At BIAW's behest, Senate kills Homeowner's Bill of Rights; House scuttles retro reform
Despite having the support of Governor Gregoire, Senate Democratic leadership couldn't find the votes to get E2SHB 1393 out of the Senate.
That's because the Building Industry Association of Washington teamed up with Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, who offered a striking amendment that would have gutted the whole bill, and quietly recruited a number of previously supportive Democrats to back the striker (or poision pill).
(Haugen, readers may recall, has previously sponsored and embraced legislation to do away with Sound Transit. We're left wondering if maybe she should switch parties and become a Republican. She doesn't act like a Democrat).
Ultimately, Senate leadership ran out of time and bandwidth to round up the necessary twenty five votes to pass E2SHB 1393. So the Homeowner's Bill of Rights is dead. Again. This is the third year in a row this has happened, although it's the first time the House can say, "Not our fault!"
NPI and WashPIRG sent out a joint press release this afternoon in response to the bill's demise. Obviously, we're not pleased that the bill was blocked and then abandoned, but we're not giving up. We're going to hammer out an even better bill (think stronger, more comprehensive) and build public support for decisive action in the 2010 legislative session in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, over in the House, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6035 - which would have addressed abuse of the retrospective ratings system and reemphasized that the point of the program is to reward safety in the workplace - was left to die in the House Rules Committee.
(Funny, that's what happened to the Homeowner's Bill of Rights last year... it went into House Rules and never came out).
We're a little puzzled about the scuttling of SB 6035. If Speaker Frank Chopp didn't intend to move it to the floor, why was time and energy expended to move it through the committee process? Surely the Speaker could have found the votes to buck the BIAW if he had really wanted to; after all, he has an even bigger caucus than Senator Brown does (as a percentage of the chamber, of course - there are half as many senators in Washington State as there are representatives).
Or maybe he wanted to bring 6035 to the floor (BIAW did take out at least two of his members last autumn, and helped propel Republicans to capture open seats) but has been too preoccupied with the budget, which has dominated the session.
All we can do is speculate, because it's hard to know what really goes on behind closed doors on the Capitol Campus.
One thing we do know: the Building Industry Association of Washington has no trouble making friends with Democrats, who should be loathe to even speak to its lobbyists, let alone take its money. But there are Democrats who do both.
We recognize that there are principled progressives in the statehouse - and we're grateful for their service - but it seems like the rest of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses are for sale.
That's the only theory we can think of that explains why Democrats - despite having big majorities in Olympia - keep caving to the BIAW. We don't want to believe it, and we wish it weren't so. Yet it appears that that's the sad reality.