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.

The new, extreme Republican Party has arrived in Washington State

Last week’s announcement from a group of State Senators of a new transportation package has dominated the political news in Washington State. NPI founder Andrew Villeneuve explained the numerous flaws of this proposal here on the Cascadia Advocate. But it’s also worth taking a step back and examining what this proposal means for the future of our state – and of its political leadership.

Its unveiling ought to be interpreted by Democrats as a sign that the new Republican Party – much more extremist, power-hungry, and determined to destroy Democrats rather than govern effectively – has finally arrived in Washington State.

For the last thirty-five years, the Washington Republican Party has been a largely Reaganite party: deeply anti-tax, skeptical of new regulations, and strongly backed by social conservatives. As with Reagan himself, however, these Republicans have often been willing to make deals as needed, as long as doing so did not force them to fundamentally compromise their core beliefs. You could talk to these people. Let’s not romanticize them: it was not a friendly or reasonable party.

But it was a group that could exist as a minority party in a blue state without seeking to destroy everything in its path in their pursuit of power.

Outside of Washington State, this kind of Republican Party had already been replaced by the modern unyielding Republican Party – a party far more extreme and even less interested in compromise.

Whereas President Reagan and Republicans of his era were willing to cut deals as needed, the 2010s Republican Party sees no need to do so.

They believe – correctly, as it has turned out – that the way to get their policy goals implemented is to destroy the Democratic Party, seize all the levers of government, and just do it themselves. Why cut a deal now when refusing to deal will produce big wins at the next election and eliminate the opposition?

When this modern Republican Party controls only part of government – the situation we see now in Washington State – their sole interest is to undermine Democrats in order to win total power on their own.

This was the playbook that congressional Republicans used to undermine Democrats, especially President Barack Obama, after the 2008 election.

President Obama believed that he was still dealing with a Reaganite party, a party with which you could cut a deal.

As he learned the hard way, the modern Republican Party is not interested in cutting deals with Democrats. They opposed Obama from day one, rallying their base to resist every single Democratic proposal – even those, like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that had been invented by Republicans themselves. They have become much more extreme than anything we see in the Democratic Party.

This no-holds-barred opposition crippled the federal government. The results have been ruinous for America. But they have been an unquestionable success for Republicans. They reversed the results of both the 2006 and 2008 elections by seizing not only the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, but winning a significant number of state legislatures and governor’s offices.

Where those gains gave Republicans total control, as in Wisconsin or North Carolina, they unleashed a radical, extremist agenda that rolls back the political and policy gains of the 20th century. In every single state where this far-right agenda was implemented – with Pennsylvania being the sole exception – voters returned those same extremists to power in the 2014 midterms.

That 2014 election, in fact, saw Republicans make even greater gains. Democrats had what was one of their most catastrophic elections in decades, losing not only the U.S. Senate, but also losing governorships and state legislative houses in deep blue states like Illinois, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

In Washington State, Republicans tightened their grip on the state Senate and came within just a few seats of taking the state House.

Judging by the playbook they’ve used in other states, and in Congress, we can expect that the next steps here in Washington State will be for the Republicans to focus on undermining remaining Democratic power, grinding government to a halt and denying Governor Jay Inslee and House Democrats victories in order to make them look ineffective ahead of the crucial 2016 election.

Which brings us to the Senate transportation plan.

It is not intended to be a viable transportation package, though Republicans will surely be able to live with it were it to pass. It is really a trap, a “plan” whose primary purpose is actually to divide and then conquer Democrats, turning the blue coalition against itself ahead of the 2016 election.

This should be obvious from even a cursory glance at the proposal. It does not offer Sound Transit enough revenue to both finish the spine from Everett to Tacoma and build rail to a new Seattle neighborhood, whether it’s Ballard or West Seattle. Rather than unite city and suburb in support of rail, it divides them.

The plan divides urban and suburban Democrats in other ways, offering funds for suburban megaprojects but refusing to add any more money for the State Route 99 deep bore tunnel. It divides environmentalists, urbanists, and unions by including poison pills that would divert revenue from sustainable transportation to highway projects if Governor Inslee were to adopt a low pollution fuel standard, as well as undermining prevailing wage rules and other worker protections.

The revenue sources are themselves designed to undermine Democrats. Sound Transit would have to get voters to approve three different revenue sources in order to build their new projects. Rather than charging polluters, as Governor Inslee has proposed, the Senate plan would raise the gas tax to pay for projects.

That may seem like a welcome change from the Reaganite era anti-tax ideology of Washington Republicans. But in reality it’s part of a national effort to hurt the poor and the middle class – as well as weaken Democrats.

This week, The New York Times examined how Republicans in states across America are raising taxes on the poor while cutting them for the rich.

This is the same game Washington Republicans are playing, having vowed to block any new taxes – like a capital gains tax on the rich – but instead proposing to raise gas taxes, which are borne more heavily by the poor.

The gas tax proposal is not just regressive – it’s also crafted to hurt Democrats. In 2014 Republicans picked up several blue state governorships by running against gas tax increases, particularly in Maryland.

Republicans also used the gas tax as an issue in their successful bids to pick off four Democratic members of the Washington State House.

Republicans are therefore laying a trap for Democrats, particularly Governor Inslee, by proposing a gas tax increase. As we saw in California in the late 2000s, Republicans will force Democrats to make concession after concession in order to agree to provide the votes to pass a package.

But when it comes time to vote, Republicans will only offer the absolute minimum number of votes necessary to pass a plan – forcing all Democrats to vote yes, while most Republicans vote no and then attack the plan on the campaign trail.

Observers will note that State Senator Andy Hill, a possible candidate for governor in 2016, was nowhere to be found at the Senate press conference last week announcing the transportation package.

Many Democrats understandably pine for the good old days, when Republicans were ideological but still somewhat reasonable – people whom you may not have agreed with, but with whom you could still sit down and hammer out a deal.

But those days are gone, and they are not coming back, at least not anytime soon. Democrats need to learn that the way to get good policies enacted, and to win elections, is to accept that modern governance is defined by constant partisan warfare – and then commit to winning that war.

Democrats and their coalition members should unite in opposition to the proposed transportation plan, attack its weaknesses, and drive down public support for it. Several Democratic senators, led by Pramila Jayapal and Kevin Ranker, seem to understand this, and came out in opposition to the Republican plan.

House Democrats should get to work crafting a transportation plan that meets the needs of their members and the state’s progressive coalition, as well as appealing to voters in swing districts. Whether or not Senate Republicans would support such a plan should be a distant concern – since the only way to get Senate Republicans to vote for it is to scare them into doing so.

Education, the other big battlefield of the 2015 session, will play out the same way. Republicans will offer a plan that undermines and divides the Democratic coalition, with an eye toward defeating Democrats in 2016.

Democrats will need to respond with a plan that funds their McCleary and smaller class size obligations without giving in to Republican poison pills.

For example, rather than try to avoid the voter mandate in I-1351 to shrink class sizes, Democrats should wholeheartedly embrace it, propose a progressive way of paying for it, and hammer Republicans for opposing smaller class sizes when they inevitably reject the funding source.

Too many Democrats across the country have been slow to learn the lessons of this new Republican Party. The best way to think about them is the way Kyle Reese described the cyborg from the future in 1984’s The Terminator:

Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

That is how the modern Republican Party thinks of Democrats.

The only response, as distasteful as it may be for some, is for Democrats to do all they can to keep Republicans out of power… and govern the state themselves, like reasonable, sensible adults. Washington State Democrats should show the rest of the nation how it can be done. The 2015 session is the moment for Democrats to adapt to the new reality – and then thrive in it.

Senate Republicans unveil pavement-heavy transportation plan laden with bad provisions

Washington State’s Senate Republican caucus held a news conference in Olympia this afternoon to take the wraps off of a transportation plan that’s somewhat better than what they belatedly offered last year, but still pavement-heavy and laden with a number of provisions that are completely unacceptable.

The Republican-backed proposal, pushed by Senator Curtis King (who negotiated some details with Democratic Senators Marko Liias and Steve Hobbs) would raise the gas tax more than eleven cents over three years. That, coupled with increases in vehicle fees and the sale of bonds, would raise around $15 billion for the state treasury. Much of that sum would be spent on highways.

A significant chunk would go towards modernizing the Seattle portion of State Route 520, which runs through the Montlake and Portage Bay neighborhoods of Seattle. The North Spokane Highway would get close to a billion dollars. And a whopping $1.24 billion would be wasted further widening Interstate 405.

But the biggest project of them all would be the expansion of SR 167 and SR 509 in the south Sound. Close to $2 billion would be allocated for that project.

Over $8 billion would be spent on new pavement, while $1.3 billion would be spent on maintenance. Smaller sums of money would go towards environmental mitigation, ferry terminals and operations, and pedestrian/bicyclist safety measures.

Authorization for Sound Transit 3 is also included, which pleased King County Executive Dow Constantine, the Chair of Sound Transit. However, like us, Constantine is opposed to some of the provisions in the plan.

“We are still reviewing details of the Senate proposal, but at first glance it appears to have many of the important elements we’ve sought from the Legislature: Preservation and maintenance funding for our deteriorating roads and highways, increased local options for cities and counties, and multi-modal investment,” Constantine said in an evening news release.

“In particular, I am pleased to see the necessary funding authority that will allow people in the Central Puget Sound region to seek future expansion of light rail, although not in the amounts that are needed to meet the mobility needs of one of the fastest-growing areas of the nation.”

“At the same time, unfortunately, some parts of this proposal appear fundamentally inconsistent with our values of protecting the environment and upholding the rights of labor. These components are neither needed nor helpful in keeping our region moving, and I cannot support them.”

Several Senate Democrats also weighed in. Kevin Ranker, Pramila Jayapal and Cyrus Habib jointly released a statement outlining their concerns.

Ranker’s statement ended with a sharp and clear declaration: “As it is currently constructed, I will not be able to support this plan.”

We urge all members of the Senate Democratic caucus to follow Ranker’s lead. If Republicans are insistent on bringing what they’ve rolled out today to the floor without major improvements, every Democrat should vote no.

Here is a summary of the flaws with the Senate Republicans’ proposal:

  • It would shift money currently going to education to highways. Senate Republicans are again proposing that sales taxes collected on transportation projects go into the state’s highway fund, instead of to the general fund. This would significantly worsen our education funding shortfall (which everyone seems to agree is the state’s most pressing problem). House Democrats have previously gone on record saying it’s a bad idea, and we’re adamantly opposed to it.
  • It doesn’t put any money towards a new Columbia River Crossing. The bridge that carries Interstate 5 over the Columbia River to Oregon is decades old and in need of replacement. Washington and Oregon’s department of transportation came up with a plan to replace the bridge (and, questionably, all of the interchanges near the bridge), but that fell apart thanks to Senate Republicans, who scuttled the project to prevent TriMet from bringing light rail across the river.
  • It would hinder Jay Inslee from tackling pollution by inserting a poison pill for transit funding. Senate Republicans have included language that would redirect state funding vanpools, rural transit, special-needs grants, and pedestrian/bicyclist safety measures to highways in the event that Governor Jay Inslee pursues stronger fuel standards for vehicles to fight pollution. This stupid and shortsighted language is a nonstarter.
  • It leaves Sound Transit short of what it needs for ST3. Sound Transit is asking the Legislature for new revenue authority so it can place a Sound Transit 3 package before voters in urban King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties in 2016. The Senate Republican plan gives Sound Transit some of the authority it is seeking, but not all of it, which would hamper the agency’s efforts to put the best possible plan before voters.
  • It weakens our prevailing wage and worker protection laws. Washington has long had rules requiring that people who work on public works projects be fairly compensated. They must be paid what is known as a prevailing wage, defined by Labor & Industries as “the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime, paid in the largest city in each county, to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics.” Senate Republicans want to change the rules to make fewer workers eligible to receive a prevailing wage.

These flaws, coupled with a project mix that is heavy on new pavement, make the Senate Republican plan untenable and unworthy of passage.

We have a huge transportation maintenance backlog in Washington State that this plan does not adequately address. Our first priority needs to be replacing and repairing crumbling infrastructure, especially our structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges. Besides, building new highways and widening existing ones won’t reduce congestion. It’ll make it worse. The end result of adding lanes and highways will be more sprawl, longer commute times, and bigger backups.

To those unfamiliar with the phenomenon of induced traffic, this may sound counterintuitive, but adding highway capacity actually makes traffic worse. This is because drivers respond to the laying of new pavement by driving more.

We have been pointing this out for ten years here on the Cascadia Advocate, frequently excerpting from a chapter of Suburban Nation that contains an excellent primer on induced traffic written by authors Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck. From Chapter 5 (The American Transportation Mess):

The mechanism at work behind induced traffic is elegantly explained by an aphorism gaining popularity among traffic engineers: “Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt.” Increased traffic capacity makes longer commutes less burdensome, and as a result, people are willing to live farther and farther from their workplace.

As increasing numbers of people make similar decisions, the long-distance commute grows as crowded as the inner city, commuters clamor for additional lanes, and the cycle repeats itself. This problem is compounded by the hierarchical organization of the new roadways, which concentrate through traffic on as few streets as possible.

They go on to say:

While the befuddling fact of induced traffic is well understood by sophisticated traffic engineers, it might as well be a secret, so poorly has it been disseminated. The computer models that transportation consultants use do not even consider it, and most local public works directors have never heard of it at all.

As a result, from Maine to Hawaii, city, county, and even state engineering departments continue to build more roadways in anticipation of increased traffic, and in so doing, create that traffic. The most irksome aspect of this situation is that these road-builders are never proved wrong; in fact, they are always proved right. “You see,” they say, “I told you that traffic was coming.”

Suburban Nation was written in 2000, and even then, there was plenty of data showing that building new highways and widening existing ones does nothing to reduce congestion. But nowadays, we have even more.

Adam Mann wrote a story for Wired last year about induced traffic, and he talked to two researchers who looked at increases in road capacity in U.S. cities between 1980 and 2000, and miles driven in those cities in the same period.

They found a one-to-one relationship:

If a city had increased its road capacity by 10 percent between 1980 and 1990, then the amount of driving in that city went up by 10 percent. If the amount of roads in the same city then went up by 11 percent between 1990 and 2000, the total number of miles driven also went up by 11 percent. It’s like the two figures were moving in perfect lockstep, changing at the same exact rate.

It is time we learned our induced traffic lesson, and changed our transportation focus. Spending money trying to make gridlocked highways like I-405 move by adding lanes will not work. It’s an exercise in total futility.

We would be better served by putting dollars into our chronically underfunded ferry system, badly needed repairs to our existing highways, new bridges that can withstand earthquakes, and more mass transit so that people aren’t forced to drive to get where they’re doing. We have a growing maintenance backlog, and it would be irresponsible for the Legislature not to address it.

It’s very unfortunate that Republicans are willing to raise revenue to lay asphalt all over the place (their plan could be called Wealthcare for Washington’s Automobiles), but not willing to raise revenue to amply provide for the education of Washington’s youth, as Article IX of our state Constitution requires.

“I don’t know what message that sends to the Supreme Court,” House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan told The Seattle Times. “We’re willing to support billions of tax dollars for transportation while we’re not funding education?”

When I read that, I thought, At last: We’ve got at least one top Democrat starting to ask the same questions we’ve been asking for years.

The answer to Sullivan’s question is that the Supreme Court will not be pleased if it sees that the Legislature authorizing billions of dollars in highway projects while failing to invest in Washington’s schools as it has been ordered to do.

Senate Republicans have made it plain they don’t care what the Court says or does. They seem to relish the prospect of forcing a constitutional crisis.

The Court’s decisions have had a different effect on Democrats. On both sides of the dome, Democrats have responded to the Court’s decisions in League of Education Voters, McCleary, and In re the Detention of D.W. et. al. by finding their courage.

That’s important, because historically, neglecting education while periodically approving funding for new highway projects has been a bipartisan tradition. And not just around here. From Chapter 7 of Suburban Nation (The Victims of Sprawl):

It is true that the United States has the most luxurious road system in the world. We build magnificent new highways at a cost of $30 million per mile, and every cloverleaf is more generous than the last. We happily spend twice as much per capita on transportation as do other developed nations. Nothing seems too good for our cars.

Meanwhile, more and more of our children attend school in fields of prefabricated portable barracks with air-conditioning backpacks, surrounded by chain-link fencing. It is difficult to be encouraged by what this says about our national priorities.

They add:

It would clarify matters if Americans would think about schools, town halls, libraries and our civic buildings as vertical infrastructure, to be financed out of the same purse as our horizontal infrastructure. Such buildings are not mere luxuries but investments in community-making that evoke identity, pride, and participation in public life.

A society’s civic buildings are ultimately as important as its roads, and we should not use the table scraps of public funding to construct them. Most Americans would tolerate aging asphalt and fewer new lanes if they knew that their children would not be educated in the equivalent of trailer parks. Unfortunately, this choice is not offered.

To us, the Senate Republican transportation plan, which only a road warrior could love, seems like something that belongs in a bygone decade – perhaps the 1980s. It’s not anchored in reality. In reality, building bigger and wider highways doesn’t relieve traffic congestion. We know this. The evidence is in. It’s time our elected representatives recognized it and understood it.

A plan that principally proposes to improve mobility by adding lanes and constructing new speedways for cars is not a plan that we should be considering.

Philadelphia selected as host city for 2016 Democratic National Convention

It’s official: the Democratic Party has a host city for its next quadrennial meeting. Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, will serve as the gathering place for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, which will be held the week of July 25th, 2016, following the Republican National Convention Cleveland. (Typically, the party that holds the White House schedules its convention to follow that of the party that is contending for the presidency.)

“We’re going to have a great time together come July 2016 in Philadelphia — and many more details are coming soon,” Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in an email to the Democratic Party’s mailing list. “But there’s plenty of work for us to do before we reach Philadelphia, and Democrats will need your help to keep the White House blue.”

Separately, in a news release distributed to the national press, she said: “In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering. I cannot wait to join Democrats across the country to celebrate our shared values, lay out a Democratic vision for the future, and support our nominee.”

“The City of Philadelphia is excited and honored to be selected as the host city for the 2016 Democratic National Convention,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter said. “We believe that it was our proven track record of hosting big events safely and efficiently with a dynamic team of top-tier professionals to organize and manage a conference of this magnitude, paired with our City’s tremendous amenities, its accessible location and historical significance, which made Philadelphia the ideal choice for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.”

Philadelphia is already set to welcome Pope Francis this September for the World Meeting of Families. It has previously hosted six Republican National Conventions (the most recent in 2000) and two Democratic National Conventions (in 1936 and 1948; the party won the White House in both of those years.)

The other finalists were Columbus, Ohio and Brooklyn, New York. Columbus had been lobbying hard for the convention and was really hoping to land it, so the disappointment is being felt more acutely there. (The Columbus Dispatch already has a story up lamenting the city’s highly touted yet ultimately unsuccessful bid.)

Logistically, Philadelphia may well have been the safest choice. As mentioned, it has hosted national party conventions before, and it definitely has the infrastructure to house and move all the delegates and media (there is a subway system and plenty of hotel rooms). Columbus lacks rail transit, though its organizers did a good job playing up the city’s strengths in their marketing and lobbying.

The Ohio Republican Party immediately attempted to make fun of the Ohio Democratic Party following the announcement, sneering, “Ohio voters take note: the GOP wants your vote. The Democrats … not so much.”

That’s ludicrous, of course: Democrats will spend a massive amount of time, talent, and treasure attempting to win Ohio next year, just as they did in every single one of the last few cycles. We pointed out to the Ohio Republican Party on Twitter that they have lost the last five states they held conventions in (Tampa in 2012, St. Paul in 2008, New York in 2004, Philadelphia in 2000, and San Diego in 1996).

Moreover, in 2012, the Democrats lost North Carolina, the state they chose for the 2012 DNC. The data simply does not support the assertion that a party is better positioned to win a state by holding its national convention there.

Philadelphia is a city steeped in history, and it ought to make a nice gathering place for the Democratic Party as it meets to nominate a successor to President Obama. People there certainly seem excited about hosting the Democrats. Congratulations to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection on its selection!

NBC’s Brian Williams suspended for six months; Jon Stewart to leave The Daily Show

Today, something remarkable happened: The host of a fake news show made real news by announcing his departure from the program he has helmed since 1999, while the host of a real news show was suspended by his network for faking details about his experience as a war zone reporter over ten years ago.

Who would have thought that Brian Williams – for years the face of NBC News – would be exiled from the anchor desk for six months by his network’s executives on the same day that Jon Stewart revealed his plans to leave The Daily Show?

Stewart, at least, is going out on his own terms, and at the near peak of what has been an incredible run at Comedy Central as the host of its flagship program:

Mr. Stewart, whose contract with Comedy Central ends in September, disclosed his plans during a taping of the program on Tuesday.

Saying that “in my heart, I know it is time for someone else” to have the opportunity he had, Mr. Stewart told his audience that he was still working out the details of his departure, which “might be December, might be July.”

“I don’t have any specific plans,” Mr. Stewart said, addressing the camera at the end of his show, at times seeming close to tears. “Got a lot of ideas. I got a lot of things in my head. I’m going to have dinner on a school night with my family, who I have heard from multiple sources are lovely people.”

“I’m not going anywhere tomorrow,” Mr. Stewart added, “but this show doesn’t deserve an even slightly restless host, and neither do you.” Comedy Central did not elaborate on the future of the show, except to say that it “will endure for years to come.”

I cannot imagine The Daily Show without Jon Stewart. After sixteen years, he has come to personify the show. Correspondents have come and gone, with many going on to have successful careers in television and film (Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, John Oliver, Larry Wilmore) but Jon Stewart has continuously been a reassuring presence behind the desk of Comedy Central’s premier program.

It was tough to lose the Colbert Report back in December, but Jon’s departure from The Daily Show will be tougher still. I didn’t expect Stewart to remain host forever, but I also wasn’t anticipating that he’d leave this year. He’ll be stepping away in the midst of a presidential campaign, just when this country needs him the most.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart helped me and a great many other progressive activists get through the Bush error. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, when Bush and Cheney exploited a nation’s fears to wage war on false pretenses, Jon Stewart was a voice of sanity speaking truth to power through comedy.

More recently, Stewart has done more than anybody else, with the possible exception of David Brock and Media Matters, to hold the Fox Noise Channel accountable for its lies and right wing propaganda. Stewart’s team of writers and artists at The Daily Show have produced a countless number of excellent montages exposing Fox as the giant cog in the Republican Noise Machine that it is.

They may say they’re just trying to entertain us, but we here at NPI consider their body of work to be a public service as well as great comedy.

If I had to pick one word to describe the impact of the The Daily Show is, it might well be therapeutic. It’s no fun feeling frustrated and outraged all the time, nor is it healthy. Evening after evening, Jon Stewart has softened the blow of bad news with an incredibly funny monologue. His show has been a great way to end the day.

Long-running Daily Show contributor Lewis Black once explained during one of his standup specials for Comedy Central why comedy is so valuable.

“All you have to do is look at our enemy,” Black declared. “That’s a group that does not have a sense of humor. That’s a group that has just… snapped. And that’s what happens when you don’t laugh. You get all wound up in what you’re believing in and nobody’s going, ha-ha, and you’re… you’re screwed!”

Those words still ring true today.

Stewart may be incomparable, but he can’t be irreplaceable if The Daily Show is to continue. Who will Comedy Central bring in to fill the giant shoes Stewart is leaving behind? One name I’ve seen thrown around a lot is Amy Poehler, formerly of Saturday Night Live and currently the star of Parks and Recreation, which is in its final season at NBC. I could see Poehler, who used to anchor Weekend Update on SNL, as the successor to Stewart. But the show won’t be the same without him.

Comedy Central at least has time to figure out Stewart’s exit and plan the future of The Daily Show. NBC News, on the other hand, is simply reeling from the scandal that has enveloped Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.

The network’s news division, which is used to reporting the news (not being the news) announced today that Williams has been suspended for six months without any pay. It’s unlikely we’ll be seeing much of him during his network-imposed exile. But, as they say on Broadway, the show must go on. Someone will have to present the news, and that person, at least for the time being, will be Lester Holt.

During Williams’ leave, the network will continue its internal investigation of his conduct, though its executives say they believes he deserves a second chance. NBC News President Deborah Turness explained NBC’s decision in a memo to staff:

As Managing Editor and Anchor of Nightly News, Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.

Steve Burke, Pat Fili and I came to this decision together. We felt it would have been wrong to disregard the good work Brian has done and the special relationship he has forged with our viewers over 22 years. Millions of Americans have turned to him every day, and he has been an important and well-respected part of our organization.

As I’m sure you understand, this was a very hard decision. Certainly there will be those who disagree. But we believe this suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action.

Poynter’s Al Tompkins posted some analysis earlier today which examines why NBC decided to suspend Williams instead of fire him.

A suspension gives the network time to assess the damage Williams has done to his credibility. It also gives the network time to see if possible successors, like Lester Holt, can attract enough viewers to keep NBC from slipping out of first place in the evening news race. If not, NBC can rotate in other temporary replacements until they find a good fit.

Then, in mid-August, when TV news viewership is at its lowest, Williams could come back to work. There would be time to react if there is audience blowback before the fall season and the November ratings period.

If NBC News’ internal investigation finds that Williams faked details while he was in New Orleans covering Hurricane Katrina in 2005, or fudged other stories, then he may not be brought back at all. And it’s hard to fathom what other news organization might want to employ him.

It’s been sad to watch Williams’ career implode the last few days. But Brian brought this on himself. He didn’t have to embellish and falsify his experiences in Iraq.

There’s been some joking on social media that Williams could succeed Stewart as the host of The Daily Show, but that won’t happen. The Daily Show has thrived (and won twenty Emmys) thanks to the comedic brilliance of its host and writing staff. Comedy Central will most likely be seeking out a proven, available talent like Amy Poehler to carry the program forward into its next era, while NBC tries to keep its lead over ABC and CBS’s evening news broadcasts with Lester Holt as anchor.

Hearing on SB 5375 turns into The Pam Roach Show – with special guest Tim Eyman

It's the Pam Roach Show, with the Incredibly Obnoxious Pam Roach!

Yesterday morning, as some readers may have heard on Twitter, I made a special trip down to Olympia with the intention of testifying in favor of Senate Bill 5375, one of the Northwest Progressive Institute’s priority bills for this session.

I was hoping to be able to explain to the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee than SB 5375 is a thoughtfully-crafted bill modeled on successful legislation passed in Oregon that is designed to stand up to constitutional scrutiny.

But I never got the chance.

Republican Pam “Who Moved My Flowers!?” Roach refused to allow me and many others (including a representative from the Secretary of State’s office!) a chance to testify in favor of SB 5375, after seemingly losing interest in repeatedly attacking the bill with fellow Republican Don Benton and their mutual friend Tim Eyman.

Senate Bill 5375, prime sponsored by Democrat Marko Liias of the 21st Legislative District, would subject the signature gathering industry to badly needed oversight and accountability. As in Oregon, paid petitioners would be required to register with the Secretary of State’s office, but their personal contact information would be exempted from public disclosure, so as to protect their privacy.

Senate Bill 5375 was one of eight bills that was supposed to receive a public hearing yesterday. I say supposed to because Roach turned what was ostensibly a meeting of the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee into The Pam Roach Show. I have to say, I’ve been in politics for thirteen years now, and rarely have I seen a public hearing devolve into such a farce. Roach’s behavior was absolutely outrageous and unbecoming of an elected official.

I’ve seen Roach in action before, so I was expecting a lively and contentious hearing. But again, this turned out not to be a public hearing at all. It was The Pam Roach Show, starring the incredibly obnoxious Pam Roach.

It is no exaggeration to say that Roach dominated the proceedings. Instead of listening (which is the point of having a public hearing), she talked incessantly. She contradicted her colleagues after they asked questions and, from the beginning of the committee meeting until the end, editorialized in response to nearly everything said by everyone who spoke.

Perhaps most shamefully of all, Roach used her perch at the rostrum to gloat about her successful reelection campaign last autumn in front of a panel of four people from the Washington Food Industry Association and the Northwest Grocery Association, two of NPI’s coalition partners from the NO on I-517 campaign.

For those unaware, most of Washington’s retailers backed another Republican, Cathy Dahlquist, for Roach’s seat last autumn in the 31st Legislative District… but as Roach tauntingly reminded the panel from the rostrum, “I won.”

(As an aside, I want to point out that NPI, unlike many other organizations active in Washington state politics, does not endorse candidates for office or participate in electioneering activities for or against any candidate. We do take positions on ballot measures and participate in ballot measure coalitions.)

I suspect the only reason she scheduled a hearing on this bill and invited WFIA and NWGA’s panel to step forward was so she could interrogate and belittle them.

To say that she was disrespectful would be a big understatement.

I mentioned earlier that the Secretary of State’s office, which supports SB 5375, was not allowed to testify. Ordinarily, when a representative from the executive branch is present, the chair asks that individual to speak right after the committee staff and prime sponsor do. That’s the usual protocol. It’s what the fair-minded Sam Hunt (Roach’s Democratic counterpart in the House) would have done.

But Roach had no interest in hearing from Kim Wyman’s staff.

Roach made sure the discussion kept veering off-topic, which is exactly the opposite of what a committee chair is supposed to do.

Roach suggested that WFIA and NWGA’s support of Dahlquist stemmed from her refusal to grant a hearing to a bill similar to SB 5375 last year. She argued that bill’s death in her committee wasn’t her fault because he hadn’t been asked to give it a hearing (which is untrue), but then admitted she didn’t like the bill.

And, as mentioned, when she got bored, she decided to simply move on and prevent anyone else (including me) from contributing their perspective.

Roach did read my name and NPI’s name off the sign-in sheet, so I’m guessing the committee staff report of the “hearing” will at least reflect that I was there.

Of course, as she read NPI’s name, Roach could not resist making a condescending remark: “Northwest Progressive Institute – don’t know what that is.”

(Roach had made a similar derogatory comment earlier, after one of four members of the WFIA/NWGA panel introduced himself, leading Marko Liias to interject apologetically and say he was familiar with the company and its stores.)

A total of eight bills were supposed to be heard yesterday, but the committee only got through four, because Roach decided to abruptly shut down the proceedings and walk out, leaving behind a packed room of stunned citizens and lobbyists.

TVW has the entire hearing archived on video, but of course, there’s a lot of context missing, because much of what you see is Pam Roach talking.

TVW’s footage runs an hour and thirty eight minutes and thirty five seconds (close to one hundred minutes). I decided it would be interesting to find out about how much of the time was taken up by Pam talking, so I watched the hearing all over again – with a digital stopwatch. I kept the stopwatch running as Pam spoke or engaged in crosstalk and paused it whenever she temporarily relinquished the floor.

According to the stopwatch, Pam Roach was speaking or engaged in crosstalk for close to thirty eight minutes of the one hour and thirty eight minutes of footage. In other words, she was talking for more than a third of the time.

Watch the footage on TVW, and you’ll see Pam interrupt people over and over again, either to disagree with them, or tell them to hurry up, or tell them she doesn’t understand what they’re talking about.

If Roach was really concerned about time management, as she claimed to be, she would treat everyone the same, and show restraint so as to allow people who had traveled to be there to share their perspective to participate.

But instead we saw how she has a massive double standard.

Roach told the League of Women Voters’ Kathy Sakahara, who spoke earlier on a different bill, to keep her remarks brief and concise and not repeat what the bill’s sponsor Andy Billig had said. NPI Advisory Council member Steve Zemke, who asked Roach to be allowed to speak for just a minute on that same bill after not being able to add his name to the sign-in sheet, was denied the opportunity, with Roach dismissively declaring, “We’re moving on.”

Yet Roach gave Tim Eyman as much time as he wanted to denounce SB 5375, and even when Eyman was repetitive, she didn’t cut him off. In fact, she asked him at least twice whether he had anything more to say.

And of course, Eyman being Eyman, he gladly went on reciting his talking points, many of which he created years ago to oppose initiative reform bills that contained flaws SB 5375 doesn’t have.

Marko Liias tried to get Roach to bring up the Secretary of State’s representative, but as the footage shows, she refused, leading Liias to lament that the committee wasn’t going to get the opportunity to ask the Secretary of State about signature fraud, the cases the Secretary of State has referred to the State Patrol, and the State Patrol’s difficulty investigating those cases.

When Senator Liias further stated that he resented not being able to address comments Don Benton had made earlier against the bill, which he felt were tantamount to Benton calling him a liar, Roach slammed the gavel, stood up to put on her coat, and walked out, leaving half of the bills on the agenda hanging.

Again, as I said earlier, this was easily one of the most poorly and unfairly run meetings of a legislative committee I have ever witnessed. It was a joke.

It is very ironic that Pam Roach and Tim Eyman spent so much time glorifying the First Amendment, considering that many people who had come to speak were not allowed to say anything at all. That includes Toni from the Secretary of State’s office, Steve Zemke, myself, and people who had come to speak on the four bills Roach didn’t get to at all thanks to her terrible time management and short fuse.

Pam Roach never should have been entrusted with jurisdiction over a committee begin with, but Republicans were desperate for power at the end of 2012, and they needed her vote to engineer the coup with Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon.

Republicans have a two-vote majority now, but where Roach goes, Don Benton follows (and vice versa, as we saw on the first day of session) so Republicans have left her in charge of the Government Operations and Security Committee.

What we saw yesterday is a disturbing example of how Republicans govern. We can expect more of this if Republicans win control of the state House in 2016 and retain control of the state Senate, as they are attempting to do.

We at NPI have always believed in standing up to bullies like Pam Roach, so we will be asking the Senate to investigate what happened yesterday.

And later today, in a follow-up post, I’ll be critiquing and responding to some of the more egregious comments made by Roach, Benton, and Eyman. I wasn’t permitted to address the committee yesterday, even though I was prepared to be respectful of others’ time, so I’ll be doing my best to correct the record from here.

Fortunately, neither I nor anyone else at NPI needs to go through Pam Roach when we want to publish something to the Cascadia Advocate, or to Permanent Defense. These are our projects and publications, through which we exercise our First Amendment rights, and we’ll continue to use them to educate the public, reframe the debate, confront intolerance, and fight injustice.

SB 5375 would bring needed accountability to Washington’s signature gathering industry

Editor’s Note: The following are the remarks I prepared as the basis for my spoken testimony in favor of SB 5375. This bill was supposed to be heard by the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee today. I never got a chance to testify in favor of SB 5375 because committee chair Pam Roach refused to allow me and others (including a representative from the Secretary of State’s office) to speak. Read more about how the hearing turned into The Pam Roach Show

Good morning, Madam Chair and members of the committee:

For the record, my name is Andrew Villeneuve.  I am the executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, based out of Redmond. I’m pleased to be here today on behalf of our team to express our strong support for Senate Bill 5375. We’d like to offer our profound thanks to Marko Liias for sponsoring it.

We believe this bill does two very important things: it protects workers who gather signatures on petitions from unscrupulous employers looking to exploit their labor, and it protects the public by deterring signature fraud and harassment of citizens by untrained workers, which are growing, documented problems.

If this bill were an attack on the people’s right to make laws, as has been argued here this morning, we would not be supporting it.

The initiative, referendum, and recall are useful tools for bypassing a gridlocked Legislature, and they have been used for that purpose many times, such as when the voters created the Public Disclosure Commission in the 1970s.

We want to see the initiative process strengthened and returned to the people. It belongs to the citizens of Washington, not to out of state corporations.

Data compiled by the Secretary of State’s office shows that we have a growing signature fraud problem. Large batches of fraudulent signatures have been discovered on petitions year after year.

On August 16th, 2013, the Everett Herald ran a story on our growing signature fraud problem. The Herald’s Eric Stevick reported:

Getting to the truth has been elusive.

Bob Calkins, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, said some investigations have run into dead-ends.

“Not only were the signatures fraudulent, but the identifying information about the signature gatherer was fraudulent and we were never able to run that down to an individual person,” he said. “So those other cases we were unable to take forward for prosecution.”

Over the past few months, our team has had several conversations with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, which implemented major reforms to their initiative process several years ago. Oregon now requires paid petitioners to register and pass a background check. They also adopted a law to stop the abusive practice of ballot title shopping… repeatedly filing multiple iterations of a measure in attempt to get a good ballot title. These reforms have been very successful.

In fact, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office tells us that over the course of the last two cycles they’ve actually had an uptick in the number of grassroots style petitions.

There was, of course, some grumbling when Oregon put its new laws into effect, but that’s since dissipated. The freedom to petition remains alive and well in the Beaver State today. The public can have more confidence in Oregon’s process.

Washington has a strong tradition of open, transparent government. It’s why we require professional lobbyists to register with the state and disclose their dealings with lawmakers. People who are being paid to lobby Washingtonians in their capacities as citizen lawmakers should likewise be required to register with the state. To protect the right to freely and anonymously petition, this bill exempts petitioners’ personal information, including contact information, from public disclosure. It strikes the right balance between transparency and privacy.

Oregon’s experience shows us that subjecting the paid signature gathering industry to oversight and accountability results in a stronger initiative process with more grassroots activity. That’s exactly what we need here in Washington. This thoughtfully crafted bill is ready to become part of the Revised Code of Washington. We urge you to pass it out of committee with a “do pass” recommendation.

House Transportation Committee narrowly advances HB 1180 – after watering it down

This afternoon, the House Transportation Committee reported out House Bill 1180, one of NPI’s priority bills for this legislative session, with a “do pass” recommendation… but not before adopting a Republican-backed amendment that substantially watered down the bill for no good reason.

In its now-amended form, HB 1180 would grant new revenue authority to Sound Transit and King County to fund transportation projects. The original bill, prime sponsored by Jake Fey of Tacoma, would have also given this authority to Snohomish, Pierce, and Clark counties, but an amendment adopted in committee just prior to the vote on final passage stripped these counties out.

Sound Transit wants the new authority so it can go to voters in 2016 with a Sound Transit 3 package that would expand Link light rail and Express bus service. We strongly believe voters should have the opportunity to decide in 2016 whether they want to increase our investment in mass transit, and are supporters of this bill. (I testified in support of HB 1180 last week on NPI’s behalf.)

As a consequence of the passage of the amendment, one Democrat representing a county now excluded from being granted the new revenue authority voted against advancing the bill out of committee… Jim Moeller. That resulted in the bill passing by the narrowest of margins… one vote. The final roll call was thirteen ayes to twelve nays. All of the Republicans voted nay.

The Legislature’s website has not yet been updated to reflect the proceedings of today’s executive session, but it soon will be, and when it is, I’ll update this post with links to the amendment and the roll call vote.

UPDATE: Here is the roll call vote.

Majority Report: The substitute bill be substituted therefore and the substitute bill do pass
Signed by Representatives Clibborn, Chair; Farrell, Vice Chair; Fey, Vice Chair; Moscoso, Vice Chair; Bergquist, Gregerson, McBride, Morris, Ortiz-Self, Riccelli, Sells, Takko, and Tarleton (all Democrats)

Minority Report: Do not pass
Signed by Representatives Hargrove, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Harmsworth, Kochmar, Moeller, Pike, Shea, Wilson, and Young (all Republicans except Moeller)

Minority Report: Without recommendation
Signed by Representatives Orcutt, Ranking Minority Member; Hayes, Rodne, and Zeiger (all Republicans)

We’re not sure why Ranking Member Ed Orcutt’s bad amendment to exclude Snohomish, Pierce, and Clark counties received the support of any Democrats. Perhaps Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn figured that adoption of the amendment would result in at least one or two Republicans deciding to give the bill a “do pass” recommendation. If so, she was mistaken.

The Democrats got played.

HB 1180, we understand, now heads to the House Finance Committee, chaired by Representative Reuven Carlyle. Perhaps Carlyle’s committee can scrap the amendment and restore the bill to what it was. This may actually be necessary if the bill is to pass the House; if Democrats like Jim Moeller aren’t willing to support HB 1180 in its current form on the floor and Republicans don’t pony up any votes, it will not receive the constitutionally-required majority it needs.

Raspberry Pi Foundation unveils new Pi that’s six times faster, will support Windows 10

Three years to the month after launching the first Raspberry Pi microcomputer, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has unveiled a new Pi that uses a more modern processor and has twice as much memory onboard. The Raspberry Pi 2, as it’s being called, will sell for $35, just like its predecessors (the first generation Model A and Model B), but it is unquestionably a better value, due to its improved specs.

We at NPI were among those who bought a Raspberry Pi when it first went on sale. Though the software has improved by leaps and bounds since the early days, we’ve always wished the hardware was better.

At last our wish has been fulfilled – and sooner than we thought.

After boosting the memory on the Model B from 256 MB to 512 MB in mid-2012, the Foundation maintained that no further upgrades to hardware were planned, at least not in the short term. From the Raspberry Pi FAQ, circa December 2013:

When will the next model of the Raspberry Pi be released?

As of the end of 2013, there are no immediate plans for the next model; possibly a new model will be released in 2-3 years, but this is not a firm time frame. A new model would inherently undo much of the community work that has been done to date on the Raspberry Pi, which would be counter-productive to our educational aims. We concentrate our engineering effort on making the software that runs on the Raspberry Pi faster and better all the time – which is why you should always be running the most recent firmware. Minor hardware revisions, such as bringing out i2s on the Model B rev. 2 board, will occur on an as needed basis and have no set timeframe or schedule.

Here we are just a year or so later, and we’ve got the Model 2. How did the Foundation manage to produce a new Pi while maintaining the backwards compatibility they’ve insisted was so important to them? Turns out Broadcom, the makers of the system on a chip the Pi uses, were willing to lend a hand:

Nonetheless, there comes a point when there’s no substitute for more memory and CPU performance. Our challenge was to figure out how to get this without throwing away our investment in the platform or spoiling all those projects and tutorials which rely on the precise details of the Raspberry Pi hardware. Fortunately for us, Broadcom were willing to step up with a new SoC, BCM2836. This retains all the features of BCM2835, but replaces the single 700MHz ARM11 with a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 complex: everything else remains the same, so there is no painful transition or reduction in stability.

Because the new Pi’s processor has four cores that are each 200MHz faster than the original Pi’s processor, the increase in speed is sixfold. There’s twice as much memory too, as previously mentioned. The new P-I unfortunately doesn’t come with support for USB 3.0/3.1 or gigabit Ethernet, but a future Pi well might.

The new Pi will support Ubuntu as well as Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, which will delight anyone who has tried to get Windows to work on the Pi. The Foundation has always advised against this in the past. From the old FAQ:

Will it run WINE (or Windows, or other x86 software)?

Wine Is Not an Emulator. Some people have put Windows 3.1 on the Raspberry Pi inside an x86 CPU emulator in order to use specific applications, but trying to use a version of Windows even as recent as Windows 98 can take hours to boot into, and take several more hours to update your cursor every time you try to move it. We don’t recommend it!

Will it run the Windows 8 ARM edition?

No. Even if Microsoft decided to devote all its resources to getting Windows 8 on the Pi it would not work. The Raspberry Pi lacks the minimum memory and CPU requirements, it runs on an version of the ARM processor that is not supported by Windows 8, it lacks the appropriate axis sensors… the list goes on and on. The Pi will not run Windows 8.

But the Pi 2 will be able to run Windows 10. From Microsoft:

We’re excited to announce that we are expanding our Windows Developer Program for IoT by delivering a version of Windows 10 that supports Raspberry Pi 2. This release of Windows 10 will be free for the Maker community through the Windows Developer Program for IoT.

Windows 10 is the first step to an era of more personal computing. This vision framed our work on Windows 10, where we are moving Windows to a world that is more mobile, natural and grounded in trust.

With the Windows for IoT developer program we’re bringing our leading development tools, services and ecosystem to the Raspberry Pi community!

We see the Maker community as an amazing source of innovation for smart, connected devices that represent the very foundation for the next wave of computing, and we’re excited to be a part of this community.

We are excited about our partnership with the Raspberry Pi Foundation and delivering a version of Windows 10 that supports Raspberry Pi 2, and we will be sharing more details about our Windows 10 plans for IoT in the coming months.

Windows 10 will also be a free upgrade, at least in the first year of availability, for people running Windows 8 and 8.1 now. In making Windows 10 upgrades free (as in free beer), Microsoft is following in the footsteps of Apple, which decided to stop charging for OS X upgrades in 2013 when it released Mavericks.

Neither OS X or Windows is free as in free speech, however. Both operating systems consist of code that’s proprietary, or closed source. The various operating systems that the Pi has run since its inception (including Raspbian) are open source, meaning that anyone can see how they work and modify them to their heart’s content.

Owing to its nature, free software cannot be pirated like Windows or OS X. Anyone who wants a copy of a libre OS like Ubuntu or Debian can freely and quickly get one. Copying free software is not only legally allowed, it’s encouraged.

Contrary to what you might think, free software can actually be sold (and sometimes is), but its purchasers then have the option of redistributing it gratis, if they wish. If they didn’t have this freedom, then the software would not really be free.

We at NPI are firm philosophical believers in free software, and we’re proud that our online presence is powered exclusively by a free software stack. While it’s nice that Microsoft is supporting the Raspberry Pi (just as it supports Drupal and WordPress), we’ll continue to principally power our Pis with free software.

Congratulations to the Foundation on the launch of the new model. We’re anxious to put it to the test and see what it can do.

Our region needs Sound Transit 3: NPI founder’s testimony in support of HB 1180

Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, I traveled down in Olympia to testify before the House Transportation Committee on HB 1180, which would give Sound Transit the authority it needs to propose an ST3 package to voters in urban King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties in 2016. The following is the text of my prepared testimony.

Good afternoon, Madam 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, and I’m pleased to be here today to speak in favor of HB 1180, prime sponsored by Representative Jake Fey.

Since the founding of NPI’s Permanent Defense nearly thirteen years ago, we have been emphatic supporters of Sound Transit and its mission. As Representative Fey said in his remarks earlier, a strong regional transit system is the key to fighting traffic congestion and promoting broad prosperity for Washingtonians.

We were proud to stand with Sound Transit as it reorganized itself into a model public agency more than a decade ago, and we’re incredibly pleased that ST now has a track record of delivering projects on time and under budget.

Although we have several Link extensions already under construction or in final design, we need to set the stage for the next phase of projects so that our region’s rail spine continues to be built out. There are many neighborhoods that are eagerly awaiting to be connected to Link, from Federal Way to Ballard to Everett.

Polling conducted for Sound Transit just last month by EMC Research shows that the people of Washington’s most populated region are very hungry for more transit. When asked if they would support a hypothethical Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, seventy percent of respondents said they would be in favor, while only twenty-eight percent said they would be opposed.

That’s a ratio of more than two to one!

Separately, respondents were asked if the Legislature should “definitely, probably, probably not, or definitely not give Sound Transit new taxing authority so they can put a transit expansion measure on the ballot sometime in the future?”

Again, by a two-to-one ratio, respondents said yes. Sixty-eight percent said the Legislature should definitely or probably give ST the authority it is seeking, while only thirty percent said it should not.

These are compelling numbers. This data backs up what my staff and I hear when we talk to urban Washingtonians: a sizeable majority want more transit. Given the opportunity to vote for more transit, they will, in a heartbeat.

We know there is still some skepticism about how effective light rail is at reducing congestion. It is important to understand that light rail and buses complement each other. They are different modes. We need both a strong rail spine and a well-designed network of bus routes to have a truly great transit system.

Crucially, the experience of other cities shows us that rail appeals to people who own cars and have a choice between driving and riding.

Transit-dependent individuals will use whatever transit is available, because they don’t have a choice. But those who do own cars are much more likely to choose not to drive if they can get where they need or want to go via train. This has been repeatedly documented through research.

For those members of the committee who are Republicans, I’d like to call your attention to several excellent papers written by well known conservatives Paul Weyrich and Bill Lind that have thoroughly examined the value of light rail and high capacity transit. These are all available from the American Public Transportation Association in PDF. They are good reads, and they do a good job of dispelling the myths so frequently propagated by transit bashers and transit skeptics.

Sound Transit is ready to move forward, but before it can offer the voters of its jurisdiction an opportunity to further invest in an effective transit system that relieves congestion in our crowded corridors, it needs to have the authority to raise additional revenue. House Bill 1180 would provide this much-needed authority. We urge you to report HB 1180 out of committee with an enthusiastic do pass recommendation next week. Thank you very much for your time.

Proposed constitutional amendment to thwart unfunded mandates should be discarded

On Wednesday of this week, Republican State Senator Joe Fain introduced a new constitutional amendment intended to prevent the people of Washington from proposing and passing any more initiatives that the attorney general’s office deems to be an unfunded mandate. The amendment, which is officially known as Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 8201, has an impressive list of over three dozen cosponsors. That’s more than two-thirds of the Washington State Senate, the threshold required to advance a constitutional amendment.

SJR 8201, which Fain is disingenuously calling the “Truth in Initiatives Amendment”, is a reaction to Initiative 1351, approved by voters last autumn. I-1351 was spearheaded by the Washington Education Association (WEA) and supported by NPI. It laudably mandates lower class sizes, but it does not contain a funding mechanism. Hence, it has been described as an unfunded mandate.

Though we were unhappy that the authors of I-1351 did not include a funding mechanism, we supported the initiative anyway, because Washington’s young people deserve the best public education we can provide, and overcrowded classrooms are not a recipe for fostering academic success. The Legislature, which is in contempt of court for failing to provide for the ample of education of our youth, needed to know that the people of Washington want smaller class sizes.

Senator Joe Fain and many of his colleagues were not pleased when I-1351 passed. In an attempt to dispense with having to deal with any more initiatives like I-1351 in the future, they’ve proposed SJR 8201.

The text of this amendment, which would alter Article II, Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution, is as follows:

The secretary of state shall not accept for filing an initiative measure if, on the advice of the attorney general, the secretary of state determines, within twenty days of the issuance of a final ballot title for the measure, that the measure will result in state expenditures that are not in compliance with any statutory state balanced budget requirement in effect on the date that the initiative is filed: PROVIDED, That this provision shall not preclude the filing of an initiative measure to repeal or amend an increase in a state tax if the measure is filed within one year following the enactment of the increase.

Tim Eyman has already made it known that he is fiercely opposed to SJR 8201. In an email to supporters and lawmakers earlier this week, he wrote:

Their bill [actually, a resolution] will mean the end of the initiative process because it will give the government [actually, the offices of the Secretary of State and the Attorney General] the power to shut down any initiative they see as a threat. Any initiative can easily be found to be “out of compliance” with this bill’s [constitutional amendment’s] requirement.

For over one hundred years, citizens have had the freedom and the guaranteed constitutional right to discuss, debate and decide on issues they care about. The government couldn’t stop First Amendment activity and the exercise of free speech.

Under their bill [again, actually, a resolution], for the first time, the government will have the power to block any initiative they want. And the people have no recourse. If the government says “no, we’ve determined that your initiative doesn’t balance”, then the people’s right to initiative is extinguished.

While we dislike Tim’s framing here (we, the people of this state are its government, and we should never forget that!), we concur that SJR 8201 is a bad idea, and should be discarded.

(Contrary to what Tim says above, SJR 8201 is not a bill. Tim ought to know this by now, but constitutional amendments and laws are different things. Laws begin as bills; the Constitution says bills require a majority vote to pass. Constitutional amendments begin as resolutions; they require a two-thirds vote to pass.)

After carefully assessing SJR 8201 over the past two days, we have identified several flaws with it, which we consider fatal. Here are three.

First: SJR 8201 creates a double standard. The amendment bars the Secretary of State from accepting an initiative that does not fiscally balance, thereby preventing the people of Washington from proposing initiatives like I-1351 in their capacity as citizen lawmakers. But elected lawmakers would still be able to propose and pass unfunded mandates themselves. This makes no sense.

Apparently, what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.

Did Joe Fain miss the part of Article II that spells out what the initiative and referendum process is all about? From the very first line of Section 1:

The legislative authority of the state of Washington shall be vested in the legislature, consisting of a senate and house of representatives, which shall be called the legislature of the state of Washington, but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature, and also reserve power, at their own option, to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, section, or part of any bill, act, or law passed by the legislature.

We have always believed that instituting a process for reviewing initiatives for constitutionality and form (prior to proceeding to the signature gathering stage) would be a good idea. Alaska, which partly modeled its Constitution on Washington’s, has such a process, and it works rather well.

But implementing prior review is not what Joe Fain and his colleagues are proposing here. Rather, what they are trying to do with SJR 8201 is create a new set of rules for proposing laws that apply to citizen lawmakers, but not themselves. How can they criticize the people of Washington for adopting unfunded mandates when they have repeatedly done the very same thing?

Not so long ago, the Legislature saw fit to redefine the meaning of basic education. However, when it did so, it failed to raise the revenue necessary to give teachers and administrators the resources needed to make our schools strong and vibrant. That’s actually what the McCleary case is all about.

Then there was the time the Legislature adopted an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC was not enacted with a permanent funding mechanism, so it has not been in effect the last few years. Governor Inslee has proposed funding it in his budget, but the House and Senate have yet to agree to that.

Our view is that lawmakers should not be attempting to hold the people of Washington, in their capacities as citizen lawmakers, to a standard they are unwilling to hold themselves to. That’s not leadership.

Second: SJR 8201 doesn’t treat all “unbalanced” initiatives the same. We can see from reading the last clause of SJR 8201 that Joe Fain isn’t serious about barring initiatives that don’t fiscally balance, because he has inserted an exemption allowing corporations and right wing groups to continue using the initiative process to force statewide votes on any change to the tax code they don’t like:

PROVIDED, That this provision shall not preclude the filing of an initiative measure to repeal or amend an increase in a state tax if the measure is filed within one year following the enactment of the increase.

Why is this loophole in SJR 8201? It’s there so that in the event the Legislature adopts a budget that, say, increases taxes on bottled water, the soda industry can still spend sixteen million dollars on an initiative campaign to convince Washingtonians to reject the tax a few months later… as the American Beverage Association (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr Pepper Snapple Group) did in 2010.

We can only conclude from reading SJR 8201 that Fain’s intent is to allow business groups (which often support his party’s candidates) the ability to continue using the initiative process to undermine any budgets or tax reform efforts they don’t like, while denying unions and public interest groups the ability to use the initiative process to propose expanding public services unless they provide for a funding mechanism. This clause of SJR 8201 reeks of hypocrisy.

If Fain and Company truly believe it important that every initiative fiscally balance (and that seems to be the whole point of this amendment) then there should be no exceptions. Initiatives that would decrease state revenues should be treated the same as initiatives that obligate the state to expend funds on a public service. However, this amendment does not do that.

Third: SJR 8201 imposes constitutional restrictions on initiatives which are unwisely tied to the existence of a state statute. Anyone who has ever taken a constitutional law class knows that our state and federal constitutions constitute our plan of government. The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the whole country; Washington’s Constitution is the supreme law of the Evergreen State. Because constitutions are also where minority rights are protected and society’s defaults are defined, they are typically difficult to change.

In addition to our Constitutions, we govern ourselves with a body of laws that are known as statutes. The Revised Code of Washington is the name we use to refer to the large collection of statutes we’ve created over the years.

Statutes can be changed by majority vote of the Legislature with the governor’s concurrence, by a two-thirds vote of each house without the governor’s concurrence, or by majority vote of the people. Presently, there is a statute on our books requiring the governor to propose a budget that balances. There is also a statute requiring the Legislature to adopt a budget that balances.

But there is no provision in the Constitution requiring balanced budgets. And SJR 8201 doesn’t add one. What it does instead is unwisely place a restriction on the initiative power that can be turned on or off. Since statutes can be created or repealed by majority vote, SJR 8201 could theoretically be made inoperative at any point in the future simply by gutting any balanced budget requirements in RCW.

If the just described scenario is possible, as we imagine it would be, then what is the point of amending the Constitution in the first place? Why bother?

We can certainly understand the sentiment that appears to be the driving force behind SJR 8201. Quite a few of the initiatives we’ve voted on over the years made it to the ballot in an unpolished state, and those favored by a majority of voters have been added to our body of laws with no further opportunity for improvement. Lawmakers then have to deal with the fallout.

The legislative process has its advantages. It’s very deliberative and there are many stages at which bills with serious defects can be improved.

However, as we’ve all seen, worthy bills can also be held up and killed in the legislative process by running out the clock.

That’s why it’s a good thing we have the initiative. It allows the people to bypass a gridlocked Legislature (when needed) to make change.

A few final words about SJR 8201 are in order. The premise of this amendment is that unfunded initiatives (well, some unfunded initiatives) are always bad and should be prohibited. We do not agree with that premise.

We think progressive ballot coalitions should strive to offer ballot measures that are thoughtfully drafted. A proposal to expand or protect public services can benefit from a funding mechanism; this helps voters understand that public services cost money. But while initiatives make good vehicles for proposing big ideas, sometimes details need to be worked out in the legislative process.

Joe Fain’s time would be better spent working to carry out the will of the voters, instead of trying to tear I-1351 apart and prevent any initiatives like I-1351 from making it to the ballot in the future. His amendment, in our estimation, harms the initiative process instead of strengthening it.

We therefore oppose it and urge its rejection.

There are many things we can do as a state to make our system of direct democracy work better. We can and should:

  • Protect the initiative and referendum process against ongoing abuses like ballot title shopping and signature fraud;
  • Implement a system of prior review for initiatives, so that proposed laws that are unconstitutional on their face don’t advance to the ballot;
  • Bar corporations from participating in elections, which would greatly facilitate the return of the initiative and referendum process to the people.

We remain committed to working with lawmakers and fellow activists to bring about the reforms we need to ensure we have a government of, by, and for the people.

Roger Freeman’s former legislative aide joins Republican Party to run for Legislature

Following in the footsteps of his idol Mark Miloscia, Federal Way City Councilmember and former Democratic legislative assistant Martin Moore announced today that he is joining the Republican Party and will run against Democratic State Representative Carol Gregory for the seat held by Freeman prior to his death last October.

Moore, thirty, belonged to the 30th District Democrats for years and sought both their support and that of the King County Democrats when he ran for Federal Way City Council. However, he drifted away from the party after backing Mark Miloscia’s bid for the Senate as a Republican last year, and consequently, he did not participate in the special nominating caucus to draw up a list of names to succeed Freeman, though he clearly wants to be Freeman’s successor.

King County records show that Moore has served as a Democratic precinct committee officer in the 30th District for multiple terms, and I understand he was also a delegate to the State Democratic Convention in 2012 and 2010.

Moore has long had an association with Mark Miloscia; he managed Miloscia’s unsuccessful campaign for state auditor in 2012 and remained close to Miloscia and his family after the campaign ended. I have no doubt Miloscia played a major role in recruiting Moore into the Republican Party. The Republicans needed a candidate to go up against Carol Gregory, and who better, they figure, than an acolyte of Mark Miloscia’s? Miloscia had no trouble getting elected last year.

But Martin Moore is not Mark Miloscia. For one thing, Moore has only been on the ballot once before, as a candidate for city council. For another, Moore’s story about his transformation into a Republican simply doesn’t check out.

Moore told the Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner, “The party has become so incredibly intolerant of people who might disagree with them on some issues… The party has shifted enormously, and it’s gone to the far left.”

This is utter nonsense, and Moore knows it. The Democratic Party’s position on issues like reproductive rights and LGBT civil rights has been unchanged for years. It’s true that when Miloscia ran for auditor, he was harshly criticized by some Democratic activists for his views on those issues. But other Democratic activists strongly defended him and worked to build support for his candidacy.

Miloscia was not driven out of the Democratic Party; he left it of his own volition. The Republican Party came calling, and Miloscia responded to its siren song. Now Moore is doing the same thing, undoubtedly at Miloscia’s urging.

But, as I said, his story just doesn’t check out. Miloscia, who is Catholic, has long been known as a partial conservative opposed to abortion under any circumstances, and opposed to marriage equality. Miloscia accepts what his church teaches.

Moore, however, has previously told the Democratic Party he supports reproductive rights. When Moore ran for Federal Way City Council, he filled out a King County Democratic questionnaire which asked the question, “Do you support women’s absolute right to reproductive freedom?” Moore’s answer was YES.

But now that Moore is following in the footsteps of Mark Miloscia, he has aligned his views with those of his idol’s, and those of the Republican Party’s.

Republican operative Keith Schipper, who was briefly Rodney Tom’s campaign manager before Tom decided to bow out of politics, has already been put in charge of Moore’s nascent campaign for state representative.

Schipper has wasted no time making Moore sound like another dishonest Republican foot soldier. Take a look at this excerpt from his press release:

Democrats have had a firm grip on Olympia for 30 years and what do we have to show for it? Declining wages, a court order to reform and fund our schools, crumbling roads and bridges, skyrocketing college tuition, and an inefficient and ineffective government… It has been the Republicans who have put the people – not special interests – first.

If Moore really believes that the party of George Bush, Jeb Bush, ExxonMobil, BP, the Koch brothers, Mitt Romney, and Sheldon Adelson is the party of the people, I have a large and very expensive bridge to Idaho I’d be happy to sell him.

It is not accurate to say that Democrats “have had a firm grip on Olympia [meaning state government] for thirty years”.

(Keith Schipper, incidentally, is very fond of using Olympia in his press releases as a metonym for state government. We don’t do that because Olympia is a city in its own right, home to nearly fifty thousand people.)

While Democrats have held the governor’s mansion since 1985, they have not continuously controlled the Legislature or all of the other executive department positions (there are a total of nine) during that time.

Though Washington tends to vote Democratic in statewide races, Republicans have held the Secretary of State’s office since the 1960s, and for eight years of this young century, a Republican was the attorney general.

A quick look at the history of the Legislature shows us that Republicans controlled both houses of the Legislature in the 1990s; they controlled the state Senate for two years in the early 2000s, and they control the state Senate now.

It is the Republicans who have historically stood in the way of progress on all the fronts Moore’s quote refers to, and are doing so again today.

In the late 1990s, Washington’s labor movement sponsored an initiative to increase the minimum wage and require the Department of Labor & Industries to adjust it upwards in the future. The Democratic Party supported this initiative, which passed overwhelmingly. The Republican Party opposed it.

In 2005, Governor Chris Gregoire and the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed a landmark transportation package to invest in crumbling roads and bridges. Republican talk show hosts John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur launched an initiative (I-912) to repeal the package’s main funding mechanism, which was endorsed by the Republican Party. Voters, however, defeated their initiative.

And, over the course of the last fifteen years, the Republican Party has regularly supported Tim Eyman’s repeated attempts to wreck state government and choke our common wealth. Like Eyman, the Republican Party’s agenda has been to put the needs and wants of powerful corporations ahead of the public interest.

It is no accident that our schools and other vital public services are underfunded: they got that way principally thanks to Eyman’s destructive initiatives and Republicans’ scorched earth opposition to meaningful progressive tax reform.

We’ve now had divided government for two years, and despite Rodney Tom’s boasting, it hasn’t produced any results for Washington State. We ended up with an operating budget that can’t even be called mediocre after coming dangerously close to a government shutdown, and Senate Republicans spent so much time quarrelling amongst themselves behind closed doors that they couldn’t even manage to craft a transportation package they liked and bring it to a vote.

This year, we are several billion dollars short of the amount of money needed to fulfill our obligations, but Republicans – led by my obstinate state Senator Andy Hill – deny there’s even a problem. They seem incapable even of basic arithmetic.

If Martin Moore wants to make these people his new political best friends, that’s his choice. But as he’ll soon discover, the very things he has just squandered (trust and authenticity) matter more than anything else in politics.

And as the Republicans will soon discover, his candidacy will not enjoy the same credibility or support that Miloscia’s did.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Justice too long delayed is justice denied”

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we do every year in honor of Dr. King’s memory, I’m posting an excerpt from his Letter From Birmingham Jail.

In these passages, he is explaining why he has rejected calls to wait on advancing civil rights. King makes the point that people who wish to expand freedom must be bold (and willing to violate unjust laws!), because timidity does not bring about lasting, meaningful change. If freedom is not being expanded, it contracts.

(Note that typos are contained in the original manuscript.)

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.

For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”

But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim;

when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society;

when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people;

when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”;

when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you;

when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” —

— then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.

Take a few minutes today to read the whole thing.

Actions speak louder than words, and Tim Sheldon’s actions make him a Republican

Aside from Senate Republicans’ adoption of a set of rules containing an undemocratic, unconstitutional procedural two-thirds vote requirement for bills proposing new revenue sources, the main news being reported out of the statehouse by Washington newspapers on Monday was the surprise election of Pam Roach to the office of President Pro Tempore.

As we had anticipated would be the case, pretty much every account of the vote and its fallout inaccurately described the suddenly deposed Tim Sheldon as a Democrat. Consider, for example, how The News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader began his story:

Democrats help Republican Sen. Pam Roach unseat a Democrat
By Jordan Schrader

Nearly all Democrats voted for a Republican. Nearly all Republicans voted for a Democrat.

And by a whisker, Pam Roach prevailed, winning a leadership role in the state Senate and taking the latest step in a comeback from the days when she wasn’t even allowed in meetings of her fellow Republicans.

How many times does it need to be said: Tim Sheldon is not a Democrat. He made a choice, years ago, to sever ties with the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, for its part, no longer wants anything to do with him.

Now, I imagine that at least a few of you reading this post right now, including those of you who write for one of the McClatchy papers or the Seattle Times or another paper may be thinking, But Tim Sheldon got elected as a Democrat.

No, he didn’t. Tim Sheldon got elected as Tim Sheldon. Legally, when Tim Sheldon was on the ballot, he was representing no one except for himself.

Allow me to explain.

Since 2008, we have had here in Washington a very strange system for electing people to office, based on the ridiculous notion that nobody should ever have to vote a party ballot (the horror!) except perhaps in a presidential primary. It’s based on a system first used in Louisana, and it’s called Top Two.

Top Two is meant to be a replacement for the old preliminary “blanket” election we used to have, where nominees were chosen on a ballot that was not restricted to voters from a particular party. The Supreme Court struck down this system as unconstitutional in the mid 2000s. Sam Reed, the state Grange, and others came up with Top Two in response. They have claimed on several occasions that Top Two is like the system we used to have. In fact, it is not. It’s very different.

Top Two provides for a two-part general election. The first round (presently held in August) is used to eliminate candidates from contention – if there be more than two persons seeking an office – and the second round (held in November) constitutes the runoff. The top two candidates advance to the second round regardless of party; there are no nominees being chosen in this system.

The Grange, which created initiative that created the Top Two system (I-872, approved in November 2004 but not implemented until 2008 due to court rulings) was well aware that proposing to do away with partisan elections altogether might not go over very well; plenty of voters use party affiliation as a cue when voting.

So they inserted a provision into their initiative (which later became state law) which allows candidates to state a party preference.

However, as the Secretary of State has reluctantly admitted on several occasions, this descriptor carries no legal weight. Candidates can use this space to describe themselves however they’d like. For instance, I could file for office and say I prefer the Cake Batter Ice Cream Party, or the Christmas Party, or the Stephen King Party.

When Tim Sheldon filed for office last year, he put “Prefers Democratic Party” into the space allotted to him for a descriptor. So did one of his opponents, Irene Bowling, who went on to face him in the runoff.

However, Bowling, unlike Sheldon, is an actual Democrat. She campaigned with the support of the Democratic Party, she won the party’s nomination (which Sheldon did not seek), and she was prepared to caucus with the Democrats had she won. Bowling was the only Democratic candidate in the 35th in 2014.

Sheldon campaigned with the support of Republicans and has continued to caucus with Republicans following his reelection. Republicans, for their part, have welcomed and accepted him into their ranks. He is serving like a Republican member of the Washington State Senate. That makes him a Republican.

It matters not that Sheldon calls himself a Democrat. The Democratic Party decides who its candidates and its members are; it has that right under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Free assembly is a great thing.

The Democratic Party has disowned Tim Sheldon following his departure from the Senate Democratic caucus in 2012. It would be accurate to call Sheldon an ex-Democrat or a former Democrat, as he did associate himself with the Democratic Party once upon a time. But he is not now a Democrat.

Again, because of the way Top Two works, the argument cannot be made that Tim Sheldon got elected as a Democrat in spite of having been disowned by the Democratic Party. Tim Sheldon got elected as Tim Sheldon. We have not had an actual primary to choose nominees for office in this state since 2007.

If any reporter would like to hear this same explanation from the Washington State Democratic Party’s official spokesperson, they can call up State Party Chair Jaxon Ravens, who I am sure would be perfectly happy to comment on the record.

Sheldon could do everyone a favor and simply proclaim himself to be what he really is: a Republican. If Mark Miloscia can do it, he can do it. But, for whatever reason, he continues to advertise himself as belonging to a party he has renounced, and which has in turn renounced him. The rest of us, however, are under no obligation to play along with him. A spade is a spade. Reporters working for mass media ought to stop referring to Tim Sheldon as a Democrat – because he isn’t one.

Democrats settle score with Tim Sheldon by electing Pam Roach as President Pro Tem

Washington State’s Senate Democratic caucus made the most of an opportunity to hold Tim Sheldon accountable for his treachery at the end of 2012 by joining forces this afternoon with militant Republicans Don Benton and Pam Roach to elect the renegade Roach as President Pro Tem of the Washington State Senate.

Sheldon had expected the position to go to him a second time (it first went to him as a consequence of the power coup he and and Rodney Tom engineered with the Senate Republicans in 2012) but Democrats brilliantly turned the tables on him and the Senate Republican caucus’ leadership in an unexpected maneuver that resulted in the position going to Roach instead.

The final vote was twenty-five for Roach and twenty-four for Sheldon. A majority vote carried the day (take note, Tim Eyman) and Roach was duly elected and sworn in as President Pro Tempore by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen.

Realizing what the Democrats were up to, Republican floor leader Joe Fain placed Senator Karen Fraser’s name into nomination. But none of the Democrats, Fraser included, voted for Fraser. Instead, they provided the bulk of the votes needed to get Pam Roach elected, with Roach and Benton supplying the final two votes.

It was really something else to watch. Seeing the faces of the power-hungry Senate Republicans as they realized they were getting played was incredibly satisfying. Schoesler and Sheldon only found out something was up shortly before the vote.

Sheldon, of course, is in no position to disparage Roach or Benton. He wanted power two years ago and made a deal to get it. He can hardly complain about his colleagues’ actions. After all, he chose them as caucus-mates first!

The position of President Pro Tempore of the Senate, like that of President of the Senate, is mostly ceremonial, although it does guarantee a seat on the very important Senate Rules Committee as Vice Chair.

Pro Tempore is Latin, and it basically means for the time being in English. The President Pro Tempore is the person who fills in when the President of the Senate – Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen – is absent. Ordinarily, Owen is present and able to preside, but that’s not always the case.

The positions of Vice President Pro Tempore and Secretary of the Senate went to Sharon Brown and Hunter Goodman, as anticipated.

Amusingly, the Legislature’s website continues to list Tim Sheldon as President Pro Tempore. I’m sure they’ll get that corrected by the end of the day, if not sooner.

Tim Sheldon's entry on the Washington State Senate roster

Tim Sheldon’s entry on the Washington State Senate roster still lists him, incorrectly, as both a Democrat and the President Pro Tempore. Sheldon caucuses with the Republicans, votes like a Republican, and won reelection with mostly Republican support.

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