Writer’s Note: Yes, we have another guest columnist joining us. I would like to introduce the Legislative Junkie! He is currently working at and around the Capital but will be staying anonymous so that he can discuss matters more freely. I can assure you, his information, insight and wicked sense of humor are all things upon which I can thoroughly rely. Also, we are working on a nifty logo for him. Without further ado . . .
Greetings from Olympia!
Your tireless muckraker, The Political Junkie, has asked me to cover the impending circus of the 2012 regular legislative session. My day job keeps me pretty busy here on the hill, but I will try to file regular reports to feed this blog’s loyal readers the steady diet of wonky policy details, juicy legislative gossip, and wildly irresponsible speculation to which you’ve grown accustomed.
So what should you be watching out for this session?
Budget vs. Everything Else
The first thing on everyone’s mind down here is the budget. Lawmakers have 60 days to close a $1.5 billon hole, and the Supreme Court basically just told them not to cut K-12 basic education to do it. Governor Gregoire wants a ½ ¢ sales-tax increase to fill some of the gap, but this would be contingent on a public vote. Throughout session, there will be robust conversations about new revenue, government reform and restructuring, and what kind of state we want to have.
But there are a pile of other issues in front of the legislature this year: Gay marriage, marijuana legalization, raising or lowering the minimum wage (what?!?), transportation funding, a $2 billion jobs bond, the fallout from liquor privatization, privatizing the lottery, implementing the Affordable Care Act, tax reform, and on, and on, and on.
Can the legislators get this all done and the budget too?
Running for Office, Running for the Exits
2012 is the biggest election year in Washington State in anyone’s memory. It’s a presidential year, there are four open statewide seats, a senate election, two open congressional seats, and a number of initiatives or referenda that are expected to be filed. Between the statewide offices and the federal seats, there are at least 7 Senate and House members looking to move up and out of the legislature. Look for Representatives Roger Goodman (D-45), Zach Hudgins (D-11), Mark Miloscia (D-30), and Senators Michael Baumgartner (R-6), Steve Hobbs (D-44), Jim Kastama (D-25), and Craig Pridemore (D-49) to either be absent as they campaign, or to pass bills they can campaign on come the summer and fall.
Though the Democrats control both the House & Senate, the D’s margin in the Senate is slim, and Majority Leader Lisa Brown’s hold of her caucus is tenuous at best. The conservative Roadkill Caucus was disciplined enough last year to force a bipartisan budget-writing process in the Senate. This year, the Roadkill Caucus has adopted the GOP mantra of “reform before revenue,” and could play a major role in pushing the Senate budget to the right. But two-and-a-half Roadkill senators are running for higher office (Hobbs, Kastama, and Pridemore), which could significantly diminish Roadkill’s influence this session. Watch early on for the Roadkill senators to break ranks and vote with Republicans on key issues, or for Majority Leader Brown to keep her caucus in line.
There will be about a zillion other issues in the hopper this session. I’ll keep you updated on the madness as best I can.