Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Father Gerald F. Lovett: 1935-2015

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

— Traditional Irish blessing

We may still be in the midst of Lent as spring gets underway, but the parish community of St. Jude in Redmond has reason tonight to celebrate the mystery of the Resurrection early: its founding pastor, Gerald F. Lovett, was lifted up to God this morning after a lifetime of cheerful and compassionate service.

Father Gerald Lovett

Father Gerald F. Lovett: 1935-2015; photo courtesy of St. Jude Catholic Church

Neither the parish nor the Archdiocese of Seattle have made an official announcement yet, but St. Jude families have been sharing the news with each other all day, and a few parishioners have posted fond remembrances on Facebook.

Father Lovett was the pastor of St. Jude Catholic Church for some twenty-five years, beginning with the parish’s founding in 1978, before it had a permanent home at the corner of NE 104th and NE 166th in woody north Redmond.

Appointed by then-Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, Lovett brought energy, vitality, and a much-appreciated Irish wit to the young parish community.

St. Jude’s founding families celebrated their first liturgy on September 16th, 1978, at Redmond Middle School. Just three years and a month later, the parish moved into its new building, with Hunthausen joining Lovett for the dedication of its altar.

Over the next two decades, Lovett would continue to shepherd the growing parish as the City of Redmond experienced tremendous growth. He baptized quite a few of Redmond’s Catholic millennials during those years – including yours truly.

Lovett was born in Kilmoyley County, Kerry, Ireland on December 1st, 1935. One of twelve children, he hailed from a family that was very devoted to the Catholic Church. According to a story on his retirement published by the Archdiocese of Seattle, five of his nine sisters became women religious. And he was not alone among his peers in deciding to take holy orders: thirty of his one hundred member high school graduating class chose to enter the seminary.

The aforementioned story gives a good account of his service as a young priest:

Ordained for the Archdiocese of Seattle at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kilkenny on May 31, 1959, Father Lovett was an assistant at St. James Cathedral Parish and then at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Seattle.

After earning a master’s in social work from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., he returned to the archdiocese and served as assistant director of Catholic Charities (now Catholic Community Services) for eight years, while also serving several of those years as pastor of St. Paul Parish in Seattle.

St. Jude would be Lovett’s final posting. By the Archdiocese’s reckoning, he started out with a community of about four hundred families. By the time he retired in mid-2003, more than 2,300 families belonged to the parish.

To say that Father Lovett was beloved by the families he served would be an understatement. He had a great sense of empathy and connected with everybody. He was also an excellent homilist. I can still vividly remember him ending one of his sermons with these words: “We are an Easter people — Alleluia, Alleluia!”

He also liked to say, “God’s crazy about you!”

Father had a great sense of humor and loved to joke with parishioners. In 1997, after returning to St. Jude after a spiritual retreat in Ireland, he responded to a silly Internet rumor about Bill Gates buying the Catholic Church by quipping, “I wasn’t on sabbatical. I was on a committee negotiating with Microsoft over the takeover.”

Father remained in touch following his retirement from St. Jude.

On May 16th, 2005, he called and left me a voicemail expressing his sheer delight at having opened that morning’s edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to find a guest column by me rebutting an obnoxious Tim Eyman op-ed that had run in the paper only a few days prior. (It was my first op-ed in print.)

I’ll never forget listening to that congratulatory message. Father was overjoyed that one of his flock was standing up to defend Washington against Tim Eyman’s destructive initiatives. I could tell the column had really resonated with him. He encouraged me to keep on building Permanent Defense and NPI – and I have.

I had the pleasure of visiting with Father on his seventy-eighth birthday back in 2013; that was the last time I saw him. When I greeted him, he remarked that I was very tall and asked me if my work with NPI was going well. (Having won a huge victory with the defeat of Eyman’s I-517 just a month prior, I assured him it was.)

Later, while we were visiting, I asked him what he thought of Pope Francis. Father smiled broadly and declared, “He should have come fifty years ago!”

Father was one of those people who could say a lot without actually saying a lot. Even when he didn’t have a homily or sermon prepared, he would still speak with conviction. And whenever he had something to say, people listened.

A fellow St. Jude parishioner captured Father’s remarks on his seventy-fifth birthday back in 2010 on video. Watch, and you’ll get a measure of the man Father was.

It saddens me to think I’ll never get an opportunity to visit with Father Lovett again. The Church has lost a good and gracious man, a kind and devoted shepherd. But I am comforted in knowing he is with the Lord now. Easter came early for him this year. Father spent a lifetime preaching the Gospel and ministering to the people of the Pacific Northwest. Today, he got to share in Christ’s Resurrection himself.

Push poll creator Tim Eyman doesn’t want fiscal impact disclosures added to ballot titles

A bill that would add fiscal impact disclosures to the ballot titles of many future initiatives has drawn the ire of political profiteer Tim Eyman only a week after passing the Washington State Senate by a three-to-one margin.

Substitute Senate Bill 5715, originally prime sponsored by Senator Joe Fain (R-47th District; Kent, Covington, Auburn) seeks to help Washington’s citizen lawmakers cast more informed votes by adding a short message to the ballot titles of initiatives that would significantly raise revenue, cut revenue, or require the appropriation of funds for implementation. The current content of this short message (which can be found in Section 2 of the bill) is in bold below:

For an initiative to the people, or for an initiative to the legislature for which the legislature has not proposed an alternative, that has been certified for the ballot, and for which the fiscal impact statement prepared pursuant to RCW 29A.72.025 indicates that the initiative will result in an estimated net biennial increase in state expenditures of twenty-five million dollars or greater, or an estimated net biennial decrease in state revenues of twenty-five million dollars or greater, the ballot title to be displayed in the voters’ pamphlet and on the ballot shall be revised substantially as follows:

“Initiative Measure No. . . . concerns (statement of subject). This measure would (concise description). The state budget office has determined that this proposal would have an unfunded net impact of (amount) on the state budget. This means other state spending may need to be reduced or taxes increased to implement the proposal. Should this measure be enacted into law?

Yes [ ]
No  [ ]

Forty-one of Washington’s forty-nine senators backed SSB 5715 when it appeared on the Senate floor for a vote last week. Eight senators, including Eyman’s friends Pam Roach and Don Benton, voted against the bill. It is now in the House and before the State Government Committee chaired by Sam Hunt.

Eyman attacked a similar bill earlier on in the session and has now trained his sights squarely on SSB 5715, the only initiative reform bill to have survived the three cutoffs that have passed so far. Naturally, he doesn’t like the idea of adding fiscal impact disclosures to initiative ballot titles, because it might diminish support for his revenue-slashing and revenue-limiting initiatives.

For those reading who are unclear what is meant by the term ballot title, it’s the explanatory language that voters see on their ballots along with the initiative number and concise description. It’s the only information about the measure that appears above the bubbles or abrogated bars that voters fill in. It is always followed by the question Should this measure be enacted into law?

There isn’t room on the ballot to provide the text of initiatives, or arguments for and against. These appear in the voter’s pamphlet, but not every voter reads that, or conducts their own research using the Internet. Consequently, the language of the ballot title is very important, because it is the only information about the measure that every voter (or nearly every voter) is certain to see.

Initiative ballot titles are written by the Attorney General’s office, as required by state law. They are created at the time an initiative is being finalized for circulation via petition. SSB 7515 provides that initiatives that qualify for the ballot shall have the previously blockquoted fiscal impact disclosure added to their ballot titles, to alert voters that passage of initiatives like Eyman’s would affect the state budget.

Eyman dislikes SSB 5715 so much that he has sent out multiple emails attacking it and plans to testify in opposition to it at its public hearing in the House State Government Committee, which is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 8 AM.

Here’s a snippet from an email sent yesterday:

This is the bill that requires a Surgeon General’s warning label be attached to certain initiative ballot titles.

For 101 years, the Attorney General has been required by law to describe initiatives with a ballot title which is neutral and which “does not create prejudice for or against the measure.”

The proposed text of the warning label in SB 5715 is so incredibly biased and loaded that it’s obviously intended to stop people from supporting the targeted initiative.

In that same email, Eyman goes on to complain:

Gimme a break!

Inserting such a biased warning label into an initiative’s neutral ballot title is government-sponsored sabotage of that initiative.

Worst of all, the warning label is selectively applied: it gets slapped on some initiatives and not others. Who gets to decide: the Governor’s budget office. So any initiative the Governor sees as a threat will get a warning label, and any initiative the Governor supports will not.

The email ends with two asks: a request that followers send an email to the entire House roster opposing SSB 5715, and a request for money (as always). Eyman’s message template repeats his attack on the bill (emphasis ours):

Senate Bill 5715 is an anti-initiative bill that is now being considered in the House. I strongly oppose it and ask you to oppose it too. SB 5715 is filled with loaded, biased, vote-suppressing language that is clearly meant to convince voters to vote no. It allows the governor’s budget office to sabotage any initiative they see as a threat (the warning label only gets slapped on some initiatives, not others — who decides? The governor’s budget office). I ask you to oppose SB 5715. Leave our initiative process alone.

Tim Eyman has some nerve offering up this argument, considering that he’s the one responsible for the advisory votes push polls we now see annually on our ballots here in Washington State. (These are required under a provision of Eyman’s Initiative 960 that went unimplemented until 2012.)

Eyman’s push polls are not intended to take the pulse of the public, as he falsely claims, but rather to clutter up everyone’s ballots with misinformation that makes it seem as though our elected representatives are always raising taxes.

Under Eyman’s I-960, the repeal of an unneeded tax exemption constitutes an increase in revenue and triggers a push poll. So does a minor technical fix to our tax system. I-960 dictates the language and formatting of the push polls, which all look the same. There were two push polls in 2012, five in 2013, and two last year.

There are spaces in the push poll template for numbers to be plugged in (including stupid, misleading ten-year cost projections that make the dollar figures bigger), and for a terse description of the bill that triggered the push poll.

Otherwise, they look alike.

We published a report through Permanent Defense in 2013 which deconstructs Eyman’s push polls in more detail. We believe the push polls are unconstitutional, because they are basically a nonbinding form of referenda not authorized by our state Constitution, which spells out the initiative and referendum powers.

The constitutionality of the push polls has not yet been challenged in court, but ought to be, since the Legislature is unlikely to repeal them anytime soon. (Chris Reykdal introduced a bill to repeal the advisory votes in the House, and it made it to House Rules, but it did not receive a vote, most likely because House leadership figured it would be dead on arrival in Pam Roach’s committee in the Senate.)

It is ironic that Eyman is vociferously attacking a bipartisan, well-meaning effort to add context to initiative ballot titles as sabotage, given that sabotaging our Constitution, our common wealth, and public confidence in government is what he gets paid big bucks by his wealthy benefactors to do.

It is doubly ironic that he is complaining about the fiscal impact disclosures required by SSB 5715 as biased and loaded considering that he is the author of the initiative that unconstitutionally requires costly and deceptive push polls devised by him in response to any revenue-raising bill the Legislature approves.

It is triply ironic that Eyman is whining about SSB 5715 given that he regularly engages in the abusive practice of ballot title shopping. Eyman will file the same initiative draft with minor additions or subtractions multiple times, trying to massage a ballot title that he likes out of the Attorney General’s office. When he gets a ballot title he likes, he proceeds to print up petitions and move forward with the chosen incarnation of the destructive initiative he wants to peddle to the voters.

No reporter or media outlet should take Eyman’s comments in opposition to SSB 5715 seriously. Eyman doesn’t care about the integrity of the initiative process; he merely wishes to preserve the status quo because he is experienced at manipulating it. SSB 5715 represents an impediment to the success of future schemes. Little wonder, then, that he is beating a drum so loudly against it.

Kim Wyman and Pam Roach’s SB 5978 won’t guarantee a meaningful presidential primary

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, I traveled down in Olympia to testify before the House Government Committee on SB 5978, Kim Wyman and Pam Roach’s bill to replace our state’s presidential straw poll with an expensive, meaningless straw poll in the event the Democratic Party decides to use a caucus to allocate its delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The following is the text of my prepared testimony.

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee:

For the record, my name is Andrew Villeneuve. I’m the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, a netroots powered strategy center working to raise America’s quality of life through innovative research and imaginative advocacy. I’m here today to express our strong opposition to SB 5978.

This bill has been advertised by the Secretary of State as legislation that “requires” the state’s two major political parties to use a presidential primary for allocating their national delegates. But if you look through the language of the bill, you’ll see it does no such thing. And that’s because it can’t. It would be unconstitutional. The First Amendment protects the right of the Democratic and Republican parties to freely assemble and carry on their affairs as they see fit.

What this bill really does is replace our presidential primary with a straw poll in the event one or both major parties refuse to use the presidential primary to allocate some of their convention delegates.

The Washington State Republican Party, through its chair, Susan Hutchison, has already said it plans to use the primary to allocate some of its delegates.

The Washington State Democratic Party has historically never used the primary to allocate any delegates and lacks the flexibility under DNC rules to split its allocation between a caucus and primary. All of its delegates must be allocated through one method and one method only.

We agree a primary should mean something, if it is held, but this bill does not guarantee that. Under Section 4 of SB 5978, the Secretary of State will begin preparing to conduct the most expensive public opinion research poll in the history of the state, if, by October 1st of this year, both parties do not agree to use a primary for allocation of delegates.

We think this is irresponsible. Elway and other pollsters can tell us what presidential candidates Washingtonians support at a fraction of the cost of the straw poll this bill would authorize – at private expense. Why on Earth would we want to spend $11.5 million of the people’s money holding an election that doesn’t mean anything?

If this Committee intends to keep SB 5978 alive, we suggest amending the bill to strike all of Section 4. That would result in a bill that merely moves up the base date of the primary in state law (currently it’s in May, and it would change to March).

Although I am here today speaking on behalf of NPI, I do want to note that in addition to serving as NPI’s executive director, I serve on the Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC) and on the WSDCC’s Rules Committee. I would like to take an opportunity to provide you with some background from the perspective of one of the people who will be making the decision as to whether the Democratic Party chooses a primary or caucus for 2016.

The WSDCC’s Rules and Affirmative Action Committees will be meeting very soon to write our 2016 Delegate Selection and Affirmative Action Plan. Once we are finished with our draft, we’ll make it available to the public for comment ahead of our April 18th meeting in Pasco, where the full WSDCC will consider the draft plan.

At that meeting, we will make a decision as to whether to use a caucus or primary for delegate allocation. The DNC requires that we submit our plan to them for approval by early May. The decision is ours to make as the democratically elected leaders of the Democratic Party – not the Legislature’s, not the Secretary of State’s, and not the Governor’s. How we govern ourselves and choose our nominee is up to us; as I said earlier, the First Amendment gives us the right to freely assemble.

We do care what the public thinks, which is why we’ll be holding a public comment period. The party is committed to a nominating process that is inclusive and open.

The reaction I’ve gotten to this bill from talking to party leaders has been universally negative. If this bill moves forward as is, I think we are less likely to choose a primary for delegate allocation. The continued existence of this bill is only going to strengthen the position of those who favor continuing to use caucuses. We therefore suggest that it either be abandoned or amended to remove Section 4.

Thank you for your time this afternoon and I’d be happy to take any questions.

Meet Tim Eyman’s new wealthy benefactor: Developer Clyde Holland of Holland Partners

The gears of Tim Eyman’s initiative factory appear to be spinning with full force once again following a major infusion of cash from two wealthy right wing developers, new reports filed with the Public Disclosure Commission show.

The campaign committee for I-1366, Eyman’s initiative for 2015, reported that for February of 2015 (its first month of operation), it raised a total of $452,444.04 (principally from three sources) and spent $158,111.78.

(I-1366, for those readers unaware, is a scheme to coerce the Legislature into passing a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue. It would wipe out $1 billion a year in funding for schools and other vital public services if the Legislature doesn’t pass such an amendment by April of 2016.)

$150,000 of the nearly half a million the committee raised is a previously-reported loan taken out by Tim Eyman against his home to fund the initial weeks of the signature drive for I-1366, which remains underway.

A further $100,000 came from Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, Jr., who ranks number second on the list of Tim Eyman’s top ten all-time wealthy benefactors, behind only the late Michael Dunmire, an investment banker. Freeman has a long history of giving to Eyman, but hasn’t written a check this big to him since 2012.

And then there’s a $150,000 donation from a new wealthy benefactor, exactly matching the amount of money Eyman borrowed against his home: Developer Clyde Holland of Vancouver, Washington.

Data: Public Disclosure Commission | Chart: Northwest Progressive Institute

Holland is the CEO of Holland Partners, which appears to consist of several related firms. One, Holland Development, calls itself “a premier developer of core urban infill residential and mixed-use trophy communities with a disciplined focus on high barrier-to-entry markets that appeal to the rising creative class.”

The Oregonian profiled Holland in 2013 and had this to say about him:

Clyde Holland spent much of his childhood packing.

Nineteen moves in 17 years will teach a young man a lot: how to build connections, develop relationships, make friends quick.

Today, the 53-year-old Air Force brat and real estate developer is firmly rooted in the Northwest and seems to have it all.

A dream house on 20 acres in Clark County, projects and regional offices in Seattle, Denver and Los Angeles, satellite operations in Phoenix and Northern California.

Thirteen years after leaving the national development firm Trammell Crow Company to start Holland Partners Group, he has $2.5 billion in projects in development across the West and employs 700 workers.

“Our focus is on how much value can we create,” Holland said of his firm and its philosophy.

Holland’s philosophy of creating value evidently doesn’t extend to politics, or he wouldn’t have agreed to become Tim Eyman’s newest wealthy benefactor.

Eyman is all about destroying value — whether that’s sabotaging our Constitution, attacking our cherished tradition of majority rule, wiping out funding for our vital public services, spreading misinformation, or polluting our political discourse. Running initiatives to wreck government is the only thing he does.

Holland has given to Eyman once before, PDC data shows, but that was a donation of just $500, made on March 17th of last year to Eyman’s failed I-1325, which didn’t make the ballot. (I-1366 is nearly identical to I-1325). Eyman has now persuaded him to give three hundred times more than what he gave last year.

PDC reports list the date of Holland’s contribution as having been received on February 20th, 2015, ten days after Eyman announced he was taking out the loan. Likely Eyman secured a promise from Holland to write a big check prior to taking out the loan. In the past, every single time Eyman has borrowed against his home, his loans have been repaid thanks to contributions from wealthy benefactors.

A search of the PDC database reveals that Holland has been active in Republican Party circles as a major giver since 2012.

He has written checks to the Washington State Republican Party, the Republican caucus campaign committees, Rob McKenna, Don Benton, Ann Rivers, Lynda Wilson, Jan Angel, Liz Pike, and Ed Orcutt.

The Washington State Republican Party also received a large contribution from him last month, in the amount of $40,000. That was received February 2nd, 2015.

A previous contribution Holland made to the WSRP last year is the subject of a complaint filed with the Public Disclosure Commission by former State Senator Al Bauer. Bauer alleged that after maxing out to Republican Clark County Council candidate Jeanne Stewart, Holland and another major Republican donor illegally funnelled money through the state Republican Party to her candidacy.

Holland’s company is presently developing a new residential tower in Seattle, Premiere on Pine, which will be located at Ninth Avenue and Pine Street.

Holland is most likely the “successful businessman” Eyman has been talking about in his most recent emails to his followers, in which he says that any donation made to the I-1366 campaign this month will be matched, dollar for dollar.

From Eyman’s March 2nd, 2015 email:

Thankfully, we’ve been given a tremendous opportunity to maximize this month’s effort: one of our supporters — a successful businessman — has offered to match dollar-for-dollar all donations our supporters give during the month of March.

So your $10 donation will be matched by him, resulting in $20 total to the campaign. Your $100 will be matched by him, resulting in $200 total to the campaign. $1000 is worth $2000. $5000 is worth $10,000.

Whatever amount we receive from all of you will be matched by him. It’s a very generous offer and an even greater opportunity for the campaign. Please maximize your support for I-1366 by contributing this month.

This isn’t the first time Tim Eyman has spearheaded a matching campaign like this to spur his less-wealthy followers to donate… he did it years ago with Dunmire, too.

Assuming Eyman is not lying to his supporters (something he’s done plenty of times) and assuming Holland is the “successful businessman” Eyman’s talking about, then it seems he’s prepared to open his checkbook again to keep the gears of Eyman’s initiative factory lubricated with money.

Eyman will need more of Holland’s money. History has shown that when he doesn’t have a wealthy benefactor, he doesn’t get on the ballot. He needs rich people like Freeman and Holland to write him multiple six figure checks every year so that he can stay relevant. Otherwise his factory sputters to a halt.

The last time Eyman ran a successful signature drive was in 2012; when he qualified I-1185 and I-517 as initiatives to the people and the Legislature, respectively.

(I-517 appeared on the ballot in 2013, where it was overwhelmingly rejected. The I-517 campaign committee remains under investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission for serious violations of the state’s public disclosure laws.)

Based on what I’ve read of Holland so far, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would be careless with his money. But by shelling out big bucks to Tim Eyman, that is exactly what he is doing. Is Holland not aware that Eyman has a history of lying to his donors and using their money for his own personal use or for other projects? Or is he giving to Eyman in spite of that knowledge?

Either way, this is an incredibly troubling development.

But it’s not one that surprises us. Having fought Tim Eyman for over thirteen years, we know he’s a first-rate snake oil salesman. He’s very good at conning and duping people. That’s why we’ve been expecting that a new wealthy benefactor for his initiative factory might emerge. Now we have evidence that that’s happened.

As we announced last month, we have already begun organizing opposition to I-1366, under the assumption Eyman will be able to buy his way onto the ballot.

We are grateful to the King County Democrats, 30th District Democrats, 45th District Democrats, and 32nd District Democrats for moving quickly to take positions against I-1366. Many more organizations will be joining the coalition in the weeks to follow, and we look forward to working with them to build an effective campaign against I-1366, Tim Eyman’s most destructive initiative to date.

Kirkland City Councilmember Shelley Kloba to emcee NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala

Tonight, with NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala now just six weeks away, we are thrilled to announce that we have a fantastic Master of Ceremonies lined up to run this year’s speaking program: Kirkland City Councilmember Shelley Kloba.

Shelley is one of the Eastside’s most principled and hardworking elected officials. She was appointed by her colleagues to the Kirkland City Council to fill a vacancy in March of 2013. The voters subsequently retained her the following November, and she is up for reelection to the Council this year. She has a long history of involvement in the PTA, volunteers as an EvergreenHealth community advisor, and is currently a trustee for the Lake Washington Schools Foundation.

Shelley is also a longtime supporter of NPI; she participated in NPI’s very first Spring Fundraising Gala in May of 2008. We’re delighted to have her as our Master of Ceremonies this year. She’ll be sharing a stage with U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer, who we announced as our opening speaker last month.

Our seventh gala is shaping up to be a great event. We hope you’ll consider joining us. If you haven’t yet bought your ticket to our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala yet, we urge you to do so now using one of the buttons below.

A household ticket admits all the members of an immediate family and is a good value if you plan to attend with your spouse or children. (The gala is a family-friendly event, and young people of all ages are welcome!).

These are our ticket rates:

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  • Household ($100, admits an entire family)
  • Living Lightly ($25, for students and activists on limited incomes)

Buy a ticket to the gala

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Click above to buy a ticket using a credit card.

Here’s what else you can expect at our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala:

  • A full dinner buffet with vegetarian and vegan choices
  • Beer and wine selections from our cash bar
  • Opportunities to mingle with fellow activists and elected leaders
  • A chance to win a scrumptious dessert for your table at our second annual Dessert Dash, organized by our Host Committee
  • A family-friendly atmosphere

If you’d like to RSVP for the gala on Facebook, you can do so here.

Students who want to volunteer to help put on the event can get in the door free. If you’re interested in volunteering, please get in touch with us.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be sharing more details about our 2015 gala, including the names of our other speakers. We hope you’ll help us make our biggest event of the year a success by buying your ticket and committing to attend.

See you on April 10th!

Senate backs Kim Wyman’s irresponsible plan to alter Washington’s presidential primary

A bill that would automatically replace Washington’s 2016 presidential primary with a meaningless, fantastically expensive presidential straw poll if the Democratic Party refuses to begin using the primary to allocate its national convention delegates passed the Senate with ease yesterday evening following a bewildering floor debate.

By a vote of thirty-six to twelve, the Senate sent SB 5978 over to the House, where it faces an uncertain future. Except for Senator Doug Ericksen, who was excused, all Senate Republicans voted for the bill. Senate Democrats were split.

The roll call was as follows:

Voting Yea: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Billig, Braun, Brown, Dammeier, Dansel, Darneille, Fain, Hargrove, Hatfield, Hewitt, Hill, Hobbs, Honeyford, King, Kohl-Welles, Liias, Litzow, Miloscia, Mullet, O’Ban, Padden, Parlette, Pearson, Pedersen, Ranker, Rivers, Roach, Rolfes, Schoesler, Sheldon, Warnick

Voting Nay: Senators Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Fraser, Frockt, Habib, Hasegawa, Jayapal, Keiser, McAuliffe, McCoy, Nelson

Excused: Senator Ericksen

SB 5978 is legislation requested by Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman and prime sponsored by Pam Roach (yes, that Pam Roach). Wyman and her staff claim the bill requires (their language) the state Democratic and Republican parties to use the state’s presidential primary to allocate at least some of their delegates.

But it does no such thing – because that would be unconstitutional.

As our readers know, the Democratic and Republican parties are not governments. They are private organizations. The First Amendment to the Constitution of this country gives them the right to decide how to conduct their own affairs, including the choosing of their nominees for President and Vice President of the United States. The State of Washington cannot interfere with the parties’ right to freely assemble.

For those unfamiliar with this bill and the politics surrounding it, a bit of history is in order. Washington’s presidential primary came into being in the late 1980s after the Legislature adopted an initiative to the Legislature that provided for a presidential primary every four years. However, the primary has not been consistently held.

In years when there was an incumbent running for reelection (most recently 2004 and 2012), it has been canceled to save money.

Historically, the state Republican Party has used the presidential primary, when it has been held, to allocate some of its delegates to the RNC.

Republican State Party Chair Susan Hutchison told the Associated Press last month the party is willing and ready to do so again next year.

The Washington State Democratic Party, on the other hand, has never used the presidential primary to allocate any delegates.

As readers may know, separately from my work at NPI, I am also involved in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is governed by a several hundred-member Central Committee (the WSDCC), which is basically the party’s equivalent of a legislature. Each county and each legislative district elects two people, one man and one woman, to represent them on the WSDCC. I am presently the state committeeman for the 45th District.

The WSDCC is the body that will decide whether to use a caucus or primary in 2016 to allocate delegates. National party rules allow us to choose either system, but whichever we choose, we must use that method to allocate all of our delegates.

We do not have the flexibility, as the Republicans do, to use a primary to allocate some delegates and use caucuses to allocate the rest.

No state Democratic Party uses a hybrid system except for Texas, and it is unlikely the Texas Democratic Party will be allowed to keep their “two step” hybrid system in 2016, as it would require the granting of a waiver from the rules.

The Washington State Democratic Party has previously asked the Democratic National Committee to allow it to also use a hybrid system. And the state party has been repeatedly told no. The state party’s delegation to the DNC has concluded that asking again would be fruitless and pointless.

The rules for the 2016 Democratic National Convention have already been written. They were approved last November; you can see them here.

Secretary Wyman was apparently unaware of this – she seemed surprised when I explained to her at her February 187th press conference that the rules were finalized.

It is evident to me that she did not consult with WSDCC Chair Jaxon Ravens about this legislation prior to announcing it, or she’d have known that.

Because the Republicans have the flexibility to allocate some delegates using a primary, have historically done so, and are prepared to do so again, SB 5978’s provisions are not aimed at them. Rather, they are aimed at the Washington State Democratic Party, which has not used the primary to allocate delegates.

Secretary Wyman and her staff have freely admitted to me that the bill represents an attempt by them to gain leverage over my colleagues and I on the WSDCC (including our chair, officers, and national committeemembers).

I have explained to Secretary Wyman’s staff that the proper way for her office to persuade the WSDCC to choose a presidential primary is to come and talk to us. We in the Democratic Party are open-minded, and we would be willing to hear what she has to say. We will be making a decision within the next few weeks.

NPI’s assessment of this bill is that it is irresponsible and counterproductive. It commits the state to spending around $11.5 million on an election that may turn out not be a primary election at all, but rather a very expensive straw poll.

We already have plenty of pollsters capable of researching who Washingtonians support for president at private expense, including firms based right here in our state, like Elway, Moore Information, and EMC Research.

We at the Northwest Progressive Institute agree that if taxpayers are going to spend millions of dollars financing a presidential primary, then it should mean something.

But SB 5978 does not guarantee that. It is a gambit… a ploy to cajole the Democratic Party into choosing a primary over a caucus by threatening to hold a Top Two style straw poll instead of a primary. And it won’t work.

If the language in SB 5978 that requires the state to hold an expensive straw poll were scrapped, the bill would be a fairly simple piece of legislation that just moves up the date of the primary to March… and we would not be opposed to that.

I want to emphasize, again, that we already have a presidential primary law on our books. The election doesn’t need to be authorized to be held, just funded. Governor Jay Inslee did not request funding for a presidential primary in his budget, but the House or Senate could add it in to their budget proposals.

This brings me to the floor debate on SB 5978. I watched on TVW as the bill was considered, discussed, and voted on. Only a few senators spoke: Pam Roach, Marko Liias, Joe Fain, Maralyn Chase, and David Frockt. The first three (who are the bill’s sponsors) spoke for it and the latter two senators spoke against it.

Bizarrely, the provision in the bill that would automatically set up an extremely expensive, meaningless straw poll if the parties did not agree to use the primary for delegate allocation did not get discussed or debated.

Pam Roach opened the debate and initially focused her comments on the provision of SB 5978 that moves up the date of the election from May to March.

She then made the following statement:

Second thing it does is it authorizes that if by declaration of both parties – both major parties – that the results of the presidential primary will be used to at least elect one delegate from the results of the primary, that they can in fact have those lists that are generated.

So right now, the Democratic Party – I believe that it’s true – has decided that no delegates will be allocated based on the results of the primary. This would say that they would at least need to have one of the ten. Republican Party traditionally will have half and half.

So it gives access to the lists, puts a little criteria involved… because there’s money involved, taxpayer money involved, in putting these primaries together. Makes some sense that if you’re going to be allocating… uh… that if you’re going to have one of these, uh, primaries, that you should in fact use it for selection of delegates.

This is a bill that’s been requested by our Secretary of State, and well-vetted in the Committee, and I hope that you will vote yes.

Roach then relinquished the floor without bothering to explain that Section 4 of SB 5978 replaces the presidential primary with a meaningless straw poll in the event both parties don’t use it for delegate allocation.

I kept hoping that some Democratic senator would stand up and correct what Pam said, but unfortunately none did. Senator Chase stood up to speak against the bill, but she spoke from the perspective of a party leader who believes that caucuses are better for grassroots politics than primaries.

Someone from the Democratic caucus should have responded to Roach’s speech, because much of what she said was either misleading or wrong.

Let’s go through it piece by piece.

Second thing it does is it authorizes that if by declaration of both parties – both major parties – that the results of the presidential primary will be used to at least elect one delegate from the results of the primary, that they can in fact have those lists that are generated.

This is a misleading statement. The parties already have access to the list of voters who have participated in any given election. These lists are generated by the counties and the state during and after every election, whether it’s a special election, Top Two election, general election, or presidential primary election.

The presidential primary is unique because it is the only election we have left that requires voters to pick a party and attest that they belong to (or associate with) that party. The lists generated as a result of that election are therefore richer: they consist of a set of voters who identified as Democrats and voted Democratic, and a set of voters who identified as Republicans and voted Republican.

Under existing state law, the parties are given a list of who participates regardless of whether they use the primary to allocate delegates or not.

In the remarks excerpted above, Roach made it sound as though the parties would only get the valuable lists of they agreed to use a primary for delegate allocation. But what SB 5978 actually does is cancel the primary altogether if the parties don’t agree to use it. From Section 4 of SB 5978:

(2) If by the first Tuesday in October of the year before the year in which a presidential nominee is selected, both of the major political parties provide documentation of state and national party rules to the secretary of state that the results of the presidential primary will be used in allocation of delegates, and if requested by a major political party, the secretary of state shall adopt rules under RCW 29A.04.620 to provide for any declaration required by that party. In the absence of such party documentation, the presidential primary ballot must use a single ballot list and no party declaration or oath is required of the voter or recorded by election officers.

Note that underlined text is text being added to the Revised Code of Washington. This is the language that sets up that straw poll.

Moving on:

So right now, the Democratic Party – I believe that it’s true – has decided that no delegates will be allocated based on the results of the primary. This would say that they would at least need to have one of the ten.

This is erroneous.

The Washington State Democratic Central Committee has not yet decided what method to use for delegate allocation in 2016. Under the rules adopted by the DNC, it may choose a caucus or primary to allocate delegates, but not both.

The state party’s Rules and Affirmative Action Committees are currently working on its Delegate Selection and Affirmative Action Plan (DSAAP). The plan will be made available for public comment later this month, and will go before the full WSDCC for its consideration in mid-April in Pasco.

I have absolutely no idea what Roach meant when she said, “This would say that they would at least need to have one of the ten.”

One of the ten what? Delegates? The Washington State delegation to the Democratic National Convention has historically been over a hundred people and will probably be over a hundred people again in 2016. (We don’t yet know exactly how many delegates Washington will get for 2016).

Maybe Roach meant one out of ten. But that would also be incorrect.

Kim Wyman’s own press release says, “[B]oth major parties must demonstrate by Oct. 1 [2015] their intention to use the primary results in allocation of delegates. No particular percentage is included in the Secretary‘s bill.

Back to Roach:

Makes some sense that if you’re going to be allocating… uh… that if you’re going to have one of these, uh, primaries, that you should in fact use it for selection of delegates.

Here, she means allocation of delegates, not selection. The actual selection of delegates (in other words, who goes to Philadelphia, or in the Republicans’ case, Cleveland) will still be done by caucus no matter what.

Roach again:

This is a bill that’s been requested by our Secretary of State, and well-vetted in the Committee, and I hope that you will vote yes.

SB 5978 is certainly legislation requested by Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

I disagree with Roach’s characterization of it as well-vetted, however. The hearing on SB 5978 was scheduled on short notice – ironically, in conflict with a Democratic National Committee meeting in the District of Columbia – and the only person who testified was Wyman herself. No one else spoke to the bill besides Roach (who uses her perch as committee chair to monopolize the floor), and it got moved out of committee the same day it was heard with little discussion and no dissension.

I thought about going down to speak against SB 5978 and provide an opposition viewpoint myself, but I didn’t make the trip, because the last time I set aside half a day to go to Olympia to speak on a bill being heard in Pam Roach’s committee, Roach refused to allow me to testify. I left wondering why I hadn’t just watched The Pam Roach Show on TVW instead. I would have seen and heard the same thing.

SB 5978 now heads to the House of Representatives.

If the House takes up the bill, it should amend it so that the only thing it does is move up the date of the primary to March 8th. That would remove the irresponsible provisions and preserve our existing presidential primary.

Wyman should get on board with such an amendment and begin a dialogue with Jaxon Ravens and the Washington State Democratic Party. If she wants a primary that both parties use for delegate allocation, then she needs to go talk to the people who are going to be making that decision. Because it’s not the one hundred and forty-seven members of the Washington State Legislature who get to make the call.

House of Representatives passes bills to raise minimum wage and provide sick + safe leave

In a significant victory for working people, the Washington’s House of Representatives tonight adopted legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage to twelve dollars an hour by 2019. Fifty-one representatives voted to pass HB 1355, while forty-six voted against passage. One representative was excused.

The roll call was as follows:

Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Bergquist, Blake, Carlyle, Clibborn, Cody, Dunshee, Farrell, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Goodman, Gregerson, Gregory, Hansen, Hudgins, S. Hunt, Hunter, Hurst, Jinkins, Kagi, Kilduff, Kirby, Lytton, McBride, Moeller, Morris, Moscoso, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reykdal, Riccelli, Robinson, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Sells, Senn, Springer, Stanford, Sullivan, Takko, Tarleton, Tharinger, Van De Wege, Walkinshaw, Wylie, Mr. Speaker

Voting Nay: Representatives Buys, Caldier, Chandler, Condotta, DeBolt, Dent, Fagan, Griffey, Haler, Hargrove, Harmsworth, Harris, Hawkins, Hayes, Holy, G. Hunt, Johnson, Klippert, Kochmar, Kretz, MacEwen, Magendanz, Manweller, McCabe, McCaslin, Muri, Nealey, Orcutt, Parker, Pike, Rodne, Schmick, Scott, Shea, Short, Smith, Stambaugh, Stokesbary, Taylor, Van Werven, Vick, Walsh, Wilcox, Wilson, Young, Zeiger

Excused: Representative Kristiansen

Only Democrats voted in favor of HB 1355, prime-sponsored by Democratic Representative Jessyn Farrell (D-46th District, Seattle), and only Republicans voted against… a classic party-line vote.

The higher minimum wage will be phased in over a period of four years.

The first increase would bring the minimum wage to ten dollars an hour this coming New Year’s (January 1st, 2016). The wage would then be increased three more times in fifty cent or one dollar increments. The final increase would bring the minimum wage to $12 an hour by January 1st, 2019.

After that time, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) would be directed to begin automatically adjusting the minimum wage upwards again in accordance with the Consumer Price Index (CPI), as it has since 1998.

The House also adopted HB 1356 today. That bill, prime sponsored by Democratic State Representative Laurie Jinkins of Pierce County, establishes minimum standards for sick and safe leave from employment. The vote was fifty-one to forty-six, with one excused, and the roll call was the same as for HB 1355.

HB 1356 requires employers to allow their workers to take at least forty hours of accrued paid sick or safe leave per year. It also allows people who work at businesses with more than fifty full-time equivalent employees to take even greater amounts of paid leave. Employers with four or fewer full-time equivalent employees – along with certain kinds of new companies – are exempt from the requirements.

Governor Jay Inslee issued a statement applauding the vote on both bills.

“Today the House passed two modest, measured and much-needed bills to give an economic lift to thousands of Washington’s lowest-wage workers,” Inslee said.

“I’ve always believed that a person who is willing and able to work hard for forty hours a week should be able to provide the most basic needs for themselves and their families. Washington’s economy is recovering, but it is leaving behind an increasing number of low- and middle-income workers. An increase in the state minimum wage and paid sick and safe leave for all workers are good steps toward restoring a degree of economic security for those who need it most.

“I hope the Senate will act on these bills and follow the House’s leadership in building an economy that works for all Washingtonians.”

Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen upholds majority rule in the Washington State Senate

In a victory for democracy, sense, and the rule of law, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen today ruled that a Republican-engineered Senate rules change to require two-thirds votes to advance revenue-raising bills is unenforceable because it violates the Washington State Constitution.

Owen, who presides over the state Legislature’s upper chamber in his capacity as President of the Senate, was first asked last Friday by Senator Annette Cleveland of Clark County whether rules adopted by Senate Republicans back in January to make advancing revenue bills more difficult would be applicable to SSB 5987. That’s the component of the Senate Republican-backed transportation package that would raise the gas tax and levy new vehicle fees to raise money for building highways.

The Senate opted to pause consideration of SSB 5987 in order to give Owen time to consider Cleveland’s point of order, research the question, and rule on the matter. Today, the Lieutenant Governor delivered his ruling.

Republicans had suggested that SSB 5987 would not need to get a two-thirds vote because it did not raise any new revenue. But Owen found otherwise.

“Senate Bill 5987 raises the gas tax as well as a number of transportation related fees. Unlike previous initiatives [I-601 and Tim Eyman’s I-601 clones], merely increasing an existing tax or fee does not trigger the new supermajority vote rule. There must be the creation of a new tax,” Owen said.

After examining the bill, Owen concluded that three of its provisions (Sections 201, 211, and 212) authorized new revenue, as opposed to increasing existing revenue sources. Concluding his ruling, Owen declared: “The President rules that Substitute Senate Bill 5987, in its current form, triggers Senate Rule 64 and thirty-three votes are required to advance the bill from second to third reading.”

Democratic Senator Steve Hobbs of Snohomish County then proceeded to challenge Rule 64 itself, asking whether or not it was constitutional.

Owen responded with an extremely well-argued and carefully researched ruling which found that the two-thirds vote provision conflicted with the Washington State Constitution and would therefore not be enforced. Said Owen:

Supermajority voting requirements, particularly for procedural matters, are found throughout the Senate Rules, and have been present since the first legislature. (Rule 31 of the 1889 Senate Rules created a supermajority voting requirement in order to change a Special Order of Consideration.)

For example, a supermajority vote is usually required to immediately advance a measure from Second to Third Reading, to pass a bill on the same day it is introduced, and to temporarily suspend most of the Senate Rules. These are traditional supermajority voting requirements, and are widely accepted as constitutionally appropriate limits on the rapid exercise of power by a political majority.

These supermajority provisions present a different issue. In contrast to the other procedural supermajority requirements found in the Senate Rules, these “new tax” provisions do not act to slow down legislation; they act to stop legislation that creates a new tax until a two-thirds supermajority can be persuaded to support it. It is important to note that there is no way to avoid this barrier other than to suspend the rules, which coincidentally also requires a two-thirds vote.

He went on to explain:

In sum, a two-thirds supermajority procedural requirement for ordinary legislation violates the Constitution. It does not matter that the procedural hurdle precedes the vote on final passage.

A rule requiring a supermajority procedural vote may constitutionally delay a majority for a reasonable time, as Senate Rules currently provide, but when the rule does not provide that majority with a valid means to pass measures in the form the majority intends, the President has no choice but to follow the dictates of the Constitution, as he did in following the Locke decision, and as he does today.

Finally, the President has repeatedly stated that he does not rule on constitutional questions. This is generally true. Certainly, the President has avoided making such rulings, when the question is not related to a process mandated by the constitution.

That reluctance does not apply when the body steps outside the limitations established by the Constitution or Supreme Court, either through the adoption of rules or consideration of other legislation in a manner or form that allows the Senate itself to act unconstitutionally. The President has previously stated, “The Senate cannot pass a rule that violates the State Constitution.” Perhaps that statement should be clarified to read, “The Senate may adopt an unconstitutional rule, but the President will not enforce it.”

And with that, the Senate went ahead and proceeded to consider SSB 5987. It ultimately passed by a vote of twenty-seven to twenty-two. It was not a party-line vote: Most Republicans voted in favor, joined by some Democrats. And most Democrats voted against it, joined by some Republicans.

Had it needed a two-thirds vote, it would have failed. But the Constitution of Washington State is very clear. Article II, Section 22 says that bills shall pass by majority vote. The Supreme Court has correctly interpreted majority vote to mean greater than fifty percent: no more, and no less.

I can’t think of a vote I’ve witnessed more tinged with irony than this one.

Consider what happened today: By a majority vote, the Washington State Senate adopted a bill that raises a substantial amount of revenue with primarily Republican votes… after Democrats had succeeded in knocking down the unconstitutional barrier that Republicans had set up to block consideration of Governor Inslee’s proposed capital gains tax and pollution charge. Unreal.

It’s truly fitting that the Republicans got tripped up by their own supermajority vote scheme. They got Owened today. (Sorry, couldn’t resist…)

Readers may recall that several months ago, cheered on by Tim Eyman in a furious onslaught of emails, Republican Senators Doug Ericksen and Michael Baumgartner had proposed bringing back the two-thirds vote requirement struck down in League of Education Voters as a Senate rule.

But not everyone in the Senate Republican caucus was willing to go along with that, because it would mean giving Democrats a ton of leverage when it came time to vote on a transportation package… which Republican leaders were determined to make a priority after having failed to deliver a plan two years in a row.

So Baumgartner and Ericksen tweaked their proposal to only subject what they called new revenue to a two-thirds threshold. The Senate Republican caucus was able to unify around this, and got it added to Senate rules over the unanimous opposition of Democrats, who correctly denounced it as unconstitutional.

Democrats signaled they would bring a challenge to the Republicans’ scheme as soon as an opportunity presented itself.

That opportunity arrived on Friday, and the challenge was brought.

Brad Owen has now delivered his ruling. In doing so, he has upheld the Constitution of the State of Washington and put Senate Republicans in their place. We can all be thankful we have a lieutenant governor who takes his oath of office seriously and cares about upholding our cherished tradition of majority rule, which is a crucial aspect of our plan of government that dates back to statehood.

Republicans still have a majority in the Senate, of course. So long as they all stick together, they can decide what the Senate does.

But, like Owen, they must abide by the Constitution. They can’t ignore provisions they don’t like. And they can’t ignore Supreme Court decisions they don’t like.

It is truly sad that Republicans remain obsessed with gutting majority rule in our statehouse…. a key principle of republicanism. Fortunately, their latest attempt to sabotage Article II, Section 22 has failed. Our founders gave us a plan of government with checks and balances. Today, that system worked.

After Owen handed down his decision, Republican Senator Michael Baumgartner rose to complain. “I’d like to comment on your decision,” Baumgartner began.

“At your peril,” the Lieutenant Governor replied.

Washington’s Senate Republicans pass bill transferring education funding to highways

Proving once again that their Fund education first rhetoric is nothing but a false front, Republicans today pushed a bill through the Washington State Senate that transfers sales tax revenue collected on transportation projects out of the state’s general fund and into its highway fund. Since the general fund principally pays for our schools and universities, the bill would effectively take money away from education and put it towards laying asphalt instead.

The final vote on SSB 5990 was twenty-six to twenty-three, with all Republicans voting aye and all Democrats voting nay. The bill now heads to the House, where it will hopefully receive the full and complete burial that it deserves.

The roll call was as follows:

Voting Yea: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Braun, Brown, Dammeier, Dansel, Ericksen, Fain, Hewitt, Hill, Honeyford, King, Litzow, Miloscia, O’Ban, Padden, Parlette, Pearson, Rivers, Roach, Schoesler, Sheldon, Warnick

Voting Nay: Senators Billig, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Fraser, Frockt, Habib, Hargrove, Hasegawa, Hatfield, Hobbs, Jayapal, Keiser, Kohl-Welles, Liias, McAuliffe, McCoy, Mullet, Nelson, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes

Prior to the vote on final passage, Senate Democrats tried to get the bill amended to prohibit it from taking effect until after the McCleary case has been fully resolved.

The Senate Republicans voted the amendment down, drawing a pointed rejoinder from Democratic Senator Pramila Jayapal of Seattle.

“How can the Republican majority claim education funding is their top priority, and yet blow a billion dollar hole in already limited resources?” said Jayapal, who offered the amendment with fellow Democrat Rosemary McAuliffe. “This is bad for our kids, bad for our infrastructure, and it is simply irresponsible governing.”

“Legislators on both sides of the aisle came into this session in agreement that our top priority must be meeting our moral and constitutional obligation to our kids while also ensuring that we maintain the other essential services that the state provides, from funding higher education to safety net services,” Jayapal added.

“Without any agreement on where the dollars will come from to fund the needs we currently know we have, this bill gives us an even more giant problem to solve. The readiness to forgo such a reasonable compromise on something that would ensure that we fund both education and transportation makes me question how willing the Senate Republicans will be to come up with balanced solutions on education funding and the state budget in the weeks to come.”

Today’s action by Senate Republicans reminds us of a speech that Patty Murray used to give, back when she was running for reelection to her third term in the United States Senate. Denouncing the actions of the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, she’d declare: They’ve got the wrong priorities!

Eleven years later, not much has changed. When Republicans hold power, they either govern irresponsibly, or not at all. Our country and state suffer as a result.

The Washington Supreme Court has already held the Legislature in contempt of court for failing to comply with its orders to fully fund our public schools. Senate Republicans have now thumbed their noses at that order by indefensibly voting to take money away from our schools and earmark it for new pavement. Because, as far as they’re concerned, nothing is too good for our cars. Never mind our kids.

VICTORY!!! FCC votes to adopt strong Net Neutrality rules to protect the Internet

Organized money may be an increasingly powerful force in America and American politics, but today, organized people beat organized money to secure a historic, vital victory for Internet freedom in the United States of America.

Just minutes ago, the Federal Communications Commission’s Democratic majority voted to adopt strong net neutrality rules that will keep the Internet open and free for years to come. The FCC’s order emphatically codifies into law the principles that the Internet was founded upon many years ago.

The new rules, which classify broadband like the public utility it is, explicitly bar service providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet traffic in exchange for money or consideration of any kind.

  • No Blocking: Broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Throttling: Providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Paid Prioritization: Broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.”

The Commission’s two Republican members predictably voted no, after voicing their dissent on behalf of the Republican Party’s corporate masters.

But they were soundly rebuffed by Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

I am incredibly proud of the process the Commission has run in developing today’s historic open Internet protections,” Wheeler said in his statement. “I say that not just as the head of this agency, but as a U.S. citizen. Today’s Open Internet Order is a shining example of American democracy at work.”

Acknowledging the more than four million Americans who wrote in to the FCC – nearly all of whom called for strong net neutrality rules – he added, “It should not be surprising the public engaged like never before, because the stakes of the debate before the Commission have never been higher.”

Today, we better enable millions to tell their stories, reach their potential and realize their American ideals,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who stressed that reclassifying broadband as a utility will not cause problems for ISPs.

“Lest we forget, over seven hundred small broadband providers in rural America offer broadband Internet access pursuant to the full panoply of Title II regulation,” she reminded her colleagues. “They contribute to universal service and, amazingly, the sky has not fallen and things are okay. We have not regulated their rates, and I am unaware of any stream of class action lawsuits. Even so, the item does assert primary jurisdiction to reduce such concerns.”

“Sustaining what has made us innovative, fierce, and creative should not be a choice — it should be an obligation,” agreed Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

“We also have a duty—a duty to protect what has made the Internet the most dynamic platform for free speech ever invented. It is our printing press. It is our town square. It is our individual soapbox – and our shared platform for opportunity. That is why open Internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.”

“We cannot have a two-tiered Internet with fast lanes that speed the traffic of the privileged and leave the rest of us lagging behind. We cannot have gatekeepers who tell us what we can and cannot do and where we can and cannot go online.”

“And we do not need blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization schemes that undermine the Internet as we know it.”

As expected, the FCC’s vote was immediately met with the promise of a legal challenge from the lobbyists and lawyers who represent the likes of Verizon and Comcast. Publicly, the telecommunications lobby is suggesting it is ready to go to court again, and confident that the courts will overturn the rules.

Privately, the telecommunications lobby is seething. After all, this wasn’t supposed to happen. The FCC’s previous attempts to protect the Internet, which produced weak net neutrality rules, ended in failure because Verizon contested them in federal court and won. The courts made it clear to the FCC that if it wanted to use its authority to protect the Internet, it needed to adopt a sound regulatory framework. And that’s just what the FCC has now done.

The delicious irony is, Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast’s greed helped pave the way for today’s great victory. They didn’t want even weak net neutrality rules on the books, so they took the FCC to court and got the rules championed by previous Chairman Julius Genachowski thrown out. That forced the FCC to reconsider its approach.

Genacowski blew an opportunity to stand up to the telecommunications lobby and adopt strong net neutrality rules during his tenure as Chairman.

That legacy will instead belong to Tom Wheeler, who summoned the courage to stand up to the very lobby he used to work for. (Wheeler previously served as President of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association.)

Thanks to Wheeler, who listened to the voices of the American people (ably channeled by President Barack Obama last November), we have stronger rules in place… rules that have a much better chance of surviving legal scrutiny.

Words can’t describe what a huge victory this is. Other champions for net neutrality have called it unthinkable and unimaginable. The FCC has been on the wrong path for so long that it seemed like strong net neutrality rules were an impossible dream. But we’ve got them. They’re here. They’re real.

This victory belongs to those who never gave up – to those who were determined to make what seemed impossible possible.

We at NPI are can-do people; we always have been and we always will be. We reject cynicism. Negativity and bitterness do not yield meaningful progressive change. We have always believed that strong net neutrality could happen and needed to happen. And now that is has, we rejoice in our success along with the many other wonderful organizations that have worked on this noble cause for so long.

We are particularly grateful for the work and advocacy of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, John Oliver and the writers of Last Week Tonight, Tim Karr, Craig Aaron and the team at FreePress, Fight for the Future, Becky Bond and the team at CREDO, Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, MoveOn, Mozilla, Reddit, Tumblr, Daily Kos, and Color of Change. All those people and organizations had a hand in this victory and we are very appreciative of their efforts.

Internet Freedom Day is here… let’s celebrate!

U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer to speak at NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala

Tonight, we are very pleased and excited to announce that U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer will be the opening speaker at our seventh Spring Fundraising Gala, which will take place April 10th at the Mercer Island Community & Event Center.

U.S. Representative Derek KilmerFirst elected to the U.S. House in 2012, Congressman Kilmer represents Washington’s 6th Congressional District, which includes the Olympic Peninsula and most of the Kitsap Peninsula. It is a beautiful district, home to rugged mountains and majestic beaches, many of which are protected as part of our nation’s sixth most-visited national park (as of 2014).

Prior to his election to Congress, Kilmer represented the 26th District (south Kitsap and north Pierce counties) in the Washington State Legislature, most recently as a state senator.

Representative Kilmer has already distinguished himself in Congress by working on legislation to mitigate the corrupting influence of money in politics.

As his office explained in a news release published back in January:

From his first days in Congress Kilmer has been a strong proponent for campaign finance reform. The Close the Floodgates Act was originally introduced by Kilmer in December.

Kilmer is a sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act to bring transparency to the election process by uncovering campaign-related spending by outside groups and corporations and an amendment to the Constitution to overturn Supreme Court decisions on campaign finance and clarify the role Congress plays in setting limits on campaign financing.

He’s also pushing for Congress to take up and pass the Government by the People Act to magnify the impact of small-dollar contributions.

Representative Kilmer has also been a dependable advocate for Native American tribes. Following his arrival in our nation’s capital, he introduced the Housing Native Heroes Act (to help homeless Native American veterans) and the Adoption Tax Credit Tribal Parity Act (to allow families who adopt Native American children with special needs to receive a tax credit that other families are already eligible for).

Following his reelection to Congress, Representative Kilmer was named to the House’s powerful Appropriations Committee, which his predecessor Norm Dicks (often jokingly referred to as Washington’s third senator) served on for years.

Representative Kilmer is a funny and engaging speaker, and we’re delighted to have him as part of our speaking program this year. We hope you can join us on April 10th. If you haven’t yet bought your ticket to our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala yet, we urge you to do so now using one of the buttons below.

A household ticket admits all the members of an immediate family and is a good value if you plan to attend with your spouse or children. (The gala is a family-friendly event, and young people of all ages are welcome!).

These are our ticket rates:

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Here’s what else you can expect at our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala:

  • A full dinner buffet with vegetarian and vegan choices
  • Beer and wine selections from our cash bar
  • Opportunities to mingle with fellow activists and elected leaders
  • A chance to win a scrumptious dessert for your table at our second annual Dessert Dash, organized by our Host Committee
  • A family-friendly atmosphere

If you’d like to RSVP for the gala on Facebook, you can do so here.

Students who want to volunteer to help put on the event can get in the door free. If you’re interested in volunteering, please get in touch with us.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be sharing more details about our 2015 gala, including the names of our other speakers. We hope you’ll help us make our biggest event of the year a success by buying your ticket and committing to attend.

See you on April 10th!

Port dispute at an end? ILWU says tentative agreement reached on new contract with PMA

A dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), a group of West Coast terminal operators, is at an end following successful negotiations on a new contract, the parties say.

“After more than nine months of negotiations, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that is good for workers and for the industry,” said PMA President James McKenna and ILWU President Bob McEllrath in a joint statement (PDF). “We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations.”

No details are being released at this time.

ILWU locals have already begun communicating the news to their members.

“Tonight, the ILWU and PMA reached a tentative agreement on a Coastwide Contract,” one local (Local 13, based in Southern California) announced on its website. “There will be more information relayed to the membership by the Coast Committee, Negotiating Committee and your Local Officers as soon as possible in accordance with the Coast Longshore Division By-Laws.”

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees as saying, “The agreement was unanimously approved by the negotiating committee — and they’d go to work tonight if they could.”

Elected officials hailed the announcement. Nearly every statement we’ve received thus far begins by calling the settlement “great news”.

“This is great news for the parties involved in the negotiation and a huge relief for our economy – particularly the countless American workers, farmers, and businesses that have been affected by the dispute and those facing even greater disruption and costs with further delays,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

“Helping resolve this dispute has been a top priority, and last weekend the President directed Labor Secretary Tom Perez to travel to California to meet with the parties to help them reach a resolution because further delays would have been harmful to these workers and the economy.”

“The President was kept updated on the negotiations over the past several weeks, including receiving an update last night from Secretary Perez. The President is grateful to Secretary Perez for his hard work bringing about a successful resolution to this dispute, and for the help of federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh.  And he calls on the parties to work together to clear out the backlogs and congestion in the West Coast Ports as they finalize their agreement”

“This is great news for businesses and port workers all along the West Coast,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee in a statement sent to NPI.

“I want to thank the ILWU and the PMA for finding an agreement in principle tonight to settle the dispute that was damaging Washington’s economy. I also want to thank President Obama and Labor Secretary Perez for stepping in and helping get the parties to reach an agreement. I expect we will soon see Washington’s ports once again playing their essential role in our economy.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia voiced similar sentiments.

“Getting this deal done means our ports and our national economy will start moving again. This settlement is great news for our west coast ports, our local workforce, and businesses around the country,” he said.

“I want to personally thank the President and the Secretary of Labor for their effective intervention and leadership in helping the parties reach a resolution. I also want to thank my colleagues, the port city mayors, for their persistent engagement in this process, and the shippers and dockworkers for reaching this agreement.”

“Washington state’s ports play a critical role in creating jobs and growing the local economy, so I am glad that this agreement in principle was reached tonight to keep workers on the job and provide certainty for families and businesses,” said Washington’s senior U.S. Senator, Patty Murray. “I appreciate the commitment of the ILWU and the PMA to stay at the table and keep working until they reached an agreement, and I am very thankful to President Obama and Secretary Perez for their work helping the two sides come together to get this done.”

Media reports suggested that the final sticking point between the PMA and ILWU concerned provisions in the contract related to arbitration. Apparently that question has been settled to the mutual satisfaction of the ports and the union.

The agreement must be ratified by the ILWU’s membership as well as the PMA before it becomes final. The ILWU, founded in 1937, represents over thirty-seven thousand workers in the Pacific Coast states as well as British Columbia, Canada.

This post will be updated with more reaction as we get it.

Tables at NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala to be named after great progressive leaders

Late February is the time of year when many Northern Hemisphere dwellers like to say that spring is right around the corner. For those of us living west of the Cascades here in the Pacific Northwest, it feels like spring has already arrived, with the unusually warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing. The other day, my thermometer registered sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit!

Real spring is not far behind: The vernal equinox, which is considered to be the first official day of spring, is only a month away. Our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala is also fast approaching; it’ll take place just seven weeks from today.

Putting the gala together requires a lot of preparation, and the team at NPI has been hard at work getting everything ready for a great evening, including the Dessert Dash. That’s perhaps the most fun part of the event.

During the Dessert Dash, tables compete for the opportunity to visit our desserts table first, which is filled with delicious sweets.

Last year, the desserts table included a rhubarb pie baked by First Lady Trudi Inslee (whose pies are quite renowned!), several delightful confectioneries made by Montlake Mousse, and an array of home-baked treats.

There was something for everyone to enjoy – and there will be again this year, too.

We will also be adding individual servings of gluten free desserts, so that table runners can bring back a tasty treat for anyone at their table with a gluten or wheat sensitivity. (The dinner buffet will also have vegetarian options.)

As we were working on preparations for the Dessert Dash, we got to thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if the tables had names this year?

After all, number systems can get boring.

So we’ve decided to give our tables names this year. Every one of our tables will honor a great American progressive who has worked to make this country a better place. Our initial list of progressive activist leaders consists of six men and six women, including men and women of color.

During their lives, these progressives worked on a diverse range of noble causes, from environmental protection to civil rights to economic justice.

We are proud to honor them. Here they are!

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: A man who needs no introduction to any of us. MLK is one of the greatest civil rights leaders in human history.
  • César Chávez: Cofounder of the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers). Perhaps the country’s best known Latino civil rights activist, he helped improve working conditions for immigrant laborers.
  • Harvey Milk: A pioneer for LGBT rights, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay American elected to public office in the United States (the San Francisco Board of Supervisors). He is known for his Hope Speech.
  • John Muir: Founder of the Sierra Club and an ardent conservationist. His writings and activism continue to inspire us to protect our wild and majestic places more than a hundred years following his death.
  • Scott White: A former co-chair of the King County Democratic Legislative Action Committee, state representative, and state senator who died far too young. A staunch advocate for transit, Scott represented the best of us and was one of the first legislators to sponsor NPI’s Spring Fundraising Gala.
  • Warren Magnuson: Maggie, as he was nicknamed, served three decades in the U.S. Senate, representing Washington State. His legacy includes the Magnuson Amendment, which protects Puget Sound from oil supertankers, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
  • Rachel Carson: Author of the classic book Silent Spring and considered by many to be the mother of the modern environmental movement. Her work showed Americans that pollution kills.
  • Rosa Parks: Widely acknowledged as the First Lady of Civil Rights, Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus in 1955 was a defining moment in the effort to desegregate America.
  • Ruth Fisher: A legendary Democratic state legislator who believed in multimodal transportation and authored the legislation that created the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit). Without Ruth Fisher, there would be no Sound Transit and no Link light rail system.
  • Lynn Allen: One of NPI’s founding board members, who we tragically lost to ovarian cancer four years ago. A tireless champion for improving the well-being of our region’s rural communities.
  • Margaret Sanger: The creator of the organization that eventually became Planned Parenthood, and a courageous advocate of access to contraceptives for pregnancy prevention.
  • Ida B. Wells: A gifted investigative journalist and early women’s rights leader who documented lynchings during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

We will be announcing our first gala speaker next week. Until then, you can buy a ticket at our special early-bird rates. There are three ticket rates:

  • Individual ($70, temporarily discounted to $55; admits one person.)
  • Household ($100, temporarily discounted to $85; admits an entire family.)
  • Living Lightly ($25, temporarily discounted to $20; this rate is for students and activists on limited incomes.)

Buy a ticket to the gala

$85 (early-bird discount)

$55 (early-bird discount)

$20 (early-bird discount)

 

 

 

 

 

Click above to buy a ticket using a credit card.

Your payment will be securely processed by Authorize.Net, which is a division of Visa, and follows Visa’s recommended best practices for safeguarding credit card information. Your credit card details will be protected by best available encryption.

If you’d rather not use a credit card, simply mail a check for $20, $55, or $85 to:

Northwest Progressive Institute
PO Box 264
Redmond, WA 98073-0264

Put “Gala” on the memo line. We’ll send you a confirmation.

We do offer complimentary tickets for NPI members who are willing to donate labor to the event. If you wish to volunteer, contact us and let us know.

We hope to see you on April 10th!

Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci announces campaign for King County Council, District 6

King County suburban politics got a lot less boring today with Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci’s announcement that she is giving up her seat on the Bellevue City Council to challenge Republican Jane Hague for King County Council’s 6th District.

The 6th District encompasses Kirkland, most of Bellevue, Mercer Island, part of Redmond, the Points communities, and Medina. Data shows it votes heavily for Democrats in federal level elections, as well as state level elections. But it has been represented by Hague, a Republican, for decades.

The Democratic Party has long been interested in capturing the 6th, but has not been able to field a formidable candidate.

Two cycles ago, in 2007, the party didn’t have anyone lined up to run, and so, when perennial candidate Richard Pope put his name forward for the Democratic nomination at the last minute, he ended up as the only candidate with a D next to his name on the ballot. The King County Democrats subsequently found a candidate they liked to run as a write-in, Brad Larssen, but Pope defeated Larssen in the primary. He went on to lose the general election to Jane Hague, 57% to 39%.

(2007 was the last year that Washington held an actual primary for state or local office, as opposed to the Top Two system we have now).

In the weeks leading up to the general election, Hague suffered a round of bad publicity when it was reported that she had been arrested for driving under the influence. But as the Democratic Party didn’t have a respected candidate running against her, it didn’t end up weighing her down much.

In 2011, the party did field a challenger… lawyer Richard Mitchell, formerly counsel to Governor Chris Gregoire. Mitchell ran a credible campaign and even picked up the early endorsement of The Seattle Times, only to lose the paper’s support for the general election following his decision to send out misleading attack mailers against Hague. He finished with 45.62% of the vote, to Hague’s 54%.

Balducci is unquestionably a formidable candidate. She has been elected to the Bellevue City Council several times – and Bellevue makes up a significant portion of the 6th District. She has experience serving on the Sound Transit Board of Directors. She is well versed in regional politics. She has already has raised $15,000 to start her campaign, and secured the early endorsements of Congressman Adam Smith, State Senator Cyrus Habib, and State Representative Ross Hunter.

“We live in a dynamic, diverse, and growing region,” Balducci said in a press release. “It’s time for new leaders who reflect the priorities and potential of the Eastside. In my experience as a local official, transit leader and mom, I’ll bring new ideas and energy to the Council, helping to make sure our voices and values are reflected in critical areas of policy and planning.”

Hague has indicated to Kirkland Views that she plans to run again, and told the Seattle Times today she is “excited” about the prospect of facing Balducci.

We’re excited, too, because this means that Seattle won’t be the only jurisdiction with competitive races in 2015. The special election in the 30th District for state representative and the race for King County Council’s 6th District look like they will be the marquee races outside of Seattle this year.

Balducci’s decision to run for King County Council will actually result in two competitive Eastside races, not just one.

That’s because she has to give up her position on the Bellevue City Council to run. Open seats tend to attract candidates, as we are already seeing in Seattle this year.

Three other King County Councilmembers are also up for election this year. All of them are Democrats: Larry Gossett, Larry Phillips, and Joe McDermott. They represent districts that are considered safely Democratic, so even if any were to retire, the political makeup of the Council would not change.

Officially, the King County Council is nonpartisan, but unofficially, it’s still as partisan as it always has been. There is no taking partisanship out of politics – anyone who has an opinion they want to defend can be considered a partisan.

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