Posted by: sweeneyblog | January 14, 2013

Doug Ericksen’s Opening Moves

Hello Loyal Readers,

As promised, I’m going to be providing coverage of our representatives in Olympia this legislative session. Last year, I had a fantastic inside source who handled my Olympia beat but alas, he is no longer dictating blog posts in darkened parking garages, so you will have to rely on my not-quite-as-insider view.

The big story this year is the Republican takeover of the state Senate. I explained what happened here, but basically a couple Democratic turncoats decided to put the Republicans in charge of half our legislature. They still have to negotiate with a Democratic house and Democratic governor, but for the first time in many years they get to pass their legislative agenda . . . even if it dies before it hits the governor’s desk.

Doug Ericksen (R)

Doug Ericksen (R)

For the last decade, Doug Ericksen has legislated from the minority. He was first elected into the Republican state house majority in 1998 but they quickly loss control of the body and by 2002, he was back in the minority. Which seemed to suit his rather flashy political style quite well. He could rail against “snobby Bellingham liberals” or cozy up to Glenn Beck’s rather extreme think tank, but he would never have to actually get any laws passed since he was in the minority.

For example in the last two years, he was the primary sponsor for fifteen bills. Precisely one of those bills actually got signed into law and only after it had been heavily amended. What was this epic piece of legislation that took all of Ericksen’s skill and prowess to get passed? Changing the maximum vehicle length on highways from 40 ft. to 42 ft. Yes. I’m serious. By comparison, when former Rep Kelli Linville (D) was in the minority, she was the primary sponsor for fifty bills and got eight of them signed into law. When former Sen. Dale Brandland (R) was in the minority in 2005-2006, he introduced eighteen bills and got six signed into law. So Ericksen has not been a particularly effective legislator so far.

But this year, in the majority, Ericksen finally has a chance to show us what he’s got. He has decided to hit the ground running by sponsoring six bills. What are these ideas he has been holding on to for so long? Let’s take a look:

SB 5003 – Transportation Projects. As far as ideas go, this one isn’t too bad. Basically, if a city wants to fix a bridge, they sell some bonds to fund it. Those sales are taxed, so why should the construction of the bridge itself be taxed as well? It wouldn’t be my top legislative priority, but encouraging investment in infrastructure isn’t a bad idea. What else has he got?

Cheryl Pflug (R)

SB 5004 – Restricting  gubernatorial appointment. This is in response to last year’s sneaky political move. After the state Senate’s tense battle of marriage equality that came down to just a few votes, Gov. Gregoire decided to tip the scales by offering one of the popular moderate Republicans, Cheryl Pflug, a plum administrative job. She took the job, which created an open seat, which turned into one of the state’s hottest races. When the dust had settled, Democrat Mark Mullet had won. This bill would prevent the governor from appointing a legislator to certain boards and commissions within thirty days of the election filing deadline. Absurdly specific? Yup.

A fun bit of trivia, Mullet’s campaign was managed by former Dan Pike campaign manager Isabel Vanderslice, who has since returned to town to work for the Non-GMO Project. Pike was supported by many local environmentalists whose main goal has been to bring the county into compliance with the Growth Management Act. What was the plum administrative job that Cheryl Pflug took? A seat on the Growth Management Hearings Board. Did I just blow your mind? I think so.

SB 5032 – Rural electricity tax credits This is a rather technically complex piece of legislation but the gist of it is that it extends tax credits to rural utility districts to continue making upgrades. The tax credits were going to expire, Ericksen is trying to keep them in place a few more years.

SB 5052 – More Superior court judges This bi-partisan bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Ranker (D) and Ericksen, would increase the number of Whatcom County Superior Court judges. I know the Whatcom County judicial system has a serious case backlog and this seems to be an attempt to fix that.

Okay, at this point you are saying, “This isn’t so bad. What’s Riley so concerned about?” Believe me, the last two are worth the wait.

Reproductive funding would be drained away if Ericksen gets his way

SB 5005 – Concerning Fiscal ReliefThis bill would allow any city or county that is taking in less revenue than the previous year to raid earmarked funds coming in from the state. State money for hiring new police officers? Up for grabs. Funds coming in for women’s reproductive health services? Let’s take those first. This is a conservative politician’s dream legislation. In one fell swoop, Ericksen can defund Planned Parenthood, environmental energy projects and social services on a state-wide level by giving local politicians the keys to the treasury. All these mayors or county executives would have to do is cut property taxes, and then say, “Look, we aren’t taking in enough money to cover our general fund! Let’s take these flood insurance dollars, I’m sure Ferndale will never miss them.”

SB 5012 – Citizenship and Driver’s Licenses. This one would require anyone obtaining or renewing their driver’s license to prove their U.S. citizenship, and all that information would be immediately shared with immigration and any relevant social services. Right now, all you need to do to get a driver’s license is prove residence, provide insurance and pass the test because we want to ensure that we keep track of all drivers on the road. This reactionary anti-immigrant bill would discourage undocumented workers from getting driver’s licenses, leading to more unlicensed (and untraceable) drivers. Bad news my friends.

Well that is it so far. I will continue to follow these bills and the work of our other five representatives in Olympia over the next couple of months. Stay tuned!



  1. Keep up the good works, Riley. Don’t know if the State requires co-sponsors to these bills BUT it would be interesting to know who signed on to them. And, the last one on drivers licenses is about immigrants, for sure. I think the federal government is working to make it possible for immigrants to get their drivers license. Wondering if this Bill is ALEC originated?
    Those two Democrats who turned into Republicans — WHY did they turn like that? Seems very mysterious to me. And, certainly had HUGE consequences.

  2. You are doing well without your inside source, Riley. Would the driver licensing bill prevent those on Green Cards and work visas from driving? That is hard to believe.

    It is good to see Doug and Kevin working together to try to get us a new Superior Court justice.

    • There is an exemption for those with Green cards and work visas, you are correct.

  3. Great info. Best creepy Ericksen photo ever (high bar.) Also, you mentioned Planned Parenthood, which woke me up! Remind me to send you a copy of the newly branded logo. 😀

    • I would love it! Photo credit to Sweeney’s Portraits, as usual.

  4. His old boss, Sen Ann Anderson got bought out in a way similar to Pflug. Gov Locke put her on the Board of Tax Appeals in 1998.

  5. The inverse Reality world of Conservative politics states that an effective legislator is the one concerned about doubloons and cow transport and that illegal two-feet on the back of your trailer.
    It’s a badge of honor to take back to the small citizens who matter when one can bring incompetence and ineffectiveness to the House.
    I say Bravo to our Ericksens and our Buys and our Overstreets – you show that Government who’s boss by clogging the works with preposterous policy and dead-end disasters that never see the light of pen on any Governor’s desk.
    For that’s the kind of administration of the public sphere that will save us all.

  6. You forgot the Balanced Budget Amendment Ericksen sponsored.

    • If your talking about SB 6636 Which is the only “Balanced Budget requirement” Bill that Ericksen has voted for. then it was was sponsored by
      Jim Kastama (WA – D)
      Rodney Tom (WA – D)
      Joseph P. Zarelli (WA – R)
      Not Doug Ericksen

  7. SB 5005 freaks me out! Are you willing to comment on the likelihood that this will actually get anywhere?

    • I don’t know how mobile it is but I can guarantee that I will be following it closely here on The Political Junkie so stay tuned!

  8. […] that bill Sen. Doug Ericksen and Rep. Kris Lytton were working on to add an extra Superior Court justice to Whatcom County? It […]

  9. […] Ranker, a frequent reader of this blog, saw that I had already reported on Sen. Ericksen and Rep. Lytton’s legislative efforts so he decided to head me off at the pass and sit down […]

  10. […] Doug Ericksen, well-known journalist threatener and occasional legislator, proclaimed his love for nuclear power recently. His latest proposal would change how we calculate […]

  11. […] teaser for my upcoming interview with Rep. Jeff Morris. As I’ve done with Rep. Kris Lytton, Sen. Doug Ericksen and Sen Kevin Ranker, I am doing a review of Rep. Morris’ legislative efforts and he was […]

  12. […] I mentioned in my first post about Ericksen this year, whether you are in the majority or minority matters – but not as much as you would think. […]

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