The 2018 legislative session was one of the more productive in recent memory, driven in significant part by the leadership of the Senate Democrats. As one legislator told me last week, “There was some significant pent up demand there.”
This week, we’re seeing some of the session tension blow off, while some other tension builds among the King County Democrats.
Don’t forget to sign up for our DailyWire email that starts in two weeks to stay up on all of the content we’re covering at the Washington State Wire.
Today’s newsletter was written with help from Emily Boerger and Kylie Walsh.
1. Rep. Frame squares off against AWB on B&O tax cuts
In a Twitter thread last week, Representative Noel Frame accused the Association of Washington Business (AWB) of “some seriously breathtaking hypocrisy” over their opposition to a rural B&O tax reform bill this session. In a March 8 press release, AWB President Kris Johnson said he was deeply disappointed that the legislature did not do more to “address Washington’s urban-rural economic divide,” but at the same time testified in opposition to the rural B&O tax relief bill.
Johnson testified that AWB represents all manufacturers in Washington, and that tax relief should be given to every county, not just the 30 counties included in the bill. Rep. Frame counters that AWB testified in opposition to the bill because they care more about big manufacturers along the I-5 corridor than the smaller manufacturers in rural areas. Full comments from Rep. Frame and AWB are posted at The Wire.
2. Bi-partisan leadership on opioids in Pierce Co.
While the legislature balked on most of the opioid legislation before it this year, Pierce County has been elevating the issue prominently in county politics. It’s getting bi-partisan engagement, and familiar Olympia figures are leading much of the work.
Council Member Derek Young convened an opioid summit that drew bi-partisan participation and praise. Former Senator, Council Member Pam Roach convinced her colleagues to declare the issue an emergency and got them all to sign a letter to Governor Inslee about the severity of the problem. She also took to the airwaves with an ad with help to residents that need it, telling me she funded the $20,000 ad buy through a frugal management of staff salaries. Recently, the County Council created a Select Committee on Human Services chaired by another former legislator-now-council member Connie Ladenburg.
It’s good to see bi-partisan leadership on something that is becoming among the greatest health catastrophes in America today.
3. BC chips in funding for high speed train study
On Friday, British Columbia Premier John Horgan announced that B.C. will chip in $300,000 toward a business case study to evaluate building a ultra-high-speed train system that connects Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. The Washington Legislature approved funding for up to $1.2 million toward the study during the final week of session, following the release of the DOT’s economic analysis on the project last month.
During the press release announcing BC’s funding contribution, a reporter asked if Alberta’s threat to “turn off the oil taps” may impact the project. Premier Horgan has been in a battle with Alberta’s government over the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion. As Horgan attempts to slow down the pipeline’s expansion, Alberta’s Premier has threatened to restrict oil and gas exports to BC. Approximately 50-60 percent of Vancouver’s petroleum originates in Edmonton refineries. Dealing with an energy shortage of that magnitude could throw uncertainty into the estimated costs, timeline, and impacts evaluated in the business case study.
4. Sign up for the DailyWire
Over the past year, we have been proud to watch the Washington State Wire grow and diversify. Since the start of this year, we published well over 100 stories, began our regular “Wire Insider” videos, brought you a series of podcasts, and made the Morning Wire a weekly edition.
5. Dale Peinecke resigns amidst misconduct allegations
Dale Peinecke, head of Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD), turned in his resignation letter last Monday after a report investigating his workplace misconduct was sent to the Governor’s office. The report details complaints from 16 ESD employees who say Peinecke’s behavior ranged from unwanted touching to inappropriate staring.
In the report, Peinecke says he had no awareness he was making people uncomfortable and was disturbed and shocked by the feedback. Inslee accepted Peinecke’s resignation on Thursday and says his office will review the findings of the report. Peinecke’s resignation letter makes no mention of the misconduct investigation and instead says it is time to “pass the ESD leadership baton” so that he spend more time with family and friends.
6. King Co. Democrats mired in their own muck
Anyone who has been involved in party politics will tell you about how challenging it can be. It can get dramatic relatively quickly, as well as personal. That’s certainly the case now among the King County Democrats, where charges of sexual harassment have been made against Chairman Bailey Stober. Stober, who is gay, is being accused by a former King County staffer, who is a woman, of inappropriate language, treatment and retaliation. Others have drawn conclusions of racism, noting that Stober is African-American. Erica Barnett has covered the issue closely at her site, The C is for Crank.
The whole thing is a case study in how to turn off new volunteers, donors, and stakeholders. Two of three Vice Chairs have already resigned. King County Democrats now have meetings chaired (admirably) by Pierce County Democratic Party Chair, Tim Farrell.
7. WA legislature receives ‘dishonorable mention’ Black Hole Award
The Society of Professional Journalists has awarded the Washington State Legislature a dishonorable mention Black Hole Award for SB 6617 and their attempt to remove themselves from the Public Records Act. The Black Hole Award is awarded each year during Sunshine Week, and “honors” government institutions and agencies for “egregious and heinous violations of the public’s right to know.”
This year’s top award was given to President Trump and his administration. Other runners up include Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s office for violating the Freedom of Information Act, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for trying to charge a nonprofit group $1.5 million to access public data. Nominations for the Black Hole Award come from open-government advocates, journalists, and members of the public.
8. 2018 short session among most productive
This short session was the most productive short session since 2008, if you’re measuring by total bills passed. The legislature passed a total of 307 bills, out of the 1,410 introduced. Bills had almost a 22 percent chance of passing, one of the higher percentages since 2000.
The average number of bills passed in short session since 1984 is 312, with an average 1,466 introduced. But compared to 2017’s passage of 377 bills, passing 307 in only 60 days looks more impressive.