Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Washington State Legislature adjourns Sine Die, again (for real this time!)

Having reached agreement on the specifics of an operating budget, transportation package, and plan for delaying implementation of last year’s initiative to lower class size, the Washington State Legislature today adjourned its third special session sine die, with exhausted lawmakers and legislative staff breathing a sigh of relief.

The Legislature began its 2015 session a few weeks after the winter solstice, in early January. It is wrapping up for the year – theoretically, anyway – a few weeks after the summer solstice, with July a third of the way over.

It took a whole extra season just for the Legislature to do what it usually does… traverse the lowest road towards a budget that balances on paper.

Governor Jay Inslee released a statement expressing satisfaction with lawmakers’ work, but lamenting that it took so long to reach a deal.

“This is a darn good budget for Washington that is sustainable, responsible and fair,” Inslee said in a statement sent to NPI. “Our economy is rebounding and so is our ability to invest in the people and programs that have made Washington the most innovative, forward-looking state in the nation.”

We have to ask: If Washington is so innovative and forward-looking, why are we still clinging to the most regressive tax system in the nation?

For as long as NPI has existed, this has been a bear of a problem, and the Legislature has done next to nothing about it. Another long (no, make that super-long) session has come and gone, and we’re still without any comprehensive, meaningful tax reform. When is this going to be a priority?

Divided government makes getting things done harder, no doubt, but Democrats had supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature a few years ago and didn’t get it done then. In fact, they had an excellent opportunity to pursue tax reform when the Supreme Court struck down Tim Eyman’s I-747.

But, at the behest of Chris Gregoire, they inexcusably chose to simply reinstate I-747 instead of replacing it with real progressive tax reform. As a result, I-747 continues to slowly choke the life out of our counties and cities.

And there’s no relief in sight.

Meanwhile, we have a state budget that books a lot of revenue from taxes on marijuana that aren’t likely to materialize, and the threat of Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366 on the ballot later this year.

Governor Inslee and House Democrats deserve credit for proposing a capital gains tax this session. But they took that proposal off the table too early in the final round negotiations with Senate Republicans. Even the notoriously anti-tax Seattle Times editorial board showed its Jekyll personality for a change and embraced the idea. Still, it wasn’t part of the deal struck over the operating budget. And it should have been. At least then, the Legislature would have demonstrated it is capable of taking a step towards making our tax system more progressive.

Inslee acknowledged the Legislature didn’t get as much done as it should have.

“There are many issues that legislators still need to tackle, and over the coming months, there will be many conversations about our next steps,” he said. “Issues such as minimum wage and climate change are heavy lifts for a divided legislature, yet they are vital to ensuring our long-term economic health and quality of life. We came close on several of these, and I want to see us finish the job.”

Next year’s regular session will be of the shorter, sixty-day variety, and will take place in a presidential election year. We will be encouraging the progressive community to start making preparations to put its priorities – an increase in the minimum wage, a plan to put a price on pollution, and creation of a capital gains tax – on the ballot. We should do this to put pressure on Senate Republicans to fold, and to ensure that voters have the opportunity to move Washington forward in 2016 if they don’t.

Have your say; help shape Sound Transit 3!

Readers, Sound Transit would like us to remind you that this Wednesday is the last day to weigh in on the next phase of Sound Transit 3 planning. Our regional transit authority wants to know what you think should be part of next year’s likely vote to bring light rail and improved bus service into more neighborhoods.

There are several ways you can make your voice heard:

  1. Take the online survey
  2. View the new ST3 website with the draft priority list and map
  3. Email the agency at soundtransit3@soundtransit.org
  4. Mail comments to: Sound Transit | 401 S Jackson St | Seattle, WA 98104
  5. Tweet to @SoundTransit

Your input will help Sound Transit staff and boardmembers decide what projects are worthy of further study for inclusion in an ST3 proposal.

Sound Transit’s jurisdiction includes urban King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties, encompassing the cities of Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, and Bellevue. Suburbs of those cities, like NPI’s hometown of Redmond, are also in ST’s service area.

ST3 is so named because it will be the third phase of Sound Transit’s system build-out. The first phase was approved in November 1996; most of what was proposed then has since been constructed, though the planned light rail line running through Seattle had to be scaled back until more funding could be secured.

Sound Transit 2 was approved in November 2008; that set of projects is either in the construction phase already, or nearing groundbreaking. Passage of Sound Transit 2 provided funding to bring Link to Northgate (as had been promised in 1996 with ST1) and beyond to Lynnwood, as well as east to Redmond and south towards Federal Way. If voters approve ST3 next year, it will authorize ST to bring better transit service into even more neighborhoods.

Before ST3 goes to the ballot, though, the Sound Transit board needs to figure out what the best mix of projects is. Ridership, accessibility, and transit-oriented development potential will factor into the board’s decisions. But so will your input! So if you want your voice to be heard… take the survey today and have your say.

The Declaration of Independence, two hundred and thirty-nine years later

In accordance with tradition, we are posting the text of the Declaration of Independence here on The Cascadia Advocate for your enjoyment. The Declaration was primarily authored by our third president, Thomas Jefferson, who drew heavily on the thinking of Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke to persuasively lay out the case for the independence of the United States.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

The Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull

The famous painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee presenting their work to Congress (John Trumbull/U.S. Congress)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

  • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
  • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
  • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren.

We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.

We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare…

… That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

This Independence Day, don’t get burned: Let the professionals set off the fireworks

Independence Day is almost here, and as the celebration of America’s founding has inched closer, federal, state and local officials have become increasingly vocal about the dangers posed by setting off fireworks, particularly with conditions so dry this year. Authorities are emphatically urging people to go see a community sponsored, professionally run fireworks show instead of setting off Roman candles, sparklers, and spinners in a backyard, parking lot, or neighborhood ballfield.

This is excellent advice that everyone should follow. Every year, lives are lost, severe injuries sustained, fires started and property destroyed as a consequence of people fooling around with fireworks during the Fourth of July. Take this statement to heart: The cheap thrills simply aren’t worth the risks.

Here are four reasons why you should get your fireworks fix at a celebration like the Seafair Family Fourth instead of in the backyard or in a vacant lot somewhere.

Fireworks cause fires

Let’s start with the obvious.

Setting off fireworks can cause fires that can get out of hand very quickly, particularly when conditions are dry and hot, as they are this year. Out of control fires can result in the rapid destruction of property, as we have seen recently in Wenatchee with the Sleepy Hollow fire. That particular fire wasn’t ignited by fireworks, but fireworks make an excellent ignition source for dangerous fires.

The King County fire marshal reports that in King County alone last year, fire agencies responded to nearly two hundred fire calls with eighty-two of them related to fireworks, as reported in the 2014 Washington State Fire Marshal report.

Just today, a brushfire was started in Puyallup by people who were stupidly and carelessly setting off fireworks without regard for the consequences. Fortunately, firefighters were able to put it out. Fire investigators know that particular fire was caused by fireworks because of the evidence left behind at the scene.

And on Wednesday, two men in Lynnwood were arrested after they illegally set off fireworks that started a grass fire.

Fireworks can injure or kill

Improperly ignited fireworks can cause serious injury or even death to unsuspecting revelers who are only intent on having a good time. This is a problem that’s been getting substantially worse over the past few years.

Nexstar Broadcasting’s Austin Lewis reports:

Thousands of Americans are headed out to buy fireworks this Fourth of July weekend. Last year, more than 10,000 people were injured in fireworks-related incidents and 11 people died, an increase in deaths from the previous year.

The CPSC [Consumer Product Safety Commission] says children under 15 had the highest rate of injury of any age group, accounting for 40 percent of patients. The hands and face are the most commonly injured body parts. According to a national study, eye injuries from fireworks have doubled in the past three years.

The CPSC conducted a public safety demonstration on the National Mall in the District of Columbia to show just how dangerous fireworks can be when improperly handled. Watch the horrifying video yourself right here:

The sobering stories just keep on coming. Only two days ago, a twelve-year old boy had to be transported to Harborview Medical Center’s specialized burn unit after he was badly burned by fireworks near an Auburn fireworks stand.

Fireworks cause noise pollution

When you choose to set off fireworks late at night in a backyard, park, asphalt lot, the grounds of a school, or some other public or private open space, you’re contributing to rampant noise pollution that prevents other people nearby from getting a good night’s sleep or relaxing. You also become a major source of anxiety to nearby animals… from dogs to cats to horses and rabbits.

If the professionals were the only ones setting off fireworks, Independence Day noise pollution would be kept to a manageable minimum and within a reasonable timeframe, because professional fireworks displays usually take place between 10 and 11 PM on the Fourth, and don’t typically run for longer than twenty minutes.

Unfortunately, when people throughout a given neighborhood choose to alternately set off fireworks for hours and hours, it creates a nuisance that simply won’t end. Many people who keep pets dislike the Fourth of July because of the anxiety the discharge of fireworks causes to their companions, and thus, to them.

Many veterans, meanwhile, can be bothered by the booms, snaps, and crackles, because the noise can aggravate their post traumatic stress disorder.

Keep in mind that what you consider to be having a good time may be giving someone else a bad time. Your neighbors will thank you if you choose to be a fireworks spectator instead of a wannabe pyrotechnic wizard trying to impress family or friends in the backyard.

Spent fireworks create litter

Every year, a lot of waste is unnecessarily created as a result of fireworks being discharged on public and private property. Worse, many people don’t even collect their spent fireworks for proper disposal. This creates unnecessary cleanup work that is often paid for at taxpayer expense. KCBD of Lubbock, Texas reports:

Manuel Delacruz knows all too well the mess fireworks can leave behind. “You can see the grass here,” Delacruz said, motioning a lot across the street of their stand. “July 5th? You won’t see no grass. You’ll see a bunch of paper and trash.”

As a TxDOT employee, Delacruz usually has had to deal with the celebration aftermath.

“We have to come by and pick up all that trash,” he said, “and that takes away from employees who can be doing potholes, doing edge repairs or something like that.”

This no small feat, Delacruz said, and it costs taxpayers’ dollars. “We come out here in these big, one-ton trucks with a lot of trash bags and we fill it up,” he said, “and we fill them up so high with trash we have to take multiple trips back to our yard just to get rid of the trash.”

This isn’t just a problem in Texas. It’s a problem everywhere, including here in the Pacific Northwest. As Delacruz tells KCBD, if you are going to set off fireworks, at least have the decency to clean up after yourself. As they say in the Lone Star State, Don’t mess with Texas. Same goes for everywhere else.

On the other hand, if you choose not to buy and set off fireworks, you won’t have to worry about scrounging around in the dark trying to scoop up casings.

Fireworks are environmentally destructive

Along those same lines, here’s a bonus reason not to go out and set off fireworks: they’re harmful to the environment. They cause air pollution:

Environmentally, fireworks are a disaster. The smoke consists of fine toxic dusts, a particulate matter that enters the lungs, threatening those with asthma or multiple chemical sensitivity. They can also contain a mixture of sulfur-coal compounds, traces of heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals or gases. The combustion cloud can contain ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide. Smoke from consumer fireworks is released at ground level, making inhalation more likely than with professional displays. Fireworks produce greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and ozone.

And water pollution:

Fireworks are often shot over bodies of water, in the case of Bellingham, into the bay or parts of Lake Whatcom, the drinking water source for the city. Spent sparklers, matches and trash are tossed into the water after use. Before the ban one could see fireworks going off all around Bellingham Bay, landing in the water.

In the morning beaches were littered with debris. Residents on Lake Whatcom shoot them off their docks. With parts of the lake outside city limits, a countywide ban on fireworks may be the only way to completely stop it.

And fireworks can also be a hazard to birds.

So there you have it: Five good reasons to leave the fireworks to the professionals this Fourth of July. Have a great Independence Day, and stay safe!

Tim Eyman turns in signatures for I-1366 as opposition coalition roster continues to grow

This morning in Olympia, Tim Eyman showed up at the Secretary of State’s Elections Annex to turn in signatures for I-1366, his latest and most destructive initiative yet, more than four hours ahead of the 3 PM appointment that he had scheduled. In a departure from tradition, Eyman decided not to hold a press conference at the Annex. Instead, he brought his own videographer along to document the event, and then left Olympia without holding a show for the media.

In an early-morning email sent out ahead of his visit to the Elections Annex, Eyman gleefully announced that he was submitting “334,044+” signatures for I-1366 (which, if true – and that’s an if – is more than the 25% cushion that the Secretary of State recommends that sponsors submit).

246,372 valid voter signatures are currently required to qualify an initiative to the November 2015 ballot. The Secretary of State will now begin examining Eyman’s petitions, count the number of signatures submitted, and then conduct a random sample check. If the initiative passes the check, it will be certified for the November 2015 ballot. That should happen within the next couple of weeks.

Since Eyman revealed in February that he would be taking out a loan against his house to finance I-1366, we’ve been operating under the assumption that I-1366 would make the ballot. That still hasn’t happened yet, but we’re probably only a few days away from a certification announcement by the Secretary of State.

Aside from crowing about the success of the signature drive in his email, Eyman also touted endorsements for I-1366 from the Washington State Republican Central Committee, the Libertarian Party, the militant firearms activist Alan Gottlieb, and right wing senators Michael Baumgartner and Doug Ericksen… who all belong to the usual supporting cast that serves as an amen chorus for Eyman’s schemes.

The NO on I-1336 Coalition, by contrast, is much bigger and broader. The list of participating organizations grows longer with every week.

Today, we’re pleased to announce that that NAMI Washington and the League of Education Voters have joined the fight against I-1366, alongside NPI, Fuse, the League of Women Voters of Washington, the Washington State Democratic Party, Statewide Poverty Action Network, PTE Local 17, Washington Environmental Council, Washington Conservation Voters, and many more people and organizations. A longer list can be viewed on the coalition’s website.

Yesterday, we also announced that we have formed a statewide campaign committee to ensure the NO on 1366 Coalition is well served by a capable leadership team. Former Secretary of State Sam Reed, former State Senator Randy Gordon, former State Representative Phyllis Kenney, and NW Media Allies owner Sue Evans have graciously agreed to help NPI provide guidance and organizing expertise. Microsoft alum and veteran activist Matt Loschen serves as treasurer.

I-1366 is easily the most destructive initiative that Tim Eyman has ever sponsored. Either outcome of the initiative is disastrous. If the Legislature were to capitulate to Eyman’s demand for a constitutional amendment to sabotage Article II, Section 22 of our state Constitution with a supermajority vote requirement for revenue, our regressive tax system would be permanently locked into place.

And if the Legislature didn’t capitulate, a multibillion dollar hole would be suddenly blown into the state budget, causing immense harm to our essential public services, particularly our state’s universities, colleges, and K-12 schools.

It is imperative that I-1366 be met with a vigorous opposition campaign.

Readers, if you are involved with one or more organizations that cares about effective government, fully funding our public schools, fixing our broken tax code, and upholding our state Constitution, please ask those organizations to join our cause as soon as they possibly can.

To make things easy, we’ve got a model resolution you can provide to the boards or governing bodies of organizations you work with. This model resolution can be tweaked or adapted as desired, but it’s also well-polished and can be adapted as is once an organization has added its name to the Therefore clauses.

After an organization you work with has taken a position, it’s important they let us know by filling out the form on the NO on I-1366 website so we can update the list of organizations that are opposed to Eyman’s diabolical plot force lawmakers to choose between sabotaging our state Constitution or blowing a massive hole in the state budget. The loss of $1 billion a year in state sales tax revenue would destroy the little progress that’s been made to date towards McCleary compliance and creating an even bigger school funding deficit.

Like I-517 and I-1125/I-1033/I-985 before it, I-1366 is beatable, but only if those of us who care about Washington’s values and Washington’s future come together to stand up to the extremism of Tim Eyman and his wealthy benefactors.

Take a stand against I-1366 today, and join the effort to send this unconscionable initiative to the political graveyard that it belongs in.

Washington State House passes amended transportation revenue bill; Senate concurs

It took until the wee hours of the morning, but the Legislature has finally reached agreement on the revenue component for a new transportation package.

By a vote of fifty-four to forty-four, the House of Representatives voted to send an amended version of Second Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5987 (2ESSB 5987) over to the Senate. The major change made by the House was to eliminate the so-called ransom, or tribute, that the Senate wanted Sound Transit to pay to the state treasury in return for getting its new revenue authority, which it can use to place a Sound Transit 3 measure on the ballot next year.

The ransom would have consisted of a sales and use tax levied on construction projects, capped at just over $500 million (which is a lot of money).

The new language instead allows Puget Sound to keep these funds, and requires that the region spend it on education — which to us seems appropriate.

Here is the relevant final language from Section 422 (PDF):

(1) Beginning January 1, 2017, and until the requirements in subsection of this section are met, a regional transit authority must pay to the department of revenue, for deposit into the Puget Sound taxpayer accountability account, a sales and use tax offset fee.

(2) A sales and use tax offset fee is three and twenty-five one-hundredths percent of the total payments made by the regional transit authority to construction contractors on construction contracts that are
(a) for new projects identified in the system plan funded by any proposition approved by voters after January 1, 2015, and
(b) excluded from the definition of retail sale under RCW 82.04.050(10)

Section 423 stipulates how the money must be spent:

1) The Puget Sound taxpayer accountability account is created in the state treasury. Moneys in the account may be spent only after appropriation. Expenditures from the account may only be used for distribution to counties where a portion of the county is within the boundaries of a regional transit authority that includes a county with a population of one million five hundred thousand or more.

Counties may use distributions from the account only for educational services to improve educational outcomes in early learning, K-12, and higher education including, but not limited to, for youths that are low-income, homeless, or in foster care, or other vulnerable populations. Counties receiving distributions under this section must track all expenditures and uses of the funds.

To the greatest extent practicable, the expenditures of the counties must follow the requirements of any transportation subarea equity element used by the regional transit authority.

(2) Beginning September 1, 2017, and by the last day of September, December, March, and June of each year thereafter, the state treasurer shall distribute moneys deposited in the Puget Sound taxpayer accountability account to counties for which a portion of the county is within the boundaries of a regional transit authority that includes a county with a population of one million five hundred thousand.

The treasurer must make the distribution to the counties on the relative basis of that transit authority’s population that lives within the respective counties.

We have State Representative Jessyn Farrell to thank for this amendment, which keeps this pot of money under local control. No doubt King County Executive Dow Constantine and his fellow executives Pat McCarthy and John Lovick from Pierce and Snohomish Counties are pleased with this development.

The roll call on final passage was, as mentioned, fifty-four to forty-four. Ten Republicans crossed over to help most of the Democrats pass the bill. Most Republicans voted nay, and a few Democrats joined them.

Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Bergquist, Carlyle, Clibborn, Cody, Farrell, Fey, Goodman, Gregerson, Hudgins, S. Hunt, Hunter, Hurst, Jinkins, Johnson, Kagi, Kirby, Kochmar, Lytton, McBride, Moeller, Morris, Moscoso, Muri, Nealey, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reykdal, Riccelli, Robinson, Rodne, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Sells, Senn, Springer, Stambaugh, Stanford, Stokesbary, Sullivan, Takko, Tarleton, Tharinger, Walkinshaw, Walsh, Wilcox, Wylie, Zeiger, Mr. Speaker [Chopp]

Voting Nay: Representatives Blake, Buys, Caldier, Chandler, Condotta, DeBolt, Dent, Dunshee, Dye, Fitzgibbon, Gregory, Griffey, Haler, Hansen, Hargrove, Harmsworth, Harris, Hawkins, Hayes, Holy, G. Hunt, Kilduff, Klippert, Kretz, Kristiansen, MacEwen, Magendanz, Manweller, McCabe, McCaslin, Orcutt, Parker, Pike, Schmick, Scott, Shea, Short, Smith, Taylor, Van De Wege, Van Werven, Vick, Wilson, Young

Democrats who voted nay were:

  1. Brian Blake
  2. Carol Gregory
  3. Hans Dunshee
  4. Joe Fitzgibbon
  5. Drew Hansen
  6. Christine Klduff
  7. Kevin Van De Wege

Republicans who voted aye were:

  1. Norm Johnson
  2. Linda Kochmar
  3. Dick Muri
  4. Terry Nealey
  5. Jay Rodne
  6. Melanie Stambaugh
  7. Drew Stokesbary
  8. Maureen Walsh
  9. J.T. Wilcox
  10. Hans Zeiger

The House vote on final passage took place well after 1 AM, after a floor debate that featured over a dozen speakers. Republicans such as Ed Orcutt, Jesse Young, and Liz Pike rose to denounce the bill, while Democrats like Jessyn Farrell, Judy Clibborn, and Dean Takko rose in strong support of it.

The bill retains the poison pill provision inserted by Senate Republicans that prevents Governor Jay Inslee from using his executive authority to set tougher pollution standards for vehicles, which caused our friend Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34th District; West Seattle, Vashon Island, Burien) to case a no vote in protest.

After the House sent the amended bill over to the Senate, the Senate decided to concur in the amendments by a vote of thirty-seven to to seven, with five excused.

2ESSB 5987 now goes to Governor Jay Inslee for his signature.

As it contains an emergency clause (Section 426), it will not be subject to a referendum, much to Ed Orcutt’s displeasure. (Orcutt had argued at length for sending the bill to voters, but his amendment to do so was defeated by the House.)

The House and Senate were not able to complete work on the other bills in the transportation package due to a bitter disagreement in the Senate over what to do with Initiative 1351 (last year’s WEA-sponsored initiative requiring smaller class sizes, which the Legislature has chosen not to fully fund).

The disagreement over I-1351 has brought the Senate to a temporary halt, and the House has opted to take a break in the meantime. Lawmakers in the House were sent home around 3:30 AM this morning after it became clear the Senate was stuck.

Revised transportation package clears Washington State Senate on bipartisan vote

Moments ago, the Washington State Senate took yet another significant vote, this time concerning transportation revenue. By an overwhelming four-to-one margin, the Senate voted to approve SB 5987, which would raise the gas tax and vehicle weight fees to pay for a long list of highway projects, a shorter list of rail, bike, and pedestrian projects, and construct new ferries.

SB 5987 would also give Sound Transit new revenue authority (subject to voter approval), allowing the agency to put a Sound Transit 3 package before urban Puget Sound voters next year, with light rail expansion as the centerpiece.

The revised transportation revenue package is the result of long negotiations between the House, Senate, and Governor Inslee. It garnered the support of nearly every Democrat in the Senate, as well as most of the Republicans.

The roll call was as follows:

Voting Yea: Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Billig, Brown, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Dammeier, Darneille, Fain, Fraser, Frockt, Habib, Hasegawa, Hatfield, Hewitt, Hill, Hobbs, Honeyford, Jayapal, Keiser, King, Kohl-Welles, Liias, Litzow, McAuliffe, McCoy, Miloscia, Mullet, Nelson, O’Ban, Parlette, Pedersen, Rivers, Schoesler, Sheldon, Warnick

Voting Nay: Benton, Braun, Dansel, Ericksen, Hargrove, Padden, Pearson, Ranker, Roach

Excused: Senator Rolfes

The House of Representatives will take up the proposal next.

In a lengthy floor speech, Senator Pramila Jayapal of Seattle (who led the opposition to the package crafted by the Senate Republicans earlier in the session) declared that many of the fatal flaws in Republicans’ original legislation had been removed as a result of negotiations, and that the final compromise bill was worthy of support.

Said Jayapal:

The transportation funding package the Legislature passed today was a hard-fought investment in infrastructure that this state urgently needs. It makes great strides to bring 21st century transit options to our state, and it invests in traffic reduction so people can spend less time stuck in traffic and more time at home with their families. It has been a decade since our last transportation funding package, and this will help ensure our state continues to look forward, not back.

This measure has come a long way since it was first passed in March, when its problems were too many for me to be able to support it. Four of the five reasons I voted ‘no’ at that time have been resolved today.

  1. First, the $1 billion sales tax shift from the operating budget was removed.
  2. Second, most of the destructive environmental pieces were removed.
  3. Third, the collective bargaining, prevailing wage and apprenticeship utilization rates were upheld.
  4. And finally, Sound Transit is granted full funding authority for projects like light rail and bus service expansion.

Several great things were added to the package, too, including a provision to encourage development of affordable housing near public transportation lines as well as grant funding for seven years to support my bill (SB 5863) that will ensure women and people of color get access to pre-apprenticeship programs. This will help them to participate in the 200,000 jobs that will become available over the next ten years through investment in transportation infrastructure.

The final provision that forced me to vote ‘no’ in March is unfortunately still in this package — the stipulation that takes away executive authority to implement a low [pollution] fuel standard.

Although some compromise was made in cutting the time from sixteen years to eight years, this is still simply too long to wait to take action on [pollution] reduction goals that are absolutely critical to our next generation. Senate Republicans made it clear they were willing to kill the whole deal if this was removed – an ideological hardline that is totally out of sync with what the people of Washington are calling for.

It might be up to the voters to put in place this [pollution] reduction measure, because they know that carbon pollution creates cumulative damage, and that the longer we wait to address it the more we incur irreversible damage. This was a tough pill to swallow.

I fought long and hard on the Senate floor during the first session to demand that we address these very serious problems. I believe our initial ‘no’ vote and the concerns my colleagues and I raised then were absolutely essential to creating the leverage our colleagues in the House needed to negotiate a better package. Although we did not get the poison pill language completely removed, I can promise you that the fight isn’t over. Not for me and not for the voters.

Environmentally-concious organizations are upset that the deal would preclude Governor Jay Inslee from using executive authority to set new pollution standards, and have been calling for a no vote. 350Seattle released a statement within the last four hours urging its supporters to contact legislators in opposition.

“The transportation sector is the leading source of carbon dioxide in the Puget Sound and the state,” the statement pointed out, going on to assert: “It will be impossible to reduce emissions from Washington if we maintain business as usual for transportation. The emissions from new highways will swamp the positive environmental effects of new transit investments. These bills would lock in sixteen more years of highway expansion in our state.”

We at NPI agree that many of the projects the Legislature wants to fund are bad. Enlarging highways is wasteful and problematic because it encourages people to drive more, which only makes traffic and pollution worse. Research we’ve previously discussed here on the Cascadia Advocate conclusively shows that adding lanes to gridlocked highways like I-405 is utterly pointless.

However, this package doesn’t consist solely of highway expansion projects. It also contains funding for new ferries, freight mobility improvements, additional rail infrastructure, and safer right-of-ways for bicyclists and pedestrians, plus the already mentioned new revenue authority for Sound Transit.

In other words, there is good mixed in with the bad. A fair and accurate appraisal of this package simply has to take that into account.

While the voters have shown a distaste for ambitious transportation proposals that chain-link the fate of highway and transit projects together, the politics of transportation planning and funding in the Legislature are very different, especially with Republicans in control of the Senate.

Republicans were never going to agree to give Sound Transit the revenue authority it has been seeking without getting something in return.

It is worth noting that prior to 2015, Senate Republicans were so disorganized that they couldn’t even put a transportation proposal on the table because they could not agree amongst themselves. And earlier this year, it looked like they weren’t interested in compromising with House Democrats and Inslee to reach a deal.

But now they have.

We recognize that, in the words of Germany’s Otto von Bismarck, that laws can be akin to sausages. In the last seventy-two hours, we’ve watched what seemed like impermeable legislative gridlock give way to a frenzied sausage-making fest.

Not only has agreement been reached on an operating budget, but now we have this compromise transportation package, loaded with merits as well as demerits.

On balance, we believe there is a case to be made for this package, and so we support the decision of progressive lawmakers like Pramila Jayapal and Cyrus Habib to vote yes. We can also appreciate why Senator Kevin Ranker, who is a true champion for sustainability and environmental protection, cast a vote in opposition.

Due to the circumstances under which this legislation was crafted and voted on, it will not be possible for any of its critics (whether progressive or conservative) to force a binding public vote on it – at least not this year.

There are ordinarily two ways to subject a bill passed by the Legislature to a public vote at an ensuing general election.

The first is the citizen referendum: a group of citizens (or, more likely, a deep-pocketed corporation pretending to be a natural person) can collect signatures equivalent to four percent of the number of people who voted in the last election for governor to put an ordinary bill passed by the Legislature on ice until its fate can be decided by the people at election time.

However, if the Legislature decides that a bill is “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, support of the state government and its existing public institutions” (quoting from the Constitution’s Article II, Section 1b), it can attach what is called an emergency clause. The presence of an emergency clause exempts a bill from being subject to referendum.

SB 5987 contains an emergency clause that is applicable to nearly all of its provisions. Our understanding is that the other bills in the package also contain emergency clauses. So that means no referendum is possible.

The other avenue for forcing a public vote is the initiative, which has occasionally been used to force votes on bills that had an emergency clause.

But the constitutionally required deadline to submit initiatives to the people for 2015 is this Thursday, July 2nd. There isn’t time to get a repeal initiative processed by then, let alone gather signatures equivalent to eight percent of the number of Washingtonians who voted in the last election for governor.

That means that what happened ten years ago won’t be happening again this year. Then, as now, the Legislature voted to raise the gas tax and vehicle weight fees by adopting a transportation package championed by then-Governor Chris Gregoire. That package was famously forced onto the ballot by right-wing talk show hosts John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur using Initiative 912, which voters later rejected.

But ten years ago, both houses of the Legislature were controlled by Democrats, and lawmakers got done with their work on time in the spring, leaving a window of time available to Carlson and Wilbur to qualify an initiative.

This year, no such window of opportunity exists, because the Legislature has been procrastinating for months. The Legislature will adjourn its third special session within hours of the deadline to submit signatures for an initiative to the people. So we won’t see a repeat of the Initiative 912 campaign this year.

We feel the frustration and unhappiness of fellow activists who are focused on achieving a clean energy, low-pollution future. Our entire world, not just our beautiful patch of it, is threatened by the climate crisis, and the poison pill in this package certainly don’t help us get to that clean energy future. Neither do the unnecessary and wasteful highway expansion projects.

But anyone who was expecting that the Legislature was going to adopt Governor Inslee’s proposals to crack down on pollution and pursue a clean energy future was always bound to be disappointed. Elections have consequences.

Had the Democratic Party and its allies been successful in electing a Democratic State Senate in 2014, there would have been a real opportunity for an environmentally fruitful 2015 legislative session. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Fortunately, a previous generation of progressives gave us a set of tools for bypassing a gridlocked Legislature. The initiative is a progressive invention, and we shouldn’t hesitate to regularly and enthusiastically use it to give the people of Washington opportunities to enact progressive policy directions.

We ought, as a movement, to qualify an initiative to the statewide ballot in 2016 that would impose penalties on polluters and use proceeds to invest in education and a clean energy future. 2016 is a presidential election year, and the electorate is very likely to be more progressive. There’s no good reason not to go for it.

Thanks to this transportation package, Sound Transit will be able to go to the ballot next year with ST3, giving Puget Sound voters the opportunity to further extend Link light rail in all directions. It would be fitting and appropriate to pair that proposition with a ballot measure that takes aim at the harm created by the Legislature’s inaction on Governor Inslee’s pollution reduction plan, as well as the poison pill Senate Republicans stuck into this transportation package.

FREEDOM WINS!!! U.S. Supreme Court makes marriage equality law of the land nationwide

This morning, in a historic and groundbreaking decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states may not prohibit couples from marrying on the basis of their sexual orientation. The court’s majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges means that marriage equality is suddenly and finally the law of the land in all fifty states of the United States. This is unquestionably one of the greatest civil rights advances of all time, and it certainly seems fitting that it comes on the eve of Seattle Pride 2015.

A great many progressive activists have worked for this day for many years, and we honor their work and contributions. They made the difference.

Eleven years ago, during the middle of the Bush error, there was just one state where LGBT couples could marry… Massachusetts. A lot has changed in the decade since. Progressives have managed to overcome a reactionary, right wing backlash to the idea of the freedom to marry in the mid-2000s, at a speed that many did not think was possible. Both in the courts and in the court of public opinion, freedom has been on a roll… and it’s left theological conservatives in utter shock.

The outcome of Obergefell v. Hodges is the culmination of a long struggle to move this country to the point where the arc of the moral universe takes another important bend towards justice.

Five justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Anthony Kennedy – have held that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from disallowing LGBT couples to marry or refusing to recognize marriages between LGBT couples performed in other states.

“The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change,” the justices declared, demonstrating a strong grasp of the progressive idea of dynamic freedom in the introductory portion of their majority opinion, authored by Justice Kennedy.

“Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential.”

“These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.”

Later on, they noted:

States have contributed to the fundamental character of marriage by placing it at the center of many facets of the legal and social order.

There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle, yet same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would find intolerable. It is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation’s society, for they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage.

The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its in consistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest.

The full majority opinion, plus the conservative minority’s dissenting opinion, is available for your reading enjoyment on the Supreme Court’s website.

SCOTUSBlog has more legal analysis here.

In a statement in the Rose Garden, President Barack Obama hailed the decision and said it would come as a great relief to many LGBT couples who have waited for marriage equality to become the law of the land in their state.

“This decision will end the patchwork system we currently have,” President Obama noted. “It will end the uncertainty hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether their marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decide to move [to] or even visit another.”

“This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.”

“This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts:  When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free. ”

Vice President Joe Biden agreed.

“We couldn’t be prouder,” he said, speaking for both himself and Second Lady Jill Biden. “Over the years—in their homes, on our staff, on the frontlines of war, and in houses of worship—Jill and I have befriended countless gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans who share a love for their partners constrained only by social stigma and discriminatory laws. But today, their love is set free with the right to marry and the recognition of that marriage throughout the country.”

“This day is for them, their children, and their families. And it is for generations of advocates—gay, lesbian, transgender, straight—who for decades fought a lonely and dangerous battle. People of absolute courage who risked their lives, jobs, and reputations to come forward in pursuit of the basic right recognized today, but at a time when neither the country nor the courts would protect or defend them.”

“And this day is for history to remember as one where, as a nation, our laws finally recognize that all people should be treated with respect and dignity—and that all marriages, at their root, are defined by unconditional love.”

Advocates praised the decision and called on states to comply fully and swiftly with the Supreme Court’s decision, which is binding and cannot be appealed.

“Freedom to Marry calls on state officials to swiftly and faithfully implement the Constitution’s command in the remaining thirteen states with marriage discrimination, so that all Americans can marry the person they love and build and protect their families, without delay, throughout the land,” said Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson in a statement.

“The movement will continue to harness the power of the marriage conversation and win in the work ahead – including passage of a federal civil rights bill, securing state and local protections against discrimination, tending to the needs of our youth and our seniors, and ensuring that the lived experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is fulfilling, good, inclusive, and equal throughout the land.”

“But the work of this Freedom to Marry campaign is now accomplished. Over the next several months, we will collaborate with key movement colleagues to smartly and strategically wind down its work and document lessons learned, and then close its doors, having achieved its goal of winning marriage nationwide and helping loving and committed couples cross the threshold to marriage and full inclusion in society, with equal justice under law.”

We at NPI congratulate the plaintiffs who brought this landmark legal challenge. Like their counterparts in Windsor, Perry, Lawrence, and other historic cases, their determination and perseverance has paved the way for another major civil rights victory in this country. It is crucial that progressives always be working to expand freedom — for freedom doesn’t stand still. If we do not work hard to expand freedom, radical conservatives will succeed in contracting it.

Let the celebration of nationwide marriage equality across the whole United States of America begin — it’s Pride month!

Tim Eyman’s paid signature drive for I-1366 is done — so why is he still fundraising for it?

For the past four days, initiative promoter Tim Eyman has been sending out daily emails asking his followers to give generously so he can make a final payment to his associates to finish the signature drive for Initiative 1366, his latest attempt to sabotage Washington’s cherished tradition of majority rule.

I-1366, as regular readers will recall, is a do-over of last year’s I-1325, which didn’t qualify. It would slash the state sales tax by next April, resulting in the loss of about $1 billion a year, unless, by that time, the Legislature has passed a constitutional amendment permanently requiring a two-thirds vote to raise revenue.

“It’s crunch time — initiatives don’t qualify unless there’s a big surge in donations and signatures at the end,” Eyman declared in an email sent Monday, June 22nd.

“We are agonizingly close to qualifying,” he added. “We just need everyone to help raise the money necessary to collect the required signatures. We’ve worked too hard and invested too much to fall short now. Please help us make it happen.”

The next day, June 23rd, Eyman was more explicit in his appeal for money.

“On day one, I took out a 2nd mortgage on my home and loaned the campaign $150,000,” Eyman wrote in his Tuesday email.

“Why? So we could immediately contract with a professional signature gathering firm to supplement our volunteers. For months, they’ve been out there asking voters throughout the state to sign petitions for I-1366. Our final payment of $100,000 for their services is due one week from tomorrow — on July 1st.”

Yesterday and today, Eyman sent follow-up emails thanking six followers who have stepped forward to answer his call – and pleading for more followers to do likewise.

What’s missing from all of these Eyman emails is the truth about the I-1366 signature drive. By comparing what Eyman is saying with Public Disclosure Commission data and the field intelligence we’ve gathered, we can see the details he’s conveniently leaving out. And sadly, the evidence demonstrates that Eyman is once again duping his own followers — presumably for personal profit.

Here is what we know about the I-1366 signature drive, its costs, and its timeframe:

  • In February, Eyman announced that he was taking out a second mortgage on his house to “jumpstart” a signature drive for I-1366.
  • Not long after, we began receiving reports of petitioners collecting signatures for the initiative. For about the first six weeks of the drive, compensation was seventy-five cents per signature, which isn’t particularly high.
  • In March, Eyman’s treasurer filed reports with the PDC showing the loan, initial payments to Citizen Solutions, and a big infusion of cash from a new wealthy benefactor, Clyde Holland, and an old one, Kemper Freeman Jr.
  • In April, a second round of reports showed another massive infusion of cash, with another big check from Holland accounting for much of that. Six weeks into the drive, petitioners began receiving compensation of $1.25 per signature, up from seventy-five cents.
  • In May, a third round of reports revealed that Eyman had raised nearly a million dollars for I-1366, not counting his loan to himself. For the final weeks of the drive, petitioners were receiving compensation of $1.50 a signature.
  • Earlier this month, the paid signature drive for I-1366 came to an end, presumably because Eyman has the signatures he needs to qualify. The most recent PDC reports, filed June 9th, show that a total of $1 million ($1,000,000 exactly) has been transferred to Citizen Solutions since February.

Here is a list of all reported payments to Citizen Solutions so far by Eyman’s campaign committee, which is a new incarnation of Voters Want More Choices (VWMC). Note that it is ordered by the amount of the payment, not the date.

CITIZENS SOLUTIONS 2015-03-30 (Mar) $300,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS 2015-03-02 (Mar) $150,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS 2015-02-03 (Feb) $150,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS 2015-03-05 (Mar) $100,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS 2015-05-06 (May) $100,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS 2015-05-01 (May) $50,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS 2015-05-11 (May) $50,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS 2015-05-22 (May) $50,000
CITIZENS SOLUTIONS 2015-04-10 (Apr) $50,000

Total: $1,000,000

Now, let’s do some math. If we were correctly informed about petitioners being paid $0.75, $1.25, and $1.50 during the drive (an average of $1.17), and if the laborers Eyman’s taking advantage of gathered around 320,000 signatures before stopping (which is all that’s needed), then an amount somewhere in the neighborhood of $374,000 went to compensate petitioners for their labor.

Whatever signatures Eyman’s associates don’t discard will be submitted to the Secretary of State by July 2nd, and those will be counted. So, in a mater of days, we’ll have an exact figure. It stands to reason that Eyman & Co. aren’t going to pay petitioners for signatures Eyman doesn’t need, and isn’t going to submit.

Even if we assume a cost of $1.50 per signature (the highest reported rate) for the duration of the entire drive, that still works out to less than half a million dollars for the petitioners’ labor (again, assuming payment for around 320,000 signatures).

We also have to account for what is known in this underground industry as override costs. The “override” is what’s paid to coordinators like John Michael and Brent Johnson, who collect sheets from the petitioners. We understand the typical override is between twenty-five and fifty cents per signature; it varies by volume. If the override was fifty cents, then that adds around $160,000 in overhead.

Some additional funds might have been spent bringing in out of state labor from California or elsewhere, because veteran local petitioners are reluctant to carry Eyman petitions after having been cheated on their payments in the past by Eyman and his associates. But bus tickets for a few dozen individuals don’t cost that much.

So where did the rest of the million dollars go?

We can only assume that Ruffino and Agazarm pocketed it as profit. And perhaps Eyman is getting a kickback from them in the form of a profit-sharing arrangement. We can’t be sure, because we can’t verify the money trail beyond the payments to Citizen Solutions. But we know that Eyman and his associates love to make money. This is a business for them. A lucrative business and a shady business.

An aboveboard business would comply with federal and state worker protection laws, paying worker’s compensation premiums and taxes that can amount to 15% of the wages paid to their employees. But no reports have been filed with the Internal Revenue Service or the Department of Labor & Industries by Citizen Solutions demonstrating that these laws are being complied with and the petitioners protected. Their coordinators (John Michael and Brent Johnson) haven’t filed employee payroll reports either, and the first quarter payments are past due.

Ruffino and Agazarm are certainly being paid well enough to take care of the people who are working them. They’re also being paid well enough to afford to hire a good accountant who could manage their payroll and L&I account for them. But they’d rather operate an underground cash business than play it straight.

The email campaign Eyman launched this week makes it sound like Eyman and his associates are in a sprint to the finish, frantically trying to gather enough signatures in time to meet the deadline stipulated by the Washington State Constitution for statewide initiatives to the people.

But we know that’s not true. From looking at our field intelligence, we can conclude that the paid signature drive for I-1366 is over.

Reports filed by Eyman’s own treasurer show his campaign committee has already transferred more than twice the amount of money needed to compensate petitioners for 320,000 signatures, which, again, is all that’s needed. Why does Eyman need to send Agazarm and Ruffino another $100,000?

It is worth noting that this isn’t the first time that Eyman has inflated the cost of a signature drive. Prior to 2015, the last time that Eyman did a paid signature drive with Roy and Eddie was in 2012, when he qualified I-1185 as an initiative to the people while at the same time running a stealth signature drive for a second initiative, I-517. I-517 was an initiative to the Legislature; it later appeared on the November 2013 ballot and was overwhelmingly defeated by voters.

As with I-1366, Eyman raised over $1 million to qualify I-1185 to the statewide ballot, and transferred most of that to Citizen Solutions for signature gathering expenses. Most of the money for I-1185 came from large corporations like BP and ConocoPhillips, but smaller companies gave as well. (I-1185 was Eyman’s most recent I-601 clone. It attempted to require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue, but this scheme was struck down by the state Supreme Court in February 2013.)

The Association of Washington Business (AWB) acted as Eyman’s bundler during the I-1185 campaign, and even paid out large chunks of Citizen Solutions directly, without going through Eyman’s campaign committee.

What the AWB didn’t know was that the actual cost to run the signature drive was much less than $1 million. How do we know that? Because we know how many signatures were submitted, and we know what the petitioners were paid:

Most of the money that went to Citizen Solutions to pay for I-1185 signatures did not go to the petition crews. It was pocked by Ruffino and Agazarm (and possibly Eyman as well) as profit. Miles and Steve [petitioners who worked on the campaign] have testified in sworn affadivits that they were being paid a dollar per signature, and we know that other petitioners were collecting for the same level of compensation. The Secretary of State’s office reported last July that 320,003 signatures were submitted for I-1185. If each signature cost Ruffino and Agazarm a dollar, that would mean the cost of the signature drive was around $320,000.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume the total costs of the signature drive actually came to $1.25 a signature. That’s more than what the petitioners were being paid, but it allows us to suppose there may have been other costs associated with the signature drive.

If we multiply $1.25 by 320,003, we get $400,003.75. That still leaves more than $700,000 unaccounted for.

What happened to all of that money? Where did it go? We know it didn’t go to the workers who gathered signatures outside of shopping malls, stadiums, and ferry terminals. We can only conclude it was pocketed as profit.

The affadivits mentioned in the excerpt above were submitted to the Public Disclosure Commission as part of a complaint filed by activist Sherry Bockwinkel of Tacoma in August of 2012. While the I-517 stealth signature drive was still underway, she noticed that a number of things didn’t add up, and filed a complaint with the PDC alleging that the stealth campaign was being illegally run.

It’s been nearly three years since that complaint was filed, and over two years since the PDC confirmed it would look into it, but it’s still unresolved.

When asked about the status of the case, PDC staff will only say that the investigation is still open and that complaints can take time to resolve.

Is it any wonder Eyman thinks he can get away with continually duping his own followers? His past wrongdoing keeps getting overlooked or ignored. We regularly talk about it here, and occasionally, so do bigger media outlets.

But it has not led to any action on the part of the PDC.

The only time the PDC ever really went after Eyman was in 2002, after he admitted taking over $100,000 in campaign money for his own personal use and lying about it. The PDC referred that case to Attorney General Chris Gregoire. Gregoire took Eyman to court, but decided the next year to settle the lawsuit for $50,000 and the stipulation that Eyman never again serve as a campaign treasurer.

As we have seen, Eyman does not need to be his own treasurer to continue profitably operating his initiative factory. Eyman was off the ballot for only one year after getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Then he was back in business. Last year was just the first time since 2003 that Eyman didn’t have enough money to make the statewide ballot with the scheme that he tried to qualify.

(He also failed to qualify anything in 2006, though that was due to mismanagement, incompetence, or a combination of both, not lack of funds.)

The people of Washington have increasingly begun to realize that Eyman is a snake oil salesman. Over the last ten years, the voters have defeated nearly every Eyman initiative that had a well-organized, vigorous opposition campaign.

Unfortunately, Eyman keeps getting on the ballot, because he’s managed to persuade a whole bunch of wealthy conservatives that he walks on water. And those are the people who really matter to Eyman. They’re the ones with the money.

Eyman and his associates are the only people deriving any benefit from his initiative factory. They’re the winners in this long-running, fifteen-year con.

The rest of us, including Eyman’s own followers, are the losers. Whether they realize it or not, they’re helping to make us all poorer. So long as Eyman’s benefactors keep patronizing him, and so long as the state continues to allow his wrongdoing to go unpunished, Eyman will stay in business, profiting from greed.

The party of government shutdowns is at it again

If there’s one thing you can count on when Republicans control one part of government and Democrats control the others, it’s that Republicans will force a government shutdown.

We saw it in Congress in the fall of 2013 when John Boehner shut down the federal government in an attempt to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We saw it in California in the summer of 2008 when Republicans blocked passage of a state budget for nearly three months past the constitutional deadline.

And now we’re seeing it here in Washington State. Republicans claim that the problem is with the Democrats – but the facts show otherwise.

The party of shutdowns is at it again

This graphic, created by a friend of the Northwest Progressive Institute, shows that the Washington State Legislature has routinely had difficulty reaching agreement on an operating budget when the State Senate has been controlled by Republicans, or when Democrats had to share control of the State House with Republicans.

For nearly the last 30 years, the pattern is clear. When Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature and the Governor’s office, state budgets are completed well in advance of the June 30 deadline. But when Republicans have partial control, whether a 49-49 split in the State House or a narrow State Senate majority, they turn to extremist tactics.

Rather than negotiate in good faith, they prefer to use Democrats’ desire for good government and their aversion to hurting people who would suffer from a government shutdown as leverage to get their way.

The lessons from California and from Congress are clear: the public needs to be rallied to oppose these awful Republican tactics. And at the next election, voters need to be reminded that it’s Republicans who have a history of threatening shutdowns in Washington State.

White supremacist guns down nine at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Horrifying and repulsive doesn’t even begin to describe how awful this news is:

A white gunman killed nine people during a prayer meeting at one of Charleston’s oldest and best-known black churches Wednesday night in one of the worst mass shootings in South Carolina history.

Heavily armed law enforcement officers scoured the area into the morning for the man responsible for the carnage inside Emanuel AME Church at 110 Calhoun St. At least one person was said to have survived the rampage.

Police revealed no motive for the 9 PM attack, which was reportedly carried out by a young white man. Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said, “I do believe this was a hate crime.”

What else can this be but a hate crime of the worst kind?

A white man walked into a historic black church in America’s Deep South and murdered nine black people in cold blood. The ensuing investigation will undoubtedly show that this evil act was perpetrated by an incredibly sick, prejudiced man with a burning hatred for people who don’t look like him.

Right wing commentators have repeatedly suggested or implied that racism in America is a thing of the past. They have even argued that racism can’t be a problem anymore because America has twice elected a black president.

But as these murders demonstrate, racism is alive and well in America. And thanks to our lax gun safety laws, guns and ammunition can be easily obtained and used to commit acts of terrorism. That’s what this shooting is: an act of terrorism.

Our elected representatives view overseas terrorist networks and the nations that enable those networks as extreme threats to our national security and say we need to degrade and destroy these threats. But what about the threat of terrorism from within? White supremacists who openly believe that black and brown lives don’t matter, and are prepared to commit murder in an attempt to start a race war are also a grave danger to the national security of the United States of America.

When are we going to take that threat seriously?

Our hearts are heavy this morning. We share the anguish and pain of the families and friends of the dead. Their sorrows are our sorrows. We hope the perpetrator of this hate crime can be swiftly apprehended and brought to justice.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, for readers who don’t know, is one of the oldest black churches in the United States of America, dating back two centuries. It is a place of worship and a place of activism where many civil rights campaigns have been planned. Martin Luther King Jr. once gave an address there.  The church has long been a center of the black community in Charleston, and consequently, it has endured a number of attacks over the decades. But it has endured. And we pray fervently that it will continue to.

UPDATE, 9:50 AM: The authorities have apprehended the suspect, Dylann Roof.

President Barack Obama has made a statement about this hate crime from the White House’s James S. Brady Press Briefing Room:

The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau’s best are on the way to join them. The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation. We understand that the suspect is in custody. And I’ll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.

Until the investigation is complete, I’m necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case.

But I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing.

But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.  And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

Vice President Joe Biden and Second Lady Jill Biden also released a statement expressing his condolences to the families and friends of the dead.

UPDATE, 10:30 AM: The names of the victims have been released. They are:

  • Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, South Carolina State Senate
  • Tywanza Sanders
  • Cynthia Hurd
  • Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
  • Myra Thompson
  • Ethel Lance
  • Reverend Daniel Simmons
  • Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor
  • Susie Jackson

UPDATE, 7:30 PM: The New York Times has published a profile of the nine victims of Roof’s act of terrorism. The Charleston Post and Courier, meanwhile, has a story about the magnitude of the murders. The story mentions that South Carolina doesn’t have a hate crime statute, which is pretty disturbing:

South Carolina is one of five states, including Arkansas, Wyoming, Georgia and Michigan, that doesn’t have a hate crime statute on the books, so local authorities are forced to rely on federal authorities to make charges in these cases.

For years, state lawmakers have tried and failed repeatedly to push hate crime legislation through the General Assembly.

Rep. Seth Whipper, D-North Charleston, has tried for more than 15 years to get a bill passed by the Legislature that increased penalties for hate-related offenses. But not enough people rallied behind his effort, Whipper said.

His colleagues and many outside of the Statehouse failed to understand that the bill went beyond protecting members of the black community, Whipper said. The bill, which has not been taken up in subcommittee, also protects from crimes motivated by religion, color, sex, age, national origin and sexual orientation.

The Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney was a member of the South Carolina Senate. It would be fitting if the South Carolina Legislature could pass a hate crime statute in his memory and the memory of the eight others murdered at Mother Emanuel.

Everything you need to know about a state government shutdown

Judging by the news today, the public is starting to become aware of the possibility that Republican intransigence over the budget could cause a shutdown of the Washington state government. If a budget isn’t approved by June 30, then starting on July 1, many state government operations will slow or cease.

As a public service, the Northwest Progressive Institute has put together this overview of a state government shut down: how we got here and how we can avoid it.

What happens if the state government shuts down?

According to the AP, a bunch of workers don’t get paid and a bunch of public services shut down:

Under the government shutdown contingency plan that is currently on the Office of Financial Management’s website, all of the state’s universities and community colleges would remain open. But agencies like the Liquor Control Board, state parks and state Lottery would face a complete shutdown, while others like the governor’s office, the Department of Social & Health Services, and Department of Corrections would face a partial shutdown. Among those offices that would remain open are the Department of Transportation, the Traffic Safety Commission and the Office of the Treasurer.

That sounds terrible. Why would the state government shut down?

The short answer: Republicans want to protect the rich from being taxed to pay for public schools.

The long answer: it’s pretty much the same as what happened in Congress in October 2013, when the federal government did indeed shut down for three weeks. At the time, Republicans held only one of the two houses of Congress – the House of Representatives – and Democrats held the Senate and the White House. House Republicans demanded that Democrats agree to defund Obamacare. Democrats and President Obama refused, and the Republicans eventually caved.

Here in Washington State, Republicans have a narrow two-seat majority in the State Senate, and Democrats control the House of Representatives and the Governor’s office. Governor Inslee and House Democrats agree on all the basic points of a new budget. Republicans in the State Senate do not.

What are they arguing about?

There are several points of disagreement between Democrats and Senate Republicans, but the biggest one by far is Governor Inslee’s proposal to tax the investment income (also known as a capital gains tax) of the wealthiest 32,000 residents of Washington State to help add more money for public education. Governor Inslee and House Democrats have moved toward a compromise on several other issues, including dropping for this year a proposed cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. The governor and House Democrats support the capital gains tax. Senate Republicans adamantly oppose it.

A capital gains tax for public schools sounds controversial. Does the public support it?

They sure do. A poll done in January showed 57% of voters support Gov. Inslee’s capital gains tax.

Newspaper editorial boards across the state have gone on record in support of the capital gains tax, including The Olympian and the Seattle Times.

Wait, what was that last part? The rabidly anti-tax Seattle Times supports the capital gains tax?

Shockingly, yes. Here’s what they said about it last weekend:

A long-term solution to the education-funding crisis in Washington is right in front of lawmakers.

Instead of punting to committees and next year’s Legislature, they should buckle down and make the choice to begin taxing capital gains.

A capital-gains tax, with ironclad limitations to prevent it from being used for anything other than education, is a more palatable option. Capital-gains taxes are common — all but nine states have them, according to the Tax Foundation.

When even the Seattle Times agrees that a capital gains tax is needed, then it’s time for Republicans to give up and accept reality. Especially those suburban Senate Republicans like Steve Litzow or Andy Hill who are rumored to be running for governor in 2016.

So basically, Republicans are willing to shut down the state government to protect the rich from being taxed to pay for public schools?

Exactly.

What do we do now?

Simple: demand Senate Republicans accept a capital gains tax to pay for public schools. That’s it. No strings attached, no “we’ll give you your capital gains tax if you give us some crazy right-wing thing we’ve always wanted.” Tax the rich to fund our schools, get this budget done, and stop a shutdown from happening. Make the State Senate Republicans cave to public pressure just like John Boehner and Republicans in Congress caved to public pressure in the October 2013 shutdown.

Coalition fighting Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive Initiative 1366 is gaining strength

For the past few months, we’ve been sounding the alarm about Initiative 1366, the most cynical, mean-spirited, destructive initiative that Tim Eyman has ever sponsored (and that’s saying something!) and asking organizations committed to the defense of Washington’s values to join us in opposing I-1366.

We are happy to report that our efforts have been meeting with success. The list of organizations opposing I-1366 is getting longer and longer as organizations sign up and commit to the cause of defeating Tim Eyman’s outrageous scheme to blackmail lawmakers into sabotaging our cherished tradition of majority rule.

This week, we are pleased to welcome the Washington Environmental Council,
Washington Conservation Voters, Statewide Poverty Action Network, Pierce County Democrats, and Metropolitan Democratic Club to the NO on I-1366 coalition. We’re very happy to have these organizations (and many others) with us.

But we’re looking for more. We want the biggest, broadest coalition possible working to defeat I-1366. Readers, if you are involved with one or more organizations that cares about effective government, fully funding our public schools, fixing our broken tax code, and upholding our state Constitution, please ask those organizations to join our cause as soon as they possibly can.

There’s no reason to wait. It’s a safe assumption that I-1366 will be on the ballot.

Yesterday, Tim Eyman sent out an email to his followers exhorting them to give him more money, claiming that he ans associates are “agonizingly close to qualifying”.

“We have just the final weeks and days of June to raise the money necessary to collect the required signatures,” Eyman wrote.

Once again, Eyman is misleading his followers. He has already raised $1.2 million for I-1366, and transferred $1 million of that to Citizen Solutions for signature gathering. That’s plenty of money for a signature drive.

We’re told Eyman and his associates aren’t paying more than $1.50 per signature, which means the actual cost to collect around 320,000 signatures (all that’s needed) can’t be more than around $480,000 (if it’s even that much).

Citizen Solutions will be able to pocket the remainder of the $1 million as profit. The signature drive is mostly over, and Eyman will soon be making an appointment with the Secretary of State to turn in his petition sheets.

The time to take a stand against I-1366 is now.

To make things easy, we’ve got a model resolution you can provide to the boards or governing bodies of organizations you work with. This model resolution can be tweaked or adapted as desired, but it’s also well-polished and can be adapted as is once an organization has added its name to the Therefore clauses.

After an organization you work with has taken a position, it’s important they let us know by filling out the form on the NO on I-1366 website so we can update the list of organizations that are opposed to Eyman’s diabolical plot force lawmakers to choose between sabotaging our state Constitution or blowing a massive hole in the state budget. The loss of $1 billion a year in state sales tax revenue would destroy the little progress that’s been made to date towards McCleary compliance and creating an even bigger school funding deficit.

Like I-517 and I-1125/I-1033/I-985 before it, I-1366 is beatable, but only if those of us who care about Washington’s values and Washington’s future come together to stand up to the extremism of Tim Eyman and his wealthy benefactors.

Take a stand against I-1366 today, and join the effort to send this unconscionable initiative to the political graveyard that it belongs in.

DelBene, Kilmer, Larsen planning to vote for fast-track; McDermott, Smith, Heck opposed

As many readers of the Cascadia Advocate may have heard, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote tomorrow on controversial “trade promotion authority” legislation that would grant President Barack Obama the power to fast-track the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. This legislation has already made it through the Senate and is now awaiting a vote in the House.

Support for and opposition to fast-track does not break down along party lines. A number of members from the House Republican caucus’ militant Tea Party faction plan to vote no because they don’t want to give President Obama fast-track authority or a political victory. To offset their no votes, Boehner needs some Democrats to cross over. The White House has been trying to convince Democrats from trade-rich areas like the Pacific Northwest to supply those votes.

Most of the House Democratic caucus is expected to vote no, because a vote for fast-track is a vote to tie Congress’ hands and prevent it from having any further role in the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership except taking an up-or-down vote on the legislation when it comes up for final ratification.

We at the Northwest Progressive Institute strongly oppose fast-track and have been contacting members of Congress from the Pacific Northwest, asking them to stand up for the region’s working people and vote no.

Three Democratic members of Congress from Washington have answered the call and will cast “nay” votes: Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck.

Washington’s other three Democratic U.S. representatives – Suzan DelBene, Derek Kilmer, and Rick Larsen – are unfortunately siding with the White House, as are all four of Washington’s Republican U.S. Representatives.

We’re disappointed in all seven of them, and particularly disappointed in DelBene, Kilmer, and Larsen. Larsen at least has an easy-to-find explanation of his position with a rationale. There’s a page on his website where he outlines his views on fast-track and responds to questions he’s received.

The same cannot be said of Suzan DelBene and Derek Kilmer. Their official House landing pages do not say anything about fast-track or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though the House is on the verge of voting on the matter.

A search of Kilmer’s website for TPP yielded only a copied article from Politico which mentions a television interview President Obama gave to KING5 in an attempt to sway Kilmer’s vote. A search of DelBene’s website yielded only this February press release touting a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative urging that the Trans-Pacific Partnership have a strong environment chapter.

DelBene and Kilmer did talk to the Seattle P-I’s Joel Connelly, but they are only quoted briefly in his story about the pending vote.

Contrast that lack of transparency with the group that’s planning to vote no (we’ll call them the working people’s advocates). Adam Smith and Denny Heck published compelling statements to the front pages of their websites (which they also tweeted) announcing how they plan to vote.

“This trade framework is skewed to benefit corporations; an example of this is the investor-state dispute settlement,” Smith said. “This mechanism gives corporations the private right to sue countries directly for what they may deem to be discriminatory, unfair, or arbitrary treatment by the host government.”

“Meanwhile, workers do not have the same right to action should a country violate its worker or environmental obligations under the agreement. For example, if a corporation perceives that it is negatively impacted by a country’s enactment of a safety or environmental protection law it has the right to sue that country. However, violations brought by labor or environmental groups must go through a long and cumbersome process through the U.S. Government that can take several years.”

“I am open to trade legislation that enhances our ability to better compete in a global economy, but this approach is piecemeal and does not do enough to advance the interests and potential of the hard-working Americans I represent. We can do better,” added Representative Denny Heck.

McDermott’s website does not have a statement up, but the Congressman has been open and vocal about his opposition to fast-track.

He speaks much more bluntly than Kilmer and DelBene in Joel Connelly’s story and is featured in this Wall Street Journal story about the pushback to fast-track. (The story notes that proponents of rigged trade deals are having a harder time selling their wares on Capitol Hill these days.)

The Oregon House delegation is also split on fast-track, though barely.

Ordinarily-reliable Democrats Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici are joining less-dependable Democrat Kurt Schrader and Republican Greg Walden to back fast-track. That leaves Peter DeFazio as the lone representative from Oregon who is opposed to giving President Obama trade promotion authority.

Like Larsen, Earl Blumenauer has a page prominently featured on his website where he explains his position and responds to questions. Suzanne Bonamici’s website doesn’t say anything about the looming vote. A search yielded only one reference to the TPP – this town hall recap from last autumn.

Schrader’s website has this statement confirming he’ll vote for fast-track dating to last month. It’s not prominently featured on his website, but it is accessible.

Walden’s website has his statement from earlier this week backing fast-track.

Peter DeFazio’s website has a number of pages that discuss fast-track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including this gem from April, in which DeFazio picks apart the trade promotion authority the White House is selling.

“Supporters of this bill will tell you it’s better than fast track deals of the past with protections for workers and the environment — don’t take the bait,” DeFazio says.  “It reinforces the same failed trade policies of the last 20 years that have earned multi-national corporations record profits and shipped good paying American jobs overseas.  Congress must not be used as a doormat to pass bad trade deals. It’s the same raw deal for American workers and the environment.”

We’ll have a recap of the fast-track vote here once it takes place.

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