Posted by: sweeneyblog | March 20, 2014

Session Ends with Major Issues Unresolved

Capital Beat

Weekly Legislative Coverage

The legislative session ended with a whimper rather than a bang, quietly wrapping up last week. Unlike years past, there was no last minute drama or frantic party switching, just a resigned sense that this was all that could be done. Talking to legislators and staffers over the last week, there is a sense of relief that, for the first time in several years, there was no special session required and they could go home to their families.

That said, here are some of the big things that did happen over the last couple of months. I will be digging into the records of each Whatcom County legislator next week, as well as concluding my Capital Beat coverage, so stay tuned. I just wanted to get some of the big-ticket items cleared up.

Good News

  1. Funding for Homeless Services: After Sen. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) killed a bipartisan bill that would have continued funding 25% of all homeless services in Washington, there was a roar of outrage from citizen groups, newspapers and really, most people with a functioning sense of empathy. Sen. Angel backed down and they were able to revive the bill (ESHB2368) and continue funding through 2019.
  2. The Washington Dream Act: Children of immigrants who attended high school in Washington are now eligible for financial aid to go to college. Fantastic news and a big surprise considering the Republican opposition to this bill, however, it was passed thanks to some key swing votes.
  3. Gun Safety: They passed a bill that allows judges to require people under a restraining order to surrender their guns while the order is in effect. This is an essential protection for victims of domestic violence and a key step forward.

Bad News

  1. Transportation Infrastructure: Once again, Republicans in the Senate killed attempts to fund transportation and transit in Washington. With our crumbling bridges (see: Skagit), overburdened rail lines and shoestring transit programs I didn’t think this was an optional thing, but funding these repairs would have required a tax increase (most likely gas tax) and no one wanted to do that in an election year.
  2. Education Funding: Once again, the legislature did not fulfill its constitutional responsibility to fund education. The state Supreme Court said we need to find $5 billion for basic education by 2018. The legislature responded by adding $58 million for operating costs. So, to put that in perspective, we owed our schools $5,000 and we rummaged around and gave them $50 and said, “That’s good for now.” Hopefully, when our legislators return, they will get serious about funding our schools.

As I said earlier, next week I will dig deeper into individual profiles of how our legislators did and what is left to do.

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Responses

  1. Riley,

    Dan DeMay, a reporter for the Western Front, wrote an excellent article in the March 14, 2014 issue. Page 3. His column is called the Olympia Insider.

    Are there any other states that are refusing to fund Transportation packages?

    Tom

  2. […] of that.” However, he acknowledges that there are several areas where they were not able to finish the job. “We didn’t fund the Cost of Living Adjustment for teachers, the Republicans just said […]

  3. […] The National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency responsible for oversight of our transportation infrastructure, has released its formal report on the Skagit bridge collapse that happened last year. You can read the whole enchilada here, but the jist of it is that it was an unfortunate combination of aggressive driving, freak chance and as usual, our crumbling infrastructure. Boy, I wish the state senate republicans hadn’t blocked the transportation package from getting passed this year. […]

  4. […] criticism of her opponent was mild, suiting her upbeat style, but she did point out that “Not passing a transportation budget doesn’t help anyone, we need to start investing in our […]

  5. […] Control of the state senate is key for a whole host of reasons (fighting climate change, repairing our infrastructure, fixing our local health care systems) and Fleetwood will make a fine legislator. He is bipartisan, rational and not in anyone’s […]


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