With the “aye” votes of four Democratic senators, the Washington State Senate this morning passed a bill originally sponsored by Republican Steve O’Ban that would wipe out Sound Transit’s federated board and replace it with a panel of transportation czars hailing from eleven specially-drawn districts.
3rd Reading & Final Passage
Yeas: 29 Nays: 20
Voting Yea: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Braun, Brown, Conway, Darneille, Ericksen, Fain, Fortunato, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Honeyford, King, Miloscia, O‘Ban, Padden, Palumbo, Pearson, Rivers, Rossi, Schoesler, Sheldon, Short, Walsh, Warnick, Wilson, Zeiger
Voting Nay: Senators Billig, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Frockt, Hobbs, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Mullet, Nelson, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Saldaña, Takko, Van De Wege, Wellman
Senate Republicans had signaled recently that they were going to make SSB 5001 a priority bill, so today’s floor action was not unexpected. The bill passed out of committee several days ago with the help of Steve Hobbs and Kevin Van De Wege. Both of them voted against the bill on final passage.
What was incredibly disappointing was that four Democratic senators who should have known better — Bob Hasegawa, Guy Palumbo, Steve Conway, and Jeannie Darneille — voted for SSB 5001.
In doing so, they betrayed Sound Transit and the progressive movement.
It is vital to understand that the purpose of this legislation is to give the right wing an opportunity to gain control over Sound Transit, its projects, and its revenue streams starting in 2018. The bill kills off the current Sound Transit Board starting next year and requires that a set of eleven new districts no one will be able to keep track of be drawn for the purposes of electing a panel of transportation czars.
These czars would then assume control over Sound Transit.
As structured now, the Sound Transit Board is invulnerable to a Kemper Freeman Jr.-funded hostile takeover. It has eighteen members, seventeen of whom are local elected officials. These include the King, Pierce, and Snohomish county executives, and fourteen city/county councilmembers or mayors appointed by the executives. The eighteenth member is the Secretary of WSDOT.
This federated board model was actually created by the Legislature back in the 1990s, and it’s working just fine. There’s no reason to do away with it. Unless, of course, you’re an anti-rail Republican who wants to mount a hostile takeover of Sound Transit with the aim of thwarting Link light rail from expanding.
We have defeated bills like SSB 5001 before and we can do so again. But this is an all hands on deck situation. Every activist and every organization who was involved in helping to pass Sound Transit 3 last year needs to pitch in to ensure that this bill gets a burial in the House of Representatives.