Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, April 17, 2009

At BIAW's behest, Senate kills Homeowner's Bill of Rights; House scuttles retro reform

Earlier today, two important Northwest Progressive Institute legislative priorities fell victim to today's legislative cutoff: E2SHB 1393 (the Homeowner's Bill of Rights) and ESSB 6035 (retro reform). The Building Industry Association of Washington lobbied hard to kill both bills, and they have proved once again that their influence in Olympia is unparalleled, even among Democrats.

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.


Blogger R.Austin Sr. said...

Issues abound and it would be easy to write a 10,000 word tome about how Main Street Americas are being sold down the river. In truth, ten thousand word digests are too long. Most readers are willing to read a few hundred words, but lengthy renderings are often set aside to be read “when there is time”. Alas, it seems that there is never enough time. Long, drawn-out documents get reshuffled to the bottom of the pile, with the good intention of being read “when there is time”. That’s understandable. People have lives, obligations, jobs, and other challenges. Then too, 10,000 words would be just the tip of the diabolical iceberg.

In just a few hundred words I’ll attempt to offer an opinion that [hopefully] will be read and considered.

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought -- that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc -- should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.” (Excerpt from “The Principles of Newspeak” in the appendix to George Orwell’s novel. “1984”).

Today, words describing practices that a couple of decades ago were considered disreputable, are now part of our everyday lexicon.

“Medical loss ratio” is a phrase that was once outside ethical consideration for companies selling health insurance. Today it is a practice. Simply put, it means any percentage of a premium dollar that is used to pay benefits is considered a “loss”. Most insurers shoot for no less than an 80 – 20 ratio, meaning that for very dollar received in premiums, no more than eighty cents goes to pay benefits. (Some insurers enjoy 55 – 45 ratios!)

“Predatory lending practices” is an outgrowth of unfettered greed. But ask yourself this question: Why would a civil, moral society even allow such practices to exist? In truth they are nothing more than sanctioned loan-sharking.

“Let the buyer beware” is an all-encompassing and convenient alibi for excusing unscrupulous business practices.

Each of the preceding phrases ultimately seek to demonize victims.

If you didn’t get sick, 100% of your premiums would be remain corporate profits. How dare you get sick! You are responsible for our loss! No wonder health care is so costly!

You are wrong for accepting our mortgage loan, even though we approved it! We knew it would likely bring economic hardship to you and your family, but hey, we just wanted to turn a fast buck!

It is unreasonable to expect businesses and sales representative to conduct themselves honestly. Your whining is hurting our business. Dummy up and finish paying for the junk we sold you

At 68 years of age I am old enough to remember when a handshake was as solid as a written warranty. Workers stood behind their labor. So did businesses. That was before the neoconservative movement began its ascent. Today, many workers labor for monolithic profit takers. In fact that is the sole reason why most corporations exist, to make profits. They exist to make as much money for their foreign and domestic shareholder s possible, while eschewing any social responsibilities.

Is there any wonder why Sen. Haugen and friends bowed down to the BIAW? Neither ethical nor moral considerations were part of the debate. Those are passé. The sweet sound of corporate cash registers that dole out political stipends is what moves legislation locally, at the state level, and nationally.

Welcome to the jungle. Welcome to IngSoc.

"For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realise that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance. ... Ignorance is Strength" . (From “1984”).

It won’t change unless we act to change it. We’ll have to lay down our tools and march in the streets.

Lacking that, get ready to be completely IngSocamized.

Rich Austin

April 21, 2009 5:53 PM  

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