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Tim Eyman confirms his worst nightmare: Progressive tax reform for Washington State

In the late 1990s, before he became a prominent salesman of destructive right wing initiatives, Tim Eyman was a seller of wristwatches to fraternities. After discovering just how lucrative selling initiatives to wealthy conservative donors could be, Eyman abandoned his wristwatch business and became a full-time, richly compensated initiative pitchman — an occupation he continues to hold.

Something that’s played a big role in keeping Eyman in business for over fifteen years is Washington State’s horribly regressive tax structure, which is the worst in the nation. We have a tax code that requires middle and low income families to pay a much larger percentage of their income in dues to the state than wealthy families.

This broken tax code has been the gift that keeps on giving for Tim Eyman, in two important ways. First, it helps keep the gears of his initiative factory lubricated with cash. Wealthy right wing donors like living in a state where they can get what amounts to a free ride, and they’re only too happy to open their checkbooks for Tim, who uses some of their money to qualify destructive schemes for the ballot to keep it that way, while pocketing the rest for himself as profit.

Second, it results in an electorate more receptive to Eyman’s initiatives. If tax obligations were fair in Washington and people were asked to pay according to their means, there would be less of an appetite for schemes to eviscerate our common wealth and wreck government. Eyman’s followers would still be enthusiastic, of course, but they’re only a fraction of the electorate. If Eyman can’t win at the ballot at least some of the time, his power and influence disappears. He knows that.

That’s why Tim fears progressive tax reform. It’s his worst nightmare. Were we to make our tax code fairer, it’d be very bad for his business. He might even have to find a new (and possibly less lucrative) source of income.

Though Tim claims that Washington voters are extremely hostile to the idea of an income tax and would never go for it, it still really, really, really bothers him when our state’s mass media give progressives space to talk about the idea, because he fears the possibility that we’ll be successful in educating the public about the merits of adopting a state-level tax that is based on ability to pay.

Hence, Tim’s email this morning:

To:  Our thousands of supporters throughout the state (cc’d to the media, house & senate members, and Governor)

From: Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, & Mike Fagan [contact info redacted]

RE: “Tim Eyman wrecked the state government’s ability to manage its business” says pusher of state income tax

There’s a huge push right now for the Legislature to impose a new state income tax (reason #1 that we make sure Initiative 1366 passes in November). A local liberal columnist in today’s Everett Herald is salivating over a new $5 billion PER YEAR tax increase (to put a $5 billion annual tax increase in perspective, he’d have to raise the statewide sales tax to 15% to get that kind of money).

He writes:  “You can’t just middle through to get $5 billion … it would be incredibly easy to get this money, if we had the political leadership willing to do so … look across I-405 to Redmond or to the tony neighborhoods of Hunts Point and Medina.  Note the new buildings, new cars, new remodels, new houses, and realize that is just the tip of the iceberg of new income and wealth in our state.  The beneficiaries, indeed the takers, of this wealth … we don’t tax income at all.”

The column Eyman is referring to, which he doesn’t properly cite, let alone bother to link to, is this sensible piece from Economic Opportunity Institute Executive Director John Burbank (State income tax would fix school funding and much more).

(The subject line of Eyman’s email is not from John’s column at all, by the way, but from an August 12th letter to the editor of The Herald which Eyman doesn’t cite. This is par for the course; Eyman has always been sloppy with attribution. )

John’s premise is that we could properly fund education from preschool to college if we levied a state income tax as the centerpiece of a reform effort. From his op-ed:

How much revenue would a progressive income tax provide for public services? First exempt $50,000 of income. Then put in place effective tax rates of 2 percent for a $100,000 household, 3.5 percent for a $200,000 household, 5 percent for a $500,000 household, 6.25 percent for a million dollar household, and 8.125 percent for a $2 million household. That would raise $7.5 billion.

Now let’s do the math:

  • $7.5 billion in new revenue,
  • Minus $3 billion for K-12 education,
  • Minus $1.5 billion for higher education tuition,
  • Minus $500 million for early childhood education.

That leaves $2.5 billion on the table. With that, we could take a bite out of our regressive tax system by dropping the sales tax by 1.5 cents. That would cost about $1.5 billion. And that leaves $1 billion a year for other public services and a reserve.

This is actually a very modest proposal, which would raise badly needed revenue for the state while easing the state’s dependency on the sales tax. Lowering the sales tax would reduce tax obligations for Washington’s middle and low income families, who again pay much more of their income in taxes than wealthy families do.

Though John’s proposal would lower the sales tax in 2017 by as much as Scenario 1 of Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366, Eyman didn’t bother to mention that aspect of it. Instead, he proceeded to take great offense at the very progressive, very sensible idea of asking wealthy people to pay their fair share:

The lust, the envy, the wanton coveting of others’ possessions oozing from his column feels incredibly filthy and unseemly.

Just because some people have things they’ve earned doesn’t give others the right to take it.

There is no lust or wanton coveting in John’s column. That’s wholly imagined on Tim’s part. What’s truly filthy and unseemly are Tim’s destructive initiatives and toxic politics. Tim has some nerve calling somebody else’s writing filthy, given his penchant for petty name calling and circulation of disgusting memes.

In the portion of the column that Tim excerpts and jeers at, John is alluding to the important truth that there are no self-made men or women in America.

Every entrepreneur, every businessperson, every successful investor uses the public’s infrastructure that the taxpayers paid for to make their money, whether that’s the Internet, seaports and airports, the interstate highway system, research conducted by our publicly owned universities, or the courts (the vast majority of civil cases in our courts concern business disputes and corporate law).

Without taxes, we don’t get schools, police and fire protection, roads and transit, or any of the other public goods we use in our daily lives. These are things we couldn’t afford as individuals. It is only by pooling our resources together as a people that we can afford them. It is patriotic to be a taxpayer and to pay one’s dues.

If nobody pays their dues, the vital public services that support our economy collapse — and our economy goes with it.

Tim ended his email as he always does — by exhorting his supporters to give him more money. Success of his hostage-taking I-1366, he claimed, will shut down discussion of a state income tax. As Eyman put it: “The overwhelming passage of Initiative 1366 will be the best way to repudiate this kind of talk.”

So much for free speech.

I have no doubt that Tim will soon end up reading this blog post, so I’ll just address him directly with a few closing remarks.

Listen, Tim, the same First Amendment that gives you the right to spew your garbage gives us the right to talk about making our state a better place to live, work, play, and go on vacation. We’re not going to stop talking about progressive tax reform, no matter what happens with your hostage-taking I-1366. We’re not going to stop laying the groundwork for action, either.

In fact, your attack on John Burbank’s op-ed merely reinforces our motivation to help ensure the conversation about progressive tax reform expands to become more prevalent and inclusive in the years ahead.

Your initiatives are all about protecting the rich from having to pay their fair share and keeping our tax code broken so there will always be grist for future schemes to harm the government that belongs to all of us as a people. You claim to be a champion of the common man, but that is a complete crock, as anyone can see from looking at the PDC reports of your initiative factory’s many committees.

You’re relentless, to be sure, but so are we. NPI just celebrated twelve years of continuous operation and development. We’re here for the long haul, and we will not only maintain our permanent defense against your initiative factory, but work energetically to reform the broken tax code that facilitates its existence.

Patty Murray announces support for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran

Washington’s senior U.S. senator and the fourth-ranking Democrat in the United States Senate, Patty Murray, has just released a lengthy statement pledging to support President Barack Obama by voting against a resolution of disapproval concerning the  Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran.

The first paragraphs of the statement are as follows:

There are no more momentous decisions facing a United States Senator than those involving war, peace, and the safety and security of our families, our servicemembers, our allies, and our nation. When it comes to these issues, my constituents expect me to do everything I can to cut through the politics, push aside the partisanship, break through the rhetoric, and make the best possible decision with the information we have. I take this responsibility very seriously, and I have approached my decision on the upcoming vote on this deal the same way I approached my decision to support a war in Afghanistan, and the same way I approached my decision to oppose a war in Iraq.

In the weeks since the deal was announced, I have been studying the details, talking to experts, asking questions, getting more information, and listening to my constituents on all sides of the issue.

I pushed the Administration for details and answers to tough questions, and I had frank conversations with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary Kerry. I attended classified briefings with the State Department, Energy Department, and members of the intelligence community. I had good conversations with Israeli Ambassador Dermer and so many strong and passionate supporters on both sides of this issue in Washington state and across the country.

And I came away from my conversations with a deep respect for the passionate and strongly-argued views on all sides of this issue.

Going into this decision, I had clear principles guiding my thinking.

First and foremost, Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, and my decision would be based on what course of action moves us closer to that primary goal.

Second, Iran cannot be trusted, and no deal should hinge on them holding up their end of the bargain based on their word or good faith alone. Third, a strong diplomatic solution is the best option.

And fourth, the United States needs to keep all options on the table, including military options, if Iran decides to move toward a nuclear weapon or threatens us or our allies in any other way.

Guided by these principles, I will be voting to support the agreement to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. I will vote against the resolution of disapproval, and, if needed, I will vote against overriding President Obama’s veto. 

Emphasis is ours.

We thank Senator Murray for taking a principled stand for peace, not war, and giving diplomacy a chance to work. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best way for us to ensure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.

Senator Murray joins over two dozen other Democrats, including Senator Harry Reid and Senator Dick Durbin, as supporters of the JCPOA. Only two Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez, have come out in opposition so far.

If at least forty-one Democrats band together, they could hold up a resolution of disapproval in the U.S. Senate and prevent it from even getting to President Obama’s desk, thanks to the Senate’s undemocratic rules, which allow a submajority of senators to preserve the status quo and prevent the Senate from acting on legislation (or in this case, adopting a resolution).

Murray is the first of the Pacific Northwest’s Democratic senators to take a firm position on the JCPOA. Now it’s time for her colleagues Maria Cantwell, Ron Wyden, and Jeff Merkley to follow suit. There is only one position they can responsibly take, and that is to support this agreement and the President who negotiated it.

Governor Inslee rebukes Senate Republicans: Let’s do our jobs, not fight the Supreme Court

Washington Governor Jay Inslee had strong words for Senate Republicans this afternoon after a majority (but not all) of the caucus published an open letter urging the Legislature’s other caucuses to join them in instigating a constitutional crisis by retaliating against the state Supreme Court for its recent McCleary order.

“Today I convened a call with legislative leaders of both caucuses in the House and Senate to discuss next steps on the recent Supreme Court McCleary ruling,” the governor said in a statement sent to NPI shortly before 3 PM. “In that call I asked all four caucuses to appoint members to work in a bipartisan group to find a solution that fully funds education, complies with the court order, and removes the contempt order and sanctions that have been imposed upon the state.”

“Not all of the caucuses agreed to do so.”

“At the same time this morning, members of the Senate Republican caucus issued a lengthy letter about the court’s ruling. It is unfortunate that those members are more focused on a legally dubious theory that attacks the Court rather than on finding a productive solution to our education challenge. They should not be looking for a constitutional crisis, they should be looking for an education solution.”

The letter the governor refers to was signed by the most radical and extreme members of the Senate Republican caucus, including Senators Jan Angel, Pam Roach, Don Benton, Michael Baumgartner, and Doug Ericksen. It goes on at length at how the state Supreme Court is violating the Constitutions of the Evergreen State and the United States by holding the Legislature in contempt for failing to fully fund Washington’s public schools in accordance with Article IX, Section 1.

“The constitutional crises that we and the court were warned about is here,” the nineteen wrote in a six page letter addressed to House Democrats, House Republicans, and Senate Democrats, who were sent copies by hand.

“We have all taken oaths to uphold the state constitution. We owe to our constituents and their children not only amply-funded schools but a functioning republic in this state. It is now time for us to explore the range of political, legal, and constitutional responses that we have at our disposal. Please let us know at your earliest convenience how you and your respective caucuses intend to proceed.”

Inslee made clear he does not share Senate Republicans’ desire to fight the Court, and wants to get back to work instead of escalating a constitutional showdown.

“I am focused on fully funding education, providing our students and educators what they need, and submitting a plan that complies with the court order. Focusing on anything else is a political distraction. I look forward to hearing from all the caucuses next week in the hopes that all the caucuses will focus on a solution to this educational challenge and contempt citation rather than on excuses for inaction.”

Senate Democrats made the same points.

“Guess MCC [what the Senate Republicans and Tim Sheldon call themselves] wants to re-litigate Marbury v Madison (1803),” tweeted Senator David Frockt. “Here’s an idea. Let’s get it together and fully fund education.”

He noted Senate Republicans’ defiance was to blame for the constitutional crisis, not the Court, which has been incredibly patient with the Legislature.

“How can a constitutional ruling of our state’s highest court itself be unconstitutional?” he wondered. “Where does it end?”

“I don’t care what Senate Republicans think of the Court’s order,” declared Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson (D-34th District; West Seattle and Vashon-Maury Island). “Neither do kids who continue to move through our K-12 system in crumbling schools. Neither do teachers who have to leave the profession they love because they can’t afford to feed their families. Neither do parents who send their kids to overcrowded schools and classrooms year after year. The one and only thing any of us should care about is fixing these issues and fixing them now.”

If the Washington State Supreme Court was controlled by conservatives, like the U.S. Supreme Court is, Senate Republicans would be revering and defending it — not attacking it. But since it isn’t, and since there aren’t any conservative jurists left on its democratically-elected bench, Republicans feel no hesitation in going after the Court as an institution, attempting to undermine its legitimacy.

“The Washington Supreme Court has gone rogue. It is time for articles of impeachment,” tweeted Republican State Representative Matt Manweller in the wake of the Supreme Court’s most recent McCleary order.

He followed that up with: “First WA Supreme Court in history to issue a press release BEFORE issuing their decision. Nice slick website too. Pathetic.”

Quite a few of his tweets since then have been jabs directed at the Supreme Court.

Michael Baumgartner, one of the letter’s nineteen signatories, has also launched rhetorical attacks on the Court. His response to the McCleary order was this retort: “Breaking News: Baumgartner fines Supreme Court for civic incompetence. Orders Judges to write ‘co-equal branches’ 100x per day.”

Baumgartner previously introduced a bill to shrink the size of the state Supreme Court from nine to five justices — a move no doubt intended to make it easier for conservatives to try to take control of the institution in a subsequent set of statewide elections, as they would only need to win three seats. He also filed a silly bill mocking the McCleary orders and instructing the Court to take more cases.

None of Baumgartner’s inane bills have gone anywhere.

We agree with Governor Inslee: Rather than attempting to escalate a constitutional crisis with the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans should focus on getting back to work. Republicans spend way too much time patting themselves on the back and making excuses for mediocrity. We have the nation’s most regressive tax system and we rank close to last in class size. We’re not adequately compensating our teachers or providing school districts with the resources they need.

The Legislature has continually relied on budget gimmicks, including accounting tricks and fund transfers, to make the state’s books balance. The focus has been on treating symptoms, not addressing the root cause of our education funding problems. Every year, Republicans say it’s not a good time to raise taxes or work on tax reform. That is why our funding problems won’t go away.

Republicans are being misleading when they try to pit the blame for the lack of progress solely on Democrats. For example, last week Matt Manweller tweeted “Dems were in charge for 20 years and led us to this crisis.”

That’s not true. For much of the 1990s, Republicans had control of at least one house of the Legislature, and there was a stretch when they had both houses. In the early 2000s, they controlled the state Senate by a narrow majority. Now they have control of the Senate again. And they’re hungry for more power.

Sadly, these nineteen Republicans have just demonstrated they are more interested in scoring political points and inciting a power struggle than helping Democrats tackle our school funding crisis. Some of them, notably Baumgartner, Ericksen, Benton, and Roach, are even supporting Tim Eyman’s I-1366, which would wipe out $8 billion (with a b) in sales tax revenue over the next six years. That’s beyond irresponsible and beyond shameful — it’s unconscionable.

There are, thankfully, Republicans who are standing up against the politics of hostage-taking; the Mainstream Republicans have taken a position opposing Eyman’s I-1366. But sadly, there aren’t many Republicans left who seem interested in truly defending republicanism and upholding Washington’s values.

State Supreme Court rules that SeaTac’s Good Jobs Proposition applies to airport workers

Workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport must be paid a minimum wage of $15/hour in accordance with the City of SeaTac’s Good Jobs law (Proposition #1, enacted by voters in 2013) the Washington State Supreme Court ruled today.

In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Susan Owens, the Court held the airport is not exempt from the law, even though it is administered by the Port of Seattle.

Owens was joined by fellow associate Justices Charles Johnson, Steven González, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, and Mary Yu.

Justices Debra Stephens, Barbara Madsen (the chief justice), Mary Fairhurst, and Charlie Wiggins dissented in part, with Stephens writing the dissenting opinion.

The case, No. 89723-9, involves four different parties. The respondents and cross-appellants are several businesses: Filo Foods LLC, BF Foods, LLC, Alaska Airlines, Inc. and the Washington Restaurant Association. As Filo Foods is the lead respondent, its name appears throughout the text of the Court’s opinion.

Summarizing the case and the majority oinion, Justice Owens writes, “Filo Foods challenges the validity of Proposition 1 on several grounds. First, Filo Foods argues that Proposition 1 is procedurally invalid in its entirety because it violates the single-subject rule. We hold that Proposition 1 does not violate the single-subject rule.”

“Second, Filo Foods contends that under state law, Proposition 1 may not be applied at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.”

“We conclude that Proposition 1 can be applied at the airport because there is no indication that it will interfere with airport operations.

“Third, Filo Foods argues that federal law preempts Proposition 1, in whole or, alternatively, in part. We conclude federal law does not preempt Proposition 1 in whole or in part. Finally, Filo Foods argues that Proposition 1 violates the dormant commerce clause; we conclude that it does not.”

“Thus, we find Proposition 1 valid in its entirety.”

The Court’s decision – a remarkable dismissal of all the issues raised by the business groups opposed to the law – is a significant victory for Washington State’s labor movement and will result in many more workers receiving badly needed wage increase and additional protections while on the job.

Up until now, the SeaTac Good Jobs initiative has only been enforced in the City of SeaTac outside of the airport, due to lower courts having ruled that the City did not have the authority to set wages inside the airport.

Now that the Supreme Court has found otherwise, the Good Jobs initiative can take full effect and work the way that it was supposed to.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement praising the ruling and noting his office’s involvement in the case, which reads in part:

In holding that the City’s ordinance protects airport workers, the Court relied in part on the AG’s argument about how to interpret the state minimum wage law:  “This argument regarding the Washington Minimum Wage Act was first advanced by the Washington State Attorney General.” (Filo Foods, LLC v. City of SeaTac, page 19.)

“I’m pleased the Court adopted my office’s proposed approach as a key part of its 5-4 decision,” Ferguson said.

“This important ruling helps protect the rights of workers at SeaTac Airport and recognizes the broad authority state and local governments have to support their hard-working residents.”

The appeal hinged on what interpretation of state law governing ports was correct: the City of SeaTac’s or the Port of Seattle’s. The Court decided that the City’s interpretation of the law was correct. Justice Owens writes:

The city of SeaTac contends that the legislature intended to give the Port of Seattle jurisdiction over only airport operations, whereas the Port of Seattle contends that the legislature intended to prohibit any city of SeaTac law or regulation from applying at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. As described below, we reject the Port of Seattle’s interpretation because we find it, among other things, incompatible with a special purpose district’s limited powers.

Unlike cities, which are granted “the broadest powers of local self-government,” RCW 35A.01.010, a port district is a special purpose district, which “is limited in its powers to those necessarily or fairly implied in or incident to the powers expressly granted, and also those essential to the declared objects and purposes of the corporation.”

She goes on to note:

The legislature expressly instructed that the purpose of the statutory scheme is to ensure uniformity in the laws regarding aeronautics. RCW 14.08.340. Additionally, the law detailing the specific powers of municipalities operating airports, RCW 14.08.120(1), provides that a municipality may establish a board responsible for “the construction, enlargement, improvement, maintenance, equipment, operation, and regulation [of the airport or other air navigation facility].”

These aspects of the statutory scheme lead us to conclude that the legislature intended to vest authority for the operation of the airport exclusively with the Port of Seattle, but not to prohibit a local municipality like the city of SeaTac from regulating for the general welfare in a manner unrelated to airport operations.

And concludes:

Absent a factual showing that Proposition 1 would interfere with airport operations, the proposition does not conflict with the Port of Seattle’s jurisdiction or ability to operate the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Therefore, Proposition 1 can be validly enforced at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Four of Owens’ colleagues took issue with this rationale and signed a dissenting opinion holding that the state’s Revised Airports Act does prevent the City from being able to enforce the Good Jobs Initiative at the airport. (The dissenting opinion is concerned with this issue alone; the justices were all in agreement that federal labor law does not preempt the SeaTac Good Jobs initiative).

“I disagree with the majority’s conclusion that Proposition 1 may be applied at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport consistent with the Revised Airports Act, RCW 14.08.330,” Justice Debra Stephens writes, beginning her dissent.

She goes on to say: “In my view, the majority’s result offends the statute’s plain language, which provides that ‘[e]very airport’ shall be under ‘the exclusive jurisdiction and control’ of the ‘municipality…  controlling and operating it.'”

“Here, it is undisputed that the Port of Seattle controls and operates the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Its jurisdiction is therefore exclusive. Further, the statute provides ‘[n]o other municipality in which the airport… is located shall have any police jurisdiction of the [airport].'”

“It is undisputed that the city of SeaTac is the municipality in which the airport is located. The city of SeaTac thus has no police jurisdiction at the airport. A straightforward application of RCW 14.08.330 should end the matter.”

Stephens goes on to argue:

The majority’s distinction, between the airport as a geographic area and as a set of functional activities (“airport operations or the subject of aeronautics,” id.), is nowhere to be found in the statute. The subject of the statute is simply “[e]very airport.” RCW 14.08.330.

The statute does not slice and dice an “airport” to reveal some sort of “core airport function” judicial test. Instead the statute concerns, as its language says it does, the airport.

The statute’s structure confirms this. The statute follows a general rule/exception structure. Its general rule is that the municipality controlling and operating the airport (the Port of Seattle) shall have exclusive jurisdiction and control over the airport, and that no other municipality in which the airport is located (the city of SeaTac) shall have any police jurisdiction of the airport. RCW 14.08.330.

The statute then has one exception to that rule. The exception provides “However, … a municipality in which an airport… is located may be responsible for the administration and enforcement of the uniform fire code… on that portion of any airport… located with its jurisdictional boundaries,” so long as it does this “by agreement with the municipality operating and controlling the airport,” (the Port of Seattle). Id. Thus, a fire code is the single circumstance in which the city of SeaTac can enforce its laws within the airport.

The majority opinion contains a response to this argument:

The dissent asserts that the provision of RCW 14.08.330 related to the administration and enforcement of local fire codes “disproves” our interpretation of the statute. Dissent at 6.

It asserts that “[i]f the legislature intended the operating municipality’s exclusive jurisdiction to be over only [airport operations], why would the legislature specify an exception from the operating municipality’s exclusive jurisdiction to allow the municipality in which the airport sits to enforce afire code at the airport?” Id. at 6-7. The legislative history of the fire code amendment answers the dissent’s question.

The house committee in support of the bill testified, “Seattle has been enforcing its uniform fire code on the portion of the King County airport located within its boundaries, but their attorney feels they may not have this authority… This bill clarifies an ambiguity in current law.” H.B. REPORT ON H.B. 139, 49th Leg., Reg. Sess. (Wash. 1985).

That language shows that the legislature added the fire code language because it recognized that the statute’s ambiguous language called into question Seattle’s ability to enforce the uniform fire code.

By adding in the language, it “clarifie[d] an ambiguity.” 5 Id. Rather than disproving our interpretation, the house bill reinforces our conclusion that the statute’s language is ambiguous.

The dissenting justices feel that the Court’s holding in this case sets an unwelcome precedent and will result in confusion going forward. They assert:

The legislature did not intend to foster a cottage industry of litigation over airport operations, where the courts arrive at case-by-case conclusory determinations under an imprecise test. It chose to draw a clear line. It enacted a statute that gives exclusive jurisdiction and control to the operating municipality. RCW 14.08.330.

And it specifically said that “[n]o other municipality in which the airport … is located shall have any police jurisdiction of the [airport].” Id.

The legislature understood that because airports are unique, complex operations, they should be governed by one and only one local government—the one that specializes in controlling and operating them. This desire to have legal clarity at airports is especially understandable considering that airports can straddle multiple municipal, county, or state lines.

Given that a majority of our Supreme Court thinks the existing statute is ambiguous, the Legislature may wish to amend the Revised Airports Act to more clearly define where a city’s authority ends and a port’s begins.

In the meantime, because the City of SeaTac’s interpretation of the state laws governing ports has prevailed, workers earning the lower minimum wage set by the Port of Seattle will see their pay go up. That’s a victory to be celebrated.

Reuven Carlyle announces he will seek appointment to State Senate in 36th District

State Representative and House Finance Committee Chair Reuven Carlyle announced today in a Facebook posting that he will be a candidate to succeed Jeanne Kohl-Welles as State Senator from the 36th Legislative District later this year if Kohl-Welles is successful in winning election to Larry Phillips’ county council seat.

“As we move closer to the general election, it is increasingly likely the wise voters will send my gracious, indefatigable seat mate Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles to serve on the King County Council,” Carlyle noted. (Kohl-Welles only has one opponent, who she is expected to trounce in November).

“This would leave a vacancy for Sen. Kohl-Welles’ Senate seat prior to the 2016 session. I’ve reflected on the options and decided that change, on a personal and professional level, can be healthy and constructive. After seven years in the House, I plan to seek appointment to the probable Senate vacancy.”

“If you are a PCO in the 36th Legislative District, I will reach out directly at the appropriate time to respectfully ask for the honor of your support. There are no less than six highly qualified, passionate, engaged community leaders in our district who have expressed a formal interest in being appointed to my seat in the House. Serving as a citizen legislator and representing the good people of our district and state is a profoundly moving honor. Thank you!”

Carlyle’s announcement immediately drew accolades.

“I wish to offer my seatmate, State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, a public and profound thanks for all your work on behalf of the people of the 36th District and Washington State as our Representative,” said Carlyle’s seatmate Gael Tarleton, who serves as Vice President-Secretary of the Northwest Progressive Institute.

“Your devotion to foster children, public education, fair and transparent tax policy,and treatment for those suffering from mental illnesses has changed our communities for the better. Thank you for being willing to keep up the fight for all of us by seeking the appointment to the State Senate in the very likely event that the voters choose the thoughtful, unstoppable Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles to be our voice on the King County Council this November.”

“I am so honored to represent the 36th District in the State House and will look forward to serving in the House with whomever is appointed as representative.”

Six candidates have emerged as possible replacements for Carlyle, who, as mentioned, will be vacating his House seat to move over to the Senate.

They are:

  • Economic Opportunity Institute executive director John Burbank, who ran for the seat Carlyle now holds in 2008 and lost;
  • Former Progressive Majority Washington executive director Noel Frame, who ran for state House in 2012 and lost to Gael Tarleton;
  • Attorney and NO on I-1366 officer Randy Gordon, who succeeded Fred Jarrett in 2010 following Fred’s appointment as Deputy King County Executive, but was unsuccessful in his fall campaign to hold the seat;
  • Administrative law judge Jeff Manson, who has served for several years as the chair of the 36th District Democrats;
  • Activist Rene Murry, the chair of the Children’s Campaign Fund and owner of Piece by Piece, a firm that helps people relocate;
  • Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld, who has worked for the Attorney General’s office since 2012, and previously as a law clerk.

As the 36th is wholly within the boundaries of King County, the King County Council has the prerogative to make appointments to fill any vacancies in its legislative positions. This means that Kohl-Welles will have a say in who succeeds her, as well as who succeeds Reuven Carlyle in the state House.

In each case, the Council will be selecting from a list of three names drawn up by the King County Democratic Central Committee (KCDCC).

Although the Washington State Constitution gives the responsibility of drawing up the list of names to the central committee, in practice, it will be actually done by a subset of the KCDCC, because state party rules require that the whole KCDCC defer to those of its members who actually live in the district.

A nominating caucus will therefore be called at the appropriate time by King County Democratic Chair Rich Erwin. At the present time, there are two hundred and five Democratic PCOs who are eligible to participate in that caucus. Additional PCOs may be appointed by the time the caucus is called. Only elected and appointed PCOs will have a vote; “acting” PCOs who have adopted a precinct will not have a vote.

Carlyle is a slam dunk for the Senate vacancy. The 36th’s PCOs will need to choose two individuals to appear on the list along with him, but they will most likely be people who have no intention of serving in the Legislature.

The real contest will be for Carlyle’s seat. The candidate who receives the most votes from the PCOs will be listed at the top of the list of three and will be a heavy favorite to get the appointment. However, the list must include multiple names, so three candidates will make it onto the final list to be presented to the Council.

The 36th is one of the most Democratic districts in the state, so whoever gets appointed will in all likelihood become a safe incumbent.

Campaigning for an appointment is not as resource intensive as running for office, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see additional contenders beyond the six individuals mentioned above step forward and throw their hats into the ring.

Judge Dean Lum finds Eyman’s I-1366 is beyond scope, but won’t remove it from ballot

This is a breaking news post.

In a written decision handed down moments ago, King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum has found that Tim Eyman’s I-1366 is indeed beyond the scope of the people’s initiative power… but has nevertheless declined to grant plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction blocking it from the ballot because, in his view, doing so might violate the defendants’ rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution.

Lum’s decision is neither a victory for the plaintiffs (led by Elections Director Sherril Huff and Auditor Mary Hall), nor the defendants, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, along with initiative sponsor Tim Eyman and his associates.

On the one hand, Judge Lum accepted and validated the plaintiffs’ argument that the initiative is beyond the scope, declaring:

The Court finds that the fundamental, stated and overriding purpose of 1-1366 is to amend the Constitution. Sponsors do not contest that the referenced 1-1366 “promotional material” for the “2/3- For Taxes Constitutional Amendment Initiative” was drafted not by some unnamed supporters, but by themselves.

The “promotional material” are not mere advertisements, but either fundraising letters from some of the defendants, or the actual page attached to the 1-1366 signature gathering document. The initiative’s text explicitly links the proposed constitutional amendment (with specific constitutional amendment language submitted with the initiative) to a reduction in the sales tax from 6.5% to 5.5%.Legislators would have no authority to propose changes to the constitutional amendment. The initiative’s sponsors have decided that already.

I-1366 appears to violate Article XXIII Constitutional process in at least three ways. First, the initiative proposes the constitutional amendment, rather than coming from the Senate or the House. The constitutional amendment’s text comes directly from the initiative with no possible changes by any legislator. The constitutional amendment process effectively bypasses representatives elected by the people.

Second, 1-1366 directs the legislature to submit the proposed amendment to a public vote without the requirement that it be passed by 2/3 of each independent house, thereby amending the constitution and the constitutional process.

Third, the initiative uses the threat of a large reduction in the sales tax (and large reduction in services to Washingtonians) to force legislators to engage in the physical act of “proposing” the constitutional amendment for the ballot, notwithstanding that some will forced to do so against their will and without any changes to the amendment. The purpose of the initiative is not to legislate, but to invoke the constitutional amendment process. Sponsors characterize the legislator’s proposal as a “choice”, but there is no choice here.

On the other hand, the judge agreed with the defendants that there are not sufficient grounds to issue a preliminary injunction blocking I-1366 from the ballot.

In order to obtain preliminary injunction, plaintiffs must establish (1) a clear legal or equitable right; (2) a well-grounded fear of immediate invasion of that right; and (3) that the act complained of will result in actual and substantial injury… Whether this proposed injunction triggers First Amendment protections is not that clear, as our Supreme Court has neither squarely addressed the issue nor harmonized its reasoning in the Futurewise, Coppernoll, Philladelphia II and Maleng cases. Moreover, previous pre-election cases involving local initiatives are of limited precedential value on this issue, since the state initiative process is part of the state constitution itself.

The judge added:

Here, although the ultimate decision is obviously the Supreme Court’s, there is a substantial possibility that 1-1366 will be found to be invalid for exceeding the scope of the initiative process, and that voters will be voting on a measure which will never go in to effect. Plaintiffs have alluded to additional Constitutional and other substantive challenges to 1-1366 which would make it susceptible to post-election invalidation, including most prominently an alleged violation of the two subject rule. Nevertheless, the Coppernoll, Philadelphia II and Maleng cases require that the preliminary injunction be denied because it is not clear that it would not violate the First Amendment or Article I, Section 5.

Of course, on appeal, the Supreme Court could squarely decide the First Amendment issue prior to the election, but this trial court is not in a position to say that the law on this issue is clear and settled.

And so, therefore:

Although 1-1366 appears to exceed the scope of the initiative power , our Supreme Court has not clearly and squarely ruled on whether the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and/or Article I Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution provide additional protections against pre-election challenges even in circumstances where the initiative may itself be invalid. The Supreme Court may clarify this issue prior to the election, but this trial court cannot.

The Court cannot say at this time whether Plaintiffs’ actual and substantial injuries outweigh Defendants’ First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution or their rights under Article I, Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution.

Based on the foregoing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Memorandum Opinion, the Court hereby DENIES Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

With this ruling, Judge Lum is squarely putting the ball in the Supreme Court (couldn’t resist a pun). This case was always going to be appealed, and the judge’s memorandum opinion all but guarantees that the Court will have to take the case. There is an important question to be decided here. The trial court has found that I-1366 is beyond the scope, but wasn’t willing to block it from the ballot. That decision will have to be made by the Supreme Court.

Given that there is something for everyone to like and dislike in this decision, it stands to reason that all the parties involved will welcome an appeal. The Supreme Court will be asked to make a decision prior to September 4th, which the Secretary of State has identified as the drop-dead date for the purposes of ballot preparation.

We’ll have more analysis of this decision in the days to come. It’s quite the mixed bag. The judge’s findings are very welcome, but the verdict wasn’t what we were hoping for. Nevertheless, this case was always headed to the Supreme Court, and the plaintiffs can certainly be happy that Judge Lum validated their arguments.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you coverage of the oral arguments as well as analysis of the briefs that will be filed as part of the appeal.

Supreme Court fines state $100,000 a day for failure to comply with McCleary orders

This morning, the Washington State Supreme Court, in a landmark order that will turn heads and shoulders across the Evergreen State, ordered the state to begin paying a $100,000 fine for each day that it fails to adopt a plan for fully complying with Article IX, Section 1 of the state Constitution (“It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.“)

The Court also suggested that the Legislature go back into special session to work on the problem of school funding without delay, noting that legislators figured out how to raise billions of additional dollars for highway construction on a bipartisan basis only a few weeks ago. From the Court’s order, published today:

Given the gravity of the State’s ongoing violation of its constitutional obligation to amply provide for public education, and in light of the need for expeditious action, the time has come for the court to impose sanctions. A monetary sanction is appropriate to emphasize the cost to the children, indeed to all of the people of this state, for every day the State fails to adopt a plan for ‘full compliance with article IX, section 1.

At the same time, this sanction is less intrusive than other available options, including directing the means the State must use to come into compliance with the court’s order. Now, therefore, it is hereby


Effective immediately, the State of Washington is assessed a remedial penalty of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) per day until it adopts a complete plan for complying with article lX, section 1 by the 2018 school year.

The penalty shall be payable daily to be held in a segregated account for the benefit of basic education. Recognizing that legislative action complying with the court’s order can only occur in session, but further recognizing that the court has no authority to convene a special session, the court encourages the governor to aid in resolving this matter by calling a special session. Should the legislature hold a special session and during that session fully comply with the court’s order, the court. will vacate any penalties accruing during the session. Otherwise, penalties will continue to accrue until the State achieves compliance.

As it has since the constitutionality of Washington’s school funding system was first litigated in Seattle School District, the court assumes and expects that the other branches of government will comply in good faith with orders of the court issued pursuant to the court’s constitutional duties. Seattle Sch. Dist. 1 90 Wn.2d at 506’07. Our country has a proud tradition of having the executive branch aid in enforcing court orders vindicating constitutional rights.

$100,000 a day adds up to about $3 million a month.

We are about five months away from the 2016 regular session. Were the Legislature not to act until then, it would incur $15 million in court-imposed penalties.

The Legislature of this state has a long and grand history of dithering, procrastinating, and excuse-making. But the time for making excuses is over. The Supreme Court is fed up and tired of the Legislature’s inability to meet its own goals for complying with Article IX, Section 1 of the state Constitution. The Court’s unanimous decision to impose sanctions is warranted and appropriate.

It’s time for the Legislature to get back to work. Washington needs tax reform. It needs its schools fully funded. It is our paramount duty to provide for the education of our youth. We’re not meeting that obligation, and our kids are being robbed as a consequence. This situation must be remedied as quickly as possible.

Half-measures are not enough; the Legislature can and must do better.

When we get a response from Governor Inslee, Superintendent Dorn, and legislative leaders to this decision, we will post it.

Looming over all of this is Tim Eyman’s I-1366, which threatens to wipe out $8 billion in sales tax revenue over six years unless the Legislature votes to approve a constitutional amendment permanently locking in our state’s regressive tax system. I-1366 has been certified for the ballot, but is being challenged in court on scope grounds. The first hearing in the case will take place tomorrow morning, against the backdrop of this Supreme Court order in McCleary.

UPDATE: Governor Inslee’s response is as follows.

“Today’s order from the Supreme Court acknowledges that significant progress has been made toward meeting the state’s obligation to adequately fund basic education.”

“But everyone understood that even with those historic investments in education, our work would not be done.”

“The court today made it clear that bolder and more aggressive action is needed to support Washington’s students and their teachers. The detailed plan the court demands in order to fulfill our constitutional obligation will be more complex and expensive than the significant steps we’ve already taken.”

“I will talk today with Attorney General Ferguson, legislative leaders and others to fully analyze today’s court order.”

The governor did not discuss plans for a special session.

The Washington Education Association’s Kim Mead had this to say:

“WEA is pleased with the Court’s strong order to require the legislature to comply with the constitution, reminding them that it imposes only one paramount duty on the state: ample provision for education of all children. It’s clear the court agrees that our kids can’t wait for the legislature to act on its own.”

“I encourage the Governor and legislative leaders to provide the funding our kids need to succeed, now, not years from now.  Further, the court made it clear that the legislature fell far short on the issues of class sizes and educator compensation. Those were our two highest priorities during the previous legislative session. Now, perhaps, the state will step up to its duty to our students and educators.

“WEA stands ready to assist legislative leaders to assist legislators in completing a plan.”

We will post more reaction as we get it.

Connecticut’s Supreme Court puts an end to all executions in the Nutmeg State

This is a great victory for human rights that deserves to be celebrated:

After a sweeping two-year review, the state Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment in Connecticut, saying the state’s death penalty no longer comports with evolved societal values and serves no valid purpose as punishment.

The 4-3 decision would remove 11 convicts from Connecticut’s death row and overturn the latest iteration of the state’s death penalty, a political compromise effective April 2012 that halted executions going forward but allowed death sentences to be imposed on the inmates already sentenced.

The majority decision, written by Justice Richard N. Palmer, found a host of flaws in the death penalty law, which banned “prospective” death sentences, those imposed after the effective date of the law. But the majority wrote that it chose to analyze capital punishment and impose abolition from a broad perspective.

Killing people as a punishment for the commission of a crime is barbaric, and we’re glad that death row in Connecticut is being shut down for good.

The Connecticut Supreme Court found that the death penalty is unconstitutional under the Nutmeg State’s own constitution, which means there aren’t grounds for an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. (It is a generally held principle of constitutional law that state constitutions may provide additional rights and liberties beyond what the U.S. Constitution provides, but they cannot provide less).

The decision leaves New Hampshire as the only state in New England where the death penalty remains in effect. With the exception of Alaska and Hawaii, no state west of the Rockies has abolished the death penalty, unless New Mexico is counted. We have work to do on that front here in the Pacific Northwest.

Governor Jay Inslee has declared a moratorium on the death penalty (to the consternation of many Republicans, who want the state to kill its death-row prisoners despite claiming to be “pro-life”), but a moratorium is not abolition.

There are currently nine inmates on death row in Washington, eleven in Idaho, and thirty-four in Oregon. Neighboring Montana only has two.

Across the United States, the total number stands at three thousand.

Yes, you read that correctly: Close to three thousand people have had death sentences pronounced upon them by the federal government or a state government and are waiting to be killed. This is the United States, the supposed beacon of freedom, liberty, and human rights, and we’ve got three thousand people sitting in prisons who have been condemned to death! How can we lecture other countries about human rights when we don’t practice what we preach ourselves?

It is worth noting that Washington and Idaho have each had one innocent person – yes, one innocent person – exonerated and freed from death row after it was proven they did not commit the crime for which they were to be killed.

The struggle for abolition must and will continue in this country.

If Nebraska can abolish the death penalty, as it recently did, surely we here in Washington and Oregon (and Idaho) can do it too. It won’t be easy, but it is a just and moral cause that we must rededicate ourselves to.

For more information:

Please accept our heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery, President Carter!

Today, former President Jimmy Carter, who served as America’s thirty-ninth Commander-in-Chief shared some tough news: he’s been diagnosed with cancer  and will be spending the next few weeks undergoing treatment.

“Recent liver surgery revealed that I have cancer that now is in other parts of my body,” Carter said in a brief statement. “I will be rearranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare. A more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week.”

Carter, ninety, has a history of pancreatic cancer in his family.

“Michelle and I send our best wishes to President Carter for a fast and full recovery,” said President Barack Obama in a statement released by the White House.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Rosalynn and the entire Carter family as they face this challenge with the same grace and determination that they have shown so many times before,” the President added. “Jimmy, you’re as resilient as they come, and along with the rest of America, we are rooting for you.”

The President also telephoned President Carter earlier today to express the same sentiment to him directly, the White House said.

“My thoughts and prayers are with President Carter and his family,” echoed former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, in a tweet signed “H” to signify it was written by her and not a member of her staff.

We join progressives around the country in wishing President Carter a full and speedy recovery. For many years, he has lent his voice to speak out on behalf of diplomacy and nonviolence. He is a great statesman and leader whose public service has extended well beyond his presidency. Recognized for his efforts with the Nobel Peace Prize, he has maintained an active life for a very long time. As a friend of NPI, Bill Phillips, said today, “We need him around for every year we can have.”

Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s plan to move up date of presidential primary not adopted

A proposal by Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman to move up the date of Washington’s 2016 presidential primary from its default date of May 24th to March 8th failed to move forward today at a midday meeting of major party and legislative caucus leadership due to opposition from Democrats.

Wyman had called a meeting of the state’s major party chairs, vice chairs, and caucus leaders (or their designees) to see if she could win approval to move the primary forward by more than two months in the calendar.

The four Republicans (consisting of State Republican Chair Susan Hutchison, Vice Chair Jim Walsh, top Senate Republican Mark Schoesler, and House Republican Representative Matt Manweller) were all in favor and voted to support Wyman, but the four Democrats (State Democratic Chair Jaxon Ravens, DNC member Sharon Mast, top Senate Democrat Sharon Nelson, and House Democratic Representative Sam Hunt) opposed the motion. Mast filled in for Valerie Brady Rongey, Manweller filled in for Dan Kristiansen, and Hunt filled in for Speaker Frank Chopp.

Because state law requires a two-thirds vote of the aforementioned committee to change the primary date, the motion was rejected.

Democrats’ opposition to changing the date stemmed from the fact that they will not be using the primary to allocate any delegates.

The Washington State Democratic Central Committee (of which I am a member) voted by a nine-to-one ratio in April to allocate all of its delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention via caucus. The party’s precinct caucuses will take place on March 26th, the same date as those of Alaska and Hawaii Democrats.

A March 8th primary would be confusing, the Democrats argued, because it would happen before the party’s already-scheduled precinct caucuses. Voters might think that by casting their votes in the primary, they’d be participating in the process of choosing delegates to the national convention — but they would not be.

The Democrats also explained that national Democratic party rules expressly forbid Democratic candidates from participating in primaries that are not binding. The 2016 presidential primary, if held, would amount to a beauty contest for Democrats. So moving up the date would only serve to benefit Republicans.

Republican Matt Manweller offered up a proposal for March 22nd, following the failure of the motion for March 8th, but this was also rejected.

State Republican Chair Susan Hutchison became visibly annoyed towards the end of the meeting, when it became apparent that the votes did not exist to move up the date of the primary to any other date. She complained vocally that the DNC’s rules were preventing the state from having a meaningful presidential primary. This sparked a back-and-forth with State Democratic Chair Jaxon Ravens.

(It should be noted that DNC rules explicitly prevent the Washington State Democratic Party from allocating some delegates through caucus and some through a primary, while Republicans have no such restriction. The Democratic Party is required to pick just one method for delegate allocation, and it has.)

In past cycles, the Washington State Legislature has canceled the presidential primary, thereby negating discussions over when the primary should be held. It did not do so this year. Secretary Wyman asked the Legislature to change the default date of the primary to March 8th, but it declined to act. Legislators instead simply funded the election in accordance with the current statute.

That statue, RCW 29A.56.020, provides that “On the fourth Tuesday in May of each year in which a president of the United States is to be nominated and elected, a presidential primary shall be held at which voters may vote for the nominee of a major political party for the office of president.”

It then lays out a process for changing the date.

A proposal to change the date must be agreed to by a two-thirds of a committee consisting of the Secretary of State, party chairs, party vice chairs, and legislative caucus leaders. The two-thirds threshold prevents one party (in this case, the Republicans) from having the power to change the date of the primary themselves. At least one member of the commission from the other party must also agree. Since none of the Democrats wanted to move the primary, the date won’t be changed.

The Legislature still has the option of canceling the 2016 presidential primary, or setting a new default date. But Governor Inslee would have to sign off on a proposal to do either. Considering the governor did not include any funding for a 2016 primary in his budget request, it stands to reason he would be amenable to canceling the election altogether. That could happen in a special session sometime this fall, or perhaps very early next winter during the 2016 regular session.

Massive crowd of 28,000 people shows up to hear Bernie Sanders in Portland

Less than twenty-four hours after setting an attendance record with a huge rally in Seattle, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has done it again.

Everything came together quite nicely for Bernie’s visit to Portland, Oregon, with an estimated 28,000 people turning out to hear his speech inside and outside of the Moda Center in the Rose Quarter, the home stadium of the Portland TrailBlazers. That’s nearly twice as large as yesterday’s record crowd in Seattle.

“Whoa. This is an unbelievable turnout,” Sanders remarked after beginning his address to the Portland crowd. “You’ve done it better than anyone else.”

Bernie Sanders at Portland's Moda Center

Turnout for Bernie in Portland was massive (Photo: Bernie Sanders for President)

It helped that Sanders was in one of the city’s biggest venues.

Originally, Sanders was going to speak at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which only seats around thirteen thousand people. But anticipating a massive turnout, organizers moved the speech to the Moda Center, which can accommodate nineteen thousand people in an optimal people-friendly configuration.

It’s a good thing they did.

Based on what we’ve read, Sanders’ Portland speech was very similar to his Seattle speech. He talked about getting big money out of elections, tackling the climate crisis by putting a price on pollution, requiring a minimum amount of paid sick leave, family leave, and vacation leave, and getting rid of tuition to make college accessible to millions more young people. He also spoke of the need to give diplomacy a chance by standing behind President Obama’s accord with Iran.

No other presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat, has been drawing the kind of crowds that Sanders has. This weekend, in the Pacific Northwest’s largest cities, audiences the size of cities showed up to hear Bernie. That’s a big deal.

Hillary Clinton had better believe that Bernie is quite capable of mounting a credible challenge to her… not just in Iowa and New Hampshire, but states all over the country. The Democratic Party here in Washington has opted to allocate its delegates using caucuses for 2016, and if Bernie is still in the race by late March of next year, he stands a chance of doing very well. Alaska and Hawaii Democrats will caucus on the same day that Washington does: March 26th, 2016.

Oregon, meanwhile, will allocate its delegates via primary late in the season.

Hillary Clinton generally did better in states with primaries in 2008 when she and Barack Obama were squaring off for the nomination. But that wasn’t always the case. Obama won a number of primaries held in the southeast and midwest, and he also won the 2008 Oregon primary. In the end, though, it was his stellar performance in early caucus states like Washington that gave him an edge.

The big upside for Clinton is that there will be much more interest in the presidential race on the Democratic side than there would be if she was running unopposed. A competitive presidential contest presents an unrivaled opportunity for partybuilding. Sanders is already capturing the imagination of the Democratic Party’s base by running a campaign built on bold ideas. Clinton may be considered the establishment candidate, but she’s free to run on bold ideas, too.

And she should. This certainly sounds like a promising development:

Hillary Clinton on Monday rolled out a sweeping higher education plan — a $350 billion proposal that would help millions pay for college and reduce interest rates for people with student loans.

The plan, which would change the way a large swath of Americans pay for college, borrows ideas from the left and the right and even expands a program enacted by her husband.

It includes ideas already being discussed in Congress and for which groundwork has been laid by the Obama administration. The proposal, dubbed the New College Compact, is unlikely to win over many in the GOP because the $350 billion over 10 years would come from cutting tax deductions for the wealthiest Americans.

Bernie Sanders has talked about ending tuition, as mentioned earlier. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has, too. Now Clinton is coming out with a plan, which sounds achievable and realistic.

Even if it’s not as far-reaching as many progressives would like, it would still do a lot for students, and we commend her for putting it forward.

If Clinton wants to draw the kind of crowds Bernie’s been getting, though (in Phoenix, Seattle, and now Portland), she needs to be even bolder.

This is the best line of attack Susan Hutchison could come up with to use against Bernie?

This weekend, presidential politics are taking center stage in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ visit to Seattle and Portland. Sanders is getting a lot of attention and coverage from our local mass media – more so than other presidential candidates have received on the occasions of their visits.

And there’s a good reason why: unlike the other 2016 hopefuls who have swung through the Pacific Northwest, Sanders didn’t come merely to make an ATM withdrawal at the home of a wealthy businessperson or celebrity. He’s been holding accessible, public events that don’t cost anything to attend, along with low-cost fundraisers that are affordable to grassroots supporters.

When a presidential candidate visits a state, it is common for the major political parties of that state to issue press releases commenting on the visit. The party the candidate belongs to usually rolls out the welcome mat, while the other party registers its disapproval. Such was the case with Bernie Sanders yesterday.

The Washington State Democratic Party had this to say about Bernie’s visit:

“Welcome, Senator Bernie Sanders, to Seattle and the great state of Washington,” said State Democratic Party Chair Jaxon Ravens. “Bernie Sanders is a strong voice for our progressive values. He speaks for many Washington Democrats who want a government that’s geared toward the priorities and values of the middle class, not the most powerful special interests. We have a lot of great candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination, and we look forward to all of the candidates coming out to campaign for Washington Democrats’ support.”

The Washington State Republican Party had this to say:

“It’s no surprise that the State Democratic Party welcomes Socialist Bernie Sanders,” said Washington State Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison. “Nowadays, there is little difference between Democrats and Socialists. Whether it’s Kshama Sawant, Bernie Sanders, Jay Inslee, or Hillary Clinton, the Democrats only offer failed old policies. In Seattle, the Democrats and Socialists are working together to promote their far left extremist agenda. But throughout our state, people are increasingly attracted to the Republican alternative of growth and opportunity.”

Wow. This was the best that Susan Hutchison and her staff could come up with?

It was good for a laugh, if nothing else.

Take a moment to appreciate the irony of Susan Hutchison’s statement. The party that has endorsed Tim Eyman’s destructive, hostage-taking Initiative 1366 — which would cut state sales tax revenue by $8 billion over six years if the Legislature doesn’t pass an amendment sabotaging majority rule in our state for all time by next April —  that party is calling the Washington State Democrats extreme.

(To be fair, there are distinguished leaders within the Republican Party who oppose I-1366, and are helping with the campaign against it. We’re incredibly grateful to those Republican leaders for sticking their necks out and taking a moral, principled stand against an awful initiative. But the central committee of the Washington State Republican Party, who chose Susan Hutchison to be party chair and who Hutchison is accountable to, has enthusiastically endorsed Eyman’s I-1366.)

The policy directions that Washington State Democrats are working to enact into law, whether at the municipal level in cities like Seattle, Redmond, Federal Way, and Everett, or at the state level, are neither failed nor old — though they are rooted in the progressive values and principles that our state was founded on, and that have guided past leaders of our state from both parties during times of progress.

For example: A $15 minimum wage is a new idea, and Seattle was the first big city in the country to enact one, following in the footsteps of its smaller neighbor SeaTac, which did so by voter-approved initiative. (Tim Eyman, by the way, tried to qualify an initiative last year to overturn the $15 Seattle and SeaTac minimum wages, but couldn’t interest enough right wing donors in funding a campaign.)

It used to be that progressives could be found in both parties. But the Republican Party has sadly morphed into a reactionary party that several decades-long Republicans have told me they simply don’t recognize anymore. That could explain why Republicans have such an awful track record in recent statewide elections.

Keep in mind, it’s been over twenty years since Republicans won a campaign for U.S. Senate in Washington State. It has been over thirty years since they won a campaign for governor or president in Washington State. And it has been seven years since Republicans won a campaign for any executive department position other than Secretary of State. That’s the lone statewide office they currently hold.

Now, Republicans have done well competing at the legislative level in recent cycles, particularly in 2010 and 2014, when they had favorable national headwinds. But that can be attributed in part to their dearth of success at the statewide level. It’s left them with little choice other than to focus resources on House and Senate races.

The closing line of Susan Hutchison’s weak attack on Bernie and the Democrats proclaims that “people are increasingly attracted to the Republican alternative of growth and opportunity.” Wow, that’s weak tea. What does that even mean?

Republicans drove our national economy into a ditch the last time they were in charge, dragging our regional economy along with it. They’d like us to forget all about the Dubya years, but that’s not going to happen.

Ask one of the 2016 Republican candidates about the Bush error, and if they don’t dodge, they’re likely to say something that boils down to Bush failed conservatism. Because, in their minds, conservativsm can’t fail — it can only be failed.

As a progressive, I believe in opportunity, but I know that Republican policies only create opportunities for the rich to become richer. That’s the last thing I want.

Growth is an overused buzzword that can mean different things to different people. With respect to economic growth, we’ve certainly seen a rise in worker productivity and output in this state and this country for a long time now, but wages haven’t been keeping up. Most of the gains have have gone to the already wealthy. Meanwhile, our environment has suffered as our world has become more polluted.

What people in Washington and elsewhere really want is not growth, but broad prosperity. And that’s what Bernie Sanders is running on.

Last night, Bernie outlined his vision for the country. One of the planks he talked extensively about was making college free. Not merely cutting tuition – something local Republicans have been patting themselves on the back for pushing for – but doing away with it altogether. Bernie believes everyone willing to take school seriously and study hard should be able to go to college for free. So do we.

He also advocated for a minimum amount of paid family leave, paid sick leave, and paid vacation leave. Those are policies based on real family values.

Parents who welcome a child into the world shouldn’t have to go back to work two days later. They should be able to spend the first crucial weeks of that child’s life with that child, learning what’s it like to be parents.

Paid vacation leave, meanwhile, allows all of us to take much needed breaks from work and recharge mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

And paid sick leave is crucial to ensuring safe and humane workplaces. A person who gets sick shouldn’t feel obliged to show up for work because not doing so would mean forfeiting pay. Paid sick leave would help cut down recovery times from illness and reduce the risk of spreading disease to others.

Bernie also spoke passionately about addressing the systemic problems facing our country. He favors getting big money out of elections, taking meaningful and immediate action to address the climate crisis, and addressing income inequality through reforms to our tax code and a higher minimum wage.

Twelve thousand people crowded into Hec Edmundson Pavilion last night to hear Bernie Sanders speak. Another three thousand people tried to get inside but couldn’t because the arena reached capacity. That’s a total of around fifteen thousand people. There was a huge media presence as well.

To put the crowd size in perspective: More people came in-person from around this region to hear Bernie Sanders speak last night than like the Washington State Republican Party’s Facebook page worldwide. (The page has around 9,000 likes).

What does that say about the state of the Republican Party in Washington?

Bernie Sanders is running a people-powered campaign that puts the people’s concerns first. What the Republican Party should be afraid of – not gleeful about – is a Democratic Party that embraces Bernie’s sensible ideas for this country.

The Washington State Republican Party has big problems, and sneering at Bernie Sanders and the Democrats won’t solve those problems.

We are one and a quarter years away from the 2016 presidential election, and Republicans still have no candidate to run against Patty Murray for U.S. Senate. Their only announced candidate for governor, meanwhile, is Port Commissioner Bill Bryant, whose campaign got off to a rocky start and hasn’t clicked with the base.

Republicans do have plenty of candidates for President… in fact, they arguably have too many. Unfortunately for Washington Republicans, there’s no one in their field who is likely to be attractive to the majority of Washington voters.

The odds are very good that the Republican Party will wind up choosing a nominee who will be a drag on the rest of the ticket in Washington. Consider the pathetic spectacle that passed for a presidential debate the other night on the Fox Noise Channel. I don’t see how any of the people on that stage can win in Washington.

Making matters worse for Republicans, there’s the possibility that Donald Trump could run as an independent, siphoning votes away from whoever becomes the Republican nominee in states all across the country.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has said he won’t run as an independent if he doesn’t win the nomination — because he’s a team player, not a spoiler.

Unlike many of the Republicans, Bernie’s not running because he wants to improve his chances of scoring a television gig or a book deal. For him, it’s not about notoriety. He decided to run to ensure that there is at least one candidate in the Democratic field championing a bold, progressive vision for America.

And people have responded. Sanders, who’s not afraid to call himself a socialist, is consistently drawing the biggest crowds of any presidential candidate from either party, and not just in blue states. He’s not just appealing to progressive activists. He’s appealing to all of the people who have been marginalized and disenfranchised by conventional, money-dominated politics. Whether or not he becomes the nominee, his candidacy is good for this country and good for the Democratic Party. That’s not something Republicans can take any comfort in.

Bernie Sanders live-tweeted the Republican presidential debate and it was fabulous

Mercifully, the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 campaign is over. Those of us who watched the event on Fox Noise Channel will never get those two hours back, but thankfully, on Twitter, progressives had a fantastic debate watching companion in Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who live-tweeted the debate.

Here’s a chronology of Bernie’s best rejoinders to the Republican field:

6:15 PM: Jeb Bush has a lot of respect for his brother George W. Really? Let’s not forget the virtual collapse of our economy when he left office.

6:16 PM: Will any Republican talk about the need to raise the current starvation minimum wage of $7.25 an hour?

6:20 PM: Does any Republican care about whether or not a woman, rather than the government, should make decisions regarding her own body?

6:30 PM: Still waiting. Will Fox ask if it’s appropriate for billionaires to buy elections?

6:32 PM: Kasich saved Ohio’s economy! Oh. Who was the president who helped lower unemployment and create millions of new jobs?

6:33 PM: Marco Rubio is right. The people are frustrated. The rich get much richer and everyone else is getting poorer. Will the Republicans talk about this?

6:36 PM: U.S. is the only major country without guaranteed paid family and medical leave. Will we hear anything about that tonight?

6:38 PM: Who would’ve believed it? Rand Paul is right. Yes, we can fight terrorism and protect the U.S. Constitution.

6:40 PM: The clock is ticking. Climate change? Income inequality? Citizens United? Waiting for the questions and the discussion.

6:43 PM: Some of us didn’t believe Bush and Cheney on Iraq. We voted NO. That was the right vote.

6:48 PM: Did Donald Trump just support a national single-payer health system? Well. He was right on something.

6:52 PM: Huckabee and Carson: more tax breaks for billionaires, higher taxes for working families.

7:03 PM: Carson talks about the debt. Hey, Dr. Carson… the Republicans forgot to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. $6-8 trillion on the credit card.

7:05 PM: Jeb Bush — Talk about killing jobs. When your brother left office we were hemorrhaging eight hundred thousand jobs a month. And you want more of the same?

7:11 PM: Social Security can pay every penny owed for next eighteen years. Lift the cap on taxable income and it’ll be solvent for decades.

7:21 PM: Will Fox and the Republicans talk about pay equity for women workers who make seventy-eight cents on the dollar compared to men? Waiting.

7:26 PM: Will Fox and the Republicans discuss criminal justice reform and the need to end police killing of unarmed African-Americans?

7:29 PM: Millions of Americans are struggling with horrendous student debt + high interest rates. Do the Republicans have anything to say?

7:46 PM: Republican agenda: more money for military, tax breaks for the rich, cuts to Social Security & programs for working families.

7:49 PM: Listen to Republicans talk about military funding and remember what [Republican President Dwight] Eisenhower said about power of the military-industrial complex.

7:50 PM: Pope Francis says climate change is one of the great crises we face. I’m waiting for one word from Fox and the Republicans on it.

8:01 PM: The very rich get richer, everyone else poorer. And Republicans who take campaign money from billionaires have nothing significant to say.

8:05 PM: It’s over. Not one word about economic inequality, climate change, Citizens United or student debt. That’s why the Republicans are so out of touch.

As Bernie points out, what was most significant about the debate was what was missing. Fox personalities Brett Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace wasted opportunities to drill into the issues and ask substantive questions. The candidates were not challenged on any of the great systemic and pressing issues facing our country, like big money in elections, income inequality or the climate crisis.

Kelly did ask one question of Scott Walker about the Black Lives Matter movement before cutting to commercial — but this received all of a few seconds of airtime. Otherwise, the topic of criminal justice reform received scant attention. The debate stayed in shallow waters for nearly its entire duration.

Of the ten candidates, John Kasich came across as perhaps the most reasonable and compassionate. Given an opportunity to spar with Donald Trump, he passed, without endorsing Trump’s fiery rhetoric. He had a good debate.

But he won’t get the Republican nomination by appealing to biconceptuals. He may well turn out to be the Jon Huntsman of the 2016 cycle.

The candidate who gave the scariest performance was former Arkansas Mike Huckabee, the man who set police killer Maurice Clemons free. Huckabee espoused a vision of a theocratic government that dictates Americans’ family planning choices and spends ever increasing amounts of money procuring weapons for our military.

Not surprisingly, media mogul and real estate tycoon Donald Trump talked the most without saying anything substantive. He did not rule out running for president as an independent when challenged to, or take back any of his absurd comments from earlier this summer. At times he seemed bored or disinterested, like the debate was beneath him. But at other times, he seemed more engaged, tossing barbs at the Fox hosts as well as trading jabs with other candidates on stage.

The next big Republican debate will take place in September at The Gipper’s presidential library, and will be televised by CNN.

The first Democratic debate, meanwhile, won’t happen till October 13th. It will take place in Nevada and will also be televised by CNN.

Voters in NPI’s hometown of Redmond easily rejecting public safety and parks levies

Signaling that they may not be happy with how the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest is being run, voters in NPI’s hometown of Redmond are easily defeating two levies that were placed on the August Top Two ballot by the Redmond City Council with the support of incumbent two-term Mayor John Marchione.

The first levy, Proposition 1, would have raised funds for public safety. The second levy, Proposition 2, would have renewed and expanded an expiring parks levy.

As of last night, Proposition 1 (public safety) was failing 53.36% to 46.64%. Proposition 2 (parks) was failing by an even wider margin, 54.46% to 45.54%.

Fewer than six thousand votes from Redmond residents have been tabulated so far, but this election has seen very low turnout, and it’s unlikely that either levy will make up the difference by the time the election is certified.

Both levies were opposed by several former Redmond elected leaders, including Rosemarie Ives (a four term mayor) and Jim Robinson, a councilmember and former candidate for mayor who lost to Marchione eight years ago.

There was no organized campaign against the levies, but the arguments made by Ives, Robinson, and Richard Grubb in the opposition voter’s pamphlet statement nevertheless appear to be carrying the day over those made by the Yes campaign, which did print up yard signs and distribute materials urging a Yes vote.

Of Proposition 1, the no side argued:

Politicians often exhibit some skill in developing specious rationales for increasing taxes but “they cannot escape the numbers.”

Over the past four years, taxpayer funded property taxes to the city have increased by $4,000,000. For that same period, sales tax revenue to the city has increased by nearly $5,500,000. Given other sources, the city’s overall revenue for the same period has increased by $14,750,000 or more than 10%.

These amounts of increases should surely be enough to run a city government whose house is in order and whose mayor has said “we must live within our means.” Let’s take the mayor at his word.

The Yes side countered:

Your investment of a $138.32 per year for the medium priced Redmond home is an efficient way to save taxpayer money by avoiding costly replacement of street infrastructure and nipping property crime in the bud before it has an opportunity to flourish. This smart investment in safer streets and crime prevention ensures a healthy and secure community for your family and generations to come.

With respect to parks, the No side argued:

As long-term, committed park supporters, we find it hard to vote against parks. But it is not hard to oppose a tax increase when funds have been misdirected to a mega project at the expense of neighborhoods. To date, the city has spent $23,968,811 on a two-acre downtown park surrounded by nearly un-navigable traffic, little parking and is unlikely to be used on a regular basis by the wider community. This huge outlay when the City already has a 16 acre municipal campus and parking garage just two blocks north is further evidence of misdirected spending and reshuffled priorities.

Furthermore, the city plans on spending an additional $12,387,462 to build the park and $85,000 annually for maintenance. Dollars are not unlimited. Spent one place, they become unavailable to other neighborhoods and Idylwood, our only lakefront park.

The Yes side argued:

Idylwood Park on Lake Sammamish gets improvements to ease congestion and make your day at the beach more pleasant. Parking will be less challenging in summer weather when thousands of outdoor lovers visit our beautiful waterfront community park.

Neighborhood walkability and recreation are improved by Proposition 2. New parks in Southeast and Northeast Redmond are created from undeveloped parkland. Overlake’s Westside Park gets a new playground and other improvements.

The levy maintains funding for youth programs and maintenance. Park maintenance and security is increased at Grasslawn, Idylwood, Hartman, Perrigo, and Anderson Parks in summer months.

Proposition 2 enables a number of projects for parks and trails near you. The Grasslawn picnic shelter will be replaced, the Farrel-McWhirter equestrian arenas resurfaced, and pathways renovated at Reservoir and Cascade View Parks.

For the last few weeks, Redmond’s local newspaper, the Redmond Reporter, has printed several dueling letters urging a yes vote and a no vote, respectively.

It appears to us that the yes side may have been hampered by a failure to explain exactly what voters would get for their money by approving the levies, particularly the public safety levy. In our experience, when the dots aren’t connected for voters, they are more likely to vote no. It is helpful when a levy only funds one project or set of interconnected projects because it makes it easier to explain.

Consider the excerpted statement above. It leaves much to the imagination. What new parks are being developed, and where? How would parking at Idylwood be improved? What does renovating pathways mean?

If people can’t visualize it, they may not vote for it.

Politics at the city level in Redmond have been somewhat sleepy for a number of years. Remarkably, Redmond hasn’t had a contested race for city council since 2011, and hasn’t had a contested race for mayor since 2007.

This year, however, Mayor John Marchione is facing a strong challenge from small business owner and government effectiveness advocate Steve Fields, who is mounting an energetic, grassroots campaign focused on conversations with voters.

Whether the failure of the levies will significantly impact the mayor’s race is unclear. Candidate elections have very different dynamics than ballot measures do.

If Redmond voters do want to make a change in leadership this November, their only option will be to replace Marchione, because no one filed to run against incumbents Hank Margeson, Hank Myers, or David Carson, and Angela Birney was the only person to file for the seat being vacated by Tom Flynn.

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