“All principles can be compromised to serve a greater principle.” Those are Andrew Carnegie’s inspiring words reminding us that compromise doesn’t always mean defeat. Unfortunately, compromise often arrives in less idealistic fashion.
It is still a long shot but lawmakers in Olympia seem poised to compromise on carbon this session. After the official filing of I-732 and a public hearing on Senator Steve Hobbs’ (D-Lake Stevens) $8 carbon tax, behind the scenes chatter sounded positive with regards to passing a legislative alternative to I-732.
The mix of proposals is years in the making. The debate in Washington is no longer over whether or not climate science is legitimate or if there will be a price on carbon. Major players in the business community are no longer fighting tooth and nail to stop any carbon pricing and have made their preference for a revenue neutral carbon tax known. Now the discussion is about structuring a carbon tax that’s palatable to Republicans by reducing taxes that are burdensome to business in exchange for carbon pricing.
Unlike I-732’s “revenue neutral” approach, Hobbs’ proposal would raise an estimated $867 million over two years. Senators Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) and Braun (R-Centrailia) are also rumored to be working on legislative alternatives to I-732. Last year Ericksen sponsored and passed out of the Senate carbon reduction legislation that gave more flexibility to companies in terms of how carbon is reduced, an idea that the Governor borrowed in his Clean Air Rule. Carbon WA, the group backing I-732, made it clear that they would like to see the issue of carbon reduction resolved through the legislature, rather than through a vote in 2016.
This week we’ll also revisit the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Last week House Bill 1745 passed out of the House State Government Committee. A state-level VRA became high profile after a 2011 lawsuit in Yakima and Seattle’s movement to a hybrid voting system for city council. However, others are less enthused, contending that HB 1745‘s allowance of state-level litigation is unnecessary and others calling it a gravy-train for greedy trial attorneys. Alternatives that don’t provide an avenue for litigation will also be reintroduced from last session. Senate Bill 6129, sponsored by Senator Pam Roach, is one of them. Her bill would allow all political subdivisions to establish district-based or hybrid systems for elections, either by ordinance or county initiative. This is in contrast to HB 1745, which requires a citizen to prove vote dilution and then move forward with legal action if a solution is not reached within a period of 90-180 days.
Things are heating up in the education space. Aside from Senator Steve Litzow’s (R-Mercer Island) charter schools bill, things in education have been lackluster. But this week three bills regarding high school assessments and graduation requirements are being heard in the House. House Bill 2556 would eliminate the certificate of academic achievement. House Bill 2734 reduces requirements for the high school science assessment. And House Bill 2743 establishes a general high school diploma to be issued to those who attain a GED.
You may have thought that student testing was a sticky issue to get into, but just wait. Governor Inslee introduced a bill to raise the minimum base salary for beginning teachers to forty thousand dollars per year and increases by at least one percent the salary for all other teachers. And, amidst all the flashy issues in education is a bill to increase career and technical education in high schools. Supported by the Washington Business Alliance, Senate Bill 6415 aims to provide alternative pathways into high skill jobs, rather than pushing all students into four year degree programs.
Additionally, the Every Student Succeeds Act, the bill that basically renders No Child Left Behind obsolete, will get some attention in a Senate work session. One of the law’s architects, Washington Senator Patty Murray, described the bill as a true “compromise,” extolling its de-emphasis on testing. Others say that it completely guts education of any accountability.
Meanwhile, in the land of higher education, Democratic Senators have proposed a program called “Washington Promise,” which would offer free tuition to those who don’t qualify for existing financial aid. The measure would cost between $100 to $125 million, but a funding source has yet to be identified. Senator Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) had agreed to co-sponsor the bill with Senator Pramila Jayapal (D-Seattle).
Senator Ericksen reacts to the decision of a King County Superior Court Judge to strike down Initiative 1366: “The Legislature can let the people vote on a constitutional amendment. The people’s preference is clear. It’s about time we settled this once and for all.”
“We knew about this a year ago. We knew it was serious. We are just now putting numbers to the problem,” said Nathan Olson of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction after a survey revealed that 24 percent of schools could not find qualified teachers and 69 percent were “struggling.”
“We haven’t identified a funding source yet. I think what we need to do is talk about how important this is and then find the money for it,” said Senator Jayapal regarding appropriations for “Washington Promise.”
Representative Ed Orcutt (R–Kalama) on whether the legislature will go into a special session: “Most legislators believe we are getting out early…now that the Department of Corrections is in charge.” (Get it!)
A work session for the ESSA will be held on Monday at 1:30PM in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. Attendees include the National Conference of State Legislatures, the State Board of Education, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Professional Educator Standards Board.
SB 6241, the Governor’s bill to raise teacher salaries, will get a public hearing on Tuesday in the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education at 1:30 PM.
SB 6443, a bill that prohibits the Washington Human Rights Commission from making rules like the one that allows transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Commerce & Labor at 1:30 PM on Wednesday.
On Thursday at 10:00 AM, SB 6129, Senator Roach’s alternative to the VRA, is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Government Operations & Security.
The high school assessment bills mentioned above are scheduled for executive session Thursday in the House Committee on Education at 8:00 AM.