Now that the pomp and circumstance of week one is out of the way, things are moving quickly in the legislative session. Advocates are already starting to see the end of the opportunities to schedule public hearings on bills as committee chairs are filling up limited slots ahead of the Feb 2nd cutoff.
Our reporter Emily Boerger is on the ground in Olympia covering stories during the session. Her byline, along with some guest opinion pieces, video and podcast content are below to help offer insight into how Washington State politics are working in 2018.
1. The fight over carbon tax revenues
Now that Inslee’s carbon tax bill is out, it is interesting to see how it will play in the session. Sen. Doug Ericksen immediately released a statement calling it a “death tax,” an approach that isn’t terribly constructive. More importantly politically, however, Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz thinks the carbon tax is a good idea, but she thinks the revenue should go towards funding public lands rather than towards education.
It’s in this division – over how to spend the money – that Jim Boldt argues we may see a continued lack of consensus on the topic. In his opinion piece at the Wire, he lays out the competing ideas for carbon revenue, and suggests it may put us on a path to another initiative in 2018. “If the legislature does not pass a carbon tax law, it is assured that some coalition of folks in our state will fund putting a carbon tax law on the ballot for approval or rejection in November of 2018.”
An initiative may be likely. As I argued last newsletter, I think it’s also possible we get a special session for this issue alone.
2. Wire Insider: Zach Silk
Zach Silk is the President of Civic Ventures, a Seattle-based political strategist group. He joined us for this edition of Wire Insider to talk through the policy and political economy areas he’s following most closely. In particular: disparities in wealth, social cohesion, homelessness, and the increasing need to develop solutions at the state level.
“The thing I worry most about is we’ve been trapped in a cycle of flat wages for a really long time both here in Washington State and across the country. While we’ve had a lot of prosperity and growth, it has mostly been at the top. The top ten percent have been doing really well, but really the bulk of people have had wages that have been flat while the cost of living has been climbing. And that’s part of the reason I think our politics are so angry and disjointed right now. When people are feeling that sense of scarcity it brings out the worst in them.”
3. 75 kids shipped out of state; others housed in hotels, offices
According to child welfare advocates, Washington State sends approximately 60-70 kidsout of state that are otherwise too traumatized for the foster care system in our state. They also house 195 kids in hotels and office parks. These are foster kids that don’t have a home primarily because their life experiences have been too horrifying, and their resulting behaviors are too volatile.
As you might guess, these are the most expensive kids in the foster care system. Generally speaking, the state has not been willing to pay the full cost of their care. By underpaying providers who care for the most traumatized in our system, a policy move started under Gov. Gregoire, providers have had to close their doors across the state.
Sen. David Frockt has a bill to fully fund the care of these kids in the BRS program(behavioral rehabilitative services), which got a hearing last week. Rep. Ruth Kagi is working on a companion bill that will differ from Frockt’s bill. But, this legislation – while under the radar – will have as direct of a positive impact on kids in our state as any, should it pass.
4. Is McMorris Rodgers’s seat in play this year?
The Cook Political Report, one of the nation’s most well regarded, independent political observers, has moved the 5th Congressional District from “Solid R” to “Likely R.” Paul Ryan’s super PAC has opened a field office in the 5th to support Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth ranking member of the House GOP leadership. And, CMR’s Democratic opponent, Lisa Brown, is putting together arguably the best campaign in the district since Tom Foley.
That all seems to suggest that the 5th could be in play this year for the first time in a generation. Nationwide, 29 Republican-held seats are now empty heading into the midterms. Some expect another “wave” of retirements in the next month. If CMR sticks around to fight out this campaign, it may be the hardest of her career.
5. RIP: John Spellman, 1926-2018
Former Governor John Spellman passed away late last night. He served one term as governor from 1981 to 1985. He was the last Republican to serve in the executive office, making Washington State the state with the longest single-party control of the governor’s mansion.
Spellman was a long time King County Executive who helped get the Kingdome built in support of professional sports franchises. He also helped implement clean water practices in Lake Washington, support a fledgling mass transit system, and was an environmental steward while King County Executive.
He was elected Governor in a Republican wave year of 1980, along with Slade Gorton (over Warren Magnuson) and Ronald Reagan. He served a single term before his defeat in re-election to then-Pierce County Executive Booth Gardner.
6. Podcast: Policy Vision from Democrats
Senator David Frockt is the Democratic capital budget lead in the Senate. Rep. Zack Hudgins is the chair of the House State Government, Elections & Information Technology Committee. And, Rep. Mia Gregerson is the Vice Chair of the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee.
They are each smart, thoughtful legislators. Like their Republican colleagues we hosted in our last podcast, these members are doing the work – in my view – for all of the right reasons.
And, they each join our latest podcast where they talk through what to expect in the upcoming 2018 legislative session. It’s a good discussion and provides some insight into where some of the Democratic policy makers’ collective vision is heading into the session. Take a listen. You can track all of our recent podcasts here or by subscribing on iTunes.
7. Capital budget, Hirst bill through Senate Rules
It looks like we may see the early movements of a compromise on the capital budget and legislation to address the Hirst decision. Today, the Senate Rules Committee moved both the cash and the bond portions of the capital budget to the floor. There was also a bill, SB 6091, related to a Hirst fix that moved through the committee. Jerry Cornfield of the Herald reports that there were no dissenting votes on any of the pieces of legislation.
The bill was a substitute version of an initial bill that garnered significant opposition in its public hearing. AWB, Tulalip Tribes, Sierra Club and property rights advocates made unusual bedfellows in their opposition.
Last week, Rep. Pat Sullivan said the House would hold off on moving on the capital budget as a “good faith” gesture to House Republicans, who appeared close to a final compromise on Hirst language.