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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.

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Senate Republicans kill effort to allow future school bonds to pass with a simple majority

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.

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  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.

    # by Mike Barer :: March 12th, 2019 at 10:57 PM
  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

    # by James Dunlap :: March 16th, 2019 at 8:36 AM
    • 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.

      # by Andrew :: March 19th, 2019 at 6:07 PM