It's time: Fund our schools
It's time: Fund our schools! Scene at a Lake Washington Education Association rally at Kirkland's Marina Park (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

A con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment that would have changed the thresh­old for pas­sage of school bonds in Wash­ing­ton from three-fifths with a min­i­mum turnout of forty per­cent to a sim­ple major­i­ty has died on the floor of the State Sen­ate thanks to the oppo­si­tion of Mark Schoesler and his Repub­li­can caucus.

Sen­ate Joint Res­o­lu­tion 8201, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Lisa Well­man (D‑41st Dis­trict: Mer­cer Island, Belle­vue, New­cas­tle, Sam­mamish) received the sup­port of the entire Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus, which con­sists of twen­ty-eight members.

How­ev­er, lack­ing bipar­ti­san sup­port, it could not move forward.

That’s because, while the thresh­old for pas­sage of bills under Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 22 is twen­ty-five votes, the thresh­old for pas­sage of con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments under Arti­cle XXIII is thir­ty-three votes, or two-thirds of the Senate.

For SJR 8201 to have passed the Sen­ate, at least five Repub­li­cans would have had to vote aye. The amend­ment then would have need­ed to receive at least nine Repub­li­can votes in the House, plus the entire House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus in order to pass there and be sub­mit­ted for rat­i­fi­ca­tion at the next gen­er­al election.

The roll call, a par­ty-line vote, was as follows:

Roll Call
SJR 8201
School dis­trict bonds
3rd Read­ing & Final Passage

Yeas: 28; Nays: 21

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tors Bil­lig, Car­lyle, Cleve­land, Con­way, Darneille, Das, Dhin­gra, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Hunt, Keis­er, Kud­er­er, Liias, Lovelett, McCoy, Mul­let, Nguyen, Palum­bo, Ped­er­sen, Ran­dall, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Salomon, Takko, Van De Wege, Well­man, Wil­son (Claire)

Vot­ing Nay: Sen­a­tors Bai­ley, Beck­er, Braun, Brown, Erick­sen, For­tu­na­to, Hawkins, Holy, Hon­ey­ford, King, O‘Ban, Pad­den, Rivers, Schoesler, Shel­don, Short, Wag­oner, Walsh, War­nick, Wil­son (Lyn­da), Zeiger

“We’ve been hear­ing from schools for years, for decades, that we need to change the six­ty per­cent require­ment for school bond pas­sage,” Well­man said.

“Mean­while, stu­dent health and safe­ty is being put at risk as school dis­tricts are unable to raise the funds for nec­es­sary school improvements.

“We’ve heard sto­ries of black mold, of roofs cav­ing in, and still a minor­i­ty of this body is keep­ing us from mak­ing this mean­ing­ful change.”

“This [amend­ment] is real­ly about local con­trol,” she observed. “Often­times, a large major­i­ty of a com­mu­ni­ty sup­ports a bond — fifty-one, fifty-five or fifty-nine per­cent. And still, the bond fails and school dis­tricts don’t have the fund­ing to make improve­ments or build new schools. It’s dis­ap­point­ing that some sen­a­tors don’t trust their local com­mu­ni­ties enough to make this impor­tant change.”

We agree. It’s a real shame that no Repub­li­cans were will­ing to restore major­i­ty rule as the gov­ern­ing thresh­old for pas­sage of school bonds. It makes no sense that a sub­ma­jor­i­ty of the elec­torate in each school dis­trict should have con­trol of the out­come of a bond mea­sure. Major­i­ty votes are suf­fi­cient to elect leg­is­la­tors, pass ini­tia­tives, approve ref­er­en­da, and even rat­i­fy con­sti­tu­tion­al amendments.

A major­i­ty vote should be suf­fi­cient to pass a school bond, too.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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3 replies on “Senate Republicans kill effort to allow future school bonds to pass with a simple majority”

  1. That’s very sad, bet­ter schools mean high­er prop­er­ty val­ues, take that to your con­stituents. Bet­ter schools mean safer neigh­bor­hoods. I’m sure that poor­ly fund­ed schools have high drop out rates.

  2. This bill should have failed. Giv­ing a sim­ple major­i­ty to take on debt is a finan­cial dis­as­ter in the mak­ing. It is sim­ply too easy for politi­cians to spend oth­er peo­ples mon­ey and too easy to vote yes for schools. Schools have enough mon­ey now after McCleary and if one does not think so there is a spend­ing and demand prob­lem. Every cit­i­zen demand can­not be met. If a super major­i­ty of 60% can­not approve bor­row­ing mon­ey that it is a bad idea. Kudos to the Repub­li­cans and shame on Democ­rats for being greedy

    1. James, Sen­ate Joint Res­o­lu­tion 8201 is a pro­posed con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment, not a bill. 

      If it was a bill, then it would have passed the Sen­ate, because bills require only a major­i­ty vote to pass. (See Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 22 of the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion.) Changes to the state’s plan of gov­ern­ment require more than a major­i­ty vote; they require minor­i­ty con­sent as well. For every law­mak­er in oppo­si­tion to a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment, there must be two in favor of it, or it does­n’t go to the vot­ers. (See Arti­cle XXIII of the Wash­ing­ton State Constitution.)

      Most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans don’t agree with your ridicu­lous claim that “schools have enough mon­ey now after McCleary”. 61% of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans sur­veyed by NPI last May (after the McCleary case had been dis­missed) said they agreed with the state­ment that |“Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic schools are under­fund­ed and we need to raise rev­enue to ful­ly fund them”. 

      If greed upsets you, then you should sup­port chang­ing Wash­ing­ton’s inequitable tax code (which is eas­i­ly the most upside down in the coun­try), so we can raise rev­enue for schools more respon­si­bly. Our cur­rent tax code requires those with the least to pay the most, and lets those with the most pay the least. That’s total­ly backwards.

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