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.

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.

Islamic terrorists attack offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France, leaving twelve dead

This is just awful:

At least two masked gunmen stormed the Paris offices of satirical [French language] weekly Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, killing twelve people and injuring eleven more before escaping in a car. It was France’s deadliest terrorist attack in decades.

Some of France’s most prominent cartoonists were among the dead, including the magazine’s director Stéphane Charbonnier, known as “Charb”. Seven other journalists were killed along with two police officers, a guest at the Charlie Hebdo offices and the building’s receptionist.

The gunmen reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) during their deadly rampage. Charlie Hebdo had been a target of Islamist extremists ever since it published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Islam’s holiest figure, in 2006. Its previous headquarters were firebombed in 2011.

Charlie Hebdo has long had a reputation of taking aim at sacred cows. In many respects, it is similar to The Onion, which went online-only over a year ago. It is a beacon of progressive thought in France.

Its staff were (and still are) practitioners of free expression. They didn’t just believe in the idea of free speech and a free press; they lived it. And for that, they were targeted by fanatical, radicalized fundamentalists who believe parodies of the founder of their religion merit death at the barrel of a gun.

We at NPI join with the readers of Charlie Hebdo today in offering our deepest condolences to the staff of those killed, and the police officers who lost their lives in the line of fire trying to protect them. And we pray for the healing and the recovery of the nearly dozen more people who were wounded.

Whenever freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression come under attack, they must be defended. Perhaps Franklin Roosevelt said it best: Ultimately, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Now is the time for the people of France to show steely resolve, not panic.

The French police have launched a manhunt for the attackers who got away. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told the press that “all the resources of the justice system and Interior Ministry have been mustered… [The terrorists] will be punished with the severity that the brutality of their acts deserve.”

We wish them every success and we know the good people of Paris and France will lend a willing hand in assisting the authorities catch these violent extremists.

Appropriately, political cartoonists around the world have begun responding, using their arts to show their solidarity with the victims of the attack.

Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) has become a rallying cry across continents.

President Barack Obama issued a statement earlier today in response to the attacks on behalf of the people of the United States of America.

“I strongly condemn the horrific shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that has reportedly killed twelve people,” the President said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrorist attack and the people of France at this difficult time. France is America’s oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world. Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended.”

“France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers. We are in touch with French officials and I have directed my Administration to provide any assistance needed to help bring these terrorists to justice.”

California’s experience proves Governor Inslee is right to pursue cap and trade

Governor Jay Inslee’s bold yet sensible step to bring Washington State into the growing North American cap and trade system is predictably generating opposition from Republicans. State Senator Curtis King, the Republican chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, took to the pages of the Seattle Times to denounce Governor Inslee’s plan. Unfortunately for King, his attack on the governor’s cap and trade plan is disproved by recent events here on the West Coast.

Senator King’s argument is that cap and trade will somehow hurt drivers:

The governor’s plan to punish big polluters was no surprise either. However, it won’t be the gas and diesel industry that would pay. It would be the people in our state who own a gas- or diesel-powered vehicle who would foot the bill. Every person who needs to drive a car or truck to get to work would be punished because they are the “big, bad polluters.”

This is the standard right-wing line about cap and trade, that it will cause prices at the pump to soar.

Except it won’t.

California adopted a cap and trade system in 2006, and defended it at the ballot box in 2010 from an effort backed by oil companies to repeal it. The system began operation in 2012. But it wasn’t until January 1, 2015 that fossil fuels, including diesel and gasoline, were included under the carbon cap.

This caused a great deal of anger from the oil companies. Their lobbying arm, the Western States Petroleum Association, employed astroturf tactics to try and convince the California Legislature to exempt fuels from cap and trade and fight the state’s low carbon fuel standard.

Their efforts failed, but not before scaring Californians into thinking that their gas prices would soar. The oil industry astroturf groups howled about a hidden gas tax that would cause gas prices to rise by as much as 76 cents per gallon.

Last week, the dreaded day finally arrived – gasoline was covered by the cap and trade system. So what happened to gas prices in California?

If you look closely at this chart of the average California gas price, you’ll see a slight uptick at the beginning of January: from $2.62 per gallon to about $2.65 per gallon.

That pales in comparison to the rapid fall in gas prices that took place in the preceding 30 days. Even with the 3 cent increase, the average price of a gallon of gas in California was still 40 cents below the price in early December.

Drivers don’t appear to have noticed, according to the Sacramento Bee:

“I didn’t notice any price change today or yesterday,” said Sacramentan Bill Nelson, 45, filling up at the Chevron station at 19th and Broadway, where regular was posted at $2.79 a gallon. “I’m just glad I’m not paying $4 a gallon like I was paying for a long time.”

Jeanice Walker, 29, also considers the current price of gas a reprieve. Walker was pumping gas Friday at the Valero station at Broadway at Riverside Boulevard, where regular was going for $2.45 a gallon for customers who paid cash.

“It always goes up for some reason or another,” Walker said. “I’m glad I’m getting a break with these (current prices).”

It’s possible that the price of gas could rise a bit further, maybe as much as seven more cents a gallon. But that’s background noise against the dramatic drop in prices that’s taken place lately.

In fact, analysts predict that the overall price of gas may continue to fall, and drivers will never notice the impact of cap and trade at the pump.

This should come as no surprise. Gas prices are notoriously volatile. Prices usually decline in the fall and increase in the spring, often by much more than three or even ten cents a gallon. The effect of cap and trade is just background noise amidst the usual rise and fall in gas prices.

More importantly, California’s experience proves that Governor Inslee’s cap and trade plan will have a very small effect on gas prices – and that the effect will be something Washington drivers can easily afford. Drivers aren’t going to be “punished,” as Senator King claims. They’ll hardly notice.

So if drivers aren’t paying the cap and trade costs, who is? The answer is it’s the big polluters. In this case, the oil companies. They’re the ones who have to pay for the carbon credits, and those costs are not actually very easy to pass along to drivers. Of course, that’s why the oil companies fought so hard to stop cap and trade.

The cap and trade revenue then gets plowed back into projects that make Washington greener and more sustainable, including mass transit. The result is an effective new effort to reduce carbon emissions and address the problems that global warming will cause to the Northwest – all at a price drivers can easily afford.

Senator King may not want to admit it, but California’s experience with cap and trade is proving Governor Inslee correct. Washington should move ahead with the governor’s plan to fight pollution and build a more inclusive, sustainable economy.

Pacific Northwest unlikely to gain U.S. House seats in 2020 reapportionment, data indicates

Shortly before Christmas, the United States Census Bureau released its 2014 State and National Population Estimates. Strikingly, the data released by the Census Bureau shows that the United States’ population is growing at slowest rate since 1937. There is a parallel: Then, as now, we were witnessing a combination of recovery from a weak economy and a strict immigration policy.

The average year-to-year population growth has steadily declined since 1990, which was the peak of the Echo Boom, meaning the increase in the fertility rate in the 1980s and 1990s as Baby Boomers reached their prime years for childbirth.

From 1990-2000, the average year-to-year population growth was 1.30%, but only 0.924% from 2000 to 2010. That being said, American population growth has reached a nadir not seen since the Great Depression, with a year-to-year population growth of only 0.746% from 2013 to 2014.

Regionally, as has been the case for decades, population growth in the West and South greatly outpaced that observed in both the Midwest and Northeast in the past year (1.09% and 1.05% vs. 0.26% and 0.22%, respectively).

At the state level, North Dakota outpaced the other forty-nine states with 2.16% population growth in the past year, while six states – West Virginia, Illinois, Connecticut, Alaska, New Mexico and Vermont – suffered population losses greater than in any year since 1991.

Among larger states (defined as those with populations greater than eight million) only Texas, Florida and Georgia witnessed population growth greater than 1.0% in the past year, while Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania had less than 0.2%.

While census reports give a great deal of societal information (age, ancestry, family size, commuting, computer and internet use, educational attainment, health insurance, housing, immigration, income, language use, poverty, race, and so on), they also offer clues as to what may happen in the next round of redistricting.

The size of the United State House of Representatives has been fixed for more than a century at four hundred and thirty-five voting members.

As a result, when seats are reapportioned after a census, some states lose seats, while others gain them. This not only affects the relative legislative strength a particular state has, but it also changes the makeup of the Electoral College.

The Electoral College is set at five hundred and thirty-eight electors, based on there being four hundred and thirty-five U.S. Representatives and one hundred U.S. Senators, as well as three electors from the District of Columbia. Consequently, it redounds to a zero-sum partisan game as the addition of a congressional seat to a blue state is a blow to Republican presidential prospects and vice versa.

In the Pacific Northwest, preceding the 2010 census, there were multiple reports that Oregon and/or Washington appeared poised to gain an additional seat.

Back in 2008, Kimball Bruce, president of Election Data Services, indicated that Oregon was in a good position to gain a 6th Congressional seat.

“Earlier in the decade, we didn’t see Oregon gaining a seat, but Oregon is now showing a strong potential,” he said at the time.

As it turned out, it was Washington that gained an additional seat, not Oregon. After coming so close in 2010, we might be tempted to think that Oregon would be in line for a new seat in 2020, but the data casts doubt upon that prospect.

It could be said that congressional apportionment is analogous to the selection and seeding of teams for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

While there is some subjectivity in the selection process for the NCAA tournament and none with congressional apportionment, both processes both use a numeric value in ranking and deciding which are in and which are out.

The congressional apportionment process uses what’s called “priority value” and the NCAA uses something called the RPI (Rating Percentage Index) for seeding tournaments. It should be noted that many positions are automatic: Each state has at least one U.S. Representative, whereas the NCAA allocates one bid for each team that wins its conference tournament.

Therefore, as with the NCAA tournament, we can consider those Congressional seats near the break point to be “on the bubble.”

That being the case, we can do a bit of bracketology, where we make projections on what congressional seats will be in or out following the next census in 2020.

As background, the aforementioned “priority value” is calculated using the Huntington–Hill method, also known as the Method of Equal Proportions, due to it resulting in a minimization of the percentage differences in the populations of the different congressional districts. The calculation is actually very simple, as it is the geometric mean of a state gaining its nth seat and not gaining that seat or (n-1). This equates to D=\sqrt{n(n-1)}, where D is the “divisor.”

Then we divide a state’s population by the divisor for gaining that seat number, n, and the result equates to its “priority value.”

Thus, for California, whose 2014 population estimate is 38,802,500, obtaining a second Congressional seat has a priority value of 2.74 x 107, which is equal to \frac{38,802,500}{\sqrt{2(2-1)}} or \frac{38,802,500}{\sqrt{2}}. For California to add a third Congressional seat, the priority value is 1.58 x 107, or \frac{38,802,500}{\sqrt{6}}. But for Texas to obtain a second seat the priority value is 1.91 x 107 or \frac{26,956,958}{\sqrt{2}}.

Therefore, California’s 2nd Congressional seat has the highest priority value, next Texas’ 2nd Congressional seat, then California’s 3rd Congressional seat.

It is noteworthy that we begin by calculating the priority value for a state gaining a second congressional seat, since the Constitution, in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3, dictates that “each State shall have at least one Representative.”

Thus, once we account for there being at least one representative from each state, there are three hundred and eighty-five congressional seats left to be divvied up among the states using the Huntington-Hill method with the highest three hundred and eighty-five priority values for individual congressional seats being granted and those with lower priority values not.

Below is a chart, following the 2010 Census, of the congressional seats with priority values ranked from 371 to 400, i.e. the final fifteen congressional seats granted and those 15 Congressional seats that fell just short.

Priority Ranking State Congressional Seat
371 Alabama 7
372 Florida 26
373 Illinois 18
374 Michigan 14
375 New York 27
376 Texas 35
377 Pennsylvania 18
378 California 52
379 Georgia 14
380 South Carolina 7
381 California 53
382 Florida 27
383 Washington 10
384 Minnesota 8
385 Texas 36
386 North Carolina 14
387 Missouri 9
388 New York 28
389 New Jersey 13
390 Montana 2
391 Louisiana 7
392 Ohio 17
393 Oregon 6
394 Virginia 12
395 California 54
396 Illinois 19
397 Massachusetts 10
398 Texas 37
399 Pennsylvania 19
400 Oklahoma 6

As is obvious, the final congressional seats awarded were (in order): California’s 53rd, Florida’s 27th, Washington’s 10th, Minnesota’s 8th and Texas’ 36th, while those falling just short were North Carolina’s 14th, Missouri’s 8th, New York’s 28th, New Jersey’s 13th, and Montana’s 2nd.

Oregon’s 6th Congressional seat was ranked 393 following the 2010 census, eight places short of being awarded.

It is worth mentioning that following the 2014 Census Population Estimates, if the Congressional reapportionment were to take place at the current moment, only two seats would be lost – Minnesota’s 8th and Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional seats – and only two seats would be gained – North Carolina and Texas gaining a 14th and 37th Congressional seats, respectively.

But if we were to witness the same state-by-state growth from 2014 to 2020 that we observed from 2010 to 2014 – admittedly a massive assumption – the below table shows the projected “bubble” congressional seats.

Priority Ranking State Congressional Seat Change
366 Michigan 13
367 Indiana 9
368 California 52
369 New Jersey 12
370 Washington 10
371 New York 26
372 South Carolina 7
373 Georgia 14
374 Texas 38
375 Illinois 17
376 Wisconsin 8
377 Pennsylvania 17
378 California 53
379 Florida 28 +1
380 North Carolina 14 +1
381 Colorado 8 +1
382 Texas 39 +3
383 California 54 +1
384 New York 27
385 Virginia 12 +1
386 Alabama 7 -1
387 Oregon 6
388 Arizona 10
389 Montana 2
390 Minnesota 8 -1
391 Ohio 16 -1
392 West Virginia 3 -1
393 Florida 29
394 California 55
395 Rhode Island 2 -1
396 Texas 40
397 Louisiana 7
398 Oklahoma 6
399 Illinois 18 -1
400 Massachusetts 10
401 California 56
402 Michigan 14 -1
403 Maryland 9
404 Pennsylvania 18 -1
405 New York 28

As we can see, the trend of western and southern congressional seats rising in the rankings, while congressional seats in the Northeast and Midwest fall.

The only state that is projected to gain or lose multiple seats is Texas, which picks up three. Other states gaining seats are California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. The states projected to lose one Congressional seat are Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Nationally, it’s worth noting that states where President Obama won in 2012 would lose four electors in the Electoral College.

While the President won the Electoral College by an overwhelming 332 to 206 margin in 2012, we need only look back to the contested Presidential election of 2000 to see where a few Congressional seats can make a difference.

If, say, in 2000 California had four more Congressional seats and Texas had four fewer, Al Gore would have won the Presidency, even with the Supreme Court ruling that Bush won Florida. Therefore, a net gain of eight electors in the Electoral College by red states could be significant.

As I mentioned earlier, Oregon does not appear to be in line for a sixth congressional seat. This is due to a very modest growth in the state from 2010 to 2013 of 2.58%, which is only slightly greater than the national population growth over that period of 2.39%.

On the other hand, Oregon had a far better 2014 with a year-over-year growth rate of 1.07%, while nationally the population grew by 0.746%.

Oregon’s hypothetical sixth seat is therefore projected to move up the priority value ranking six places from three hundred and ninety-three to three hundred and eighty-seven – two short of it being awarded. If state population growth stays steady (again, a major assumption) Oregon would need to grow by 14,612 more than the projected 332,890 population gain to be given an additional seat.

As for Washington, we’ve witnessed solid growth of 4.74% over the past four years making it the eighth fastest growing state over that time-span. That being said, Washington is a long way from gaining an eleventh congressional seat with it being projected to be ranked 414 in priority value in 2020.

Regionally, the only Western states projected to gain a Congressional seat are Colorado and California, while Oregon, Arizona, and Montana are three of the four states projected to nearest to gaining an additional seat.

Subsequent census population estimates will give greater clarity as to what the post-2020 Congressional appointment shall be, but currently both the Northwest and the Western U.S. are not forecast as gaining much power in Congress.

Curtis King’s response to Governor Inslee’s transportation plan is devoid of substance

With the upcoming long session of the sixty-fourth Washington State Legislature set to begin in a week, The Seattle Times has opted to devote a portion of its editorial page to commentary on state issues, instead of the usual syndicated fare.

Readers of this morning’s paper may have noticed that the Times invited the chairs of the House and the Senate’s respective transportation committees to weigh in on Governor Jay Inslee’s transportation plan. Though the two op-eds appeared next to each other and were about the same height, that’s about all they had in common.

The longer column on the right, penned by Judy Clibborn (D-41st District) was filled with sensible arguments and observations. In particular, her remarks on giving Sound Transit new revenue authority (which is part of Governor Inslee’s proposal) stood out to us as extremely compelling:

The other significant transportation issue this legislative session will be authorizing Sound Transit to pursue its new long-range plan. There is a hunger around Puget Sound for new investments in public transportation that bridge the gaps between communities, including the expansion of express bus lines, light rail and Sounder trains. These systems not only provide a valuable service for the passengers who ride them daily to work and school but also benefit those who drive by keeping cars off the road and reducing gridlock.

Authorizing this new authority is a matter of local control. The Legislature would simply be allowing the people of Puget Sound to decide at the ballot box if they want as much as $15 billion in new public transportation investments, such as light rail to communities such as Federal Way, Everett or Redmond.

If approved by the voters, the revenue would be raised from local fees and taxes, meaning there would be no tax or other cost to residents in the rest of the state — only a benefit in the form of less gridlock and a friendlier business climate.

We agree. The Legislature needs to empower Sound Transit to continue building the rail spine that our region so badly needs. University Link and Angle Lake Link are coming online next year, and North and East Link will follow in the years after, but those extensions aren’t enough. We need more rail within Seattle linking its neighborhoods together (West Seattle and Ballard come to mind) plus rail that links suburbs like Federal Way and Fife to Seattle and Tacoma as well as each other.

Reading Clibborn’s op-ed, it’s clear that she and the House Democratic caucus  understand what needs to happen this session. They’re ready to get to work.

But, judging by the content of Senator Curtis King’s shorter column (which ran to the left of Clibborn’s piece) it appears Senate Republicans are not.

Though King’s column clocks in at six hundred and ten words, it is almost completely devoid of substance. Consider King’s opening paragraph:

When Gov. Jay Inslee proposed his new state transportation package in mid-December, it was billed as an effort to spark discussion. While the proposal has certainly inspired conversation, those of us who have been knee-deep in transportation discussions during the last two years weren’t caught off guard by much of what was presented.

Now, contrast that with Clibborn’s opening:

Transportation this session is about building a better future for Washington, and priority No. 1 is passing a critically needed transportation investment package.

See the difference? King wastes space stating the obvious, while Clibborn cuts to the chase and says, in just a few words, what it is that needs to be done. Then she immediately begins laying out her rationale for action.

Not King, though. He goes on to claim:

As anticipated, Inslee’s project list provides amply for King County and much less so around the rest of the state.

Given that King County is home to a third of the state’s population and has to put up with the worst gridlock, it shouldn’t be surprising that Inslee’s project list provides amply for King County. It would be flawed if it didn’t!

King seems to be inferring that the governor is ignoring other areas of the state, but his implication is offered without any supporting evidence.

Since April, I’ve looked at roads, overpasses, bridges and blueprints. I’ve compiled a comprehensive transportation project list with substantially more money for highway projects than Inslee’s proposal. Ninety-six percent of those projects get finished and are located throughout our state.

What projects is King talking about? He doesn’t say, nor in the online version of the op-ed does he link to a page where his research can be accessed by the public.

The governor’s plan to punish big polluters was no surprise either. However, it won’t be the gas and diesel industry that would pay. It would be the f [sic] people in our state who own a gas- or diesel-powered vehicle who would foot the bill. Every person who needs to drive a car or truck to get to work would be punished because they are the “big, bad polluters.”

The first thing that stood out to me when I read the above paragraph at the breakfast table was the beautifully placed typo that appears in the middle sentence: It would be the f people in our state who own a gas or diesel powered vehicle who would foot the bill.

Yes… the f people, ladies and gentlemen! It’s always nice when Republicans inadvertently let slip in print what they really think of regular folks, isn’t it?

In fairness to King, we don’t know if the typo originated from the copy he sent The Times or whether someone at The Times accidentally made him look bad. If this typo appeared in the online version of King’s op-ed, it has since been removed. But it’s still there in the print edition.

King goes on to thoughtlessly attack Inslee’s sensible approach to penalizing polluters. We’ll have more to say on that tomorrow. What I really want to get to in this post is the apparent zenith of King’s op-ed… the part where he attempts to lay out alternative ideas without actually laying out any alternative ideas:

The governor has challenged legislative transportation leaders to bring real solutions forward that would help meet our emissions limit.

So, governor, here are real solutions. Each approach would produce a direct and measurable reduction in carbon emissions without endangering our economy:

  • Pursue common-sense reforms in conjunction with a balanced transportation revenue package.
  • Create a tax incentive for employers to convert commercial truck and car fleets to alternative fuels.
  • Create targets for converting the state ferry fleet to liquid natural gas.
  • Find ways to promote and diversify low-carbon energy sources such as nuclear and hydropower.

None of these bullet points pack any punch. “Pursue common-sense reforms in conjunction with a balanced transportation package” … that’s a nothingburger. There’s no such thing as common sense (if there were, elected officials like King wouldn’t talk incessantly about needing it). What reforms does he favor? What does he mean by balanced transportation package? He doesn’t say.

Number two is “Create a tax incentive for employers to convert commercial truck and car fleets to alternative fuels”. Tax credits, or incentives, have a mixed record. Sometimes they work, but oftentimes they don’t end up changing people’s behavior. In any case, the addition of yet another tax credit would mean forgoing revenue for the state treasury, and we have billions of dollars in obligations to ourselves and our children that we’re not currently meeting.

Number three is “Create targets for converting the state ferry fleet to liquid natural gas.” What should those targets be? Details, please!

Number four is “Find ways to promote and diversify low-carbon energy sources such as nuclear and hydropower.” Again, we ask: Where are the specifics? A sentence that begins with the words Find ways to is not a solution to anything.

We’ve already got plenty of dams on our rivers, and we’ve already got one very expensive nuclear power plant running at the heavily contaminated Hanford Nuclear Reservation. King must know that nuclear power plants produce toxic waste and dams block migrating fish. Does he really think we should build more of either?

King concludes with this:

Regardless of where you reside or your political leanings, it isn’t difficult to see the need for new investments in our state’s transportation infrastructure. We need a transportation revenue package and plan that incentivizes not penalizes. We need more than conversation starters. We need solutions that are fair and equitable for the entire state.

King’s call to action is disingenuous and hollow. Anyone who has been involved in advocating for a transportation package for our state over the past two years knows that King and his caucus were all talk and no action in 2013 and 2014.

The House at least produced a plan and voted on it; the Republican-controlled Senate did nothing. Senate Republicans couldn’t even agree among themselves on what to put forward for discussion, let alone a vote.

Thanks in large part to their intransigence, the effort to replace the I-5 Columbia River Crossing collapsed, and Washington and Oregon forfeited hundreds of millions of dollars that the federal government offered to put up to replace the aging bridge.

This op-ed is more of the same. In a way, it’s like a filibuster. King and his caucus are stalling because they’ve got nothing. Notice that King uses the word solutions (or real solutions) in is column four times, but the only idea he ever fleshes out is the suggested tax credit for employers to convert their vehicles to alternative fuels. And it’s not much of an idea. The rest is either criticism of Inslee or mumbo-jumbo.

It looks like Senate Republicans have every intention of letting us down again in 2015. The most we’re likely to get out of them is more boilerplate like this.

They don’t seem to be interested in working constructively to produce a transportation budget, so it’d be nice if they stopped wasting everyone’s time.

Banished Words for 2015

Every year since 1976, Michigan’s Lake Superior State University has released a thoughtful and humorous “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness”. Here is the 2015 (and fortieth annual) edition, for your reading enjoyment on this New Year’s Day:

BAEOne of the top nominees.

“Meaning ‘before anyone else.’ How stupid! Stop calling your boyfriend ‘bae’.” — Evie Dunagan, Manheim, Penn.

“It’s overused. I heard someone refer to their ramen noodles as ‘bae’! If I was putting someone ‘before anything else,’ I would respect them enough to use their name.” — S. Thoms, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“The most annoying term of affection to show up in years. Also, the concept ‘before anybody else,’ developed AFTER the word became popular. Reason enough for it to be banned. – Blan Wright, Sugar Hill, Ga.

“A dumb, annoying word.” — James Becker, Holly, Mich.

“I’d rather be called ‘babe’ than ‘bae’ any day.” — Alexsis Outwater, Bronson, Mich.

POLAR VORTEXLSSU got a head start on this one last spring, when it burned a snowman named Mr. Polar Vortex during its 44th annual Snowman Burning.

“Wasn’t it called ‘winter’ just a few years ago? — Dawn Farrell, Kanata, Ont., Canada

“Enough with the over-sensationalized words to describe weather!” — A. Prescott, Oshawa, Ont., Canada

“I think most, if not all can agree that we would prefer to avoid the polar vortex in the future, both in name and in embodiment.” — Christine Brace, Westminster, Md.

“What happened to ‘cold snap’? Not descriptive enough?” –Trevor Fenton, Edinburgh, U.K.

Kenneth Ross of Glastonbury, Conn., and Bob Priddy of Jefferson City, Mo., were among many who saw this storming in last January.

“Less than a week into the new year and it’s the most overused, meaningless word in the media,” said Ross.

Priddy noted that it quickly jumped from the weather forecast to other areas, as he said he knew it would: “Today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorializes about a ‘political vortex.'”

HACKBanished for over-use and mis-use.

“Suddenly things that once would have been called ‘tips’ are now being called ‘hacks.’ It can’t be because the one word is shorter or easier to say; and the actual accepted meanings of ‘hack’ have nothing to do with suggestions for doing tasks better or more efficiently — quite the opposite, really.” – Sharla Hulsey, Sac City, Iowa.

“This word is totally over-used and mis-used. What they really mean is ‘tip’ or ‘short cut,’ but clearly it is not a ‘hack,’ as it involves no legal or ethical impropriety or breach of security.” – Peter P. Nieckarz Jr., Sylva, N.C.

“I just received an e-mail for a book called ‘Marriage Hacks.’ I have seen articles about life hacks, home improvement hacks, car hacks, furniture hacks, painting hacks, work hacks and pretty much any other hack you can think of. There are probably even hacking hacks.” – Chellsea Mastroine, Canton, Ohio.

“Life hack, this hack, that hack…stop with the hacks!” — Tim Jackson, Crystal Lake, Ill.

SKILL SET — “Why use two words when one will do? We already have a perfectly good word in ‘skills’ (ending with an s, not a z).” – Chip Lupo, Columbia, S.C.

“A skill is a skill — that is it. Phrases such as ‘I have the skill set to do that properly’ or anything resembling that phrase, shows the speaker is seriously lacking skills in the art of conversation. Please try this, ‘I have the skill… do you have the skills… this requires certain skills… he is very skilled… that was a skillful maneuver… See? No need for a skill set.” – Stephanie Hamm-Wieczkiewicz, Litfield Park, Ariz.

SWAGMany nominations over the years.

“The word ‘swag’ has become a shapeless, meaningless word used in various forms (such as ‘swaggy’) but with no real depth.” – Bailey Anderson, Washington, Iowa.

“Whether it’s a ‘free gift’ (banished in 1988) or droopy clothing, this word is neither useful nor fancy.” – Jeff Drake, Saint Albans, West Va.

“The word has become so overused that it is not ‘swag’ to not use the word ‘swag.'” – Devin, Farwell, Mich.

“Because I am tired of hearing swag to describe anything on the face of the planet. By the way, your website is so ‘swag.'” – Alex, Roanoke, Va.

FOODIEMany nominations over the past several years. Is it a Michigan thing?

“It’s ridiculous. Do we call people who like wine ‘winies’ or beer lovers ‘beeries’?” – Randall Chamberlain, Traverse City, Mich.

“‘Someone who enjoys food’ applies to everyone on Earth. What’s next? ‘Oh, I’m an airie; I just love to breathe.’ ‘Could we do it at 11, instead? I’m kind of a sleepie.'” – Andy Poe, Marquette, Mich.

“I crave good sleep, too, but that does not make me a sleepie. News flash: We ALL like food.” – Graydeon DeCamp, Elk Rapids, Mich.

“I’ve heard of cooks and chefs, and gourmets and gourmands, but what the heck is a ‘foodie’? A person who likes food? A person who eats food? A person who knows what food is? Sounds like ‘foodie’ is a synonym for ‘everybody.’ Foodies around the world agree; let’s banish this term.” – Steve Szilagyi, Mason, Mich.

CURATE / CURATED — “It used to have a special significance reserved mainly for fine art and museums. Now everything is curated. Monthly food and clothing subscription boxes claim to be finely ‘curated.’ Instead of abusing curated, why don’t they say what they really mean: ‘We did an online search and posted the first 25 items we found’ or the ‘curated selection of items in your box this month are a mix of paid placements and products that have failed to sell elsewhere.'” – Samantha McCormick, Kirkland, Wash.

“Example on the ‘Net today: ‘Get a curated box of high-end treats and toys (all tailored to the size of your pup) shipped right to your doggie door.’ – I have heard and read the word ‘curated’ far too many times this year.” – Deb, Portland, Ore.

“A pretentious way of saying ‘selected.’ It’s enormously overused.” – Kristi Hoerauf, San Francisco, Calif.

FRIEND-RAISING — “A horrible word that conflates the real meaning of friendship with usually hidden motivations to get at the other person’s pockets.” – Mary Been, Sidnaw, Mich.

“The word suggests that we develop relationships not for the simple value of the person we call ‘friend,’ for the pleasure of being in a community of people and for the simple joys of sharing bonds of affection and common care, but that we instead develop these relationships out of some sort of expectation of a monetary reward.” – Collette Coullard, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

CRA-CRAThat’s just crazy.

Early in 2014, Steve Kaufman of Houston, Tex., could be heard screaming, “I’ve only heard it twice and already know by the end of the year I’ll want to scream.”

“Short-form for ‘crazy’ and sometimes just one ‘cra.’ I hear kids (including my 6 yr. old) saying it all the time, e.g. ‘That snowstorm yesterday was ‘cra-cra.'” – Esther Proulx, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“I’m sick of hearing myself say this! Must be banned!” – Roxanne Werly, Traverse City, Mich.

ENHANCED INTERROGATION — “A shameful euphemism for torture.” – David Bristol, Byron Center, Mich.

TAKEAWAY — “It’s used all too frequently on news programs, as in, ‘What is your ‘takeaway’ on (a given situation.’ ‘What is our ‘takeaway’ on Congress’ vote?’ ‘Is there any ‘takeaway’ on the recent riots?’ I have heard Jon Stewart use it. I’ve heard Charlie Rose use it, as well as countless numbers of news talking heads, usually for all the wrong reasons. For me, a takeaway is a sports term, where one team is controlling the ball (or puck) and the other steals it, or took it away – a ‘takeaway.’ In the U.K., ‘takeaway’ food is known as ‘to go’ here in the Colonies. – John Prokop, Oakland, Calif.

-NATION — A suffering sports suffix.

“Purely with reference to a specific teams’ fans, this word needs to go. It’s the following of a sports franchise, not a group seeking independence, recognition and legitimacy; Not even if it’s the Cubs.” – Tim Wilcox, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Canada

“Although a devout Wisconsin sports fan, I do not belong to Packer-Nation, Badger-Nation, Phoenix-Nation, or Brewer-Nation. Further, I am not aware of any team or mascot that has the carrying capacity to be a nation.” – Kelly Frawley, Waunakee, Wisc.

“Nothing more self-aggrandizing than sport team fans referring to themselves as a nation! What’s next? My team – Continent, World, Galaxy, Universe!” – Curt Chambers, Seattle, Wash.

“Both politics and sports teams have overused this n-word to describe their fans or viewers.” – Ken Hornack, Ormond Beach, Fla.

Lists for previous years are available on Lake Superior’s site.

This is a compelling list; kudos to LSSU for a job well done. We’re very pleased to see enhanced interrogation (a Bush/Chenyism) included. It should have been banished a decade ago or more. Ah, well… better late than never.

Foodie, swag, hack, and bae are also very deserving of banishment.

We’d complete the list by adding several more obnoxious phrases that we’d like to see banished for overuse, misuse and general uselessness:

CHIPPY — Heard frequently during broadcasts of hockey games. It refers to unsportsmanlike, belligerent play characterized by fights and ejections. Chippy also has a number of other meanings, especially according to Urban Dictionary. What’s wrong with rough? It’s a perfectly serviceable word that most people understand.

(IF YOU) WORK HARD AND PLAY BY THE RULES… — This tired mantra seems to get recycled every year at election time by Democratic consultants and strategists. Popularized in the 1990s by Bill Clinton, it keeps finding its way into the speeches of Democratic candidates, and it needs to be banished. The reality is, the rules are rigged, and Americans don’t need to be admonished to work hard… they already do!

As Kevin Carson aptly noted, “The only people who get rich playing by the rules are the people who make the rules.” Anat Shenker-Osorio adds in Don’t Buy It: “The world works differently for each person depending on race, class, gender, geography, place of birth, and sexual orientation. Yet, by using the phrase play by the rules, we insist on preserving the fantasy that meritocracy determines success in America.”

INTERNET OF THINGS — This annoying buzzphrase, promoted by  futurists, refers to the idea that appliances and gadgets of all kinds will increasingly be linked together and accessible over the Internet, whether they be thermostats, refrigerators, washing machines, home security systems, coffeemakers… anything that can be improved with microchips. The Internet, however, has always been a network linking things (mostly computers) together.

The notion that every object we have needs to have an IP address and be reachable over the Internet is a foolish one. There are extremely serious security, privacy, and energy ramifications involved with turning trillions of objects into Internet-capable devices. And we ought to be discussing those ramifications, framed around the question: Do we really want or need an Internet with trillions of connected objects?

PHYSICALITY — Talking heads on ESPN and other networks seem obsessed with this word, which refers to the state or quality of being physical. Consider this recent Fox Sports headline: Physicality, attitude changed Packers defense during rise in NFL rankings. It sorely needs a rest… as do all of the bodies of the gridiron players who are finishing up their 2014 high school, college, or pro seasons.

PICK-SIX — Another overused, made up phrase that has entered the sports lexicon. Are color commentators and analysts really so lazy they can’t just say interception returned for a touchdown?

BOOTS ON THE GROUND — This one was heard a lot this year, especially towards the end of summer, as President Obama announced that the United States would carry out airstrikes against Islamic State, but would not put boots on the ground. What’s wrong with just saying deploy troops? Incidentally, on the ground was banished by LSSU in 2003 due to overuse in the mass media. One of the nominators pointed out that humans live on the ground, not suspended in the air or hundreds of fathoms beneath the surface of the ocean.

SEND A MESSAGE — An increasingly abused euphemism for taking some sort of action, like voting in an election. Plenty of emails generated by campaigns this past election season vaguely urged recipients to send a message to the opposition by clicking a link to sign a petition or give money. Organizations and campaigns would be better served by being open with their supporters about the point of their calls to action. It’d be refreshing to see an email that admitted that the primary purpose of asking people to sign on to a petition was not to send a message, but rather to grow the organization’s email list.

What words would you like to see banished that aren’t on this year’s list – or the Master List? Let us know in the comments. And Happy New Year!

LIVE from Bellevue: Governor Inslee unveils plan for investing in Washington’s schools

Good evening from Newport High School in Bellevue, Washington. I’m here with several dozen other activists, reporters, and citizens to participate in a town hall on education with Governor Jay Inslee and his staff. The governor is using the event to unveil his plan to strengthen Washington’s schools, which his office is calling the most substantial investment in education in decades.

People are participating in the town hall from several locations via video link: Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center in Moses Lake, Rogers High School in Spokane, and Jason Lee Middle School in Tacoma.

In his introductory remarks, the governor explained that we can no longer afford to delay or postpone investing in our schools. He reminded the audience that the Supreme Court has held the state in contempt for failing to comply with Article IX of our Constitution, which declares that it is the paramount duty of Washington’s leaders to amply provide for the education of every child.

The governor is calling on the Legislature to respond by walking its talk.

“In the budget I will be releasing this Thursday, I will be proposing adding $2.3 billion to put us back on track,” Inslee said.

His K-12 plan calls for the following:

  • Early learning: Provide $79.8 million for 6,358 new spaces in the state’s preschool solution for children of low income families, and $70 million to train child care providers, which will help 50,639 more children.
  • Reduce elementary school class size: $448 million will go towards reducing kindergarten, first, second, and third grade class sizes to seventeen kids, down from twenty-three kids.
  • Statewide full-day kindergarten: $107 million will provide full-day kindergarten for all students in Washington.
  • Materials and supplies: To ensure teachers have the tools they need, $751 million would go towards materials, supplies, and curricula.
  • Professional pay for teachers: $385 million will fully fund Initiative 732 and provide a cost of living increase for teachers, in line with increases recommended for state employees.

For higher education, Inslee is calling for a tuition freeze for the 2015-2017 biennium. He wants to increase funding for the opportunity scholarship by $100 million and the college bound state need grant by $25 million.

After presenting an overview of his plan and discussing some of the highlights, Inslee began taking questions from educators and citizens at all four video-linked schools, beginning with Spokane, Tacoma, and Moses Lake.

You can read the plan yourself by checking out this PDF from the governor’s site.

Questions from ranged to implementing I-1351 to potential changes to the system used for evaluating teachers to secure a waiver for No Child Left Behind.

Another question zeroed in on how the investments would be funded.

“We have a solid, fiscally sound way of financing everything we’ve talked about today,” Inslee said in response to a question about how the plan would be funded. “I can tell you it’s a real financing plan, not based on indebtedness.”

He promised to share details at a press conference on Thursday.

“The way I look at this… we really are at a fork in the road,” he said, explaining that making an investment is the way to honor our state’s finest traditional values and pursue excellence in education. The unacceptable alternative would be failing to fulfill our constitutional obligations as a state to our young people.

Help us give Geov Parrish a hand up

As someone who’s been involved in progressive politics for almost half a lifetime, I have great admiration and appreciation for people who have dedicated their lives to activism and organizing. Most of us in the progressive movement are part-time activists; we choose to be involved because we care, but our obligations to work/school and family limit the time we’re able to give.

But there are a few among us who are full-time activists. Not consultants or lobbyists, mind you… consulting and lobbying gigs typically come with decent compensation. I’m talking about people who have deliberately chosen to forgo opportunities to make money in favor of trying to build community.

People like Geov Parrish.

Geov has been writing, organizing, and agitating for a more progressive region and country since before there was a blogopshere or a netroots community. Remarkably, he’s persevered at activism despite battling many health problems.

This Wednesday will mark the twentieth anniversary of his double organ transpant (kidney and pancreas!). Doctors told him years ago he didn’t have much time left, but decades later, he’s still around, trying to make our region a better place.

I am personally grateful to Geov for showing up to support NPI at some of our events, particularly our annual Spring Fundraising Gala in April, and donating what he could. He really believes in building community and encouraging other progressives. I so appreciate that, as does everyone else here at NPI.

Geov recently wrote to me and many other friends to let us know that he and his fiancée Revel Smith could really use some help. They’re broke and homeless, having struggled for months to find a place to live, in part because Revel has multiple sclerosis and a sensitivity to many chemicals. For those interested in all the details, Geov’s penned a December missive (2014 – It Was Not A Very Good Year) and given permission for us to share it with you.

It’s one thing to endure being broke and homeless; it’s another thing altogether to summon the courage to ask for help to escape those circumstances.

Geov has done that, and I’m really glad he did. Until he sent out his letter, many of his friends were unaware of his situation. But now we know what’s going on. That means we can emphasize and respond.

Principled progressives walk their talk and reach out to help those in need. Geov has a progressive work ethic and is capable of working, but before he can focus on getting a job, he and Revel need to get out of survival mode.

That’s where we come in. HA Seattle and NPI are teaming up to help Geov and Revel. We’re asking our readers and supporters to join us in giving them a hand up.

If you’re willing to spare a few dollars to assist a good progressive activist in need, please click this PayPal button to send money Geov and Revel’s way.

You can also send Geov a check in the mail:

Geov Parrish
PO Box 85541
Seattle WA 98145

Building NPI has been adventure in more ways that I could have imagined when I set out over eleven years ago to set up a strategy center dedicated to innovative research and imaginative advocacy. Our work has always been sustained by the generosity of fellow activists – including people like Geov Parrish.

I hope you’ll consider helping Geov, so that next December, he’ll be able to tell us that 2015 was a good year filled mostly with positive changes.

U.S. Senate passes $1.1 trillion, giveaway-stuffed “cromnibus” bill in late night vote

Earlier this evening, following in the footsteps of the House of Representatives, the United States Senate passed the massive appropriations bill that has become known as the CRomnibus, sending the legislation to President Barack Obama, who is prepared to sign it without delay.

The final vote was fifty-six to forty; four senators did not vote.

The cromnibus (officially, H.R. 83, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015) met with fierce opposition from the Republican Party’s Tea Party faction (who want to shut down the government again) as well as movement Democrats whose priority is the well-being of the American people, not playing Santa Claus to lobbyists for the likes of Citigroup.

Opposition to H.R. 83 among Democrats was led by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who decried the many giveaways to Wall Street and K Street that were stuffed into the bill in a series of rousing, powerful floor speeches.

The final vote on H.R. 83 did not break down along party lines, but instead reflected the unusual divisions created as a result of the bill’s secret assembly in a backroom (with assistance from corporate lobbyists).

The roll call from the Pacific Northwest was as follows:

VOTING AYE: Democrats Patty Murray (WA), Mark Begich (AK), and John Walsh (MT); Republicans Lisa Murkowski (AK)

VOTING NAY: Democrats Maria Cantwell (WA), Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (OR), Jon Tester (MT); Republicans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID)

None of us at NPI can recall a roll call quite like this one before.

Crapo and Risch’s no votes were predictable; Idaho’s two Republican senators have a reputation of reflexively voting NO on pretty much everything.

Readers may recall that Crapo and Risch refused to vote to reopen the federal government last year. They wanted to keep everything shut down.

Maria Cantwell, Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden and Jon Tester voted no on principle.

Following the vote, Senator Cantwell’s office released a statement explaining her vote against the cromnibus, which was emailed to NPI.

“I strongly oppose the derivatives provision of this bill, which would overturn a critical component of our work on the 2010 Wall Street Reform legislation,” Cantwell said. “I am also opposed to the changes that would weaken protections for current retirees who depend on multi-employer pension plans.”

Since her reelection to the United States Senate in 2006, Senator Maria Cantwell has been a tireless fighter for sensible financial regulation and has established a very progressive voting record. We are proud to be represented by her.

We have never forgotten that Senator Cantwell refused to vote for the Bush/Paulson/Bernanke bank bailout six years ago. She took a bold, courageous stand, saying that giving Wall Street banks a blank check was wrong.

Several months later, when Barack Obama unwisely nominated Ben Bernanke for another term as Fed Chair, she voted against his confirmation.

In 2010, when the Senate was working on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010, Cantwell withheld her vote until stronger rules regulating derivatives were included. Only then did she offer her support.

Naturally, the Citigroup-authored provision tucked into the cromnibus was a dealbreaker for her… as it should have been to every Democratic senator.

Other Democrats who voted against the cromnibus were:

  • Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
  • Cory Booker (D-NJ)
  • Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Al Franken (D-MN)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
  • Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  • Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
  • Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Carl Levin (D-MI)
  • Ed Markey (D-MA)
  • Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
  • Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
  • Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul – who have all been mentioned as possible contenders for the Republican nomination for President – led several of their colleagues in opposition to the bill from the other side.

Four senators did not vote: Dianne Feinstein of California, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and James Inhofe, also of Oklahoma.

H.R. 83 now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign it rather quickly, ensuring that top executives and lobbyists on the payroll of the several of the country’s most powerful corporations will have something even better than bonuses to be giddy about this Christmas.

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