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Morning Wire: Palumbo, Public option, Presidential debates

Call it the Memorial Day hangover… Our Morning Wire email is back in your inbox but coming in right at about midday. After some time away, our team is firing back up, with this weekly email, with our daily email, and with content that you can only find at the Wire. So, as always, thanks for reading our stuff.

With help from Emily Boerger and Sara Gentzler

1. We’re back and rested!

It was a good three-week hiatus..! Once the session ended, we were able to step back a bit and assess our work at the Wire. We had conversations, created a feedback tool, and heard directly from some folks about the work we’re doing.  

We’re navigating a dicey digital media environment these days, so we want to make sure we’re careful and focused on providing value to our community. We also want to be just as thoughtful about how we make this value a sustainable one, through the support of our community. How will we know if you think our work is worth paying for? Right now, we ask you to join us once a year at our Re-Wire Policy Conference. It’s the financial success of that event that holds up our reporting the other 364 days we aren’t holding a conference!

2. Q&A: Mellani McAleenan, WSAC

The week after sine die, Wire Reporter Sara Gentzler interviewed Mellani McAleenan, Director of Government Relations and General Counsel at the Washington State Association of Counties, about WSAC’s wins and losses. McAleenan called the 2019 session “a session of missed opportunities,” especially related to funding priorities.

She also detailed three potential lawsuits brewing against the state. One is related to funding trial court public defense, while another would test the unfunded-mandate statute.  Another has already been filed in Spokane County after the Legislature passed a bill requiring the county to have a five-member board of county commissioners.

3. Farewell, Sen. Palumbo

Sen. Guy Palumbo’s retirement is significant for the legislature. Among the 147 legislators, he is one of a few that embodied each of the following characteristics: 1) won a contentious primary to gain a seat, 2) was considered a moderate on fiscal issues, 3) was one of the leading progressive voices on climate change, 4) was willing to get in front of contentious issues to try to help shape the discussion (housing, tolling), and 5) was generally well-liked by advocates and members from both sides of the aisle.

Notably, had he resigned a week earlier, his seat would be on the ballot this fall. Instead, his appointment will remain until 2020. Palumbo will take a position guiding Amazon public policy in Washington State, where I expect he’ll bring the same sort of thoughtful engagement to his work that he brought to the legislature. And, given Amazon’s outsized role in Washington State, I expect we’ll all be better off for his position there.

4. Q&A: Patrick Connor, NFIB

Patrick Connor is the Washington State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Two days after the Legislature adjourned, Wire reporter Sara Gentzler talked to Connor about what happened over the last 105 days, from NFIB’s perspective.

In the interview, he talks about some of the wins during the session, and digs into how bills passed – namely the B&O tax increase on selected services and graduated REET – in the final days might impact small businesses. “We were having an unexpectedly good session until the last 72 hours,” Connor says. 

5. Digging into the public option bill

We tracked Washington’s public option bill as it morphed and evolved over session, up to this explainer on what the final bill includes. Gov. Jay Inslee signed Cascade Care into law earlier this month, calling it and the Long-Term Care Trust Act “models for the rest of the nation to consider.”

I agree with Inslee’s framing, but I also think the bill is “a modest but important stepforward in innovation in health care.” Among my takeaways: the bill sets up a framework for future price management, and it demonstrates the political lift it takes to make even modest changes. Moreover, it further establishes Sen. Frockt as one of Washington State’s policy heavyweights.

6. Inslee makes the presidential debate stage

Gov. Inslee announced over the weekend that he had hit the threshold to join the upcoming presidential debate stage. With more than 65,000 individual donors, Inslee has joined 18 other candidates who have met the requirements.  

That’s a large group. So, Democrats will divide the group into two subsets for the first prime time debates on June 25th and 26th. There will be twelve “sanctioned” debates in total. It’s not clear yet how the group will be divided. Four years ago, Republicans divided the field based on public polling, creating the look of a “kids table” for those polling poorly.