Yesterday morning, as some readers may have heard on Twitter, I made a special trip down to Olympia with the intention of testifying in favor of Senate Bill 5375, one of the Northwest Progressive Institute’s priority bills for this session.
I was hoping to be able to explain to the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee than SB 5375 is a thoughtfully-crafted bill modeled on successful legislation passed in Oregon that is designed to stand up to constitutional scrutiny.
But I never got the chance.
Republican Pam “Who Moved My Flowers!?” Roach refused to allow me and many others (including a representative from the Secretary of State’s office!) a chance to testify in favor of SB 5375, after seemingly losing interest in repeatedly attacking the bill with fellow Republican Don Benton and their mutual friend Tim Eyman.
Senate Bill 5375, prime sponsored by Democrat Marko Liias of the 21st Legislative District, would subject the signature gathering industry to badly needed oversight and accountability. As in Oregon, paid petitioners would be required to register with the Secretary of State’s office, but their personal contact information would be exempted from public disclosure, so as to protect their privacy.
Senate Bill 5375 was one of eight bills that was supposed to receive a public hearing yesterday. I say supposed to because Roach turned what was ostensibly a meeting of the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee into The Pam Roach Show. I have to say, I’ve been in politics for thirteen years now, and rarely have I seen a public hearing devolve into such a farce. Roach’s behavior was absolutely outrageous and unbecoming of an elected official.
I’ve seen Roach in action before, so I was expecting a lively and contentious hearing. But again, this turned out not to be a public hearing at all. It was The Pam Roach Show, starring the incredibly obnoxious Pam Roach.
It is no exaggeration to say that Roach dominated the proceedings. Instead of listening (which is the point of having a public hearing), she talked incessantly. She contradicted her colleagues after they asked questions and, from the beginning of the committee meeting until the end, editorialized in response to nearly everything said by everyone who spoke.
Perhaps most shamefully of all, Roach used her perch at the rostrum to gloat about her successful reelection campaign last autumn in front of a panel of four people from the Washington Food Industry Association and the Northwest Grocery Association, two of NPI’s coalition partners from the NO on I‑517 campaign.
For those unaware, most of Washington’s retailers backed another Republican, Cathy Dahlquist, for Roach’s seat last autumn in the 31st Legislative District… but as Roach tauntingly reminded the panel from the rostrum, “I won.”
(As an aside, I want to point out that NPI, unlike many other organizations active in Washington state politics, does not endorse candidates for office or participate in electioneering activities for or against any candidate. We do take positions on ballot measures and participate in ballot measure coalitions.)
I suspect the only reason she scheduled a hearing on this bill and invited WFIA and NWGA’s panel to step forward was so she could interrogate and belittle them.
To say that she was disrespectful would be a big understatement.
I mentioned earlier that the Secretary of State’s office, which supports SB 5375, was not allowed to testify. Ordinarily, when a representative from the executive branch is present, the chair asks that individual to speak right after the committee staff and prime sponsor do. That’s the usual protocol. It’s what the fair-minded Sam Hunt (Roach’s Democratic counterpart in the House) would have done.
But Roach had no interest in hearing from Kim Wyman’s staff.
Roach made sure the discussion kept veering off-topic, which is exactly the opposite of what a committee chair is supposed to do.
Roach suggested that WFIA and NWGA’s support of Dahlquist stemmed from her refusal to grant a hearing to a bill similar to SB 5375 last year. She argued that bill’s death in her committee wasn’t her fault because he hadn’t been asked to give it a hearing (which is untrue), but then admitted she didn’t like the bill.
And, as mentioned, when she got bored, she decided to simply move on and prevent anyone else (including me) from contributing their perspective.
Roach did read my name and NPI’s name off the sign-in sheet, so I’m guessing the committee staff report of the “hearing” will at least reflect that I was there.
Of course, as she read NPI’s name, Roach could not resist making a condescending remark: “Northwest Progressive Institute — don’t know what that is.”
(Roach had made a similar derogatory comment earlier, after one of four members of the WFIA/NWGA panel introduced himself, leading Marko Liias to interject apologetically and say he was familiar with the company and its stores.)
A total of eight bills were supposed to be heard yesterday, but the committee only got through four, because Roach decided to abruptly shut down the proceedings and walk out, leaving behind a packed room of stunned citizens and lobbyists.
TVW has the entire hearing archived on video, but of course, there’s a lot of context missing, because much of what you see is Pam Roach talking.
TVW’s footage runs an hour and thirty eight minutes and thirty five seconds (close to one hundred minutes). I decided it would be interesting to find out about how much of the time was taken up by Pam talking, so I watched the hearing all over again — with a digital stopwatch. I kept the stopwatch running as Pam spoke or engaged in crosstalk and paused it whenever she temporarily relinquished the floor.
According to the stopwatch, Pam Roach was speaking or engaged in crosstalk for close to thirty eight minutes of the one hour and thirty eight minutes of footage. In other words, she was talking for more than a third of the time.
Watch the footage on TVW, and you’ll see Pam interrupt people over and over again, either to disagree with them, or tell them to hurry up, or tell them she doesn’t understand what they’re talking about.
If Roach was really concerned about time management, as she claimed to be, she would treat everyone the same, and show restraint so as to allow people who had traveled to be there to share their perspective to participate.
But instead we saw how she has a massive double standard.
Roach told the League of Women Voters’ Kathy Sakahara, who spoke earlier on a different bill, to keep her remarks brief and concise and not repeat what the bill’s sponsor Andy Billig had said. NPI Advisory Council member Steve Zemke, who asked Roach to be allowed to speak for just a minute on that same bill after not being able to add his name to the sign-in sheet, was denied the opportunity, with Roach dismissively declaring, “We’re moving on.”
Yet Roach gave Tim Eyman as much time as he wanted to denounce SB 5375, and even when Eyman was repetitive, she didn’t cut him off. In fact, she asked him at least twice whether he had anything more to say.
And of course, Eyman being Eyman, he gladly went on reciting his talking points, many of which he created years ago to oppose initiative reform bills that contained flaws SB 5375 doesn’t have.
Marko Liias tried to get Roach to bring up the Secretary of State’s representative, but as the footage shows, she refused, leading Liias to lament that the committee wasn’t going to get the opportunity to ask the Secretary of State about signature fraud, the cases the Secretary of State has referred to the State Patrol, and the State Patrol’s difficulty investigating those cases.
When Senator Liias further stated that he resented not being able to address comments Don Benton had made earlier against the bill, which he felt were tantamount to Benton calling him a liar, Roach slammed the gavel, stood up to put on her coat, and walked out, leaving half of the bills on the agenda hanging.
Again, as I said earlier, this was easily one of the most poorly and unfairly run meetings of a legislative committee I have ever witnessed. It was a joke.
It is very ironic that Pam Roach and Tim Eyman spent so much time glorifying the First Amendment, considering that many people who had come to speak were not allowed to say anything at all. That includes Toni from the Secretary of State’s office, Steve Zemke, myself, and people who had come to speak on the four bills Roach didn’t get to at all thanks to her terrible time management and short fuse.
Pam Roach never should have been entrusted with jurisdiction over a committee begin with, but Republicans were desperate for power at the end of 2012, and they needed her vote to engineer the coup with Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon.
Republicans have a two-vote majority now, but where Roach goes, Don Benton follows (and vice versa, as we saw on the first day of session) so Republicans have left her in charge of the Government Operations and Security Committee.
What we saw yesterday is a disturbing example of how Republicans govern. We can expect more of this if Republicans win control of the state House in 2016 and retain control of the state Senate, as they are attempting to do.
We at NPI have always believed in standing up to bullies like Pam Roach, so we will be asking the Senate to investigate what happened yesterday.
And later today, in a follow-up post, I’ll be critiquing and responding to some of the more egregious comments made by Roach, Benton, and Eyman. I wasn’t permitted to address the committee yesterday, even though I was prepared to be respectful of others’ time, so I’ll be doing my best to correct the record from here.
Fortunately, neither I nor anyone else at NPI needs to go through Pam Roach when we want to publish something to the Cascadia Advocate, or to Permanent Defense. These are our projects and publications, through which we exercise our First Amendment rights, and we’ll continue to use them to educate the public, reframe the debate, confront intolerance, and fight injustice.