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.
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Friday, March 27th, 2020

Another loss for Tim Eyman: Judge rules injunction against I‑976 shall remain in place

Polit­i­cal scam­mer Tim Eyman and his cohorts lost anoth­er court bat­tle today when King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Mar­shall Fer­gu­son ruled that his pre­vi­ous­ly-issued injunc­tion bar­ring imple­men­ta­tion of Eyman’s incred­i­bly destruc­tive Ini­tia­tive 976 would remain in effect for the time being.

“It is here­by ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that Plain­tiffs’ Emer­gency Motion is GRANTED,” Judge Fer­gu­son wrote in a brief order dat­ed today, March 27th. “The date to lift the pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion entered in this mat­ter on Novem­ber 27, 2019 is con­tin­ued from March 27, 2020 until such date when the Wash­ing­ton Supreme Court rules on Plain­tiffs’ Emer­gency Motion for Stay Pend­ing Review.”

The judge’s order effec­tive­ly pre­serves the sta­tus quo, allow­ing local gov­ern­ments like the City of Seat­tle to con­tin­u­ing receiv­ing vehi­cle fee rev­enue until the Supreme Court decides what should hap­pen to the injunc­tion.

It’s the lat­est twist in a legal bat­tle that dates back to last autumn, after a sub­ma­jor­i­ty of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers passed Ini­tia­tive 976, Eyman’s most recent con. I‑976 false­ly promised vot­ers that they could get “thir­ty dol­lar car tabs” with­out men­tion­ing that this would like­ly neces­si­tate the elim­i­na­tion of bil­lions in fund­ing for Amtrak Cas­cades, the Wash­ing­ton State Patrol, vot­er-approved Sound Tran­sit Link light rail expan­sion, bus ser­vice, and road main­te­nance in over six­ty cities.

After Elec­tion Day, Seat­tle, King Coun­ty, and a coali­tion of plain­tiffs rep­re­sent­ed by Paci­fi­ca Law Group (which we at NPI are proud to acknowl­edge as the firm that rep­re­sent­ed us when we applied for tax-exempt sta­tus) filed a law­suit con­tend­ing that I‑976 was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al in more than a dozen dif­fer­ent ways.

The case land­ed on King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Mar­shall Fer­gu­son’s dock­et.

Judge Fer­gu­son con­sid­ered and then grant­ed the plain­tiffs’ request for a pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion bar­ring I‑976 from going into effect in ear­ly Decem­ber 2019.

Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, who is required by law to defend the ini­tia­tive, tried to get the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court to nix the pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion, but a major­i­ty of the Court denied his motion.

I‑976 remained on ice through the hol­i­day sea­son and into the new year.

In Feb­ru­ary, Judge Fer­gu­son heard a whole day of oral argu­ment on the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of I‑976 from attor­neys rep­re­sent­ing most of the par­ties. The fol­low­ing week, he reject­ed most of plain­tiffs’ argu­ments against the mea­sure, but reserved judg­ment as to the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of two sec­tions of the mea­sure.

Ear­li­er this month, Judge Fer­gu­son found those two remain­ing pro­vi­sions uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. He ordered them sev­ered from the rest of the ini­tia­tive, but kept the injunc­tion in place at least through today, March 27th, to allow the par­ties an oppor­tu­ni­ty to present argu­ments for and against it. His order not­ed that the par­ties could ini­ti­ate the process of seek­ing appel­late review if they so wished.

That prompt­ed the plain­tiffs to ask the Supreme Court to sus­tain the injunc­tion.

For the past few days, there have thus been two the­aters in the I‑976 legal bat­tle: the orig­i­nal the­ater in King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court, and a sec­ond one in the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court, where briefs have been pil­ing up.

After the plain­tiffs made their move at the appel­late lev­el, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son com­plained that his office need­ed more time to pre­pare.

“Plain­tiffs filed a thir­ty-four-page motion to stay at 4:30 PM yes­ter­day, March 24th,” Fer­gu­son wrote in a let­ter to the Court dat­ed this past Wednes­day.

“They raise five dif­fer­ent con­sti­tu­tion­al claims, and attach thou­sands of pages of exhibits. A team of attor­neys in my Office has been prepar­ing a response since the moment we received Plain­tiffs’ fil­ing, but the Court’s response dead­line gives them less than forty hours to com­plete their work. My com­plaint is not that this is hard on them; my team is will­ing to work as hard as it takes.”

“But no mat­ter how hard they work, this short peri­od of time is insuf­fi­cient to ade­quate­ly brief these issues on behalf of the pub­lic.”

The Court, evi­dent­ly sym­pa­thet­ic, grant­ed Fer­gu­son’s request for more time.

State attor­neys made full use of the extend­ed win­dow to fin­ish their reply brief. They filed it with the Supreme Court this morn­ing, only a few hours before the hear­ing sched­uled by Judge Fer­gu­son at the tri­al court lev­el.

Judge Fer­gu­son ulti­mate­ly opt­ed not to hold a hear­ing at all, and relied on the writ­ten briefs to reach his deci­sion, with no oral argu­ment.

The State and Pierce Coun­ty stren­u­ous­ly argued that Fer­gu­son should not extend the injunc­tion because the case had moved to the appel­late lev­el.

“An exten­sion of the pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion is unnec­es­sary because this issue is prop­er­ly before the state Supreme Court,” state attor­neys con­tend­ed.

“An exten­sion of the pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion is also unwise, as it risks need­less con­fu­sion. In light of Plain­tiffs’ request to file a reply brief, the Supreme Court will not be able to rule on their emer­gency motion until at least 1:00 PM. This cre­ates a risk of incon­sis­tent action by this Court and the Supreme Court.”

“For exam­ple, the Supreme Court may deter­mine that a stay is not appro­pri­ate. An order by this Court extend­ing the pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion would appear to be incon­sis­tent, cre­at­ing con­fu­sion as to whether I‑976 has tak­en effect and poten­tial­ly neces­si­tat­ing fur­ther action to obtain clar­i­ty.”

This tor­tured argu­ment was swift­ly denounced by the plain­tiffs’ attor­neys.

“Defen­dants the State and Pierce Coun­ty con­tin­ue to urge this Court not to grant a rea­son­able, lim­it­ed con­tin­u­ance until the Wash­ing­ton Supreme Court can decide Plain­tiffs’ Appel­late Stay Motion because the Supreme Court is aware of the time sen­si­tive nature of the request before that Court. This is non­sen­si­cal.”

“The Supreme Court is equal­ly aware that the par­ties have ful­ly briefed Plain­tiffs’ request for a tem­po­rary stay at this court. The Supreme Court clear­ly is expe­dit­ing review of Plain­tiffs’ Appel­late Stay Motion, but has not guar­an­teed a deci­sion by today. Nor would Plain­tiffs’ request­ed con­tin­u­ance cause ‘con­fu­sion,’ as Defen­dants’ con­tend. To the con­trary, Plain­tiffs seek a con­tin­u­ance express­ly so that the Supreme Court can act on this issue, and only until the Supreme Court does so.”

The plain­tiffs’ attor­neys con­clud­ed: “An injunc­tion that pro­tects rights of this mag­ni­tude, which this court has acknowl­edged will result in irrepara­ble harm should it be lift­ed, should not be allowed to lapse sim­ply because Plain­tiffs have sought relief in all the courts to which they were enti­tled. A far bet­ter course of action, legal­ly and prac­ti­cal­ly, is for a tem­po­rary exten­sion of the injunc­tion until the Supreme Court weighs in on the sub­stan­tive issues pre­sent­ed here.”

Judg­ing by Judge Fer­gu­son’s order, he found this argu­ment per­sua­sive.

With no Supreme Court deci­sion hav­ing been reached with respect to the fate of the injunc­tion as of this after­noon, Judge Fer­gu­son wise­ly con­clud­ed that it would be pru­dent to keep the injunc­tion in place until the Supreme Court does weigh in.

That left Tim Eyman howl­ing mad.

The dis­graced ini­tia­tive spon­sor and noto­ri­ous office chair thief had expect­ed the injunc­tion to lapse and appears stunned that it did­n’t. Ear­li­er this week, he told his fol­low­ers that I‑976 would be going into effect today, hav­ing already told them ear­li­er this month that I‑976 had gone into effect.

“None of us will be get­ting thir­ty dol­lar tabs,” Eyman seethed after learn­ing of Judge Fer­gu­son’s rul­ing. (He’s right about that, at least: I‑976 would not result in any­one’s vehi­cle fees being low­ered to thir­ty dol­lars; the low­est any­one would pay is $43.25, as Eyman him­self has admit­ted. “Thir­ty dol­lar car tabs” is a big fat lie.)

“It was sup­posed to hap­pen today. It did­n’t,” Eyman con­tin­ued.

He went on:

“I am beyond furi­ous.”

And, for good mea­sure, a cou­ple para­graphs lat­er, he declared:

“I am thor­ough­ly dis­gust­ed.”

Eyman blamed Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son for the con­tin­u­ance of the injunc­tion, hilar­i­ous­ly claim­ing that if Fer­gu­son had only filed his brief with the Supreme Court soon­er, then the injunc­tion would have lapsed.

If Eyman real­ly believes what he’s telling his fol­low­ers, then it just rein­forces our view that he does not under­stand how the judi­cial branch of our gov­ern­ment works, despite hav­ing been through this process many times before. (More than half a dozen of his pri­or ini­tia­tives have been chal­lenged as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al.)

The odds were always good that the injunc­tion was going to be kept in place, because it’s the log­i­cal course of action. If the injunc­tion were to lapse, the peo­ple’s pub­lic ser­vices would suf­fer an irrepara­ble injury from I‑976.

If the ini­tia­tive is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, it should not be allowed to go into effect.

On the oth­er hand, if the Supreme Court decides that the mea­sure is con­sti­tu­tion­al — which would be a mis­car­riage of jus­tice, because it’s loaded with con­sti­tu­tion­al defects — refunds could always be issued to affect­ed tax­pay­ers.

Judges and jus­tices under­stand that bells can’t be unrung, so they gen­er­al­ly favor preser­va­tion of the sta­tus quo while a case is being lit­i­gat­ed.

The injunc­tion pre­serves the sta­tus quo. If I‑976 is struck down, the injunc­tion will become per­ma­nent. If I‑976 is upheld, the injunc­tion will go away.

Until then, it should just be left in place.

Friday, March 27th, 2020

Governor Jay Inslee rebuffs SOS Kim Wyman, won’t cancel April 2020 special election

Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee has reject­ed a request by Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman to can­cel the upcom­ing April 2020 spe­cial elec­tion, which means the elec­tion will be held as planned, at least in those juris­dic­tions that wish to move for­ward with the con­sid­er­a­tion of a local levy or bond mea­sure.

“Rather than post­pon­ing the spe­cial April elec­tions, we are work­ing with Sec­re­tary Wyman on what could be done to help audi­tors man­age elec­tions dur­ing the out­break, for April and lat­er in the year,” Inslee’s chief of staff David Post­man (a for­mer polit­i­cal reporter) told The Seat­tle Times’ Joseph O’Sul­li­van.

Wyman had actu­al­ly called for the elec­tion to be can­celed alto­geth­er, not post­poned, but even a post­pone­ment has been ruled out.

Wyman called the deci­sion “frus­trat­ing” and told O’Sul­li­van she was “dis­ap­point­ed”.

But offi­cials with sev­er­al fire and school dis­tricts are relieved. They have bud­gets they need to put togeth­er by June 30th, and hav­ing their levy and bond propo­si­tions called off by exec­u­tive decree would have been frus­trat­ing and dis­ap­point­ing.

It would also have set a bad prece­dent. As NPI’s Gael Tar­leton (who is chal­leng­ing Wyman) has argued, democ­ra­cies don’t can­cel elec­tions.

Even dur­ing a pan­dem­ic, we need to be able to hold elec­tions.

For a democ­ra­cy, free and fair elec­tions are a bedrock, essen­tial pub­lic ser­vice.

We are for­tu­nate that we use a vote at home sys­tem here in Wash­ing­ton, with no polling places, only acces­si­ble vot­ing cen­ters and same-day vot­er reg­is­tra­tion sites. Peo­ple do not need to queue up in long lines to vote. The bal­lot comes to them and they have sev­er­al weeks to fill it out and return it.

Some­one has to count the returned bal­lots, of course, and the peo­ple who do have to be in some degree of prox­im­i­ty to each oth­er to car­ry out their work.

That’s what Kim Wyman pro­fess­es to be con­cerned about.

We all want elec­tion work­ers to be safe, but we don’t achieve that by pulling the plug on the means by which we make deci­sions about how to gov­ern our­selves.

Rather than can­cel­ing the April spe­cial elec­tion, coun­ty audi­tors should use it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to estab­lish and test pro­to­cols for the safe han­dling of bal­lots.

We’re going to be hav­ing more elec­tions lat­er this year, and can­cel­ing those would deny Wash­ing­to­ni­ans the pow­er to decide who rep­re­sents them.

As a vet­er­an elec­tions admin­is­tra­tor, Kim Wyman ought to appre­ci­ate bet­ter than any­one that can­cel­ing the August and Novem­ber elec­tions would be just as dis­rup­tive to our state and coun­try as this pan­dem­ic has been.

Since can­cel­ing those elec­tions would be unthink­able, why bring the ham­mer down on the school and fire dis­tricts that made a law­ful deci­sion to go to the bal­lot next month? Wyman’s pro­pos­al was a bad idea and we’re glad Inslee said no to it.

Friday, March 27th, 2020

Governor Jay Inslee signs comprehensive sexual health education legislation into law

Anoth­er one of NPI’s prin­ci­pal 2020 leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties has become a law.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee today signed ESSB 5395, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son and cham­pi­oned by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mon­i­ca Stonier in the House.

The bill sen­si­bly requires that all Wash­ing­ton pub­lic schools teach age-appro­pri­ate com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion (CSHE), although it allows par­ents to opt their chil­dren out of receiv­ing CSHE instruc­tion and it keeps school dis­tricts in charge of mak­ing deci­sions about the cur­ricu­lum that is to be taught.

The bill passed the Leg­is­la­ture on a set of par­ty line votes, with Democ­rats in strong sup­port and Repub­li­cans fer­vent­ly opposed.

It was arguably the most divi­sive bill con­sid­ered dur­ing the ses­sion.

House Repub­li­cans tried to destroy the leg­is­la­tion by fil­ing hun­dreds of amend­ments against it; their gam­bit failed when House Speak­er Lau­rie Jink­ins sched­uled a marathon floor ses­sion that ran until 2 AM to ensure the bill would get a vote.

Repub­li­cans have relied heav­i­ly on mis­in­for­ma­tion and dis­hon­est talk­ing points to make a case against the bill. They have false­ly argued, for exam­ple, that the bill requires kinder­gart­ners to be taught about sex­u­al inter­course (it does­n’t). They have argued that the bill pro­motes pornog­ra­phy (it does­n’t). They have even hyper­bol­i­cal­ly claimed that CSHE will rob chil­dren of their inno­cence (it won’t).

Fol­low­ing pas­sage of the bill, Repub­li­cans (the state par­ty, the House Repub­li­cans, and the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans) all called for a guber­na­to­r­i­al veto, using the social media hash­tag #Lis­ten­ToTheP­eo­ple.

But lis­ten­ing to the peo­ple is exact­ly what Inslee did by sign­ing the bill.

Late last year, NPI asked a large sam­pling of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers (nine hun­dred!) about their views on the leg­is­la­tion. We found 67% in sup­port of the bill — more than two thirds — with about half, 49%, in strong sup­port of com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion. The oppo­si­tion clocked in at just 22%.

That’s com­pelling evi­dence that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans sup­port ESSB 5395.

The only evi­dence Repub­li­cans have pro­duced to date that the peo­ple are on their side is anec­do­tal or unsci­en­tif­ic. For exam­ple, Repub­li­cans have cit­ed par­ent respons­es to OSPI sur­veys about com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion.

But what they haven’t admit­ted is that right wing groups opposed to CSHE mobi­lized right wing par­ents to fill out those sur­veys. The sur­vey tak­ers were self-select­ed and not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the state’s vot­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Repub­li­cans have also cir­cu­lat­ed pho­tos of crowds massed on the steps of the Leg­isla­tive Build­ing in oppo­si­tion to the bill as proof as “the peo­ple” oppose it.

Well, we have pho­tos of crowds on those same steps who sup­port the bill.

For exam­ple:

Gov­er­nor Inslee speaks to young peo­ple at the Wash­ing­ton State Capi­tol on Jan­u­ary 20th, 2020 (Pho­to: Office of the Gov­er­nor)

And, oh, look: The peo­ple in this pho­to are pret­ty much all young peo­ple… the peo­ple who this bill pri­mar­i­ly affects!

When peo­ple hold pas­sion­ate views about an issue, it’s not hard to pack a hear­ing room or fill the Capi­tol steps with peo­ple. But as I said ear­li­er, such assem­blies don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly reflect the views of the vot­ing pub­lic as a whole.

Repub­li­cans seem utter­ly con­vinced that with this bill, they have found a wedge issue that they can use against Democ­rats this sum­mer and autumn in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. And they plan on going beyond mere­ly using it as fod­der for attack mail­ers in leg­isla­tive races. The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty, head­ed by Trump apol­o­gist Caleb Heim­lich, has com­mit­ted itself to orga­niz­ing a ref­er­en­dum dri­ve, which, if suc­cess­ful, would force a statewide vote on the bill.

Iron­i­cal­ly, for pub­lic health rea­sons, Repub­li­cans can­not col­lect sig­na­tures against this pub­lic health leg­is­la­tion using the time-test­ed prac­tices of putting peti­tions out­side of church ser­vices or sta­tion­ing paid sig­na­ture gath­er­ers out­side of Wal­mart entrances. Pub­lic gath­er­ings are for­bid­den due to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, and will like­ly remain pro­hib­it­ed through the dura­tion of the time­frame of the sig­na­ture dri­ve, which must be com­plet­ed by June 12th, 2020.

It is the Con­sti­tu­tion that spells out the time­frame for a ref­er­en­dum dri­ve (nine­ty days) and that time­frame can­not be altered, not even dur­ing times of emer­gency.

State law does not allow elec­tron­ic sig­na­ture gath­er­ing (which is good, because that would make the prob­lem of sig­na­ture fraud much, much worse) and Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman has said she can­not accept elec­tron­ic copies of peti­tions, either, not even if the elec­tron­ic copies are scans of sig­na­tures on print­ed peti­tions.

Wyman has pub­licly sug­gest­ed that ref­er­en­dum back­ers dis­trib­ute peti­tions elec­tron­i­cal­ly to sup­port­ers so they can osten­si­bly be print­ed at home, signed there, and pro­vid­ed to spon­sors through the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice.

But state law explic­it­ly requires peti­tions to be print­ed on EDP-sized paper or big­ger, and very few peo­ple have print­ers at home that can han­dle this size.

RCW 29A.72.100:

The per­son propos­ing the mea­sure shall print blank peti­tions upon sin­gle sheets of paper of good writ­ing qual­i­ty (includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to newsprint) not less than eleven inch­es in width and not less than four­teen inch­es in length. Each peti­tion at the time of cir­cu­lat­ing, sign­ing, and fil­ing with the sec­re­tary of state must con­sist of not more than one sheet with num­bered lines for not more than twen­ty sig­na­tures, with the pre­scribed warn­ing and title, be in the form required by RCW 29A.72.110, 29A.72.120, or 29A.72.130, and have a read­able, full, true, and cor­rect copy of the pro­posed mea­sure print­ed on the reverse side of the peti­tion.

Inter­est­ing­ly, RCW 29A.72.170 (which is a sub­se­quent pro­vi­sion lat­er on the same chap­ter) does not men­tion incor­rect paper size as one of the grounds for refusal of a peti­tion by the Sec­re­tary of State. The Supreme Court in 2018 turned back a legal chal­lenge to Ini­tia­tive 1639 that con­tend­ed the peti­tions need­ed to be reject­ed because they were improp­er­ly for­mat­ted.

Nev­er­the­less, Repub­li­cans would be tak­ing a risk if they took up the print at home idea. The right wing has pre­vi­ous­ly tried to chal­lenge the sub­mis­sion of bal­lot mea­sure sig­na­tures on form grounds, and they’d be set­ting them­selves up for a poten­tial legal chal­lenge if they open­ly dis­re­gard­ed RCW 29A.72.100.

The Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office, as required by law, has already for­mu­lat­ed the bal­lot title for their ref­er­en­dum. It is as fol­lows:

The leg­is­la­ture passed Engrossed Sub­sti­tute Sen­ate Bill 5395 con­cern­ing com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion [and vot­ers have filed a suf­fi­cient ref­er­en­dum peti­tion on this act].

This bill would require school dis­tricts to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive age-appro­pri­ate sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion, as defined, for all stu­dents, con­sis­tent with state stan­dards, and excuse stu­dents if their par­ents request.

Should this mea­sure be:

[  ] Approved
[  ] Reject­ed

Because Ref­er­en­dum 90 is a ref­er­en­dum, the orga­niz­ers were not able to go “bal­lot title shop­ping” like many ini­tia­tive spon­sors (we’re look­ing at you, Tim Eyman) do. “Bal­lot title shop­ping” entails sub­mit­ting mul­ti­ple drafts with slight­ly dif­fer­ent pro­vi­sions in an attempt to obtain favor­able bal­lot title word­ing that polls well.

Since a ref­er­en­dum is a pro­posed vote on a bill that has already passed the Leg­is­la­ture, it isn’t pos­si­ble to go shop­ping like it would be with an ini­tia­tive. Titles can be chal­lenged through Thurston Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court, how­ev­er.

NPI stands ready to defend ESSB 5395 should the right wing force a statewide vote on it. We believe this leg­is­la­tion is nec­es­sary and thought­ful­ly-writ­ten. It is telling that most of the right wing’s objec­tions to it are based on straw men argu­ments. Our research strong­ly sug­gests that most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans feel very dif­fer­ent­ly about this bill than the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s base does.

When 2020 ends, we are opti­mistic that ESSB 5395 will still be on the books.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

U.S. Senate unanimously adopts gargantuan $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package

Remem­ber Paul Ryan and the deficit scolds? Yeah, those folks are long gone. The surest sign of that came just a few min­utes ago when the Unit­ed States Sen­ate vot­ed unan­i­mous­ly (!) to adopt an enor­mous $2.2 tril­lion coro­n­avirus res­cue pack­age and send it to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion.

Nine­ty-six sen­a­tors vot­ed for the bill.

The four sen­a­tors who did not vote were Repub­li­cans Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, Mike Lee and Mitt Rom­ney of Utah, and John Thune of South Dako­ta. (Thune has just come down with an ill­ness; the oth­ers are in self-quar­an­tine.)

If you’re won­der­ing how this res­cue pack­age com­pares to the so-called “stim­u­lus” from 2009 (which was actu­al­ly called the Amer­i­can Recov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act, or ARRA), the answer is that it’s more than twice as big.

“When ARRA was being con­sid­ered, the Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office (CBO) and the staff of the Joint Com­mit­tee on Tax­a­tion esti­mat­ed that it would increase bud­get deficits by $787 bil­lion between fis­cal years 2009 and 2019,” CBO staff wrote in a report for Con­gress released in Feb­ru­ary of 2012.

“CBO now esti­mates that the total impact over the 2009–2019 peri­od will amount to about $831 bil­lion. By CBO’s esti­mate, close to half of that impact occurred in fis­cal year 2010, and more than nine­ty per­cent of ARRA’s bud­getary impact was real­ized by the end of Decem­ber 2011.”

ARRA was passed by a Con­gress that was con­trolled entire­ly by Democ­rats and sent to a new­ly inau­gu­rat­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic Pres­i­dent dur­ing the height of the Great Reces­sion. No House Repub­li­cans vot­ed for it, and only a cou­ple of Repub­li­cans in the Sen­ate agreed to back it (Arlen Specter and Susan Collins).

This leg­is­la­tion appro­pri­ates more than twice as much mon­ey and will head to the desk of a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent with Mitch McConnel­l’s bless­ing.

“Let’s stay con­nect­ed and con­tin­ue to col­lab­o­rate on the best ways to keep help­ing our states and our coun­try through this pan­dem­ic,” McConnell said. “Let’s con­tin­ue to pray for one anoth­er, for all of our fam­i­lies, and for our coun­try.”

Think about that for a moment.

And then remem­ber Simp­son-Bowles. And the Tea Par­ty man­i­festo. And Oba­ma’s grand bar­gain to get the debt ceil­ing raised. And… seques­tra­tion.

Why did this coun­try have to endure all that non­sense?

Answer: Because Barack Oba­ma was Pres­i­dent. No oth­er rea­son!

With the exec­u­tive branch no longer under Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­trol, deficits don’t mat­ter and deficit hawks have no pow­er or rel­e­vance in the Unit­ed States Con­gress.

Con­sid­er Con­gress’ recent track record. Con­gress has:

  • passed mas­sive tax cuts for cor­po­ra­tions (the Repub­li­can tax scam);
  • sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased defense spend­ing;
  • refused to adopt Trump’s pro­posed cuts to pub­lic ser­vices.

And now the Sen­ate — in a rather unprece­dent­ed show of bipar­ti­san­ship — has unan­i­mous­ly approved a coro­n­avirus res­cue pack­age that dwarfs ARRA in size and scope. Is it per­fect? Def­i­nite­ly not. Is it need­ed? Yes. This is a cri­sis.

Pro­gres­sive Democ­rats like Eliz­a­beth War­ren fought hard — real­ly hard — to pre­vent the leg­is­la­tion from end­ing up as one big blank check that Trump’s min­ions could use to cre­ate a cor­po­rate slush fund. For that, we are very, very grate­ful.

One key pro­vi­sion says that the res­cue pack­age can’t be used to bail out busi­ness­es con­trolled by the peo­ple’s elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives:

The leg­is­la­tion ensures that tax­pay­er-backed loans can­not go to firms con­trolled by Trump, oth­er White House offi­cials or mem­bers of Con­gress. This would sug­gest that Trump-owned prop­er­ties, includ­ing hotels that have been hurt by the down­turn, can­not seek tax­pay­er assis­tance.

Anoth­er pro­vi­sion that Democ­rats insist­ed upon aims to pro­tect tax­pay­ers by set­ting up much-need­ed account­abil­i­ty mech­a­nisms:

For exam­ple, the White House and Repub­li­cans agreed to allow an over­sight board and cre­ate a Trea­sury Depart­ment spe­cial inspec­tor gen­er­al for pan­dem­ic recov­ery to scru­ti­nize the lend­ing deci­sions and detect abu­sive or fraud­u­lent behav­ior.

“Every loan doc­u­ment will be pub­lic and made avail­able to Con­gress very quick­ly so we can see where the mon­ey is going, what the terms are and if it’s fair to the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Schumer said on the Sen­ate floor Wednes­day.

And impor­tant­ly, dis­clo­sures about lend­ing to cor­po­ra­tions will need to be made in a time­ly fash­ion by demand of Chuck Schumer.

One last holdup, accord­ing to two con­gres­sion­al aides, sur­round­ed a final con­di­tion for the more than half-tril­lion in cor­po­rate res­cue fund­ing: Schumer insist­ed on lan­guage requir­ing the terms of those loans to be dis­closed to the pub­lic with­in sev­en days. The change was made, and the final bill cir­cu­lat­ed to Sen­ate offices short­ly after 10 PM.

Don­ald Trump expressed sat­is­fac­tion with the result, say­ing:

“The Democ­rats have treat­ed us fair­ly. I real­ly believe that we’ve had a very good back and forth. And I say that with respect to Chuck Schumer.”

That’s… high praise.

The Pacif­ic North­west­’s Unit­ed States Sen­a­tors have been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with NPI to share their thoughts about the res­cue pack­age.

Here’s what Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray had to say about it:

“From the begin­ning of this cri­sis I’ve insist­ed that our response be focused on get­ting peo­ple on the front lines the sup­port they need, like surge capac­i­ty in hos­pi­tals, more med­ical sup­plies and per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment for respon­ders, and relief for work­ers and small busi­ness­es who’ve had the rug pulled out from under them.”

“I’m glad Democ­rats pushed for and got much-need­ed changes that will do more to help Wash­ing­ton state hos­pi­tals, work­ers, small busi­ness­es, and hard-hit fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties.”

“I also want to be clear that this was not the bill I would have writ­ten on my own, and there’s no ques­tion there is much more to do to fight this virus — espe­cial­ly when it comes to ensur­ing all work­ers have paid leave, cost isn’t a bar­ri­er to treat­ment, and hard-hit states like ours get the resources we are demand­ing.”

“I know how dif­fi­cult this time is for peo­ple across our state and I want every work­er, stu­dent, and fam­i­ly in Wash­ing­ton to know I am hold­ing each of you in my heart, and that I will con­tin­ue hold­ing the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion account­able for imple­ment­ing this law, and oth­ers relat­ed to the coro­n­avirus response, with the urgency, con­sis­ten­cy, and equi­ty our state deserves.”

“I am doing absolute­ly every­thing I can to make sure Wash­ing­ton state gets what we need from the oth­er Wash­ing­ton, and I won’t stop until we’ve recov­ered. There is a long road ahead, but we will get through this togeth­er.”

Mur­ray’s office cit­ed the fol­low­ing as high­lights of the bill:

Health Care

  • Hos­pi­tals: $100 bil­lion nation­wide in surge fund­ing for hos­pi­tals and health infra­struc­ture.
  • Pub­lic Health Agen­cies: $4.3 bil­lion nation­al­ly to sup­port fed­er­al, state, and local pub­lic health agen­cies to pre­vent, pre­pare for, and respond to COVID-19.
  • Per­son­al Pro­tec­tive Equip­ment: $16 bil­lion for the Nation­al Strate­gic Stock­pile to pur­chase sup­plies, includ­ing per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment.
  • Med­ical Sup­plies: $1 bil­lion for the Defense Pro­duc­tion Act to bol­ster domes­tic sup­ply chains, enabling indus­try to quick­ly ramp up pro­duc­tion of per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment, ven­ti­la­tors, and oth­er urgent­ly need­ed med­ical sup­plies, and bil­lions dol­lars more for fed­er­al, state, and local health agen­cies to pur­chase such equip­ment.
  • Com­mu­ni­ty Health Cen­ters: $1.32 bil­lion in sup­ple­men­tal awards for com­mu­ni­ty health cen­ters.

Work­ers

  • Child Care: $3.5 bil­lion nation­al­ly for the Child Care Devel­op­ment Block Grant, which sup­ports child care and ear­ly edu­ca­tion pro­grams.
  • Unem­ploy­ment Insur­ance: $600 increase to the week­ly unem­ploy­ment insur­ance ben­e­fit and expan­sion of eli­gi­bil­i­ty for ben­e­fits to those impact­ed by COVID-19.
  • Direct Pay­ments: $1,200 per indi­vid­ual, plus $500 for chil­dren.
  • Retire­ment Income: Increas­es in people’s flex­i­bil­i­ty to access and man­age their retire­ment sav­ings.

Eco­nom­ic Sup­port

  • Small Busi­ness­es: More than $375 bil­lion in small busi­ness grants, loans, and assis­tance.
  • Trans­porta­tion: $35 bil­lion nation­al­ly in aid to our nation’s tran­sit sys­tems and air­ports.
  • Cor­po­rate Account­abil­i­ty: Pro­tec­tions against big cor­po­ra­tions abus­ing fed­er­al sup­port by pre­vent­ing com­pen­sa­tion increas­es and bonus­es for exec­u­tives and stock buy backs.

Wash­ing­ton State Pri­or­i­ties

  • Emer­gency Fund­ing: $45 bil­lion nation­al­ly for FEMA’s Dis­as­ter Relief Fund to pro­vide for the imme­di­ate needs of state, local, trib­al, and ter­ri­to­r­i­al gov­ern­ments to pro­tect cit­i­zens and help them recov­er from the over­whelm­ing effects of COVID-19.
  • Edu­ca­tion Fund­ing: $30.75 bil­lion nation­al­ly to help ensure K‑12 schools and insti­tu­tions of high­er edu­ca­tion can con­tin­ue to serve stu­dents as they respond to the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.
  • Hous­ing Fund­ing: $7 bil­lion nation­al­ly for afford­able hous­ing and home­less­ness assis­tance pro­grams.
  • Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment Block Grants (CDBG): $5 bil­lion nation­al­ly for coun­ties and cities to rapid­ly respond to COVID-19 and the eco­nom­ic and hous­ing impacts caused by it.
  • Tribes: More than $10 bil­lion for trib­al COVID-19 response expens­es.
  • Tri-Cities: Direc­tions to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to ensure tens of thou­sands of work­ers at the Han­ford Nuclear Site and PNNL who can­not tele­work con­tin­ue to receive pay.
  • Vet­er­ans: $19.6 bil­lion nation­al­ly for our nation’s vet­er­ans, includ­ing to help treat COVID-19, pur­chase test kits, and pro­cure per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment for clin­i­cians.
  • Fish­eries: $300 mil­lion nation­al­ly for trib­al, sub­sis­tence, com­mer­cial, and char­ter fish­ery par­tic­i­pants.

Seat­mate Maria Cantwell, who has served along­side Mur­ray for near­ly two decades, empha­sized that the res­cue pack­age has a lot to offer small busi­ness own­ers.

“Our small busi­ness­es have been hit hard. We want to try to lessen the eco­nom­ic impacts of shel­ter-in-place or social dis­tanc­ing,” Cantwell said.

“Our busi­ness­es who shut down don’t have the same resources to come to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to lob­by for aid and sup­port but are count­ing on us to cre­ate a pro­gram that small busi­ness­es can get both grants and loans.”

Accord­ing to Cantwell’s staff, the Sen­a­tor…

… sup­port­ed more than $377 bil­lion in assis­tance for small busi­ness­es through­out the coun­try. $350 bil­lion of the fund­ing will help pro­vide Small Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion (SBA) low-inter­est, fed­er­al­ly-guar­an­teed loan pro­grams for small busi­ness own­ers. She also helped secure $27 bil­lion to pro­vide relief and assis­tance to small busi­ness­es and non-prof­its. That includes $10 bil­lion to fund a new emer­gency grant pro­gram for small busi­ness­es of up to $10,000, and $17 bil­lion to enable the Small Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion (SBA) to cov­er all loan pay­ments – includ­ing prin­ci­pal, inter­est, and fees – for new and exist­ing SBA loans for the next six months.

Ore­gon’s senior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden also praised the pack­age.

“From the start, Democ­rats made it clear that strug­gling fam­i­lies and small busi­ness­es must be the pri­or­i­ty in any eco­nom­ic pack­age passed by Con­gress,” said Wyden, Sen­ate Finance Com­mit­tee Rank­ing Mem­ber and a chief nego­tia­tor of the pack­age. “I fought hard for a bill that would help those Ore­go­ni­ans who have no way to pay their bills for poten­tial­ly months down the road, and the small busi­ness­es strug­gling to stay afloat dur­ing this cri­sis.”

“There is lots of work ahead, but tonight the Sen­ate took the right step toward help­ing alle­vi­ate the eco­nom­ic pain so many Ore­go­ni­ans are feel­ing.”

Wyden’s office cit­ed the fol­low­ing as high­lights of the bill:

  • $55 bil­lion increase in the Mar­shall Plan for our Health Care Sys­tem.
  • $150 bil­lion for a state and local Coro­n­avirus Relief fund, includ­ing $8 bil­lion for a sep­a­rate trib­al relief fund.
  • $10 bil­lion for SBA emer­gency grants of up to $10,000 to pro­vide imme­di­ate relief for small busi­ness oper­at­ing costs.
  • $350 bil­lion for new small busi­ness loans up to $10 mil­lion, specif­i­cal­ly aimed at pri­or­i­tiz­ing small busi­ness­es in under­served and rur­al mar­kets and those owned by eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged indi­vid­u­als and women.
  • $30 bil­lion in emer­gency edu­ca­tion fund­ing and $25 bil­lion in emer­gency tran­sit fund­ing.
  • $30 bil­lion for the Dis­as­ter Relief Fund to pro­vide finan­cial assis­tance to state, local, trib­al, and ter­ri­to­r­i­al gov­ern­ments, as well as pri­vate non­prof­its pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal and essen­tial ser­vices.
  • More than $10 bil­lion for the Indi­an Health Ser­vices, and oth­er trib­al pro­grams.
  • Pro­hi­bi­tion on busi­ness­es con­trolled by the Pres­i­dent, Vice Pres­i­dent, Mem­bers of Con­gress, and heads of Exec­u­tive Depart­ments from receiv­ing loans or invest­ments from Trea­sury pro­grams.
  • Make rent, mort­gage and util­i­ty costs eli­gi­ble for SBA loan for­give­ness.
  • Ban on stock buy­backs for the term of the gov­ern­ment assis­tance plus 1 year on any com­pa­ny receiv­ing a gov­ern­ment loan from the bill.
  • Estab­lish­ment of robust work­er pro­tec­tions attached to all fed­er­al loans for busi­ness­es.
  • Pro­vide income tax exclu­sion for indi­vid­u­als who are receiv­ing stu­dent loan repay­ment assis­tance from their employ­er.

We face a pub­lic health cri­sis that threat­ens to bring anoth­er Great Depres­sion. Fam­i­lies, hos­pi­tals, & small busi­ness­es need imme­di­ate aid,” said Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren. “This is not the bill I want­ed, but its imme­di­ate invest­ments are vital. They are also insuf­fi­cient. We will need to do more – and soon.”

But the price of action dur­ing a health cri­sis shouldn’t be a $450 bil­lion Trump Admin­is­tra­tion fund that could be used to boost favored cor­po­ra­tions,” War­ren declared. “I fought for more over­sight & restric­tions on this fund.”

“We got some lim­its, but they are short of what’s need­ed.

I won’t block vital aid but tomor­row we get back up and con­tin­ue the fight. And I make you this promise: I will spend every wak­ing moment watch­ing the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion and do every­thing I can to hold it account­able for how it spends this $450 bil­lion tax­pay­er fund,” War­ren pledged.

In this cri­sis, what the Amer­i­can peo­ple want is for us to use our tax­pay­er dol­lars in every way that we can to pro­tect the work­ing fam­i­lies of this coun­try and the fifty per­cent of Amer­i­cans who are liv­ing pay­check to pay­check, not just the bil­lion­aires and large cor­po­ra­tions,” said Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders.

In a pack­age this large, there is some­thing for every­one to like, and some­thing for every­one to dis­like. Giv­en that Repub­li­cans con­trol the Sen­ate and White House, it’s a mir­a­cle that there is so much mon­ey in this bill for work­ers, for tran­sit agen­cies, for small busi­ness­es, and for state and local gov­ern­ments.

And yet, as big as this bill is, it’s not enough. This bill is being called a “stim­u­lus”, like ARRA was, but it’s not a stim­u­lus. This is a res­cue bill.

This is a bill that tries to hold back a dam from break­ing. And it may seem huge, but’s not enough; there needs to be a sequel and anoth­er sequel after that.

A real stim­u­lus would go beyond a res­cue and address both our widen­ing infra­struc­ture deficit and the cli­mate cri­sis. We are still in need of a real stim­u­lus.

Reporters and opin­ion writ­ers, take note: No Sen­ate Repub­li­cans appear con­cerned with find­ing an answer to the ques­tion “How you gonna pay for this?” Because that’s not impor­tant. What’s impor­tant is help­ing peo­ple.

For any­one con­cerned about the nation­al debt and deficit spend­ing, there’s a sim­ple solu­tion to the ques­tion “How you gonna pay for that?”: Raise tax­es on the wealthy. It’s not going to hap­pen right now, but as soon as there is a more respon­si­ble Pres­i­dent and Sen­ate major­i­ty in place, it should.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Idaho Governor Brad Little issues “stay at home” order for Gem Staters

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 through­out the coun­try are work­ing dili­gent­ly to mit­i­gate.

Unlike some of the non­sense that is unfor­tu­nate­ly cir­cu­lat­ing on social media, all the infor­ma­tion you’ll find here is accu­rate and based on sound sci­ence.

Idaho joins the “stay at home” party

Ida­ho Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle, a Repub­li­can, has come under fierce and with­er­ing fire in recent days for an inad­e­quate response to the nov­el coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic.

Now he is scram­bling to respond. The state’s news­pa­per of record, The Ida­ho States­man, which is based in Boise, pub­lished a blis­ter­ing edi­to­r­i­al yes­ter­day denounc­ing Lit­tle for not ris­ing to the moment. The news­pa­per opined:

With few con­firmed cas­es and a seem­ing­ly low spread of COVID-19, Ida­ho had a gold­en oppor­tu­ni­ty to lead the nation and take proac­tive pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures to “flat­ten the curve” and stem the rise in cas­es in this cri­sis. We could have been a mod­el for how to han­dle the out­break and have the fewest cas­es of coro­n­avirus in the coun­try.

Instead, after Little’s Mon­day press con­fer­ence, we appear, yet again, to head to the bot­tom of the list.

We were hope­ful that Lit­tle would announce more strin­gent mea­sures, such as those being tak­en by oth­er states’ gov­er­nors, includ­ing Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton right next door, and by Boise May­or Lau­ren McLean.

The edi­to­r­i­al went on:

We were look­ing for a strong response from the gov­er­nor, but what did we get instead? The dead­line to file tax­es got pushed back.

We were sore­ly dis­ap­point­ed and, frankly, are con­cerned that such an unem­phat­ic response will lead to a full-blown out­break in Ida­ho, result­ing in an over­whelmed health care sys­tem and, ulti­mate­ly, what could have been pre­ventable deaths.

To date, Little’s posi­tion has been a typ­i­cal Ida­ho approach to deal­ing with a prob­lem. God for­bid that we should use the heavy hand of gov­ern­ment to stop this thing.

And make no mis­take, that’s what it’s going to take. It’s time for force­ful and aggres­sive lead­er­ship from the gov­er­nor. Leav­ing it up to indi­vid­ual cities, coun­ties and dis­tricts is woe­ful­ly inad­e­quate.

Colum­nist Michael Deeds con­curred:

I don’t know about you, Ida­ho, but I real­ly hate look­ing like a los­er.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the past twen­ty-four hours have made it dif­fi­cult to feel like we’re “win­ning” in the Gem State.

Wal­letHub, a per­son­al finance web­site that cre­ates met­rics-based state rank­ings of every­thing, just pumped out a coro­n­avirus study that will make Ida­hoans want to hide under their beds — or, at least, nev­er leave the house.

That came rough­ly twelve hours after Rachel Mad­dow blast­ed Ida­ho Gov. Brad Little’s lais­sez-faire COVID-19 poli­cies on her MSNBC show.

The evi­dence clear­ly shows that Lit­tle’s lit­tle response has not been work­ing for Ida­ho. Bow­ing to the crit­i­cism and the calls for more strin­gent action, Lit­tle has belat­ed­ly joined his col­leagues Jay Inslee and Kate Brown in putting his state under a “stay at home” order. He announced his deci­sion today at Gowen Field.

“From the get-go, our focus has been to slow the spread of coro­n­avirus to pro­tect our most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens and pre­serve capac­i­ty in our health­care sys­tem,” Gov­er­nor Lit­tle said in a news release sent to NPI. “And from the begin­ning, I stat­ed my com­mit­ment to mak­ing deci­sions about our response to coro­n­avirus based on sci­ence. With con­firmed com­mu­ni­ty trans­mis­sion of coro­n­avirus now occur­ring in Idaho’s most pop­u­lat­ed areas, we need to take strong mea­sures to ensure our health­care facil­i­ties are not over­bur­dened. I am fol­low­ing the guid­ance of our pub­lic health experts and issu­ing a statewide stay-home order effec­tive imme­di­ate­ly.”

“Our health­care and pub­lic safe­ty work­ers are putting them­selves in harm’s way to respond to the coro­n­avirus emer­gency, and we owe it to them to do our part by fol­low­ing this statewide stay-home order,” Gov­er­nor Lit­tle added.

The order is effec­tive for twen­ty-one days. Its actu­al text was not avail­able at press time (it’s not fin­ished yet), but we will update this post when it is.

Idaho "Stay Home" COVID-19 order

A poster cre­at­ed by the State of Ida­ho instruct­ing Gem States to stay home

Idaho’s COVID-19 case count has gone up

Just like every oth­er state in the coun­try, Ida­ho is see­ing more COVID-19 cas­es. The total num­ber of cas­es has now reached sev­en­ty-three. There have not been any deaths yet. 1,089 peo­ple have been test­ed through the state lab­o­ra­to­ry sys­tem and sev­en hun­dred and nine­ty eight have been test­ed through com­mer­cial labs. Here’s a break­down of where the cas­es are:

Pub­lic Health Dis­trictCoun­tyCas­esDeaths
Pan­han­dle Health Dis­trictKoote­nai30
South­west Dis­trict HealthCanyon50
Cen­tral Dis­trict HealthAda220
Val­ley10
South Cen­tral Pub­lic Health Dis­trictBlaine330
Cas­sia1
Twin Falls10
South­east­ern Ida­ho Pub­lic HealthBan­nock20
Bing­ham10
East­ern Ida­ho Pub­lic HealthMadi­son20
Teton20
TOTAL730

Most of the region now under stay-at-home orders

With today’s action by Lit­tle, the three states that NPI pri­mar­i­ly serves are now all under stay-at-home orders. Adja­cent juris­dic­tions are mov­ing clos­er towards hav­ing sim­i­lar poli­cies in place. Alas­ka is requir­ing peo­ple who trav­el to The Last Fron­tier to self-quar­an­tine. Mon­tana has shut schools and man­dat­ed phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing. Cana­di­an Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has also urged his con­stituents (includ­ing British Columbians and Alber­tans) to go home and stay there.

Alaska sees first death

Alas­ka isn’t yet under a “stay at home” order (Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Mike Dun­leavy has inde­fen­si­bly neglect­ed to issue one), but that could be chang­ing soon.

Com­mu­ni­ty trans­mis­sion of the nov­el coro­n­avirus has already hap­pened with­in the state, the nation’s largest by area. And one Alaskan has now died from COVID-19… although in Wash­ing­ton State, not Alas­ka.

The first Alaskan killed by COVID-19 was in Wash­ing­ton state when they con­tract­ed the ill­ness and died, state offi­cials announced Tues­day evening as they stepped up their call for Alaskans to avoid close con­tact with oth­ers.

Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief med­ical offi­cer, said in a media brief­ing Tues­day that the indi­vid­ual had been in Wash­ing­ton for some time and that offi­cials believe that’s where they con­tract­ed COVID-19, the ill­ness caused by the new coro­n­avirus. The death is con­sid­ered an Alas­ka case under fed­er­al rules, she said.

Mean­while, Alaska’s pub­lic employ­ees, who are grave­ly con­cerned about their own health, are suing Dun­leavy for keep­ing state offices open. And many Alaskans have report­ed not being able to get test­ed for COVID-19.

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Governors Jay Inslee and Kate Brown issue stay-at-home orders

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 through­out the coun­try are work­ing dili­gent­ly to mit­i­gate.

Unlike some of the non­sense that is unfor­tu­nate­ly cir­cu­lat­ing on social media, all the infor­ma­tion you’ll find here is accu­rate and based on sound sci­ence.

Governors: Stay at home — that’s an order

Most Pacif­ic North­west­ern­ers are now under orders to stay at home and be safe from COVID-19 unless they need to obtain food for their house­holds or get exer­cise. Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and Ore­gon Gov­er­nor Kate Brown today issued so-called “stay at home” orders that build on their ear­li­er orders pro­hibit­ing large pub­lic gath­er­ings, clos­ing schools, and clos­ing restau­rants and bars.

The gov­er­nors had been under increas­ing pres­sure to act after many Pacif­ic North­west­ern­ers failed to take seri­ous­ly the guid­ance of pub­lic health author­i­ties to prac­tice phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing. Crowds have recent­ly been observed by reporters and police at beach­es such as Alki, trails like the one that goes to Rat­tlesnake Ridge, and bas­ket­ball courts in pub­lic parks. Though the gov­er­nors plead­ed with peo­ple to stop irre­spon­si­bly con­gre­gat­ing, too many peo­ple still failed to lis­ten.

And so new orders have been issued.

“We’ve been very clear on the need for every­one to stay home,” Gov­er­nor Inslee said in an evening address from his office. “And, while most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are doing their part, some still don’t grasp the seri­ous­ness of this pan­dem­ic.”

“We encour­age all Wash­ing­to­ni­ans to fol­low the new guid­ance of Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and Sec­re­tary of Health John Wies­man. The guid­ance in Stay Home, Stay Healthy is crit­i­cal to lim­it­ing the spread of COVID-19 and help­ing flat­ten the curve of infec­tions. Our behav­ior could mean life or death for Wash­ing­to­ni­ans,” said leg­isla­tive lead­ers in an unusu­al joint state­ment.

The state­ment was attrib­uted to Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Andy Bil­lig (D‑Spokane), Speak­er of the House Lau­rie Jink­ins (D‑Tacoma), Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Mark Schoesler (R‑Ritzville) and House Minor­i­ty Leader JT Wilcox (R‑Yelm) .

“We have already lost Wash­ing­to­ni­ans to this virus. We grieve with their fam­i­lies and stand along­side the peo­ple who are cur­rent­ly bat­tling this ill­ness.”

“We rec­og­nize the impact these deci­sions have on busi­ness­es, fam­i­lies, and indi­vid­u­als across the state. There is no way to over­state the chal­lenge fac­ing our state and our nation. The weeks and months to come will test our will, our val­ues and our courage but our state is resilient. We will get through this.”

“We must work togeth­er, sup­port each oth­er and stay pos­i­tive,” the leg­isla­tive lead­ers added. “Ulti­mate­ly we will emerge from this chal­lenge more unit­ed than ever, pre­pared to build an even stronger Wash­ing­ton.”

Since many busi­ness­es have already closed down — from gyms to bar­ber­shops to restau­rant din­ing rooms — you might be won­der­ing what’s left to close. The new orders con­tin­ue to have carve-outs for what are con­sid­ered essen­tial busi­ness­es.

But there are few­er excep­tions.

The new orders pro­hib­it gath­er­ings large and small of all kinds: pub­lic and pri­vate. That means wed­dings, funer­als, fam­i­ly reunions, birth­day cel­e­bra­tions, din­ner par­ties, sleep­overs, the works. All are pro­hib­it­ed through at least April 6th, 2020.

And any busi­ness that does not meet the tighter def­i­n­i­tion of an “essen­tial busi­ness” must sus­pend oper­a­tions by the end of the day on Wednes­day unless it can con­duct its busi­ness vir­tu­al­ly with employ­ees work­ing from home.

Boe­ing announced that its Puget Sound fac­to­ry oper­a­tions would come to a halt after an IAM Dis­trict Lodge 751 shop stew­ard died of COVID-19.

Read Inslee’s procla­ma­tion:

Jay Insle’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order

The restric­tions announced in Ore­gon are sim­i­lar.

Read Gov­er­nor Kate Brown’s procla­ma­tion:

Gov­er­nor Kate Brown’s order strength­en­ing phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing direc­tives

Why is all this necessary?

Don­ald Trump and oth­er fools who don’t under­stand pub­lic health have ques­tioned the increas­ing­ly restric­tive orders being issued by gov­er­nors like Jay Inslee, Kate Brown, Gavin New­som, Andrew Cuo­mo, Phil Mur­phy, JB Pritzk­er, and Ned Lam­ont, which are result­ing in a shut­down of civic life and eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty.

For exam­ple, Trump tweet­ed:

We can­not let the cure be worse than the prob­lem itself. At the end of the fif­teen day peri­od, we will make a deci­sion as to which way we want to go! (Post­ed to Trump’s Twit­ter account, March 22nd, 2020)

Phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing is not a cure for the nov­el coro­n­avirus, but rather a means of mit­i­gat­ing a dead­ly pan­dem­ic. The rea­son SARS-CoV­‑2 is called a “nov­el” coro­n­avirus is because it’s new. Human bod­ies haven’t encoun­tered this virus before and don’t have an immu­ni­ty to it. That’s why it is such a threat.

The gov­er­nors who issued the stay at home orders want to pro­tect their con­stituents from being infect­ed and killed by the virus. They issued the stay-at-home orders because keep­ing peo­ple apart is the key to pre­vent­ing mas­sive loss of life.

To under­stand how a virus like COVID-19 can wipe out fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties with increas­ing speed, you have to under­stand the con­cept of expo­nen­tial growth.

Expo­nen­tial growth, as defined by Dictionary.com, means the “growth of a sys­tem in which the amount being added to the sys­tem is pro­por­tion­al to the amount already present: the big­ger the sys­tem is, the greater the increase.”

Expo­nen­tial growth explains why it’s tak­ing less and less time for the num­ber of con­firmed COVID-19 cas­es to dou­ble.

With­out phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing, the num­ber of peo­ple who will con­tract the virus, get sick, and pos­si­bly die will sky­rock­et in a very short amount of time.

This graph­ic from Gary War­shaw and Sign­er Lab explains what phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing can do for us (the orig­i­nal title of the graph used the term social dis­tanc­ing, which NPI no longer uses, because it is a mis­nomer).

The power of physical distancing

The pow­er of phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing: An info­graph­ic by Gary War­shaw and Sign­er Lab, mod­i­fied by NPI

You can click the image to see a larg­er ver­sion.

Pre­fer a video expla­na­tion? Watch this:

You may have also heard ref­er­ences to “flat­ten­ing the curve”. That refers specif­i­cal­ly to the ben­e­fit phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing can have on our health­care sys­tem. If peo­ple do not prac­tice phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing, the results will be dis­as­trous. Hos­pi­tals, doc­tors, nurs­es, and first respon­ders will not be able to help every­one who falls ill.

This graph illus­trates the con­cept of “flat­ten­ing the curve”:

Flatten the curve!

Experts explain: “Far and away, the most impor­tant thing to do is flat­ten the curve of the epi­dem­ic so that our health sys­tems can cope and to give time for the sci­en­tists to research vac­cines and treat­ments.”

Peo­ple who scoff at stay­ing home and com­ply­ing with the stay-at-home orders either do not appre­ci­ate the destruc­tion that a pan­dem­ic can cause, rip­ping apart fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties, or mis­tak­en­ly think that keep­ing our bro­ken eco­nom­ic sys­tem going is more impor­tant than sav­ing lives.

The truth is that bro­ken economies can be repaired — an econ­o­my is just the sum of human endeav­ors — but lives lost are irre­place­able. Once some­one has died, they can’t be brought back, at least not in this dimen­sion.

As our friend Anat Shenker-Oso­rio tweet­ed ear­li­er today:

Humans invent­ed this con­ven­tion called ‘the econ­o­my’ mere­ly to mea­sure what we do. And we are expect­ed to pledge loy­al­ty and obe­di­ence to it. The emper­or isn’t just he naked he’s mere­ly a set of ones and zeroes. The only there there is us.

Anat is cor­rect.

Life, lib­er­ty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness. Those ideals mat­ter more than any com­pa­ny’s short term prof­its, or any­body’s 401(k).

Again, economies can be rebuilt. God is capa­ble of rais­ing the dead accord­ing to many faith tra­di­tions, but human beings are not.

We can’t get our par­ents and grand­par­ents and broth­ers and sis­ters and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends back once they’re gone.

Yes, there are mil­lions of peo­ple out there who will be hurt­ing eco­nom­i­cal­ly because of COVID-19. Let’s help them. But help­ing them does­n’t mean giv­ing big cor­po­ra­tions a blank check. We’ve done that before, and look where it got us.

More deaths, more cases in Washington State

There are now 2,221 con­firmed cas­es of COVID-19 in Wash­ing­ton State. One hun­dred and ten peo­ple have died from the dis­ease.

31,712 indi­vid­u­als have test­ed neg­a­tive.

King Coun­ty has the most cas­es.

Here’s the lat­est from Seat­tle-King Coun­ty Pub­lic Health:

Pub­lic Health—Seattle & King Coun­ty is report­ing the fol­low­ing con­firmed cas­es and deaths due to COVID-19 through 11:59 p.m. on 3/22/20.

  • 1170 con­firmed cas­es (up 130 from yes­ter­day)
  • 87 con­firmed deaths (up 12 from yes­ter­day)

These addi­tion­al deaths include:

  • A woman in his sev­en­ties, who died on March 21st
  • A man in his sev­en­ties, who died on March 21st at Ever­green­Health
  • A man in his eight­ies who died on March 22nd at Ever­green­Health
  • A man in his eight­ies, who died on March 22nd at Swedish Issaquah
  • A woman in her sev­en­ties, who died on March 22nd
  • A woman in her nineties. who died on March 22nd
  • A man in his sev­en­ties, who died on March 22nd
  • A woman in her nineties, who died on March 22nd
  • A woman in her six­ties, who died on March 22nd at Swedish Cher­ry Hill
  • A man in his six­ties, who died on March 21st at Swedish Cher­ry Hill
  • A man in his six­ties who died on March 22nd at Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton Med­ical Cen­ter
  • A man in his six­ties who died on March 22nd at Vir­ginia Mason

Of the 87 deaths report­ed, 37 are con­firmed to be asso­ci­at­ed with Life Care Cen­ter of Kirk­land.

In What­com Coun­ty, there are a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of deaths and cas­es asso­ci­at­ed with Shuk­san Health­care Cen­ter.

More cases in Oregon

The Beaver State also report­ed more cas­es today.

Ore­gon Health Author­i­ty report­ed 30 new cas­es of COVID-19, bring­ing the state total to 191, as of 8:00 AM today. The COVID-19 cas­es report­ed today are in the fol­low­ing coun­ties: Clacka­mas (2), Hood Riv­er (1), Linn (1), Mar­i­on (8), Mult­nom­ah (2), Polk (2), Wash­ing­ton (14).

More cases in British Columbia

North of the bor­der, the num­ber of nov­el coro­n­avirus cas­es is also increas­ing.

VICTORIA — The COVID-19 sit­u­a­tion in British Colum­bia is con­tin­u­al­ly evolv­ing and the infor­ma­tion below is cur­rent as of 10 a.m. on Mon­day, March 23, 2020.

Cas­es:

  • Total con­firmed cas­es in B.C.: 472
  • New cas­es since March 21, 2020: 48
  • Hos­pi­tal­ized cas­es: 33
  • Inten­sive care: 14
  • Deaths: 13
  • Recov­ered: 100

Con­firmed cas­es by region:

  • Van­cou­ver Coastal Health: 248
  • Fras­er Health: 150
  • Island Health: 39
  • Inte­ri­or Health: 30
  • North­ern Health: 5

Test­ing:

  • NEW: Test­ing capac­i­ty has increased to approx­i­mate­ly 3,000 tests per day.
  • 17,912 indi­vid­u­als test­ed as of March 20, 2020.
  • Test­ing is avail­able for all who need it, but not every­one requires a test.
  • If you have no symp­toms, mild symp­toms or you are a return­ing trav­el­er self-iso­lat­ing at home, you do not require a test.
  • For each of these sit­u­a­tions, the pub­lic health advice remains the same, regard­less of test results: self-iso­late for 14 days to mon­i­tor for the devel­op­ment of symp­toms or until your symp­toms are com­plete­ly gone.
  • Those who have severe ill­ness, require hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, are res­i­dents of long-term care facil­i­ties or are health-care work­ers will con­tin­ue to be test­ed.
  • Any­one part of an active inves­ti­ga­tion or out­break clus­ter will be test­ed so they can be appro­pri­ate­ly mon­i­tored.
  • If symp­toms appear, call your health-care provider, call 811 for guid­ance or check your symp­toms online.

COVID-19 fallout: News roundup

COVID-19 Update will return with a new install­ment tomor­row.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

Final numbers are in for Washington’s 2020 presidential primary: Turnout sets new record

Wash­ing­ton State’s just-con­clud­ed 2020 pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry turned out not only to be a ground­break­ing event, but a record-set­ting one, too.

For the first time in state his­to­ry, both major polit­i­cal par­ties pledged to allo­cate one hun­dred per­cent of their nation­al con­ven­tion del­e­gates using the results. And vot­ers respond­ed enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly. As of Fri­day, the final day of count­ing, 49.56% of vot­ers had returned a bal­lot, with 2,256,488 bal­lots count­ed.

Nev­er before has a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry attract­ed that kind of turnout.

In 2016, turnout was just 34.78%. In 2008, the year that Barack Oba­ma and Hillary Clin­ton vied for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion, turnout in the mean­ing­less pri­ma­ry was 41.88% despite being held in Feb­ru­ary when the race was still very flu­id.

In 2000, turnout was 42.60%.

No pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry was held in 2004 or 2012 because the Leg­is­la­ture opt­ed to can­cel it, so we can­not com­pare this year to those years.

As men­tioned above, this was the first pri­ma­ry in which both par­ties pledged to uti­lize the results to allo­cate their nation­al con­ven­tion del­e­gates.

That seems to have made all the dif­fer­ence with respect to turnout.

Peo­ple under­stood that the pri­ma­ry mat­tered, that the results would count, that return­ing a bal­lot would help influ­ence who got nom­i­nat­ed (well, at least on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic side… the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty made sure Don­ald Trump’s name was the only name on the Repub­li­can bal­lot).

And con­sid­er this: Even though vot­ers were required to declare a par­ty affil­i­a­tion (Demo­c­ra­t­ic or Repub­li­can) in order to have a returned bal­lot count, more Wash­ing­to­ni­ans checked the box and par­tic­i­pat­ed in the pri­ma­ry than vot­ed in last year’s Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion, when there was an ini­tia­tive, ref­er­en­dum, and con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment on the bal­lot along with thou­sands of local posi­tions.

While it’s not pos­si­ble to make an apples-to-apples com­par­i­son between a nom­i­nat­ing event and an actu­al elec­tion because they are dif­fer­ent things, I still think it’s telling that 221,087 more bal­lots were cast in a nom­i­nat­ing event for Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States than were cast at an elec­tion a few months ear­li­er where may­ors, city and coun­ty coun­cilmem­bers, school board mem­bers, port com­mis­sion­ers and more were being elect­ed, main­ly for four year terms.

We know turnout is at its high­est in a pres­i­den­tial year gen­er­al elec­tion. No oth­er type of elec­tion comes close. So imag­ine how many more vot­ers would par­tic­i­pate in decid­ing who their local lead­ers were if that is when we had our local elec­tions.

NPI’s good friend Chris Roberts has writ­ten about this very sub­ject here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, and I’d encour­age you to read his post.

NPI strong­ly sup­ports phas­ing out odd-num­bered year elec­tions so that we can reduce vot­er fatigue, save mon­ey, improve turnout in local elec­tions, and ensure more vot­ers are involved in decid­ing the fate of state-lev­el bal­lot mea­sures.

Half of the ten low­est turnout gen­er­al elec­tions in Wash­ing­ton State his­to­ry have all been in the past two decades, which is trou­bling.

At least we’re going in the oth­er direc­tion with our pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry.

Wash­ing­ton’s top elec­tions offi­cial, Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman — who, as doc­u­ment­ed here, has a his­to­ry of mak­ing over­ly opti­mistic turnout pre­dic­tions — orig­i­nal­ly pre­dict­ed turnout of fifty per­cent in Wash­ing­ton’s pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry, which was well beyond what many coun­ty audi­tors were fore­cast­ing.

As The Her­ald of Everett not­ed in an edi­to­r­i­al pub­lished a month ago:

Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman told a gath­er­ing of news­pa­per edi­tors and pub­lish­ers last week that she is expect­ing about fifty per­cent turnout for the pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry.

If Wyman had stuck to her fifty per­cent pre­dic­tion, she would have been on the mon­ey for once. But, amus­ing­ly, she did­n’t do that.

Instead, she revised her pre­dic­tion upwards:

Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman told us today she expects turnout to reach fifty-five to six­ty per­cent by the time the elec­tion is cer­ti­fied.

– Anchor David Rose, Q13 Fox, March 9th evening news broad­cast

Watch clip:

The next day, right wing radio host Jason Rantz (a big Wyman fan) char­ac­ter­ized her pre­dic­tion as “up to six­ty” as opposed to “fifty-five to six­ty”:

Kim Wyman, Sec­re­tary of State, believes it’s going to get up to six­ty because of how many of the votes that are going to come in today.

– KTTH host Jason Rantz, 5:11 PM on Tues­day, March 10th

Our research has found Wyman’s past pre­dic­tions have been over­ly opti­mistic by at least five per­cent­age points and some­times as much as ten or more, so her revised pre­dic­tion fits that pat­tern. Should’ve stuck with the orig­i­nal pre­dic­tion!

King Coun­ty Elec­tions, on the oth­er hand, was way off. The state’s largest juris­dic­tion con­ser­v­a­tive­ly esti­mat­ed forty per­cent turnout.

Instead, turnout in King Coun­ty was 53.57%. Even though their pre­dic­tion was not in the ball­park, Elec­tions Direc­tor Julie Wise is no doubt thrilled to see more than half of the bal­lots her team mailed out come back for count­ing.

Coun­ties with the best turnoutCoun­ties with the worst turnout
Best: Jef­fer­son (65.64%)Worst: Yaki­ma (39.45%)
Sec­ond best: San Juan (64.95%)Sec­ond-worst: Adams (40.71%)
Third-best: Clal­lam (56.97%)Third-worst: Franklin (40.79%)
Fourth-best: Wahki­akum (56.54%)Fourth-worst: Ben­ton (43.15%)
Fifth-best: Colum­bia (56.27%)Fifth-worst: Pierce (44.70%)

Wyman seems sat­is­fied with the turnout Wash­ing­ton did see, remark­ing:

“Aside from run­ning an acces­si­ble, secure, and fair elec­tion, my mis­sion was to give vot­ers a greater voice in the nom­i­na­tion process for our nation’s next pres­i­dent. This year’s pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry turnout shows we accom­plished just that.”

I’m not sure what she means by “we”, because Wyman made her­self an imped­i­ment to efforts to get the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty to switch to a pri­ma­ry.

Infu­ri­at­ing­ly, Wyman plans to con­tin­ue advo­cat­ing that a “straw poll” option be added to the pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry bal­lot, which would make the pri­ma­ry com­plete­ly unus­able by the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty.

Here’s an idea: Let’s not do that. Let’s not go back­wards. Let’s focus on improv­ing Wash­ing­ton State’s pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry for 2024, not ruin­ing it.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (March 16th-20th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Unit­ed States Sen­a­tors vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, March 20th.

The House was in recess.

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

APPROVING $100 BILLION TO ADDRESS CORONAVIRUS: Vot­ing 90 for and eight against, the Sen­ate on March 18th sent Don­ald Trump a $100 bil­lion eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty and stim­u­lus pack­age to help fam­i­lies, indi­vid­u­als and small and medi­um-size busi­ness­es cope with the first wave of the coro­n­avirus out­break in the Unit­ed States. In part, the bill (H.R. 6201) would fund free virus test­ing for all who request it; emer­gency food aid for the poor, seniors and K‑12 stu­dents; enhanced unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits; and stepped up Med­ic­aid and pub­lic-health out­lays.

In addi­tion, the bill would autho­rize ten days’ paid sick leave through Decem­ber to indi­vid­u­als and house­holds affect­ed by the pan­dem­ic, using tax cred­its to reim­burse employ­ers the full cost of pro­vid­ing the leave.

The pay­ments would have to be at least two-thirds of nor­mal pay and capped at $1,000 per week. Gov­ern­ment employ­ees would receive equiv­a­lent sick-leave ben­e­fits. But com­pa­nies with five hun­dred or more employ­ees, which account for slight­ly more than half of the U.S. work­force, would be exempt­ed from hav­ing to pay sick leave, and those with few­er than fifty work­ers, which sup­ply about a quar­ter of the pri­vate work force, could request hard­ship exemp­tions.

The bill is pro­ject­ed to deliv­er paid sick leave to only twen­ty to twen­ty-five per­cent of the country’s pri­vate work­force, a share Con­gress is expect­ed to increase in its next coro­n­avirus eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty leg­is­la­tion. The bill also would pro­vide work­ers at com­pa­nies affect­ed by the coro­n­avirus with up to fif­teen days’ paid med­ical and fam­i­ly leave, which would kick in after expi­ra­tion of the sick leave.

As with sick leave, firms employ­ing more than five hun­dred work­ers would be exempt­ed and those with few­er than fifty work­ers could seek exemp­tions.

John Thune, R‑South Dako­ta, said: “This is a time for all of us to come togeth­er to ensure that med­ical pro­fes­sion­als, Amer­i­can busi­ness­es and Amer­i­can fam­i­lies have what they need to com­bat the coro­n­avirus and to deal with its effects.”

James Lank­ford, R‑Oklahoma, said:

“The first prin­ci­ple we should have as Con­gress is, do no harm… We need to take action, but we need to take action that helps peo­ple keep their jobs… My fear is that we didn’t do that just now. We might have just made it worse.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the White House.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (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: 6 aye votes

DECLINING TO EXPAND SICK LEAVE AND FAMILY LEAVE: Vot­ing 47 for and 51 against, the Sen­ate on March 18th defeat­ed a Demo­c­ra­t­ic-spon­sored bid to amend H.R. 6201 (above) to include more inclu­sive paid sick leave dur­ing the  pan­dem­ic and first-time, per­ma­nent avail­abil­i­ty of paid leave to the pri­vate sec­tor dur­ing all types of emer­gen­cies under the 1993 Fam­i­ly and Med­ical Leave Act.

First, the amend­ment sought to pro­vide all pri­vate-sec­tor employ­ees and inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors affect­ed by any pub­lic-health emer­gency includ­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break with 14 days’ paid sick leave through 2021, with employ­ers receiv­ing imme­di­ate Trea­sury reim­burse­ment for their pay­ments when they show doc­u­men­ta­tion to the Depart­ment of Labor.

This pro­vi­sion was more advan­ta­geous to both work­ers and employ­ers than the sick-leave ben­e­fit in the under­ly­ing bill.

Sec­ond, the amend­ment sought to per­ma­nent­ly expand the fam­i­ly and med­ical leave law to include twelve weeks’ paid leave for pri­vate-sec­tor work­ers dur­ing emer­gen­cies; the act now autho­rizes paid emer­gency leave (also twelve weeks) only to fed­er­al civ­il ser­vants. The amend­ment also attempt­ed to per­ma­nent­ly pro­vide work­ers with sev­en days’ accrued paid sick leave under the 1993 law. There was no com­pa­ra­ble pro­vi­sion in the under­ly­ing bill.

Co-spon­sor Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington (the Pacif­ic North­west­’s most senior sen­a­tor), said her amend­ment was “good for work­ers who need to stay home if they are sick or to take care of their fam­i­ly with­out los­ing a job or their pay­check, and it is good for small busi­ness­es that want to keep their work­ers and com­mu­ni­ties safe and that are strug­gling to stay afloat dur­ing this cri­sis.”

Ron John­son, R‑Wisconsin, called the Demo­c­ra­t­ic approach “a new man­date on busi­ness [that] is going to do a great deal of eco­nom­ic harm. It may sound good, but it is not the right way to go.…We need to learn the les­son from 2009, where over­reg­u­la­tion ham­pered our recov­ery.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amend­ment.

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

KEEPING PAID SICK LEAVE UNDER FEDERAL CONTROL: Vot­ing fifty for and forty-eight against, the Sen­ate failed to reach a six­ty-vote thresh­old for adopt­ing a Repub­li­can-spon­sored bid to trans­fer the admin­is­tra­tion of paid sick leave in H.R. 6201 (above) from employ­ers and fed­er­al agen­cies to state-run unem­ploy­ment insur­ance pro­grams. In the under­ly­ing bill, employ­ers would pay the sick leave and then receive full Trea­sury reim­burse­ment by means of tax cred­its. Under the amend­ment, state job­less pro­grams would make pay­ments and reim­burse employ­ers, and then shut down the pro­gram at the end of the year.

Co-spon­sor Ron John­son, R‑Wisconsin, said his amend­ment “does not sad­dle small busi­ness­es, Amer­i­can busi­ness­es, with a new man­date that they don’t have a great deal of con­fi­dence in. And it would def­i­nite­ly be tem­po­rary” with an expi­ra­tion date of Decem­ber 31st, 2020.

Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington., called the approach unwork­able because dis­placed employ­ees “would be on their own until they were com­pen­sat­ed by the state, and the unem­ploy­ment sys­tem in each state would be dras­ti­cal­ly over­bur­dened at a time when work­ers are going to need it in the event they are laid off.”

A yes vote was to adopt the Repub­li­can amend­ment.

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

DECLINING TO OFFSET COST OF CORONAVIRUS BILL: On a tal­ly of three for and 95 against, the Sen­ate on March 18th defeat­ed an amend­ment that sought to off­set the pro­ject­ed $100 bil­lion cost of H.R. 6201 (above) by cuts else­where in the fed­er­al bud­get. The amend­ment also sought to lim­it the pay­ment of the bil­l’s child tax-cred­its to fam­i­lies with a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber, a pro­vi­sion seen by crit­ics as anti-immi­grant. As lat­er signed into law by Don­ald Trump, the bill would con­sist almost entire­ly of deficit spend­ing.

Spon­sor Rand Paul, R‑Kentucky, said his amend­ment “has noth­ing to do with not lik­ing immi­grants; it has to do with say­ing tax­pay­er mon­ey should­n’t go to non-peo­ple. You should have to be a per­son to get tax­pay­er mon­ey. It just says you have to have a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber.”

Our own Ron Wyden, D‑Oregon, said:

“I would just ask my col­leagues to save the immi­gra­tion debates for anoth­er time when we are not in the mid­dle of a pan­dem­ic.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amend­ment.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (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: 6 nay votes

Key votes ahead

Con­gress will take up its third coro­n­avirus relief pack­age in the week of March 23rd, a mea­sure that could prompt­ly send at least $500 bil­lion in direct pay­ments to indi­vid­u­als and house­holds and pro­vide bailouts to numer­ous indus­tries.

Edi­tor’s Note: The infor­ma­tion in NPI’s week­ly How Cas­ca­di­a’s U.S. law­mak­ers vot­ed fea­ture is pro­vid­ed by Votera­ma in Con­gress, a ser­vice of Thomas Vot­ing Reports. 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!

© 2020 Thomas Vot­ing Reports.

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

COVID-19 fallout: Metro abandons August levy proposal; transit agencies reduce service

Man­ag­ing the rapid­ly wors­en­ing coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic is the most urgent pur­pose at present for all lev­els of gov­ern­ment every­where. The pan­dem­ic has had pro­found impacts on pub­lic ser­vices in the Pacif­ic North­west, includ­ing trans­porta­tion.

In the face of a rapid­ly-evolv­ing sit­u­a­tion, local tran­sit agen­cies are mod­i­fy­ing ser­vice and long-term plans to ensure the via­bil­i­ty of their oper­a­tions.

King Coun­ty Metro won’t sub­mit a request for fund­ing to vot­ers

With Seat­tle’s Trans­porta­tion Ben­e­fit Dis­trict expir­ing at the end of 2020, coun­ty offi­cials were hop­ing to ask coun­ty vot­ers in August to fund region­al mobil­i­ty improve­ments.

With the cur­rent pub­lic health emer­gency and antic­i­pat­ed neg­a­tive eco­nom­ic impacts, Met­ro­pol­i­tan King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci of Belle­vue announced that the coun­ty would no longer move for­ward with a levy pack­age.

Sched­uled to expire at the end of the year is a $60 car-tab fee and 0.1% sales tax levied in the City of Seat­tle. This has aug­ment­ed Metro’s exist­ing fund­ing to enable increased ser­vice fre­quen­cies, new pro­grams like Via to Tran­sit and Trail­head Direct, and ORCA oppor­tu­ni­ty pro­grams.

Coun­ty offi­cials were hop­ing to large­ly replace that fund­ing with a coun­ty­wide sales tax increase, but that is off the table.

Also includ­ed in the pro­pos­al were increased ser­vice hours to meet Metro’s sys­tem goals, sup­port for low-income pro­grams, and the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of bus bases.

Coun­cilmem­ber Bal­duc­ci’s state­ment also indi­cates a wish for the Leg­is­la­ture to open up new fund­ing path­ways for tran­sit local­ly, espe­cial­ly with the uncer­tain­ty sur­round­ing I‑976.

Seat­tle May­or Jen­ny Durkan intend­ed to main­tain the bus ser­vice improve­ments that her city has ben­e­fit­ed from since 2014, but it remains to be seen how that will be pur­sued in light of recent devel­op­ments. The City has until May 8th to send a mea­sure to the bal­lot.

In the long run, this is a speed bump for imple­men­ta­tion of Metro Con­nects, the 25-year plan approved by the coun­ty coun­cil in 2017. Fea­tures of this plan include increas­ing ser­vice hours from 3.5 mil­lion to 6 mil­lion annu­al­ly, upping the amount of RapidRide lines to 26, and sup­port­ing 73% of King Coun­ty res­i­dents with easy tran­sit access with­in walk­ing dis­tance.

Sched­uled route adjust­ments will con­tin­ue

King Coun­ty Metro has been plan­ning a large restruc­ture of bus ser­vice on the North East­side, to come into effect March 21st, 2020. These changes will go ahead — but be sub­ject to the same tem­po­rary ser­vice reduc­tions the entire agency is plan­ning in the face of our pub­lic health emer­gency.

In the past, bus­es in the Kirkland/Kenmore/Woodinville/Redmond areas were com­pli­cat­ed and not use­ful.

Put sim­ply, the old routes were not direct enough. They tried to serve too many loca­tions at once, which decreased the appeal of the bus for rid­ers look­ing to move quick­ly between major cen­ters.

A comparison of the old Rt 238 and new Rt 231, more streamlined bus service on the North Eastside. (Photos: King County Metro)

A com­par­i­son of the old Rt 238 and new Rt 231 from Kirk­land to Wood­inville, show­cas­ing more stream­lined bus ser­vice on the North East­side. (Pho­tos: King Coun­ty Metro)

The new restruc­ture aims to straight­en out bus­es across the North East­side, with more direct, city-to-city con­nec­tions being pre­ferred to cir­cuitous neigh­bor­hood-cen­tric routes. Totem Lake, Brick­yard, South Kirk­land, and UW Both­ell will all receive bet­ter con­nec­tions to major hubs.

A few major route changes to note: Route 255, the main con­nec­tion from Kirk­land to Seat­tle for com­muters, will also receive an over­haul.

Instead of fight­ing traf­fic into Down­town Seat­tle, the 255 will exit State Route 520 at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton and rid­ers will need to trans­fer to Link light rail.

Also com­ing into ser­vice is the new Sound Tran­sit Route 544, which will link the 520 cor­ri­dor direct­ly to South Lake Union for the first time. This will allow East­side com­muters head­ed to South Lake Union to bypass down­town.

Over at the Seat­tle Tran­sit Blog, you’ll find a detailed analy­sis of the route changes for North­east King Coun­ty. And King Coun­ty Metro has pro­vid­ed a handy map tool and infor­ma­tion­al page to keep rid­ers updat­ed.

Tem­po­rary ser­vice reduc­tions, elim­i­na­tion of fares wide­spread

If you are mak­ing an essen­tial trip via tran­sit, remem­ber to prac­tice phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing and main­tain per­son­al hygiene. Allo­cate extra time for your trip, as online trip plan­ners will not account for the ser­vice reduc­tions.

Local­ly, King Coun­ty Metro and Sound Tran­sit both announced across-the-board reduc­tions in ser­vice lev­els for the time being. Sound Tran­sit was report­ing a 69% drop in rid­er­ship at the begin­ning of last week. Ser­vice reduc­tions are tak­ing place across the board: Sounder and Express bus ser­vice are all affect­ed.

Link Light Rail’s Con­nect 2020 project has also been extend­ed, after the last round of safe­ty test­ing revealed elec­tri­cal issues that must be resolved. The Con­nect 2020-relat­ed ser­vice reduc­tions will con­tin­ue to remain in effect until fur­ther notice.

Fare enforce­ment has also been paused on Link. Down­town sta­tions will be closed again this week­end, and dur­ing this clo­sure only all Link rides will be free, sys­tem-wide.

Local agen­cies are hav­ing to bal­ance the con­tin­ued tran­sit needs for essen­tial pub­lic work­ers and com­mu­ni­ties with­out trans­porta­tion alter­na­tives, while absorb­ing the cuts to rev­enue result­ing from the elim­i­na­tion of fare box income and decreased sales tax rev­enue.

Metro will be reduc­ing the amount of trips on near­ly all bus routes. Ser­vice will be entire­ly cut on eleven Metro-oper­at­ed low-rid­er­ship routes.

Metro is also sus­pend­ing the Com­mu­ni­ty Ride pro­gram. While rid­er­ship is low and irreg­u­lar, these routes pro­vide crit­i­cal access to ser­vices for folks in Black Diamond/Enumclaw, Shoreline/Lake For­est Park, Nor­mandy Park, and Sam­mamish. The imple­men­ta­tion of the new Juani­ta and Bothell/Woodinville Com­mu­ni­ty Rides will be delayed. (The Des Moines Com­mu­ni­ty Shut­tle will run reduced ser­vice while the Mer­cer Island shut­tle is sus­pend­ed.)

Com­mu­ni­ty van shut­tle trips will con­tin­ue to oper­ate as long as there are vol­un­teer dri­vers. This seems to be Metro’s plan to con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing access for vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties. Areas served include Bothell/Woodinville, Duvall, Sam­mamish, Kenmore/Kirkland, Lake For­est Park/Shoreline, and Vashon.

The Via to Tran­sit pro­gram, which aimed to increase low-income Link rid­er­ship in South­east Seat­tle and Tuk­wila, will also not oper­ate.

Last­ly — and cru­cial­ly — King Coun­ty Metro will also be sus­pend­ing fares on para­tran­sit, water taxi, and Metro bus ser­vices. Rear-door board­ing will be required, with the front reserved for the dri­ver and cus­tomers who require the use of the board­ing ramp.

Across our region, sim­i­lar COVID-19-relat­ed mod­i­fi­ca­tions are tak­ing place.

Bus­es in Skag­it, What­com, and Jef­fer­son coun­ties have gone fare-free dur­ing the emer­gency to lim­it inter­per­son­al con­tact (Inter­ci­ty Tran­sit is already fare-free). TransLink, the oper­a­tor in the Van­cou­ver, BC area, has also gone fare-free on its bus­es.

Island Tran­sit is mod­i­fy­ing its Sat­ur­day sched­ule for week­day ser­vice. Com­mu­ni­ty Tran­sit is study­ing ser­vice reduc­tions but has not imple­ment­ed any­thing yet — though cer­tain peak-hour trips to King Coun­ty have been can­celled due to staff short­ages. Pierce Tran­sit is report­ing no mod­i­fi­ca­tions to ser­vice as of now.

Amtrak Cas­cades is sus­pend­ing all ser­vices between Seat­tle and Van­cou­ver, BC, run­ning replace­ment bus­es until Belling­ham. Ser­vice along the rest of the line from Seat­tle to Eugene has been reduced; see the Cas­cades web­site for details.

The King Coun­ty Water Taxi has delayed the roll-out of sum­mer ser­vice. Kit­sap Tran­sit water taxis are oper­at­ing with reduced capac­i­ty to main­tain dis­tanc­ing.

Last­ly, Wash­ing­ton State Fer­ries has sus­pend­ed all gal­ley ser­vices and sus­pend­ed no-show/­can­cel­la­tion fees, but has­n’t reduced sail­ings sys­tem-wide. The sea­son­al ser­vice from Ana­cortes and the San Juans to Van­cou­ver Island has, how­ev­er, had its launch delayed by a month. Its first sail­ing is ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled for April 26th.

Friday, March 20th, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Governor Jay Inslee holds off on “shelter in place” order… for now

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 through­out the coun­try are work­ing dili­gent­ly to mit­i­gate.

Unlike some of the non­sense that is unfor­tu­nate­ly cir­cu­lat­ing on social media, all the infor­ma­tion you’ll find here is accu­rate and based on sound sci­ence.

Governor Jay Inslee asks Washingtonians to stay home

Wash­ing­ton State’s chief exec­u­tive appealed to its sev­en plus mil­lion inhab­i­tants not to leave home unless absolute­ly nec­es­sary in a press con­fer­ence today, explain­ing that not enough peo­ple are doing a suf­fi­cient job of phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing.

“I’m ask­ing you, and you may say I am plead­ing with you, to stay home; stay home unless it is nec­es­sary that you go out,” Inslee said from his con­fer­ence room in the State Capi­tol, where a Cis­co WebEx sys­tem was set up and a pool cam­era rolling. “I am exer­cis­ing every ounce of the bul­ly pul­pit author­i­ty that I have.”

Gov­er­nors in sev­er­al oth­er states have now issued so-called “shel­ter in place” orders. Inslee has not, but he has closed schools and restau­rant din­ing rooms, and pro­hib­it­ed large gath­er­ings of peo­ple. Many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are anx­ious for him to go fur­ther, and Inslee hint­ed that he is prepar­ing to do so.

Work­ers in their six­ties and peo­ple with health con­di­tions that leave them par­tic­u­lar­ly vul­ner­a­ble to COVID-19 ought to be able to elect to stay home even if their employ­er wants them to come in, Inslee said. He explained that his staff are explor­ing whether he may issue an exec­u­tive order to that effect.

“If you are in one of these vul­ner­a­ble groups, I want to see to it you have the right to stay home … and I urge you to do so,” he said.

Watch Inslee’s press con­fer­ence.

Local authorities: Keep off playgrounds and sports courts

Mean­while, King Coun­ty and the City of Seat­tle announced that all play­grounds, basketball/racket courts and sports fields would be clos­ing.

“With schools closed and peo­ple adapt­ing to new work habits, our parks and open spaces can pro­vide an impor­tant break in these stress­ful times. It is clear, how­ev­er, that we must con­tin­ue to be vig­i­lant in these places as well, and make sure all our res­i­dents put into prac­tice Pub­lic Health direc­tives,” said King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine. “Go for a hike. Take the fam­i­ly for a stroll. Kick a soc­cer ball around with your kids. But use good sense and avoid gath­er­ings, team sports, pick-up games, and play­ground equip­ment.”

“Parks are beloved by all, but we must be smart about our behav­iors dur­ing this unprece­dent­ed pub­lic health emer­gency. We are in a new nor­mal. While indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies can bike, walk, or run, we can­not allow gath­er­ings at Seattle’s best loca­tions includ­ing Alki, Gold­en Gar­dens, Seward, Vol­un­teer Park or Mag­nu­son. Every sin­gle res­i­dent should take social dis­tanc­ing guide­lines to heart – it could save someone’s life,” said May­or Jen­ny Durkan.

Reporters from sev­er­al dif­fer­ent media out­lets have observed large crowds con­gre­gat­ing at Alki Beach, and the staff of The Seat­tle Times have observed peo­ple fail­ing to prac­tice phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing on bas­ket­ball courts.

More deaths, more cases in Washington State

The death toll from the nov­el coro­n­avirus con­tin­ues to increase in the Ever­green State, as does the num­ber of new­ly con­firmed cas­es. The Depart­ment of Health reports there are 1,524 con­firmed cas­es and eighty-three deaths. 21,719 indi­vid­u­als have test­ed neg­a­tive for COVID-19.

In King Coun­ty:

Pub­lic Health—Seattle & King Coun­ty is report­ing the fol­low­ing con­firmed cas­es and deaths due to COVID-19 through 11:59 PM on 3/19/20.

  • 793 con­firmed cas­es (up 100 from yes­ter­day)
  • 67 con­firmed deaths  (up 7 from yes­ter­day)

These addi­tion­al deaths include:

  • A man in his six­ties, who died on March 19th
  • A woman in her nineties, who died on March 17th
  • A man in his sev­en­ties, who died on March 18th
  • A woman in her eight­ies. who died on March 18th
  • A woman in her sev­en­ties, whose date of death has not been con­firmed
  • A man in his sev­en­ties, who died on March 19th at Val­ley Med­ical Cen­ter
  • A woman in her six­ties, who died on March 19th at Har­borview Med­ical Cen­ter

Of the 67 deaths report­ed, 35 are con­firmed to be asso­ci­at­ed with Life Care Cen­ter of Kirk­land.

More cases in Oregon

Ore­gon’s con­firmed cas­es now num­ber in the triple dig­its.

Ore­gon Health Author­i­ty report­ed 26 new cas­es of COVID-19, bring­ing the state total to 114, as of 8:30 AM today, March 20th. The COVID-19 cas­es report­ed today are in the fol­low­ing coun­ties: Clacka­mas (4), Deschutes (2), Grant (1), Linn (1), Mar­i­on (4), Mult­nom­ah (5), Union (1), Wash­ing­ton (6), Yamhill (2).

Ore­gon Gov­er­nor Kate Brown is com­ing under pres­sure to issue a “shel­ter in place” order, just like Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee is, the Willamette Week reports.

More cases in Idaho

The Gem State is now begin­ning to grap­ple with the pan­dem­ic just like its west­ern neigh­bors. The state now has thir­ty-one total con­firmed cas­es.

Pub­lic Health Dis­trictCoun­tyCas­esDeaths
Pan­han­dle Health Dis­trictKoote­nai30
South­west Dis­trict HealthCanyon10
Cen­tral Dis­trict HealthAda40
South Cen­tral Pub­lic Health Dis­trictBlaine190
Twin Falls10
East­ern Ida­ho Pub­lic HealthMadi­son10
Teton20
TOTAL310

Employ­ees of Boise State Uni­ver­si­ty, Micron Tech­nol­o­gy Inc. and the Boise VA Med­ical Cen­ter have all test­ed pos­i­tive for coro­n­avirus, the Ida­ho States­man reports.

Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle issued a state­ment fol­low­ing the dis­clo­sure of the new cas­es.

“My office and mem­bers of my Coro­n­avirus Work­ing Group are ful­ly engaged with the South Cen­tral Pub­lic Health Dis­trict, Blaine Coun­ty Com­mis­sion­ers, and may­ors in that area to ensure a strong response is in place. Our num­ber one pri­or­i­ty is to slow the spread of the virus in that com­mu­ni­ty and out­side of it. To ensure that hap­pens, the direc­tor of the Ida­ho Depart­ment of Health and Wel­fare will issue an iso­la­tion order for res­i­dents in the area. We are still work­ing on the details, and res­i­dents will still have essen­tial ser­vices avail­able to them, such as access to gro­cery stores and, of course, health­care.”

“I am firm in my com­mit­ment to mak­ing deci­sions in our coro­n­avirus plan­ning and response based on sci­ence, not fear. Every step of the way, we have made deci­sions based on the best infor­ma­tion and guid­ance from the Cen­ters For Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion and our nation’s lead­ers, and we will con­tin­ue to do so.”

“I urge every­one to be even more vig­i­lant of the pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures to slow the spread of coro­n­avirus. And most of all, I con­tin­ue to urge Ida­hoans to take care of each oth­er. Be mind­ful of our actions. Find some­one you can help. We will get through this togeth­er.”

More deaths, more cases in British Columbia

The news isn’t bet­ter north of the bor­der.

VANCOUVER — Adri­an Dix, Min­is­ter of Health, and Dr. Bon­nie Hen­ry, B.C.‘s provin­cial health offi­cer, have issued the fol­low­ing joint state­ment regard­ing updates on the nov­el coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) response in British Colum­bia:

“We are announc­ing 77 new cas­es of COVID-19, for a total of 348 cas­es in British Colum­bia.”

“Of the new cas­es, one patient is a health-care work­er at the Duf­ferin Care Cen­tre, a long-term care home in Coquit­lam. Fras­er Health author­i­ty pub­lic health and infec­tion con­trol teams are on site.”

“Every health region in British Colum­bia has patients with COVID-19: 200 are in the Van­cou­ver Coastal Health region, 95 are in the Fras­er Health region, 30 are in the Van­cou­ver Island Health region, 19 are in the Inte­ri­or Health region and four are in the North­ern Heath region.”

“Addi­tion­al­ly, of the total COVID-19 cas­es, six peo­ple have com­plete­ly recov­ered, 22 are receiv­ing acute care, 10 are in inten­sive care and the remain­ing patients are at home in iso­la­tion.”

“As the num­ber of cas­es increas­es and the pres­sure on our health-care sys­tem inten­si­fies, we would like to acknowl­edge and thank our health­care work­ers as they sup­port all those in B.C. who require test­ing and care for COVID-19.”

“In step with World Health Orga­ni­za­tion rec­om­men­da­tions, the Pub­lic Health Agency of Canada’s Nation­al Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee on Infec­tion Pre­ven­tion and Con­trol pro­vides clear guid­ance for all health-care work­ers to fol­low. They can be con­fi­dent that by fol­low­ing these guide­lines on appro­pri­ate use, we will have suf­fi­cient sup­ply of per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment.”

“We need every­body to be aware of the risk in every com­mu­ni­ty and every health region across B.C. And, equal­ly impor­tant, because of the incu­ba­tion peri­od and rapid trans­mis­sion, the self-iso­la­tion and [phys­i­cal] dis­tanc­ing that we do today will ben­e­fit all of us two weeks and two months from now.”

“Giv­en the chal­lenges social dis­tanc­ing presents for restau­rants, effec­tive imme­di­ate­ly, all dine-in food ser­vices are pro­hib­it­ed. Restau­rants must move to deliv­ery or take-out options only, or close.”

“We also want to be clear that while spend­ing time out­doors is impor­tant, peo­ple still need to stay away from groups in any envi­ron­ment — to pre­vent bring­ing the virus into their homes.”

“New resources are being made avail­able every day to sup­port every­one in our province as we con­tin­ue to work to stop the trans­mis­sion of COVID-19.”

Adjusting to life during a pandemic: Practical advice

This is unques­tion­ably a dif­fi­cult, stress­ful time. It’s hard for every­body. Here’s some prac­ti­cal advice for cop­ing with pan­dem­ic life.

Stay safe, keep your dis­tance, and be well.

Friday, March 20th, 2020

Kim Wyman wants to cancel the April special election; NPI’s Gael Tarleton says postpone it

Coun­ty elec­tions offi­cials in Wash­ing­ton are about to fin­ish tab­u­lat­ing bal­lots in the state’s ground­break­ing March 10th pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry, in which more than two mil­lion vot­ers par­tic­i­pat­ed. Once they do that, though, they’ll have to turn around and mail out bal­lots to those vot­ers in a juris­dic­tion with some­thing on the bal­lot dur­ing the April 2020 spe­cial elec­tion win­dow allowed by state law.

Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman, the state’s top elec­tions offi­cial, has con­clud­ed that it would be bet­ter if the April spe­cial elec­tion were not held due to the rapid­ly wors­en­ing coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. This week, she sent a let­ter to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee urg­ing him to can­cel the April spe­cial elec­tion.

Her let­ter was cosigned by most of the state’s coun­ty elec­tions offi­cials.

“While pub­lic con­tact in an elec­tion is great­ly reduced because Wash­ing­ton is a vote-by-mail state, the staffing require­ments to con­duct an elec­tion remain,” Wyman wrote. “The uncer­tain­ty of the impact of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic could dra­mat­i­cal­ly impair a coun­ty’s abil­i­ty to per­form its statu­to­ry duties in an elec­tion.”

Wyman’s chief con­cern is that a coun­ty elec­tions office might have to shut down if some­body tests pos­i­tive for the nov­el coro­n­avirus.

“[A] pos­i­tive COVID-19 diag­no­sis for an elec­tions staff per­son could result in elec­tion offices being shut down for clean­ing while the elec­tion is in progress and facil­i­ties are full of live bal­lots that require secu­ri­ty,” Wyman the­o­rized. “Addi­tion­al­ly, elec­tion offi­cials can­not safe­ly assist vot­ers in per­son while pro­tect­ing their staff by main­tain­ing social dis­tanc­ing required to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

That’s true, but can­cel­ing the April 28th spe­cial elec­tion would be prob­lem­at­ic because a num­ber of local gov­ern­ments have already used their statu­to­ry author­i­ty to sub­mit mea­sures to the vot­ers for their con­sid­er­a­tion.

If the elec­tion is nev­er held, what hap­pens to those mea­sures?

Wyman and elec­tions offi­cials argue that “these elec­tions [mean­ing, the levy and bond mea­sures that were sub­mit­ted] can be resched­uled by the boards of each juris­dic­tion for August 4th or Novem­ber 3rd, at their dis­cre­tion.”

Okay, but pre­sum­ably the boards of those juris­dic­tions sub­mit­ted mea­sures for the April 28th date because they did­n’t want them to appear on the August or Novem­ber bal­lots when oth­er mat­ters are being con­sid­ered. If those juris­dic­tions want­ed August or Novem­ber, they could have picked August or Novem­ber.

At NPI, we believe that the Feb­ru­ary and April spe­cial elec­tion win­dows should be per­ma­nent­ly elim­i­nat­ed and replaced with a sched­ule that pro­vides for elec­tions in May and Novem­ber (the August Top Two elec­tion would move to May).

Cur­rent­ly, how­ev­er, state law allows a local gov­ern­ment to sub­mit mea­sures to the bal­lot in Feb­ru­ary or April. Those are the rules. And until the rules are changed by the Leg­is­la­ture, elec­tions offi­cials should try to hon­or them.

Even in an emer­gency.

NPI’s Gael Tar­leton, who is chal­leng­ing Wyman for Sec­re­tary of State, argues that a bet­ter solu­tion would be to post­pone the April spe­cial elec­tion, not can­cel it.

“Dic­ta­tor­ships can­cel elec­tions. Democ­ra­cies don’t. Our vote-by-mail sys­tem should enable us to pro­tect both elec­tion work­ers and our democ­ra­cy,” Tar­leton said in a news release. “Peo­ple need to know that their voice still counts. Our Leg­is­la­ture must help fire dis­tricts, schools and util­i­ties get the fund­ing they need to keep our com­mu­ni­ties oper­a­tional and safe. It’s the job of a leader to ensure democ­ra­cy doesn’t die in a cri­sis and while we keep our work­ers safe.”

Per­haps what would make more sense is attempt­ing to resched­ule the April spe­cial elec­tion to June. That would give elec­tions offi­cials more time to pre­pare and devel­op plans to pro­tect elec­tion work­ers, and the elec­tion could still be held sep­a­rate­ly from the oth­er elec­tions sched­uled to be held lat­er this year.

School dis­tricts face unique bud­get­ing con­straints because the school year is dif­fer­ent from the cal­en­dar year. Because the Leg­is­la­ture still does­n’t pro­vide suf­fi­cient fund­ing to school dis­tricts, they remain depen­dent on vot­er approved levies and bond mea­sures to remain fis­cal­ly healthy. Any dis­trict that was count­ing on pas­sage of a levy mea­sure next month could be grave­ly harmed by Wyman’s pro­pos­al.

Speak­ing of elec­tion secu­ri­ty and good hygiene… let’s start work­ing now on plans for pro­cure­ment of bet­ter bal­lot return envelopes. Reforms are need­ed to improve the secu­ri­ty and safe­ty of our vote-at-home sys­tem. NPI advo­cates the fol­low­ing:

  • Return bal­lot envelopes should have self-adhe­sive seals so that vot­ers don’t have to lick or moist­en them. Self-seal­ing envelopes are com­mer­cial­ly avail­able. There are two main types: peel ‘n stick (exam­ple) and flip ‘n stick (exam­ple). They cost more, but the cost is well worth it.
  • The sig­na­ture line should be moved to the bal­lot secu­ri­ty enve­lope and the secu­ri­ty enve­lope made manda­to­ry. This way, peo­ple’s sig­na­tures, tele­phone num­bers, email address­es, and par­ty dec­la­ra­tions (in pres­i­den­tial pri­maries) do not appear on the out­side of the pack­et.

Gov­er­nor Inslee has just signed a bill to require that bal­lot return envelopes state the date of the elec­tion, which is some­thing else that was on our wish list. Thanks, Gov­er­nor Inslee! And thanks to the prime spon­sor, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Melanie Mor­gan, for bring­ing the bill. You can watch my tes­ti­mo­ny in sup­port from TVW.

If you would like to read Wyman’s let­ter in full, it’s below.

Let­ter request­ing can­cel­la­tion of April spe­cial elec­tion

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib to serve out term, leave politics, and join the Jesuits

Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Cyrus Habib announced today that he will be leav­ing pol­i­tics at the end of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cycle to join the Soci­ety of Jesus, bet­ter known to some as the Jesuits or the Jesuit Order. Habib revealed in a post pub­lished on Amer­i­ca (a promi­nent Jesuit pub­li­ca­tion) that he has cho­sen not to seek reelec­tion this year. Instead, he will serve out the remain­der of his cur­rent term as Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor and then depart pub­lic life for reli­gious life.

Said Habib:

“I have felt a call­ing to ded­i­cate my life in a more direct and per­son­al way to serv­ing the mar­gin­al­ized, empow­er­ing the vul­ner­a­ble, heal­ing those who suf­fer from spir­i­tu­al wounds and accom­pa­ny­ing those dis­cern­ing their own futures.”

“For me, this is root­ed in my faith in Christ’s Gospel. But my desire to encounter some­thing greater than myself by walk­ing with the poor and aban­doned of this world will be famil­iar to those of many dif­fer­ent spir­i­tu­al tra­di­tions. I have come to believe that the best way to deep­en my com­mit­ment to social jus­tice is to reduce the com­plex­i­ty in my own life and ded­i­cate it to serv­ing oth­ers.”

“I have also come to believe that, while we cer­tain­ly con­tin­ue to need peo­ple of good will to serve in elect­ed office, meet­ing the chal­lenges our coun­try faces will require more than just pol­i­cy-mak­ing,” Habib elab­o­rat­ed.

“Peo­ple are in dire need of spir­i­tu­al sup­port and com­pan­ion­ship. From our throw­away cul­ture that treats work­ers and our envi­ron­ment as dis­pos­able to a new gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple eager to change the world but strug­gling with unprece­dent­ed anx­i­ety, alien­ation and oth­er men­tal health chal­lenges to the fear and iso­la­tion we are all expe­ri­enc­ing as a result of the coron­avirus, this is a time when we need to ground our­selves in the wis­dom of those who came before and cul­ti­vate new forms of wis­dom forged in the fires of our present moment.”

In an inter­view with Amer­i­ca’s Zac Davis, Habib cit­ed Father Michael Ryan, the pas­tor of St. James Cathe­dral, as a role mod­el and key influ­ence, not­ing that Father Ryan gave him a copy of James Mar­t­in’s The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Every­thing when he was grap­pling with his father’s ill­ness and death four years ago.

Read­ing that pas­sage brought a smile to my face, because Father Ryan is one of the wis­est, kind­est men I know. He is an extra­or­di­nary priest who has com­fort­ed and coun­seled so many dur­ing his decades of ser­vice to Christ. His hom­i­lies pro­vide great intel­lec­tu­al nour­ish­ment. They’re men­tal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly ther­a­peu­tic.

As a Catholic myself and as fel­low wor­ship­per at St. James, I under­stand and respect Cyrus’ deci­sion, and I am very hap­py for him. It’s total­ly in keep­ing with the man that I know and admire. We do not often see peo­ple for­go their polit­i­cal ambi­tions in order to enter reli­gious life. But if the Roman Catholic Church is to sur­vive and thrive, then it needs lead­ers like Cyrus Habib.

I look for­ward to Cyrus’ ordi­na­tion. Jesuit faith for­ma­tion can take over a decade — seri­ous­ly, it’s a long process! — but I am con­fi­dent Cyrus will get there, and when he does, I’ll be hon­ored and delight­ed to cel­e­brate his accom­plish­ment with him.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee offered his best wish­es in a state­ment released this morn­ing.

“Cyrus’ life and career are an inspi­ra­tion to many,” the Gov­er­nor said.

“He has had a mete­oric career in elect­ed pub­lic ser­vice, so I was sur­prised when he called me this morn­ing to say he was­n’t run­ning again.”

“While the news was unex­pect­ed, any­one who knows Cyrus is not sur­prised by his com­mit­ment to faith. I have no doubt his future in the Jesuit priest­hood will bring much good to a world that needs it right now.

“Tru­di and I wish Cyrus all the best as his life of pub­lic ser­vice now turns to a new stage that will be impact­ful to many.”

I have faith that my path and Cyrus’ paths will cross again in the future because we share a faith tra­di­tion. So I will not say fare thee well to Cyrus when I see him. Instead, I will say Au revoir — because I know we will be meet­ing again.

Thank you, Cyrus, for every­thing, and best wish­es as you under­take this new jour­ney. The NPI team and I are pulling for you!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Elizabeth Warren proposes conditions for bailouts of big firms due to COVID-19 impacts

No more blank checks for you, Wall Street!

That’s the mes­sage Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren says that Con­gress must deliv­er to the nation’s “cap­tains of indus­try”, many of whom are now send­ing their lob­by­ists to Capi­tol Hill to plead for fis­cal aid. The avi­a­tion indus­try, the hos­pi­tal­i­ty indus­try, and oth­ers are all reel­ing from the effects of the rapid­ly wors­en­ing coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, and want tax­pay­er assis­tance to avert cat­a­stro­phe.

War­ren says it would be irre­spon­si­ble to offer fed­er­al aid with no con­di­tions, as Con­gress unwise­ly did twelve years ago. The bank bailout suc­ceed­ed in sta­bi­liz­ing the banks, and they repaid the Unit­ed States Trea­sury, but the oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­pel them to change their behav­ior was squan­dered. Today, the banks are even big­ger and they con­tin­ue to engage in preda­to­ry lend­ing prac­tices.

Les­son learned. Con­gress must insist upon con­di­tions for any bailout pack­age. And since the pres­i­den­cy and the Unit­ed States Sen­ate are cur­rent­ly con­trolled by Repub­li­cans friend­ly to Wall Street, it will assured­ly be up to Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi and her cau­cus to put togeth­er leg­is­la­tion that does­n’t write a blank check.

Here are War­ren’s pro­posed con­di­tions for a bailout pack­age:

We’re not writ­ing blank checks to giant cor­po­ra­tions. Any tax­pay­er dol­lars that go to help big busi­ness­es dur­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis should come with the fol­low­ing min­i­mum require­ments:

  1. Com­pa­nies must main­tain their pay­rolls and use funds to keep peo­ple work­ing or on pay­roll.
  2. Com­pa­nies must pro­vide a $15 min­i­mum wage with­in one year of the nation­al emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion end­ing.
  3. Com­pa­nies are per­ma­nent­ly pro­hib­it­ed from engag­ing in share repur­chas­es.
  4. Com­pa­nies are pro­hib­it­ed from pay­ing out div­i­dends or exec­u­tive bonus­es while they are receiv­ing any relief and for three years there­after.
  5. Com­pa­nies must set aside at least one seat – but poten­tial­ly two or more, as the amount of relief increas­es – on the board of direc­tors for rep­re­sen­ta­tives elect­ed by work­ers.
  6. Col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ments should remain in place and should not be reopened or rene­go­ti­at­ed pur­suant to this relief pro­gram.
  7. Cor­po­ra­tions must obtain share­hold­er and board approval for all polit­i­cal expen­di­tures.
  8. CEOs must be required to per­son­al­ly cer­ti­fy a com­pa­ny is in com­pli­ance and face crim­i­nal penal­ties for false cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.

Con­gress must set up an over­sight body, mod­eled on the Con­gres­sion­al Over­sight Pan­el and the SIGTARP pro­gram for the bank bailout, but with real fund­ing & sub­poe­na pow­er. We need real account­abil­i­ty to make sure these con­di­tions are met.

These are great ideas and we’re thrilled to see Sen­a­tor War­ren step­ping up to pro­vide bold pro­gres­sive lead­er­ship in a time of cri­sis.

In the 1930s, when Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt came into office, he did­n’t just work to sta­bi­lize Amer­i­ca’s soci­ety and and econ­o­my. He worked to imple­ment reforms to pro­tect the coun­try from a future depres­sion or reces­sion.

That’s how we end­ed up with Social Secu­ri­ty, with the Glass-Stea­gall Act, with fed­er­al deposit insur­ance through the FDIC, and with new infra­struc­ture built by the Works Progress Admin­is­tra­tion and the Civil­ian Con­ser­va­tion Corps.

A cri­sis like this is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to build a more inclu­sive, equi­table, and broad­ly pros­per­ous soci­ety, and it must not be squan­dered.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Progressive Marie Newman ousts right wing Democrat Dan Lipinski in IL-03 rematch

Bernie Sanders may be falling short in his quest for the 2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion, but pro­gres­sive activists in Illi­nois have suc­ceed­ed in oust­ing an entrenched incum­bent Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­ber of the U.S. House who oppos­es repro­duc­tive rights. Con­gress­man Dan Lip­in­s­ki, fifty-three, has failed to secure renom­i­na­tion in Illi­nois’ 3rd Dis­trict. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty will instead be rep­re­sent­ed this Novem­ber by pro­gres­sive chal­lenger Marie New­man:

New­man held more than 47% of the vote over Lipinski’s near­ly 45%, putting the LaGrange chal­lenger clos­er to top­pling a south sub­ur­ban polit­i­cal dynasty that dates back near­ly four decades. It was enough for New­man to declare vic­to­ry over the eight-term incum­bent.

“This cam­paign has always been about work­ers and work­ing peo­ple and advo­cat­ing for bet­ter health­care and an econ­o­my that works for every­body,” New­man said in a state­ment.

“I look for­ward to work­ing with this amaz­ing coali­tion over the next sev­en months to con­tin­ue spread­ing that mes­sage.”

But Lip­in­s­ki wasn’t ready to throw in the tow­el.

“As we close this evening, there are still votes to be count­ed in this race,” Lip­in­s­ki said in a state­ment.

“It is very close. We may have to wait overnight or into the morn­ing for the final vote count. I want to thank every­one for their sup­port. Please stay safe and take care of your­selves and your fam­i­lies.”

Two years ago, New­man lost to Lip­in­s­ki by the slimmest of mar­gins. This time around, it appears that she will pre­vail. There are votes still left to count, but not many, and Lip­in­s­ki would need a mir­a­cle to over­come his deficit.

Lip­in­ski’s father Bill rep­re­sent­ed the dis­trict from 1983 to 2005 and Dan has held it ever since. It is a solid­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic dis­trict. Now, for the first time in decades, it will not be rep­re­sent­ed by some­one from the Lip­in­s­ki fam­i­ly.

It is impor­tant to note that Lip­in­s­ki isn’t just opposed to wom­en’s repro­duc­tive rights. He calls him­self a Demo­c­rat, but he does not act or vote like one.

As Wikipedia notes:

He did not endorse Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma for reelec­tion in 2012, oppos­es legal­ized abor­tion and stem cell research, was the only House Demo­c­rat from Illi­nois to vote against the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act, sup­port­ed reau­tho­riz­ing the Patri­ot Act in 2006, and sup­port­ed the Defense of Mar­riage and First Amend­ment Defense Acts.

If Lip­in­s­ki rep­re­sent­ed a deep red dis­trict, his lack of sup­port for Demo­c­ra­t­ic and pro­gres­sive caus­es would not be so egre­gious. But he rep­re­sents a blue dis­trict and has no excuse for depriv­ing his con­stituents of pro­gres­sive rep­re­sen­ta­tion, orga­ni­za­tions like Indi­vis­i­ble and Democ­ra­cy For Amer­i­ca say.

“Con­grat­u­la­tions to Marie New­man! This is a big night for the pro­gres­sive move­ment, scor­ing a win in one of the most impor­tant pri­maries of 2020. This race has big impli­ca­tions for what it means to be a Demo­c­rat in the Trump era,” tweet­ed Indi­vis­i­ble’s nation­al account, adding her cam­paign hash­tag #NewDayinIL03.

“I am burst­ing with pride and grat­i­tude for the amaz­ing coali­tion that helped bring about much need­ed change in our dis­trict,” New­man tweet­ed after results became avail­able. “We are going to work togeth­er to low­er health care costs, to fight cli­mate change, and to build an econ­o­my that works for every­one.”