Upcoming Conference | 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 10, 2019 Register

Morning Wire: Election update, tariff impacts, presidential primary

DJ is on vacation for the next few weeks during which I, along with Kylie Walsh and Marjie High, will be taking over the Morning Wire. This week’s edition includes an election update, a mental health bill out of California, and a proposal to move up Washington’s presidential primary date.

1.  WA lawmakers take notice of CA mental health bill

In California, a bill to increase access to childhood mental health services passed unanimously out of committee last week – and Washington State legislators took notice. The bill would subsidize mental health consultation services in California state preschools and other care programs for children up to age five.

On Twitter, Rep. Kristine Reeves retweeted an announcement of the bill’s passage and tagged Reps. Tana Senn, Marcus Riccelli, Monica Stonier, and Senator Karen Keiser, asking them for their thoughts. Rep. Stonier replied, “Looks like some potential for WA littles. Let’s look into it!” With improving the state’s mental health system likely to be a priority in the coming legislative sessions, expect to see legislation related to children’s mental health services as well.

2.  Election update: candidate videos and new Dem platform

TVW and the Office of the Secretary of State published their “Video Voters’ Guide” over the weekend, featuring candidate statements of those vying for Maria Cantwell’s U.S. Senate seat. Common themes for the candidates include health care, homelessness, job creation, immigration, and education. Here’s our recap on the trends and highlights of the candidates’ statements.

The Washington State Democratic Party held its annual convention over the weekend in Wenatchee. The party met to review committee work and vote on the adoption of its 2018 platform. Highlights of the expected changes include new proposals for housing justice, reducing gun violence, open and transparent elections, and calls to end family separation at the borders. Read our summary of the proposed platform here.

3. Cities limited on progressive revenue generation

Though ultimately voting to repeal the head tax, Councilmember Mike O’Brien described the tax as the city’s best option to raise funds in a progressive way. Municipalities in Washington are limited in their ability to generate new revenue. They can either collect sales taxes or uniform property taxes, but they do not have the authority to impose a graduated/progressive income or property tax. Though limited, the council’s Progressive Revenue Task Force has recommended several other options beyond the head tax in this report.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda says the council is actively looking for ways to “encourage the state legislature to free up prohibitions on local government.” Meanwhile, Senator Mark Schoesler is moving forward with legislation to further limit local governments’ abilities to generate revenue by banning cities and counties from enacting employee hours taxes.

4.  Dispatch from Oregon: “blue wall” threatened

Knute Buehler, Oregon’s Republican candidate for Governor, is gaining some notice among national donors as one of the best potential opportunities for a Republican pickup among 2018 governor races. In a slide deck the campaign is shopping, Buehler shows incumbent Kate Brown’s favorability has dropped 13 points in the last year.  It notes Buehler has “twice been elected State Representative in a +12 Democratic district.” Yet, Real Clear Politics puts Oregon in a “Safe Democratic” column.

Buehler is working hard to appeal to unaffiliated voters and moderate Democrats, labeling himself a “proven, independent leader.” He nearly won the Independent Party nomination in addition to the Republican nomination. Buehler received 5,793 write-in votes while Independent Patrick Starnes won with 6,030 votes. Brown received 2,800 write-in votes.

5. Washington industries brace for trade war

Legislators and business advocates are worried about the impacts of the brewing trade war on key Washington exports. Senator Patty Murray wrote a critical and direct letter to President Trump this week outlining Washington’s economic vulnerabilities and urging the president to rescind his recent tariffs against Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. Murray pointed out that our state is particularly trade dependent and has traditionally had a close relationship with our next-door neighbor that poses little national security threat as claimed by the administration.

Retaliatory tariffs announced over the weekend by China, as well as those previously announced by our three allies, target many important Washington exports including apples, cherries, wheat, potatoes, and seafood. With $77 billion in exports last year, growers, manufactures, and the fishing industry are bracing themselves against what could be a demoralizing consequences of the administration’s trade policy.

6. Moving the presidential primary date

In January, a bill to modify Washington State’s presidential primary process moved out of committee before stalling for the rest of the legislative session. The bill would have moved the primary date from the end of May to the second Tuesday in March and would allow the Secretary of State to change the primary date in order to coordinate with other western states.

On Monday, legislators held a joint House & Senate State Government Committee work session to discuss the previous bill and to work on what a similar bill in the coming session might look like. Along with moving the date of the primary forward, the committee also discussed the impact of counting the votes of unaffiliated individuals who do not mark their party preference on their ballot. In order to change the date for the next presidential primary in 2020, the legislature would need to pass a bill this coming session.