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Morning Wire: Culture trumps strategy, “listen more,” House moves to Senate budget

It is Day 51 of the 60-day session, and folks are tired.  People are ready for the session to get done.  Even the thought of a 105-day session looming next year turns advocates off. There is no talk of a special session among legislators with both the House and Senate moving closer to budget alignment.

But, the question is whether Gov. Inslee demands legislators do something – anything? – on carbon before their work is done. And that could mean a special session, particularly if Inslee returns from the NGA meetings this week (and Davos before that) fired up that Washington State should do something on carbon rather than waiting longer.

1. House already moving to Senate budget version

Negotiations haven’t yet really begun, but the House is already quickly moving to the Senate budget terms. Initially, the House budget included $446m over four years for new investments in education, but left out teacher compensation. Over the weekend, a striking amendment to the initial budget adopted the Senate budget approach of adding $1 billion in the next year alone to fund education and teachers’ salaries. Over last week, WEA and education advocates pressed on House Democrats to come over to the Senate version. Last night, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan took credit for “fully funding school employee compensation.”

This alignment removes a major difference between the two budgets.  Since neither the capital gains tax or the carbon tax appear to have majorities in either chamber, those contentious issues are more sound than substance as final budget negotiations begin this week.

2. New gun legislation

A new bill aimed at improving security in schools and tightening restrictions on long-gun purchases was introduced by Senator Frockt on Friday afternoon. The bill would close what Gov. Inslee has called an “unbelievably idiotic loophole” by aligning the age and background check requirements for purchasing semiautomatic rifles or shotguns with the current laws for purchasing handguns in Washington. The bill would also create the Students Protecting Students program to develop a way for students to anonymously report any suspicious activity, threats, or causes for concern they come across. The bill, SB 6620, had its public hearing this morning in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Also, last week Senator O’Ban requested a proviso to the supplemental operating budget to create a task force to study and prevent mass shootings. The proposed task force would work to identify and intervene against mass shootings and would educate the public about extreme risk protection orders.

3.  Culture trumps strategy, or why the legislature blundered by limiting transparency

Remember when Paul Ryan tried to jam his House members and push through a repeal of Obamacare?  He got the bill through the House, but once members of the Senate had time to review it, no majority got behind it.

Last week, the legislature failed to learn this lesson of Congress:  if you jam something through, you might pass a bill but you’re not going to build a working majority to support it over time.

By jamming through their limitation on transparency, legislators have unified the media against them, have ensured this issue will be prominent in 2018 and 2020 elections (or until it’s repealed), and perhaps more importantly have violated a fundamental rule of politics:  strategy never trumps culture.  And, transparency and open government is as culturally synonymous with the Northwest as is salmon, the Seahawks, and Mt. St. Helens. This is a major strategic misstep.

4. Inslee to Trump: less Tweeting, more listening

Governor Inslee made headlines yesterday when he confronted President Trump about his proposal to arm teachers during this week’s National Governors Association meeting at the White House. Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that if educators were armed, shootings would never happen again. He also suggested providing yearly bonuses to armed teachers. In response, Inslee said:

“Now I understand you have suggested this and we suggest things sometimes then we listen to people about it and maybe they don’t look so good a little later. So I suggest we need a little less tweeting here, and a little more listening, and let’s just take that off the table and move forward.”

5. Podcast: Looking Ahead to the 2018 Elections

The 2018 legislative and congressional elections will be some of the most active, high cost, and potentially divisive in recent memory. With midterm elections right around the corner, we brought together a group of interesting players and observers in the Washington State election space to look ahead to the 2018 elections.

Joining us in this podcast is the Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, Tina Podlodowski, State Senator Hans Zeiger, and Republican campaign consultant Chad Minnick. These three bring together a diverse set of experiences and perspectives to discuss how the election landscape will shape up, the impact of President Trump, and what we should be keeping our eyes on as the election unfolds.

Take a listen here and be sure to subscribe!

6. Wire Insider: Nancy Hirsh, NW Energy Coalition

Nancy Hirsh is the Executive Director of NW Energy Coalition and serves as Board Chair of Renewable Northwest. At NW Energy Coalition, she directs efforts to invest in energy efficiency, renewable resources, and low income energy services. She joins us as a “Wire Insider” to talk about putting a price on carbon, the role of utility providers, and becoming more energy efficient.

Hirsh says that one area she is currently focused on is ensuring “that the utilities that are trying to transition from just being providers of electricity or natural gas, turn into utilities that provide energy services to their customers and are in a cooperative relationship with their customers. So, they might provide electric vehicles, they might provide solar panels… And that’s going to require some changes to policy and regulatory oversight.”