A bill that would gut the power of the state Gambling Commission and place most gaming decisions before the Legislature seems to demonstrate the growing ability of Indian tribes to win friends and influence people. The bill, circulated by the Muckleshoots, could give tribal casinos the upper hand in the age-old battle with the state’s cardroom operators — and end 40 years of state policy that aimed to take the politics out of gambling. How come? Sounds like there are 1.6 million reasons.
UPDATED with contents from Senate investigatory report: After a month of furor, an internal Senate panel decides to take no action against state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who had been accused of badgering Senate staffers in violation of workplace policies. It’s probably the wildest insider tale of the session, and now that the Senate investigatory report has been released publicly, it is possible to find a few nuances in the story.
By now Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s crusade against big health-insurance company surpluses is one of the most familiar arguments in the Legislature — customers are being gouged while bank accounts get fat. But with national health reform right around the corner, we’ll finally find out if insurers are right. They say it’s a darn good thing they have a couple extra billion in the bank. Prospects are enough to make an actuary’s hair turn white, and they can use some insurance of their own.
One of those never-ending battles is back, and pressure for resolution is greater than ever. The state’s steep purchasing requirements for “renewable energy” – basically windpower – ratchet up in 2016, and the artificially created marketplace for green energy is frying a few circuits in the utility biz. Big thing as this year’s fight gets under way is that the green coalition behind I-937 seems to be saying no even to relatively modest changes.
You don’t often see a clash like this one. On the 20th anniversary of the passage of federal family leave legislation, lawmakers are arguing about the fate of an oft-delayed state insurance program providing paid leave for those who take time off for reasons of illness or the birth or adoption of a child. The Senate is poised to kill the never-implemented program, and there’s a push in the House to make the program even bigger. One bill is matter and the other is anti-matter, and when the two collide — look out!
The first major scrap of the session took place in the Senate Monday — and it looks like there was a bit of bipartisanship after all. State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, brokered a compromise on a workers’ comp bill that brought along five centrist Dems and puts the issue in play in the House. It’s starting to shape up as the big business-versus-labor battle of the session, just as it was in 2011: Labor interests say they aren’t interested in making a deal to expand the limited settlement program for workers’ comp claims, and that means war.
An inconclusive debate on workers’ comp on the Senate floor Friday was the first big test of the new Majority Coalition Caucus that has taken control of the Senate. The coalition rejects a proposal from Roadkiller Democrat Steve Hobbs that might have bought D support. Final vote comes later. A minor skirmish, really, but the key thing is that there weren’t any hands across the aisle.
The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus postponed what likely will be the first big fight of the session to Friday, over a package of workers’ comp bills, and it seems the big question is — what does labor want? So far there aren’t any signs that it is interested in horsetrading on a measure business would dearly love, to expand the voluntary settlement agreements that were launched last year. Big money is involved, but if there’s no negotiating, that could make for an awfully big blowup. Watch for this one to unfold over the next three months.