Over the last couple of months, I have been poring over Rep. Jason Overstreet’s voting record and I am having a hard time writing about it. Why, you ask? Because usually I try to inject a little levity into my political writing and frankly, there is nothing funny about Overstreet’s record. In fact, it is downright troubling.
Sure there are the usual Republican votes to cut social services, his votes to gut education funding and disenfranchise working people of their rights, I expected all that. I even expected the circular logic argument of biblical authority he used to vote against marriage equality. What horrified me was the sheer number of votes against bills that were just common sense.
For instance in 2011, State Senator Scott White (D-Seattle) introduced a bill that would target violence toward the homeless. The bill (SB 5011) was in response to the killing of David Ballenger, who was beaten to death under a freeway overpass by a gang of teenagers. He was targeted because he was homeless. White’s legislation, in layman’s terms, would have added “thought they were homeless” to the list of reasons of aggravated assault. The bill sailed through the Senate with an unanimous vote (49-0), but when it came to the House, Rep. Jason Overstreet was the sole vote against. The bill was promptly signed into law by Gov. Gregoire and now we can better protected our most vulnerable from assault.
But this wasn’t the only example of Overstreet’s extreme record. On March 23rd of 2011, he voted against a bill that would have helped ensure our children’s health. Washington state has one of the highest percentages of non-immunized children in school, and this bill (ESB 5005) would have strengthened the requirements you need to meet if you want to exempt your children from getting immunizations. Shorter version, he wanted to make it easier for sick kids to go to school. This bill had bipartisan support and sailed through both chambers but not before Overstreet could vote against it. You can watch him rail against it on video here.
Next was his vote against protecting our children from lead paint-coated toys. A bill was introduced (EHB2821) that would have prohibited the production and sale of children’s toys with harmful levels of toxins. That was too much government interference with private enterprise for Overstreet, he voted against it on April 6th of this year. He won’t even stand up to protect our children from toxic toys? You can see how I was having difficulty approaching this post, it was just too horrifying to tackle.
If Overstreet believes all these bills are worth squashing, what does he believe government should be doing? I looked at the bills he has sponsored in the time he has been in Olympia, and it is pretty disappointing. In his time in Olympia, Overstreet has been the primary sponsor of seven bills. Of those, only one was actually signed into law, a relatively benign piece of legislation (SHB1145) dealing with mail theft that would make the possession of stolen mail a crime. Of the ones that didn’t pass, there was a bill that would set up a standard time for legislative sessions to begin (HB1207), and a bill to change the maximum vehicle length from 40ft to 46ft (HB2430)
Beyond that was a string of rather alarming bills. There was a bill that would mandate the government compensate private citizens for government action that changed the value of their private property (HB1671). While a good idea in theory, the sheer volume of payouts, calculations and complexities would easily bankrupt our state. There was a bill concerning how the state deals with unlawful detentions (HB2759) that I am pretty sure violated federal authority, and another bill about cottage farms (HB 2551). A cottage farm is basically a food packaging business run out of someone’s kitchen, therefore bypassing a good chunk of health inspection and labor laws. Overstreet’s bill would have removed the limit on gross sales so Wal-Mart could run it’s entire packaging operation out of someone’s kitchen.
And of course, there was the bill he co-sponsored and repeatedly brags about, the Gold and Silver Legal Tender Act of Washington State (HB2731). This would allow you to pay your bills with gold coins. I wish I was joking, but no. This would exempt gold dealers from a good deal of tax and allow you to pay your garbage bill with whatever gold doubloons you happen to have handy. This is an easy one to poke fun at (Leprechaun Economics!) but I think the real issue is that Overstreet is wasting his time, and our taxpayer dollars, on issues that are not important. Where are the jobs? Where is the support for our industries up here? Where are the transportation dollars, or the education funding? Where are the efforts to protect our clean drinking water and ensure our economic future? If you look at the issues page on his campaign website, Jobs and the Economy aren’t his top issues. In fact, they don’t even crack the top three!
While I appreciate a protest vote here or there, we elected our representatives to do the people’s work. That involves compromise, moderation and fighting for what’s right for Whatcom County. If Overstreet wants to pontificate on constitutional principles, by all means, get a blog and talk. But we are paying your salary because we expect you to work, and your record shows that you aren’t working for Whatcom County.
So this November, set aside the rhetoric and take a look at what your representatives have actually done. Based on Overstreet’s record, I’ll be voting for Natalie McClendon.