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.

Washingtonians are hungry for meaningful corporate tax accountability, NPI poll finds

Washington may be a leader in many areas, but not when it comes to how we pay for the essential public services that we all rely on in our daily lives. We’ve known for a very long time that our upside down tax code is the most regressive in the nation, but we’ve yet to take meaningful steps to change that sorry state of affairs.

We regularly talk about the need for action, but our elected representatives haven’t followed through. In fact, they’ve spent the last few years exacerbating the problem. Our tax code is increasingly not just upside down, but chock full of special carve-outs. Visually, it could be represented by a block of Swiss cheese.

These carve-outs — variously referred to as tax breaks, exemptions, loopholes, or preferences — have historically been handed out with few or no strings attached. Meaning, we haven’t imposed sensible conditions that would allow us to recover the money we’re giving up if the carve-outs turn out not to be good investments or good public policy. Worse, we don’t even have a proper system of accounting for all the giveaways that we’ve created over the years.

There have been occasional attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of the carve-outs we have on our books; the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) has certainly studied and discussed the matter. Bills to create a tax expenditure budget have been introduced and given hearings.

But there hasn’t been much follow-up.

State Senator Reuven Carlyle and State Representatives Noel Frame, Gerry Pollet, and June Robinson have been leaders in pushing for change. Regrettably, they’re among the few who are passionate about imposing real accountability. Most legislators just don’t seem to care very much.

The voting public, however, is already there. Our research has confirmed that there’s an extraordinary appetite for meaningful accountability that spans the ideological spectrum and every demographic group imaginable.

According to NPI’s latest statewide survey of likely Evergreen State voters, nearly four out of five Washingtonians want legislators to toughen our tax code to hold corporations financially responsible when they fail to deliver on their job creation promises or they move jobs out of our state.

Take a look at these responses:

QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose legislation requiring corporations to forfeit tax breaks and repay subsidies they previously received if they fail to deliver on their job creation promises, or they move jobs out of Washington State?

ANSWERS:

  • Support: 79%
    • Strongly support: 59%
    • Somewhat support: 20%
  • Oppose: 18%
    • Somewhat oppose: 8%
    • Strongly oppose: 10%
  • Not sure: 3%

Our survey of 887 likely 2018 Washington State voters was in the field from June 27th-28th, 2017; all respondents participated via landline. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence level.

Nearly three in five respondents said they “strongly support” legislation that requires companies like Boeing to repay our state treasury if they don’t keep their job creation promises, or they move jobs out of Washington State (which Boeing has been repeatedly doing, to the disgust of many of us).

Even more remarkable was that enthusiasm was highest in Eastern Washington, where a whopping 64% of respondents put themselves in the strongly support category. That’s nearly two-thirds…. in just that one category. The next most enthusiastic areas were the South Sound and King County.

This is really something people on both sides of the Cascades can agree on.

It’s a simple idea: if firms want reductions in their tax obligations, they should be on the hook for repaying some or all of the money if they don’t create the promised jobs, or they play games with our economy by relocating jobs elsewhere.

We need to stop writing blank checks and instead require companies to agree to fair (and enforceable) terms and conditions in order to receive any tax breaks.

Those terms and conditions should provide a mechanism for our state treasury to get its money back — in whole or in part — if the terms aren’t respected. Then, captains of industry would know there would be fiscal repercussions were they to double cross Washington’s people and elected representatives.

This is easily one of the most popular ideas we’ve ever tested in our research, and we are committed to making it a reality. It’s a viable way for us to meaningfully improve our upside down tax code as well as our business climate.

Sound the alarm: Net neutrality is under attack at the FCC, and it’s up to us to save it

The second of three Seattle-area town halls organized by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s office took place this morning. Focused on net neutrality, it featured a panel discussion hosted by Cantwell, who was joined by the FCC’s Mignon Clyburn and Michael Schutzler, CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association. The trio took questions related to the proposed rollback of Title 2 regulations.

Commissioner Clyburn, who was appointed to the FCC by President Barack Obama, brought a lot to the discussion, providing informative and poignant answers to difficult questions. Constituents offered questions ranging from the ability of local governments to be able to regulate bandwidth in their regions, to the possible privacy implications of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s anti-internet proposals.

Both the Senator and Commissioner Clyburn started off the event by stressing the importance of informing the public about protecting net neutrality.

Maria Cantwell's town hall on net neutrality

Senator Maria Cantwell, Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, and Michael Schutzler, CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association at Town Hall (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“We are building an internet economy,” stated Senator Cantwell, who deemed the possible rollback of FCC regulations this August a grave threat to our “free and open internet.” Both the Commissioner and the Senator agreed that the internet is a essential service that all Americans should have access to.

In her opening remarks, Commissioner Clyburn suggested that this was an “opportunity for us to turn back the clock,” suggesting that with a large enough public outcry, the FCC might abandon Pai’s harmful trajectory and instead move one step closer to a completely free and open internet.

Cantwell reiterated her belief that “the internet is a public utility” during the Q&A, a view that appeared to be widely shared among audience members.

When asked about whether it was the government’s responsibility to build infrastructure to enable free and open access to the internet, both Senator Cantwell and Commissioner Clyburn expressed strong interest in building on the federal government’s past work to foster the deployment of broadband.

Throughout the event, Commissioner Clyburn stressed the importance of providing stories to the FCC within the public comment period. She asked constituents to ask themselves if the internet had made their lives better.

Naturally, audience members responded that it had.

Clyburn noted that stories have power, and that the FCC really needed to hear from small businesses that would be impacted by the repeal of net neutrality.

Cantwell described the current situation at the FCC as a “regulatory freeze”. Giant cable and telecom companies like Verizon and Comcast have been lobbying the FCC, demanding the rollback of rules they don’t like. Pai has been carrying their water.

If Commissioner Pai’s current plan were to pass, it would spur massive changes to our internet-driven economy and further infringe on digital privacy rights, contributing to a grand state of uncertainty, as Commissioner Clyburn put it.

Perhaps the best moment of the town hall was when a young man asked the panel if internet should be a place that embraces the First Amendment. Cantwell’s reply consisted of just one word: Yes. The short, blunt answer was well received by the assembled crowd. Commissioner Clyburn weighed in too, adding: “Net Neutrality is the First Amendment of the internet,” likening the concept of a free and open internet to our founders’ vision of a free democratic society.

Both the Senator and Commissioner urged the audience to leave comments in opposition to Pai’s plan through the FCC’s website, and urge fellow activists to follow suit, so that the FCC receives a large, grassroots-driven groundswell in support of keeping broadband regulated as public utility under Title II.

It is vital we all speak to the consequences of the FCC’s proposed rollback. But the voices of cyber entrepreneurs are especially needed because they could carry more weight with the Republican members of the FCC, Pai included.

“Business stories,” Clyburn said, “are what we should focus on.”

The panel reflected on the impact that Daily Show alum John Oliver had on the FCC’s proceedings back in 2014, when he urged viewers of his program Last Week Tonight to contact the FCC in support of net neutrality. Over five million comments were ultimately sent, and those significantly influenced the FCC’s rulemaking, helping pave the way for broadband to be regulated as a public utility.

(A few weeks ago, Oliver’s HBO show ran a follow-up segment.)

That was a significant victory, but those gains could be reversed if we don’t speak out now in defense of net neutrality. A massive, wide-ranging day of action in support of a free internet is planned for next Wednesday, July 12th, and NPI will be taking part, along with countless other organizations.

Cantwell will hold one more town hall tomorrow (Saturday, July 8th). It is a general town hall open to a wide-ranging discussion of all issues. The event is open to the public, but requires tickets. Visit the Senator’s website for more information.

Maria Cantwell’s trio of Seattle town halls begins successfully at UW’s Kane Hall

Activists who have been longing for Washington State’s U.S. Senators to start holding town hall meetings got their wish fulfilled last night when Senator Maria Cantwell hosted the first of three town halls planned for the Seattle area, focused on healthcare (and perhaps more specifically, threats to healthcare).

If the event had to be summarized in one word, it might be informative; many people in attendance remarked that they had added to their knowledge by coming. The standing ovation at the end signified participants’ appreciation for the smoothly run and thoughtfully executed event. Questions asked by constituents ranged from mothers wondering about the extension of Medicaid to their sons to physical therapists wondering if ER coverage would be brought to rural areas.

Throughout the night, it was clear that Cantwell and other Senate Democrats would be committed to stopping Trumpcare by any means necessary. Cantwell frequently challenged  Republicans to debate her on the Senate floor, stating that their refusal to engage so far was evidence that they didn’t have a winning argument.

Saving the Patient Protection Act from obliteration or sabotage is extremely important, because as Cantwell noted, lives are on the line.

Maria Cantwell hosting a healthcare town hall

Maria Cantwell smiles as she listens to a constituent question at her healthcare town hall (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

When asked about rising premiums, the Senator reinforced the importance of conserving the “things that are working” like the expansion of Medicaid and new family-friendly insurance plans being offered in states like New York.

Sustained applause and cheers broke out when a constituent pointed out that “single-payer healthcare is favored by most Americans.”

(Last week, half of the respondents to NPI’s latest research poll said they strongly supported expanding Medicare to provide universal coverage to all Americans; another 14% said they somewhat supported the idea, for a total of 64%.)

Perhaps the best moment came at the end, when a young woman asked Cantwell if she would encourage her colleagues to convene some kind of emergency or special meeting to address how we can fight the climate crisis in the wake of Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords and gut the EPA.

As she listened to constituents’ stories, Cantwell expressed strong sympathy for those stuck in the middle, individuals who are wealthy enough to not qualify for Medicaid, but not rich enough to afford insurance on their own.

So did people in the crowd. Audience members could be seen empathizing, often tearing up, when hearing a story about a family member with a critical health condition who received life-saving care thanks to the Patient Protection Act.

One man, a cancer surgeon, shared that his son, when diagnosed with leukemia, wouldn’t have been able to get health insurance without the PPA.

Another woman, frustrated with the lack of nonprofit opioid rehabilitation centers in Seattle, offered a plea for help and stressed the importance of a grassroots movement to provide care for people struggling with addiction.

Cantwell told participants that she believes in universal health coverage, and said she could support whatever approach gets us there the quickest.

Of course, with Republicans in total control of the federal government, progress is going to have to happen at the state level. Cantwell explained the Patient Protection Act does contain a clause allowing states to pursue setting up a single-payer system, but that would go away if Republicans succeeded in gutting the PPA.

Joined onstage by Dean Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine, who read out numbers given to people who had signed up to ask questions, Cantwell repeatedly interspersed her commentary on the Republican plot to do away with the Patient Protection Act with praise of our state for its cutting-edge primary care system.

The rest of the country ought to follow our example, Cantwell said. She lauded Washington as a pioneer for excellent, publicly funded healthcare — once stopping to (as she put it), “geek out” with maps and graphs.

Though many constituents were plainly worried about what might happen in the U.S. Senate in the weeks to comes, a spirit of resistance pervaded the gathering. Cantwell encouraged attendees to continue the fight to save the PPA.

Cantwell will hold two more town halls this week. One will take place tomorrow (Friday July 7th) and the other will be on Saturday (July 8th). The Friday town hall will be focused on net neutrality and the Saturday town hall will be a wide-ranging discussion with no specific focus. Both are open to the public but require tickets.

Majority of Washingtonians surveyed support Democratic Party in 2017 legislative elections

Given the opportunity to cast a vote in a special state House race or state Senate contest this year — ordinarily just a local election year — most Washingtonians surveyed say they would support the Democratic Party’s candidates.

Last week, we asked 887 likely 2018 voters this question:

QUESTION: If your district was holding a special election for the state Senate or the state House today, would you vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in your district?

ANSWERS:

  • Democratic candidate: 51%
  • Republican candidate: 39%
  • Not sure: 10%

This is what’s known as a generic ballot question, because it doesn’t ask voters about specific candidates, but rather about their party preferences in a current or upcoming election. In our survey, a majority of respondents indicated they’d vote for the Democratic candidate if their district was holding a special election this year, while only 39% said they’d vote for the Republican candidate. 10% were not sure.

Our survey of 887 likely 2018 Washington State voters was in the field from June 27th-28th, 2017; all respondents participated via landline. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence level.

These numbers are from a statewide survey with a statewide sample, and it’s important to know that most legislative districts in the state don’t have special elections this year. The five districts that do are as follows:

  • 7th Legislative District: House and Senate
    • Why: A vacancy was created when Brian Dansel resigned to join the Trump administration. Another vacancy was created when Shelley Short moved from the House to the Senate.
    • District Type: Safe Republican
  • 31st Legislative District: House and Senate
    • Why: A vacancy was created when Pam Roach resigned to join the Pierce County Council. Another vacancy was created when Phil Fortunato moved from the House to the Senate.
    • District Type: Likely Republican
  • 37th Legislative District: Senate
    • Why: A vacancy was created when Pramila Jayapal resigned to become a United States Representative
    • District Type: Safe Democratic
  • 45th Legislative District: Senate
    • Why: A vacancy was created when Andy Hill died of cancer
    • District Type: Battleground
  • 48th Legislative District: House and Senate
    • Why: A vacancy was created when Cyrus Habib resigned to become Lieutenant Governor. Another vacancy was created when Patty Kuderer moved from the House to the Senate.
    • District Type: Safe Democratic

Click on the links to see profiles of each district.

Of the five districts with special elections, the 45th is considered the big battleground. If the Democratic Party takes the 45th, the Senate will flip, and the party will have control of both chambers in the Washington State Legislature. It is possible that seats in other districts could flip, but it isn’t as likely.

Strange things do happen sometimes in elections, like last month, when a constituency in England that had been electing Tories for a century elected a Labour candidate instead. (Read more about what happened in Canterbury.)

I should mention that there is no chance the 37th will flip this year because Democratic incumbent Rebecca Saldaña happens to be unopposed.

We don’t have a breakout of responses only from the 45th, but we do know how people responded based on their area code, and since this particular survey of Washington voters was of landlines only, the area code of our respondents’ phone numbers has a correlation with their actual location.

The 45th District falls within the area that uses the 425 code, which encompasses the Eastside of King County and parts of Snohomish County, but does not include heavily Democratic Seattle or heavily Republican Eastern Washington. Looking at the answers from only this group of respondents gives us a better idea as to the party preferences of Washingtonians who dwell in the suburbs.

Answers from the 425 area code only were:

QUESTION: If your district was holding a special election for the state Senate or the state House today, would you vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in your district?

ANSWERS FROM AREA CODE 425 ONLY:

  • Democratic candidate: 59%
  • Republican candidate: 30%
  • Not sure: 11%

Compared to the sample as a whole, enthusiasm for the Democratic Party is higher among respondents with (425) numbers, and enthusiasm for the Republican Party is correspondingly lower. That’s practically a two-to-one margin for the Democrats. The percentage of respondents who aren’t sure is about the same.

What’s interesting about this data is how it compares to the most recent elections for Legislature in the 45th. Take a look — this was last year’s contest between Democratic State Representative Roger Goodman and his challenger, Republican Ramiro Valderrama, a city councilmember from Sammamish:

Roger Goodman: 61.87% (42,981 votes)
Ramiro Valderrama: 38.13% (26,491 votes)
Total Votes (not including write-ins): 69,472

There isn’t a “not sure” option on the ballot in a real election, only a write-in option, but note that Roger Goodman was able to garner more than 60% of the vote in the 45th last year, while Ramiro Valderrama couldn’t crack 40%, despite having been elected to represent one of the district’s larger cities.

Granted, this was a presidential year with fairly high turnout, but if we look back further (Goodman also won by a convincing margin in 2014, for instance) we can see a clear trend: the 45th is becoming increasingly Democratic. It enthusiastically supported Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates in 2016. It is a district that is slipping away from the Republicans — and they know it.

The Democratic Party is fielding senior deputy prosecutor Manka Dhingra in the special election in the 45th, while the Republican Party is fielding a protege of Dino Rossi and Cathy McMorris Rodgers — Jinyoung Lee Englund.

The candidates have very different backgrounds and campaign themes. Dhingra has emphasized the need to invest in schools and mental health, and has built a very grassroots-oriented campaign, with a large teen volunteer force, while Englund — who only registered to vote in the district a week prior to announcing —  is running against “Seattle style politics” and is relying heavily on paid canvassers.

Ballots in the August Top Two election will be mailed in a few days; the first results will be reported on Tuesday, August 1st, 2017. That’s when we’ll have numbers from a real election to compare to this survey data.

Maria Cantwell well ahead of Rob McKenna in potential U.S. Senate matchup, NPI poll finds

The Evergreen State is likely to remain safe Democratic territory in next year’s elections for United States Senate, if the results of NPI’s latest statewide survey of Washington voters are any indication.

As most readers probably know, our state elects all of its executive department positions in presidential years, so in midterm years, if there’s a marquee race of statewide importance, it’s a United States Senate contest.

But it doesn’t look like next year’s Senate race will be very competitive. The Republicans haven’t found a challenger for Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell yet, but we figured the strongest candidate they could possibly recruit would be former State Attorney General Rob McKenna, the last Republican to run for either governor or U.S. Senator here who got more than 47% of the vote.

So we decided to pit Cantwell and McKenna against each other in a hypothetical matchup. Here is the question we asked, and the answers:

QUESTION: If the election for U.S. Senate were held today and the candidates were Democrat Maria Cantwell and Republican Rob McKenna, who would you vote for?

ANSWERS:

  • Maria Cantwell: 53%
  • Rob McKenna: 40%
  • Not sure: 6%

As we can see, Cantwell has a healthy thirteen point lead. 53% of respondents said they would vote for her, while only 40% said they’d vote for McKenna.

It is worth noting that Cantwell’s lead here is just as strong, if not stronger, than early polls from the last cycle pitting her against Republican State Senator Michael Baumgartner, her eventual 2012 opponent. (Cantwell ultimately crushed Baumgartner in the November 2012 general election, 60.45% to 39.55%.)

A SurveyUSA poll taken from November 21st-23rd, 2011 found Cantwell with 51% support and Baumgartner with 39%. In that same poll, for governor, McKenna received 44% support and Jay Inslee received 38%.

In subsequent surveys conducted by SurveyUSA as well as Public Policy Polling and other pollsters, Cantwell’s support remained steady, with around 51% of respondents consistently saying they’d vote for her. Then, in the autumn, her supported jumped into the mid to upper fifties. The Washington Poll pinned her support at 61% just prior to the election, which closely tracked the official result.

Elections can be difficult to predict, and we can’t be sure of what will happen in the November 2018 midterms, but this data reinforces our belief that Republicans will be hard pressed to find a candidate who can give Cantwell a serious challenge, let alone unseat her. The electoral landscape next year is unlikely to be favorable to them and Washington hasn’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate in decades.

McKenna only registered at 40% in our survey, and it’s hard to think of a more compelling candidate for the Republicans than McKenna.

Republicans already tried fielding one of the members of their state Senate caucus against Cantwell in the last go-round (Baumgartner), and he flopped. Their bench isn’t deep, so it would seem they don’t have a lot of options.

Cantwell, meanwhile, is making the most of her time at home during the Fourth of July congressional recess to engage with constituents.  She has three Seattle-area town halls planned this week: one tonight (on healthcare), one on Friday (on net neutrality), and another on Saturday. All are open to the public but require tickets.

NPI’s survey of 887 likely 2018 Washington State voters was in the field from June 27th-28th, 2017; all respondents participated via landline. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence level.

The Declaration of Independence, two hundred and forty-one years later

In accordance with tradition, we are reposting 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.

State House swiftly passes paid family and medical leave bill, sending it to Inslee’s desk

Washington State’s House of Representatives has enthusiastically given its backing to a landmark paid family and medical leave bill that will bolster the economic security and well-being of Washington families. The House took action within an hour of having received the bill from the state Senate, which is extremely fast.

The legislation, Substitute Senate Bill 5975, passed the House by a vote of sixty-five to twenty-nine. Four members were excused and did not take part in the vote.

Roll Call
SSB 5975
Paid family & medical leave
Final Passage
6/30/2017

Yeas: 65; Nays: 29; Excused: 4

Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Bergquist, Blake, Chapman, Clibborn, Cody, Dent, Doglio, Dolan, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Goodman, Graves, Gregerson, Haler, Hansen, Harmsworth, Harris, Hudgins, Irwin, Jinkins, Kagi, Kilduff, Kirby, Kloba, Lovick, Lytton, MacEwen, Macri, Manweller, McBride, McCabe, McDonald, Muri, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pellicciotti, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reeves, Riccelli, Robinson, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Sells, Senn, Slatter, Smith, Springer, Stambaugh, Stanford, Stokesbary, Stonier, Sullivan, Tarleton, Tharinger, Valdez, Van Werven, Wilcox, Wylie, Chopp

Voting Nay: Representatives Barkis, Buys, Caldier, Chandler, Condotta, DeBolt, Dye, Griffey, Hargrove, Jenkin, Johnson, Klippert, Koster, Kraft, Kretz, Kristiansen, Maycumber, McCaslin, Nealey, Orcutt, Pike, Rodne, Schmick, Steele, Taylor, Vick, Volz, Walsh, J., Young

Excused: Representatives Hayes, Holy, Morris, Shea

As in the Senate, the Democrats were united in their support of the bill while the Republicans were divided, providing all of the nay votes and some aye votes.

Here’s some background from legislative staff on how it will work:

Average premiums will cost about $4 a week per employee (shared between the employer and employee) with a maximum benefit of $1,000 a week. The cost of the leave program will be shared with employee premiums accounting for about 63 percent and employers contributing 37 percent.  Considerations have been made for small businesses, including opt-in only premium contributions for employers with 50 or fewer employees. Employees of businesses with fewer than 50 workers are still covered by the benefit.

Businesses with 150 or fewer employees would also be eligible for a grant for the cost to cover the duties of employees taking leave.

Legislators celebrated the passage of SSB 5975 with a news release.

“To care for a baby or an aging parent, paid family leave is the gift of time and peace of mind that we can be there for our families, put food on the table and go back to a job that is secure,” said State Representative June Robinson, D-38th District (Everett), who authored the original House bill.

“This legislation, which is both worker-friendly and fiscally responsible, is good for families, smart for business, and keeps our state moving forward.”

“Washington State has proved once again that we are leaders for the cause of working families and shown that even on issues with a vast range of perspectives, bipartisan compromise is possible when the focus stays on the common good,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-33rd District (Kent), the lead Senate Democratic negotiator.

“I was devastated when my first paid family leave law that was adopted in 2007 was ultimately defunded in the wake of the Great Recession. But through tough-minded bipartisan negotiations, we have developed a program that will become a cornerstone for thriving families and successful businesses.”

Senate Republican Floor Leader Joe Fain served as the original sponsor in the state Senate and helped negotiate the deal with Keiser, Robinson, and other legislators.

“Too often moms and dads are not able to take time to bond with and care for their newborn, or recover from a serious injury,” said Fain (R-47th District), the measure’s prime sponsor. “Our paid family and medical leave plan provides economic stability for working families, while respecting the needs of employers.”

“This plan represents what is possible when Republicans and Democrats work together in the best interest of our state.”

Only four other states currently offer or are set to offer a comprehensive paid family and medical leave insurance program. All are blue states: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York. The District of Columbia also offers paid leave.

This is a truly significant accomplishment and we congratulate the Legislature on this strong bipartisan vote for a worthy, needed progressive idea.

The bill now awaits signing by Governor Jay Inslee.

Washington State Senate passes landmark paid family and medical leave bill

By a vote of thirty-seven to twelve (a three-to-one margin), the Washington State Senate has passed a landmark paid family and medical leave bill that will strengthen the economic security and well-being of families across the Evergreen State.

Substitute Senate Bill 5975 is the product of prolonged negotiations between the four statehouse caucuses, business groups, labor unions, and other stakeholders. Legislative staff have summarized it as follows:

Brief Summary of First Substitute Bill

  • Provides paid family leave of up to 12 weeks to bond after the birth or placement of a child or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Provides paid medical leave of up to 12 weeks fo r an employee’s serious health condition.
  • Limits combined leave to 16 weeks in a year, plus an additional two weeks if there are pregnancy complications, for a possible total of 18 weeks. Requires a seven-day waiting period for leave, except for the birth or placement of a child.
  • Provides leave for a military exigency.
  • Requires an employee to work 820 hours in the qualifying period to be eligible.
  • Specifies a premium of 0.4 percent of wages beginning on January 1, 2019. Premiums assessed to employers and employees vary. An employer may pay the employee’s share.
  • Bases benefits on an employee’s wages and may be paid beginning January 1, 2020.
  • Authorizes employers to operate their own equivalent voluntary plans.
  • Includes special provisions for small businesses.
  • Allows tribes and self-employed individuals to opt- in.

The bill text is available here.

The roll call vote on SSB 5975 was as follows:

Roll Call
SSB 5975
Paid family & medical leave
3rd Reading & Final Passage
6/30/2017

Yeas: 37; Nays: 12

Voting Yea: Senators Becker, Billig, Braun, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Fain, Fortunato, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Hunt, Keiser, King, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Miloscia, Mullet, Nelson, O’Ban, Palumbo, Pedersen, Ranker, Rivers, Rolfes, Saldaña, Schoesler, Takko, Van De Wege, Walsh, Warnick, Wellman, Wilson, Zeiger

Voting Nay: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Brown, Ericksen, Hawkins, Honeyford, Padden, Pearson, Rossi, Sheldon, Short

Democrats were united in their support of the legislation, while Republicans were divided, with their caucus splitting right down the middle.

The Republicans who voted for the bill were:

  1. Randi Becker
  2. John Braun
  3. Joe Fain
  4. Phil Fortunato
  5. Curtis King
  6. Mark Miloscia
  7. Steve O’Ban
  8. Ann Rivers
  9. Mark Schoesler
  10. Maureen Walsh
  11. Judy Warnick
  12. Lynda Wilson
  13. Hans Zeiger

The other Republicans are listed above in the “nay” category. (We consider Tim Sheldon of Potlatch a Republican because he caucuses with the Republicans, talks and behaves like a Republican, and votes for other Republicans.)

Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and it’s nice to see a good bill pass out of the Senate for a change, instead of simply dying there.

SSB 5975 now heads to the state House of Representatives, where it is expected to be easily approved. It will then go to Governor Jay Inslee to be signed into law. Senate passage was the bill’s highest hurdle.

NPI thanks the thirty-seven members of the Senate who voted to pass this legislation. Washington is a better state thanks to their action today.

Washingtonians strongly support Medicare For All and oppose Trumpcare, NPI poll finds

A new poll commissioned by NPI has found that voters in Washington State are overwhelmingly opposed to the U.S. House’s version of Trumpcare while resoundingly supportive of the idea of expanding Medicare to cover everyone.

In our latest statewide public opinion research survey, we asked respondents how they felt about plans by federal Republicans to abolish or sabotage the Patient Protection Act, and whether they support expanding Medicare to provide universal health coverage for all Americans. The answers that came back were profound.

First: By a nearly two to one margin, respondents said they preferred the Patient Protection Act to the legislation voted out of the House by Paul Ryan’s caucus.

We asked:

What would you rather have in place: the current Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or the new American Health Care Act passed last month by the U.S. House?

These were the answers:

  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: 56%
  • American Health Care Act: 29%
  • Not sure: 16%

This finding shows that Washingtonians strongly support the Patient Protection Act and want to keep it, which is (appropriately) what Governor Jay Inslee and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler have been lobbying Congress to do.

Most of the members of Washington’s congressional delegation voted against the bill that passed out of the House to sabotage the Patient Protection Act a few weeks ago, although Republican Dave Reichert shamefully waited to weigh in against the bill and commit to voting no until he knew his vote was not needed.

Senate Republicans have recently been struggling to cobble together their own version of Trumpcare. Mitch McConnell has so far been unable to craft legislation that has the support of fifty of his members (he’s not even bothering to engage with Senate Democrats at this juncture) so senators are going home for the Independence Day holiday recess without having voted on anything.

We’ve seen a surge of much-needed grassroots activism against Republicans’ efforts to take away the healthcare of millions of Americans by gutting the Patient Protection Act. That activism is not only giving Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan serious heartburn, it’s helping to solidify public opinion against their evil schemes.

Second: We wanted to know how Washingtonians feel about building on the Patient Protection Act (as opposed to sabotaging it) and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans. So we asked:

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose expanding Medicare to provide universal health coverage to all Americans?

These were the answers:

  • Support: 64%
    • Strongly support: 50%
    • Somewhat support: 14%
  • Oppose: 32%
    • Somewhat oppose: 9%
    • Strongly oppose: 23%
  • Not sure: 4%

By a remarkable two-to-one margin, respondents to our poll say that we should expand Medicare so that it covers everybody. What really impressed us was that half of all respondents to the poll put themselves in the “strongly support” category. There is a lot of enthusiasm in Washington for universal healthcare.

Democratic candidates who want to be successful in 2017, 2018, and beyond would be well served to embrace this finding and make healthcare for all a major facet of their campaigns. Healthcare is a human right, and this research shows a majority of the public wants to see our laws changed to ensure that everyone is covered.

Most of the developed countries in the world have figured out how to provide universal coverage to their people. We haven’t. We need to change that.

The status quo isn’t good enough. The Patient Protection Act was a step forward, but we need to take another step. Freedom doesn’t stand still. We must focus our public discourse on the idea of expanding health freedom, as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have proposed, as opposed to contracting it.

Our survey of 887 likely 2018 Washington State voters was in the field from June 27th-28th, 2017; all respondents participated via landline. The poll, conducted by respected firm Public Policy Polling on behalf of the Northwest Progressive Institute, has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence level.

State budget analysis roundup: NPI partners offer critiques based on what we know so far

Today is the final day of Washington State’s current fiscal year. State lawmakers must either pass an operating budget by the end of the day or find a way to buy themselves more time to continue hammering out a budget (which most are loathe to do), or else state government will have to shut down.

With details about the agreement reached by the Legislature’s majority caucuses (the House Democrats and Senate Republicans) finally available, interested citizens and organizations can finally see the specifics of what’s being proposed. Here is a roundup of reaction offered by NPI’s partners based on what we know so far.

Washington’s Paramount Duty:

While the legislature’s proposed education funding plan includes a significant increase in funding for our public schools, it falls well short of what is required by the courts and the constitution.

This deal runs a serious risk of failing to meet those requirements, failing to meet the pressing needs in classrooms across the state, and relies on unstable funding sources. If this deal passes, it may not mean the end of the McCleary case – this year, this decade, or this generation.

In 2016 Washington’s Paramount Duty estimated the cost of fully funding public education – specifically, the basic education promised by the legislature in 2009 in bills ESSB 2261 and 2776 – to be about $8 billion a biennium. Legal counsel for the McCleary plaintiffs estimated the sum was $10 billion a biennium, with at least $5.6 billion needed just for the next school year alone in order to meet requirements for materials and operations, teacher salaries, and smaller class sizes.

The deal legislators reached this week would provide an extra $7.3 billion over the next four years. This is less than half the money required to fulfill the constitutional and court-enforced right to a fully and amply funded education.

This deal also undermines the voter-approved initiative to reduce class sizes, providing that smaller class sizes would only become part of a basic education requirement if the legislature chooses to fund it. This is circular logic, and flies in the face of evidence and common sense that students learn better and have all their needs met when teachers can provide more attention to them in a classroom with fewer students.

We have already heard from parents and teachers across the state who are concerned that the sweeping changes to teacher pay would make it even more difficult to attract and retain good teachers in our schools. Capping teacher pay at $90,000, as well as the elimination of the “staff mix” model and limits on bargaining, combine to limit the ability of teachers to make a living and remain as residents of our own communities.

The McCleary case was never about reforms to the way teachers are paid. We see no reason for these risky changes to be made, certainly not with so much haste and so little public scrutiny.

We are also troubled by the methods used to pay for this half measure. The Supreme Court held that education funding must be regular and dependable. A property tax increase does not meet that standard, especially when the legislature maintains a 1% cap in future years on property taxes. This has the effect of eroding the property tax revenues that go to schools, meaning it’s no longer regular or dependable.

The legislature’s decision to limit local levies is another risky move. If the legislature fails to adequately fund basic education, or if districts’ costs rise above what legislators are willing to pay, those districts will be facing significant cuts, undermining the intent of the McCleary decision.

More importantly, using the property tax to fund schools is regressive and hurts the poor and the working families for whom a public education is particularly important. Many families will be unable to pay these costs, especially at a time when housing costs in many Washington cities are rising fast.

Washington State is home to some of the world’s richest individuals – and yet we have the most regressive tax system in the United States. The legislature’s decision to make poor people pay without asking the rich or big businesses to pay more is unconscionable, particularly when the same budget deal opens millions in new tax breaks for business.

We understand that legislators are worried about a government shutdown. We are too. On the other hand, it is hard to believe that avoiding a shutdown now is worth the price of continuing to underfund our schools and make poor people pay more in housing costs for years to come.

Students across Washington State are asked to attend schools that don’t have heat in the winter, that don’t have new textbooks, that don’t have a full-time nurse on duty, that don’t have librarians or new books, or counselors to help guide them to college or a career.

It’s not clear that this deal will fully address these and other urgent needs, particularly since there are no provisions for capital expenditures in this budget. We urge the legislature to urgently address capital requirements for schools by passing a bill that provides the $2 billion necessary to ensure children across Washington attend schools that are safe, secure and have the capacity to accommodate the lower class sizes that voters have voted for and that we know provide a better learning environment for all students.

Legislators may be exhausted and tired after a few weeks of work. But parents are exhausted and tired after years of unpaid work to plug the gaps in funding for our underfunded public schools caused by legislators’ dereliction of their duty. We call on legislators to reject this deal and fix it to address the issues we have identified above. If they pass this education funding plan, we will have no choice but to urge the Supreme Court to reject it and order the legislature to do better.

The Washington Budget & Policy Center:

Legislative leaders have agreed to a spending plan to fund state services for the next two years – and as such, they may avoid a state shutdown – but they have left a lot of important work undone. Notably, lawmakers have passed up an historic opportunity to address our state’s broken tax code, and instead have relied too much on unsustainable fund transfers and budget gimmicks that will threaten the economic strength of the state in the future.

The budget deal includes some investments in critical programs, but it falls short of meaningfully strengthening many of the state’s most important long-term investments.

Instead of creating a budget that enacts much-needed revenue reform, lawmakers have cobbled together a budget that makes progress toward fulfilling a mandate from the state Supreme Court to strengthen our K-12 schools. But the final budget agreement does this by relying too heavily on irresponsible accounting tricks, like drawing down the state rainy day fund and shifting funds between accounts, that will leave the state on shaky ground in future years.

Lawmakers propose to raise new resources for schools with a small increase in the state property tax. But it is disappointing that no actions were taken to offset higher property tax bills for lower- and middle-income homeowners and renters who, under our current tax code, pay up to seven times more in state and local taxes as a share of their incomes than the richest Washingtonians.

In addition to the property tax changes, lawmakers agreed to eliminate wasteful tax breaks – including the bottled water sales tax exemption and a sales tax break for oil refineries – and close off legal loopholes that allow out-of-state businesses to avoid paying sales taxes and business taxes. But they also added or extended 13 other tax breaks that will take money out of communities in favor of special interests and leave fewer resources for future investments. Now is the time to clean up the tax code to clear out wasteful tax breaks, not add more.

Central to legislators’ budget negotiations was compliance with the state Supreme Court’s order to fund public schools by the end of this legislative session. The school funding plan included in the final budget deal overhauls the state’s teacher pay system and will invest an additional $7.3 billion in public schools over the next four years. It remains to be seen whether the compromise will be sufficient to satisfy the court’s order to amply fund public education.

It appears that severe cuts to many important priorities that improve the lives of Washingtonians with low incomes may have been largely avoided. If so, that’s a good start. However, the deal doesn’t do enough to strengthen many of the programs that allow people with middle and low incomes to thrive – and in particular many people of color who, because of systemic racism, are denied equal access to opportunity. Unless state lawmakers take significant steps toward reforming our tax code to enact equitable and sustainable revenue sources, meaningful improvements to community investments will continue to be difficult.

If lawmakers can get the budget signed by the governor in time, they may narrowly avoid a state government shutdown; but either way, the result is a makeshift budget that doesn’t address the unsustainability, inequity, and inadequacy of our tax code. Especially with the threat of huge federal cuts on the horizon, state lawmakers must ensure the budget protects the well-being of Washingtonians.

In 2018, lawmakers will have another chance to lift up Washington’s communities and build a brighter future for our kids. To do that, they’ll need to get serious about cleaning up our tax code to raise state resources in an equitable and sustainable way.

Washington Education Association:

WEA members, allies, kids and dogs rallied on the Capitol steps in Olympia Thursday in support of funding for schools and services.

Legislators released a summary of their new education funding plan Thursday, and while it represents progress, it falls short of amply funding our students’ K-12 public schools as required by the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

WEA budget lobbyists are analyzing the new education budget, and it will take time to provide a detailed analysis. Based on summary information provided by the Legislature, here are key points:

It fails to amply fund K-12 schools by the Sept. 1, 2018 deadline set by the Supreme Court, although it does increase K-12 funding by about $7.3 billion over four years.

  • Despite the current educator shortage, it delays funding for competitive educator salaries. While it substantially increases state-funded base pay for educators over four years, it only has a 2.3 percent COLA the first year. It eliminates the salary allocation model in 2018-19, and it will require school districts to negotiate new salary schedules with their employee unions. It also funds additional salary in districts with housing costs that exceed the state average.
  • It creates a new state-run health care system for school employees, eliminating local bargaining over health benefits. The per-employee state health care allocation will increase to the same amount legislators and state employees receive. Beginning in 2020, a coalition of school employee unions will negotiate health benefits with the governors’ office.
  • It delays funding for smaller class sizes in grades 4-12 and for additional support staff as required by Initiative 1351, but it funds smaller class sizes for career and technical classes and a few other specialized programs, adding staff positions.
  • It reduces local voter-approved school levies, limiting the ability of school districts to meet the unique local needs of their students. Planned levy expenditures must be approved by the state before districts can ask voters for approval, and the state will audit how levy money is spent.
  • The new plan restricts bargaining for additional educator pay beyond state-funded base pay. This is an issue that needs more review to determine the impact. A legislative summary says, Supplemental contracts may only be used for defined enrichment activities and the hourly rate under the supplemental contract may not exceed the hourly rate provided to that same instructional staff under the basic education salary.”
  • In 2018-19, locals are prohibited from bargaining more than a COLA unless their average salary is less than the statewide average.
  • It increases funding for the Learning Assistance Program, special education and other programs that benefit the students who need the most help.
  • It funds three days of professional development, but restricts how many half-days school districts can schedule.

The education budget document is over 120 pages long and was released Thursday afternoon. It’s complicated, and there are good parts and bad parts. We’ll post further information as we get it.

This post will be updated with further analysis throughout the day.

End of Washington’s fiscal year looms as lawmakers disclose details of budget deal

While those watching out for the release of the Washington State Legislature’s final state budget were sorely disappointed this afternoon, details were bubbling out about the Legislature’s plans to address McCleary. Legislative staff, however, are still scrambling to actually produce a budget that negotiators have agreed to in order avoid a state government shutdown. Then it must be voted on.

Since the 2012 McCleary decision came out, lawmakers have been under court orders to amply bolster funding for Washington’s public schools. But they have been unable to agree on how to get there, in large part because Republicans have stubbornly clung to their “no new taxes” mantra. This has resulted in the Court holding the Legislature in contempt for neglecting its responsibilities.

As in past long sessions, a failure to even begin negotiations in earnest has left Washington citizens waiting over multiple extended sessions to evaluate any decisions coming from the Legislature.

In impromptu meetings with reporters on Thursday, lawmakers released statements confirming they’ve agreed to a potential state property tax increase of roughly 81 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Public teachers can expect to see average salary increases of approximately $10,000, while public school administrators would be receiving over $30,000 of average salary increases by 2021.

These increases would include adjustments for salaries given the residential values in a school district exceed the national average. Accordingly, beginning in 2020, salary for all school staff would adjust based on inflation rates.

There is also a $644.2 million boost to state appropriations on school programs for gifted students, students who fall under the poverty line, and students who fall behind current academic standards.

School districts and unions representing teachers won’t have much time to analyze the impacts of this budget considering a final vote is scheduled to take place in each house by midnight tomorrow night (Friday, June 30th).

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) released a public statement stating, “It will be days [from when the budget is officially released] before we know if the new plans will fully support the educational needs of SPS students.”

Yet no public hearings will be held on the official budget, or its McCleary funding component, which is expected to be released Friday around 8 AM.

This lack of public input has intensified concerns of both legislative efficiency and fiscal transparency.

Reporters in Olympia have attempted to address this issue with lawmakers.

“The decisions are made,” said State Representative June Robinson, D-Everett, one of the budget negotiators. “What we’re waiting for now is staff to do all the work that needs to be done to balance everything.”

Robinson said she doesn’t anticipate a public hearing on the budget before it gets a floor vote. But people have had months to vet the ideas that went into the deal, she added, since it’s a combination of the Republican and Democratic plans passed earlier this year by the Senate and House, respectively.

“I feel like we were able to use public input to develop the final compromise budget,” she said. “I understand that other people might not feel that way.”

Lawmakers say their number one priority is to avoid a state government shutdown, which would be triggered Saturday in the absence of a new state operating budget.

Had a deal been negotiated earlier, however, there would have been plenty of time for critical scrutiny and public comment. The Legislature is now in its third special session. It blew through two periods of overtime without accomplishing much of anything. And only now, with the fiscal year about to end, has a deal been reached. Unfortunately, many details still aren’t available and won’t be until tomorrow.

Christy Clark resigns; NDP’s John Horgan to form new government in British Columbia

British Columbia will soon have a new Premier heading up a more progressive government following today’s decision by the province’s Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon to ask New Democratic Party Leader John Horgan to form a government.

Horgan’s caucus reached a confidence and supply agreement a few weeks ago with the BC Greens that paved the way for the ouster of Christy Clark and the reigning BC Liberals, who have been running the province for a decade and a half and are major boosters of the fossil fuels industry, despite their name.

The BC Liberals attempted to hang on to power by going through the motion’s of preparing and offering a Speech from The Throne, but in the end, Clark’s government lost the inevitable vote of confidence (held today) and she was compelled to resign as custom demands.

Clark has confirmed that she advised Guichon to dissolve the Legislative Assembly and call new elections. But the Lieutenant Governor declined to do so.

“As Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and as the representative of Her Majesty the Queen of Canada, I have met with Premier Clark and will accept her resignation,” Guichon said in a statement published a short time ago. “I have asked Mr. Horgan to form a government, he having assured me that he can form a government which will have the confidence of the Legislative Assembly.”

“Today British Columbians finally have the change they voted for,” tweeted Horgan after meeting with Guichon at Government House in Victoria.

“Thank you to everyone who got us here. The hard work starts now.”

[Watch Horgan’s post-meeting remarks from the steps of Government House.]

Horgan is expected to be sworn in as Premier relatively soon. He also must get to work forming his cabinet, which will run the province as a minority government.

The B.C. Greens were equally pleased with the developments.

“After seven long weeks, I am delighted that British Columbians will finally have a new government,” said Green Leader Andrew Weaver in a statement.

“When we launched our election campaign, we promised to do politics differently. Our Confidence and Supply Agreement [with the NDP] lays the groundwork for a new kind of collaborative, productive parliament.”

“The B.C. Green caucus will provide stability for this new minority government by supporting confidence and supply measures. We have also agreed to collaborate on a wide range of policies that are supported by a majority of British Columbians. As an opposition caucus, we will collaborate with our colleagues on both sides of the house to advance good public policy that will put the interests of British Columbians first, as well as hold the government to account for their decisions and actions.

“On May 9, British Columbians sent us a strong signal that they want us to work together – no party was given a majority of seats and 100% of the power. I am encouraged that the leaders of both other parties have acknowledged this.”

Budgets need scrutiny: State Legislature’s lack of fiscal transparency is unacceptable

Yesterday, without fanfare, Governor Jay Inslee’s office announced that the majority caucuses of the House of Representatives and the Senate had reached agreement (“in principle”, at least) on a go-home budget deal that would avert a state government shutdown following the end of the day on Friday, June 30th, the last day of the current 2015-2017 fiscal biennium.

The details are still being hammered out, and so it’s still not yet known what is actually in the agreement. Supposedly, all will be revealed tomorrow, late in the day (it was originally going to be noon), just hours before the biennium ends and the two chambers vote on the deal their majority caucuses negotiated and agreed to.

There won’t be time for public hearings on the budget or for the input of local governments, businesses, unions, advocacy groups, and public interest organizations to be heard and considered prior to its adoption.

This is no way to run a state. We share the frustration of journalists, editorial boards, fellow activists, and even some lawmakers themselves that the Legislature’s lack of fiscal transparency and proclivity to procrastination (which has gotten much worse since 2012) is unacceptable and detrimental to the state’s well-being.

The people of Washington — or at least those interested in monitoring the work of their representatives — will have less than a day and a half to examine the budget that all seven million plus of us will have to live with starting this Saturday. That is not a large enough window to permit any substantive or thoughtful analysis.

As one of my former state representatives points out:

Toby Nixon, the president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, said the short time line makes it “just impossible to do any kind of meaningful review.”

That could lead to mistakes that someone outside the formal process might ordinarily catch and prevents the public from getting a reasonable amount of time to weigh in through phone calls, emails and advocacy, Nixon said.

Nixon once served in the state House and is currently a member of the Kirkland City Council.

Such review might not change large swaths of the budget, but scrutiny could easily highlight errors or push small changes, he said.

“Basically the leadership or the budget negotiators are just asking people to trust that they got it right,” Nixon said.

Local governments (cities, counties, school districts) are in the same boat:

Dan Steele, lobbyist for the Washington Association of School Administrators, said it’s concerning that the state’s 295 school districts won’t have much time to review how lawmakers’ school-funding overhaul would affect them.

Steele said school district officials don’t think they’ll get an advance look at the policy changes that are designed to correct a school-funding crisis that has been 40 years in the making.

“If there’s something wrong with it, there’s no time for them to go back and change it,” he said.

“Even if there’s something screwy, I think the skids are greased and they’re going to roll it out and pass it quickly and be done.”

The Legislature has had ample time to craft and argue over a budget to keep the state’s vital public services funded and open, but most of that time has been foolishly squandered due to the intransigence of the Senate Republicans, who deliberately refused to negotiate until the threat of a government shutdown was very near, having calculated that running out the clock would serve their interests.

Such gamesmanship has become intolerable.

It is very possible that Democrats will soon run the Washington State Senate; the party needs to flip just one-Republican held seat in this year’s special elections and it’ll have a real majority again for the first time in five years. But even if that happens, reforms need to be instituted to prevent this kind of situation from occurring again.

State Senator Reuven Carlyle seems to understand the need for reforms and the frustration that so many of us are feeling. He wrote yesterday:

We appear to be moving toward a state budget and the largest reform of education finance in our state’s 128 year history. Regardless of how it unfolds, I’m grateful for the enormous dedication of budget writers working 7×24 for a responsible agreement. And yet outside of politics, on a deeper, more structural and institutional level, we should all be unsettled that we have come within days of formal floor votes and yet have no public bill, no public data, no public analysis and no visibility into the historic implications on taxpayers and our 295 school districts serving 1.1 million students. We are better than this as a state.

Yes, we are. It is painfully apparent that we need to fundamentally change the way our Legislature develops budgets. For inspiration, we should consider the practices of other states. For instance, here’s how it works in New Hampshire, as related by former Washington State Representative Brendan Williams:

Recently I had occasion to witness the biennial budget process, reconciling differences between the House and Senate, for the 165th session of the New Hampshire General Court.

In the indifferent air-conditioning of the 128-year-old Legislative Office Building in Concord, as temperature outside soared into the 90s, the Budget Committee of Conference, beginning on a Monday, met publicly late into the night on successive days, wrapping up its work by Wednesday afternoon.

Both minority Democrats and majority Republicans were represented on the committee and had the opportunity to be heard, and offer amendments, as the committee went through the budget line-by-line. It is an open process that never changes, regardless of which parties are in control. Legislators, paid only $200 for each two-year term with no “per diem” allowance, have no incentive to drag it out.

The New Hampshire model may not be right for us. But the process we have is obviously not serving us well. It is indefensible.

Institutions of all sizes and kinds occasionally need the equivalent of a tune-up in order to work properly. Our Legislature needs a process tune-up so that it can produce better budgets for the millions of people that it was elected to serve.

It is worth remembering that the House and Senate are already in the practice of adopting rules for the consideration of most bills, particularly policy bills, which impose deadlines known as cutoffs for the advancement of legislation.

Cutoffs aren’t absolute, but they provide structure to the legislative session and mitigate the human tendency to procrastinate.

While our existing system of cutoffs works well in many respects, it has not been a recipe for transparent, organized budgeting. We need to figure out what that recipe is, and institute reforms to ensure that we as a people and our non-legislative institutions (cities, school districts, businesses, nonprofits, unions, etc.) can effectively scrutinize the work of our elected representatives.

As RCW 42.56.030 memorably declares:

The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created. This chapter shall be liberally construed and its exemptions narrowly construed to promote this public policy and to assure that the public interest will be fully protected. In the event of conflict between the provisions of this chapter and any other act, the provisions of this chapter shall govern.

Emphasis is mine. This is the construction clause of our Public Records Act, which the Legislature is ironically exempt from (at least in part). Nevertheless, the sentiment expressed here is the sentiment that needs to guide the reforms made to ensure future budgets are crafted transparently and with public input.

Five ways Seattle Pride can become more environmentally responsible in 2018

The Seattle Pride Parade, PrideFest, and associated Pride events are a great Emerald City institution bringing hundreds of thousands of people together to celebrate diversity, inclusion, and love each and every summer.

While many aspects of Pride are already great and don’t need changing, there’s one area in particular where we feel there’s a lot of room for improvement, and that is environmental responsibility. Pride currently generates a lot of trash and air pollution, and we’d like to see organizers pursue strategies that would reduce emissions and the volume of material being sent to landfills.

Here are five ways Seattle Pride can become more environmentally friendly in 2018:

  1. Create placards for businesses along the route to put up requesting that people refrain from smoking and littering. There are too many Pride attendees who think it’so okay to light up in the middle of a crowd or toss their unwanted swag and plastic water bottles into the street. Signage could help discourage this behavior, especially if accompanied by regular announcements from reviewing stands and ads on social media featuring respected regional icons like Macklemore, Felix Hernandez, or Rick Steves.
  2. Request that organizations submitting entries to the parade use electric vehicles and solar generators. Internal combustion engines generate significant amounts of air pollution (as well as some noise pollution). Electric vehicles and solar generators, on the other hand, are quiet and don’t have tailpipes emitting carbon monoxide and other noxious gases. The air quality at the event would be improved if the burning of fossil fuels was minimized. (Cleanup crews should use electric blowers, too.)
  3. Provide clearly-marked water stations where paradegoers can easily get reusable water bottles refilled. I brought my Kleen Kanteen and sipped from it all afternoon, but with the exception of the volunteer-operated water station outside of First United Methodist Church at the end of the route, I didn’t see any place where I could get it refilled. Disposable plastic water bottles are extremely wasteful and we need to cut down on their use. If water stations are made available and people know about them, they will be more inclined to bring their reusable bottles. Platypus-style water pouches provided by a sponsor could be given away at these stations too.
  4. Enforce the rule against tossing candy, trinkets, confetti, or anything else — especially from moving vehicles. The guidelines for the Pride Parade already say quite explicitly that “nothing may be thrown or tossed by your contingent (this includes small candies, trinkets, etc).” Any materials for distribution are supposed to be handed out directly to parade spectators. It’s a sensible restriction. Sadly, this rule is flouted every year. With better education and robust enforcement, we’d have an event that would end with less trash in the street. And the event would be safer, too.
  5. Provide recycling and composting receptacles along the parade route and at all Pride events so that fewer items go to the landfill. Clear and simple instructions must be posted next to all receptacles, or else there’s not much chance of them being used properly. Having volunteers on hand to provide guidance on receptacle use would be ideal. Sometimes people just need to know what to put into what container.

And finally: Pride should assemble a “Green Team” of volunteers dedicated to implementing the above strategies and additional ideas that will make Pride a more environmentally responsible institution. Cleanliness and public health need to be emphasized the way safety has been. That’s why it would make sense to put together an enthusiastic crew of people focused specifically on reducing/eliminating waste and pollution. People’s behavior can be changed — but it takes work.

  • RSS Recent entries from the Permanent Defense Media Center