NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, May 17th, 2021

WA Filing Week 2021: A look at who’s filed in key races as of Monday evening

Wel­come to Fil­ing Week 2021!

Today through Fri­day, the Sec­re­tary of State and coun­ty elec­tions offi­cials will be accept­ing for­mal dec­la­ra­tions of can­di­da­cy from Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who have decid­ed they want to run for office at the local level.

This is an odd num­bered year, which means that cities and char­ter coun­ties like King and Sno­homish will have leg­isla­tive and exec­u­tive posi­tions on the bal­lot, along with some judi­cial posi­tions. School dis­tricts, ports, and oth­er local gov­ern­ments across the state will also be hold­ing elec­tions this year.

This post is the first in a series of Fil­ing Week reports we’ll be bring­ing you at reg­u­lar inter­vals until the close of fil­ing at 5 PM on the final day of the workweek.

Browse current candidate filings by county

Coun­ties are list­ed in order of pop­u­la­tion, not alphabetically

KingPierceSno­homishSpokaneClark
ThurstonKit­sapYaki­maWhat­comBen­ton
Skag­itCowlitzGrantFranklinIsland
LewisClal­lamChelanGrays Har­borMason
Wal­la WallaWhit­manKit­ti­tasStevensDou­glas
OkanoganJef­fer­sonAsotinPacif­icKlick­i­tat
AdamsSan JuanPend OreilleSka­ma­niaLin­coln
Fer­ryWahki­akumColum­biaGarfield

Notable filings

  • Seat­tle: Coun­cilmem­ber Tere­sa Mosque­da has drawn sev­er­al chal­lengers, which is inter­est­ing, because the oth­er at-large posi­tion is an open seat due to Lore­na Gon­za­lez’s deci­sion to run for mayor.
  • Red­mond: Melis­sa Stu­art is run­ning for the posi­tion cur­rent­ly held by Tani­ka Pad­hye. She’s the first can­di­date to file in Red­mond this cycle. NPI under­stands she has pre­vi­ous­ly served as a Red­mond Library trustee.
  • King Coun­ty: Even before Fil­ing Week, chal­lengers had emerged to near­ly every incum­bent coun­cilmem­ber, and sev­er­al of them wast­ed no time in fil­ing, like Sarah Per­ry, who is run­ning against Kathy Lam­bert. For the first time in a long time, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty has a chal­lenger to each of the Repub­li­can coun­cilmem­bers who is either an elect­ed offi­cial or has deep polit­i­cal expe­ri­ence as an activist and an organizer.
  • Sno­homish Coun­ty: Incum­bent Repub­li­can Sam Low has a Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger: Brandy Don­aghy. Low filed this morn­ing and Don­aghy filed this after­noon. Don­aghy is a real­ly impres­sive can­di­date. She is a Navy vet­er­an with a his­to­ry of com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice and neigh­bor­hood orga­niz­ing. She has a B.A. in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from UW Both­ell. She is endorsed by State House Speak­er Pro Tem John Lovick and Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Den­ny Heck along with State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive April Berg and Sno­homish Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­bers Mea­gan Dunn and Jared Mead.
  • Edmonds: Three con­tenders have declared for Posi­tion #2 on the first day of fil­ing: Luke Dis­tel­horst, Will Chen, and Janelle Cass. Two can­di­dates filed for Posi­tion #3: Adri­enne Fra­ley Monil­las and Neil Tib­bott.
  • What­com Coun­ty: The only coun­ty-lev­el race with mul­ti­ple can­di­dates in it so far is for Coun­cil Dis­trict #3. Fred Rinard and Rebec­ca Lewis are the con­tenders. Like King Coun­ty, What­com Coun­ty is a home-rule coun­ty with a char­ter. It elects coun­cilmem­bers in odd-num­bered years.
  • Camas: Two can­di­dates have declared for May­or, Jen­nifer Senes­cu and Steven C. Hogan. This is a spe­cial elec­tion for an unex­pired term.
  • Van­cou­ver: Three can­di­dates are already in the race for Posi­tion #1: Mike Pond, John Blom, and Kim D. Har­less.
  • Forks: There’s plen­ty of fil­ing action in this small Clal­lam Coun­ty town out on the Wash­ing­ton coast. Two coun­cil races and the may­oral race are already each con­test­ed… and there’s four days of fil­ing left.

Upcoming deadlines and important dates

Fil­ing Week will con­tin­ue until this Fri­day, as men­tioned above.

Key dates after that:

The Top Two elec­tion will begin in July, with bal­lots expect­ed to land around July 16th. Vot­ing will con­clude on Tues­day, August 3rd at 8 PM.

Monday, May 17th, 2021

Sound Transit debuts spacious new Siemens S700 light rail vehicles in revenue service

On a glo­ri­ous spring Fri­day, a lit­tle extra excite­ment was to be had aboard Link light rail last week as rid­ers com­plet­ed their rou­tine after­noon tran­sit journeys.

At eight sta­tions (SoDo, Sta­di­um, Inter­na­tion­al District/Chinatown, Pio­neer Square, Uni­ver­si­ty Street, West­lake, Capi­tol Hill, Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton) rid­ers who hap­pened to be on a plat­form at vary­ing points between 1 and 2 PM Pacif­ic were greet­ed by a three-car light rail vehi­cle (LRV) coat­ed with Sound Tran­sit’s famil­iar teal-and-navy wave liv­ery, just like any oth­er Friday.

Yet once aboard, they could see that this was a dif­fer­ent kind of Link train. It was new­er. It was roomi­er. Much brighter. There were many more bike racks.

And lots of cam­eras cap­tur­ing the moment. The first of many big upgrades to light rail ser­vice in the Puget Sound region had arrived.

Passengers on the first revenue service trip of a Siemens S700

Sound Tran­sit offi­cials, joined by mem­bers of the media and a few Link rid­ers, enjoy the first trip of a Siemens S700 in rev­enue ser­vice (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Mem­bers of the media and Sound Tran­sit offi­cials were among the pas­sen­gers that a three car con­sist of Siemens S700 light rail vehi­cles car­ried north­bound towards the cur­rent Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton terminus.

This was the first time a Siemens S700 Series 2 LRV, seen below, had been in “rev­enue ser­vice” — jar­gon for tran­sit ser­vice open to the gen­er­al public.

A closeup view of a Siemens S700

A close­up view of the Siemens S700 that was the first LRV of its type to enter rev­enue ser­vice (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Since 2009, when Link opened to the pub­lic, rid­ers have board­ed one of six­ty-two Kink­isharyo light rail vehi­cles to trans­port them to their destination.

With unprece­dent­ed sys­tem expan­sion on the hori­zon, Sound Tran­sit has ordered a total of 152 new Series 2 LRVs, to be deliv­ered over the next few years.

The Siemens rolling stock will slow­ly replace the Series 1 Kink­isharyo vehi­cles as they are deliv­ered. For now, rid­ers will be served by both types of vehicles.

With the net­work poised to expand rapid­ly in the com­ing months, the agency has unveiled its next gen­er­a­tion of vehi­cles just in time.

Electronic signage in a Siemens S700

The Siemens S700 LRVs fea­ture over­head elec­tron­ic sig­nage sim­i­lar to what rid­ers of the Seat­tle Street­car are used to, dis­play­ing the pre­vi­ous stop, the cur­rent stop, and the next two stops, as well as which side to exit from when the train is at a sta­tion (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

On Octo­ber 2nd, 2021, Link will extend from its cur­rent ter­mi­nus at Husky Sta­di­um to North­gate Mall.

And before the end of 2024, Lines 1 and 2 of the Link light rail sys­tem will con­nect Down­town Seat­tle to Lyn­nwood, Red­mond, and Fed­er­al Way.

By that point, the net­work will near­ly triple in length — which is why the agency need­ed to rough­ly triple the size of its light rail fleet.

ST Board Chair Kent Keel speaking

Sound Tran­sit Board Chair Kent Keel address­es the media before the debut of the Siemens S700 in rev­enue ser­vice (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Siemens has deliv­ered forty-one Series 2 LRVs to Sound Tran­sit already. They are stored and main­tained at the Oper­a­tions and Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty (OMF) between SoDo and Bea­con Hill sta­tions in Seattle.

A new Oper­a­tions and Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty in Belle­vue’s Spring Dis­trict is also most­ly com­plete. It has the capac­i­ty to store up to nine­ty-six LRVs, serv­ing Line 2 (Red­mond-Down­town-Lyn­nwood).

Ready to take on passengers

For its inau­gur­al ride, this Siemens S700 took on VIP pas­sen­gers at Sound Tran­sit’s Oper­a­tions and Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty, then made stops at SoDo, Sta­di­um, Inter­na­tion­al District/Chinatown, Pio­neer Square, Uni­ver­si­ty Street, West­lake, Capi­tol Hill, and Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The Siemens vehi­cles were assem­bled in Sacra­men­to, Cal­i­for­nia. They have been test­ed exten­sive­ly along exist­ing and future track­age; the first vehi­cle has accu­mu­lat­ed more than 1,000 miles since its deliv­ery in June 2019.

All aboard! Plenty of room on this train

The Siemens S700 vehi­cles are roomi­er than their Kink­isharyo coun­ter­parts, espe­cial­ly in the mid­dle seg­ment, where a rid­er’s dog was able to set­tle down com­fort­ably dur­ing the ride from West­lake to Capi­tol Hill (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

That first vehi­cle was exhib­it­ed to the press at a mini open-house in June of 2019.

Inside the cab of a Siemens S700

A dri­ver’s seat view out the front win­dow of a Siemens S700, tak­en from a LRV parked in Sound Tran­sit’s Oper­a­tions and Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The excite­ment sur­round­ing the Series 2 vehi­cles gives us a taste of what is to come. Our light rail sys­tem will triple in length.

For many com­muters, car jour­neys will become much less appeal­ing when high qual­i­ty, high capac­i­ty rail tran­sit becomes available.

Rounding the bend

After return­ing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton, the Siemens S700 LRV car­ry­ing Sound Tran­sit offi­cials and mem­bers of the media smooth­ly rolled back to its depar­ture point at the Oper­a­tions & Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

New tran­sit-ori­ent­ed devel­op­ments will enable more peo­ple to struc­ture their lives around tran­sit infra­struc­ture in a way bus ser­vice does not ade­quate­ly incentivize.

And even if your cur­rent jour­ney will not be served by light rail, every­body ben­e­fits from hav­ing less traf­fic on the roads. As our region grad­u­al­ly moves past the acute health emer­gency the pan­dem­ic has cre­at­ed, how we get around our region will be fun­da­men­tal­ly trans­formed for the bet­ter. With respect to mobil­i­ty in our region, there will be no going back to what we pre­vi­ous­ly con­sid­ered normal.

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

Book Review: “We See It All” is a good study of current local police capabilities

We See It All is one of the most chill­ing, dystopi­an nov­els I’ve ever read.

Except it’s not actu­al­ly a nov­el. It’s a short work of non­fic­tion about sev­er­al ele­ments of tech­nol­o­gy and prac­tices in mod­ern polic­ing in the Unit­ed States, and how those com­bine into the poten­tial for a Panop­ti­con beyond any­thing imag­in­able in 18th Cen­tu­ry thought exper­i­ments or George Orwell’s worst fears.

Most peo­ple will be famil­iar with at least some of the ele­ments that Econ­o­mist jour­nal­ist Jon Fas­man cov­ers regard­ing local law enforce­ment capabilities.

But where it real­ly shines is the impres­sion it makes and atten­dant grow­ing hor­ror the read­er expe­ri­ences real­iz­ing that these capa­bil­i­ties are not an “either-or” choice for each depart­ment to make but a “yes-and” over­lap­ping of powers.

Fas­man cov­ers Auto­mat­ic License Plate Read­ers (ALPRs), body cam­eras, sur­veil­lance drones, elec­tron­ic mon­i­tor­ing such as ankle bracelets, Ama­zon Ring footage and oth­er pri­vate­ly owned data as well as how cops get access to it, and the ShotSpot­ter audiosys­tems that detect what they think to be gun­shots and deploy cops to it quick­ly. The thir­teen-year-old shot by Chica­go police recent­ly, Adam Tole­do, was killed by an offi­cer respond­ing to exact­ly that sys­tem.

As much as any indi­vid­ual piece of sur­veil­lance and con­trol can be jus­ti­fied by the expe­di­en­cies of the moment or in the name of “crime pre­ven­tion”, “deter­rent”, “rapid response”, etc., the over­all impres­sion when con­sid­er­ing them togeth­er is some­what shock­ing, espe­cial­ly as Fas­man dis­cuss­es new­er tech­nolo­gies just rolling out such as facial recog­ni­tion. Again, these are all just at the lev­el of local polic­ing, not what the mil­i­tary, NSA, or Home­land Secu­ri­ty have access to.

While crit­i­cal of some aspects of law enforce­ment and ful­ly aware of its his­to­ry as a method of dom­i­nat­ing and ter­ror­iz­ing Black and brown peo­ple across the Unit­ed States, Fas­man is not an abolitionist.

He states his pri­or assump­tions upfront and acknowl­edges that as a mid­dle-aged white man, even his neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences with cops at traf­fic stops and the like have been in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent world from young Black men in particular.

We See It All by Jon Fasman

We See It All by Jon Fas­man (Hard­cov­er, PublicAffairs)

This is appre­ci­at­ed and help­ful for know­ing how you as a read­er ought to judge his report­ing on all of these top­ics as you make your way through the book. It allows you to see where his skep­ti­cism is com­ing from as well as what its lim­its are.

Sub­ti­tled, “Lib­er­ty and Jus­tice in the Age of Per­pet­u­al Sur­veil­lance”, the book is brisk, infor­ma­tive, and effi­cient read­ing in how it dis­cuss­es all of these var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies and practices.

Long before the end, you can see quite eas­i­ly why Fas­man is so con­cerned at the ways law has not kept pace with the capa­bil­i­ty of the state to mon­i­tor, dis­ci­pline, and pun­ish those it con­sid­ers wor­thy of that treatment.

In terms of style, a minor crit­i­cism is that the author men­tions the book was expand­ed from a series of arti­cles he was writ­ing; not hav­ing read those arti­cles, that is def­i­nite­ly the impres­sion you get from each chapter.

But again, a major util­i­ty is that all this is in one place and orga­nized in a way that can be ful­ly self-referential.

There are two major issues I took with the book and have grown larg­er the more dis­tance I’ve had since fin­ish­ing it.

The first of these is that the ulti­mate dan­ger the author sets up in the begin­ning and returns to repeat­ed­ly is the idea that Unit­ed States is head­ing toward a sur­veil­lance and state con­trol sys­tem akin to the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China.

For an author who admits to know­ing all about the FBI’s COINTELPRO tar­get­ing of left-wing groups like the Black Pan­thers, anti-Viet­nam War activists, and Amer­i­can Indi­an Move­ment, and for an author who under­stands that still today, fed­er­al, state, and local law enforce­ment work to sur­veil and bru­tal­ize poor, non-white com­mu­ni­ties with reg­u­lar­i­ty, there did­n’t seem to be a need for a for­eign boogey­man of Ori­en­tal despotism.

The Atlanta spa shoot­ings in March took this from a nag­ging con­cern to one I could­n’t stop think­ing about because for all of the “#StopAsian­Hate” hash­tag-style activism and state­ments of sol­i­dar­i­ty going around.

The truth is that it’s extreme­ly bipar­ti­san to set up Chi­na and Chi­nese peo­ple as an exis­ten­tial threat, as an alien Oth­er threat­en­ing Amer­i­can hege­mo­ny of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, and this extends to Asian Amer­i­cans in gen­er­al due to the his­to­ry of white suprema­cy in this coun­try toward them and its his­tor­i­cal lack of dis­cern­ment in met­ing out violence.

The out­rage and shock by Amer­i­cans at the treat­ment of res­i­dents of Hong Kong by police there was war­rant­ed; but it would be pret­ty rich to try to warn peo­ple that, if we Amer­i­cans did­n’t watch out, our own police might start bru­tal­ly repress­ing peo­ple like that some­day. This was true even before the sum­mer of 2020 and the copi­ous video evi­dence of local cops and fed­er­al agents beat­ing, tear-gassing, and arrest­ing every­day peo­ple or whole neigh­bor­hoods at their plea­sure. But such a farce has moved beyond humor now.

This Sino­pho­bia is, nar­ra­tive­ly, a major part of the book’s mes­sage, and this aspect is com­plete­ly unnec­es­sary. When we say, “#StopAsian­Hate”, that ought to include bring­ing up Chi­na for, quite frankly, no good rea­son except to avoid tak­ing stock of our his­to­ry and short­com­ings of state sur­veil­lance and domination.

The sec­ond major issue is the use­ful­ness of police forces.

Police are direct­ly descend­ed from slave patrols; they have always been instru­ments of uphold­ing white suprema­cy through incred­i­ble vio­lence, and they will always pro­tect pri­vate prop­er­ty rather than peo­ple, which is why they have sided with strike­break­ers to beat unions and con­sid­er bro­ken win­dows an exe­cutable offense, depend­ing on the prop­er­ty and person.

I have, in my life, been stolen from, assault­ed, lived in homes that were bur­gled, and had numer­ous friends who were sex­u­al­ly assault­ed, includ­ing vio­lent­ly sex­u­al­ly assaulted.

The police were not any help in these cas­es, and this is not count­ing the cir­cum­stances where the police were the per­pe­tra­tors of these harms.

In some sit­u­a­tions, such as when a land­lord tried to with­hold thou­sands of dol­lars ille­gal­ly, it was­n’t even some­thing that was in their purview; if we’d called police when a for­mer employ­er stole thou­sands of dol­lars in over­time wages from my entire office of cowork­ers, at best cops would like­ly have referred us else­where to lodge a com­plaint. Yet, they respond dif­fer­ent­ly when a land­lord wants to evict some­one for missed rent or you’re accused of steal­ing a work computer.

These are all the sorts of things Fas­man is already well aware of, so what is frus­trat­ing is not his lack of knowl­edge but a con­cep­tu­al frame­work com­mon to peo­ple who are hung up on the idea of “police reform” or worse, “re-imag­in­ing the police.” That is, police are fun­da­men­tal­ly good and nec­es­sary and can be fixed to be some­thing more bad than good. (“What if we could pho­to­graph them in the act?” peo­ple have been say­ing since 1884.)

But this is some­thing like say­ing that the inva­sion and occu­pa­tion of Iraq could have been reformed or “done right” if we’d just had the right peo­ple in charge, the right train­ing for the mil­i­tary, and the right account­abil­i­ty struc­tures for pri­vate mer­ce­nar­ies. It’s true: Abu Ghraib and the Nisour Square mas­sacre weren’t inevitable. But what the U.S. mil­i­tary did to Fal­lu­jah was it doing its job.

You can­not destroy cities, dis­place fam­i­lies, and kill peo­ple with­out destroy­ing cities, dis­plac­ing fam­i­lies, and killing peo­ple. There is no kind­ly ver­sion of an occu­py­ing mil­i­tary force; it turns out not to mat­ter so much what per­cent­age of the troops of the occu­py­ing pow­er are of a local eth­nic group, proved in Bal­ti­more or Afghanistan today just as sure­ly as the British Raj a cen­tu­ry and a half ago.

Review­ers have the excep­tion­al­ly easy job of say­ing, “Why did­n’t you write the book I want­ed to read?”, and there’s some of that in my com­plaints above.

But Fas­man him­self invites this crit­i­cism specif­i­cal­ly with his detail­ing in Chap­ter 6 of the drone sur­veil­lance com­pa­ny “Per­sis­tent Sur­veil­lance Sys­tems” and its ser­vices. He gives the per­son­al his­to­ry of Ross McNutt and his time in the Air Force, includ­ing using mil­i­tary drones to mon­i­tor the entire city of Fal­lu­jah in Iraq to try to catch insur­gents there.

Now, Fas­man is high­ly skep­ti­cal of the whole endeav­or in a civil­ian capac­i­ty; he dis­cuss­es the wor­ries peo­ple have about their civ­il lib­er­ties, and the lack of trans­paren­cy or over­sight police depart­ments like Bal­ti­more have between them want­ed and get­ting such a new capability.

But he says that the sys­tem “per­formed well in Iraq” — for whom, exactly?

Would the peo­ple of Fal­lu­jah agree that it per­formed well?

Or do we just mean it per­formed well for the U.S. mil­i­tary to achieve its imme­di­ate objec­tives of bomb­ing and shoot­ing the peo­ple it want­ed to?

In a sim­i­lar vein, Fas­man dis­cuss­es a time when Ciu­dad Juarez, Mex­i­co, across  the bor­der of El Paso, Texas, was one of the most dan­ger­ous places on earth in terms of homi­cides due to the strug­gle between the Sino­la and Juarez car­tels for con­trol of that, par­tic­u­lar­ly lucra­tive nar­cotics corridor.

He relates how the city gov­ern­ment hired Per­sis­tent Sur­veil­lance Sys­tems to put McNut­t’s drones in the sky for as long as the city could afford and were able to solve some mur­ders that oth­er­wise would­n’t have been. The ques­tion is: are Mex­i­can peo­ple safer when Mex­i­can police have this technology?

For Amer­i­cans who aren’t emo­tion­al­ly attached to defend­ing Mex­i­can police and con­sid­er them dis­tinct from U.S. police, this dilem­na should be eas­i­er to rec­og­nize. If you’re wor­ried that a vis­it to Mex­i­co might involve the local cops shak­ing you down for a bribe to avoid jail, how com­fort­able are you with them being able to track your every move­ment once they enter your jurisdiction?

If you think this trade­off is worth it to com­bat the source of car­tel vio­lence, what defense do you think there is from car­tels brib­ing local author­i­ties to use the tech­nol­o­gy to track rivals or sim­ply infor­mants? The enti­ty that ulti­mate­ly grew into the car­tel Los Zetas even start­ed as a group of Mex­i­can army com­man­dos defect­ing. Imag­ine if they’d been able to take sur­veil­lance tech­nol­o­gy with them.

As of 2016, about eighty per­cent of Seat­tle police offi­cers lived out­side of the city. Rank-and-file offi­cers in the guild over­whelm­ing­ly believe a reac­tionary crim­i­nal in Mike Solan best rep­re­sents their image and inter­ests; they enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly assault and oth­er­wise abuse pro­test­ers regard­less of the pro­test­ers’ tactics.

And of course, they lie from things as mun­dane as where they should be reg­is­tered to vote to things as sig­nif­i­cant as how many offi­cers were injured. They’ve been under a fed­er­al con­sent decree for a decade for their abus­es and con­tin­ue to act with impunity.

The King Coun­ty bud­get can with­out exag­ger­a­tion be said to pri­mar­i­ly be a crim­i­nal legal sys­tem with some oth­er assort­ed func­tions:

The 2021–2022 Pro­posed Bud­get requests $1.92 bil­lion in pro­posed appro­pri­a­tions. […] The crim­i­nal legal sys­tem con­sist of the Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the Depart­ment of Adult and Juve­nile Deten­tion (DAJD), Jail Health Ser­vices, the Pros­e­cut­ing Attorney’s Office (PAO), the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Defense (DPD), Supe­ri­or Court, Dis­trict Court, and the Depart­ment of Judi­cial Admin­is­tra­tion (the clerk’s func­tion to sup­port Supe­ri­or Court). Togeth­er, they com­prise 71.6 per­cent of the Gen­er­al Fund.

With­out near­ly so neat a break­down for my home coun­ty in West Texas, the city of Odessa is sim­i­lar­ly a Fire Depart­ment and Police Depart­ment with a few oth­er ser­vices added on, and Ector Coun­ty is a way to get peo­ple into jail, keep them alive while there, and send them back into the world or to a prison.

This is not a bro­ken sys­tem, but a well-oiled machine hum­ming along.

Local gov­ern­ments don’t have a lot of mon­ey, but what they do have, they put into cops, jails, and crim­i­nal courts. Giv­en more resources and more tech­nol­o­gy, they will con­tin­ue to use it just as they always have because this is their purpose.

Many peo­ple remarked that Min­neapo­lis in the days of the Derek Chau­vin mur­der tri­al resem­bled more the Green Zone of Bagh­dad than what they expect­ed of an Amer­i­can city. And yes, it is the impe­r­i­al boomerang at work, the tools honed on fron­tiers brought back to the metro­pole to do bloody, effi­cient work.

But parts of the Unit­ed States have always been colonies embed­ded in the poli­ty. This vio­lence, sur­veil­lance, and dis­re­gard for lib­er­ty and pub­lic safe­ty has always been present. There are worse tools you can give colo­nial troops to dom­i­nate the pop­u­la­tions they occu­py, but they can nev­er be good.

This is Amer­i­ca, and it’s always been what Amer­i­ca is to some of its peo­ple. The threat of vast­ly greater sur­veil­lance tech­nol­o­gy is not nec­es­sar­i­ly that we will become more like Chi­na; it’s that we will con­tin­ue to be America.

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (May 10th-14th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, May 14th, 2021.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

CRACKING DOWN ON DEBT COLLECTORS: Vot­ing 215 for and 207 against, the House on May 13th passed a bill (H.R. 2547) that would pro­hib­it abu­sive prac­tices by pri­vate firms that col­lect debt from con­sumers, stu­dent-loan bor­row­ers and oth­ers seri­ous­ly in arrears.

The bill would require a two-year grace peri­od before efforts to col­lect med­ical debt from seri­ous­ly ill indi­vid­u­als could begin. And it would allow co-sign­ers as well as bor­row­ers of pri­vate stu­dent loans to dis­charge their debt on the basis of total and per­ma­nent dis­abil­i­ty, just as seri­ous­ly dis­abled bor­row­ers of fed­er­al stu­dent loans and their co-sign­ers can do. The bill also would:

  • Pro­hib­it com­pa­nies from col­lect­ing med­ical debt or report­ing it to a cred­it report­ing agency with­out first noti­fy­ing the con­sumer about their rights.
  • Lim­it fees to ten per­cent of col­lec­tions in the case of com­pa­nies hired by fed­er­al agen­cies to col­lect debt.
  • Pro­hib­it col­lec­tion firms from mak­ing mali­cious, unfound­ed threats against mem­bers of the military.
  • Increase mon­e­tary dam­ages imposed by the 1977 Fair Debt Col­lec­tion Prac­tices Act on com­pa­nies using unfair and decep­tive practices.
  • Pro­hib­it col­lec­tion firms from using emails and text mes­sages to bad­ger those in arrears with­out their permission.
  • Expand pro­tec­tions for small and minor­i­ty-owned busi­ness­es against col­lec­tion actions.

Deb­o­rah Ross, D‑North Car­oli­na, said the bill is need­ed because “debt col­lec­tors often oper­ate with impuni­ty, threat­en­ing ser­vi­cepeo­ple, deny­ing small busi­ness own­ers due process, and harass­ing cus­tomers and home­own­ers with repeat­ed calls, texts, and emails. Harass­ment by debt col­lec­tors neg­a­tive­ly affects stu­dents’ career deci­sions, small busi­ness growth, home­own­er­ship, and fam­i­lies’ finan­cial stability.”

Guy Reschen­thaler, R‑Pennsylvania, said “con­sumers are already pro­tect­ed from harm­ful debt col­lec­tion prac­tices” under exist­ing law, and he added that “it is absolute­ly clear that [Democ­rats] are using the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic as an excuse to dis­man­tle our free-mar­ket sys­tem and force their rad­i­cal, pro­gres­sive agen­da on the Amer­i­can people.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (3): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, and Peter DeFazio

Vot­ing Nay (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cliff Bentz; Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kurt Schrader

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (7): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strickland

Vot­ing Nay (3): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler, Dan New­house, and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 10 aye votes, 7 nay votes

WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR PREGNANCY: Vot­ing 315 for and 101 against, the House on May 14th passed a bill (H.R. 1065) that would require pri­vate-sec­tor firms and gov­ern­ment agen­cies with at least 15 employ­ees to pro­vide rea­son­able work­place accom­mo­da­tions for work­ers and job appli­cants who are preg­nant or have recent­ly giv­en birth.

The bill would not require employ­ers to make accom­mo­da­tions that impose undue hard­ship on their oper­a­tions. Repub­li­can crit­ics said it gave insuf­fi­cient pro­tec­tion to reli­gious organizations.

Lois Frankel, D‑Florida, said preg­nant women at work now “can be denied…an extra bath­room break, a place to sit, a lighter lift­ing, or [be] fired for ask­ing for sim­ple accom­mo­da­tions or even just dis­clos­ing that she is preg­nant. This leaves many women hav­ing to choose between the health of their preg­nan­cy and putting food on their fam­i­ly’s table. We are putting women in dan­ger every sin­gle day while we hold off on this action.”

Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene, R‑Georgia, said: “Pass­ing this bill means a small busi­ness or reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion could be forced to pro­vide paid time off to an employ­ee to have an abor­tion even if that vio­lates the reli­gious beliefs of the orga­ni­za­tion. On top of that, these groups can be sued for dam­ages for not tak­ing every step to accom­mo­date preg­nant work­ers. That means church­es and small busi­ness­es, the back­bone of Amer­i­ca, will be tied up in court for years.…”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (5): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrad­er; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cliff Bentz

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (9): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strick­land; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler and Dan Newhouse

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 14 aye votes, 2 nay votes, 1 not voting

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

NULLIFYING TRUMP ADMINISTRATION BANKING RULE: Vot­ing 52 for and 47 against, the Sen­ate on May 11th nul­li­fied a six-months-old Trump admin­is­tra­tion rule that has made it eas­i­er for state-reg­u­lat­ed preda­to­ry lenders to use fleet­ing alliances with nation­al banks and fed­er­al sav­ings asso­ci­a­tions to avoid state bank­ing reg­u­la­tions includ­ing usury rules cap­ping inter­est rates.

The fed­er­al insti­tu­tions involved in such arrange­ments are not answer­able to state reg­u­la­tions. The Office of the Comp­trol­ler of the Cur­ren­cy (OCC) pub­lished the rule on Oct. 30, 2020. With this vote, the Sen­ate adopt­ed a res­o­lu­tion (S.J. Res 15) that would revoke it by means of the Con­gres­sion­al Review Act.

Defend­ers said the rule right­ful­ly allows nation­al banks to become the lender of record if they have put up the mon­ey and signed their name at the time of orig­i­na­tion. They said nul­li­fi­ca­tion would penal­ize com­mu­ni­ty banks that part­ner with Inter­net-based finan­cial insti­tu­tions (“fin­techs”) to expand their portfolios.

Chris Van Hollen, D‑Maryland, said that under the rule, unscrupu­lous lenders “go to a nation­al bank, and you essen­tial­ly rent their name. And by doing that, you cre­ate a loop­hole that allows you to avoid the state laws that have been put in place to pro­tect against this kind of preda­to­ry lending.…”

Pat Toomey, R‑Pennsylvania, said the rule “ensures that nation­al banks are account­able for the loans they issue through these lend­ing part­ner­ships, and it requires the OCC to super­vise those loans for com­pli­ance with con­sumer pro­tec­tion and anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws.”

A yes vote was to send the nul­li­fi­ca­tion mea­sure to the House.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

ANDREA PALM, DEPUTY HEALTH SECRETARY: Vot­ing 61 for and 37 against, the Sen­ate on May 11th con­firmed Andrea J. Palm, forty-sev­en, as deputy sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Health and Human Services.

Palm was a senior HHS staff mem­ber and White House aide and dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, and she worked under Hillary Clin­ton when she rep­re­sent­ed New York in the Sen­ate. Palm worked most recent­ly as sec­re­tary-designee of the Wis­con­sin Depart­ment of Health Services.

A yes vote was to con­firm the nominee.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (1): Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Mike Crapo

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Jim Risch

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 5 aye votes, 1 nay vote

CINDY MARTEN, DEPUTY EDUCATION SECRETARY: Vot­ing 54 for and 44 against, the Sen­ate on May 11th con­firmed Cindy M. Marten as deputy sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion. She was super­in­ten­dent of the San Diego Uni­fied School Dis­trict between 2013–2021. A for­mer class­room teacher and school prin­ci­pal, Marten is a lit­er­a­cy spe­cial­ist who served as pres­i­dent of the San Diego Coun­cil of Lit­er­a­cy Professionals.

A yes vote was to con­firm the nominee.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

Key votes ahead

This week, the House will take up bills to address hate crimes against Asian-Amer­i­cans and estab­lish a com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate the Jan­u­ary 6th attack on the U.S. Capi­tol, while the Sen­ate will vote on Biden admin­is­tra­tion nominees.

Edi­tor’s Note: The infor­ma­tion in NPI’s week­ly How Cas­ca­di­a’s U.S. law­mak­ers vot­ed fea­ture is pro­vid­ed by Votera­ma in Con­gress, a ser­vice of Thomas Vot­ing Reports. All rights are reserved. Repro­duc­tion of this post is not per­mit­ted, not even with attri­bu­tion. Use the per­ma­nent link to this post to share it… thanks!

© 2021 Thomas Vot­ing Reports.

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

President Biden congratulates Washington for adopting overtime pay law for farmworkers

Today in Yaki­ma, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee signed sev­er­al cru­cial­ly impor­tant work­er pro­tec­tion bills, one of which is intend­ed to help Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who work in the agri­cul­tur­al sec­tor get the over­time pay they deserve. A few min­utes ago, Inslee’s bill action earned Wash­ing­ton State a con­grat­u­la­to­ry state­ment from none oth­er than the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, Joe Biden.

Here’s Biden’s state­ment in its entirety:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2021

State­ment by Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Biden, Jr. in Sup­port of Wash­ing­ton State’s Over­time Bill for Farm Workers

I con­grat­u­late the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture and Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee for sign­ing into law SB 5172, Washington’s Over­time Bill for Agri­cul­tur­al Work­ers, which will help more than 100,000 farm­work­ers secure the over­time pay they deserve.

Agri­cul­tur­al work­ers in Wash­ing­ton and across the coun­try have helped car­ry our nation through this pan­dem­ic — work­ing long hours, often at great per­son­al risk, to meet the needs of their com­mu­ni­ties and keep Amer­i­ca healthy and well-nourished.

These over­time pro­tec­tions will ensure that agri­cul­tur­al work­ers in Wash­ing­ton are paid for all of the vital work they do.

For too long — and owing in large part to uncon­scionable race-based exclu­sions put in place gen­er­a­tions ago — farm­work­ers have been denied some of the most fun­da­men­tal rights that work­ers in almost every oth­er sec­tor have long enjoyed, includ­ing the right to a forty-hour work week and over­time pay. I was proud to stand with farm­work­ers dur­ing the Oba­ma-Biden Admin­is­tra­tion, when Cal­i­for­nia passed the nation’s first farm­work­er over­time bill, and I am proud to stand with the farm­work­ers of Wash­ing­ton State today.

It is long past time that we put all of America’s farm­work­ers on an equal foot­ing with the rest of our nation­al work­force when it comes to their basic rights — and I urge Con­gress to pass HR 1177, the U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship Act, and the Farm Work­force Mod­ern­iza­tion Act, so that we can extend those rights to farm­work­ers in all fifty states.

It’s not often that the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States issues a state­ment weigh­ing in on the pas­sage of a law at the state lev­el. As Biden’s com­ments make clear, this issue is real­ly, real­ly impor­tant to him. And it’s great recog­ni­tion for the State of Wash­ing­ton, which has a his­to­ry of work­ing to strength­en its labor laws.

“The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic has brought a new focus on the chal­lenges faced by front­line work­ers,” Inslee said in Yaki­ma Tuesday.

Governor Inslee signs a worker protection bill

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee signs a work­er pro­tec­tion bill in Yaki­ma, flanked by sev­er­al state law­mak­ers (Pho­to: Office of the Governor)

“They have kept our state mov­ing through one of our most chal­leng­ing times, work­ing through per­son­al hard­ship and challenges.”

“The bills I am sign­ing today rep­re­sent an acknowl­edge­ment of the lessons we’ve learned and offer hope for a stronger path forward.”

In addi­tion to SB 5172, the Gov­er­nor also signed:

  • HB 1097, spon­sored by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Sells [and request­ed by Gov­er­nor Inslee’s office], helps to address these con­cerns by pro­tect­ing work­ers who come for­ward about work­place hazards.
  • SB 5115, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Karen Keis­er, will help pro­tect high-risk work­ers, ensure that work­ers know when they’ve had a poten­tial expo­sure to an infec­tious dis­ease and make it eas­i­er for front­line work­ers to receive com­pen­sa­tion if they’re infect­ed on the job.
  • SB 5190, spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Jeff Holy, address­es con­di­tions spe­cif­ic to health­care employ­ees to use unem­ploy­ment insur­ance ben­e­fits if they leave work to quar­an­tine dur­ing a pub­lic health emer­gency and have clear access to work­ers com­pen­sa­tion if they are exposed to the infec­tious or con­ta­gious dis­ease that is sub­ject to the a pub­lic health emergency.
  • SB 5396, spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Liz Lovelett, incen­tivizes the devel­op­ment of new, com­mu­ni­ty-based farm­work­er hous­ing, pro­vid­ing more work­ers with safe and afford­able housing.

Thanks to Gov­er­nor Inslee’s staff for the above bill descriptions.

SB 5172 is bipar­ti­san leg­is­la­tion; its prime spon­sor is Repub­li­can State Sen­a­tor Cur­tis King, and all of its orig­i­nal cospon­sors were Republicans.

The bill earned the sup­port of all of the state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors on final pas­sage, along with most Republicans.

Only a few Repub­li­can sen­a­tors opposed it.

They were Mark Schoesler, Mike Pad­den, Shel­ley Short, Jeff Wil­son, Sharon Brown, and Per­ry Dozi­er. Schoesler, Brown, and Short were all cospon­sors of the orig­i­nal bill filed by Sen­a­tor King, but sad­ly, when the revised bill came up for floor action, they refused to sup­port the substitute.

In the House, the bill earned the sup­port of nine­ty-one of nine­ty-eight mem­bers. As in the Sen­ate, only Repub­li­cans were opposed, includ­ing mil­i­tant Repub­li­can Doug Suther­land, one of the most extreme mem­bers of the Legislature.

The bill employs a phased-in, incre­men­tal approach to over­time pay. It stip­u­lates that agri­cul­tur­al employ­ees are enti­tled to over­time in the fol­low­ing manner:

  • begin­ning Jan­u­ary 1st, 2022, no agri­cul­tur­al employ­ee shall be employed for more than fifty-five hours in any one work­week unless the agri­cul­tur­al employ­ee receives one and one-half times the employ­ee’s reg­u­lar rate of pay for all hours worked over fifty-five in any one workweek;
  • begin­ning Jan­u­ary 1st, 2023, no agri­cul­tur­al employ­ee shall be employed for more than forty-eight hours in any one work­week unless the agri­cul­tur­al employ­ee receives one and one-half times the employ­ee’s reg­u­lar rate of pay for all hours worked over forty-eight in any one workweek;
  • and begin­ning Jan­u­ary 1st, 2024, no agri­cul­tur­al employ­ee shall be employed for more than forty hours in any one work­week unless the agri­cul­tur­al employ­ee receives one and one-half times the employ­ee’s reg­u­lar rate of pay for all hours worked over forty in any one workweek.

(The above sum­maries are from the final bill report writ­ten by non­par­ti­san staff.)

Our team at NPI is delight­ed to see this impor­tant pack­age of work­er pro­tec­tion bills signed into law. We are proud of all the great work done by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Sells and Sen­a­tor Karen Keis­er to get us to this point. Hav­ing this work­er pro­tec­tion vic­to­ry rec­og­nized by the White House is espe­cial­ly sweet. Take a bow, Wash­ing­ton State activists! Our state deliv­ered anoth­er win for work­ers today.

Monday, May 10th, 2021

Garbage in, garbage out: Here’s why KING5’s recent 2022 U.S. Senate polling is worthless

Last week, KING5 aired a sto­ry on Wash­ing­ton State’s forth­com­ing 2022 Unit­ed States Sen­ate race, which could very like­ly evolve into a gen­er­al elec­tion matchup between Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray and Repub­li­can chal­lenger Tiffany Smi­ley, who enjoys the back­ing of the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Party.

The sto­ry revolved around a poor­ly con­ceived poll ques­tion asked of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans by poll­ster Sur­veyUSA on KING5’s behalf between April 29th and May 5th, which was word­ed as follows:

Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor from Wash­ing­ton Pat­ty Mur­ray was first elect­ed in 1992 and plans to run for a sixth term next year. Do you think Pat­ty Mur­ray should? Or should not? Run for a sixth term?

31% of respon­dents to the sur­vey said Mur­ray should run again, while 47% said Mur­ray should not run again. 22% respond­ed that they were not sure. Five hun­dred and forty-one reg­is­tered vot­ers participated.

As you might expect, the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty wast­ed lit­tle time in turn­ing the KING5 sto­ry into a pitch for mon­ey to their email list. The email, attrib­uted to Chair Caleb Heim­lich, began with these lines:

Did you see the lat­est poll from KING5? 

Only 31% of vot­ers think Pat­ty Mur­ray should run for re-elec­tion​ — and with less than eigh­teen months until the midterm elec­tions, that means we have a gold­en oppor­tu­ni­ty to defeat the Demo­c­rat [sic] incum­bent and help Repub­li­cans take back majori­ties in Congress!

After thir­ty years in D.C., Pat­ty Mur­ray has lost touch with the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State and is in lock­step with the rad­i­cal agen­da of Nan­cy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

What “rad­i­cal agen­da”? Expand­ing health­care and work­er pro­tec­tions for Amer­i­can fam­i­lies? Invest­ing in bad­ly need­ed infra­struc­ture improve­ments and port secu­ri­ty? Putting col­lege with­in reach of more peo­ple? Com­bat­ing child pover­ty? Ensur­ing vet­er­ans get the sup­port and care that they need?

Those are just a few of the pri­or­i­ties that Sen­a­tor Mur­ray has focused on as a Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor through­out the last few decades.

Our research shows that they’re pri­or­i­ties shared by the peo­ple of this state.

It’s true that Mur­ray has rep­re­sent­ed Wash­ing­ton since 1992, which is a long run, but that does­n’t mean she’s out of touch like Repub­li­cans claim.

Con­trary to what Heim­lich’s email says, this poll find­ing is not evi­dence that Mur­ray is vul­ner­a­ble in the 2022 midterms. That’s because the ques­tion was not neu­tral­ly word­ed. Accord­ing­ly, it can­not pos­si­bly yield any valid data.

There’s a say­ing in tech that speaks to the prob­lem of worth­less data: garbage in, garbage out. If your inputs are bad, then your out­puts will also be bad.

To under­stand why this ques­tion is bad, let’s first look at the phras­ing again:

Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor from Wash­ing­ton Pat­ty Mur­ray was first elect­ed in 1992 and plans to run for a sixth term next year. Do you think Pat­ty Mur­ray should? Or should not? Run for a sixth term?

Upon first glance, it might not seem like there’s any­thing wrong with this ques­tion. It con­sists of a state­ment nam­ing Mur­ray and iden­ti­fy­ing her by her title, stat­ing when she was first elect­ed (1992) and not­ing that she is run­ning for reelec­tion. Then the ques­tion part of the ques­tion is posed. All factual.

Neu­tral­i­ty and fac­tu­al­i­ty aren’t the same thing, how­ev­er. A poll ques­tion can con­sist entire­ly of facts and still not be neu­tral. That’s the case here.

The facts are pre­sent­ed with­out any con­text and the ques­tion itself is not one that any of the respon­dents would ever actu­al­ly be tasked with answer­ing in real life.

Let’s con­sid­er the actu­al ques­tion first, replete with its three ques­tion marks (Do you think Pat­ty Mur­ray should? Or should not? Run for a sixth term?)

Run­ning for office is a very per­son­al deci­sion, and it’s not one that mil­lions of vot­ers — like the five hun­dred and forty-one includ­ed in this sur­vey sam­ple — get to make. Rather, it’s a deci­sion that is made indi­vid­u­al­ly by peo­ple who aspire to serve their state and coun­try, usu­al­ly with the advice of fam­i­ly and friends.

Mur­ray has already made that very impor­tant deci­sion to run again, which entails a lengthy com­mit­ment to con­tin­ued pub­lic ser­vice of six years. The rel­e­vant ques­tion for vot­ers is not whether she should run but whether she should be reelect­ed. That’s the deci­sion Wash­ing­to­ni­ans get to make in 2022.

Now, let’s talk about what the state­ment part of the ques­tion con­notes and what it leaves out. Con­text is real­ly impor­tant, and there’s a lot of con­text miss­ing here.

Pret­ty much every biog­ra­phy of an elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tive out in the pub­lic domain pro­vides their name, their office, and what year they were first elect­ed to that office because those are con­sid­ered essen­tial facts. But while those facts are com­mon to polit­i­cal biogra­phies, they are not the extent of them.

By selec­tive­ly pre­sent­ing just a cou­ple of facts about Mur­ray (she was elect­ed in 1992, plans to seek a sixth term next year) KING5 cre­at­ed an ageist ques­tion with an anti-incum­ben­cy frame, whether that was their inten­tion or not.

The afore­men­tioned results are thus to be expect­ed. It can be assumed that the con­tent of the ques­tion influ­enced the respons­es to the question.

Then there’s what was left out.

There’s no dis­cus­sion of Mur­ray’s actu­al record as a Sen­a­tor, and no men­tion of any of her accom­plish­ments, which could fill a book. There’s no men­tion of her pri­or­i­ties and what she’ll offer as a can­di­date for the Sen­ate in 2022.

Due to its poor con­struc­tion, the ques­tion absurd­ly invites respon­dents to view Mur­ray’s lengthy tenure neg­a­tive­ly, when in fact, in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate, senior­i­ty and length of ser­vice is a huge advan­tage… and arguably the biggest of advan­tages with respect to how much clout a sen­a­tor can wield.

Wash­ing­to­ni­ans have ben­e­fit­ed for years from Mur­ray’s expe­ri­ence and proven abil­i­ties as an appro­pri­a­tor. What’s more, Mur­ray serves in a key lead­er­ship posi­tion in the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus and is a com­mit­tee chair once again now that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty has a bare work­ing major­i­ty in the Senate.

Speak­ing of bare work­ing majori­ties, KING5’s ques­tion also does­n’t invoke the larg­er polit­i­cal and elec­toral land­scape, which is of para­mount impor­tance to most vot­ers in this high­ly polar­ized era of Amer­i­can history.

As is com­mon knowl­edge, the Sen­ate is cur­rent­ly even­ly divid­ed, fifty to fifty, between the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and its inde­pen­dent allies and the Repub­li­can Party.

Next year’s Sen­ate race will be as much about the bal­ance of pow­er in the Sen­ate as it will be about Mur­ray and who­ev­er becomes her gen­er­al elec­tion opponent.

Mur­ray’s reelec­tion is cru­cial to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s prospects of retain­ing a Sen­ate major­i­ty after the midterms. The Democ­rats can’t afford to lose a Sen­ate seat in a blue state. Since the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is unit­ed behind Mur­ray, there will be no cred­i­ble Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­si­tion to her candidacy.

(I can say that very con­fi­dent­ly as a long­time Demo­c­ra­t­ic activist and cur­rent mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Committee!)

The choice in 2022 will thus be between Mur­ray and a Repub­li­can loy­al to Don­ald Trump, most like­ly the WSR­P’s recruit Tiffany Smi­ley, as men­tioned earlier.

It is uncom­mon for poll­sters to offer all of the con­text I just talked about in a sur­vey because it would result in lengthy ques­tions that could eas­i­ly still fail to be neu­tral. The usu­al approach to siz­ing up a can­di­date’s prospects in a future elec­tion is to offer a sim­ple hypo­thet­i­cal matchup that iden­ti­fies the like­ly can­di­dates and their par­ty affil­i­a­tions, and then asks the respon­den­t’s opinion.

This approach pre­sumes the respon­dents already have an opin­ion based on their polit­i­cal knowl­edge and lean­ings. In a high pro­file par­ti­san race such as next year’s con­test for Unit­ed States Sen­ate, they usu­al­ly do.

If a respon­dent does­n’t know any­thing about one or more of the can­di­dates, they can still offer an opin­ion based pri­mar­i­ly on the can­di­dates’ par­ty affiliations.

Per­haps Sur­veyUSA did ask such a ques­tion for KING5… but if they did, they have not released it. You can see that the only ques­tion that is in the release is the one I repro­duced above. Sur­veyUSA has been doing quite a bit of polling for KING5 late­ly, but there are no oth­er released ques­tions about the U.S. Sen­ate race.

In polling, as in so many oth­er things in life, less can be more.

As I explained, KING5 and Sur­veyUSA left so much about Pat­ty Mur­ray’s record and the 2022 envi­ron­ment out of their ques­tion. Why did­n’t they just leave out every­thing except for the bare essen­tials need­ed to ask a neu­tral question?

We know from research done by lin­guists and cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists that words are like flags: they evoke ideas and feel­ings. The use of a par­tic­u­lar word or set of words will acti­vate a par­tic­u­lar frame in the mind of the read­er or listener.

For a ques­tion to be neu­tral, it has to be word­ed in a way that will prompt the respon­dent to vol­un­tar­i­ly sup­ply their own opinion.

We can look at the prob­lem­at­ic con­struc­tion of KING5’s ques­tion from anoth­er angle by uti­liz­ing a hypo­thet­i­cal. Let’s sup­pose that vot­ers in Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton were to be asked the fol­low­ing ques­tion about Dan New­house by SurveyUSA:

Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Wash­ing­ton’s 4th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict Dan New­house vot­ed to impeach Don­ald Trump and plans to run for anoth­er term next year. Do you think Dan New­house should? Or should not? Run for anoth­er term?

Like KING5’s ques­tion about Pat­ty Mur­ray, this ques­tion con­sists of noth­ing but facts. It is a fact that Dan New­house is a mem­ber of Con­gress rep­re­sent­ing the 4th Dis­trict. It is a fact that he vot­ed to impeach Don­ald Trump. And it is a fact that he has filed to run for reelec­tion with the Fed­er­al Elec­tions Commission.

Despite being fac­tu­al, the ques­tion is not neu­tral and would not yield any use­ful data con­cern­ing New­house­’s polit­i­cal future were it to be asked.

Again, for a ques­tion to be neu­tral, it has to be word­ed in a way that it will prompt the respon­dent to sup­ply their own opin­ion. We’re not going to find out what vot­ers in cen­tral Wash­ing­ton real­ly think about their cur­rent Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive if we ask them the hypo­thet­i­cal ques­tion I just con­struct­ed above.

At NPI, one of our max­ims is the answers you get depend on the ques­tions you ask. It’s one of the most impor­tant tru­isms in pol­i­tics. You’ll find this state­ment in dozens of Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate posts going back years.

I ful­ly expect the Repub­li­can Par­ty to go on tout­ing this invalid poll find­ing as evi­dence that Mur­ray is vul­ner­a­ble in 2022. That may suit Democ­rats just fine, how­ev­er. Democ­rats have long enjoyed cel­e­brat­ing Pat­ty Mur­ray vic­to­ries after lis­ten­ing to end­less con­ceit­ed Repub­li­can pre­dic­tions of Mur­ray’s demise.

Seat­tle Times com­ment threads pri­or to the Novem­ber 2010 elec­tion, for exam­ple, were chock full of Repub­li­can read­ers con­vinced Mur­ray’s career was over. Of course, it was­n’t. Mur­ray has nev­er lost reelec­tion, and no cred­i­ble observ­er thinks that’s like­ly to hap­pen in 2022.

Repub­li­cans can dream, but his­to­ry sug­gests that when the fall of 2022 rolls around, Wash­ing­ton vot­ers will return Pat­ty Mur­ray to the Senate.

Friday, May 7th, 2021

“Consequential” 2021 legislative session is what voters across Washington State wanted

As last month drew to a close, Seat­tle Times colum­nist Dan­ny West­neat penned a col­umn siz­ing up the recent­ly-con­clud­ed 2021 leg­isla­tive ses­sion titled: “It’s Seattle’s state now in pol­i­tics, and every­body else is liv­ing in it.” While an edi­tor pre­sum­ably wrote or approved that head­line, it does seem to gen­uine­ly sum up the colum­n’s premise, as evi­denced by its open­ing paragraphs:

“We all live in Seat­tle now.”

That was one con­ser­v­a­tive state senator’s lament over the just-con­clud­ed leg­isla­tive ses­sion in Olympia. It reflects the view — voiced here by Sen. Doug Erick­sen, R‑Ferndale — that Seattle’s brand of activist, pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics has final­ly, after years of try­ing, tak­en over the state.

“The most rad­i­cal Leg­is­la­ture in the his­to­ry of Wash­ing­ton state is forc­ing every­one to live like Seat­tle,” was how Erick­sen framed it.

I’ll get into how accu­rate this is in a minute. But there’s no ques­tion that what just went down at the state­house marked a polit­i­cal break­through of sorts — for the pro­gres­sive left.

… and the colum­n’s con­clud­ing paragraphs:

The GOP crit­ics cit­ed above are not wrong about the over­all gist of what just hap­pened, though. Seat­tle has long been the big polit­i­cal pow­er in the state, but the more mod­er­ate Leg­is­la­ture oper­at­ed for decades as its check and balance.

Many lefty ideas hatched in Seat­tle went down to the state­house, only to die or get blender­ized beyond all recognition.

Not this time. Ide­o­log­i­cal­ly, it real­ly is Seattle’s state right now. Every­body else is, for the moment, liv­ing in it.

I con­sid­er Dan­ny West­neat a thought­ful colum­nist and com­men­ta­tor who often has good insights, but the sup­po­si­tion expressed above does­n’t accu­rate­ly describe the cur­rent dynam­ics in our state­house at all.

The rea­son the 2021 leg­isla­tive ses­sion was so con­se­quen­tial and packed with pro­gres­sive pol­i­cy wins is not because Seat­tle became polit­i­cal­ly dom­i­nant in the state­house, or expe­ri­enced some sort of polit­i­cal breakthrough.

It’s because last year, vot­ers across the state elect­ed a Leg­is­la­ture that is more diverse, inclu­sive, and rep­re­sen­ta­tive than any we have ever seen before… a Leg­is­la­ture with majori­ties in each cham­ber that sup­port val­ues, prin­ci­ples, and pol­i­cy direc­tions already sup­port­ed by majori­ties of vot­ers statewide.

This Leg­is­la­ture has new mem­bers like Tar­ra Sim­mons from Kit­sap Coun­ty, the first state leg­is­la­tor to have been once incar­cer­at­ed. And T’wina Nobles from Pierce Coun­ty, whose vic­to­ry over Steve O’Ban last autumn brought rep­re­sen­ta­tion for Black women back to the Sen­ate after a mul­ti-year absence.

And Ali­cia Rule, a small busi­ness own­er from What­com Coun­ty, who took the place of an ardent Trump boost­ing Repub­li­can up in the 42nd District.

Plus leg­is­la­tors like Jami­la Tay­lor from King Coun­ty and April Berg from Sno­homish Coun­ty — two incred­i­ble women of col­or who suc­cess­ful­ly defend­ed open House seats in swing dis­tricts for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

These leg­is­la­tors joined an out­stand­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic Class of 2018 that includ­ed lead­ers like My-Linh Thai (D‑41st Dis­trict), Debra Lekanoff (D‑42nd Dis­trict), Lisa Callan and Bill Ramos (D‑5th Dis­trict), Emi­ly Ran­dall (D‑26th Dis­trict), Mona Das (D‑47th Dis­trict) and Claire Wil­son (D‑30th District).

In 2017, when my state Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra (anoth­er trail­blaz­ing leg­is­la­tor who serves as a North­west Pro­gres­sive Foun­da­tion board­mem­ber) was elect­ed in the 45th, she said in her Elec­tion Night vic­to­ry speech: “I hope to build a state gov­ern­ment that empow­ers every sin­gle per­son in Wash­ing­ton to feel like they have a voice, like they have a role to play in mak­ing our democ­ra­cy thrive.”

That is exact­ly what she and her col­leagues in the Leg­is­la­ture have been doing these past few years. Begin­ning with Sen­a­tor Dhin­gra’s arrival in the Sen­ate almost four years ago, the flood­gates of the Leg­is­la­ture opened, and out poured waves of pro­gres­sive bills that have strength­ened our communities.

In four ses­sions (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021) the Leg­is­la­ture has — to name just a few areas of progress — strength­ened vot­ing rights, advanced envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice and racial jus­tice, improved our upside down tax code, bol­stered police account­abil­i­ty, made col­lege more acces­si­ble and afford­able, expand­ed health­care, and added much need­ed pro­tec­tions for work­ers and tenants.

These are pri­or­i­ties shared by peo­ple all over Wash­ing­ton, not just folks in Seat­tle. Look at the make­up of our state’s exec­u­tive and leg­isla­tive lead­er­ship. Look at who’s prime spon­sor­ing the bills and shep­herd­ing them through the leg­isla­tive process. Look at all of the sup­port­ive tes­ti­mo­ny for the bills.

As Lisa Brown point­ed out after she read West­neat’s col­umn, we have a geo­graph­i­cal­ly diverse leg­isla­tive lead­er­ship team: A House Speak­er from Taco­ma, a Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader from Spokane, and five out of six bud­get chairs who aren’t from Seat­tle. Brown could have added that we have Demo­c­ra­t­ic floor lead­ers from Van­cou­ver and Muk­il­teo along with whips from Spokane and Bremerton.

Sev­en out of nine mem­bers of the state’s exec­u­tive depart­ment do not live in King Coun­ty. Seat­tle may feel in many ways like the state’s polit­i­cal pow­er cen­ter, espe­cial­ly with respect to the move­ment of mon­ey to and through campaigns.

But the real­i­ty is this: Ide­o­log­i­cal­ly, Wash­ing­ton is as much Pouls­bo and Spokane and Lake­wood and Red­mond’s state right now as it is Seattle’s.

Seat­tle vot­ers did­n’t elect any of the law­mak­ers I named above. They were all elect­ed in dis­tricts that don’t have a sin­gle Emer­ald City neigh­bor­hood in them. And their con­tri­bu­tions have been absolute­ly pro­found, as any­one who has been inter­act­ing with the Leg­is­la­ture in recent years can sure­ly attest.

I wrote above that recent leg­isla­tive elec­tions (in 2017, 2018, and 2020) have giv­en us a Leg­is­la­ture with majori­ties in each cham­ber that sup­port val­ues, prin­ci­ples, and pol­i­cy direc­tions already sup­port­ed by majori­ties of vot­ers statewide.

I know this to be true because of NPI’s research.

For many years now, includ­ing dur­ing the entire­ty of the times­pan I referred to, NPI has been ask­ing Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers about their views on issue after issue after issue, from levy­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax to abol­ish­ing the death penal­ty to pass­ing com­pre­hen­sive sex ed. And con­sis­tent­ly, we have found sup­port for pro­gres­sive poli­cies, typ­i­cal­ly rang­ing from around 57% to 75% or more.

For exam­ple, here’s where vot­ers stood on school fund­ing after ses­sion last year:

School funding poll finding (May of 2020)

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly agree, some­what agree, some­what dis­agree, or strong­ly dis­agree with the fol­low­ing state­ment: Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic schools are under­fund­ed, and we need to raise state rev­enue to ful­ly fund them?

ANSWERS:

  • Agree: 60%
    • Strong­ly agree: 35%
    • Some­what agree: 25%
  • Dis­agree: 31% 
    • Some­what dis­agree: 15%
    • Strong­ly dis­agree: 16%
  • Not Sure: 9%

Asked May 19th-20th, 2020 (1,070 like­ly vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling; MoE +/- 3.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval)

And here’s where they stood on cap­i­tal gains at the same juncture:

Capital gains tax poll finding (May of 2020)

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose tax­ing the cap­i­tal gains of wealthy indi­vid­u­als to help pay for pub­lic schools, col­leges and universities?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 59% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 42%
    • Some­what sup­port: 17%
  • Oppose: 32%
    • Some­what oppose: 11%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 21%
  • Not Sure: 9%

Asked May 19th-20th, 2020 (1,070 like­ly vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling; MoE +/- 3.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval)

And here’s how vot­ers felt about just cause evic­tion (requir­ing land­lords to state a rea­son pri­or to evict­ing some­one from a home):

Just cause eviction poll finding (May of 2020)

QUESTION: Under cur­rent state law, land­lords may evict ten­ants with­out pro­vid­ing a rea­son. Do you strong­ly agree, some­what agree, some­what dis­agree, or strong­ly dis­agree that the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture should improve land­lord-ten­ant rela­tion­ships by requir­ing land­lords to give a rea­son when attempt­ing to move some­one out of a home?

ANSWERS:

  • Agree: 60%
    • Strong­ly agree: 36%
    • Some­what agree: 24%
  • Oppose: 34%
    • Some­what dis­agree: 14%
    • Strong­ly dis­agree: 20%
  • Not Sure: 6%

Asked May 19th-20th, 2020 (1,070 like­ly vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling; MoE +/- 3.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval)

And here’s an old­er poll find­ing from 2016 about putting a price on pollution:

Cap and trade poll finding (June of 2016)

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose imple­ment­ing a cap-and-trade sys­tem, where pol­luters would be charged a fee to reduce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions and fund pub­lic schools and trans­porta­tion projects?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 59% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 37%
    • Some­what sup­port: 22%
  • Oppose: 36%
    • Some­what oppose: 13%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 23%
  • Not Sure: 4%

Asked June 14th-15th, 2016 (679 like­ly vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling; MoE +/- 3.8% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval)

Now, you might be think­ing, wait a minute… that last poll find­ing is from 2016! That’s five years ago! And yes, that’s true… this is a five year old poll find­ing. That speaks to how long a major­i­ty of vot­ers have been ready for cli­mate action!

We ask about views on leg­is­la­tion to address cli­mate jus­tice every year and always find a major­i­ty of like­ly Wash­ing­ton vot­ers in sup­port of putting a price in pol­lu­tion, whether through a Green New Deal at the fed­er­al lev­el, or a pol­lu­tion tax at the state lev­el, or cap and invest/cap and trade at the state level.

This par­tic­u­lar ques­tion specif­i­cal­ly men­tions cap and trade and was asked before Don­ald Trump was installed in the White House by the Elec­toral Col­lege, so it makes sense to cir­cle back to in light of the Leg­is­la­ture’s pas­sage of E2SSB 5126.

Let’s con­sid­er anoth­er issue, one very recent­ly on the ballot.

Last year, when the Leg­is­la­ture passed a bill requir­ing schools to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al edu­ca­tion, Repub­li­can law­mak­ers threw a giant tem­per tantrum on the floor of the House and Sen­ate. After the bill passed, they and their allies insti­gat­ed a sig­na­ture dri­ve to force the leg­is­la­tion onto the bal­lot for a pub­lic vote, con­fi­dent it would be over­turned, and con­fi­dent they would ben­e­fit elec­toral­ly from a pub­lic back­lash to the bill. But there was­n’t one.

We antic­i­pat­ed that there would not be any back­lash based on our polling, which found two out of three vot­ers (a super­ma­jor­i­ty) in sup­port of the bill.

Comprehensive sex ed poll finding (October of 2019)

QUESTION: The Wash­ing­ton State Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion has asked the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture to adopt leg­is­la­tion requir­ing all Wash­ing­ton state schools to teach inclu­sive, evi­dence-informed, sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly accu­rate, com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion, which must include “affir­ma­tive con­sent” cur­ricu­lum. Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose this legislation?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 67% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 49%
    • Some­what sup­port: 18%
  • Oppose: 22%
    • Some­what oppose: 7%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 15%
  • Not sure: 11%

Asked Octo­ber 22nd-23rd, 2019 (900 like­ly vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling; MoE +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval)

A year lat­er, as bal­lots were about to drop, we checked back in with voters.

Referendum 90 poll finding (October of 2020)

QUESTION: Ref­er­en­dum 90, on the cur­rent statewide bal­lot, con­cerns com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion. The offi­cial descrip­tion is as fol­lows: This bill would require school dis­tricts to adopt or devel­op, con­sis­tent with state stan­dards, com­pre­hen­sive age-appro­pri­ate sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion, as defined, for all stu­dents, and excuse stu­dents if their par­ents request. Are you vot­ing Approved or Reject­ed on this referendum?

ANSWERS:

  • Vot­ing Approved: 56%
  • Vot­ing Reject­ed: 33%
  • Not sure: 11%

Asked Octo­ber 14th-15th, 2020 (610 like­ly vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling; MoE +/-4.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval)

A few weeks lat­er, the actu­al elec­tion results were certified:

Ref­er­en­dum 90

  • Approved: 57.82% (2,283,630 votes)
  • Reject­ed: 42.18% (1,665,906 votes)

Most of the vot­ers who weren’t sure evi­dent­ly decid­ed to vote to reject R‑90, but some joined the Approved camp, pro­pelling it to an even high­er per­cent­age in the actu­al elec­tion. Our polling was cor­rect and the returns in the Novem­ber 2020 elec­tion proved it — to the shock of quite a few Repub­li­cans.

At NPI, we love data. We believe in research-dri­ven advo­ca­cy. That’s why we reg­u­lar­ly take the pulse of the elec­torate through sur­veys con­duct­ed by trust­ed part­ners. We learn a lot from check­ing in reg­u­lar­ly with voters.

Those “lib­er­al dreams that have been bol­lixed up in Olympia for­ev­er” (to use West­neat’s words) sim­ply need­ed a more diverse, inclu­sive, and rep­re­sen­ta­tive Leg­is­la­ture to get due con­sid­er­a­tion and pas­sage. In 2020, vot­ers tipped the scales and gave the Leg­is­la­ture work­ing majori­ties that are more in align­ment with their own views on a long, long, long list of issues.

As West­neat acknowl­edged a lit­tle lat­er in his col­umn: “A lot of this stuff is plain over­due.” Pre­cise­ly! Vot­ers have been ready for the pro­gres­sive wins we saw this ses­sion for a long time. We just did­n’t have a tru­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive Leg­is­la­ture capa­ble of act­ing on many of them. That is the key fac­tor explain­ing why this ses­sion was dif­fer­ent than so many that came before. That is what’s changing.

And thank goodness!

It’s under­stand­able that Trump-lov­ing Repub­li­cans like Doug Erick­sen don’t like this one bit. But it def­i­nite­ly does­n’t mean that “we all live in Seat­tle now.”

What it actu­al­ly means is that we have a respon­sive state gov­ern­ment attuned to the needs and wish­es of the peo­ple: a state gov­ern­ment that is more pol­i­cy-ori­ent­ed than pol­i­tics-ori­ent­ed. We’re get­ting action instead of theater.

That’s some­thing I have want­ed to see for pret­ty much all of my life, for as long as I’ve been old enough to under­stand what gov­ern­ment is, and can do.

It’s a beau­ti­ful thing.

While there is much more work that needs to be done to build a bet­ter Wash­ing­ton, we are unques­tion­ably mak­ing progress, and that is what con­scious pro­gres­sive lead­er­ship from across our state can do for us.

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Power-obsessed Mitch McConnell wants to decide what does not get done in America

He was doing a bob-and-weave with reporters — seek­ing not to repeat sup­port­ive remarks he made about Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Liz Cheney last win­ter — when Sen­ate Repub­li­can Leader Mitch McConnell spoke unset­tling words, four times in a row:

“One hun­dred per­cent of my focus is on stop­ping this new admin­is­tra­tion… I think the best way to look at what this new admin­is­tra­tion – the pres­i­dent may have won the nom­i­na­tion, but Bernie Sanders won the argument.”

The words were eeri­ly rem­i­nis­cent of what McConnell told the Nation­al Jour­nal in a 2010 inter­view: “The sin­gle most impor­tant thing we want to achieve is for Pres­i­dent Oba­ma to be a one-term president.”

McConnell is not about gov­ern­ing. He evinces no inter­est in tak­ing the hand dealt by America’s vot­ers and try­ing to solve or get a jump on the nation’s prob­lems.  He is instead about pow­er, hang­ing onto his posi­tion as a top Repub­li­can, main­tain­ing (now regain­ing) a Repub­li­can major­i­ty in the Sen­ate, and block­ing the oth­er side’s ini­tia­tives… even in time of nation­al crisis.

One of the best pres­i­dents Amer­i­ca nev­er had, two-time Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Adlai Steven­son, put it suc­cinct­ly when he said: “The abil­i­ty to gov­ern is the acid test of pol­i­tics, the acid, final test.”

An exam­ple of fail­ing the test: On Wednes­day, Amer­i­cans marked the Nation­al Day of Aware­ness for Miss­ing and Mur­dered Indige­nous Women.

The day came and went as House passed leg­is­la­tion, renew­ing the 1994 Vio­lence Against Women Act – authored by then-Sen­a­tor Joe Biden – con­tin­ues to lan­guish in the Unit­ed States Senate.

Sen­ate Repub­li­cans allowed VAWA’s autho­riza­tion to expire two years ago.

Mitch McConnell speaking

Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell of Ken­tucky speak­ing at the 2013 Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence (CPAC) in Nation­al Har­bor, Mary­land (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

They object­ed to pro­vi­sions of a bipar­ti­san House bill that extend­ed pro­tec­tion to LGBTQ+ and Native Amer­i­can vic­tims and con­tained a “boyfriend pro­vi­sion” pro­hibit­ing firearms own­er­ship by a per­son con­vict­ed of assault­ing a woman he was dating.

As Yogi Berra would say, it’s déjà vu all over again in 2021.

The House has passed leg­is­la­tion, again on a bipar­ti­san vote.

It lan­guish­es in the Sen­ate. As in 2019, Repub­li­cans say they are com­ing up with an alter­na­tive, but no such alter­na­tive has surfaced.

The House bill again con­tains a strength­en­ing pro­vi­sion, a pro­hi­bi­tion against dis­trib­ut­ing sex­u­al­ly explic­it images with­out a woman’s consent.

With con­trol of his cau­cus, McConnell could have worked out a pro­pos­al, tak­en it to the Democ­rats – Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington, is active on the issue – gone into con­fer­ence with House Democ­rats, and reau­tho­rized an impor­tant, work­able piece of leg­is­la­tion… one that works to shield poor and Indige­nous women. In the McConnell world­view, how­ev­er, there’s noth­ing in it for him.

The Repub­li­cans’ strat­e­gy in 2009, large­ly arrived at dur­ing a din­ner on Obama’s inau­gu­ra­tion day, was of obstruc­tion, broad­ly deployed.

Oba­ma had promised: “We have a chance to bring the coun­try togeth­er in a new major­i­ty.” Sen­ate Repub­li­cans would have none of it.

In his can­did and telling book – one ex-president’s mem­oir writ­ten by the ex-pres­i­dent – Oba­ma explained at length how his admin­is­tra­tion was snookered.

He scaled back the Amer­i­can Recov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act of 2009 (ARRA), but suc­ceed­ed in har­vest­ing just two Repub­li­can Sen­ate votes. In turn, ben­e­fits from the ARRA recov­ery pack­age were slow to kick in and the Reces­sion last­ed past the 2010 mid-term elec­tions, which gave Democ­rats a “shel­lack­ing.”

Sen­ate Finance Com­mit­tee Chair Max Bau­cus wast­ed months try­ing to com­pro­mise with Repub­li­cans on health­care. As described by Oba­ma, the scene was a polit­i­cal equiv­a­lent of the “Peanuts” sketch in which Lucy promised to hold the foot­ball, then jerked it in the air as Linus tried to kick.

The House passed ener­gy reform leg­is­la­tion – then-Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jay Inslee helped round up Rust Belt sup­port – only to see a repeat performance.

Sen­a­tor John Ker­ry tried to work out bipar­ti­san accord with a slip­pery Sen­a­tor Lind­say Gra­ham, R‑South Car­oli­na, only to be thwarted.

Block­age and bait-and-switch tac­tics, deployed by McConnell, have hurt the coun­try. Cli­mate dam­age is not just melt­ing polar ice caps and caus­ing sea lev­els to rise, but inflict­ing severe weath­er on the Amer­i­can south­east, droughts and fire on the Amer­i­can West.  In an era of ris­ing income inequal­i­ty, the Great Reces­sion and COVID-19 pan­dem­ic have hit hard at poor and low­er-mid­dle class Americans.

A lot of them live in Kentucky.

Again, how­ev­er, McConnell’s self-inter­ests lie elsewhere.

He is wealthy, hav­ing mar­ried money.

The Repub­li­cans’ 2017 tax leg­is­la­tion, which he mas­ter­mind­ed, yield­ed nine­ty per­cent of its ben­e­fits to the upper ten per­cent of income earn­ers. Its cor­po­rate tax cuts enriched donors to McConnell’s polit­i­cal action com­mit­tees. Being the dis­trib­u­tor of cam­paign cash is a key to his longevi­ty as Sen­ate Repub­li­can Leader.

As a young man, McConnell once worked for a civ­il rights-mind­ed Repub­li­can, Ken­tucky Sen­a­tor John Sher­man Coop­er. Any ide­al­ism left him long ago.

He stayed the course of pow­er despite pri­vate revul­sion at Don­ald Trump, and leg­isla­tive­ly served as Trump’s enabler. And he has demon­strat­ed how pow­er is wield­ed in Amer­i­ca. McConnell told the New York Times that block­ing Mer­rick Garland’s 2016 nom­i­na­tion to the U.S. Supreme Court was “the most impor­tant thing I have ever done.” Four years lat­er, McConnell would ram through Trump’s pre-elec­tion nom­i­na­tion of Amy Comey Bar­rett in a few weeks’ time.

“If there’s any pow­er in this job, real­ly — it’s the pow­er to sched­ule, to decide what you’re going to do or not do,” McConnell once told the New York Times. In recent years, that pow­er has been to decide what the coun­try would not do.

Which brings us to Joe Biden.

The new admin­is­tra­tion has vowed not to get snookered.

Yet, in respond­ing to McConnell’s “one hun­dred per­cent” remark, Biden said Wednes­day:  “Look, he said that in our last admin­is­tra­tion (with) Barack (Oba­ma) he was going to stop every­thing – and I was able to get a lot done with him.”

Like what? Wide-awake Joe should not be fool­ing himself.

Gone are the days when Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dents could nego­ti­ate a fed­er­al min­i­mum wage increase with a Repub­li­can Sen­ate leader (and vice versa).

The shrink­ing Repub­li­can base is in no mood for society’s compromises.

Nor is McConnell, set on regain­ing his post as Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader in the 2022 midterm elec­tions. Twen­ty-four years of serv­ing in the Sen­ate with McConnell ought to be instruc­tive: Nev­er expect Mitch to have your back.

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

Biden-Harris administration says yes to suspending patents on coronavirus vaccines

A few days ago, bil­lion­aire Bill Gates angered mil­lions of peo­ple (and even left a few of his admir­ers dumb­found­ed) when he affirmed that he oppos­es sus­pend­ing patents on coro­n­avirus vac­cines. Today, the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion respon­si­bly took the oppo­site stance, anger­ing pret­ty much nobody except for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal exec­u­tives and their lob­by­ists, while delight­ing every­one else.

“This is a glob­al health cri­sis, and the extra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic call for extra­or­di­nary mea­sures,” said Kather­ine Tai, the Unit­ed States trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive, in a state­ment. “The admin­is­tra­tion believes strong­ly in intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty pro­tec­tions, but in ser­vice of end­ing this pan­dem­ic, sup­ports the waiv­er of those pro­tec­tions for COVID-19 vaccines.”

“More than one hun­dred coun­tries sup­port a tem­po­rary waiv­er of some World Trade Orga­ni­za­tion rules that guar­an­tee phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firms monop­oly con­trol over how much med­i­cine is pro­duced, yet the Unit­ed States remains opposed,” pro­gres­sive econ­o­mist Joseph Stigliz wrote pri­or to Tai’s announce­ment.

But not any­more, thank goodness!

The admin­is­tra­tion’s deci­sion drew praise from many pro­gres­sive lead­ers, includ­ing Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont and Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren of Mass­a­chu­setts, Biden’s two main pro­gres­sive rivals for the 2020 nomination.

I applaud the Biden admin­is­tra­tion for tak­ing this bold step to speed up the pro­duc­tion and avail­abil­i­ty of coro­n­avirus vac­cines,” Sanders tweet­ed. “I also rec­og­nize the ded­i­cat­ed work done by activists around the world to put this issue on the glob­al agen­da. We are all in this together.” 

“I urged Pres­i­dent Biden to do every­thing he can to help expand glob­al vac­cine access, and I’m glad his admin­is­tra­tion agreed to sup­port the WTO TRIPS waiv­er to help coun­tries expand man­u­fac­tur­ing of treat­ments and vac­cines,” said Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren. “This is a human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis and it impacts all of us.”

Stiglitz was entire­ly cor­rect when he argued: “Any delay in ensur­ing the great­est avail­abil­i­ty of vac­cines and ther­a­peu­tics is moral­ly wrong and fool­ish — both in terms of pub­lic health and the econ­o­my. The waiv­er is a crit­i­cal first step.”

The pan­dem­ic has already claimed too many lives. To allow it to con­tin­ue rav­aging the world com­mu­ni­ty when we have proven vac­cines that could stop it — if we can only get them into peo­ple’s arms — would be crim­i­nal. So-called “intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty rights” are not more impor­tant than human lives.

Prof­it-obsessed drug com­pa­nies are, as men­tioned, unhappy.

““This deci­sion will sow con­fu­sion between pub­lic and pri­vate part­ners, fur­ther weak­en already strained sup­ply chains and fos­ter the pro­lif­er­a­tion of coun­ter­feit vac­cines,” groused Stephen J. Ubl, the pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive of the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Research and Man­u­fac­tur­ers of America.

How so, Mr. Ubl?

In our view, coun­ter­feit vac­cines and bro­ken down sup­ply chains are much more like­ly if we don’t sus­pend the patents on these vaccines.

Mere­ly sus­pend­ing the patents, of course, isn’t going to be enough: it is only one step in the right direc­tion. But it’s a step that need­ed to be tak­en. The Trump regime was adamant­ly against it. For­tu­nate­ly, the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion has come to a dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion. This is great news for the world community.

It’s also some­what unprece­dent­ed. As Asia Rus­sell, who heads the AIDS treat­ment advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion Health GAP, said: “No U.S.T.R. [Unit­ed States Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive] has made a pro­nounce­ment like this.”

The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try con­tends that sus­pend­ing patents on the vac­cines will dis­cour­age “inno­va­tion” in the future. That’s non­sense. What they real­ly mean is that they’re wor­ried they won’t make as much mon­ey in the future.

Com­pa­nies like Pfiz­er, Mod­er­na, John­son & John­son, AstraZeneca, and oth­ers have ben­e­fit­ed tremen­dous­ly from pub­lic invest­ments in health research, both in the Unit­ed States and else­where. Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies don’t suc­ceed in the mar­ket­place of their own accord. They all rely on the pub­lic ser­vices and infra­struc­ture that the tax­pay­ers of this coun­try pay for, from our court sys­tem to the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health to our ports and highways.

We’re in a pan­dem­ic and mil­lions of lives are at stake. The notion that patents are more sacred than human­i­ty’s future is sim­ply absurd.

For­tu­nate­ly, sense is pre­vail­ing over self­ish­ness. There’s a lot more work to do, but this deci­sion will help us set off down the right path.

And don’t wor­ry, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal exec­u­tives. You and the com­pa­nies you are respon­si­ble for will be just fine. Your abil­i­ty to “inno­vate” will not be negat­ed by the sus­pen­sion of patents on coro­n­avirus vac­cines. This move won’t hurt you. To the con­trary: it will open the doors to some excit­ing new opportunities.

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

PCC Community Markets members just voted to elect two PCC workers to the co-op’s board

The future of Puget Con­sumers Coop­er­a­tive — the orig­i­nal name of what is today known as PCC Com­mu­ni­ty Mar­kets — got sig­nif­i­cant­ly brighter today when the co-op announced that its mem­bers had elect­ed two PCC work­ers belong­ing to UFCW Local 21 to join its board of trustees for new three-year terms.

Don­na Ras­mussen and Lau­rae McIn­tyre are long­time PCC mem­bers and employ­ees who are con­cerned about PCC’s future, just as our team at NPI is.

“PCC has been expand­ing so fast recent­ly, focus­ing on open­ing new stores and big remod­els,” Lau­rae not­ed in a state­ment explain­ing her candidacy.

“That’s great, I’m hap­py for us to grow. But we need peo­ple with direct PCC retail expe­ri­ence on the board to pro­tect the core mis­sion of the co-op and make sure PCC steps up on racial equi­ty, LGBTQ inclu­sion, and jus­tice for work­ers all along the sup­ply chain, includ­ing those in our own stores.”

“When PCC takes care of its front­line staff, we can bet­ter take care of our cus­tomers,” Don­na’s can­di­date state­ment explains. “It also means con­tin­u­ing to sup­port our small farm­ers and local ven­dors, even if they can’t pro­duce enough to get their prod­uct in every one of our expand­ing loca­tions. After all, as a co-op, our stores should be a reflec­tion of our communities.”

Don­na and Lau­rae are already list­ed on the PCC web­site as mem­bers of PCC’s board, although nei­ther has received board com­mit­tee assign­ments yet, hav­ing just been elect­ed. (The board has sev­er­al com­mit­tees, includ­ing Audit, Finance, Man­age­ment Devel­op­ment, Gov­er­nance, Mem­ber­ship, and Compensation.)

NPI is hope­ful that Don­na and Lau­rae’s pres­ence on the board will result in pos­i­tive changes at PCC. One change we’re hop­ing to see — at least after the pan­dem­ic sub­sides — is the resump­tion of reg­u­lar mem­ber dinners.

Up until a few years ago, PCC used to hold annu­al and semi-annu­al din­ners for its mem­bers, which were an oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet oth­er mem­bers from around the region along with PCC staff and co-op lead­ers. NPI cov­ered and pro­mot­ed these events, which fea­tured out­stand­ing pro­gram­ming, includ­ing appear­ances by local farm­ers work­ing on land saved by the PCC Farm­land Trust.

But then the din­ners were uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly dis­con­tin­ued. When we asked why, PCC lead­er­ship mere­ly said that they want­ed to invest resources into in-store mem­ber­ship engage­ment ini­tia­tives. We want­ed to know why PCC lead­er­ship could­n’t sim­ply do that in addi­tion to the din­ners. But we got no answer.

PCC’s recent oppo­si­tion to pro­vid­ing haz­ard pay for its work­ers was even more trou­bling. Co-op lead­er­ship did even­tu­al­ly agree to do the right thing by their work­ers, but only after com­ing under pres­sure from mem­bers and the public.

“Haz­ard pay isn’t just about help­ing out front­line ‘heroes,’ ” not­ed Joe Mizrahi, Sec­re­tary-Trea­sur­er of the Unit­ed Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers (UFCW) Local 21, which rep­re­sents 1,800 PCC work­ers, from cooks to cashiers.

“Haz­ard pay is nec­es­sary to com­pen­sate gro­cery work­ers who spend mon­ey from their own pock­ets to find emer­gency child care when schools are closed. Those few extra dol­lars are meant to help work­ers who have found anoth­er place to stay so they don’t bring COVID back to their friends, room­mates, or fam­i­ly members.”

We agree. UFCW Local 21 mem­bers are cur­rent­ly in the midst of nego­ti­at­ing a new con­tract with PCC, and we wish them well. With Don­na and Lau­rae’s vic­to­ries, two out of nine elect­ed mem­bers of the board are now PCC work­ers, which is a win for diver­si­ty and inclu­sion. The duo won despite not hav­ing been rec­om­mend­ed for board posi­tions by the coop­er­a­tive’s cur­rent lead­er­ship, and despite hav­ing been exclud­ed from can­di­date forums and in-store sig­nage.

That did­n’t ulti­mate­ly mat­ter, because PCC mem­bers could see the board would ben­e­fit from hav­ing fresh new work­er and mem­ber ori­ent­ed representation.

Board elec­tions at non­prof­its and coop­er­a­tives are rarely live­ly or con­test­ed, usu­al­ly because not many peo­ple take an inter­est in orga­ni­za­tion­al gov­er­nance. But this time was dif­fer­ent. This time, when PCC’s future was on the line, PCC’s work­ers and mem­bers rose to the occa­sion. That’s great news.

Con­grat­u­la­tions, Don­na and Lau­rae. Best wish­es from all of us at NPI.

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

DONE! Governor Jay Inslee signs bill to levy a capital gains tax on the wealthy into law

Pro­gres­sive tax reform in Wash­ing­ton State took a long-await­ed and sore­ly need­ed step for­ward this after­noon with the sign­ing of two fis­cal­ly respon­si­ble bills that will strength­en our com­mon wealth: ESSB 5096, which levies a state cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy, and ESHB 1297, which updates the statute autho­riz­ing a Work­ing Fam­i­lies Tax Cred­it for Wash­ing­ton’s poor­est families.

“This impor­tant step to rebuild our unfair tax code was tak­en after years of work, years of dia­logue, and thou­sands of voic­es call­ing for this pol­i­cy,” said Sen­a­tor June Robin­son (D‑38th Dis­trict: Everett and Sno­homish Coun­ty), the prime spon­sor of the leg­is­la­tion. “We’ve heard that peo­ple from every part of our state are ready to move toward a health­i­er, stronger future togeth­er, and it’s time for the wealth­i­est among us to pay their fair share for that future.”

“This cap­i­tal gains excise tax, along with the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Tax Rebate that we passed ear­li­er this ses­sion, will help sup­port work­ing fam­i­lies in every cor­ner of our state,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Noel Frame (D‑36th Dis­trict; Seat­tle), NPI board­mem­ber Gael Tar­leton’s suc­ces­sor as Chair of the House Finance Committee.

“By ask­ing the wealth­i­est among us to share in the respon­si­bil­i­ty of fund­ing the needs of our com­mu­ni­ties and putting mon­ey back in the pock­ets of low-income fam­i­lies via a sales tax rebate, these poli­cies are the first steps on the path to bal­anc­ing our tax code. We’ll con­tin­ue down that path of tax reform with the ongo­ing work of the Tax Struc­ture Work Group.”

ESSB 5096 was NPI’s top pri­or­i­ty for the 2021 leg­isla­tive ses­sion. It was also the top leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ty for the Bal­ance Our Tax Code coali­tion and the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. Since the bill includes a pro­vi­sion stat­ing it is nec­es­sary for the sup­port of state gov­ern­ment, it is not sub­ject to referendum.

Dis­graced ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman (who owes Wash­ing­ton tax­pay­ers mil­lions of dol­lars for repeat­ed and will­ful vio­la­tions of the FCPA) sought to test whether the Sec­re­tary of State would per­mit ref­er­en­dum fil­ings on the bill last week. He got his answer when elec­tions offi­cials denied his filings.

Pri­or to ESSB 5096’s final adop­tion, Eyman had been attempt­ing to con­vince poten­tial fun­ders and sup­port­ers to sup­port an ini­tia­tive to over­turn the bill, rather than a ref­er­en­dum, char­ac­ter­iz­ing the pre­vi­ous iter­a­tion of the bill (which did not pro­hib­it a ref­er­en­dum) as “a trap” set by Democrats.

Though ESSB 5096 will not be sub­ject­ed to a poten­tial ref­er­en­dum, it will have to over­come legal chal­lenges from sev­er­al right wing groups. Those chal­lenges will begin at the tri­al court lev­el and almost cer­tain­ly wind up in front of the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court with­in the next year and a half.

There could also be a bal­lot chal­lenge in the form of an ini­tia­tive, most like­ly in 2022, giv­en that the win­dow to qual­i­fy a mea­sure to the Novem­ber 2021 bal­lot is rapid­ly clos­ing. (The sig­na­ture dead­line is in just two months.)

NPI’s research has found strong pub­lic sup­port for a state cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy for six years run­ning. Our most recent find­ing is sum­ma­rized below:

Capital gains tax poll finding (May of 2020)

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose tax­ing the cap­i­tal gains of wealthy indi­vid­u­als to help pay for pub­lic schools, col­leges and universities?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 59% 
    • Strong­ly Sup­port: 42%
    • Some­what Sup­port: 17%
  • Oppose: 32%
    • Some­what Oppose: 11%
    • Strong­ly Oppose: 21%
  • Not Sure: 9%

Note that more respon­dents said they strong­ly sup­port a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy than the total num­ber who said they were opposed.

We also found in that same sur­vey about that an almost iden­ti­cal per­cent­age of vot­ers feel that schools in Wash­ing­ton are still under­fund­ed, despite the Legislature’s work to respond to the Supreme Court’s McCleary deci­sion. The imple­men­ta­tion of ESSB 5096 will help address that fund­ing need.

Our May 2020 sur­vey of 1,070 like­ly 2020 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, May 19th through Wednes­day, May 20th, 2020.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respondents.

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

NPI con­grat­u­lates every­one who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the effort to secure the pas­sage of ESSB 5096, espe­cial­ly the Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors who spon­sored the bill, presided over its con­sid­er­a­tion in com­mit­tee, and vot­ed for it on the floor.

This is a great day for Wash­ing­ton State and the Pacif­ic Northwest.

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

All Washingtonians will benefit from our new state capital gains tax, even those who pay it

Lat­er today, Wash­ing­ton State Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee will sign into law Engrossed Sub­sti­tute Sen­ate Bill 5096, NPI’s top leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ty for the last few years. ESSB 5096 will — at last! — levy a state cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy, which will ben­e­fit Wash­ing­ton’s youth via the Edu­ca­tion Lega­cy Trust. That’s the same account where estate tax pro­ceeds have been deposit­ed for decades.

The sign­ing of ESSB 5096 will be a water­shed moment for pro­gres­sive tax reform in Wash­ing­ton State. Although our new cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy still has to sur­vive legal chal­lenges and a poten­tial bal­lot mea­sure chal­lenge, it is nev­er­the­less a huge vic­to­ry for our state’s com­mon wealth worth celebrating.

In addi­tion to sign­ing ESSB 5096, Gov­er­nor Inslee will also sign a bill updat­ing the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Tax Cred­it, which will low­er the tax oblig­a­tions of a large num­ber of low income Wash­ing­to­ni­ans (ESHB 1297).

In hon­or of the sign­ing of these two land­mark bills, we’ve pre­pared a set of rejoin­ders to many of the bad argu­ments that we’ve heard voiced against the idea of levy­ing a state cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy. We heard many of these argu­ments last month when ESSB 5096 was on the floor of the House and Sen­ate, and we expect to hear many of them again today from Repub­li­cans vocif­er­ous­ly opposed to right­ing our upside down tax code. Enjoy!


Bad argu­ment: A state cap­i­tal gains tax is unconstitutional.

The real­i­ty: Nowhere in the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion does it say that the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton can­not levy a state cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy if they wish. It is true that in 1933, a close­ly divid­ed Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court struck down an ini­tia­tive to cre­ate a grad­u­at­ed income tax in Cul­li­ton v. Chase. How­ev­er, that deci­sion did not hold that tax­es on income or wealth were uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. Instead, the Court’s hold­ing was that a grad­u­at­ed income tax did not com­port with the Con­sti­tu­tion’s require­ment that tax­es on prop­er­ty be uni­form. (Income was inter­pret­ed by the court to be prop­er­ty.) The Leg­is­la­ture con­sid­ers the tax levied by ESSB 5096 to be an excise tax, and legal schol­ars like the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton’s Hugh Spitzer have warned oppo­nents that they could be in for a rude awak­en­ing if their expec­ta­tion is that the courts will strike down ESSB 5096 based on the log­ic in the decades old Cul­li­ton v. Chase case.


Bad argu­ment: It’s not a good time to levy a state cap­i­tal gains tax.

The real­i­ty: It’s evi­dent from oppo­nents’ com­ments that the tim­ing is irrel­e­vant to them: they will be just as opposed to levy­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy next ses­sion (or in, say, five years) as they are today. As far as oppo­nents are con­cerned, there will nev­er be a good time for the wealthy to pay their fair share.


Bad argu­ment: A state cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy would make us depen­dent on a volatile rev­enue source, so we should­n’t levy one.

The real­i­ty: Many sources of exist­ing tax rev­enue are volatile, includ­ing our main source of tax rev­enue — the sales tax — which is linked to con­sump­tion and is very regres­sive. For­tu­nate­ly, we have a already have a con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly man­dat­ed rainy day fund to pro­tect our state trea­sury against rev­enue volatil­i­ty. If cap­i­tal gains tax oppo­nents were real­ly con­cerned about volatil­i­ty, they’d seek to reduce our depen­dence on the sales tax. But they haven’t. It is not a con­cern for them. Rather, they are ide­o­log­i­cal­ly opposed to requir­ing the wealthy to pay their fair share. Volatil­i­ty is just a veneer that they use.


Bad argu­ment: Imple­ment­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax will prompt Wash­ing­ton’s busi­ness own­ers to move their oper­a­tions and take jobs to Ore­gon or Idaho.

The real­i­ty: Both Ore­gon and Ida­ho cur­rent­ly levy tax­es on cap­i­tal gains. No busi­ness own­er would be able to avoid pay­ing cap­i­tal gains tax by relo­cat­ing their busi­ness to a neigh­bor­ing state. More impor­tant­ly, no evi­dence exists to sup­port the con­tention that build­ing a pro­gres­sive tax code harms a state’s busi­ness cli­mate, and that is because build­ing a pro­gres­sive tax code does the oppo­site: it helps cre­ate a good busi­ness cli­mate that’s friend­ly to entrepreneurs.


Bad argu­ment: Our wealth­i­est neigh­bors will respond to ESSB 5096 by pack­ing their bags and move to tax havens like Texas or Flori­da, leav­ing us worse off.

The real­i­ty: Nick Hanauer, who is one of Wash­ing­ton’s wealth­i­est denizens, has repeat­ed­ly debunked this argu­ment. In 2010, dur­ing a debate at the UW Taco­ma, Hanauev­er said: “There’s this… impli­ca­tion, in this idea, that rich peo­ple, busi­ness peo­ple, will leave the state if the income tax goes up, that offends me. Because it assumes that peo­ple like me are mon­ey-grub­bing sociopaths… who don’t care about any­thing but what we get to keep in our check­books. That we don’t care about the pub­lic good. That we don’t care about invest­ing in our schools. That we don’t care about clean water, or clean air. That if you make it slight­ly more expen­sive for us, we will run… we will run. And it’s not true.”

In 2017, Stan­ford’s Cristo­bal Young wrote a book affirm­ing what Hanauer said in 2010, enti­tled The Myth of Mil­lion­aire Tax Flight: How Place Still Mat­ters for the Rich. We encour­age every Repub­li­can state leg­is­la­tor in Wash­ing­ton State to buy a copy of this impor­tant book though their near­est inde­pen­dent bookstore.


Bad argu­ment: Engrossed Sub­sti­tute Sen­ate Bill 5096 only adds a new tax to Wash­ing­ton’s tax code. It does­n’t reduce any­one’s taxes.

The real­i­ty: ESSB 5096 was­n’t passed in a vac­u­um. This ground­break­ing bill will be signed into law today along with ESHB 1297, which updates the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Tax Cred­it. This year’s oper­at­ing bud­get, which goes into effect on July 1st, pro­vides fund­ing to enable the state to imple­ment the updat­ed Work­ing Fam­i­lies Tax Cred­it for the first time. In oth­er words, in con­junc­tion with levy­ing a state cap­i­tal gains tax, the Leg­is­la­ture and Gov­er­nor are also tak­ing action to reduce tax­es for thou­sands of Wash­ing­ton fam­i­lies in the low­est income brackets.


Bad argu­ment: Smart, crafty investors will fig­ure out how to evade the tax.

The real­i­ty: Smart, crafty investors have no rea­son to want to evade our new cap­i­tal gains tax, which will ben­e­fit the Edu­ca­tion Lega­cy Trust. That’s because smart, crafty investors know that invest­ing in edu­ca­tion is one of the best invest­ments that a soci­ety can make. They also know it is patri­ot­ic to be a tax­pay­er and pay your dues to your state and coun­try. When ESSB 5096 was being con­sid­ered, many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans of means tes­ti­fied to the need for this new source of pro­gres­sive rev­enue and stat­ed pub­licly that they are look­ing for­ward to pay­ing it. While not every wealthy house­hold may be enthu­si­as­tic about pay­ing the tax, it will be eas­i­er to sim­ply pay it than try to evade it.


Bad argu­ment: We don’t need a cap­i­tal gains tax to take care of our children.

The real­i­ty: Pro­gres­sive tax reforms like this one are exact­ly what we need to take care of our chil­dren. NPI’s research has con­sis­tent­ly shown that most vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton agree that our schools are under­fund­ed, and that we should raise state rev­enue to ful­ly fund them. ESSB 5096 does exact­ly that. It gets us clos­er to meet­ing our para­mount duty of ensur­ing that every young per­son in Wash­ing­ton is receiv­ing a good edu­ca­tion. 59% of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sur­veyed a year ago on NPI’s behalf expressed sup­port for levy­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy to fund our pub­lic schools. Only 32% were opposed.


Bad argu­ment: What we’re say­ing by pass­ing this leg­is­la­tion is that we’re jeal­ous of success.

The real­i­ty: Wrong! What we’re say­ing with this leg­is­la­tion is that if you’re suc­cess­ful, you should pay it for­ward and help secure the future of the region that you live in. Tax­es are invest­ments. Nobody makes it on their own in Amer­i­ca, or any­where else for that mat­ter. We all get by with the help of our fam­i­ly, friends, teach­ers, coach­ers, men­tors, and — for those of us who employ oth­ers — our work­ers. The work­ers of the world are the real prof­it cre­ators. Wash­ing­ton work­ers are already pay­ing their fair share in mem­ber­ship dues to the great state they live in; now, it’s time the wealthy stepped up and paid their fair share, too.


Bad argu­ment: We are giv­ing up our com­pet­i­tive advan­tage by levy­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy.

The real­i­ty: Wash­ing­ton’s upside down tax code is not a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage. It’s actu­al­ly one of our great­est weak­ness­es. Though we have repeat­ed­ly been named Amer­i­ca’s “Best State” by the likes of U.S. News & World Report in recent years, that’s not because we don’t require the wealthy to invest in Wash­ing­ton’s future; it’s in spite of it. By levy­ing a state cap­i­tal gains tax and offer­ing a Work­ing Fam­i­lies Tax Cred­it this year, we’re tak­ing action to build a tax code that is a bit fair­er and more pro­gres­sive. That will result in a state with an even more attrac­tive busi­ness cli­mate and broad­er prosperity.


Bad argu­ment: We may as well say good­bye to retirees’ invest­ment gains.

The real­i­ty: Indi­vid­ual retire­ment accounts are exempt from our new state cap­i­tal gains tax, so there’s no fis­cal impact to the vast major­i­ty of retirees to even argue about. Also exempt are:

  • all real estate — land and structures;
  • inter­ests in a pri­vate­ly held enti­ty to the extent any long-term cap­i­tal gain or loss is direct­ly attrib­ut­able to the real estate owned direct­ly by the entity;
  • assets trans­ferred as part of a con­dem­na­tion proceeding;
  • live­stock relat­ed to farm­ing or ranching;
  • cer­tain types of prop­er­ty used in a trade or busi­ness such as machin­ery and equip­ment that have been imme­di­ate­ly expensed;
  • cap­i­tal assets acquired and used only for pur­pos­es of a trade or busi­ness of a sole proprietorship;
  • tim­ber and timberlands;
  • com­mer­cial fish­ing privileges;
  • good­will received from the sale of a fran­chised auto dealership.

As the above list hope­ful­ly makes clear, this tax has been designed as an oblig­a­tion that only Wash­ing­ton’s rich­est house­holds will be respon­si­ble for pay­ing. Fam­i­ly farms and small fam­i­ly owned busi­ness­es will gen­er­al­ly not be sub­ject to the state cap­i­tal gains tax when they are being sold.


Bad argu­ment: This is just the begin­ning of an effort to raise every­one’s tax­es — in the not too dis­tant future, we’ll all be pay­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax.

The real­i­ty: This is an argu­ment for keep­ing our worst-in-the-nation tax code per­ma­nent­ly bro­ken. Low and mid­dle income fam­i­lies already pay up to 17% of their income in state and local tax­es, while wealthy fam­i­lies pay less than 3%. That’s immoral and inex­cus­able. What our state needs is rev­enue fair­ness, not more bogus jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for keep­ing our tax code upside down and allow­ing mas­sive for­tunes to con­tin­ue going untaxed. When wealth is taxed, it enables those with means to par­tic­i­pate in secur­ing our future. They ben­e­fit from the invest­ments their tax dol­lars allow along with every oth­er Washingtonian.

Any adjust­ments or mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the scope of our new cap­i­tal gains tax would require either the agree­ment of the House, Sen­ate, and Gov­er­nor, super­ma­jori­ties of the House and Sen­ate, or a vote of the peo­ple, which would fol­low mul­ti­ple oppor­tu­ni­ties for pub­lic input and dis­cus­sion. Wash­ing­ton is a demo­c­ra­t­ic repub­lic: laws are made by the peo­ple and their duly elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Let’s have faith in each oth­er to make good, sen­si­ble deci­sions about our future.

If you’d like to watch today’s bill sign­ing, it will be streamed live by TVW begin­ning at around 2:30 PM Pacif­ic Time.

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

Meet the 2021 Seattle mayoral candidates: Former Councilmember Bruce Harrell

The race to suc­ceed out­go­ing Seat­tle May­or Jen­ny Durkan is get­ting more crowd­ed by the day, with a grow­ing field of contenders.

On Tues­day, March 16th, Bruce Har­rell declared his can­di­da­cy in an open let­ter to the city. The for­mer Seat­tle City Coun­cilmem­ber is the only can­di­date among the grow­ing field to have already held the job… briefly, anyway.

Harrell presides over a City Council meeting in 2019

Har­rell pre­sides over a City Coun­cil meet­ing in 2019 (Pho­to: Bruce for Seat­tle Mayor)

Har­rell was born in 1958 in Seat­tle to a bira­cial, work­ing-class fam­i­ly (his Black father worked for City Light; his Japan­ese Amer­i­can moth­er worked as a librar­i­an). A tal­ent­ed foot­ball play­er, he attend­ed the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton on a foot­ball schol­ar­ship and earned a law degree in 1984.

After two decades in pri­vate law, Har­rell ran for and won a seat on the City Coun­cil in 2007. He kept the job for the next twelve years, becom­ing Coun­cil Pres­i­dent in 2016. Dur­ing his time in the coun­cil, Har­rell par­tic­i­pat­ed in the adop­tion of some impor­tant ordi­nances, includ­ing the nation’s first $15 min­i­mum wage, and a law that “banned the box,” mak­ing it ille­gal to ask about an applicant’s crim­i­nal record in the hir­ing process. He was also one of the first elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives to call for the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment to wear body cameras.

In 2013, Har­rell ran for may­or unsuc­cess­ful­ly, com­ing fourth in the Top Two.

But in 2017, he sud­den­ly became may­or when he was thrust into the job by the res­ig­na­tion of then May­or Ed Mur­ray. (Mur­ray faced mul­ti­ple accu­sa­tions of sex­u­al abuse and child molesta­tion from the 1970s and 80s). Har­rell, as Coun­cil Pres­i­dent, was next-in-line for the job, and became act­ing may­or on Sep­tem­ber 13th – less than two months before the may­oral election.

The city’s plan of gov­ern­ment gave Har­rell the option of remain­ing as act­ing may­or or return­ing to the coun­cil. Remain­ing as inter­im may­or would have meant step­ping down from the coun­cil. Har­rell chose to stay on the coun­cil to fin­ish out his term, and left the job after five days. In 2019, he opt­ed not to run for re-elec­­tion to his seat, and instead returned to his pri­vate legal practice.

Now Har­rell is back, and hop­ing the sec­ond time is the charm.

The city’s busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty has been clam­or­ing for a can­di­date like Har­rell to enter the may­oral race to assume Durkan’s man­tle. Jon Scholes, the Pres­i­dent and CEO of the Down­town Seat­tle Asso­ci­a­tion, described him as a fig­ure of “inter­est and intrigue” among busi­ness lead­ers in mid-February.

Unlike most of his most promi­nent rivals, Har­rell is not a dyed-in-the-wool pro­gres­sive. Along­side sup­port for caus­es like the min­i­mum wage, he has tak­en some con­cern­ing stances through­out his career. Mem­o­rably, Har­rell vot­ed against — and then fierce­ly crit­i­cized — the city’s democ­ra­cy vouch­er program.

In 2015, he chose Indige­nous People’s Day of all days to praise Christo­pher Colum­bus in a res­o­lu­tion propos­ing an Ital­ian Her­itage Month.

Most dis­turb­ing of all, Har­rell staunch­ly defend­ed Ed Mur­ray in 2017, claim­ing that “[Seat­tleites] did not ask us to judge any­one for some­thing that hap­pened thir­ty-three years ago or maybe didn’t hap­pen.” Inter­est­ing­ly, one of Harrell’s chief rivals in 2021 is Lore­na Gon­za­lez, who adopt­ed a stance con­trary to that of Har­rell’s in 2017 as the first coun­cil mem­ber to call for Murray’s resignation.

In this elec­tion, Har­rell is pitch­ing him­self as a pro-busi­­ness can­di­date. This strat­e­gy can plain­ly be seen in his open let­ter. Har­rell says that is his vision is for Seat­tle to be known as “the city that val­ues and pro­motes jobs, jobs, and jobs.”

On home­less­ness, his empha­sis is on vol­un­tary civic engage­ment rather than invest­ment by the city, and wants to match fund­ing for our most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents to mon­ey for cleanup efforts, clear­ly pri­or­i­tiz­ing wealthy res­i­dents who con­sid­er home­less­ness an eye­sore rather than a human­i­tar­i­an crisis.

Har­rell has spo­ken crit­i­cal­ly of efforts to reform the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment as “arbi­trary and divi­sive”. Har­rell favors boost­ing police spend­ing and bring­ing in big tech com­pa­nies in to expand sur­veil­lance tech­nolo­gies — posi­tions that are sharply at odds with the views of most pro­gres­sive activists.

In the 2019 coun­cil elec­tions, the Down­town Seat­tle Asso­ci­a­tion poured an unprece­dent­ed $2 mil­lion (half of which was sup­plied by Ama­zon) into cam­paigns to sup­port can­di­dates pre­ferred by the busi­ness community.

How­ev­er, vot­ers respond­ed to Ama­zon’s pow­er play by cement­ing the Council’s pro­gres­sive major­i­ty. Due to hav­ing cho­sen not to run again, Har­rell avoid­ed being caught in the mid­dle of that dynam­ic two years ago.

Now that Har­rell is a can­di­date again, vot­ers will be scru­ti­niz­ing his posi­tions on issues like mon­ey in pol­i­tics and police accountability.

The Top Two elec­tion will be held on August 3rd; the top two can­di­dates will pro­ceed to the gen­er­al elec­tion runoff on Novem­ber 2nd.

Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

Joe Manchin’s latest comments suggest his grasp of U.S. constitutional law is lacking

A few weeks ago, vot­ers in Geor­gia and across the Unit­ed States elect­ed a class of Unit­ed States Sen­a­tors that left the coun­try’s small­er leg­isla­tive cham­ber even­ly divid­ed between Democrats/independents and Repub­li­cans. With Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris able to break ties in favor of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus, oper­a­tional con­trol of the Sen­ate sud­den­ly shift­ed from Ken­tuck­y’s Mitch McConnell to New York’s Chuck Schumer, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic leader, which was a big deal.

Although Schumer now has the pow­er to set the agen­da and deter­mine the Sen­ate’s sched­ule, he is logis­ti­cal­ly con­strained by the lack of a big­ger major­i­ty. To pass bud­get bills or con­firm Biden nom­i­nees, Schumer needs all forty-nine of his col­leagues to be in the same boat with him, because even a sin­gle defec­tion would be ruinous in the face of uni­fied Repub­li­can opposition.

This has result­ed in a leg­isla­tive dynam­ic in which indi­vid­ual sen­a­tors like West Vir­gini­a’s Joe Manchin wield tremen­dous pow­er. Because Manchin is the fifti­eth vote, his dis­ap­proval effec­tive­ly means that what­ev­er his par­ty might want to put on the table becomes a no-go, as we saw back in the win­ter when the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan was under con­sid­er­a­tion in the Senate.

Recent­ly, Manchin made it clear that he isn’t open to abol­ish­ing or reform­ing the Sen­ate’s rules to allow leg­is­la­tion to be moved and adopt­ed by major­i­ty vote instead of being sub­ject­ed to the set of unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic bill killing mech­a­nisms that have become known as the fil­i­buster. With­out abo­li­tion of the fil­i­buster, Mitch McConnell and his Repub­li­can cau­cus can eas­i­ly stop any piece of leg­is­la­tion they do not like, just as they did in the first six years of Barack Oba­ma’s presidency.

Though the fil­i­buster remains in place, pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions have con­tin­ued orga­niz­ing in sup­port of wor­thy bills that the coun­try needs, such as H.R. 1 (the For the Peo­ple Act), H.R. 7 (the Pay­check Fair­ness Act), H.R. 1280 (the George Floyd Jus­tice in Polic­ing Act) and H.R. 51, a bill to admit D.C. as a state.

The hope is that per­haps Manchin and Ari­zon­a’s Kyrsten Sine­ma will come around and at least agree to a change in Sen­ate rules to let some of these bills through.

How­ev­er, with respect to H.R. 51 (D.C. state­hood), Manchin has once again declared that he isn’t on board. And in the process, he has demon­strat­ed that his grasp of Unit­ed States con­sti­tu­tion­al law is lack­ing. Severe­ly lacking.

Here’s what Manchin said when asked about D.C. state­hood by a radio sta­tion:

If Con­gress wants to make D.C. a state, it should pro­pose a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment… It should pro­pose a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment and let the peo­ple of Amer­i­ca vote.

Manchin also claimed to host Hop­py Kercheval that he and his leg­isla­tive staff have done a “deep dive” on the issue and con­tend­ed that if Con­gress were to pass a D.C. state­hood bill, it would undoubt­ed­ly be chal­lenged in court.

“Every legal schol­ar has told us that, so why not do it the right way and let the peo­ple vote and see if they want a change,” Manchin said.

Um, what?

The process for chang­ing the Unit­ed States Con­sti­tu­tion does not entail let­ting the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States vote. The fact that Manchin talked about let­ting the peo­ple vote not once but sev­er­al times sug­gests that he’s not actu­al­ly famil­iar with the process for chang­ing the Unit­ed States Con­sti­tu­tion, which is concerning.

While many states have a process for chang­ing their state con­sti­tu­tions that entails hold­ing a pub­lic vote (Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, and Ida­ho are among them), the process for chang­ing the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion does­n’t involve a vote of the peo­ple. There is no oppor­tu­ni­ty to “let the peo­ple of Amer­i­ca vote” by sub­mit­ting a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to the states for ratification.

Rat­i­fi­ca­tion nor­mal­ly requires three-fourths of the states to sign off. It is a task that must be per­formed either by state leg­is­la­tures or by con­ven­tions called for the pur­pose of con­sid­er­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments. (Note that abol­ish­ing the Unit­ed States Sen­ate or mak­ing it like the U.S. House would require the  unan­i­mous con­sent of all states admit­ted to the Union.)

Here is Arti­cle V of the Unit­ed States Constitution:

The Con­gress, when­ev­er two thirds of both Hous­es shall deem it nec­es­sary, shall pro­pose Amend­ments to this Con­sti­tu­tion, or, on the Appli­ca­tion of the Leg­is­la­tures of two thirds of the sev­er­al States, shall call a Con­ven­tion for propos­ing Amend­ments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Pur­pos­es, as Part of this Con­sti­tu­tion, when rat­i­fied by the Leg­is­la­tures of three fourths of the sev­er­al States, or by Con­ven­tions in three fourths there­of, as the one or the oth­er Mode of Rat­i­fi­ca­tion may be pro­posed by the Con­gress; Pro­vid­ed that no Amend­ment which may be made pri­or to the Year One thou­sand eight hun­dred and eight shall in any Man­ner affect the first and fourth Claus­es in the Ninth Sec­tion of the first Arti­cle; and that no State, with­out its Con­sent, shall be deprived of its equal Suf­frage in the Senate.

Per­haps when Manchin said “let the peo­ple of Amer­i­ca vote” he was think­ing of state leg­is­la­tures. But if so, why did­n’t he just say that? Why run the risk of con­fus­ing his con­stituents by talk­ing about hold­ing a nation­wide plebiscite, which is not some­thing that the Con­sti­tu­tion allows or pro­vides for?

Because H.R. 51 does not abol­ish the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, but mere­ly cre­ates a new state around a shrunk­en fed­er­al dis­trict, it is com­pat­i­ble with the Con­sti­tu­tion’s well under­stood process for admit­ting new states.

The Dis­trict is under Con­gress’ con­trol, and is not ter­ri­to­ry that belongs to anoth­er state. Thus, there is no legal imped­i­ment to Con­gress adopt­ing H.R. 51 and cre­at­ing a new state out of the cur­rent Dis­trict of Columbia.

It is true that there is a pro­vi­sion in the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vid­ing that the Dis­trict shall have a cer­tain num­ber of elec­toral votes in the Elec­toral Col­lege — the Twen­ty-Third Amend­ment. Since there would still be a fed­er­al dis­trict, said juris­dic­tion would retain its elec­toral votes until the Con­sti­tu­tion were changed.

Sec­tion 1

The Dis­trict con­sti­tut­ing the seat of Gov­ern­ment of the Unit­ed States shall appoint in such man­ner as the Con­gress may direct:

A num­ber of elec­tors of Pres­i­dent and Vice Pres­i­dent equal to the whole num­ber of Sen­a­tors and Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Con­gress to which the Dis­trict would be enti­tled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least pop­u­lous State; they shall be in addi­tion to those appoint­ed by the States, but they shall be con­sid­ered, for the pur­pos­es of the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent and Vice Pres­i­dent, to be elec­tors appoint­ed by a State; and they shall meet in the Dis­trict and per­form such duties as pro­vid­ed by the twelfth arti­cle of amendment.

Sec­tion 2

The Con­gress shall have pow­er to enforce this arti­cle by appro­pri­ate legislation.

Con­gress­woman Eleanor Holmes Nor­ton — who, unlike Sen­a­tor Joe Manchin, is a con­sti­tu­tion­al law expert — has released a state­ment in response to Joe Manch­in’s com­ments which explains why the Twen­ty-Third Amend­ment is not a prob­lem for H.R. 51. Here’s that state­ment in its entire­ty:

Con­gress­woman Eleanor Holmes Nor­ton (D‑DC), a for­mer tenured pro­fes­sor of con­sti­tu­tion­al law, today released the fol­low­ing expla­na­tion on why the 23rd Amend­ment, which allows the fed­er­al dis­trict to par­tic­i­pate in the Elec­toral Col­lege, does not need to be repealed before Con­gress could grant state­hood to the Dis­trict of Columbia.

Nor­ton said: “Those who make such an asser­tion are con­flat­ing a pol­i­cy choice and a con­sti­tu­tion­al requirement.

“First, no new state was admit­ted by con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment. All 37 new states were admit­ted by Con­gress, and there has nev­er been a suc­cess­ful con­sti­tu­tion­al chal­lenge to the admis­sion of a state. The Con­sti­tu­tion com­mits admis­sion deci­sions sole­ly to Congress.

“Sec­ond, nei­ther the text of the Dis­trict Clause of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which gives Con­gress ple­nary author­i­ty over the fed­er­al dis­trict, nor the text of the 23rd Amend­ment estab­lish­es a min­i­mum geo­graph­ic or pop­u­la­tion size, or even a loca­tion, of the fed­er­al dis­trict. Under both claus­es, Con­gress has the author­i­ty to reduce the geo­graph­ic and pop­u­la­tion size of the fed­er­al dis­trict, as the D.C. state­hood bill would do.”

“Third, even though the 23rd Amend­ment does not need to be repealed before D.C. state­hood, some schol­ars have argued that the 23rd Amend­ment would be nul­li­fied under the D.C. state­hood bill, either because the bill would repeal the enabling statute for the amend­ment, or because the bill would lead to the unrea­son­able result of allow­ing the reduced fed­er­al dis­trict to par­tic­i­pate in the Elec­toral College.”

“Fourth, even though the 23rd Amend­ment does not need to be repealed before D.C. state­hood, we expect Con­gress and the states to quick­ly repeal the amend­ment to pre­vent the reduced fed­er­al dis­trict from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Elec­toral College.”

“Fifth, even though the 23rd Amend­ment does not need to be repealed before D.C. state­hood, Con­gress may have dis­cre­tion in how it awards the elec­toral votes. The 23rd Amend­ment pro­vides that the fed­er­al dis­trict “shall appoint” elec­tors “in such man­ner as the Con­gress may direct.”

“Con­gress could choose, for exam­ple, to award the elec­tors to the win­ner of the Elec­toral Col­lege or the nation­al pop­u­lar vote to pre­vent the reduced fed­er­al dis­trict from con­trol­ling elec­toral votes.”

On April 22, 2021, the House passed Norton’s D.C. state­hood bill, the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Admis­sion Act (H.R. 51), which would admit the State of Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and reduce the size of the fed­er­al dis­trict. That was the sec­ond time in his­to­ry a cham­ber of Con­gress had passed the D.C. state­hood bill. House pas­sage last year was the first. The Sen­ate ver­sion (S. 51), spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Tom Carp­er (D‑DE), has a record 44 cosponsors.

This analy­sis is spot-on.

Joe Manchin may have the pow­er — for now — to block D.C. state­hood from advanc­ing. But we believe the time is com­ing when there will be suf­fi­cient votes in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate to both abol­ish the fil­i­buster and pass H.R. 51.

In the mean­time, we hope Sen­a­tor Manchin takes the time to actu­al­ly read the Con­sti­tu­tion and brush up on his knowl­edge of con­sti­tu­tion­al law. A Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor should be extreme­ly famil­iar with the coun­try’s plan of government.

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