We are about as many years away from the Berlin Wall coming down as the Wall itself stood erect. We are about as far from the first space flight as the first space flight was from the first manned air flight.
And, with luck, we are about as far from the beginning of the legislative session as we are to the end of the legislative session. Today is day 30 of 60. So, with that, here are a few things we think are worth knowing for this fifth week of session.
1. Oil drilling off the WA coast
In a press conference yesterday, Governor Inslee and Attorney General Ferguson discussed two ways in which the state may block the Trump Administration’s plan to drill oil and gas off the Washington coast. Ferguson guaranteed a lawsuit, saying Interior Secretary Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida from this plan was both arbitrary and illegal.
Inslee said he would seek state policy changes to create an unfavorable work environment to deter any potential oil or gas businesses from wanting to do business here. He mentioned creating unreachable safety standards, unfavorable taxation policies, and finding ways to prohibit oil rigs from using Washington ports.
2. Wire Insider: Julie Salvi, WEA
Julie Salvi is a lobbyist with the Washington Education Association. She has held budget analyst and management positions at WSDOT and the Office of Financial Management. She also was a staffer to the House Appropriation Committee. So she knows her way around large government budgets. She joins us as a “Wire Insider” to talk about how the unintended consequences of the McCleary decision will impact K-12 education.
“McCleary education plan passed at the last minute last session without necessarily public hearings or a lot of public input. It came out and was implemented. What happens in a public process is sometimes the unintended consequences are brought up and addressed. Given the speed at which this happened, we’ve spent a lot of time both understanding the bill and looking at where all those possible unintended consequences are.”
3. The light Amazon has shown on health care politics
In September, I outlined a strategy for Amazon to enter the health care space. It starts with leveraging their own employees, which appears to be the focus of their release last week. What has also gained focus is how the Amazon release characterized the health care sector. Warren Buffett called health care a “tapeworm.” I thought that was a brazen term, but apparently it wasn’t.
Providence CEO Rod Hochman agreed. The former editor of Modern Health care defended the sector saying, to paraphrase, ‘no, it’s a cancer not a tapeworm.” Kaiser Health News posted a letter saying health care is a “catastrophic failure.” Piers Morgan, one I am generally loathe to quote about anything, said health care was “a sick joke & the envy of no one.”
Put it all together: there is not another sector in the US economy as openly ridiculed and derided as the one upon which we will all one day depend, and from which we will all receive services that few of us can afford on our own. That’s the stuff of a strong political backlash ahead.
4. Podcast: Addressing WA’s Tax Structure
We recorded this podcast at our Re-Wire Policy Conference featuring three of the smartest voices on Washington’s tax system. Andy Nicholas, the Associate Director of Fiscal Policy at the Washington Budget and Policy Center highlights why our current tax system is upside-down. Rep. Drew Stokesbary, who sits on the House Finance Committee, touches on different approaches to tax reform. Rep. Noel Frame, the vice chair of the House Finance Committee and a guest on this earlier podcast, provides us with some political analysis of why tax reform is so challenging and how she plans to accomplish it.
These three panelists represent both the public and private sectors, and ideas from both sides of the aisle. While they offer different ideas, they all manage to agree on one thing: the B&O tax needs work.
5. Women’s health legislation moves forward in Olympia
Last week, three significant bills expanding access to women’s health care options passed out of the Senate. The Reproductive Parity Act, sponsored by Senator Hobbs, would require every health care plan that covers maternity care to also cover contraception and abortion services. The bill was originally introduced in 2012, but failed to make it to the Senate floor while Republicans were in the majority.
The other two bills, SB 5912 and SB 5084, would allow women to receive more accurate and complete information about their health. Neither of these bills have public hearings in the House scheduled yet, but the Reproductive Parity Act is scheduled for its hearing in the House Health Care & Wellness committee on February 7.
6. Kudos to Crosscut for their first Festival
Last Saturday, Crosscut hosted its first Crosscut Festival, drawing a number of local and national voices to their agenda. It looked like a very positive start for a convening that will hopefully grow in the years to come. I think any sober minded observer of our politics will agree we need more opportunities to talk it out together, rather than fewer. So, kudos to Crosscut for their success.
Crosscut drew upon a close collaboration with the Texas Tribune, another independent digital news outlet that has made their Festival a cornerstone part of their work. It also drew the attention of what look to be Russian bots that flooded its Twitter hashtag #crosscutfest. I guess you know you’ve arrived with the Russian Twitter bots take you on.
7. Death penalty ban moves forward in the legislature
For the first time since Washington reinstated the death penalty in 1981, a bill to ban capital punishment has passed out of committee. Though the 4-3 vote out of committee was along party lines, a new report shows a surge in the number of Republicans sponsoring and supporting death penalty bans across the country.
The report shows that in the 2001/2002 biennium, a total of six Republicans in five states sponsored death penalty repeal bills. But by the 2015/2016 biennium, that number rose to 69 Republicans in 11 states sponsoring these bills. Also, a Gallup Poll from October shows a 10 percent year-to-year drop in Republican support for the death penalty nationwide. Here in Washington, this year’s death penalty ban bill is sponsored by two Republicans – prime sponsor Sen. Maureen Walsh and Sen. Mark Miloscia.
8. ABC’s “18 for ’18” includes the 8th
While there has been a focus on the hotly contested 5th CD, this week ABC News has elevated the 8th CD as one of the 18 races it will watch and track most closely among all of the races in the country. Republican Party folks tell me this is a relatively safe district for Dino Rossi, one he has carried each time he has run for statewide office. However, independent private polling suggests he trails a de-identified Democrat.
In 1994’s “Republican Revolution,” Washington State saw more federal and state seats flip from Democrat to Republican than any other state in the country. Newt Gingrich called the state “ground zero” for the Republicans. That wave didn’t start till after Labor Day, however.
Bottom line: Momentum appears to be shifting to Democrats. If the election were today, it might be a good year for Democrats. But, the election isn’t today. And, there is a lot of time left.