote until there’s a budget deal, say members of the Majority Coalition in the Senate. If there was any news, it was a subtle shift in the governor’s position on those hard-to-swallow partisan bills. It’s looking like the new special session of the Washington Legislature is off to a mighty slow start.
A new initiative from ballot-measure promoter Tim Eyman seems to be meeting with a roaring silence from business. It raised millions for his two-thirds-for-taxes measures in 2010 and 2012. But now that the Supreme Court has tossed the rule and Eyman has come up with a plan that aims to shame lawmakers into passing a constitutional amendment, there’s no big push. Meanwhile critics denounce an alliance that doesn’t exist.
There are plenty of signs that workers’ comp is going to provoke another bruising battle in the upcoming special session, and an online back-and forth between business and labor in recent days offers a sneak preview of the argument. Labor is saying that an uptick in investments held by the state Department of Labor and Industries blows a hole in the case for a reform bill. Business says that has nothing to do with the insurance program’s underlying problems. And the funny thing: When was the last time you heard labor say something nice about Wall Street?
As the “war on loopholes” enters its zillionth year in the Legislature, seeming pretty much like a debate about the weather – people talk and talk, but nobody ever seems to do anything about it – the rumblings about an initiative from the state’s progressive community seem to be getting louder. Steve Zemke, a former chairman of the King County Democratic Party, says he’s tired of watching progressives talk the issue to death, and he is planning a ballot measure that would require the Legislature to re-pass more than 400 tax breaks every two years.
The next election is more than a year away, but that hasn’t stopped the Washington Education Association and the Washington Community Action Network from doorbelling Steve Hobbs’ district and spreading the bad word about the centrist Democratic senator. Hobbs finds himself in the cross-hairs once again. And you might think the stage is being set for a repeat of 2010, when a coalition of progressive groups came close to knocking him off. Hobbs has every right to be worried: When you stand in the middle, you stand alone.
After a disastrous regular legislative session, Gov. Jay Inslee seems to want to turn things around when lawmakers return to town May 13. Let’s not sugar-coat things — the new governor’s first 102 days were nothing to celebrate, and the Legislature basically proved that when there is a vacuum at the top, it is happy to fill it. No bold agenda, no budget, significant policy failures — no wonder the governor seems to be announcing there will be a New Inslee when lawmaking resumes. He’ll have 30 days to make himself a player.