NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

Washington voters back phasing out odd year elections by a 2:1 margin, with 24% unsure

A major­i­ty of vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton State would like to see bal­lot mea­sure and can­di­date elec­tions held only in even-num­bered years going for­ward, rather than spread out over both even and odd num­bered years, polling released today by NPI at a House State Gov­ern­ment & Trib­al Rela­tions com­mit­tee hear­ing shows.

52% of like­ly 2022 vot­ers sur­veyed about two months ago said they either strong­ly or some­what sup­port­ed doing away with elec­tions in odd-num­bered years, while 24% were opposed and anoth­er 24% were not sure. The find­ings demon­strate that vot­ers would wel­come pas­sage of House Bill 1727, which would move most items cur­rent­ly vot­ed on in odd-num­bered years to even years.

Spon­sored by Mia Gregerson, HB 1727 would mod­i­fy the state’s elec­tion statutes to require local juris­dic­tions like cities to hold their reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled elec­tions in even-num­bered years by 2028, although cities could also make the switch soon­er if they want­ed. Most places in Wash­ing­ton already elect their coun­ty lev­el posi­tions in even-num­bered years, although a few char­ter coun­ties (such as King, What­com, Clark, and Sno­homish) default to odd-num­bered years.

Here is the ques­tion we asked and the answers we received:

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly agree, some­what agree, some­what dis­agree, or strong­ly dis­agree with the fol­low­ing state­ment: Wash­ing­ton State should dis­con­tin­ue hold­ing elec­tions in odd-num­bered years and instead require cities, coun­ties, ports, school dis­tricts, and oth­er local gov­ern­ments to hold their elec­tions in even num­bered years, when state and fed­er­al offices are on the ballot?

ANSWERS:

  • Agree: 52%
    • Strong­ly agree: 31%
    • Some­what agree: 21%
  • Dis­agree: 24% 
    • Some­what dis­agree: 13%
    • Strong­ly dis­agree: 11%
  • Not sure: 24%

Our sur­vey of 909 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Novem­ber 10th through Thurs­day, Novem­ber 11th, 2021.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

HB 1727, which had its pub­lic hear­ing this morn­ing, is one of NPI’s top leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties for 2022. The bill would both address the per­sis­tent prob­lem of elec­tion fatigue as well as increase turnout in crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant local races.

Unlike coun­ties, cities and oth­er local juris­dic­tions do not have the free­dom to move their reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled elec­tions to even-num­bered years because state law cur­rent­ly does­n’t allow it. HB 1727 would fix that problem.

Addi­tion­al­ly, under HB 1727, statewide bal­lot mea­sures would only be con­sid­ered every oth­er year, effec­tive­ly ensur­ing that ini­tia­tives, ref­er­en­da, and con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments would be vot­ed on by the elec­toral equiv­a­lent of a leg­isla­tive quo­rum (greater than fifty per­cent) rather than a sub­ma­jor­i­ty of the electorate.

As it so hap­pens, this is actu­al­ly the sys­tem that Wash­ing­ton used to have, from the 1910s when the ini­tia­tive and ref­er­en­dum were added to the Con­sti­tu­tion, until the 1970s, when state law was unwise­ly changed to pro­vide for state-lev­el gen­er­al elec­tions every year instead of just in even-num­bered years.

It’s also the sys­tem that our neigh­bor Ore­gon uses.

We now have decades of vot­er turnout data show­ing that vot­ers sim­ply don’t turn out in any­where the same num­bers in odd-num­bered years as even-num­bered years. And the prob­lem is get­ting worse: each of the odd-year gen­er­al elec­tions in the last ten years ranks among the top ten worst in terms of turnout in state his­to­ry. 2021 was the third worst, 2019 was the eighth worst, 2017 was the worst, 2015 was the sec­ond worst, and 2013 was the ninth worst.

Turnout in odd-num­bered years has con­tin­ued to be awful even as turnout in even-num­bered years has gone up. Wash­ing­ton saw very healthy turnout in both the 2018 midterm and 2020 pres­i­den­tial cycles, aid­ed by pre­paid postage on bal­lot return envelopes, more drop box­es, and the avail­abil­i­ty of same-day vot­er reg­is­tra­tion. Vot­ing has only got­ten eas­i­er in Wash­ing­ton, yet vot­ers are not vot­ing con­sis­tent­ly. They’re send­ing a mes­sage: Few­er elec­tions, please!

We need to listen.

As the old adage goes, less is more. And in this case, less is bet­ter, too.

We will see greater and more con­sis­tent par­tic­i­pa­tion across local elec­tions if we pass this bill. All of the data we have, includ­ing this new polling and the vot­er turnout data I just men­tioned sug­gests that vot­ers want this change.

Vot­ers would rather elect fed­er­al, state, and local posi­tions togeth­er in even-num­bered years than keep the bro­ken, bifur­cat­ed sys­tem we have.

Our mes­sage to state law­mak­ers is sim­ple: Let’s get off this roller coast­er and reduce elec­tion fatigue by phas­ing out odd year elec­tions. We urge the House Com­mit­tee on State Gov­ern­ment and Trib­al Rela­tions to give HB 1727 a do pass rec­om­men­da­tion and send it on up to House lead­er­ship for fur­ther consideration.

Fur­ther reading:

Our thanks to Shore­line City Coun­cilmem­ber Chris Roberts, King Coun­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic Chair Shasti Con­rad, for­mer Seat­tle May­or Mike McGinn, and every­body else who joined us this morn­ing on Zoom to urge pas­sage of HB 1727.

Monday, January 17th, 2022

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Time is neutral, it can be used either destructively or constructively

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

The pas­sages we are post­ing this year are from a por­tion of the let­ter in which Dr. King express­es his dis­ap­point­ment with white mod­er­ates. Address­ing his “Chris­t­ian and Jew­ish broth­ers,” he direct­ly tack­les some of the argu­ments he has heard in oppo­si­tion to his strat­e­gy and tac­tics, includ­ing the argu­ment that “you are in too great a reli­gious hur­ry.” Below are Dr. King’s reflec­tions on this argu­ment and on how he believes that time ends up get­ting misconceived.

(We excerpt­ed the pre­ced­ing para­graphs — which are even bet­ter known — two years ago, and you can read those right here or in the full text of the letter.)

We must come to see that, as the fed­er­al courts have con­sis­tent­ly affirmed, it is wrong to urge an indi­vid­ual to cease his efforts to gain his basic con­sti­tu­tion­al rights because the quest may pre­cip­i­tate vio­lence. Soci­ety must pro­tect the robbed and pun­ish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white mod­er­ate would reject the myth con­cern­ing time in rela­tion to the strug­gle for freedom.

I have just received a let­ter from a white broth­er in Texas. He writes: “All Chris­tians know that the col­ored peo­ple will receive equal rights even­tu­al­ly, but it is pos­si­ble that you are in too great a reli­gious hur­ry. It has tak­en Chris­tian­i­ty almost two thou­sand years to accom­plish what it has. The teach­ings of Christ take time to come to earth.”

Such an atti­tude stems from a trag­ic mis­con­cep­tion of time, from the strange­ly irra­tional notion that there is some­thing in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills.

Actu­al­ly, time itself is neu­tral; it can be used either destruc­tive­ly or con­struc­tive­ly. More and more I feel that the peo­ple of ill will have used time much more effec­tive­ly than have the peo­ple of good will.

We will have to repent in this gen­er­a­tion not mere­ly for the hate­ful words and actions of the bad peo­ple but for the appalling silence of the good peo­ple. Human progress nev­er rolls in on wheels of inevitabil­i­ty; it comes through the tire­less efforts of men will­ing to be co work­ers with God, and with­out this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.

We must use time cre­ative­ly, in the knowl­edge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democ­ra­cy and trans­form our pend­ing nation­al ele­gy into a cre­ative psalm of broth­er­hood. Now is the time to lift our nation­al pol­i­cy from the quick­sand of racial injus­tice to the sol­id rock of human dignity.

Take a few min­utes today to read the whole thing.

Sunday, January 16th, 2022

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (January 10th-14th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, Jan­u­ary 14th, 2022.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

PROTECTING VOTING RIGHTS AND ELECTION INTEGRITY: The House on Jan­u­ary 13th passed the Free­dom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act (H.R. 5746), spon­sored by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Don­ald S. Bey­er Jr., D‑Virginia.

The bill would make numer­ous changes to vot­ing and elec­tion pro­ce­dures for fed­er­al offices, includ­ing mak­ing the Novem­ber elec­tion day a legal hol­i­day and requir­ing that for­mer­ly impris­oned crim­i­nals be able to vote.

Bey­er called the bill a “stand against efforts to manip­u­late vot­ing rules in favor of the few and take our essen­tial demo­c­ra­t­ic priv­i­lege away from all Americans.”

An oppo­nent, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Byron Don­alds, R‑Florida, said that giv­ing Con­gress direct con­trol of elec­tions admin­is­tered by the states was a vio­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion. The vote was 220 yeas to 203 nays.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cliff Bentz

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (7): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strickland

Vot­ing Nay (3): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler, Dan New­house, and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 11 aye votes, 6 nay votes

GUARD AND RESERVE GI BILL PARITY ACT: The House on Jan­u­ary 12th passed the Guard and Reserve GI Bill Par­i­ty Act (H.R. 1836), spon­sored by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Levin, D‑California. The bill would include ser­vice time in the Nation­al Guard or the mil­i­tary’s reserves as count­ing toward a mil­i­tary mem­ber’s eli­gi­bil­i­ty to receive funds to help pay for the mem­ber’s education.

Levin said the change would work “to deliv­er some basic fair­ness in the way we pro­vide GI Bill ben­e­fits for the men and women who serve our nation.”

The vote was 287 yeas to 135 nays.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cliff Bentz

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (9): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strick­land; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler, and Dan Newhouse

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 13 aye votes, 4 nay votes

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

ALAN DAVIDSON, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: The Sen­ate on Jan­u­ary 11th con­firmed the nom­i­na­tion of Alan David­son to serve as the Com­merce Depart­men­t’s assis­tant sec­re­tary for com­mu­ni­ca­tions and information.

David­son was a lob­by­ist for Google from 2005 to 2012, then was a senior offi­cial at the Com­merce Depart­ment and at the Mozil­la Foundation.

A sup­port­er, Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, said David­son had abun­dant expe­ri­ence in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors, and he would “help effec­tive­ly and speed­i­ly to get broad­band deployed to both sec­tors of our economy.”

The vote was 60 yeas to 31 nays.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden

Not Vot­ing (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 3 aye votes, 2 nay votes, 1 not voting

AMITABHA BOSE, FRA ADMINISTRATOR: The Sen­ate on Jan­u­ary 12th con­firmed the nom­i­na­tion of Amitab­ha Bose to serve as admin­is­tra­tor of the Fed­er­al Rail­road Admin­is­tra­tion (FRA). Bose has been a senior offi­cial at the FRA and the Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment, and before that, the New Jer­sey government.

The vote was 68 yeas to 29 nays.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

GABRIEL SANCHEZ, NINTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE: The Sen­ate on Jan­u­ary 12th con­firmed the nom­i­na­tion of Gabriel Sanchez to serve as a judge on the Ninth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals. A Cal­i­for­nia state appeals court judge since 2018, Sanchez was pre­vi­ous­ly a legal affairs offi­cial in that state’s guber­na­to­r­i­al branch and a pri­vate prac­tice lawyer. A sup­port­er, Sen. Alex Padil­la, D‑California, said Sanchez “has long been held in high esteem in Cal­i­for­ni­a’s legal cir­cles. He brings thought­ful­ness and empa­thy to every deci­sion that he makes.”

The vote was 52 yeas to 47 nays.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

REJECTING CRUZ’S PROPOSED NORDSTREAM PIPELINE SANCTIONS: The Sen­ate on Jan­u­ary 13th reject­ed the Pro­tect­ing Europe’s Ener­gy Secu­ri­ty Imple­men­ta­tion Act (S. 3436), spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz, R‑Texas. The bill would have required the impo­si­tion of sanc­tions against enti­ties build­ing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would car­ry gas from Rus­sia to Germany.

Cruz said that by help­ing block the pipeline, the sanc­tions would aid Ukraine in its strug­gle to pre­vent dom­i­na­tion and pos­si­ble inva­sion by Russia.

An oppo­nent, Sen­a­tor Jeanne Sha­heen, D‑New Hamp­shire, said that by cut­ting off talks with Europe on how to oppose Rus­sia, the sanc­tions “would dri­ve a wedge between us and our allies, par­tic­u­lar­ly between the Unit­ed States and Ger­many, at a time that we can­not afford it.” The vote was 55 yeas to 44 nays, with a three-fifths thresh­old (six­ty votes out of one hun­dred) required for approval.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 2 aye votes, 4 nay votes

Key votes ahead

This week, the House plans to take up the Sup­ple­men­tal Impact Aid Flex­i­bil­i­ty Act, the Puer­to Rico Recov­ery Accu­ra­cy in Dis­clo­sures Act of 2021, and the EVEST Act, plus the Ghost Army and Willie O’Ree Con­gres­sion­al Gold Medal Acts. The Sen­ate is expect­ed to vote on Hol­ly Thomas’ nom­i­na­tion to the Ninth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals, with addi­tion­al floor action to be announced.

Edi­tor’s Note: The infor­ma­tion in NPI’s week­ly How Cas­ca­di­a’s U.S. law­mak­ers vot­ed fea­ture is pro­vid­ed by Tar­get­ed News Ser­vice. All rights are reserved. Repro­duc­tion of this post is not per­mit­ted, not even with attri­bu­tion. Use the per­ma­nent link to this post to share it… thanks!

© 2022 Tar­get­ed News Ser­vice, LLC. 

Friday, January 14th, 2022

Will Senator Patty Murray break out of the protective cocoon that often surrounds veteran lawmakers for the 2022 midterms?

The lat­est release from Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Murray’s reelec­tion com­mit­tee bespeaks not the “mom in ten­nis shoes” cit­i­zen leader we elect­ed thir­ty years ago, but an entrenched vet­er­an incum­bent sit­ting on a big war chest.

Its head­er: “Pat­ty Mur­ray rais­es more than $1.45 mil­lion in Q4, con­tin­ues to draw strong sup­port across Wash­ing­ton.” It goes on to report that Mur­ray went into 2022 with $6.93 mil­lion in the bank. It lists her aver­age online con­tri­bu­tion as $25.77, but does not men­tion the big­ger bucks col­lect­ed at fundraisers.

Sen­a­tor Mur­ray con­tin­ues to fight for health­care, child­care, hous­ing and edu­ca­tion, as the release tells us in a boil­er­plate quote.

Yet, the senator’s voice is not real­ly heard, and Mur­ray is seen less often back on the home front than was once the case. Releas­es on cam­paign cash are about all we’re hear­ing from the cam­paign side of Mur­ray’s oper­a­tion these days.

I miss a sen­a­tor elect­ed and reelect­ed as one of us, and out among us.

A scene comes to mind back from Murray’s third term bid. She was fly­ing home from a labor ral­ly in Spokane, accom­pa­nied just by her state director.

Sens­ing his ner­vous­ness, Mur­ray sent the aide off to a cor­ner to answer all his mobile mes­sages. She stood unac­com­pa­nied in the air­port wait­ing area. A vari­ety of folks felt at ease walk­ing up and talk­ing casu­al­ly to their senior U.S. senator.

(Alaska’s late flight to Seat­tle, as usu­al, was run­ning late.)

I eyed one fel­low, think­ing he might be the insti­ga­tor of an argu­ment. Instead, he extend­ed a hand to Mur­ray and apol­o­gized for the attack ads used by his con­gress­man – Rep­re­sen­ta­tive George Nether­cutt – cam­paign­ing against her.

Mur­ray began that race as a top tar­get of the Nation­al Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­r­i­al Com­mit­tee with Repub­li­can sur­ro­gates shut­tling through.

The race end­ed with Nether­cutt air­ing “Aw shucks, I’m a nice guy” tele­vi­sion spots, con­ced­ing he was head­ed off to the Palookav­ille of D.C. lobbying.

We can still wit­ness North­west sen­a­tors in such settings.

Just go south to Ore­gon, where Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have held hun­dreds of town meet­ings over the last few years.

NPI’s exec­u­tive direc­tor Andrew Vil­leneuve wit­nessed one of them, in Mil­ton-Free­wa­ter, Ore­gon, in 2017. He then spoke extem­po­ra­ne­ous­ly with Wyden at length as they wait­ed for a Seat­tle-bound flight out of Wal­la Walla.

Senior sen­a­tors can allow them­selves be kept in a pro­tec­tive cocoon, espe­cial­ly as they get on in years. Try­ing to cov­er Mur­ray for the Seat­tle Post-Intel­li­gencer, I repeat­ed­ly asked for a sched­ule, so I could show up and watch her in the field.

“Thank you for reach­ing out!” the press sec­re­tary would email back.

And then he would stonewall me.

The senator’s infre­quent pub­lic events seem script­ed and rem­i­nis­cent of day­time TV’s old “Queen for a Day” show.

A pan­el of sup­port­ers is assem­bled. The par­tic­i­pants speak to Mur­ray about a prob­lem in their lives. Mur­ray explains how she’s spon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion to solve it. The Fourth Estate is giv­en a cou­ple of ques­tions and off she goes.

The prob­lem with keep­ing this sen­a­tor in a cocoon is that the but­ter­fly can’t get out.

Sure, right wing media is on the prowl: FNC once depict­ed Mur­ray as prais­ing Tal­iban social pro­grams in Afghanistan. On the whole, how­ev­er, Mur­ray has proven able to han­dle her­self. She has won Sen­ate races over three incum­bent Repub­li­can mem­bers of Con­gress, and a for­mer Demo­c­ra­t­ic House member.

She has debat­ed effec­tive­ly, with inad­ver­tent help from Repub­li­cans not famil­iar with Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ aspi­ra­tions and problems.

We still have the sense of com­mu­ni­ty where we want to see those who rep­re­sent us and come away with the sense they are help­ing us.

First-term Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzan Del­Bene, D‑WA-01, won respect of con­ser­v­a­tive rur­al Sno­homish Coun­ty as a go-to per­son after the Oso landslide.

In the mar­shal­ing yard behind the Dar­ring­ton Ranger Sta­tion, res­cue work­ers spoke of telling DelBene’s office what they need­ed and get­ting it. A “Reelect Del­Bene” sign, attached to a big log, sat beside S.R. 530 that fall.

Mur­ray used to dis­play that knack. As a fresh­man sen­a­tor, albeit one with a seat on the Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, she was able to direct atten­tion and resources to the then-neglect­ed U.S.-Canada bor­der. The result? She swamped Repub­li­can chal­lenger Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lin­da Smith in What­com County.

An old friend, and hard­bit­ten Wash­ing­ton, D.C., scribe, was blown away by Murray’s ini­tial Sen­ate floor speech, which talked about ovar­i­an can­cer, acquain­tances who had died from it, and the urgent need to put more fed­er­al dol­lars into research and cures for dis­eases that afflict women.

Mur­ray needs to get back out on the hus­tings, hear out the folks, and court “red” coun­ties that used to be blue. Sure, the Democ­rats’ geo­graph­ic base is in cen­tral Puget Sound, but South­west Wash­ing­ton has left the fold. North­east Wash­ing­ton may vote Repub­li­can, but needs the social spend­ing cham­pi­oned by Mur­ray. They sure ain’t going to get it from Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers.

The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic has put every­thing in flux.

But until 2020, the Pacif­ic Coun­ty Democ­rats’ annu­al crab feed was the old­est con­tin­u­ous polit­i­cal event in the state of Wash­ing­ton. It was also lots of fun.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Derek Kilmer (D‑WA-06) and Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son served up the crab. Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell passed up the Grid­iron Din­ner in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia one year to spoon out pota­to sal­ad in South Bend.

I’ve nev­er seen Sen­a­tor Mur­ray at the crab feed. She ought to be there if the event is on this year, or oth­er­wise join the Democ­rats for their sum­mer picnic.

Or find oth­er sim­i­lar events.

Or – at last – start hold­ing town halls.

Mur­ray is being semi-tar­get­ed. Repub­li­can chal­lenger Tiffany Smi­ley did raise $925,000 in the last quar­ter of 2021.

This cycle would appear one of those times where the Repub­li­can Par­ty is wait­ing for a sig­nal of the incumbent’s weak­ness or over­con­fi­dence. They came in full bore for Dino Rossi in 2010, but Mur­ray out­fought them.

The cocoon does not become our senior sen­a­tor. We need to see the but­ter­fly, albeit some­one who’s proven to be an iron but­ter­fly under pressure.

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

COVID-19 Update: Supreme Court blocks vaccine/test mandate for large employers

It’s time for anoth­er install­ment of of our spe­cial series COVID-19 Update, bring­ing you the lat­est devel­op­ments on the nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break that pub­lic health author­i­ties here and across the coun­try are work­ing to mitigate.

On Thurs­day, Jan­u­ary 13th, with new cas­es of COVID-19 ris­ing at an almost asymp­tot­ic rate cour­tesy of the omi­cron vari­ant, the Supreme Court of the Unit­ed States blocked the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion from enforc­ing a vac­cine-or-test­ing man­date for com­pa­nies with more than one hun­dred employees.

The deci­sion, which was crit­i­cized by the admin­is­tra­tion, was then fol­lowed by a sec­ond deci­sion allow­ing a more mod­est man­date requir­ing health­care work­ers at facil­i­ties receiv­ing fed­er­al mon­ey to be vaccinated.

These two deci­sions hinge large­ly around which fed­er­al enti­ty has what lev­el of author­i­ty. OSHA (Occu­pa­tion­al Safe­ty and Health Admin­is­tra­tion) was deemed by the right wing major­i­ty on the Court as act­ing out­side its authority:

Admin­is­tra­tive agen­cies are crea­tures of statute. They accord­ing­ly pos­sess only the author­i­ty that Con­gress has pro­vid­ed. The Sec­re­tary has ordered 84 mil­lion Americans to either obtain a COVID–19 vac­cine or under­go week­ly med­ical test­ing at their own expense. This is no “every­day exer­cise of fed­er­al pow­er.” … It is instead a sig­nif­i­cant encroach­ment into the lives — and health—of a vast num­ber of employ­ees … There can be lit­tle doubt that OSHA’s man­date qual­i­fies as an exer­cise of such author­i­ty.

The ques­tion, then, is whether the Act plain­ly autho­rizes the Secretary’s man­date. It does not. The Act empow­ers the Sec­re­tary to set work­place safe­ty stan­dards, not broad pub­lic health mea­sures...Con­firm­ing the point, the Act’s pro­vi­sions typ­i­cal­ly speak to haz­ards that employ­ees face at work. 

And no pro­vi­sion of the Act address­es pub­lic health more gen­er­al­ly, which falls out­side of OSHA’s sphere of exper­tise.

… while the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices is with­in its authority:

The Medicare pro­gram pro­vides health insur­ance to individ­u­als 65 and old­er, as well as those with spec­i­fied dis­abilities. The Med­ic­aid pro­gram does the same for those with low incomes.

Both Medicare and Med­ic­aid are admin­istered by the Sec­re­tary of Health and Human Ser­vices, who has gen­er­al statu­to­ry author­i­ty to pro­mul­gate reg­u­la­tions “as may be nec­es­sary to the effi­cient admin­is­tra­tion of the func­tions with which [he] is charged.”

One such function—perhaps the most basic, giv­en the Department’s core mis­sion — is to ensure that the health­care providers who care for Medicare and Med­ic­aid patients protect their patients’ health and safe­ty. Such providers include hos­pi­tals, nurs­ing homes, ambu­la­to­ry sur­gi­cal centers, hos­pices, reha­bil­i­ta­tion facil­i­ties, and more.

To that end, Con­gress autho­rized the Sec­re­tary to pro­mul­gate, as a con­di­tion of a facility’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the pro­grams, such “require­ments as [he] finds nec­es­sary in the inter­est of the health and safe­ty of indi­vid­u­als who are fur­nished ser­vices in the institution.”

Munic­i­pal, coun­ty and state man­dates are not affect­ed by either deci­sion and any local man­dates in place may remain. Cit­i­group intends to fire all work­ers who aren’t vac­ci­nat­ed by the end of Jan­u­ary 2022, while Star­bucks has declared that all employ­ees must be vac­ci­nat­ed or under­go­ing reg­u­lar test­ing by Feb­ru­ary 9th.

Oth­er com­pa­nies, such as Boe­ing, Gen­er­al Elec­tric, Union Pacif­ic and BNSF Rail­way had sus­pend­ed their vac­cine or test man­dates as a result of the stay in Novem­ber of 2021 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Cir­cuit in Louisiana against the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion’s man­date for large employ­ers, and their future actions are unknown.

Boe­ing said that about nine­ty-two per­cent of its more than 110,000 U.S. employ­ees were ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed or had received exemp­tions from the man­date, but over a third of its employ­ees reside in Alaba­ma, Ari­zona, Mis­souri, Okla­homa, South Car­oli­na and Texas, which have lax to nonex­is­tent reg­u­la­tions in place — this prob­a­bly had an effect on their deci­sion to suspend.

Wal­mart, Ama­zon and JPMor­gan Chase, three of the largest employ­ers in the Unit­ed States, have yet to issue any broad require­ments for their workers.

One like­ly result of the first deci­sion by the Supreme Court will be sig­nif­i­cant delays in employ­ees whose phys­i­cal pres­ence is not con­sid­ered essen­tial return­ing to offices. Many com­pa­nies have been reduc­ing their office space require­ments since mid-2021, and Court’s deci­sion to strike down the man­date on large employ­ers is like­ly to result is fur­ther reductions.

No final deci­sion by the Supreme Court regard­ing a vac­cine or test­ing man­date for Fed­er­al con­trac­tors has yet been made, though the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice will both not meet the vac­cine or test­ing require­ment and not be pro­vid­ed a request­ed 120-day exten­sion from meet­ing the OSHA requirement.

Washington

On Thurs­day, Jan­u­ary 13th, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee took six steps in response to ris­ing cas­es of COVID-19 due to the omi­cron variant.

First, one hun­dred non-clin­i­cal per­son­nel among the Wash­ing­ton State Nation­al Guard will be deployed large­ly to assist emer­gency rooms at eight facil­i­ties across the state to alle­vi­ate crowd­ing of patients at these facil­i­ties and to pro­vide COVID-19 test­ing teams where most useful.

Sec­ond, all hos­pi­tals with­in Wash­ing­ton state will be required to pause all non-urgent pro­ce­dures, again in order to alle­vi­ate crowding.

Third, take var­i­ous actions to increase staffing with­in and facil­i­tate tran­si­tion­ing  qual­i­fied patients from hos­pi­tals and into long-term care facilities.

Fourth, the state will take steps to make per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment (PPE) for hos­pi­tals and relat­ed facil­i­ties both manda­to­ry and available.

Fifth, the state will be attempt­ing to entice retired health care work­ers to return to work in non-front­line roles to ensure enough per­son­nel are available.

Sixth, the state will invest $30 mil­lion to assist health­care work­ers in com­plet­ing  their edu­ca­tion­al and clin­i­cal require­ments and pro­fes­sion­al development.

The hard, cold numbers (plus vaccinations)

Wash­ing­ton has had 1,029,495 cas­es and 10,220 attrib­ut­able deaths.

The state has the forty-sev­enth worst infec­tion rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

The state has the forty-sixth worst death rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

10,480,434 tests have been recorded.

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the state: 13,915,795
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 11,268,717 (80.98%)

Ore­gon has had 504,731 cas­es and 5,870 attrib­ut­able deaths.

The state has the four­ty-ninth worst infec­tion rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

The state has the forty-fifth worst death rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

9,155,048 tests have been recorded.

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the state: 7,953,005
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 6,193,364 (77.87%)

Ida­ho has had 336,424 cas­es and 4,263 attrib­ut­able deaths.

The state has the thir­ty-fifth worst infec­tion rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

The state has the thir­ty-fourth worst death rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

2,526,106 tests have been recorded.

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the state: 2,741,310
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 1,881,077 (68.62%)

British Colum­bia has had 291,246 cas­es and 2,462 attrib­ut­able deaths.

5,272,664 tests have been recorded.

British Colum­bia has the eighth worst infec­tion rate and the sixth worst death rate among the thir­teen Cana­di­an provinces and ter­ri­to­ries per hun­dred thou­sand pop­u­la­tion. (If it were an Amer­i­can state, it would be fifty-third and fifty-third, respec­tive­ly, out of fifty-three.)

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the province: 10,735,884
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 9,897,611 (92.19%)

That does it for this install­ment of COVID-19 Update. Stay safe and well!

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

Washingtonians overwhelmingly favor right to repair bill for electronics, NPI poll finds

Leg­is­la­tion that would help Wash­ing­to­ni­ans get their bro­ken or dam­aged elec­tron­ics repaired is over­whelm­ing­ly pop­u­lar and ought to be act­ed on dur­ing the 2022 ses­sion, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute advised mem­bers of the House Com­mit­tee on Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion & Busi­ness this morning.

69% of like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for NPI about two months ago backed a bill intro­duced by Mia Gregerson (House Bill 1810) that aims to pro­mote “the fair ser­vic­ing and repair of dig­i­tal elec­tron­ic prod­ucts in a safe, secure, reli­able, and sus­tain­able manner.”

A mere 13% were opposed, while 18% said they were not sure.

As sum­ma­rized by non­par­ti­san com­mit­tee staff in their bill analy­sis, HB 1810 would com­bat elec­tron­ic waste and planned obso­les­cence by requir­ing OEMs (orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers) to “make doc­u­men­ta­tion, parts, and tools avail­able to own­ers and inde­pen­dent repair providers on fair and rea­son­able terms, or pro­vide a train­ing pro­gram and allow any licensed Wash­ing­ton busi­ness to obtain cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as a man­u­fac­tur­er cer­ti­fied repair facility.”

Auto­mo­biles and med­ical devices would be exempt from the new require­ments of HB 1810, and OEMs would not be required to divulge trade secrets. OEMs are also not liable for repairs per­formed by inde­pen­dent repair providers. Enforce­ment of the law would be han­dled sole­ly by the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office.

HB 1810 is a more pol­ished ver­sion of a sim­i­lar bill that was intro­duced last ses­sion but did not advance through the leg­isla­tive process for a floor vote. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mia Gregerson has worked tire­less­ly over the inter­im to tweak the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion and grow sup­port for it. Gregerson men­tioned at today’s hear­ing that Microsoft is now neu­tral on the bill, instead of being opposed.

Pro­po­nents of the bill include Wash­PIRG, Red Queen Dynam­ics, Zero Waste Wash­ing­ton, FiX­CO, Inter­Con­nec­tion, iFix­it, the Nation­al Fed­er­a­tion of Inde­pen­dent Busi­ness, and Share The Cities Action Fund, in addi­tion to NPI.

Here is the full ques­tion that we asked and the respons­es that we received:

QUESTION: The Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture is con­sid­er­ing a “right to repair” bill that would require man­u­fac­tur­ers of dig­i­tal elec­tron­ics such as smart­phones and lap­top com­put­ers to pro­vide diag­nos­tic and repair infor­ma­tion about their prod­ucts to indi­vid­u­als and inde­pen­dent repair busi­ness­es. Man­u­fac­tur­ers would also be oblig­at­ed to pro­vide equip­ment or ser­vice parts for pur­chase on fair and rea­son­able terms but would not be required to sell equip­ment or parts that are no longer avail­able. Motor vehi­cles and med­ical devices would be exempt from the new require­ments. Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose enact­ing a “right to repair” bill in Wash­ing­ton State?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 69% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 39%
    • Some­what sup­port: 30%
  • Oppose: 13%
    • Some­what oppose: 9%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 4%
  • Not Sure: 18%

Three times as many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are strong­ly sup­port as opposed in total, and over­all sup­port is extreme­ly high, with about sev­en in ten like­ly vot­ers favor­ing the bill. Those are real­ly great numbers.

As I told the com­mit­tee: When sup­port is this high — in the high six­ties, sev­en­ties, or above —  it’s evi­dence that the idea we’re research­ing enjoys robust and broad sup­port across many dif­fer­ent groups of voters.

We do live in polar­ized times, but right to repair is some­thing that most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans can enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly get behind.

Our sur­vey of 909 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Novem­ber 10th through Thurs­day, Novem­ber 11th, 2021.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

HB 1810 has already been sched­uled for exec­u­tive ses­sion next week by Chair Steve Kir­by, which is a very encour­ag­ing sign. If the bill is report­ed out with a “do pass” rec­om­men­da­tion, it will head to House Rules. If lead­er­ship signs off, the bill will be pulled to the floor for a vote at some point for fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion and sent over to the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate. Should the Sen­ate also act on the bill, HB 1810 could end up on Gov­er­nor Inslee’s desk by the end of winter.

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

Washingtonians favor both improving Amtrak Cascades and building ultra high speed rail

Ever­green State vot­ers are sup­port­ive of mak­ing major invest­ments to improve Amtrak Cas­cades inter­ci­ty rail ser­vice as well as build­ing a more expen­sive ultra high speed rail line to con­nect the region’s major met­ro­pol­i­tan hubs, recent polling con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has found.

62% of vot­ers who par­tic­i­pat­ed in NPI’s Novem­ber 2021 poll of the Wash­ing­ton State elec­torate said they would sup­port updat­ing and imple­ment­ing Amtrak Cas­cades’ Long Range Plan to elec­tri­fy exist­ing inter­ci­ty rail ser­vice at a cost of about $10 bil­lion, while 51% said they would sup­port a long-term project to build a new ultra high speed rail line cost­ing between $24 and $2 billion.

34% of respon­dents said they were opposed to updat­ing and imple­ment­ing Amtrak Cas­cades’ Long Term Plan and 9% are not sure, while 41% said they were opposed to build­ing a new ultra high speed rail line and 8% were not sure.

These find­ings rein­force pre­vi­ous research con­duct­ed by Fair­bank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Asso­ciates (FM3) for the Seat­tle Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cham­ber of Com­merce and oth­er part­ners show­ing that vot­ers want to con­struct high qual­i­ty, high fre­quen­cy inter­ci­ty rail ser­vice to con­nect Cas­ca­di­a’s major cities.

Here’s the ques­tion FM3 asked last sum­mer:

Here is some infor­ma­tion about a project in the Pacif­ic North­west that would cre­ate a Cas­ca­dia high-speed rail sys­tem with trains that trav­el at 250 miles per hour on average.

This would make 1‑hour, direct trips between each major city between Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia, and Eugene, Ore­gon — with stops in Seat­tle, Taco­ma, Port­land and poten­tial­ly oth­er cities in between. Sta­tions in each city would be locat­ed with easy access to oth­er tran­sit modes and airports.

This pro­pos­al would trans­form our pas­sen­ger rail net­work into a faster, more inte­grat­ed sys­tem that pro­vides a safe, effi­cient, equi­table, and afford­able means of trav­el. Fund­ing would come from fed­er­al infra­struc­ture invest­ment, as well as state and local trans­porta­tion fund­ing sources.

Would you sup­port or oppose this high-speed rail project con­nect­ing cities in the Northwest?

67% (two-thirds) of respon­dents from Wash­ing­ton expressed sup­port for high speed rail after being asked this ques­tion. 60% of Ore­gon­ian respon­dents were also sup­port­ive. Just 27% of respon­dents across the two states indi­cat­ed oppo­si­tion. The total sam­ple con­sist­ed of 1,616 par­tic­i­pants from both states.

After review­ing the very encour­ag­ing results of FM3’s sur­vey, we decid­ed to craft a rig­or­ous fol­low-up ques­tion for our poll sum­ma­riz­ing impor­tant imple­men­ta­tion details as well as describ­ing the end result. While FM3’s ques­tion did not men­tion costs (say­ing only that fund­ing would come from fed­er­al, state, and local sources) our ques­tion includ­ed cost esti­mates. It also not­ed that quite a bit of right of way would have to be acquired in order to lay new tracks.

Here’s the text of our ques­tion and the answers we received:

QUESTION: Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon are study­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of build­ing an ultra high-speed rail line between Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia and Eugene, Ore­gon cost­ing between $24 and $42 bil­lion that could sup­port trains trav­el­ing at speeds of up to two hun­dred and twen­ty (220) miles per hour. Build­ing the line would require pur­chas­ing a sig­nif­i­cant amount of land to con­struct brand new tracks, but it would allow for faster trips between major Pacif­ic North­west cities. Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose build­ing an ultra high-speed rail line between Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia and Eugene?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 51% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 25%
    • Some­what sup­port: 26%
  • Oppose: 41%
    • Some­what oppose: 16%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 25%
  • Not sure: 8%

Notice that even with­out hear­ing the expla­na­tion of the ben­e­fits of high speed rail that FM3 pro­vid­ed in their ques­tion, Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are still supportive.

That’s very reassuring.

It sug­gests that major­i­ty sup­port will still exist for mov­ing for­ward with ultra high speed rail even after the inevitable cost and logis­ti­cal objec­tions are raised.

Those who par­tic­i­pat­ed in our sur­vey saw or heard the ultra high speed rail ques­tion first. Then we asked them about updat­ing and imple­ment­ing the Amtrak Cas­cades Long Range Plan, a relat­ed idea that’s being discussed.

Here’s the text of our ques­tion and the answers:

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose updat­ing and imple­ment­ing Amtrak Cas­cades’ Long Range Plan to elec­tri­fy exist­ing inter­ci­ty rail ser­vice, allow­ing trains to trav­el at up to one hun­dred and ten (110) miles per hour on exist­ing tracks with loco­mo­tives that do not pol­lute, at an esti­mat­ed cost of about $10 bil­lion in state and fed­er­al funds?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 62% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 34%
    • Some­what sup­port: 28%
  • Oppose: 28%
    • Some­what oppose: 11%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 17%
  • Not sure: 9%

In this sec­ond ques­tion, the num­ber of not sure respons­es was about the same, but sup­port was high­er and oppo­si­tion was low­er. As in the ultra high speed rail ques­tion, we pro­vid­ed an esti­mat­ed cost for the project.

Our sur­vey of 909 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Novem­ber 10th through Thurs­day, Novem­ber 11th, 2021.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

We at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute believe that our region should both invest in bet­ter Amtrak Cas­cades ser­vice as well as a new ultra high speed rail line that can enable peo­ple to trav­el quick­ly between Pacif­ic North­west cities.

Because Cas­cades makes use of tracks that are owned by pri­vate­ly held freight rail­roads such as BNSF Rail­way and Union Pacif­ic (UP), there’s a lim­it to what we can do with Cas­cades ser­vice on the exist­ing cor­ri­dor. Build­ing a brand new line will cer­tain­ly be expen­sive, but it will also be a sound invest­ment that will last. Once we have the right of way, we’ll be able to con­tin­ue invest­ing in it.

Europe and Asia have demon­strat­ed that mod­ern, high speed rail is a pub­lic ser­vice worth hav­ing. Let’s make Amtrak Cas­cades the best it can be as soon as pos­si­ble, while doing the work need­ed to get ultra high speed rail off the draw­ing board and into the nec­es­sary advance and design work phase.

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

A majority of Washington voters are willing to raise vehicle fees by $10/year to fund ferries

Vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton are open to increas­ing statewide tax­es to ensure that the state’s icon­ic fer­ry sys­tem can rebound from decades of aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures and under­fund­ing, a poll recent­ly con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive has found.

51% of like­ly 2022 vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for NPI two months ago said they would sup­port increas­ing the fees they pay annu­al­ly to renew their vehi­cles’ car tabs by ten dol­lars to pro­vide Wash­ing­ton State Fer­ries with sta­ble, ded­i­cat­ed fund­ing. 44% said they were opposed, while 6% were not sure.

51% might not sound like a large per­cent­age, but as always, con­text mat­ters. This ques­tion vot­ers were asked was whether they’d sup­port res­cu­ing fer­ries with a rev­enue mech­a­nism that many have vot­ed repeat­ed­ly to cut when giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do so by Tim Eyman, the state’s dis­hon­est, well known pur­vey­or of destruc­tive ini­tia­tives, who is fierce­ly opposed to using vehi­cle fees and motor vehi­cle excise tax­es to fund mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion infrastructure.

The repeat­ed pas­sage of Eyman’s deceit­ful­ly word­ed bal­lot mea­sures has left many reporters and leg­is­la­tors with the impres­sion that vot­ers are total­ly, unequiv­o­cal­ly opposed to any car tab increase, regard­less of the pur­pose for doing so. But the find­ing we’re releas­ing today shows that when vot­ers under­stand how their dol­lars will be invest­ed, a major­i­ty are will­ing to pay.

It just goes to show, once again, that the answers you get depend on the ques­tions you ask. Vot­ers appre­ci­ate under­stand­ing where their tax dol­lars go.

Here’s the exact text of the ques­tion we asked and the answers we received:

QUESTION: Wash­ing­ton State Fer­ries lacks sta­ble, ded­i­cat­ed fund­ing to fund its oper­a­tions and pur­chase new fer­ry­boats, which has result­ed in per­sis­tent crew and boat short­ages, main­te­nance prob­lems, and can­celed sail­ings. Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose increas­ing the fees paid when you renew your car tabs every year by ten dol­lars to pro­vide Wash­ing­ton State Fer­ries with sta­ble, ded­i­cat­ed funding?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 51% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 25%
    • Some­what sup­port: 26%
  • Oppose: 44%
    • Some­what oppose: 13%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 31%
  • Not sure: 6%
Ferry funding poll finding

Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s fer­ry fund­ing poll finding

Our sur­vey of 909 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Novem­ber 10th through Thurs­day, Novem­ber 11th, 2021.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

Pri­or to 2000, in the days before Eyman’s I‑695 was fool­ish­ly imple­ment­ed by Gov­er­nor Gary Locke and the Leg­is­la­ture, vehi­cle fees pro­vid­ed a sig­nif­i­cant amount of fund­ing for Wash­ing­ton State Fer­ries, as the 40th Dis­tric­t’s leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion observed in an Octo­ber 5th let­ter to their con­stituents:

The pas­sage of I‑695 in 1999 result­ed in a WSF loss of approx­i­mate­ly 25% of its ded­i­cat­ed oper­at­ing bud­get and 75% of its ded­i­cat­ed cap­i­tal. Con­se­quent­ly, no new ves­sels were built for an entire decade, 2000–2010. This build­ing drought has sad­dled WSF with an aging fleet. The 2040 Long Range Plan strat­e­gy calls for robust ves­sel replace­ment over the next 19 years to main­tain cur­rent ser­vice lev­els. Addi­tion­al­ly, WSF has con­sis­tent­ly been under­fund­ed for vital ves­sel main­te­nance and preser­va­tion work.

– Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Debra Lekanoff, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Alex Ramel, and Sen­a­tor Liz Lovelett (all D‑40th Dis­trict: Bellingham/Whatcom Coun­ty, San Juan Coun­ty, and Skag­it County)

“Fer­ry oper­a­tions, bud­get­ed at $541 mil­lion in 2021–23, aren’t mas­sive­ly sub­si­dized,” not­ed vet­er­an Seat­tle Times reporter Mike Lind­blom in a Novem­ber 22nd sto­ry on Wash­ing­ton State Fer­ries’ fund­ing cri­sis.

“Dri­vers and pas­sen­gers cov­er 75% to 80% through fares, which increased last month. Nonusers spent $102.6 mil­lion toward fer­ry oper­a­tions in 2019–21, equiv­a­lent to 1.33 cents per gal­lon of gas tax and 1% of license fees. Anoth­er $141 mil­lion in fed­er­al COVID-relief mon­ey back­filled a recent $100 mil­lion loss of tick­et sales. Boats and facil­i­ties will receive $505 mil­lion in 2021–23, pre­dom­i­nant­ly state and fed­er­al dol­lars from nonpassengers.”

Before 2021’s mass can­cel­la­tions, as Lind­blom’s sto­ry notes, the Sen­ate had float­ed putting $200 mil­lion into fer­ry oper­a­tions and $1.24 bil­lion for ves­sels, ter­mi­nals, and elec­tri­fi­ca­tion. But WSF’s needs go beyond that.

“I think we have to con­sid­er more,” House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee Chair Jake Fey (D‑27th Dis­trict: Taco­ma) told Lind­blom.

“Obvi­ous­ly the strug­gle is, it’s not the only thing out there.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fey is cor­rect on both counts. Our trans­porta­tion needs are sub­stan­tial. But the last two years have demon­strat­ed that WSF’s strat­e­gy of limp­ing along and rely­ing on fare rev­enue to pay the costs asso­ci­at­ed with run­ning fer­ries isn’t sus­tain­able. A diver­si­fied long-term fund­ing mod­el is needed.

What should that fund­ing mod­el be? It’s a ques­tion leg­is­la­tors will undoubt­ed­ly be think­ing about this after­noon as the House and Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion com­mit­tees hold work ses­sions to exam­ine Wash­ing­ton’s mobil­i­ty challenges.

A ferry crosses Puget Sound

The fer­ry Tok­i­tae cross­es Puget Sound dur­ing the sixth full month of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Last month, Gov­er­nor Inslee asked leg­is­la­tors to put more mon­ey into our ferries.

“Inslee’s pro­posed 2021–2023 cap­i­tal bud­get for Wash­ing­ton State Fer­ries rep­re­sents a 26% increase ($131 mil­lion), com­pared with the cur­rent two-year bud­get ($505 mil­lion),” Andrew Engel­son not­ed last week in a piece for Cross­cut.

“If unspent mon­ey from the 2019–2021 bien­ni­um is added to that fig­ure, Inslee’s fer­ry sys­tem cap­i­tal bud­get rep­re­sents a 44% boost to be spent on new fer­ries and ter­mi­nals. This includes $91 mil­lion that’s part of Inslee’s new cli­mate agen­da, which would pay for two addi­tion­al elec­tric hybrid fer­ries and ter­mi­nal electrification.”

The gov­er­nor’s pro­pos­al is a good start­ing point.

But espe­cial­ly giv­en that fare rev­enue will not work as a crutch for anoth­er twen­ty years, we must do more. Fer­ries need at least one sta­ble source of ded­i­cat­ed fund­ing to recov­er from decades of aus­ter­i­ty. And there aren’t a lot of rev­enue mech­a­nisms read­i­ly avail­able to leg­is­la­tors that meet that criteria.

Thanks to our polling, though, we know there’s at least one approach that a major­i­ty of vot­ers are will­ing to accept: rais­ing vehi­cle fees by a mod­est amount to allow WSF to deal with its staffing prob­lems and cap­i­tal con­struc­tion needs.

Monday, January 10th, 2022

2022 legislative session begins; four state senators report positive COVID-19 tests

The 2022 ses­sion of the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture has begun!

Short­ly after noon today, the lat­est meet­ing of the state’s bicam­er­al leg­isla­tive branch was gaveled open by House Speak­er Lau­rie Jink­ins and Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Den­ny Heck, kick­ing off two months of onsite and remote lawmaking.

The 2022 ses­sion is expect­ed to run through March 10th, 2022, the last day allowed by the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion for a reg­u­lar ses­sion in an even-num­bered elec­tion year like the one we’re in.

Democ­rats con­tin­ue to wield a fifty-sev­en mem­ber major­i­ty in the House and twen­ty-eight mem­ber major­i­ty in the Sen­ate. Leg­isla­tive lead­ers have cit­ed sev­er­al pri­or­i­ties for this short ses­sion. Among them are adopt­ing a set of sup­ple­men­tal bud­gets, reform­ing the WA Cares long-term care ini­tia­tive, and tweak­ing some of the police account­abil­i­ty laws passed last year.

“All our fam­i­lies, in every dis­trict, deserve the oppor­tu­ni­ty to move for­ward and make some head­way,” said Speak­er Lau­rie Jink­ins said in a set of tra­di­tion­al ses­sion open­ing remarks from the ros­trum, observ­ing that past rebounds from reces­sion­ary gaps “haven’t [always] brought every­one along.”

Repub­li­cans con­tin­ued to lament that not every­one is togeth­er at the state cap­i­tal for the ses­sion. Top House Repub­li­can J.T. Wilcox has argued that lack of face to face inter­ac­tion in 2021 led to sub­op­ti­mal results.

“I think the process is break­ing down,” he said. “It’s a dis­as­ter for you, your cau­cus and the state if, as you’re win­ning, you’re not allow­ing the minor­i­ty (par­ty) and the cit­i­zens of Wash­ing­ton to help you avoid mak­ing mistakes.”

Democ­rats point­ed out that many aspects of the leg­isla­tive process have got­ten more acces­si­ble despite the remote nature of the last ses­sion. (For exam­ple, a per­son wish­ing to tes­ti­fy no longer has to give up most or all of their day to go down to Olympia just to speak for a minute or two.) And they declared that they’re lis­ten­ing to input gath­ered over the inter­im to make sen­si­ble adjust­ments to many of the ground­break­ing pol­i­cy bills enact­ed last year.

In the past few days, four Demo­c­ra­t­ic state sen­a­tors have test­ed pos­i­tive for COVID-19, under­scor­ing the neces­si­ty and impor­tance of gath­er­ing remotely.

New State Sen­a­tor John Lovick (D‑44th Dis­trict: Sno­homish Coun­ty) was the first to announce a pos­i­tive diag­no­sis, on Fri­day, Jan­u­ary 7th.

“I’m fine, I have a bit of a cold but oth­er than that I feel OK,” said Lovick.

“One thing is for sure – I’m relieved that I’m both vac­ci­nat­ed and boosted.

“I wear my mask, I wash my hands about twen­ty times a day and I still got it. This virus is noth­ing to mess around with and we all have to do our part to pro­tect our­selves and each other.”

The next day (Sat­ur­day, Jan­u­ary 8th), Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Andy Bil­lig (D‑3rd Dis­trict: Spokane) said he had come with down the virus as well.

“I am grate­ful to have been vac­ci­nat­ed and boost­ed, which I know has pre­vent­ed me from hav­ing any sig­nif­i­cant symp­toms.” said Billig.

“I also appre­ci­ate that we have the tech­nol­o­gy in place to facil­i­tate a hybrid leg­isla­tive ses­sion so Sen­a­tors can ful­ly par­tic­i­pate in leg­isla­tive activ­i­ties even while they quar­an­tine. I do not expect this pos­i­tive test will keep me from any of my leg­isla­tive duties as ses­sion gets under­way next week.”

This morn­ing, Sen­a­tor Mark Mul­let (D‑5th Dis­trict: Issaquah, Maple Val­ley, and oth­er com­mu­ni­ties in East King Coun­ty) said he too had test­ed positive.

“If I had to get it, this is prob­a­bly the best time of year to get it,” Mul­let said. “As the own­er of a restau­rant, which is a busi­ness where you can’t miss work, I was lucky not to catch the virus when I had to be avail­able to man­age my restaurant.”

“After my wife got COVID last Tues­day, I’ve got­ten test­ed to make sure it’s been safe for me to take care of our kids,” Mul­let added. “As recent­ly as Sat­ur­day night I test­ed neg­a­tive, but after my pos­i­tive test in Olympia this morn­ing I just got in my car and head­ed back home to pre­pare for a week of remote work.”

Hours lat­er, there was yet anoth­er sim­i­lar announce­ment, this time from Sen­a­tor Yas­min Trudeau (D‑27th Dis­trict: Tacoma).

“I’m grate­ful that I can iso­late at home with my fam­i­ly to min­i­mize the pos­si­bil­i­ty of spread, and I’m espe­cial­ly glad that my hus­band and I were vac­ci­nat­ed against this virus,” said Trudeau. “It’s scary to have COVID when we have a lit­tle one here at home who’s too young to be vac­ci­nat­ed, but we’re mon­i­tor­ing all of our symp­toms extreme­ly close­ly and know that we have an incred­i­ble com­mu­ni­ty sur­round­ing us to help us take care of our family.”

“I’m draw­ing on the resilience of our loved ones, the sup­port of my col­leagues and the encour­age­ment that comes from know­ing the Leg­is­la­ture is well-pre­pared to con­duct the people’s busi­ness remotely.”

“This isn’t the way I want­ed to start my first ses­sion, but I’m no less excit­ed and ready to do the work our com­mu­ni­ty wants done. After a full iso­la­tion and recov­ery, I plan to go to Olympia when it is safe and pos­si­ble to do so – but whether I’m there or here at home, I’m ready to work.”

Lovick, Mul­let, and Bil­lig all not­ed that they are triple vac­ci­nat­ed. Trudeau did not men­tion how many dos­es she’s received, but she may also be triple vaccinated.

Wash­ing­ton State, like much of the rest of the Unit­ed States and world com­mu­ni­ty, is expe­ri­enc­ing a surge in COVID-19 cas­es and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions, dri­ven in part by the high­ly infec­tious omi­cron variant.

13,689 cas­es were report­ed yes­ter­day, accord­ing to the Depart­ment of Health’s COVID-19 dash­board. 19,150 new cas­es were report­ed on Sat­ur­day the 8th and 14,871 new cas­es were report­ed on Fri­day the 7th. Hos­pi­tal­iza­tions stand at 47,807, up from 46,215 on New Year’s Day.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee is slat­ed to deliv­er his annu­al State of the State Address tomor­row. How­ev­er, instead of appear­ing in a packed House cham­ber, Inslee will offer remarks from the State Recep­tion Room in the Leg­isla­tive Build­ing before a small num­ber of media rep­re­sen­ta­tives and guber­na­to­r­i­al staff. Law­mak­ers will watch the speech remote­ly along with the public.

If you’d like to watch, nav­i­gate to tvw.org at noon on Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 11th.

Monday, January 10th, 2022

NPI’s polling shows Washingtonians want the state’s next transportation package to be safety and climate focused, not car-centric

Today, the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture is con­ven­ing its 2022 ses­sion, which is expect­ed to run six­ty days and must adjourn, in accor­dance with the Con­sti­tu­tion, no lat­er than March 10th, 2021. High on the ses­sion “to do” list for many law­mak­ers, news­pa­per pub­lish­ers, and advo­ca­cy groups is enact­ment of a new trans­porta­tion pack­age to address the state’s mobil­i­ty needs.

To quote from a few of the recent state­ments we’ve seen:

  • “The Leg­is­la­ture has delayed far too long in pass­ing a mean­ing­ful infra­struc­ture improve­ment pack­age. After talks broke down ear­ly in 2021 and remained at an impasse all year, law­mak­ers must redou­ble efforts to make a long-term invest­ment in the state’s bridges, roads and tran­sit.” — The Seat­tle Times edi­to­r­i­al board (Jan­u­ary 9th, 2022)
  • “Wash­ing­ton state leg­is­la­tors are long over­due to pass a trans­porta­tion pack­age — but we don’t need just any kind of invest­ment. We need a trans­for­ma­tive approach to trans­porta­tion that meets our needs for health, safe­ty, and afford­abil­i­ty, and address­es cli­mate, social, and eco­nom­ic jus­tice.” — It Takes Trans­porta­tion Coali­tion Manifesto
  • “The major­i­ty of Washington’s cur­rent trans­porta­tion rev­enue sources are regres­sive, and are restrict­ed to being spent on high­ways. The trans­porta­tion pack­age must rely on pro­gres­sive, cli­mate friend­ly rev­enue sources that do not dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly bur­den low-income and mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties.” — Excerpt from a res­o­lu­tion adopt­ed by the exec­u­tive board of the King Coun­ty Democ­rats at its Novem­ber 2021 meeting

Back in Novem­ber, in antic­i­pa­tion of the com­ing ses­sion, our poll­ster asked a large sam­ple of like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers what they want­ed to see in a new trans­porta­tion pack­age. All recent pack­ages have been high­way heavy, with the lion’s share of dol­lars devot­ed to infra­struc­ture for cars, with tran­sit get­ting mere crumbs. The Leg­is­la­ture did give Sound Tran­sit new rev­enue options in 2015 when it passed Con­nect­ing Wash­ing­ton for financ­ing tran­sit at the region­al lev­el, but it did not sub­stan­tive­ly invest in tran­sit using state-lev­el dollars.

Sev­en years lat­er, much has changed. We’re in the midst of a hor­rif­ic pan­dem­ic, Repub­li­cans no longer con­trol the Sen­ate, and the toll from cli­mate dam­age has got­ten much worse. Inter­est in pass­ing anoth­er trans­porta­tion pack­age is mount­ing. But what kind of pack­age will it be? And what do Wash­ing­to­ni­ans want their elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives to pri­or­i­tize at this crit­i­cal moment?

We decid­ed to ask.

We framed the choice as one between a safe­ty and cli­mate focused pack­age that shores up exist­ing roads and bridges, plus invests in fish pas­sage and tran­sit, or a pack­age that focus­es on expand­ing car capac­i­ty, whether in the form of new high­ways, new lanes, or new ramps. The lat­ter, as men­tioned, would be in keep­ing with tra­di­tion, while the for­mer would rep­re­sent a new direction.

In our ques­tion, we did not argue that one approach was supe­ri­or to anoth­er or dis­cuss what the Leg­is­la­ture has done his­tor­i­cal­ly. Our goal was to sim­ply to ascer­tain where peo­ple are and what they’re look­ing for from their lawmakers.

By a three-to-one mar­gin, vot­ers said that they want­ed a safe­ty and cli­mate focused pack­age as opposed to a car-cen­tric one. 

  • 60% of respon­dents said they want a trans­porta­tion pack­age that pri­or­i­tizes fix­ing unsafe bridges, improv­ing fish pas­sage, resur­fac­ing dete­ri­o­rat­ing roads, and mak­ing big pub­lic tran­sit investments.
  • Only 19% of respon­dents said they want to pri­or­i­tize adding capac­i­ty for cars by build­ing new high­ways, widen­ing exist­ing high­ways with new lanes, and adding or length­en­ing ramps.
  • 21% were not sure.
Visualization of NPI's transportation philosophy poll finding

Visu­al­iza­tion of our poll find­ing on the direc­tion vot­ers want leg­is­la­tors to take with a 2022 trans­porta­tion package

Our sur­vey of 909 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Novem­ber 10th through Thurs­day, Novem­ber 11th, 2021.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

Here’s the full text of the ques­tion that we asked and the respons­es again:

QUESTION: If the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture approves a new trans­porta­tion fund­ing pack­age in the 2022 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, do you think it should pri­or­i­tize fix­ing unsafe bridges, improv­ing fish pas­sage, resur­fac­ing dete­ri­o­rat­ing roads, and mak­ing big pub­lic tran­sit invest­ments, or should it pri­or­i­tize adding capac­i­ty for cars by build­ing new high­ways, widen­ing exist­ing high­ways with new lanes, and adding or length­en­ing ramps?

ANSWERS:

  • Think the Leg­is­la­ture should pri­or­i­tize fix­ing unsafe bridges, improv­ing fish pas­sage, resur­fac­ing dete­ri­o­rat­ing roads, and mak­ing big pub­lic tran­sit invest­ments in a 2022 trans­porta­tion fund­ing pack­age: 60%
  • Think the Leg­is­la­ture should pri­or­i­tize adding capac­i­ty for cars by build­ing new high­ways, widen­ing exist­ing high­ways with new lanes, and adding or length­en­ing ramps: 19%
  • Not sure: 21%

You’ll notice that in the ques­tion, we used the adjec­tive “big” in front of “tran­sit invest­ments.” That’s because we want­ed to find out if vot­ers desire a tru­ly mul­ti­modal approach, one in which tran­sit receives a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of the dol­lars in a state-lev­el trans­porta­tion pack­age as opposed to just a small frac­tion. The pres­ence of the word “big” is intend­ed to sig­ni­fy that we’re talk­ing about a pack­age that puts tran­sit front and cen­ter in an unprece­dent­ed way.

We con­sid­er fish pas­sage improve­ments, fix­ing unsafe bridges, and resur­fac­ing dete­ri­o­rat­ing roads to also be essen­tial to a suc­cess­ful trans­porta­tion pack­age, which is why they are all grouped togeth­er in one of the choic­es. Safe­ty and sus­tain­abil­i­ty go hand in hand and should­n’t be pit­ted against each other.

Adding capac­i­ty for cars, on the oth­er hand, does­n’t square with those oth­er goals. It costs a lot of mon­ey while fail­ing to reduce con­ges­tion or pollution.

Yet that is the route we’ve tak­en with past packages.

If we con­tin­ue to pri­or­i­tize build­ing new high­ways, lanes, and ramps, then there sim­ply won’t be resources for seis­mic upgrades to bridges, removal of fish bar­ri­ers, road main­te­nance, or more, bet­ter, and high­er fre­quen­cy tran­sit service.

Infi­nite dol­lars are sim­ply not available.

Sen­a­tor Marko Liias, the new Chair of the Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, declared last week that he won’t sup­port increas­ing the gas tax as part of a 2022 trans­porta­tion pack­age. Past pack­ages have relied heav­i­ly on gas tax increas­es to sup­ply the rev­enue need­ed to pay for the projects leg­is­la­tors have appropriated.

But it seems this one will not.

An upside to the posi­tion Sen­a­tor Liias has staked out is that the Con­sti­tu­tion restricts the use of gas tax rev­enue to “high­way purposes.”

By fund­ing the 2022 pack­age with oth­er rev­enue options, the Leg­is­la­ture will have more free­dom to allo­cate dol­lars to tran­sit and improv­ing fish passage.

Whether or not the Leg­is­la­ture can reach agree­ment on a pack­age before March 10th remains to be seen. It won’t be easy. But leg­is­la­tors should make a gen­uine effort to try to forge an agree­ment, and not punt until 2023.

We have under­fund­ed fer­ries, tran­sits, side­walks, bike paths, and mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture for far too long. Mean­while, we have deferred basic main­te­nance and seis­mic upgrades to our exist­ing roads and bridges.

It’s time to lis­ten to the vot­ers and autho­rize the mobil­i­ty invest­ments that will help Wash­ing­to­ni­ans get where they need to go, safe­ly and sustainably.

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (January 3rd-7th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Unit­ed States Sen­a­tors vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, Jan­u­ary 7th, 2021.

There were no key votes in the House this week.

This week marked the begin­ning of the sec­ond ses­sion of the 117th Unit­ed States Con­gress, the cur­rent meet­ing of the coun­ty’s bicam­er­al leg­isla­tive branch. The first ses­sion began on Jan­u­ary 3rd, 2021 and end­ed one year later.

The sec­ond ses­sion is now under­way. The 117th Con­gress is the first Con­gress since the 111th in which Democ­rats have had a fed­er­al tri­fec­ta (con­trol of both leg­isla­tive cham­bers plus the exec­u­tive branch), although their Sen­ate major­i­ty is razor thin and their House major­i­ty is small­er than in the 116th Congress.

The 117th Con­gress will end in a year’s time. The 2022 midterm elec­tions will deter­mine the make­up of the 118th Con­gress, set to con­vene Jan­u­ary 3rd, 2023.

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

ANNE WITKOWSKY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: The Sen­ate on Jan­u­ary 5th con­firmed the nom­i­na­tion of Anne Witkowsky to serve as the State Depart­men­t’s assis­tant sec­re­tary for con­flict and sta­bi­liza­tion oper­a­tions. Witkowsky has been a senior offi­cial at the Defense Depart­ment and State Depart­ment, and most recent­ly was co-direc­tor of the pri­vate Task Force on U.S. Strat­e­gy to Sup­port Democ­ra­cy and Counter Authoritarianism.

The vote was 61 yeas to 26 nays.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (1): Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Mike Crapo

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Jim Risch

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell

Not Vot­ing (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 not voting

Key votes ahead

The House will con­sid­er amend­ments to the Sen­ate’s ver­sion of the NASA Enhanced Use Leas­ing Exten­sion Act of 2021 as well as H.R. 1836, the Guard and Reserve GI Bill Par­i­ty Act of 2021. The Sen­ate is expect­ed to con­sid­er the nom­i­na­tions of Gabriel P. Sanchez and Hol­ly A. Thomas to be Ninth Cir­cuit Court Judges, as well as nom­i­na­tions for exec­u­tive positions.

Editor’s Note: The infor­ma­tion in NPI’s week­ly How Cascadia’s U.S. law­mak­ers vot­ed fea­ture is pro­vid­ed by Tar­get­ed News Ser­vice. All rights are reserved. Repro­duc­tion of this post is not per­mit­ted, not even with attri­bu­tion. Use the per­ma­nent link to this post to share it… thanks!

© 2022 Tar­get­ed News Ser­vice, LLC. 

Friday, January 7th, 2022

COVID-19 Update: New Secretary of State Steve Hobbs implements vaccine mandate

On Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 4th, Wash­ing­ton’s newest exec­u­tive depart­ment offi­cer Steve Hobbs extend­ed Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 state work­er vac­cine man­date to cov­er the Office of the Sec­re­tary of State, which he now leads, break­ing with his pre­de­ces­sor Kim Wyman’s deci­sion not to require employ­ees to be vac­ci­nat­ed. NPI com­mends this deci­sion and thanks Sec­re­tary Hobbs for act­ing to pro­tect lives and health and strength­en our state’s response to COVID-19.

At a news con­fer­ence on Wednes­day, Gov­er­nor Inslee announced that the state Depart­ment of Health has ordered five and a half mil­lion at-home tests. He also not­ed that eight hun­dred thou­sand such tests have already been received and that the remain­der will like­ly be received with­in the next week. In addi­tion, the state will tap into its per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment inven­to­ry with plans to dis­trib­ute rough­ly 10 mil­lion KN95 and sur­gi­cal masks in the com­ing weeks.

This is all in response to the lat­est omi­cron-fueled wave of the pandemic.

Schools will be the pri­ma­ry ben­e­fi­cia­ries of these orders, but a por­tion of each sup­ply of tests will be made avail­able to com­mu­ni­ties where access can some­times be some­where between prob­lem­at­ic and difficult.

Dur­ing the news con­fer­ence, Gov­er­nor Inslee said: “We have to do every­thing we can to main­tain as much in-per­son instruc­tion as pos­si­ble, which this wave of cas­es will make more dif­fi­cult… Stu­dents have lost too much already dur­ing this pan­dem­ic. That is why we are focused heav­i­ly on mak­ing sure tests, masks, and boost­ers are read­i­ly avail­able for our school staff and students.”

The state will also be part­ner­ing with CareEvo­lu­tion and Ama­zon to cre­ate a new web por­tal where fam­i­lies can order tests to be deliv­ered to their homes at no charge. The por­tal is expect­ed to launch with­in the next two to three of weeks.

Final­ly, efforts are under­way to expand access to COVID-19 vac­cine boost­er shots. The governor’s office said a FEMA mobile vac­ci­na­tion site in Auburn recent­ly tripled its through­put to 1,500 shots a day. Anoth­er high-vol­ume vac­cine site is sched­uled to open in North­west Wash­ing­ton lat­er in the month.

Mean­while:

  • Port­land-area schools are respond­ing to their state Depart­ment of Health’s rec­om­men­da­tions to mit­i­gate the rise in omi­cron-spe­cif­ic COVID-19 cas­es and are begin­ning to imple­ment new rules;
  • British Colum­bia is con­sid­er­ing remote-access edu­ca­tion in response to like­ly staff short­ages at schools;
  • … and health offi­cials in Ida­ho are con­cerned that, with the end of mask man­dates in most pub­lic schools with the start of the end of year hol­i­days, there could be a sig­nif­i­cant rise in cases.

Here’s where to go in Wash­ing­ton State, Ore­gon, Ida­ho and British Colum­bia to get a COVID-19 test if rapid at-home tests are unavail­able to you.

The hard, cold numbers (plus vaccinations)

Wash­ing­ton has had 903,372 cas­es and 9,968 attrib­ut­able deaths.

The state has the forty-sev­enth worst infec­tion rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

The state has the forty-sixth worst death rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

9,958,651 tests have been recorded.

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the state: 13,915,795
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 11,268,717 (80.98%)

Ore­gon has had 441,648 cas­es and 5,719 attrib­ut­able deaths.

The state has the fifti­eth worst infec­tion rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

The state has the forty-fifth worst death rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

8,802,957 tests have been recorded.

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the state: 7,953,005
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 6,193,364 (77.87%)

Ida­ho has had 323,965 cas­es and 4,192 attrib­ut­able deaths.

The state has the twen­ty-eighth worst infec­tion rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

The state has the thir­ty-fourth worst death rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion in population.

2,469,916 tests have been recorded.

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the state: 2,741,310
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 1,881,077 (68.62%)

British Colum­bia has had 270,508 cas­es and 2,427 attrib­ut­able deaths.

5,161,935 tests have been recorded.

British Colum­bia has the sev­enth worst infec­tion rate and the sixth worst death rate among the thir­teen Cana­di­an provinces and ter­ri­to­ries per hun­dred thou­sand pop­u­la­tion. (If it were an Amer­i­can state, it would be fifty-third and fifty-third, respec­tive­ly, out of fifty-three.)

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the province: 10,284,212
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 9,502,325 (92.39%)

That does it for this install­ment of COVID-19 Update. Stay safe and well!

Friday, January 7th, 2022

We can’t know our future, but we can be better prepared to defend our democracy

In Novem­ber of 2020, I read an arti­cle by Indi Sama­ra­ji­va. (It was not the spe­cif­ic arti­cle I’ve linked to here, and his com­men­tary has been updat­ed since the events of Jan­u­ary 6th, 2020, but you can still get the gist of his message.)

I read it, read a cou­ple more pieces by the author to get a sense of his mind­set and per­son­al­i­ty, and men­tal­ly filed it away.

It wasn’t that I thought the author was entire­ly wrong, but Sri Lan­ka, his home, had been through one of the blood­i­est sec­tar­i­an wars of the 20th Cen­tu­ry, and they were still more than will­ing to kill each oth­er in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers in the present day, even though the rea­son­ing behind such vio­lence was some­what, but not entire­ly, dif­fer­ent from the log­ic of that nation’s recent past.

Did I of think Amer­i­ca as immune, giv­en its his­to­ry of vio­lence in response to our peri­od­ic pub­lic dec­la­ra­tions for and actions toward com­bat­ing racism, clas­sism, or misog­y­ny? No. Did I think the Trump regime was going to go qui­et­ly into the night in the event that Trump and Pence were defeat­ed for reelec­tion? No.

Nor did I con­sid­er them rea­son­able folks, giv­en, above all else, that they, through their delib­er­ate mis­man­age­ment (or delib­er­ate lack of man­age­ment – I would say some of each) of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, were respon­si­ble for between 700,000 and one mil­lion deaths in the Unit­ed States.

Don­ald Trump him­self had made it clear that he would and will fight tooth and nail if not declared the win­ner of both the 2016 or 2020 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

What I expect­ed was some­thing on the order of the even­tu­al­ly abort­ed recount of votes in 2000 in Flori­da, just on a larg­er scale, with the threat of vio­lence a nev­er-end­ing mias­ma to force us into submission.

(The for­mer hap­pened, sor­ta, but incred­i­bly, hor­ri­bly, cringe-ably bad­ly for their side. The lat­ter has been in play since, wher­ev­er his sup­port­ers think they can bend peo­ple to their will in pre­tend­ing that COVID-19 isn’t the dan­ger­ous viral pan­dem­ic it is, and in a more extreme sense, through the QAnon con­spir­a­cy cult.)

I did not expect, on Jan­u­ary 6th, to be con­stant­ly recy­cling the Twit­ter page of Igor Bobic as an act of vio­lent insur­rec­tion struck the grounds of, and then with­in, the Capi­tol Build­ing itself. I did not expect, on Jan­u­ary 6th, to see video of var­i­ous mem­bers of the Capi­tol Police com­mis­er­ate with the insur­rec­tion­ists, and oth­er mem­bers of the Capi­tol Police lit­er­al­ly save the lives of both Vice Pres­i­dent Pence and Sen­a­tor Schumer by mere steps.

I did not expect, on Jan­u­ary 6th, to read of mem­bers of Con­gress in hid­ing, that oth­er mem­bers of Con­gress may have pro­vid­ed the means to facil­i­tate find­ing those in hid­ing, and of plain­clothes Capi­tol secu­ri­ty behind hasti­ly assem­bled bar­ri­cades in the House Cham­ber, guns drawn if a breach was attempt­ed by the insur­rec­tion­ists. But the warn­ing signs were there.

Read and watch.

Remem­ber.

Remem­ber.

Remem­ber.

And do not, for one moment, accept their non­sense as cov­er for their violence.

Pro­gres­sives can no longer rely on old polit­i­cal, soci­etal, or gov­ern­men­tal norms, result­ing shame for vio­lat­ing said norms, or a judi­cia­ry that has become too far removed from the real­i­ties of how racism, clas­sism and misog­y­ny exist in our time, to restrain an oppo­si­tion will­ing to cast aside all norms and legal prece­dents as is nec­es­sary to achieve and per­ma­nent­ly retain power.

We must be will­ing to do the dif­fi­cult, often bru­tal, some­times dan­ger­ous work nec­es­sary to effec­tive­ly address and rem­e­dy over time, often piece­meal, the dif­fi­cult times in which we now live. We must effec­tive­ly orga­nize togeth­er — and mobi­lize togeth­er — to pro­tect our democracy.

This is some­thing that Richard Rorty, who I believe has one of the best sens­es of com­pre­hend­ing, as a polit­i­cal philoso­pher of the Amer­i­can left, has writ­ten about. Rorty has dis­cussed where we are head­ed and what needs to be done at the metaphor­i­cal lev­el to advance the great Amer­i­can Experiment.

I sus­pect that I, like Rorty, will not be around to see us even­tu­al­ly rise above these dark, dan­ger­ous and del­i­cate times. But I hope that we all take heed of what he has to say and act accordingly.

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

All of Washington State’s mountain passes are impassable right now due to heavy snow

The low­land snow that fell across much of West­ern Wash­ing­ton between Christ­mas and New Year’s Day may have melt­ed, but up in the Cas­cade Moun­tains, it’s a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent sto­ry, as Mike Lind­blom reports:

There’s no way to dri­ve across Wash­ing­ton state’s moun­tains until some­time this week­end, as the worst com­bi­na­tion of snow and rain in many years has closed all four of the state’s win­ter high­way routes between east and west.

A white­out snow­storm ear­ly Thurs­day, fol­lowed by freez­ing rain and a half-foot or more of snow in the fore­cast, forced the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion to close Sno­qualmie, Stevens, White and Blewett passes.

Some of Wash­ing­ton’s moun­tain pass­es — for instance, Wash­ing­ton, Cayuse, and Chi­nook — are always closed dur­ing the win­ter sea­son. But Sno­qualmie (which I‑90 pass­es over), Stevens (which U.S. 2 pass­es over) and White (which U.S. 12 pass­es over) are kept open, at least to the extent that’s feasible.

Today, WSDOT con­clud­ed that it would nei­ther be safe nor sen­si­ble to try to open any of those pass­es (which have seen inter­mit­tent clo­sures over the last few weeks) to auto and freight traf­fic any­time soon. The weath­er is just that bad.

The depart­ment explained its posi­tion to the trav­el­ing pub­lic in a series of tweets:

Evening update: Sno­qualmie, Stevens, White & Blewett pass­es remain closed. 

Because of the con­di­tions and amount of work need­ed to safe­ly re-open, our pass­es will like­ly remain closed until Sunday.

Con­di­tions are too dan­ger­ous for crews to be in the pass areas. Snow & debris con­tin­ue to slide onto the high­ways. Crews are work­ing in areas where it is safe to plow, clear catch basins & do oth­er work to have those areas ready when we can reopen.

More snow and pos­si­bly rain is in the fore­cast for the pass­es tonight. This will only increase the avalanche danger.

If it is safe to do so, we will spend all day Fri­day address­ing avalanche issues to cre­ate a safe work zone. Once avalanche work is done, we will spend Sat­ur­day clear­ing the areas, includ­ing plow­ing and treat­ing roads, remov­ing snow/ice from signs, clear­ing trees & debris from the road and clear­ing catch basins for drainage.

In low­lands, heavy rain in sev­er­al areas of the state will increase flood & washout dan­ger. Sev­er­al rivers are under advi­sories with risks to increase as snow melt con­tin­ues. There is high dan­ger of downed trees due to sat­u­rat­ed soil, heavy snow & rain.

In East­ern WA, rain/flooding is a con­cern as is snow and strong winds, includ­ing in the Palouse.

Blow­ing and drift­ing snow pro­duce low vis­i­bil­i­ty and chal­leng­ing con­di­tions lead­ing to road clo­sures and pos­si­bly pow­er outages.

We rec­og­nize the impor­tance of these cor­ri­dors but noth­ing is more impor­tant than the safe­ty of our crews and the public.

We are pre­pared to move in once it is safe, and we appre­ci­ate your patience dur­ing this chal­leng­ing situation.

To the south, ODOT was forced to tem­porar­i­ly close Inter­state 84 to all traf­fic through the Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge. The depart­ment reopened the high­way after clear­ing a debris slide, at around 7:30 PM Pacif­ic, but advised that unsafe con­di­tions could prompt anoth­er clo­sure at any time.

Sno­qualmie Pass has seen more snow in recent days than at any time in the past few decades. While it’s nice to have a robust snow­pack ear­ly in the sea­son, it seems that late­ly, we’re get­ting too much of every­thing. Too many dry stretch­es that yield con­di­tions ripe for fires to spread. Too many rainy spells that result in flood­ing. And now too many snow­storms that make trav­el difficult.

Sci­en­tists have warned for years that more extreme weath­er (of all sorts and in all sea­sons) would be a con­se­quence of cli­mate dam­age. And that is pre­cise­ly what we are see­ing now. This mul­ti-day shut­down of the pass­es will impede mobil­i­ty, freight, and com­merce, but it can’t be helped. Allow­ing peo­ple to attempt a jour­ney over any of the pass­es would be a recipe for disaster.

Safe­ty comes first, as WSDOT said. The depart­ment can’t wave a mag­ic wand and make the avalanche threat go away, nor can its crews snap their fin­gers and turn off the snow from the skies above. Those need­ing to get across the moun­tains will either have to wait or book a flight. (Alaska/Horizon offers mul­ti­ple dai­ly cross state flights, includ­ing Seat­tle <> Spokane and Seat­tle <> Yakima.)

Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which makes use of the Cas­cade Tun­nel oper­at­ed by BNSF Rail­way, was also can­celed today, although tomor­row’s depar­ture to Spokane and points east is list­ed as “On Time.” The sec­ond Cas­cade Tun­nel, built near­ly one hun­dred years ago, allows trains to tra­verse the snowy Cas­cades even in extreme­ly win­try con­di­tions such as those we have seen lately.

In hap­pi­er news, WSDOT report­ed that it has cleared a long stretch of U.S. 101 between Hood­sport and State Route 104, reopen­ing that route to traf­fic. A block­age on State Route 510 at Mud Moun­tain Road has also been cleared.

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