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Topic: majority coalition caucus
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June 26, 2013 at 5:56 PM
Failure by the state House to pass a $10 billion transportation funding package Thursday narrows the room to maneuver on this bill to a window as tight as the overhead clearance on the collapsed Skagit River bridge.
Only one Republican – Rep. Hans Zeigler of Puyallup – joined the Democratic majority in support. Six Democrats voted against, including – surprisingly – capital budget committee Chair Hans Dunshee and Majority Whip Kevin Van De Wege. That guaranteed the proposal’s failure to reach the mandatory 50 votes (The vote count was 48-42). A seventh Democrat, Rep. Marco Liias, a champion of the package, voted no for procedural reasons, in order to bring the bill back for a new vote on Thursday.
The transportation package, written by Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, is funded in part by a 10.5 cent-per-gallon boost in the gas tax. It has a business-labor-environment-bike coalition behind it, because transportation needs are not solving themselves. But leaders in the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition in the Senate have quietly lobbied the House to reject the passage, so they won’t have to take a vote. Publicola reports that Sen. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island leaned on Rep. Maureen Walsh to switch from a yes to no vote (she did).
Walsh says Sen. Litzow told her “he thinks it’s dead” in the senate,” adding: “Mo, why would you do that [vote for it]? I don’t care if you’re the 55th vote or the 54th vote, but don’t be the 50th vote.”
Listening to debate on the House floor Thursday, Republicans gave a litany of reasons to dislike this package. Projects cost too much. The Interstate 5 Columbia River Bridge proposal was wrongly designed. Bonding costs were too high.
Those are arguments to be made earlier in the session. Now, five days before a partial shutdown of state government, it’s time for a vote out of the House and into the Senate.
The Seattle Times has editorialized in favor of that at least three times in the past two months – here, here, here. The News Tribune of Tacoma did so this afternoon, demanding “No Excuses.” The Herald of Everett and Spokesman-Review of Spokane also editorialized in favor.
If the Majority Coalition in the Senate scuttles this package because of internal strife between its anti-tax purists and the King County moderates who birthed it, that is a darn good reason to question its ability to provide strong, forward-thinking leadership.
April 3, 2013 at 3:37 PM
The state Senate’s proposed 2013-15 budget is a valiant, if awkward, effort at bipartisan negotiation.
The effort is valiant because it strategically directs $1.5 billion to new education funding, including fully funding evidence-based ideas to help high-poverty schools, expanding full-day kindergarten and responding to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. These are the priorities promised by the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition when it upended Democrats’ control.
It ends ridiculous increases in college tuition, and adds needed money to the State Need Grant for low-income college students. It also reflects the tenuousness of our still-recovering economy by slowing overall spending.
But the budget’s failure to add any new revenue by extending existing taxes or closing of unjustified tax preferences, as The Seattle Times editorial board has suggested, results in unnecessary cuts to the poor and vulnerable. To make this a bipartisan budget — and not just a bipartisan negotiation — the Majority Coalition will need to budge from its ideological aversion to revenue.
In the spirit of bipartisanship, Democrats should ignore labor’s likely objections and take a hard look at the budget’s surprising use of Obamacare, which saves $128 million by shifting 20,000 part-time workers to the state-run health care insurance exchange.
The Senate has worked out bipartisan deals before. Sens. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, and Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, negotiated in good faith for months.
As Hill told reporters this morning, “We met 32 nights. We ordered 63 pizzas. We had three Chinese take-outs and my legislative assistant cooked up two Crock-pot dinners. In all, 16 senators were involved in budget building and writing. We had a small army of staff and 243 Diet Cokes. I did not drink them all.”
“What you see is some of the tension that’s left,” said Hargrove. “Andy has some tension on his side, and I have some tension on my side. You guys are focusing some of the tension areas… We’re still trying to still like each other when we leave the press conference this morning.”
Here is video of the news conference from TVW.
March 29, 2013 at 8:27 AM
There’s another side to my Thursday column about the political chemistry between Washington Senate Transportation Committee Co-chairs Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, and Curtis King, R-Yakima. The sense of trust they have in each other does not exist in the broader Senate this year, leading several other Democrats to reject offers from the Majority Coalition Caucus to chair or co-chair committees. Doing so would have been tantamount to aiding and abetting the enemy.
Below are highlights from my recent conversation with state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, who turned down the chance to co-chair the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee. Ranker says environmental issues that would have easily passed under a Democratic majority failed or moved slowly through the MCC. For instance, Ranker says his bill that would have banned toxics from children’s’ mattresses and toys died in committee, while a climate change bill moved through after being amended.
“It was abundantly clear to me that some of the most important bills to me were never going to get out of the Senate. So I didn’t want to be chair of a committee that in essence didn’t truly have the authority. It had the authority to move things within its committee, but never get them out of the Senate,” he says. “And the goal here isn’t just to get them out of the committee. It’s to get them to the governor’s desk. If that’s not an option, then what am I doing?”
Ranker also decries the MCC’s decision to lift sanctions on state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, and its members’ willingness to hear bills on conservative issues like parental notification while withholding public meetings on the Reproductive Parity Act, which would protect insurance coverage for abortions after federal reforms take effect. (After two failed attempts to get Senate hearings for the RPA, the Senate Health Care Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the House version of the bill on Monday, April 1.) Other “social” issues in peril include the Washington DREAM Act (which passed the House and received a Senate hearing Thursday) and gun control (which did not pass the House).
“Those bills, it was made clear to me, were never going to be let out of the Senate, and if that’s the case — I don’t want to be part of that coalition. (State Sen.) Mark Schoesler teases me a lot and says, ‘You should have been one of my chairs.’ I don’t want to be one of your chairs. I’m not going to be part of a group that has fundamental core principles that I so disagree with.”
The one concession Ranker’s willing to make? The MCC has better time management that usually allows senators to get home to their families on weekends.
“That management piece, I’ve gotta hand it to them. They’re actually being more productive with our time. That said, what they’re putting through doesn’t represent what I think are the values of our state.”