Dec 13 | 2018 Re-Wire Policy Conference | Learn More

Morning Wire: JT Wilcox, I-1639, Washington wildfires

This is the slow time of the cycle, the “dog days of August” my old campaign friend Amy Goings used to say. Few hearings are being held. Campaigns are catching their breath ahead of the post-Labor Day rush. So, this week, we look to the courts and to a few other states for interesting tidbits.

But we lead off with a notable case study in two types of leadership: one that chooses dehumanizing division and one that reminds us we are better together, regardless of label.

With help from Emily Boerger

1.  Two House Republican views on the media

Over the weekend, the top House Republican leaders shared two very different perceptions of the press. On Saturday, Republican Caucus Chair Rep. Matt Shea called the media “dirty, godless, hateful people.” Shea is one of 8 legislators appointed to the newly-created public records task force, a result of the media’s request for transparency.

On Sunday, House Republican Leader Rep. JT Wilcox posted a statement on social media in which he described his experience with the press. Wilcox described his “almost uniformly good experience” with members of the media as well as some of his interactions with specific members of the capital press corps.

In a time where attacks on the media are increasingly common, Rep. Wilcox’s remarks are refreshingly balanced. More to the point, they were exemplary of what a public official – particularly a leader – should be saying in the face of dehumanizing rhetoric of any kind.

2.  Marjie High: “Why I write for the Wire”

I’ve known Marjie High for more than 20 years. We graduated in the same class from Blaine Garvin’s political science department at Gonzaga Univ. We traveled Europe together, attended each other’s weddings, and participate in the same Catholic parish. We go back.

So, when I explained to her to vision of the Wire (and its sister site State of Reform) as a non-partisan, policy agnostic news outlet that would help foster smarter policy conversations, and help foster a stronger sense of community in state politics, she honored us and brought her Notre Dame JD to the Wire.

I asked her to share with you why she joined the Wire. It’s a thoughtful commentary which I commend to you: “Recently I made a change. Instead of fighting for change, I began writing for change. I began to put ideas out there and tell both sides of the story.  Now, instead of writing to win, I write to explain, to tear down walls instead of build them up. I write to bring perspective, to create safe space.  I write to bring voice. I write to open conversations that have been closed for too long.”

3. Deadline approaching for Supreme Court initiative decisions

On Friday, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled that the petitions used to gather signatures for I-1639, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s gun initiative, did not comply with state election law and ordered it off the ballot. The judge ruled that the language used on the petition sheets were not a “full, true, and correct copy” of the initiative and noted that the font size used was too small to easily read.  A notice of appeal was quickly filed and the case will head to the State Supreme Court where a decision will need to be made quickly in order to finalize ballots for November.

The State Supreme Court is also tasked with issuing a ruling on the “use of deadly force” initiative in time for the November ballot. At the end of June, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the controversial passage of both Initiative-940 and HB 3003 during the 2018 legislative session. As it stands now, the original I-940 is headed to the ballot alone. But the court will need to decide if the initiative will be joined by an alternate that includes changes made by HB 3003.

4.  Orca “critical habitat” lawsuit

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit against the federal government over their inaction to expand the “critical habitat designation” for Southern Resident killer whales. In 2006, the National Marine Fisheries Services designated certain inland waterways in Washington as critical habitats for the Southern Residents. In 2014, the Center petitioned the Fisheries Services to expand this designation to the coasts along Washington, Oregon, and California, where the whales travel during the winter. The Fisheries Services agreed it was warranted, but have failed to act since then.

The Center argues that the delay has deprived the whales of important habitat protections such as reduced pollution and vessel traffic. The plight of these endangered whales has made national news over the last several weeks as a mother orca from the J pod was seen carrying here dead calf for over two weeks. A young orca from the same pod is severely malnourished and an effort is underway to save her.

5.  Alaska primary today; Hawaii’s last week

Two of the most interesting gubernatorial races in the country this year are in Alaska and in Hawaii.  Today’s primary in Alaska features a race between a social conservative former state senator and a business-oriented former lieutenant governor. The winner takes on America’s only independent governor, Bill Walker, and former US Senator Mark Begich, who used to say he was “the 60th vote for the Affordable Care Act.”  You can track tonight’s vote totals here, or read our run down of the race from a few weeks ago here.

In Hawaii, with an overwhelmingly Democrat-voting electorate (for many historical and cultural reasons) often decides the elections via its primary. Last Saturday, in Hawaii’s primary, technocratic engineer – and Governor – David Ige turned around a 20-point deficit to US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. He won by 7 points. This after so badly mismanaging the mistaken ballistic missile threat in January. His win was a case study in promoting thoughtful policy, avoiding personal attacks, and being professional in a job people count on.

6.  Smoky skies, the new normal for August?

Washington residents are feeling the impact of wildfires and smoky skies in counties across the entire state. Smoke from British Columbia and from east of the Cascades is blanketing the state causing unhealthy to hazardous air quality levels for the second year in a row. With summers becoming hotter, and fire seasons stretching longer, is this the new normal for August?

Some legislators are starting to ask “What policies or budget priorities need to be in place to prevent wildfires from intensifying year after year?”  In this editorial, the Seattle Times details how legislators have been shortsighted in defending the state against wildfires. Over the last decade they have failed to budget enough money for on-the-ground firefighting costs by an average of $27 million per year, forcing them to pay for these expenses later down the line. To solve this issue, State Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz is advocating for large investments toward improving forest health and funding more full-time firefighters.