Posted by: sweeneyblog | June 29, 2013

In 2013, Sen. Ericksen Co-opts rather than Cooperates

Back in October of 2012, Sen. Kevin Ranker knew exactly what he wanted to do in the 2013 session. His number one priority was clear, “It is going to be a continued laser focus on job creation, with a particular focus on opportunities like renewable energy and toxic clean-up.”

Sen. Kevin Ranker

Sen. Kevin Ranker

To that end, Ranker introduced a bill to overhaul the Toxic Substances Fund which taxes companies that move dangerous chemicals, then uses that money to fund clean-up of spills across the state. The problem was the funds were difficult to access and access quickly. His bill (SB5201) would have streamlined the process, releasing those funds to legitimate clean-up agencies (ports, municipal bodies, etc) so they could begin hiring people immediately. “This effort is already paid for, it is just a matter of clearing the way for green jobs, environmental clean-up and the resulting economic growth.”

However, this session with the Republicans taking control of the state Senate, Sen. Ranker found himself in the minority, so his bill had to go through the committee controlled by Sen. Doug Ericksen. Ericksen, who had signed on as a co-sponsor of Ranker’s bill, decided to introduce his own version of the bill (SB 5296) with some key changes.

Ericksen’s bill required that private companies be considered as recipients of the funds first, before municipal bodies. Therefore, if British Petroleum spilled toxins in Birch Bay, they could turn around and apply for taxpayer dollars to clean it up. The other key change was that rather than expediting the process of releasing the funds from where they already were, Ericksen’s bill created a new fund named after his daughter (ELSA). The money would be moved into that fund then distributed from there.

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sen. Doug Ericksen

As the session carried on, the Senators repeatedly clashed, with Ericksen breaking the rules to shut down Ranker in committee, and then bragging about their bipartisan cooperation the next day. Ranker continued to maintain a positive outlook, even as his bill died in committee and Ericksen’s proposal was passed. The state House tried to pass a second bill to close the loopholes Ericksen’s bill created but that effort died in the Republican controlled Senate.

Ralph Schwartz over at the Bellingham Herald covered this issue, but I wanted to lay out the history behind this single bill because it shows how Sen. Ericksen often tackles legislative problems. He co-opts his opponents issues, pushes a flawed version of the bill that sounds alright but has some technical issues, and then leaves Democrats stuck either trying to shoot down their own legislative priority for not being good enough, or living with an empty bill.

Ericksen pulled a similar trick with banning the toxics chemicals found in mattresses and children’s toys. Ericksen took the Democratic bill and gutted it so it only applies to two chemicals and only to children’s toys. When pressed on why, he simply responded that the Democrats will pass it, “Do they want to ban those two chemicals or not?”

Does this make Sen. Ericksen an effective legislator? It depends on what you mean by effective. Is he passing bills, yes. Is he representing the priorities of the 42nd legislative district? I don’t believe we are better off because our mattresses still have toxic chemicals in them, but that is my two cents. I just wish I had the money to buy Sen. Ericksen steak dinners on a regular basis so that he would represent our priorities, as opposed to those of the American Chemical Association.

7/5/13 – It looks like Ranker got a vote on his “fix” bill, closing the loophole in Ericksen’s Toxics bill. It was passed and sent on to the Governor to sign.

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Responses

  1. so the gov has to sign the bill right? Is our new Democratic gov gonna lay down for this? Do the R’s have a veto-proof majority?

    • The Governor could veto it and lose the progress that has been made or he could make do with a lousy loophole ridden bill. I imagine he will sign it and try and fix it later.

  2. […] face it, there aren’t that many competitive congressional seats in Washington. With your elevated profile from the legislative session, you could pull in buckets of campaign cash. Which in turn, would attract the attention of the […]

  3. […] However the Democrats tragically and suddenly lost control of the State Senate thanks to a pair of Democratic turncoats, allowing the Republicans to block legislation and gut environmental efforts. Instrumental to this effort to block the Governor’s agenda was the new chair of the Energy, Environment and Telecommunications committee, Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42). You can read my review of his efforts to co-opt then weaken environmental protections here. […]

  4. […] from our surface streets is a major waterway pollutant. You might remember that this fund was a key political football between Sen. Ericksen and Sen. Ranker last year. On the other hand, such projects can also rightly be paid for through a gas tax and not dip into a […]

  5. […] part of the shuffle, he will continue to serve on the Energy and Environment committee (run by Sen. Doug Ericksen) however he will no longer be the ranking Democrat on that […]

  6. […] consideration of a very similar bill and then proposed a smaller, weaker version of that bill that only banned two of the six dangerous chemicals identified, and those two chemicals? No longer used in current manufacturing. This year, he has reintroduced […]


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