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.
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 12, 2013 at 7:51 PM
State Senate Republicans are willing to consider a gas-tax increase of 11.5 cents a gallon for highway and ferry construction, and even to allow new local taxes for King County Metro Transit, according to a proposal forged over the holiday weekend.
It would avoid the tolling of Interstate 90 to help pay for construction of the nearby Highway 520 floating bridge — by allocating $1.3 billion from new gas taxes toward the Highway 520 account.
The biggest project is still $1.66 billion for extensions of Highways 509 and 167 between Seattle and Tacoma, which are freight routes between seaports, warehouses and airports. There’s also $1.3 billion to widen I-405, $750 million for the North Spokane freeway, $390 million for Snoqualmie Pass East, $350 million for highways around Joint Base Lewis-McChord, $219 million to rebuild the Seattle ferry terminal at Colman Dock, and $1.05 billion toward maintenance. Here’s the project list.
King County could send to the ballot a car-tab tax increase of up to $150 per $10,000 of vehicle value, to be split 60 percent for transit and 40 percent for county and city roads. Other car-tab fees of $20 to $60 are also conceivable for county roads and transit. Not only that, but Community Transit in Snohomish County could ask voters for a sales-tax boost of 3 cents per $10 purchase.
The transit-tax option will likely please urban Democrats, but there’s a big sticking point. The Majority Coalition Caucus, consisting of Senate Republicans plus maverick Democrats Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, are also proposing that sales taxes on road construction be kept in the road funds, instead of flowing into the general fund. That would mean less money for schools, social services, environmental oversight or criminal justice.
And there are possible cost cuts around the margins, by reducing apprenticeship programs, watchdogging wage rates, and reducing environmental permit rules. The I-5 Columbia River Crossing is left out.
“Congestion relief” would be added to the state’s official transportation goals.
Whether this can pass both the GOP-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House is unclear. Committee meetings are expected next week.
The entire 10-year, $12.3 billion proposal phases in gas taxes the first three years, and requires $4.2 billion bond debt that would ring up interest costs for a couple of decades.
November 9, 2013 at 4:38 PM
State Sen. Nick Harper, who ousted an fellow Everett Democratic incumbent in a controversial 2010 primary and then quickly rose to become deputy caucus leader, has resigned.
In a statement released just after the close of a special session Saturday, Harper said, “Unfortunately my work in Olympia takes me away from my family far too much. They deserve a full-time husband and father just as the people of the 38th deserve a full-time Senator. I feel that I cannot be both at this time.”
The resignation, combined with Ed Murray’s election as Seattle mayor, means Senate Democrats have lost their top two leaders in as many days.
They also lost a seat this week, when Nathan Schlicher of Gig Harbor lost a special election.
Murray resigned as leader Friday, although he will temporarily remain in the Senate. David Frockt, also of Seattle, is taking his leadership post on an interim basis.
Harper, a 34-year-old attorney who grew up in Port Townsend, unseated Sen. Jean Berkey in 2010 in a primary that drew widespread attention when it was revealed that a liberal political consultant failed to report sources of third-party campaign spending that aimed to benefit Harper.
The consultant, Moxie Media, agreed to pay the state $290,000 in fines and legal costs.
When the Legislature convened that winter, another Democrat, Sen. Jim Kastama, tried unsuccessfully to deny Harper his seat.
Despite that rocky start, Harper rose quickly among his peers.
As deputy leader of the Democratic Caucus, he had been seen as a candidate for caucus leader in 2014.
He was also up for reelection in 2014.
Instead, he will leave a year early.
“The combination of legislative session, a series of special sessions, and interim responsibilities are important, exciting work, but require full time attention,” Harper said in his statement. “As a husband, father of two girls and an attorney, I feel that I am unable to meet that requirement.”
The Snohomish County Council will choose a replacement from a list of three candidates chosen by local party officials.
November 9, 2013 at 12:05 PM
Update| 3:12 p.m.
OLYMPIA — It’s a wrap. The Legislature on Saturday afternoon approved extending tax incentives worth more than $8 billion for Boeing until 2040.
Along with the tax package, lawmakers voted to spend millions of dollars on worker-training programs and an effort to ease permitting for large aerospace-manufacturing sites.
The bills now go to Gov. Jay Inslee.
Lawmakers will adjourn Saturday afternoon without taking up a transportation package, another issue Boeing had wanted to be handled quickly.
“This is a generational opportunity,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond. “This is about our aerospace economy.”
The training measure, SB 5953, passed unanimously and the tax-incentive bill, SB 5952, was approved 42-2.
Democratic Sens. Bob Hasegawa, of Renton, and Adam Kline, of Seattle voted no. Hasegawa was the only senator to raise significant objections during the floor debate.
“I have a philosophical issue with putting this economic development strategy on the backs of the Machinists,” he said. “We’re asking them to sacrifice the future of the next generation of Boeing workers. That is not a sustainable economic development strategy for the state.”
Boeing wants the Machinists union to accept a new eight-year contract with big cuts in future pension and health-care benefits to secure the 777X for Washington state. That union approval could prove troublesome, given the early reviews of the Boeing proposal.
In addition, the company wants the Legislature to boost training for aerospace workers and approve tax incentives worth more than $8 billion.
The company has also stressed that it wants lawmakers to approve a multi-billion dollar transportation package.
Inslee called the special session, which started Thursday, to fulfill the state’s side of the bargain.
There’s companion legislation to the Senate bills in the state House. Legislative leaders said they hope to have final passage of both measures by early afternoon.
The aerospace-training bill, among other things, would spend $8 million to increase high-demand aerospace enrollments by the equivalent of 1,000 additional full-time students for the 2014-15 academic year.
“It is the intent of the Legislature that this funding be ongoing or until there is no longer a demonstrated need,” according to a bill report.
The tax-incentives measure extends commercial-airplane tax breaks — due to expire in 2024 — until 2040 and expands a sales-and-use tax exemption for construction of buildings used to manufacture airplanes.
Legislative leaders in both chambers said there’s no prospect of an agreement on a transportation package Saturday, however it wasn’t immediately clear if the Legislature plans to adjourn Saturday or remain in session while transportation negotiators work to reach agreement.
November 8, 2013 at 11:24 AM
OLYMPIA — State Sen. Ed Murray, the mayor-elect of Seattle, stepped down Friday as the Senate Democratic leader.
Murray said he needed to devote his attention to the transition of becoming mayor. However, he plans to remain in the Legislature through the special session.
He said he’ll set a date later for resignation from the Legislature. Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, will take over as interim leader of the Senate Democratic caucus.
November 7, 2013 at 5:42 PM
State Sen. Nathan Schlicher has conceded his re-election, acknowledging that his Kitsap Peninsula seat will change from blue to red next year.
Schlicher, a Democrat appointed to the 26th District seat this year when Derek Kilmer joined Congress, said Thursday night that he realized he can’t win.
Updated vote totals showed Schlicher trailing Republican state Rep. Jan Angel by about 1,550 votes — more than 300 more than in Wednesday’s count.
The special election was the most expensive state Senate race ever.
Angel will be the 24th Republican in the Senate, alongside 25 Democrats. But two Democrats are caucusing with the GOP, giving them control.
Angel will add to that.
Schlicher said he has not decided what he will do next.
“I’m going to have a pizza, a beer and go to a movie my kids. That’s my plan,” he said.
November 7, 2013 at 1:19 PM
House Finance Chairman Reuven Carlyle say there’s “rock-solid” language in legislation extending tax breaks for Boeing, and other aerospace companies, to prevent the company from moving the 777X out of Washington in the future.
“They are committing in black and white, not only to the 777X but its descendant planes,” Carlyle said Thursday, the first day of a special session to deal with Boeing. “If there is an assessment and view that assembly has moved or an element of that has moved, then the preferential rates for the 777X goes away. It’s pretty cut and dry.”
A legislative report for House Bill 2089 states the measure “is contingent upon the Department of Revenue making a determination that a final decision to locate a significant commercial airplane manufacturing program in the state of Washington has occurred. If a decision to locate a significant commercial airplane manufacturing program is not made by June 30, 2017, the bill is null and void.”
It goes on to say “a significant commercial airplane manufacturing program is the commencement of manufacturing of a new model of a commercial airplane or a new version of an existing model and the manufacturing of the fuselage and wings of the new model or new version. The ongoing availability of the preferential B&O tax rate for the production of a new or remodeled commercial airplane is contingent upon maintaining all final assembly of the aircraft, wing assembly, and wing fabrication within the state.”
Carlyle said, that given the safeguards, he feels it’s a good move for the state.
“I don’t feel like we’re being blackmailed at all. There’s no question that extending the (tax breaks) … in exchange for an absolute rock solid, black and white written commitment for the 777X and its descendant planes is a responsible marriage and partnership,” he said.
November 6, 2013 at 5:40 PM
Republican Jan Angel maintained her lead over state Sen. Nathan Schlicher in updated vote totals released Wednesday afternoon.
Angel led by about 1,200 votes after Wednesday’s count, up from a roughly 800-vote lead in Tuesday’s returns.
That translates to a 52-48 percent race.
The special election in the 26th District, which straddles Pierce and Kitsap counties, was the most expensive state Senate race ever. It is seen as important to the makeup of the state Senate, which is currently controlled by a majority coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats.
In the minority are 24 Democrats, including Schlicher, who was appointed to fill the seat of now-U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer.
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