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Morning Wire: JT Wilcox, Ruth Kagi, Drew Hansen

The Regular Session is over, but a pile of bills await Governor Inslee’s consideration. There is also a new lawsuit, a leadership change, and turnover in the legislature that we’re tracking this week.

You’ll also note a few sponsored banner ads this week.  We’ve begun accepting advertising for our weekly email. So, if you’re interested in a partnership that elevates your sponsored message to our 16,000 readers, drop us a line. We’d love to work with you.

1.  JT Wilcox to lead House Republicans

JT Wilcox is likely to be the next Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives. Last week, following Dan Kristiansen’s retirement announcement, the House Republicans elected Wilcox to lead their caucus. It was a wise move. Wilcox is smart, savvy, and strategic. He’s well liked on both sides of the aisle and can disagree agreeably.  He’s also one of the reasons Republicans are one vote away from the speakership in the House.

Washington State is not a 50-50 state. It’s more like a 55-45 state. But, with a redistricting process that creates a map that is 50-50, it means Republicans are a few good candidates in Puget Sound away from a majority. Over the last few years, Wilcox has criss-crossed the state as leader of the House Republican Organization Committee (HROC), the caucus’s campaign arm. He has recruited candidates like Melanie Stambaugh and Paul Graves, both well respected legislators in swing districts, that have helped to hold seats in Olympia.

It may not be in 2018. It may not be in 2020. But, my money is on Wilcox holding the gavel in the House of Representatives at some point.

2.  Nine retirements in legislature, and counting

As of this morning, nine members of Washington’s legislature have announced their plans to retire. From the Republicans, six Representatives and one Senator have announced they won’t seek re-election. They include: Reps. Kristiansen, Nealey, Stambaugh, Rodne, Pike, Haler, and Senator Baumgartner. From the Democrats, Representatives Clibborn and Kagi have announced they will retire this year as well.

This high rate of retiring Republican Representatives is reflective of what is happening at the federal level. In the US House of Representatives, 42 Republicans have announced their plans to retire or seek other office, compared to just 18 Democrats.

3. I-940 legislation heading to the courts

The people gathered signatures and sent an initiative to the legislature related to the use of deadly force by police. The legislature could either affirm it, deny it and send it back to the people for a vote, or send an alternative to the people with both the original and alternate on the ballot. Once adopted by the voters, initiatives cannot be changed for two years from passage. Jim Boldt lays out the legal framework in this column in the news he covered last week.

A bi-partisan majority, working with stakeholders, found improvements to the initiative. So, given the outline above, in order to adopt those changes, the legislature amended a statute that would be created by the initiative before the initiative was adopted itself. Later, the legislature adopted the initiative, which was changed by previous legislative action. Stakeholders and legislators claimed victory, and folks went home.

But, amending an as yet un-passed initiative that denies voters the right to vote on the first initiative violates rights afforded under the constitution, based on Boldt’s further research. Now, Tim Eyman agrees. Eyman brought a lawsuit on the matter yesterday, citing in part Boldt’s commentary in the Wire last week (see pgs 5-6).

4. Wire Insider: John Wyble, WinPower Strategies

John Wyble is the Managing Partner of WinPower Strategies. Wyble has over 30 years of experience in campaign consulting and has worked on the candidate campaigns for Senator Maria Cantwell, Representative Norm Dicks, Mayor Greg Nickels, Mayor Mike McGinn, and Speaker Frank Chopp. He joins us as a “Wire Insider” to discuss the continued polarization of our politics.

“The polarization of this country keeps me up at night. I mean, I think it’s really damaging for a democracy. I think social media, for a long time I thought it was very beneficial and a way for people to communicate and network. I started to get nervous about the programming that people get from consistently getting similar, repetitive messages on values that they basically already believe.”

5.  Sign up for the DailyWire

Over the past year, we have been proud to watch the Washington State Wire grow and diversify. Since January 1st, we published 111 stories, began our regular “Wire Insider” videos, brought you a series of podcasts, and made the Morning Wire a weekly edition.

With all of this content posted daily at The Wire, we are excited to announce the launch of the DailyWire — a short summary of each day’s content delivered to your inbox each morning. If you haven’t already signed up, and want to stay up to date on the latest in Washington’s politics, policy, and political economy, you can update your email preferences here. The Daily starts in a few weeks time.

6. Bill to identify missing Native American women

A bill passed this session is going to examine the high rates at which Native American women go missing in Washington State.

study from the DOJ reports that nearly 85 percent of Native American women have experienced violence in their lifetime. A National Criminal Justice Reference Service study shows that in some counties in the United States, murder rates against Native women is over ten times the national average.

The new bill requires the Washington State Patrol to collaborate with tribal and local law enforcement to conduct a study to collect data on missing Native American women in Washington, identify any barriers to providing more state resources to this issue, and come up with recommendations for legislators to develop solutions. More information about these women and their stories can be found at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Washington Facebook page or through Twitter at #MMIW.

7. Funny:  Rep. Hansen on Reddit:  OPR staff and elves from Lord of the Rings

Rep. Drew Hansen was one of the most successful legislators of the 2018 session.  He drove legislation ranging from net neutrality to stabilizing financial aid for DACA students.  And, he bridged the gap between the arcane process around drafting legislation to the world of Reddit and modern community engagement in an “Ask Me Anything” on the site. In the process, he compared the OPR staff to the elves in the Lord of the Rings.

Hansen: “The analogy isn’t perfect because of course the elves join in vs. Sauron at the battle of Barad-Dur, where OPR would never take sides in a policy battle, but it’s generally right—they’re high and mighty, not partisan, and keepers of lore. Like elves.”  Self-proclaimed nerds everywhere loved it, even at OPR.

8. Opioid legislation stalls in the Senate

In Washington State and across the nation, the opioid epidemic has dominated the news cycle and been a key issue in state legislatures. At the beginning of session, a number of opioid-related bills received committee hearings in Olympia, but few moved much further.

This is in part because many of the bills and ideas discussed during committee were rolled into Rep. Eileen Cody’s comprehensive HB 2489. Among several actions, the bill would have established new requirements for prescription drug monitoring, required continued education on opioids for physicians, and developed programs to connect peer counselors with individuals who have experienced a nonfatal overdose.

The bill passed unanimously in the House at the beginning of February and made it through Senate committees, but never went to the Senate floor for a vote. While the passed supplemental budget includes an additional $4.2 million toward fighting the opioid epidemic, the legislature failed to pass any broad, comprehensive opioid legislation during the 2018 regular session.