"Why take a bullet from the NRA when you can just put it on the ballot?" That's what one Olympia operative privately speculated about the reluctance of a handful of legislators to pull the trigger on a bill that would finally require background checks on most private sales of firearms. A floor vote in the House on HB 1588 was twice delayed yesterday as sponsors attempted to scrounge up the two or three final votes necessary for passage.
Public opinion polls show overwhelming support for the sensible measure, but several House members are suspected of balking out of fear of retaliation from the pro-gun lobby. There have been whispers that if the bill fails, a well-financed gun control initiative will be put on the ballot next fall. The politically smart move, some fence-sitters may be thinking, is to let voters decide the controversial issue.
Smart maybe, but awfully damn cowardly. I guess this is what comes from progressives failing to punish their elected officials as aggressively as the folks on the right do.
So what can you do to turn this around? "I don’t think that there is anything that folks outside can/need to do at this point," bill sponsor Representative Jamie Pedersen responded last night when I asked him whom I might rhetorically pummel in support of the measure. Pedersen says that he is continuing to work the votes, and insists that he remains "cautiously optimistic."
Others were not so politic, and I'm hearing that the softest targets are Democrats David Sawyer, Pat Sullivan, and Steve Kirby, along with Republican Linda Kochmar. So give 'em a call and let them know how you feel.
And speaking of Kochmar, it's important to note that so far only one Republican has signed onto this bill: Co-sponsor Mike Hope (R-44), a Seattle police officer. Whatever it is that Republicans claim they stand for, commonsense gun control legislation is clearly one thing the Republican Party party stands against.
By a 29-20 vote, the Republican-controlled/Seattle-hating state Senate passed ESB 5726 today, a bill intended to eviscerate Seattle's paid sick leave ordinance
Summary of Bill: A local government, including a city, town, code city, or county, cannot apply a paid sick leave or paid safe leave program to an employer whose principal place of business is outside the local government's limits. A local government cannot apply a paid sick leave or paid safe leave program to an employee whose principal place of employment is outside the local government's limits, even if the employer's principal place of business is within the local government's limits.
The impact of this bill would be twofold. First, any employer with a principal place of business outside of Seattle—that means most national and regional chains—would be exempt from Seattle's sick leave law, intentionally creating a competitive disadvantage for small businesses wholly located within city limits. Second, it's basically an incentive for Seattle companies to move their "principal place of business" outside of Seattle. Ha, ha, gotcha, Seattle! And so forth.
Personally, I think that Senators Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Braun, Brown, Carrell, Dammeier, Eide, Ericksen, Fain, Hargrove, Hatfield, Hewitt, Hill, Hobbs, Holmquist Newbry, Honeyford, King, Litzow, Padden, Parlette, Pearson, Rivers, Roach, Schoesler, Sheldon, Smith, and (of course) Tom can all go fuck themselves.
I just hope there's enough discipline in the Democratic caucus to keep this overtly anti-Seattle piece of legislation from passing the House. Because honestly, our paid sick leave ordinance is none of the rest of the state's business.
I just invested my entire savings in a little known company, thanks to a surefire stock tip I just got from the Attorney General's Office. I mean, Attorney General Bob Ferguson recommended it himself—how could this possible go wrong?
Today, the Attorney General’s Office learned people are receiving e-mails that appear to be from the AGO Webmaster or other “@atg.wa.gov” e-mail addresses with the following subject lines:
• New Pick Coming! But First I need your help, details inside
• Pick Of The Week
• This Stock is another monster week ahead
• DON’T MISS TODAY’S TRADING IDEA
• Your Mind Blowing Monster Pick!
• News Out & Must Read Inside.
Let us assure you. These are spoofs. Scammers know how to make a message appear to be from one e-mail when it’s really from someone completely different.
There goes my retirement.
We gushed about a few voter access bills in this week's news section, now today brings good news courtesy of the youth voting advocacy group Washington Bus that two of those bills have passed in the House:
Bus spokesman Alex Miller notes that "election day voter registration" is misleading, as the bill was significantly amended to appease county auditors, who feared the extra work that same-day registration would entail, and to woo Republicans. The bill actually moves the online voter registration deadline up from 29 days before an election to 11 days, while bumping the in-person deadline back from eight days to 11 days. It also moves the mail-in change of county form deadline up from 29 days to 28 days. The compromises worked; nine Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
"It's less exciting but still an improvement," says Miller. "That was the bill's only hope of progressing in the Senate."
In less complicated news, 16- and 17-year olds will now be able to pre-register to vote at the DMV!
Now here's hoping these bills can weather the Senate.
I'm fairly competent at math, but I was initially baffled when I recently sat down to figure out the taxes and "fees" on my monthly wireless bill.
I'd received an email from an angry reader complaining about Washington's "second-highest in the nation" wireless taxes, and pointing me to a website that claimed we pay an astronomical 24.44 percent rate. That does sound high. But it didn't add up. A quick look at my latest AT&T bill showed that I paid $10.98 in taxes, surcharges, and fees on $74.29 in voice, data, and text charges. That comes to about 14.8 percent. Not inconsequential, but nothing like what the angry emailer claimed.
But for the life of me, I just couldn't get the numbers to add up, nor could I find useful online documentation. Finally, after a fair bit of algebra and some back and forth with the Department of Revenue, I think I've finally sussed it out, at least to within a penny or two. And it turns out that these various "taxes" aren't always what they first appear.
As a point of reference here's how my monthly AT&T Wireless bill breaks down (the tax and fee rates are not included on the bill; I had to figure that part out for myself):
Senate Democrats in Olympia could take advantage of an illness on the other side of the aisle, which will deprive Republicans of a crucial vote, to form a temporary Democratic majority and bring legislation to a floor vote this week so it doesn't die, according to sources familiar with the legislature's proceedings. Rumor has it that Republican Senator Barbara Bailey is going to be out for a while (nobody is answering the phone in her office), creating a potential window. During that time, the senate would be split 24-24. With moderate Democrat Lt. Governor Brad Owen positioned to break ties, any legislation with his support could break to the left. But more likely, according to sources, is the possibility that Democrats will attempt to pick off a GOP defector to join them in a clean majority. Republican Senator Michael Baumgartner may also be out later this week.
For two examples of the impact: A bill to repeal a tax on dancing and safe streets bill, which has been languishing in the senate after passing in the house, could get a vote. It's unclear what bills they might try to pass—or if this will happen at all. But what's remarkable is that Democrats are considering hardball at all.
Of course, if this actually happens, Republicans will whine "foul." But they've got no moral high ground here: Republicans popularized this tactic.
You might recall that Republicans took advantage of former Senator Cal Anderson's illness-caused-absence in 1995, when he had AIDS and developed cancer, to pass legislation. As the Seattle Times reported at the time, while Anderson "lay on a hospital bed, Anderson said, Senate Republicans did a 'pretty hateful thing' in amending a controversial government-agency reform bill that could have been defeated if he had been present to vote. Without Anderson, the Senate's one-vote Democratic majority is nullified."
But all is fair in war—and if this is how Republicans play ball, then I see no problem with Democrats doing the same thing right back.
Republicans did it last year, too, when they picked off the votes of two conservative Democrats in the final days of session to overtake the state budget process and ultimately kill progressive bills (then formed a so-called majority caucus this year to appoint committee chairs and stymie progressive legislation). And if what the GOP is doing is killing bills—being the party of no—then there is virtue in beating them at their own game, especially if it means getting something done.
UPDATE at 1:10 PM: Senator Bailey's office called back, acknowledging that "she is feeling under the weather. She's been sick all week, sick all last week. But she is here today."
... I'd raise taxes modestly on the wealthy and invest the new revenue in universal preschool, K-12 schools, and higher education. But I'm a far-left, libtard, fasco-commie hippie, so don't listen to me because I'm CRAZY!!!
I'm just sayin'.
I dunno. Some times I think they're just stoopid:
THE Washington Supreme Court’s two-thirds-for-taxes decision came down to a sentence in the state constitution. The language was just fuzzy enough for the court to go either way.
What an imbecilic synopsis of yesterday's Supreme Court decision. No, the language was not fuzzy. And no, it did not come down to a single sentence. "The plain language, constitutional history, and weight of persuasive authority support reading this provision as setting both a minimum and a maximum voting requirement," the majority concluded. And apart from wishful thinking, that was the only legally sound conclusion to make.
The nine justices did what they always do. They voted. Three wanted the law to stand and six wanted it to fall. Theirs was a legal decision — and a political one.
Again, no. First, this had nothing to do with what the justices "wanted." It had everything to do with what the Constitution said. And the majority opinion was purely a legal one.
Second, the editors have their math wrong. Six justices declared the provision to be unconstitutional, one dissenting justice argued that it was not, and the two remaining justices vehemently argued against having to make this decision at all. Justices Charles Johnson and Debra Stephens emphatically did not vote for "the law to stand." In their dissent, they did not mention the merits of the case at all.
Justice Jim Johnson, who was on the losing side, noted that the six who struck down the law — Justices Susan Owens, Barbara Madsen, Mary Fairhurst, Charles Wiggins and Steven González and Justice pro tem Tom Chambers — overruled 1,575,655 Washington voters.
Blah, blah, blah.
The rest of the editorial is pretty much just more of the same: A long, drawn out threat of political retribution. Ignore the will of the voters at your peril, they warn justices and lawmakers. This from the editors who relentlessly urge legislators to overturn the twice-approved initiatives to require training and certification of home health workers. Whatever.
That the editors write stupidly about legal issues is to be expected. They write stupidly about a lot of things. But that they consistently urge justices to consider popular sentiment when considering matters of law shows just how little respect they have for the very notion of a constitutional democracy.
The vote in yesterday's landmark Washington State Supreme Court ruling on tax increases was 6-3.
Which makes it worth remembering: If the media hadn't sounded the alarm about "zero qualifications" Bruce Danielson in his race against Justice Steve Gonzalez last year, and if Justice Charlie Wiggins hadn't unseated long-time incumbent Richard B. Sanders with a victory margin of less than one percent in 2010, then yesterday would likely have brought us a very different high court decision.
Seen in this light and over this longer time horizon, yesterday's 2/3 majority ruling becomes a striking example of what happens when reporters and voters—especially reporters and voters in King County—stop yawning at down-ballot supreme court races and start paying closer attention year after year.
In Washington State, you can't amend the constitution by initiative. Which is why with today's landmark court ruling, the two-thirds legislative supermajority requirement for tax increases is dead, dead, dead.
Sure, armed-and-dangerous state Senator Pam Roach (R-Auburn) already had a two-thirds supermajority constitutional amendment bill in the hopper, and soon after today's court decision Senate Republicans quickly jammed it through the Ways & Means Committee. (They had earlier threatened to impose the requirement via Senate rules, but quickly abandoned that ill-conceived effort.) So it's on its way to the Senate floor. But even if they bully enough Democrats to get the necessary two-thirds support (unlikely), it's never going to see the light of day in the Democratic controlled House.
"It has to go through the House Finance Committee," state Representative Reuven Carlyle explained to me this afternoon. "I happen to know the chair pretty well, and I would say it's a heavy lift." Carlyle, of course, is the chair of the House Finance Committee. So that's pretty much that.
And that's the thing about supermajority requirements: They're supposed to be an awfully high hurdle. The framers of our state constitution understood that when they imposed a supermajority on some things—like passing constitutional amendments—while setting simple majority requirements for passing day to day legislation: For if you could amend the constitution by a simple majority, either legislatively or at the polls, then it really wouldn't be a constitution at all.
So barring a dramatic political realignment in Washington State—one which gives Republicans and their road-kill sympathizers supermajority control of both houses—a constitutional amendment imposing a two-thirds supermajority requirement for tax increases will never make it to the ballot. Which is the way this whole constitutional government thing is supposed to work.
Initiative profiteer Tim Eyman has a reputation as one of the most powerful (if unelected) politicians in the state. But after today's Supreme Court opinion invalidating the two-thirds supermajority requirement for tax increases, Eyman doesn't really have a lot to show for all the dozens of initiatives he's filed since he first became a household name back in 1999:
|I-695||1999||$30 car tabs||Approved. Declared unconstitutional.|
|I-722||2000||Cap property tax revenue growth at 2 percent a year||Approved. Declared unconstitutional.|
|I-745||2000||Dedicate 90 percent of transportation funding to road building.||Rejected.|
|I-747||2001||Cap property tax revenue growth at 1 percent a year.||Approved. Declared unconstitutional.|
|I-776||2002||$30 car tabs.||Approved||I-892||2004||Legalize slot machines.||Rejected.|
|I-960||2007||Require 2/3 legislative supermajority for tax increases.||Approved. Declared unconstitutional.|
|I-985||2008||Eliminate carpool lanes.||Rejected.|
|I-1033||2009||Cap state revenue growth at population growth plus inflation.||Rejected.|
|I-1053||2010||Require 2/3 legislative supermajority for tax increases.||Approved. Declared unconstitutional.|
|I-1125||2011||Restrict tolling and block light rail on I-90 bridge.||Rejected.|
|I-1185||2012||Require 2/3 legislative supermajority for tax increases.||Approved. Declared unconstitutional.|
Of the 13 statewide initiatives Eyman has qualified for the ballot since 1999, only eight have been approved by voters, and all but two of those have been invalidated as unconstitutional. And even that's being generous, as 2002's I-776 failed to fulfill Eyman's promise to kill Sound Transit's light rail after the courts refused to apply it to already bonded car tabs.
Indeed, had not the lawmakers stupidly (and cowardly) reenacted I-695's and I-747's provisions after they were tossed out by the court, all Eyman would have to show for his long snake oil career is a performance audit statute that was only slightly strong than the one already passed by the legislature that year.
Although our state Supreme Court justices today invalidated Washington's two-thirds supermajority requirement by only a 6-3 margin, it is important to note that there was only one justice who dissented on the merits of the underlying issue.
The main dissent, authored by Justice Charles Johnson, and joined by Justices Debra Stephens and Jim Johnson, focuses entirely on justiciability:
The majority hardly recognizes, let alone analyzes, that this court has been repeatedly asked to step in and decide this issue, and we have consistently held and rejected that invitation.
The dissent goes on for nine more pages, but their basic argument is: "What's changed? Fuck all, that's what!" Though not exactly in those words.
The majority responds by pointing out the absurdity of accepting the state's position that the supermajority requirement would only be justiciable if the legislature chose to ignore it:
Given that the legislator respondents cannot ignore the Supermajority Requirement without violating their obligation to uphold the laws of the state, the State's position would render the Supermajority Requirement unreviewable and is therefore unacceptable.
Damn straight. The notion that the constitutionality of a statute can only be justiciable in its violation is a recipe for undermining the rule of law.
In a separate dissent, Justice Jim Johnson does object to the majority opinion based on the merits, but Johnson's dissent reads like a Tea Party pamphlet, so it's really hard to make heads or tails of his arguments. Something about property rights and the The Federalist Papers. Or something. Regardless, that leaves only one out of nine justices on the record arguing that the supermajority requirement is constitutional on its merits. And that one justice is more than a little bit crazy. Which kinda tells you how weak the constitutional argument really is.
After the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the two-thirds supermajority case, then attorney general Rob McKenna told KUOW:
If they were to rule on the constitutionality I think they would uphold it. The opponents of two-thirds ... are hanging their case on a few words in the state constitution that refer to the requirement that a majority of legislators be present in order to pass legislation.
We understand that very clearly. What they [the founding fathers] are saying is if you’ve got 49 state Senators, you can’t have only 20 of them present and pass a law by a vote of 11 to nine. They’re saying you have to have a majority present and then you can have a vote, and then a majority have to vote for it, a majority of the legislature. So, I think that’s what that clearly means. And it was not intended to be a ceiling on a voting requirement to pass bills.
To which I responded:
Honestly, that's just plain stupid. Gerberding v. Monroe is a goddamn roadmap for deciding LEV v. State. If the court rules on the constitutionality of I-1053 (and I'm not confident that our popularly elected justices won't once again hide behind justiciability) it would have no choice but to toss the fucker out.
And today the Supreme Court wrote:
The State primarily relies on the negative phrasing of article II, section 22, and the reasoning in Robb, to claim the provision sets a minimum voting requirement only. Article II, section 22, however, is more like the provision in Gerberding than the provision in Robb. As in Gerberding, where a principle favored the result, there is an informal principle here favoring a simple majority vote for ordinary legislation. Additionally, like the constitutional history in Gerberding that supported the outcome, the constitutional language and history in this case illustrates that the framers never intended ordinary legislation to require a supermajority vote.
Stupid, stupid, Rob McKenna. Smart, smart, Goldy (who, by the way, has a damn impressive record at predicting court rulings, both the outcomes and the grounds).
The opinion is not up on the court website yet, but crack Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Eli Sanders managed to snag a copy from super secret sources. Just started reading it, but here's the first money quote:
We affirm the trial court in part and reverse in part. We affirm the trial court's decision regarding the justiciability and the constitutionality of the Supermajority Requirement. Article II, section 22 states that "[n]o bill shall become a law unless ... a majority of the members elected to each house" vote in its favor. The plain language, constitutional history, and weight of persuasive authority support reading this provision as setting both a minimum and a maximum voting requirement. Therefore, the Supermajority Requirement violates article II, section 22 by requiring certain legislation to receive a two-thirds vote. However, we reverse the trial court's decision that the Referendum Requirement presents a justiciable controversy. Because the Referendum Requirement is not justiciable, we make no determination as to its constitutionality.
UPDATE: The opinion is now online (PDF): 6-3, with Justices Owens writing for the majority and justices Chambers, Fairhurst, Madsen, Wiggins, and Gonzalez concurring.
Justice Johnson, of course, wrote the dissent. Justice C. Johnson wrote a dissent signed on by Justices Stephens and J.Johnson, while Justice J.Johnson also wrote a separate dissent.
UPDATE, UPDATE: Rather than continue to update this post, I'm just going to read through the opinion and dissent at my leisure, and follow up with analysis in a separate post. That said, via Twitter, Eli is rightly pointing out the significance of the King County vote in recent judicial elections: This decision might have looked very different without Justices Wiggins and Gonzalez.
As we wait for the Washington State Supreme Court to rule this morning on the constitutionality of Tim Eyman's 2/3 majority requirement, it's worth considering what a stranglehold that requirement has placed on our state government's ability to serve its citizens during the Great Recession:
"It's been incredibly frustrating," said Representative Jamie Pedersen (D-43), one of several state lawmakers who filed suit against Eyman's initiative... "Our offices are filled every session, for the last five sessions, with people who are going to lose their health care, whose kids are in overcrowded classrooms, people who aren't able to go to college—I mean, literally, fill in the blank for all the services the state does—and we aren't able to do anything about it, because of the two-thirds requirement."
Describing the legislative despair this has produced, Pedersen continued: "The only thing we can do when we have a budget shortfall is cut services. So we've just done that over and over again. It's discouraging, heartbreaking, depressing. I mean, it makes you feel completely powerless because we can't even have a debate about raising taxes."
Pedersen and many others have been saying for years that Eyman has made a sneaky end-run around the state constitution.
Later this morning, we'll find out whether a majority of the state supreme court justices agree.
The Washington State Supreme Court has announced that it will likely release an opinion tomorrow morning on League of Education Voters v. State, the constitutional challenge to the relentless string of initiatives requiring a two-thirds legislative supermajority to pass tax increases. I'm not likely to sleep well tonight, but if I had to wager, I'd say they toss it out.
As I've previously written Gerberding v. Monroe is a fucking roadmap for deciding LEV v. State. The precedent is clear. So if the justices rule on the underlying issue, I am fully confident that they will rule the two-thirds supermajority requirement to be unconstitutional.
I'm just not quite as confident that they will have the balls to rule on the underlying issue, for every previous time this issue has come before court, our popularly elected justices have weaseled out by ruling that the issue was not yet "justiciable." Fucking cowards.
Still, it's hard to see them hiding behind justiciability yet again, considering the legal contortions it would require: essentially requiring both houses of the legislature and the governor to violate state law in order to properly bring the issue before the court. So if a majority of the justices have a shred of self-respect, I expect to breathe a sigh of relief after tomorrow's opinion is released.
A coalition including the League of Women Voters, the Washington Education Association, and El Centro de la Raza, sent a letter to Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson today, requesting that he institute legal proceedings to remedy constitutional violations that arise from I-1240, the charter schools initiative:
Specifically, the Charter School Act improperly diverts public school funds to private non-profits in violation of the Washington Constitution and is otherwise unconstitutional on multiple grounds...
The letter, drafted by attorneys at the Pacifica Law Group, enunciates at least seven areas in which the Charter School Act violates the state constitution. I've yet to read through the cited case law, so I'm not yet in a position to evaluate the strength of these arguments, but on the surface several of them sound fairly compelling. More later, after I've had a chance to read this through.
I've got a request into the AG's office to talk to Ferguson about the prospects of challenging the initiative, but the request certainly puts him in a difficult place. Part of his job as AG is to defend to state law, and the Charter Schools Act is now state law. Considering what's at stake, if there are strong arguments it's hard to imagine that somebody doesn't sue, but it will be curious to see how this ultimately plays out.
With zero notice Sunday, just one day before it was heard by the Ways & Means Committee, millionaire state Senate Majority "Leader" Rodney Tom (R-Medina) filed a bill that would eliminate defined pension benefits for most state and public school employees, replacing them with a risky 401-K-style savings plan that would subject future retirees to the whims of the market. SB 5856, of which Tom is the sole sponsor, would apply to all future public employees and all current public employees under the age of 45.
That means if you chose a career as a school teacher twenty years ago, trading the opportunity to strike it rich in the private sector for the promise of a secure retirement, you are totally fucked.
Of course, a lot of states have catastrophically underfunded their public employee pension plans. But not Washington. No, Washington has the second strongest funded pension system in the nation, with an enviable overall funding ratio of 98.1 percent. So I'm not exactly sure what the problem is that Tom is attempting to solve by denying teachers and other public employees the pension benefits they were promised.
But don't you dare start complaining about it, because under a second Tom-sponsored bill, SB 5242, public school teachers would lose all job protections, meaning they could be fired for any reason at any time, and with no legal recourse. And we're not just talking laid off—we're talking fired with cause:
(5) If a displaced nonprovisional certificated instructional staff member is not assigned to a nontemporary position with mutual agreement by May 15th of the school year following the displacement, the superintendent may initiate notice of nonrenewal of contract as provided under RCW 28A.405.210. Lack of assignment under this section of a displaced certificated instructional staff member to a nontemporary position after eight or more months, including cumulative time spent in successive assignments to temporary positions, constitutes grounds for a finding of probable cause under RCW 28A.405.210.
And how does a teacher become "displaced"...?
(2)(b) "Displaced" means a certificated instructional staff member assigned to a particular school no longer has an assignment to that school as a result of a request for reassignment by the certificated instructional staff member, a principal, or the district administration; change in program; change in enrollment; or implementation of a state or federal accountability intervention model.
So, you know, don't be a trouble maker. All your principal needs to do to get you fired is request your reassignment. Because the real problem in K-12 education today is that teachers are too empowered.
I had hoped Tom would have used his role as Senate Majority "Leader" to help push through the funding package necessary to pay for the billions of additional K-12 dollars needed to satisfy the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision. But rather than giving our schools the funding they need, Tom is focused on taking away the pension benefits and job security that teachers already have. That's education reform, Rodney Tom style.
Judging from this email from the 41st LD Dems, not so well:
Washington Conservation Voters is looking for volunteers for Tuesday, 2/26/13 (that's tomorrow), to doorbell and persuade voters on Mercer Island to contact Steve Litzow and ask him to support WCV's Clean Energy and Climate campaign.
They will meet at the Mercer Island Library at 1 PM and the event will continue until 6 PM. Any amount of time you can provide would be most appreciated.
Huh. Perhaps WCV would have been better off endorsing Litzow's Democratic opponent, Maureen Judge (yeah, my ex-wife)? Had she won, not only wouldn't WCV have had to spend time and money pressuring her to do the right thing on climate and energy issues, it would have left control of the state Senate in the hands of environmentally friendly Democrats.
But, you know, it's sooooo important to elect pro-environment Republicans even if they're not nearly as pro-environment as their Democratic opponents. Because.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sentencing juveniles to mandatory life in prison for crimes like aggravated first-degree murder is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment, and thus a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
"Youth is more than a chronological fact," the justices wrote in the majority opinion of Miller v. Alabama last June. "It is a time of immaturity, irresponsibility, impetuousness, and recklessness. It is a moment and position in life when a person may be most susceptible to influence and to psychological damage. And its signature qualities are all transient."
The ruling left 29 states, including Washington, with the task of shoring up state laws to align with the federal edict this legislative session or else face a slew of lawsuits from incarcerated men whose life-without-parole sentences are no longer considered justifiable. (There are currently 30 men serving mandatory life sentences in our state for crimes committed in their youth.)
"The fact that we haven’t sentenced anyone to this in over a decade proves that Washington has started to think very differently about juveniles and their culpability when they commit crimes," explains Jake Faescini, whose been lobbying legislators on this issue. "We feel they have better chances for successful rehabilitation—that if you’re a juvenile, you should have the chance to prove that you’ve changed and that you can be released."
Two bills introduced in the state legislature are currently battling to redefine the mandatory life sentencing for kids under 18, and they take two very different approaches to changing the law.
Women's health advocates swarmed Olympia on Monday for a reproductive-rights lobby day, wearing pink T-shirts and dressing up as a giant pack of birth control pills dancing with the Statue of Liberty, and rallying hard for Washington State's groundbreaking Reproductive Parity Act. Cienna's covered the RPA before; basically, it would require insurance companies to cover abortions if they cover maternity care.
The press releases are now flying fast and furious: The RPA just passed in the state house, and will move on to the senate. Governor Inslee says:
Today's vote in the House is a big step forward in guaranteeing women's access to a full range of reproductive health care services. As I begin signing bills next week, I expect the Senate to follow the House's lead so the RPA can be among those I have the honor of signing into law. The Senate should not shut the door of democracy when it comes to women's health care.
Meanwhile, Fuse Washington crows: "Now that the full state House has approved the Reproductive Parity Act (HB 1044/SB 5798) by a 53-43 vote, the fate of the bill is up to Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom."
Dear lord, our wombs are in these hands? Actually, despite his unholy alliance with state Republicans, Tom is plenty supportive of reproductive rights. I just called his office, and they assured me that "he's supportive" of the RPA. On Monday, he signaled his support to the reproductive-rights lobbyists at the rally, saying, "I want to make sure my 17-year-old daughter has all of her reproductive health care covered." But it's unclear if the bill has a real chance in this year's senate, and his office wasn't able to clarify how, exactly, he might support its passage.
In a hometown version of Footloose, Seattle bar owners are down in Olympia this afternoon, arguing their case to repeal a 9.5 percent tax on ticket sales for events that promote dancing (big-venue concerts weirdly excluded). The bill that the nightlife industry is testifying in support of today, SB 5613, would clarify that the sales tax should not be applied to "the opportunity to dance provided by an establishment in exchange for a cover charge." I've written about this issue tons. Google that shit.
You can follow along with the testimony below (the Senate Ways and Means committee meeting begins at 3:30 but there are a bunch of bills on the docket).
(This guest post is by Washington State senator Kevin Ranker, who represents the 40th District in north Puget Sound. Also of note, see Cienna Madrid's report in this week's paper on Catholics taking over Western Washington hospitals. — Eds)
A growing number of religious organizations that may be limiting access to reproductive choices, family planning and end-of-life decisions without the knowledge of the people they serve, have expanded their health care coverage in Washington State. This could significantly impact the legal protection of these critical rights we have fought decades to achieve.
Faith-based organizations provide critical medical services in diverse communities all across our state. For many of these communities, access to health care would be severely limited if not for the presence of these faith-based hospitals and family clinics. This is a tremendous act of service.
It is respectable and appreciated that this service is provided as an extension of religious doctrine. And it is understandable that an organization would resist participating in activities that it believes conflicts with its charter-religious or otherwise. But when many of these faith-based providers receive state funding, and when many of these organizations are the difference between having and not having health care services in a community, I believe it's no longer only an extension of religious doctrine—it becomes a matter of public responsibility.
When a community relies upon an organization to provide the only access to services that affect the health and wellness of their families and women rely on that organization for their family planning options, preserving that access becomes, quite literally, a matter of life and death. Limiting access means contraception may not be available to women who do not wish to become pregnant. It means that women who become pregnant but who do not wish to give birth may have their choices made for them. It means a couple's desire for fertility treatment may be refused and their efforts to begin a family may be denied. It means an elderly parent's end-of-life wishes may not be honored at the local hospital, and their suffering may be prolonged. It means an individual's and family's personal and private decisions may be deemed morally unacceptable by the religious organization and treatments may be denied. It means that many of our citizens may not be told everything they need to know in order to make informed health care decisions about what is best for them and their families. Worse yet, they may not even realize it—and all of this by organizations in some cases who are the public health authority.
Like many Washingtonians, I find these possible scenarios extremely troubling—for women in particular—and believe that access to health care services for all should be the operative value in this discussion. With this in mind, I introduced Senate Bill 5586, legislation that will require health care providers receiving public funds to provide for, or refer for, all legal public health services, including women's reproductive rights and end-of-life services.
Remember last year's pedestrian-and-bike-friendly "Slow the fuck down on neighborhood streets" bill? The idea was to make it easier for cities to lower speed limits on side streets by eliminating the requirement to do expensive traffic studies—as long as the street in question was not an arterial. Despite popular and bipartisan support, the bill died on the floor during an unrelated legislative tantrum.
Tom Fucoloro over at Seattle Bike Blog has a great update on this year's version, HB 1045, the Neighborhood Safe Streets Bill, which just passed the state house 86–10 yesterday; its senate companion (SB 5066) passed out of committee unanimously earlier this month and its eventual passage looks promising.
If you ever walk or bike in any city in Washington, here's why you should give a shit about slightly lower speed limits on neighborhood streets, explains Fucoloro:
Speeds on such streets are most often 25 mph today. Studies show that a person struck by a car going 30 miles per hour has a 40 percent chance of dying. When the speed drops to 20 mph, the chance of dying drops to 5 percent. So while a few mph might seem like a small safety gain, it can actually be the difference between life and death.
It's promising, but it's not there yet. If you would like to be crushed slightly less than all-the-way-dead by your next human vs. car collision, contact your state senator and urge them to pass SB 5066.
State Senate Republicans, who have already proposed repealing the state’s never-implemented family-leave requirement, are now targeting Seattle’s sick-leave law.
The law, which took effect in September, requires businesses with at least five employees operating in Seattle to provide paid sick leave to workers. Seattle is one of three major cities in the United States to have the law.
Senate Bill 5728 would take Seattle’s law off the books by declaring that the Legislature has the sole responsibility for sick-leave requirements. Senate Bill 5726 would scale back Seattle’s law by prohibiting cities from requiring sick leave for employers based outside the city.
This is more of the same abuse of process we saw in 2011 from Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom—elected as a Democrat in 2010 before defecting to the GOP caucus—who jammed up the budget in the last days of the session. They didn't have the votes and pushed Olympia into an expensive special session that passed the Dems' budget anyway. Likewise, this time around, Tom's power-grab gives him the ability let the GOP try overturning Seattle's sick-leave law—a law they will never muster the votes to overturn in both houses and will never get the signature of Governor Jay Inslee to approve. This is just gumming up the cogs of government, wasting time, introducing bills that won't pass this session and never will.
Republicans are always the ones braying about government waste. Tom is always riding on his high horse about bipartisanship. But this is pointless partisan politics that pushes us closer to another special session that could costs taxpayers thousands of dollars a day and can drag on for months.
This isn't bipartisanship or frugal government.
This is a temper tantrum.
WASHINGTON lawmakers should repeal the never-implemented paid-family-leave law.
The state should focus its limited resources on higher priorities, such as the state Supreme Court mandate for more education funding.
So if I'm reading this editorial correctly, the Seattle Times is urging lawmakers to repeal a never-implemented, unfunded paid-family-leave law so that they can focus these same nonexistent resources on education. Yup, that pretty much describes the Republican approach to McCleary.
If there's one thing that really pisses me off about Washington State politics, it's the way rural Republicans bitch about spending state money in Seattle: "If [Seattle] wants the tolls so low that it only generates $165 million," state Senator Curtis King (R-Yakima) complained about recent Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel tolling projections, "then they can help us replace the additional monies that we're losing."
Uh-huh. And you know what monies I'd like Yakima to help the state replace? Let's start with the $2.6 million a year Yakima receives under the sales tax credit for rural counties. This is a credit in which 32 "rural" counties keep 0.9 cents of the 6.5 cent state sales tax collected within the county. Combined, the credit cost the state almost $25 million in 2011 (more than enough to close the funding gap on the tunnel).
That's right, the state sales take rate in rural counties is actually only 5.4 percent. The 0.9 percent goes straight into county coffers. Sweet.
But rural counties like Yakima don't just send less money to Olympia, they also get more of it back. As I've previously reported, a Yakima lawmaker like King is the last person to complain about the regional allocation of state monies, coming as he does from one of the biggest welfare counties in the state. According to 2008 data from the Office of Financial Management, Yakima County receives back $2.24 in state funds for every dollar it sends to Olympia, a wealth-redistribution-windfall third only to Lincoln and Ferry counties.
By comparison, King County, with roughly 29 percent of the state population, produces 42 percent of state tax revenues, yet receives back less than 26 percent of state benefits. That's a return of only 62 cents on the dollar for our state's Democratic stronghold.
Throughout the state and throughout state history, the bulk of our state roads have been paved courtesy of state and federal dollars—which means that taxpayers here in King County have picked up the lion's share of the cost because, you know, this is where most of the fucking money is. So when Senator King complains about a "Seattle-centric" tolling commission somehow screwing the rest of state, well, I've got zero sympathy.
Note to Yakima: We carry you. And we generally do it without complaint, because we're all one state and it's the right thing to do. BUT WE CARRY YOU. And all we ask in return is that you don't throw a fucking hissy fit every time the state spends a little cash in Seattle.
If there is one lesson to learn from the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, it's that what our schools need now more than ever is more guns. Or at least, that's the one lesson to learn, apparently, if you are a crazy, fanatical gun nut like state Representative Liz Pike (R-Camas), and the
nine eight other crazy, fanatical, Republican gun nuts (plus one crazy, fanatical, Democratic gun nut) who sponsored HB 1788, a bill that would authorize teachers to carry guns in schools.
Sec. 1. This act may be known and cited as the safer schools act of 2013.
Or, you know, the opposite.
But then, I'm probably just being alarmist. Because there is no way an armed teacher might ever shoot somebody, either accidentally or on purpose. And of course, once properly trained to carry a weapon, it is inconceivable that one might ever have it grabbed or wrestled away by a student or anybody else. That could never happen.
So what explains Representative Pike's passion for arming school teachers? I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the maximum $900 contribution from the Gun Owners Action League. No, instead, she's just seeking to fulfill her constitutional duty:
Sec. 2. According to Article IX of the Washington state Constitution it is the paramount duty of the state to provide for basic education.
Fully funding schools, that's an option. But there's nothing more basic about education than arming teachers.