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.

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Badly-behaved Senate Republicans are an embarrassment to the State of Washington

It’s only been ten days since the six­ty-fifth Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture con­vened for its long ses­sion, but already, the bad behav­ior of Sen­ate Repub­li­cans sug­gests it’s going to be very dif­fi­cult for the state’s law­mak­ing branch to get much of any­thing done before the ses­sion is sched­uled to end on April 23rd.

Wash­ing­to­ni­ans have a rea­son­able expec­ta­tion that their rep­re­sen­ta­tives will work togeth­er to gov­ern despite their dif­fer­ences, and while Repub­li­cans (who have a ten­u­ous grip on the Sen­ate) occa­sion­al­ly pay lip ser­vice to this idea, it is evi­dent from their actions that they rel­ish cre­at­ing grid­lock and resent not hav­ing total con­trol over state gov­ern­ment like their fed­er­al coun­ter­parts do.

The Leg­is­la­ture has seri­ous, press­ing issues to attend to. Rec­og­niz­ing this, Gov­er­nor Inslee, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son and House Democ­rats have been endeav­or­ing to put wor­thy ideas on the table to address neglect­ed pub­lic ser­vices like our schools and men­tal health sys­tem while propos­ing reforms that would make state gov­ern­ment more account­able and our crim­i­nal jus­tice codes more humane.

Sen­ate Repub­li­cans, how­ev­er, have been busy embar­rass­ing our state with their self-serv­ing polit­i­cal pos­tur­ing and pet­ty antics. Here are a slew of exam­ples.

Exhib­it A… Mark Schoesler’s rude­ness to the press corps:

It’s only the sec­ond week of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion and state Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mark Schoesler already is bit­ing the heads off jour­nal­ists who asked him when the Repub­li­can plan for fix­ing the way the state pays for edu­ca­tion will be ready.

“That’s none of your busi­ness,” Schoesler snapped at a Tues­day news con­fer­ence.

Actu­al­ly, Sen­a­tor Schoesler, it’s every­one’s busi­ness. Where is your plan?

Exhib­it B… Dino Rossi’s refusal to accom­mo­date mem­bers of the Lake Wash­ing­ton Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion who had trav­eled to Olympia on their day off to meet with him fol­low­ing Mon­day’s Ral­ly for Stu­dent Civ­il Rights & Amply Fund­ed Schools.

Sen­a­tor Rossi just blew off an entire del­e­ga­tion of edu­ca­tion advo­cates from Lake Wash­ing­ton here to talk to him about the need to ful­ly fund pub­lic edu­ca­tion and uphold all of our stu­dents’ civ­il rights!

He looked at all of us and accused us of being fif­teen min­utes late and left to go to lunch. You want to talk about being late, Sen­a­tor Rossi, you and the leg­is­la­ture you have been a part of repeat­ed­ly are more than 40 years late! Hope your lunch was impor­tant, obvi­ous­ly you don’t have the best inter­est of your con­stituents and the chil­dren of Lake Wash­ing­ton in mind.

Dur­ing a pri­or meet­ing orga­nized by the PTA that did take place as sched­uled, Rossi report­ed­ly took up most of the time — Pam Roach styleby talk­ing instead of lis­ten­ing, accord­ing to an activist who was in the room.

Exhib­it C… Michael Baum­gart­ner’s dis­re­spect for our Con­sti­tu­tion:

In a fair­ly bla­tant attempt to get some atten­tion for him­self and steer pub­lic dis­course away from ful­ly fund­ing our pub­lic schools, extrem­ist right wing Sen­a­tor Michael Baum­gart­ner of Spokane has pre­filed a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment that would repeal the mem­o­rable open­ing words of Arti­cle IX of the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion (“It is the para­mount duty of the state to make ample pro­vi­sion for the edu­ca­tion of all chil­dren resid­ing with­in its bor­ders, with­out dis­tinc­tion or pref­er­ence on account of race, col­or, caste, or sex.“).

Arti­cle IX has been with us since state­hood and its pre­am­ble is one of the most beau­ti­ful pas­sages in our entire Con­sti­tu­tion. But Michael Baum­gart­ner wants to scrap it because he does­n’t believe in amply fund­ed schools for all chil­dren.

Appalling.

Exhib­it D… Doug Erick­sen’s mean-spir­it­ed scheme to crim­i­nal­ize civ­il dis­obe­di­ence:

A pro­pos­al by state Sen. Doug Erick­sen to increase penal­ties for pro­test­ers is a bad idea com­ing at a ter­ri­ble time.

The Fer­n­dale Repub­li­can should aban­don his pro­pos­al to “crim­i­nal­ize” protests that cause eco­nom­ic harm and “cre­ate a new crime of eco­nom­ic ter­ror­ism.

Now is the time for elect­ed lead­ers to help peo­ple move past the pres­i­den­tial campaign’s divi­sive rhetoric and get back to work­ing on real prob­lems fac­ing the state and coun­try.

Brand­ing pro­test­ers as ter­ror­ists is not leg­is­lat­ing to help the peo­ple and busi­ness­es of Wash­ing­ton. It is chum­ming the pool of hyper­par­ti­sans by gen­er­at­ing inflam­ma­to­ry head­lines with a pro­pos­al unlike­ly ever to become law.

It must be under­stood that Doug Erick­sen is a tool of big oil com­pa­nies, which have facil­i­ties in his dis­trict. He seems will­ing to do absolute­ly any­thing for the fos­sil fuels indus­try, and he ridicu­lous­ly inter­prets crit­i­cism of the likes of BP as though it were some kind of per­son­al attack on him­self. (I’ve sparred with him a League of Women Vot­ers forum in Belling­ham, so this obser­va­tion is based on my own expe­ri­ence.)

Exhib­it E… Mike Pad­den’s unwill­ing­ness to com­mit to hold­ing a much-need­ed hear­ing on agency request leg­is­la­tion to abol­ish exe­cu­tions:

Last year, Sen. Mike Pad­den, the Spokane Repub­li­can who chairs the Judi­cia­ry com­mit­tee, did not allow a hear­ing on a bill to repeal the death penal­ty, effec­tive­ly shut­ting down the leg­isla­tive con­ver­sa­tion.

On Wednes­day, Pad­den said he would “con­sid­er hold­ing a hear­ing on the death penal­ty bill if and when the House,” which is con­trolled by Democ­rats, pass­es the bill first.

The death penal­ty is too impor­tant for leg­isla­tive lead­ers like Pad­den to play par­ti­san games.

Indeed. Bob Fer­gu­son’s leg­is­la­tion to abol­ish the death penal­ty — which has the back­ing of Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Mark Milos­cia and Mau­reen Walsh — could pass the Sen­ate if it were brought to the floor and giv­en a vote, pro­po­nents say. Even sup­port­ers of state spon­sored-killing, like Steve O’Ban, say the leg­is­la­tion deserves a hear­ing. But there’s Mike Pad­den say­ing he won’t even give the leg­is­la­tion a hear­ing unless the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives pass­es the com­pan­ion bill!

Mike Pad­den’s behav­ior has been, and con­tin­ues to be, inde­fen­si­ble.

Exhib­it F… Joe Fain’s bizarre argu­ment against free­ing school dis­tricts from hav­ing to wor­ry about the “levy cliff” man­u­fac­tured by the Leg­is­la­ture years ago:

A pro­pos­al to keep the levy lid at its cur­rent lev­el through Jan­u­ary 2019 — delay­ing the reduc­tion in tax col­lec­tions by one year — passed out of the House Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee on Thurs­day, but with sup­port only from Democ­rats.

Last year, a pro­pos­al to con­tin­ue the levy lid lift for one extra year cleared the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-con­trolled House with broad bipar­ti­san sup­port, but stalled in the state Sen­ate, which is led by Repub­li­cans.

Sen. Joe Fain, the Sen­ate major­i­ty floor leader, said he shares House Repub­li­cans’ con­cerns about the polit­i­cal con­se­quences of post­pon­ing the levy cliff. “If we were going to solve this cri­sis, as I believe we will, we have to keep the pres­sure on,” said Fain, R‑Auburn.

Keep the pres­sure on? When has that ever worked in the past?

Wash­ing­ton’s school fund­ing cri­sis could have been solved years ago, but Repub­li­cans weren’t will­ing to make the invest­ments nec­es­sary to amply fund our schools and they remain unwill­ing to make those invest­ments now.

The least Repub­li­cans can do is join Democ­rats in remov­ing this imped­i­ment to school dis­tricts’ bud­get­ing and plan­ning, since the Leg­is­la­ture has failed to com­ply with the Supreme Court’s orders to get our schools fund­ed for four straight years (and failed to uphold its own past promis­es for far longer than that).

Final­ly, to build on that point about Repub­li­cans being unwill­ing to make the nec­es­sary invest­ments in our schools, we have Exhib­it H:

Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ vote to require a two-thirds vote for pas­sage of tax increas­es gave us pause last week as the Wash­ing­ton Leg­is­la­ture opened its new ses­sion.

The fore­most chal­lenge in the 105-day ses­sion is to ful­ly fund K‑12 pub­lic schools, which could end the uncon­sti­tu­tion­al prac­tice of using local vot­er-approved levies to sub­si­dize teacher pay and ben­e­fits.

There is a marked lack of una­nim­i­ty about how much is need­ed, let alone how to pay for it. By putting the two-thirds-vote road­block in place, the 25 mem­bers of the Sen­ate Major­i­ty Coali­tion Cau­cus could well gum up leg­isla­tive action and thwart the majority’s will lat­er in the year — that is, if their action on the two-thirds rule is even legal.

(It’s not).

This is hard­ly the first ses­sion in which Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have shown a lack of respect for the Con­sti­tu­tion, or their Demo­c­ra­t­ic peers, or the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton in gen­er­al. There were hopes expressed in advance of this year’s ses­sion in many quar­ters that 2017 might be dif­fer­ent — that Sen­ate Repub­li­cans might be more mind­ful of their oblig­a­tions as elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and more hum­ble fol­low­ing Steve Lit­zow’s loss last Novem­ber to Lisa Well­man in the 41st Dis­trict.

Sad­ly, it’s appar­ent Sen­ate Repub­li­cans still pre­fer polit­i­cal the­ater, games­man­ship, and obstruc­tion to gov­ern­ing. Their major­i­ty is now just as frag­ile as that of the House Democ­rats, yet they seem as arro­gant as ever.

Since Repub­li­cans won’t stop behav­ing bad­ly, it looks like it’ll be up to vot­ers of the East­side to rem­e­dy the sit­u­a­tion for 2018 by tak­ing away their major­i­ty.

Vot­ers in my leg­isla­tive dis­trict, the 45th, will have the chance to sin­gle­hand­ed­ly fire the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans lat­er this year if they select a Demo­c­rat to take the place of appoint­ed Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Dino Rossi. The 45th is among four dis­tricts that must, by law, hold spe­cial state Sen­ate elec­tions this year due to vacan­cies.

The oth­er three dis­tricts (48th, 37th, 31st) are like­ly to remain in the hands of the same par­ty, so the bal­ance of pow­er in the Sen­ate would most like­ly be unaf­fect­ed.

But the 45th hap­pens to be an increas­ing­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic dis­trict that is over­due for a change in rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Last year, vot­ers in the 45th enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly backed Democ­rats up and down the bal­lot. In leg­isla­tive races, the Repub­li­cans could­n’t find any­one will­ing to take on Lar­ry Springer, while their oppo­nent for Roger Good­man — Sam­m­mish City Coun­cilmem­ber Ramiro Valder­ra­ma — could­n’t crack 40% of the vote.

If Democ­rats do suc­ceed in tak­ing the 45th, they will become the major­i­ty par­ty in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate as of the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of this year’s local elec­tion around this year’s Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day — and the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans, who count Tim Shel­don as one of their own, will become the minor­i­ty par­ty.

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