December 9, 2013 at 5:40 PM
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will raise campaign cash next year for Democratic gubernatorial candidates across the country as the new finance chair for the Democratic Governors Association.
Inslee was named to the leadership post Monday at a DGA meeting in Washington, D.C., according to his campaign’s political director, Tracy Newman.
The appointment puts Inslee in a position to repay his fellow Democrats for their aid in his election last year. The DGA poured nearly $5 million into negative TV ads against Inslee’s Republican rival, Rob McKenna, during Washington’s 2012 gubernatorial race.
The perch also should give Inslee deeper ties to national Democratic donors should he seek a second term in 2016. The group raised more than $50 million during the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Inslee was one of three rookie governors named to leadership posts, according to POLITICO. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was re-elected to a second term as DGA chair.
“The governor is excited about this opportunity to help his colleagues across the country,” said Newman, who was with Inslee in D.C. on Monday. Inslee’s air fare and other expenses were being covered by the DGA or his campaign funds, not taxpayer dollars, she said.
Inslee’s predecessors, former Govs. Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire, each served as DGA chairs.
While in D.C. Inslee also is expected to attend the first White House meeting of a climate change task force of state and local leaders established last month by President Obama. He is expected to return to Washington state Tuesday.
December 6, 2013 at 5:11 PM
Democrats and Republicans clashed Friday during a meeting of the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup, created by the Legislature to recommend ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
The Legislature in 2008 passed a law calling for the state to reduce total greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035, and to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
The climate panel, created at the request of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, has been meeting since May to try to hash out recommendations to the governor and the Legislature. There are two Republicans and two Democrats on the panel. Inslee is a nonvoting member.
At Friday’s meeting Inslee tested the waters on whether to recommend that the Legislature adopt a cap on carbon pollution “with binding limits and market mechanisms,” a topic he’s broached before.
“My view is the committee ought to recommend that we do take action … that inaction is not an option,” Inslee told the panel, adding later ,“In order to achieve a binding, successful program of carbon-pollution reduction, our state needs a cap … We cannot allow unlimited spewing of carbon dioxide into our air and eventually into our water. That may be the single most important thing that we can achieve for the state of Washington.”
When Inslee asked other members of the panel how they felt about his ideas, Republicans weren’t happy.
Both Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, and Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said the state needed to look at the potential economic impacts of such proposals before moving ahead.
“I will not support a policy that I don’t know what the economic impacts on Washington state are going to be,” Short said.
Inslee pressed the matter, saying at one point, “I’m wondering about our ability … to reach consensus if we have several members who want to make recommendations and several who do not.”
Short snapped back that “What I really resent, governor, is you intimating that we don’t care … I just really resent being put into a corner today, governor.”
The debate devolved from there. Ericksen eventually asked for a short recess for everyone to cool off. They later agreed to adjourn, and come back for more discussions on a broad spectrum of ideas at the next meeting.
The panel has two more meetings scheduled, including a public hearing on Dec. 13.
December 4, 2013 at 10:48 AM
A new report suggests that Washington state should fight drunken driving by increasing penalties and establishing random sobriety checkpoints.
But another idea floated after a high-profile tragedy last spring, banning repeat DUI offenders from buying alcohol, was nearly universally dismissed.
The 2013 Washington Impaired Driving Work Group delivered the 152-page report Monday. The 33-member group, created by the Legislature this year, was made up of lawmakers, lawyers, police officers, state-agency officials, advocates, victims’ families, treatment providers, ignition-interlock manufacturers and experts.
The group considered 11 specific ideas for reducing DUIs, ranking them according to overall support and where they should fall on the state’s priority list (the most supported ideas were not necessarily seen as top priorities).
The top three priorities, according to the report, all related to penalties: The group wanted to increase penalties for drivers who refuse to take a breath or blood test (top priority; supported by 79 percent of group members), strengthen mandatory minimum prison sentences and fines for repeat offenders (second priority, 72 percent) and make DUI a felony before the fifth offense, as it is now (third priority, 85 percent).
The report noted that Washington is the only state where a DUI becomes a felony on the fifth offense.
It is a felony on the second offense in four states, the third offense in 21 states and the fourth offense in 18 states. Six states don’t have felony DUIs.
Lawmakers this year considered making DUI a felony sooner, but did not take action, in part, because the move was seen as too expensive.
Making the change would “heighten the awareness and communicate the seriousness of DUI,” said group member Kim Sauer, of the state Liquor Control Board, in the report.
The most surprising aspect of the report may have been the high level of support for sobriety checkpoints, which exist in 38 states but are seen as violating the state constitution.
The checkpoints, which would stop drivers even if they have done nothing wrong, were ranked as the fourth priority and supported by 82 percent of members.
“I think the research has shown that this should be a priority,” said member Dan Schulte, a group member whose parents were killed and whose wife and infant son were critically injured when they were struck by a drunken driver in Northeast Seattle in the spring.
Not everyone in the group agreed.
“I like them,” Tom McBride, of the state association of prosecutors, commented in the report, ”but do not see how they survive state constitutional privacy protections.”
The most supported of the 11 ideas, promoting and monitoring the use of alcohol-sensing ignition interlocks, was endorsed by 97 percent of group members. But it was ranked as only the 10th priority.
That put it just ahead of the least-supported policy on the list, the alcohol bans for repeat offenders. That idea got just 18 percent support.
Group member Brad Fralick, of the interlock manufacturer Consumer Safety Technology, was blunt in the report: “This is laughable,” he said. “Even if you could limit purchasing this does nothing to stop the consumption or driving after consuming.”
December 3, 2013 at 10:52 AM
The most prominent group pushing to expand coal exports in Washington state has fired its spokeswoman and may be shifting its strategy in the aftermath of a hot mic incident.
The spokeswoman, Lauri Hennessey, was secretly recorded at a coal conference this fall. Among other lighthearted comments, she called the Puget Sound “so weird” and said an executive once scolded her for telling a Seattle journalist that coal companies are concerned about climate change.
Hennessey’s last day with the group, Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, was Saturday. She is being replaced by Mariana Parks.
The switch may signal a strategy change for the Alliance, which is organizing the push to ship hundreds of millions of tons of Wyoming and Montana coal through Pacific Northwest terminals to Asia. In Washington, terminals have been proposed for Cherry Point in Whatcom County and Longview in Cowlitz County.
The Alliance had been trying to establish a moderate reputation to appeal to the environmentally-conscious Pacific Northwest.
Hennessey has worked with local nonprofits, Democratic politicians and the Environmental Protection Agency. She is one of several “green strategists” coal companies have hired to push their proposals.
Parks has typically worked with business groups and conservatives, and served as a spokeswoman for Republican 2012 gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.
And another communications firm expected to take a larger role, the DCI Group, one of the more prominent voices for climate-change deniers.
Parks dismissed any suggestion of a strategy shift.
“It’s not a partisan issue,” she said. “It’s much more about how do you get the message about the implications of the proposals out to the broader public.”
Hennessey referred questions to Parks.
November 29, 2013 at 10:25 AM
The Snohomish County Council on Wednesday named state Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, to replace former Democratic state Sen. Nick Harper.
Harper, of Everett, abruptly resigned Nov. 9, saying in a statement that his work in Olympia “takes me away from my family far too much.”
McCoy, a member of Washington’s Tulalip Tribes, was first elected to the House in 2002 from the 38th District, which represents part of Snohomish County including Everett, Marysville and Tulalip.
McCoy was chair of the House Community Development Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee.
November 22, 2013 at 1:20 PM
Senate Democrats raised concerns Friday that the GOP-led majority in Senate is getting rid of top non-partisan committee staff managers.
Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, said it was her understanding there was pressure from the GOP-led majority caucus to “hire some political-type individuals into the non-partisan staff. Interviews were done. Those individuals were not hired … I’m very concerned that may be the underlying cause of this” action to let the managers go.
Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, sent an email to the Democratic caucus Friday afternoon saying, “I am stunned to let you know that the MCC Leadership have advised (the committee services director and deputy director) that their services are no longer needed and they should find other opportunities by early January. My understanding is that Senators Tom, Parlette, and Fain consulted in advance and made this decision.”
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom and Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, the Senate GOP caucus chair, both declined comment. Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, could not be reached.
Fraser went on to write that “this is outside the normal Senate process for terminating an employee. Senate … policy is that an adverse action of this type shall be through a vote of the Senate Employment Committee, of which Senator Nelson and I are members.”
Fraser’s email said an Employment Committee meeting had been scheduled for late afternoon Thursday, “with extremely short notice, and then abruptly canceled.”
“At 6 pm, a meeting took place where Senator Tom advised (the committee staff managers) of the MCC Leadership decision that they should leave Senate employment by early January. (They) were told at that meeting that there were enough votes on the Employment Committee to formalize this action. I want to emphasize that NO meeting of the Employment Committee has occurred, and that as of now none are scheduled.”
Nelson said she has asked the Republican-led majority for more information.
November 21, 2013 at 4:25 PM
Former Attorney General Rob McKenna has written a letter to Washington state on behalf of Montana and North Dakota that questions the constitutionality of Washington’s Department of Ecology review of a proposed coal-export terminal.
“Some of the issues to be evaluated by Ecology transgress the boundaries of the States, infringing on (Montana and North Dakota’s) sovereignty,” McKenna wrote in a letter sent Monday, adding the review “ranges far beyond the boundaries of legitimate state interest.”
He also wrote that the review of the proposed Gateway Terminal at Cherry Point, in Whatcom County, “is unrealistically broad, includes speculative impacts, requires impossible assessments of foreign environmental impacts, and appears to have been designed to hinder the development of that terminal.”
The nine-page letter marks a surprising entrance by McKenna into the fight over coal exports, which was a major issue in his unsuccessful 2012 bid for governor against Jay Inslee.
During the campaign, McKenna voiced support for coal-export terminals, but said any proposals would have to undergo a thorough environmental review.
Washington state’s review is one of three under way for the proposed Cherry Point facility, which would create the largest coal-export terminal on the West Coast, shipping as much as 48 million tons of Montana and Wyoming coal to Asia. The other reviews are being done by the federal government and Whatcom County.
Washington state has said its review will be much broader than the other two.
All three entities will get a say in whether the terminal is built, and each is to base its decision on its own review.
The letter was sent because Washington state is now deciding the breadth of a review of a second proposed coal terminal, in Longview.
Montana and North Dakota, McKenna wrote, would like Washington state to take a more limited approach to reviewing the proposed Longview terminal.
In a post on his website, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said he is interested in the issue because “access to overseas markets is vital to Montana’s economy.”
McKenna’s letter was topped by letterhead from the international law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. McKenna became a partner there in February, a few months after losing the governor’s race.
On Thursday, environmentalists criticized McKenna for getting involved on behalf of entities supporting coal.
“It’s hard to believe that Rob McKenna is opposing Washington’s efforts to keep dirty coal out of our communities,” said Collin Jergens, spokesman for the liberal group Fuse Washington. “Why is Rob McKenna fighting for North Dakota instead of Washington?”
McKenna did not immediately respond to telephone messages seeking comment.
November 20, 2013 at 1:54 PM
State Sen. Sharon Nelson was selected Wednesday afternoon to replace Seattle Mayor-elect Ed Murray as the leader of the minority Senate Democratic Caucus.
“I am honored to have been elected as leader by the Senate Democrats,” Nelson said in a news release. “We have a diverse caucus, but I believe I was elected by my colleagues because my foremost goal is to do what I was sent here by my constituents to do – work for them. I demonstrated my inclusive leadership style during the budget negotiations last year, and I intend to make that a focal point of my tenure as leader.”
Nelson lives on Maury Island, and represents a district that includes West Seattle, North Highline, Burien and Vashon Island.
A 62-year-old former bank executive, consumer-protection activist and chief of staff to then-King County Councilmember Dow Constantine, she was appointed to the state House in 2007. She was elected to the Senate in 2010, and this year served as the assistant ranking member on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and was the party’s go-to senator for this year’s capital budget.
Murray resigned as Democratic leader shortly after defeating incumbent Mike McGinn. Murray announced this week he will step down from the Senate on Dec. 31.
Nelson and Sen. Karen Keiser, of Kent, the ranking member on the health-care committee, were seen as the top candidates to replace Murray.
Democrats control 26 of 49 seats in the Senate, but two of them have joined with Republicans to form a majority caucus. Following the results of a special election this month, one seat will flip in January from Democrat to Republican.
November 19, 2013 at 1:25 PM
Supporters of an initiative to prevent Washington state from adopting universal background checks for gun sales have collected 340,000 signatures — more than enough to qualify for the ballot in 2014, sponsors say.
Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Bellevue-based national Second Amendment Foundation, said supporters are planning to submit the signatures in Olympia on Thursday.
They’ll continue collecting signatures until the early January deadline to demonstrate support for the proposal, said Gottlieb, who added that nearly 900 volunteers have participated in the effort.
“I’m not surprised at this kind of response,” he said. “Gun owners have been under attack for more than a year now. And in politics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
Initiative 591 would prevent Washington state from adopting background-check laws stricter than the national standard, which requires the checks for sales by licensed dealers but not for purchases from private sellers.
The proposal was crafted in response to Initiative 594, also aimed at the 2014 ballot, which will seek to require background checks for all sales.
Supporters of Initiative 594 submitted about 250,000 signatures last month, and are planning to submit more by January.
About 250,000 valid signatures are needed to qualify an initiative, but the Secretary of State’s Office suggests that campaigns submit 325,000 to assure validation.
If the initiatives are validated, they will first go to the 2014 Legislature and, if not adopted there, to the 2014 ballot.
November 15, 2013 at 1:18 PM
Democrats are taking aim at Washington state’s tax advisory votes.
State Sen. David Frockt said at a post-election fundraiser Thursday night he plans to introduce legislation as soon as next week to eliminate the votes, which he called “confusing, out of context and downright stupid.”
The proposal may go nowhere, especially in an election year when Republicans control the state Senate. But it is a symbol of Democrats’ frustration with the votes, which are the remnants of a Tim Eyman-sponsored initiative best known for requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature for tax increases (that requirement was thrown out by the state Supreme Court this year).
The votes are on the ballot each November, letting voters offer a retroactive opinion on tax increases passed in Olympia earlier that year.
This year, voters said they agreed with three of five tax increases approved by the Legislature.
Republicans say the results are valuable information for lawmakers. Democrats say the results are misleading because the ballot doesn’t include the context of how the money raised from the tax is spent.
Both sides agree the votes probably don’t cause lawmakers to revisit policy, and that the votes cost money — about $130,000 this year.
Frockt, of Seattle, said he would push the Senate bill while state Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, would sponsor the House version.
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