Whatcom County elected officials butted heads yesterday in a committee hearing as Sen. Doug Ericksen (R) broke parliamentary procedure to shut down the last possible vote on a bill supported by Sen. Kevin Ranker (D). The bill (SB 5181, sponsored by Sen. Nelson) would have banned toxic material in mattresses and children’s toys and is considered to be a high priority for environmentalists, firefighters and anyone who likes healthy children. Today was the last day to move legislation to the next stage so it could have a full vote; anything left behind dies in committee.
Sen. Ericksen, who chairs the Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, passed all of his own bills first and was preparing to close the meeting. Here’s where it gets interesting. Sen. Ranker, refusing to let such an important bill die from neglect, brought it up for a vote . . . and Ericksen seconded.
Watch the video in the link above to hear the confusion in Sen. Ericksen’s voice as he realizes what he has done. “Which bill was that?” he asks. Since the motion has been moved and seconded, it is required they hold a vote. Ranker clings to the issue, “There was a second! It has been seconded.” Ericksen’s Republican ally, Sen. Tim Sheldon, tries frantically to help cover Ericksen’s mistake by moving to adjourn (shut down the meeting). Ericksen finally realizes what he has done and attempts to shut down the meeting. Ranker notes, correctly, that there is still a motion on the floor. Ericksen ignores him and gavels the meeting to a close.
I had a chance to talk to Sen. Ranker today about this and he was deeply disappointed in Ericksen’s behavior. “This is really heartbreaking for me that he would kill such an important bill. I thought we had a good working relationship to move certain things forward, but then, at the eleventh hour of cutoff, to do this is really disappointing.” Ranker has filed a letter of complaint with the Lt. Governor’s office (the person responsible for overseeing the function of the Senate), but Ranker admits there is not much that can be done now.
“It is very clear that they broke the rules to kill this bill, but that is the unfortunate thing about having the Republicans in control.” He noted that Ericksen also worked to kill the Working Waterfront bill which would have provided jobs for the Port of Bellingham (SB 5545) and tried to undermine the effort to streamline toxic area cleanup funding (SB 5201).
I have a call out to Sen. Ericksen’s office and will post his response as soon as I have it.