Topic: rodney tom
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December 10, 2013 at 3:57 PM
The state Senate majority caucus congratulated itself Tuesday for surviving a year and vowed to pursue legislation that did not pass last session, including changes to K-12 education and workers compensation.
The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus was born a year ago when Democratic Sens. Rodney Tom, of Medina, and Tim Sheldon, of Potlatch, announced they’d caucus with Republicans, giving the GOP control of the chamber.
Tom and other leaders said their caucus, during the session that starts Jan. 13, will take up measures such as a bill that would allow school districts to lay off employees based on job performance, instead of seniority.
The caucus also wants to resume efforts to change the state workers compensation system. Last session the caucus pushed legislation that would let workers settle compensation claims for a lump-sum amount rather than pursuing a lifetime disability pension or other benefits – an idea strongly opposed by labor.
When asked about meeting a state Supreme Court mandate to increase funding for education, Tom, the Senate majority leader, said during a news conference it’s all about prioritizing spending within existing resources. “We should never have a conversation that we need new revenue for education,” he said.
Caucus leaders would not speculate on the prospect of completing a transportation tax package before the session starts. The GOP-led caucus has been negotiating with Democrats, who control the House and governor’s office, for months.
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.
July 24, 2013 at 6:55 AM
A month after a transportation plan crashed in the Legislature, the Seattle Transit Riders Union will hold what it calls the ”WTF, Olympia?” rally, seeking new taxes to prevent bus-service cuts.
The event is to be held in the park just south of the King County Courthouse, at Third Avenue and Yesler Way.
King County Metro Transit has said it would reduce up to 17 percent of service hours unless lawmakers provide new revenue to replace funds that will go away in mid-2014: a $20 annual car-tab fee for bus service, and $32 million from the Highway 99 tunnel project to provide extra peak-time buses (which run close to full) through the Sodo construction zone.
Metro has raised fares $1 since 2008 and plans another 25-cent hike next year.
“Our Legislature failed all of us: Not only will bus riders lose service, traffic congestion will get worse, and the economy and the environment will suffer too,” said the group’s co-founder, Katie Wilson.
Skeptics make their own arguments. Farebox receipts cover only 27 percent of Metro’s operating cost, and even after recent service changes, Metro still runs 56 routes that carry fewer than 300 daily riders, out of a total 225 routes. (The busiest line is the 7 on Rainier Avenue South, serving 12,360 daily riders, closely followed by route 358 on Aurora Avenue North.)
The transit supporters plan to write their grievances and toss paper slips into a cardboard bus. Wilson said she hopes to arrange a meeting with state Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who is aligned with Republicans. Tom recently said he prefers sales taxes to fund transit, instead of the car-tab taxes proposed in the 2013 bill. Supporters have been asking for a law that would allow King County voters to decide whether to raise taxes for local transit and roads.
Metro serves just over 400,000 riders a day, about the same as mid-2008 just before the recession.
April 11, 2013 at 5:21 PM
State Senate Democrats sent a letter of apology to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood for what they viewed as a rude reception on Wednesday by the GOP-led majority caucus – a charge Republicans dispute.
“It was appalling to see the tenor of the reception he received from Sen. (Don) Benton and the Republican majority, “ Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said in a statement.
LaHood and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee visited with Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday. LaHood told them the state needed to commit several hundred million dollars toward completing a multibillion dollar Columbia River crossing or risk losing up to $1.2 billion in federal support.
The majority caucus initially posted a video of their meeting with LaHood online, but then pulled it. Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said the recording had been posted inadvertently and as soon as they realized the mistake, took it down.
Senate Democrats, however, felt obligated to post the recording. You can watch it here. The quality is a bit off because they recorded it off of a computer screen, with sticky notes visible at the bottom.
Republican Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, a leading critic of the proposed bridge project, said the caucus was respectful of LaHood but senators did air their concerns.
“What were we supposed to do, roll over because the secretary came to visit?” he said, adding that nobody raised their voice during the meeting. “There’s no need to apologize.”
Benton posted a news release after the meeting with LaHood that read “It’s Benton 1, U.S. Transportation secretary 0 in CRC debate at Capitol.”
David Postman, a spokesman for Inslee, said that what happens inside a caucus is supposed to remain confidential. He would not comment further.
April 1, 2013 at 5:00 PM
OLYMPIA — One of the most contentious social issues of the 2013 legislative session won’t get a vote in the state Senate Health Care Committee, the chairwoman announced Monday afternoon.
The so-called Reproductive Parity Act, which narrowly passed the Democrat-controlled state House on a party-line vote in February, would require health-insurance plans to cover abortions.
Supporters released a letter earlier Monday, signed by a majority of the chamber, saying they have the votes to pass the bill in the Republican-run Senate, too — if leadership would bring it up for a vote.
Following a heated two-hour hearing in the Health Care Committee, chairwoman Randi Becker said she won’t.
“The fact is that at this point, House Bill 1044 is a solution in search of a problem,” said Becker, R-Eatonville, in a statement. “Even advocates of the bill admit that there is no need for the bill today as every health insurer in the state of Washington provides for abortion coverage.”
While that’s true now, supporters of the bill note there’s uncertainty about how the federal health-care overhaul, and restrictions on abortion funding, might affect abortion coverage in the future.
In a statement, Democratic state Sen. Karen Keiser said after the bill didn’t get a vote at the hearing that “unfortunately this is not an April Fools joke —- I wish it was —- a woman’s access to reproductive health care is no laughing matter.”
February 28, 2013 at 5:07 PM
OLYMPIA — Hours after the state Supreme Court declared a supermajority requirement for tax increases unconstitutional, Republicans have started a quest to revive the threshold — by amending the constitution.
The GOP-run Senate budget-writing committee voted 13-10 Thursday afternoon to enshrine the requirement in the constitution.
The proposed constitutional amendment, like the initiative-imposed state law that was struck down earlier Thursday, would require legislation to increase taxes to obtain support from two-thirds of lawmakers or a majority vote of the people.
That standard has been approved by votes five times since 1993. But in a 6-3 ruling, the justices found it violates the constitution.
The constitutional amendment path is unlikely to succeed. Ironically, the proposed amendment would need to obtain its own supermajority — two-thirds support in the full state Senate and state House — and then get a majority of voters.
Democrats, who control the House, say they won’t even give it a vote there. The Senate is almost evenly split.
But if nothing else, the debate in the Senate Ways and Means Committee gave supporters of the two-thirds requirement an opportunity to make a symbolic statement against the court ruling.
“The people of Washington state did not send us down to Olympia to raise taxes,” said Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Medina Democrat who caucuses with 23 Republicans and one other Democrat in the majority coalition caucus.
Tom noted that 19 of the committee’s 23 members come from legislative districts where voters approved the supermajority requirement last fall.
Tom’s counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said the requirement allows for a “tyranny of the minority.”
Before the final vote, state Sen. Brian Hatfield unsuccessfully proposed a constitutional amendment of his own: a two-thirds requirement for all votes in the Legislature.
“This is, in some ways, kind of a put up or shut up,” said Hatfield, D-Raymond.
The final vote on the taxes-only requirement went along caucus lines, with all members of the mostly-GOP majority coalition voting yes and all members of the Democratic caucus voting no.
February 25, 2013 at 3:51 PM
OLYMPIA — The state Senate Ways and Means Committee heard a bill Monday that would place new public workers and existing employees younger than age 45 into a 401-K type retirement plan, instead of the existing state pension system.
Under the proposal, Senate Bill 5856, the state would move to a defined contribution plan for all teachers and state employees hired on or after July 1, 2014, and for all current employees under age 45 at that time.
The bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, argues the legislation is needed because it would save the state money.
The Association of Washington Business supports the measure, arguing the private sector is rapidly moving this direction and the state should as well.
If Tom’s bill doesn’t gain support, the Legislature should still pursue the issue, said Amber Carter, who testified on behalf of the AWB. “You will need to do something with the issue soon,” she said.
Labor groups opposed the legislation, arguing the current state pension system is in good shape and there’s no need to change. “We think this is a gratuitous attack on the work force, whose morale is already low,” said Greg Devereux, executive director of the Washington Federation of State Employees.
Tom has talked often about getting rid of the state pension system. However he was the only senator to sign onto the measure. He would not speculate on the bill’s chances of making it out of committee.
If the bill did get passed by the Senate, it would probably die in the Democratically-controlled House. “I don’t think that’s likely to go anywhere,” said House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina.
February 22, 2013 at 4:31 PM
Unlike in two previous sessions, it looks like lawmakers this year will not significantly change the way public-school teachers are evaluated.
Senate Bill 5246, this session’s major proposal dealing with teacher evaluations, did not get approved at the last Senate education committee meeting of the week on Thursday night.
Today is technically — with some exceptions — the last day for non-budget-related bills to make it out of a committee if they are to have a chance this session.
Senate Bill 5246 was meant to build on last year’s historic law, which made student test scores a part of evaluations. The new bill would have mandated that test scores make up 50 percent of the evaluations.
It was sponsored by Senate education chairman Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, and had the backing of Democrats Rodney Tom of Bellevue and Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens. But while the bill got a hearing Feb. 4, Litzow never scheduled it for a vote.
It is not unprecedented for teacher-evaluation bills to come back to life after the cut-off — it even happened last year.
But Senate Republicans have said they are prioritizing other policy bills.
February 13, 2013 at 10:56 AM
OLYMPIA — State Senate Republicans, who have already proposed repealing the state’s never-implemented family-leave requirement, are now targeting Seattle’s sick-leave law.
The law, which took effect in September, requires businesses with at least five employees operating in Seattle to provide paid sick leave to workers. Seattle is one of three major cities in the United States to have the law.
Senate Bill 5728 would take Seattle’s law off the books by declaring that the Legislature has the sole responsibility for sick-leave requirements. Senate Bill 5726 would scale back Seattle’s law by prohibiting cities from requiring sick leave for employers based outside the city.
Both bills were introduced Tuesday by Centralia Republican John Braun and are supported by Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina.
No Seattle senators have signed on.
Braun said his main problem with Seattle’s law is that it is affecting businesses that are based outside of Seattle, but do some business there. In addition, he said, “if this is a good idea, it’s a good idea on the state level, and this is a statewide program, and that’s the Legislature’s purview.”
“These are all nice ideas,” he added. “But we can’t afford every nice idea. We have to be realistic.”
The move would be similar to one made is Wisconsin in 2011, when Republicans repealed a Milwaukee sick-leave law.
Officials in Seattle and Olympia blasted Braun’s proposals.
Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, who sponsored the city law, called the proposed bills “a violation of trust in the democratic process.”
Democratic State Sen. Karen Keiser, ranking member of the Health Care Committee, went further, calling the proposals “an in-your-face kind of assault on workers’ rights.”
“I don’t know what’s going on here. I guess they just like to beat up on poor people,” she said, adding, “I’m surprised, I’m shocked, I’m upset, and I’ll fight it.”
A related proposal in the House, 1781 (which says a city can’t impose sick-leave requirements on businesses based elsewhere) will get a hearing next week, said Democratic Rep. Mike Sells, who chairs the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee. But Sells said his committee and the House in general is focused on expanding sick leave — not restricting it.
February 11, 2013 at 4:13 PM
After nearly a month of discussions in the state House about a wide range of proposals to reduce gun violence, the state Senate is getting into the debate.
Senate Democrats introduced six bills Monday dealing with firearm restrictions and mental health that may face resistance in the GOP-controlled chamber.
The most high-profile measure would require background checks for all gun purchases, ending exceptions for private sales at gun shows, between friends on the street and anywhere else. A similar bill has been introduced in the state House, and President Barack Obama is pushing the entire country to move in that direction.
The package also includes measures to increase the state’s ability to civilly commit those who might be dangerous; to allow residents to voluntarily surrender a gun to law enforcement for 30 days for safe-keeping; and to make it a crime for a person to leave a loaded firearm in a place where a child is likely to gain access.
“The people in my district and across Washington want us to take action to ensure the safety of our communities,” said state Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, in a news release announcing the package.
Prospects for passage are unclear.
The background-check bill has support from two Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Medina Democrat who is caucusing with a majority coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats. Still, the Senate committee tasked with setting gun policy is run by Mike Padden, R-Spokane, who does not favor many more gun restrictions.
The Legislature was expected to consider a variety of gun-policy proposals this session, in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. Many state lawmakers have gotten high marks from the National Rifle Association, the nation’s dominant pro-gun lobby.
State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, promised the crowd Friday at a Second Amendment rally in Olympia that the state Senate would protect the rights of gun owners.
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