Support Public Service Journalism

Morning Wire: Sen. Maureen Walsh, death penalty bill, Rep. Matt Shea

It’s officially the last week of the 2019 regular session, with the last day slated for Sunday, April 28. With one party claiming control of both chambers, it would seem that a smooth end to session would be in our near future–but, nothing’s for certain.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for following along with us over the course of this session.

With help from Emily Boerger and DJ Wilson

1. Sen. Maureen Walsh comments, aftermath, & apology

Sen. Maureen Walsh’s comment on the Senate floor that nurses at critical access hospitals “probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day” and should be excluded from a bill requiring hospitals to give them rest breaks has made the rounds online. Jennifer Muhm at the Washington State Nurses Association said traffic to a related blog post crashed the association’s website for hours.

Walsh has since apologized for the comments, saying in part that, while the comments were taken out of context, she was tired and crossed the line. Incidentally, Muhm said that being tired can lead to mistakes is “the point of this bill.” The amendment excluding critical access hospitals from the bill ultimately passed, as did an amendment prohibiting employees covered by the bill from working more than eight hours per 24-hour period. Sen. Karen Keiser tweeted that it “needs to be put back together after it was blown to bits on the Senate floor.”

2. Did Chopp kill the death penalty bill?

A Senate bill to eliminate the death penalty in Washington State didn’t make it to the House floor ahead of last week’s cutoff. It passed out of the Senate on a 28-19 vote (the above photo is from the Senate floor debate), and AG Bob Ferguson said it had strong support in the House. What happened? It depends who you ask.

In no uncertain terms, Sen. Reuven Carlyle says Speaker Frank Chopp killed the bill: “This was simply a decision by the Speaker not to allow a vote. It’s no more fancy than that.” But Rep. Roger Goodman, who co-sponsored a companion bill, said his caucus was focused on other, more pressing criminal justice-reform efforts.

3. Remembering Margarita Prentice & Hunter Goodman

This month, the Legislature has honored the legacies of at least two people who left an impression on the state: former Senator Margarita López Prentice and former Secretary of the Senate Hunter Goodman. Session is getting increasingly tense ahead of Sunday’s deadline, and it’s a good time to read about both.

Sen. Prentice was the first Latina elected to the state Legislature, served in the House for two terms, the Senate for five, and in several leadership positions. The Seattle Times published an account of her life’s work that’s worth a read. Goodman served as Secretary of the Senate 2013-17, and as Government Affairs Director for the Attorney General’s Office 2005-13. Dan Sytman, who served on the AGO’s communications team, shares a touching and timely tribute to Goodman here

4. Health care community criticizes Medicaid cut

In a series of letters sent to legislators, members of Washington’s health care community have come together to oppose cuts to the HCA in the House and Senate operating budget proposals. The budget cuts—$351.5 million in total funds—rely on MCOs saving money through “program integrity activity recoveries,” which combat provider fraud, waste, and abuse.

Letters from the HCA, the five MCO CEOs, and a broad coalition of provider associations, ACHs, health plans, and patient groups all call on lawmakers to amend the budget. “The Health Care Authority, health care providers, managed care organizations, and advocates for Medicaid recipients adamantly disagree that such savings can be made without serious cuts to eligibility, benefits, or both,” reads one letter. “Washington cannot achieve such spectacular Medicaid savings without sacrifice.”

5. Calls to oust Rep. Shea after Guardian story breaks

An article detailing conversations between Rep. Matt Shea and “rightwing figures” about surveilling and committing violence against political enemies is putting rhetoric like that in Shea’s “biblical basis for war” in a new light. While the article doesn’t report that Shea suggested violence himself, it says he “did not demur” from suggestions of violence, surveillance, and intimidation and that “He also appeared willing to participate in surveillance of activists.”

Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski includes a record of what she calls Shea’s “extreme and dangerous ideological record” in an open letter calling for his ejection from the House Republican Caucus. Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib has called for the same, and Gov. Inslee condemned Shea’s “rhetoric and his behavior.” In an emailed statement, House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox said the following: “Threats of political violence have no place in our society and I condemn them in the strongest terms. The statements made by others in a text conversation with Representative Matt Shea were wrong and deeply upsetting. I take these statements seriously and condemn them with no reservation. My conversations with Matt and Leadership will continue.”

Your support matters.

Public service journalism is important today as ever. If you get something from our coverage, please consider making a donation to support our work. Thanks for reading our stuff.