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Morning Wire: Sen. Claire Wilson, Inslee campaign update, “unauditable” governments

DJ is taking a well-deserved vacation, so I will be taking over the Morning Wire for the next few editions. This week, we’re bringing you a Q&A with freshman legislator Sen. Claire Wilson, an update on Inslee’s campaign, and a new report on “unauditable” governments.  

As always, thanks for reading!

With help from Sara Gentzler

1. Q&A w/ Sen. Claire Wilson

Senator Claire Wilson is the Vice Chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee and serves as the Assistant Whip for the Senate Democrats. The 2019 session was also her first session as a legislator. 

Now that session is over, I caught up with Sen. Wilson for a conversation about her first session, her leadership roles, issues she is passionate about, the fate of her comprehensive sex ed bill, and what her focus is for the interim. About the start of session: “It’s like jumping on a hamster wheel and drinking out of two fire hoses at the same time.” 

2. Bye, Sara!

It’s with a mix of pride and sadness that we say goodbye to Sara Gentzler, who has been our lead reporter in Olympia, this week. DJ asked Sara to reflect on the articles she’s most proud of writing during her time with us and the context surrounding them, which she does in this piece.

Keep an eye out for Sara’s byline: She’ll start reporting on local courts, local government, and breaking news for The Olympian next week. Be sure to follow her on Twitter!

And, if you’re interested in reporting for the Wire, we’re hiring — check out the description here or shoot DJ an email.

3. An update on Inslee’s campaign

The 2020 Democratic primary race is kicking into high gear with the first debates just around the corner. With that in mind, I put together an update on the wins and struggles for Gov. Jay Inslee’s campaign. 

Among the wins: Inslee hasn’t veered away from the climate change topic since announcing his candidacy, and has actually drawn candidates to it. And, next week’s debate offers him an opportunity to stand out in the field. The problem: these campaign wins aren’t turning into poll results yet. 

4. “Unauditable” governments

The Office of the Washington State Auditor recently published a special report on local governments (e.g. drainage districts, cemetery districts, water/sewer districts, etc.) that don’t submit annual financial reports as required by state law. According to the report, the office is unable to audit over $1 million of public money per year. 

In an op-ed, Jason Mercier, Director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center, points out that legislation approaching the issue hasn’t been successful in recent years. “To help improve the transparency and accountability of state and local taxation it is our hope lawmakers will act next session on this bipartisan proposal to create an online searchable database of all tax districts and tax rates in the state,” Mercier writes. “Lawmakers should also make clear that if you refuse to cooperate with the people’s elected State Auditor you will lose your grant of taxing authority.”

5. Pam MacEwan testifies before Congress

Last week, Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, testified before the US House Ways and Means Committee regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Washington State’s progress in the health care arena. Her comments to Congress covered Medicaid expansion, state efforts toward market stability, and the status of Washington’s public option. More importantly, her testimony came within the context of the Democratic Party, in general, trying to discern whether to build upon the ACA or wipe it away with a “Medicare-for-All” approach.

“I hope Congress can look to Washington state as an example of how progress can be made when lawmakers, advocates, carriers and delivery system partners work together on data-driven, actionable solutions,” testified MacEwan. Her full written testimony is available here.

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