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Morning Wire: I-976, Rep. Paul Harris, Spokane’s mayoral race

Last week, we hosted our Convening Panel with meetings in both Olympia and Seattle. You can review the Discussion Guide for a sense of some of the topics that were submitted. We’ll have our Draft Topical Agenda out for further review to our broader list as soon as next week. We’d love your feedback and input on sessions, so stay tuned there!

With help from Emily Boerger

1. Rep. Paul Harris on death threats from anti-vaxers

Representative Paul Harris represents Washington’s 17th Legislative District in eastern Vancouver and parts of southwest Clark County. He is well-regarded by practically everyone in the legislative ecosystem, and has developed one of the most important voices on health policy among legislators.

Last session, Harris sponsored a bill limiting exemptions to the MMR vaccine after his home county was hit with a measles outbreak. The bill ultimately passed, but during its journey through the legislature, Harris said he faced significant backlash and death threats from some in opposition to the bill. In this Q&A, Harris offers his take on the threats, why it was important for him to push forward with the bill regardless, and what we can expect in the future on vaccine-related legislation in Washington.

2. 20 years later: how has the electorate shifted?

In 1999, voters passed a $30 car tab initiative with 56% of voters in support. Now, with Tim Eyman’s I-976, voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on a similar measure once more 20 years later. Setting aside the policy, it will be interesting to see how the electorate has shifted on this anti-tax question over a generation. 

The Washington Policy Center published a “citizen’s guide” to the initiative, with information related to the initiative’s background, analysis, and fiscal impact – which OFM estimates to be about a $4.2 billion loss on state and local revenue over 6 years. The campaign in opposition to the initiative has collected $1,813,963.02 in contributions. Top donors include $400,000 from Microsoft, $200,000 from Vulcan, and $100,000 from Expedia.

3. Trump, the rhetoric of “civil war” and Matt Shea

Donald Trump’s use of the term “Civil War like fracture” as a possible result of impeachment may be validating to extreme groups that may be actively working to prepare for such political violence. While the national news seems far away, it’s important to remember the ongoing investigation into Rep. Matt Shea, and his alleged communications related to political violence in Washington State.

The findings of the investigation were due to be released to legislators yesterday, but the investigators apparently need more time to complete their work. Meanwhile, the State Democratic Party is highlighting the donors that continue to support Shea, like Altria, American Chemistry and Novartis. They’ve launched the “Cancel Matt Shea” campaign, highlighting Shea’s connections to extreme right groups.

4. The biggest race in 2019?

The Spokane mayor’s race may be the most interesting campaign on the November ballot. An institutional Democrat from the City Council is matched with a new-to-politics Republican former news anchor. Reporter Emily Boerger has a good run down for you here. 

Notably, this race could be the most telling bellwether race of the year. The City of Spokane electorate is fickle, and can swing with broader national trends. If the seat, one held by a conservative incumbent, goes strongly one way or the other, it could reflect the first signs of how the impeachment battle is impacting voters in Washington State. 

5. Housing Stability & Affordability Committee meeting 

As part of its interim work, the Senate Housing Stability & Affordability Committee will meet in Spokane on Wednesday for an update on a number of items. Uploaded presentations for the meeting point to a conversation on local homelessness services in the city (such as Spokane’s EnVision Center), an update from the Washington State Housing Financing Commission, and strategies for tribes addressing affordable housing and homelessness.

Looking toward 2020, the Commission will discuss a permanent funding source for the Housing Trust Fund, further landlord-tenant reforms beyond what was accomplished in 2019, expanding the multifamily tax exemption, and potentially earmarking HTF funds for home ownership.

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