Posted by: sweeneyblog | March 25, 2014

Ericksen Struggles to Gain Support for Legislation

Capital Beat

Weekly Legislative Coverage

The year started out so strong for Sen. Doug Ericksen. He had avoided any ethical charges for his double-dipping on meal reimbursements and played a key role in pushing the Republican agenda on climate change over the interim. He was reappointed chair of the powerful Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, and introduced a wide spread of legislation covering everything from capping incentives for renewable energy to bills allowing schools to take out more debt for capital expenditures.

Yet, he was unable to deliver the votes necessary to see most of these bills through. Out of the twenty-seven pieces of legislation he introduced, only five were passed out of the Senate. All of those bills cleared the House, despite being controlled by Democrats, and were returned to the Senate, where three of them died and two survived to be delivered to the governor.

Bills Introduced: 27
Bills Passed out of Senate: 5
Delivered to Governor: 2

What were these key pieces of legislation Ericksen got passed? License plates and oil recycling. SB5785 changes how we handle license plate replacement, removing the requirement to replace them every seven years and requiring it only when the car changes ownership.

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sen. Doug Ericksen

The other legislation, ESB6501, is actually a significant piece of legislation. It directs municipalities to deal with used oil contaminants and submit requests for reimbursement to the Department of Ecology. You can find more details in the staff report here.  Both bills were delivered to the governor where they wait for his signature.

However, reports are trickling out that Ericksen is frustrated with his current role in Olympia. Despite holding a committee chair position in the majority, Ericksen has voiced displeasure to some of his Senate colleagues about spending so much time in Olympia. I usually avoid including unsourced comments, but having received these statements from multiple sources, I feel confident sharing them with you.

UPDATE: Sen. Ericksen himself contests this in the comment below and offers some clarification on the Oil-by-Rail bills. 

So what is next for Ericksen? Depending on Democratic recruitment efforts, he may face a strong challenge for his reelection bid. With so few Senate seats in play and the balance of the majority held together by two votes, the menacing eye of Olympia will be scouring the state for any potentially competitive races to invest in.

This week, I will continue to examine the legislative successes of our legislators as well as provide a follow-up on Rep. Vincent Buys PDC complaint, so stay tuned!



  1. The lack of any oil train safety bill should be hung around Ericken’s neck.

    The recent BNSF safety article was misleading.

    BNSF plans to spent $5 billion in 2014 for improvements nationwide. In 2012, BNSF announced that $106 million was spent on track maintenance and capacity projects in WA state. What are the exact expenditures for WA state upgrades this year?

    In 2013, BNSF was fined $105,000 for failing to repair seven defective railroad crossings in Whatcom and Skagit counties. What other fines has BNSF paid for lack of track maintenance and safety violations?

    In July 2013, the FRA ran an automated track inspection vehicle from Dilworth, Minn., to Mandan, N.D., (site of 2 derailments) and discovered 11 problems over 202 miles. The FRA’s disclosure that it conducted just one automated inspection on this BNSF line in 2013 illustrates the weakness in federal oversight!

    Automated inspections should occur monthly and examine whether tracks’ distance apart, alignment and other parameters meet specifications. How often are tracks inspected in Whatcom county? How often are oil and coal cars inspected?

    Other questions:

    Why were 6 train safety bills blocked in the Senate this year by a local senator?

    What are BNSF’s safety plans if a major mud slide moves an entire oil train into Puget Sound? Track from Seattle is prone to mud slides.

    What is being done to reduce local noise and vehicular delays from BNSF’s increase train traffic?

    • Totally agree. This crude shipment boom by rail is a totally Wild West thing. I shudder when I see tank cars going on that raised siding through Ferndale at rush hour and think of the tragedy in Quebec just a few years ago. Our infrastructure is so degraded– our rail lines and bridges apparently aren’t in bad enough shape for Republicans in the House of Reps in DC to get off their little chicken nesting places, guarding the billion$ of the oligarchs who are calling the shots. The Sean Hannitys of the world cry about the ‘debt we are leaving our children’ and yet won’t fund the infrastructure we are leaving our children. Go figure. Logic has not been their strong suit for a long time.

    • tgilmore66: one additional thing to add to your informative post. When you mentioned the $105,000 fine BNSF received from state regulators it reminded me that they later approved a settlement in June 2013 in where BNSF only had to pay $55,000 instead of their full $105,000 fine.

      So, BNSF failed to make the repairs at rail crossings required by the WA state UTC who fined BNSF $105,000 and then after BNSF waits some more, the UTC rewards BNSF’s bad behavior by reducing that fine by $50,000.

      Why are our regulators reducing a fine for BNSF when it ignored repairs at rail crossings at some of those sites for 2 years?

  2. Recycling One Aluminum Can Will Power a Laptop for More Than Five Hours

    Christine St. Pierre and Miles Becker, News Report: Yes Magazine’s Miles Becker and Christine St. Pierre compiled a short list of statistics that will give you plenty to think about. Hours a day the average American spends online with a computer: 2.31. Hours a laptop could be powered from the energy saved by recycling one aluminum can: 5.22. Percentage of global GMO crops produced in the United States: 69.5. Countries other than the United States requiring GMO food labels: 64.

  3. Good piece! When can you chat? I have much to discuss with you.

    From: The Political Junkie Reply-To: The Political Junkie Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 12:22 PM To: Kevin Ranker Subject: [New post] Ericksen Struggles to Gain Support for Legislation sweeneyblog posted: ” The year started out so strong for Sen. Doug Ericksen. He had avoided any ethical charges for his double-dipping on meal reimbursements and played a key role in pushing the Republican agenda on climate change over the interim. He was reappointed as ch”

  4. He did fairly well in some minds but did not fare as well as, apparently, you had hoped? But then, to be fair, he probably could never fare as well as you had hoped as much of your fixation this year has been on what you presume to be unfairly obtained fare at the supper table. Oh, well, as they say, “All’s fair in love and war and all’s fare at dinner?”

    • In terms of passing legislation, as one of the most influential votes in the Senate, he should have been able to move more bills, either out of the Senate or to the Governor’s desk. By comparison, Jeff Morris sent five rather large bills to the Gov’s desk this year.

      • And the Governor is a Republican?

  5. Doug’s contributions as Committee Chair are more in what he blocked than in what he passed. This is not uncommon for people in such power positions. If the Democrats do find a credible challenger, I don’t feel that a campaign issue will be that he only authored two bills that made it to Inslee’s desk.. His derailment (no pun intended) of train safety legislation and of climate legislation that would have allowed progress towards our benchmarks definitely will be.

    And, I expect his desire to spend more time with his family and less time in Olympia listening to lobbyists over dinner would be a plus rather than a minus in his District.

  6. Is there information about the senator’s record in garnering financial support for his party? From the ethics issue, we learned he seems to busily pursue funding. Has the effort paid off? If he’s doing his job for his party, does his legislative record otherwise matter?

    In the case of US senators, we often read the generality that a particular senator, for example Schumer, is a good fund-raiser.

    • Ericksen is not a particularly prodigious fundraiser, that title falls on Sen. Michael Baumgartner who recently took a swing at Maria Cantwell. But, no, Ericksen is not much of a party player.

  7. “I usually avoid including unsourced comments, but having received these statements from multiple sources, I feel confident sharing them with you.” After over 30 years in the intelligence business I can tell you that your statement could be the poster child for what we referred to as “false confirmation”. The problem with hearing the same thing from multiple sources is that these multiple sources may have received their info from the same unreliable source. 🙂

    • Very true, but I feel pretty confident in this recent tip.

  8. We just concluded the short session of a two year legislative cycle, with many positive things accomplished.

    Record amounts of money are being dedicated to cleaning up Washington’s most contaminated sites and preparing them to be brought back into economic use.

    We balanced a budget, increased k-12 spending, stopped tuition increases at our universities and we held the line on tax increases.

    There are a couple of items in the above blog that need corrections.

    First on the issue of oil by rail–we worked very hard this year to pass important comprehensive legislation on this issue. The following bills were the basis of our efforts and I would encourage people to look at each bill.

    Senator O’Ban SJM 8015 Tank Rail Car Safety
    Senator Tom: SB 6567 Oil Spill Taxes
    Senator Baumgartner: SB 6582 Liquid Bulk Crude Oil
    Senator Ericksen: SB 6524 Hazardous Material Transportation

    While the blog is correct that these bills did not pass both chambers, the blog is incorrect that oil-by-rail legislation was blocked in my committee.

    Second–the odd claims of “un-named people” in the above blog are just false.

    Also of the interest is the claim by Sen. Ranker that he killed all tax incentive bills this year–which would include SB 6541on solar power incentives which would have accomplished the following:

    Sponsors Senators Ericksen, McCoy and Billig.

    Brief Summary of Bill
    Ends the current cost-recovery program on June 30, 2014, and creates a new
    cost-recovery program to start on July 1, 2014, with no incentives paid to systems that begin operating after December 31, 2018.

    Authorizes ten-year rolling incentive contracts with declining incentive rates
    and adjustable incentive caps based on the size of the system.

    Allows educational institutions and utilities to fully participate in the cost-
    recovery program, with additional incentives for utility participation.

    Charges the Department of Commerce (Commerce) to administer the new
    cost-recovery program.

    Allows leased energy systems and net-metered systems to receive either
    cost-recovery incentives or net-metering benefits subject to limitations.

    Requires the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to regulate
    third-party vendors of leased systems as competitive electrical companies.

    It is a great honor serving the people of the 42nd Legislative District and I look forward to the upcoming campaign for re-election.

    Sen. Ericksen

    • Thank you so much for joining us here on this blog, Sen. Ericksen. I really appreciate it. I’m adding a notes to the above post and the Ranker piece today directing people to your response. Thank you again.

  9. […] died in committee. “Most were killed by Ericksen or Randy Becker,” he said. UPDATE: Doug Ericksen contests that here. Ranker did double the funding for the One America program, which helps provide a path to […]

  10. […] week, I covered the legislative accomplishments (or lack there of) from Sen. Doug Ericksen and Sen. Kevin Ranker. Now it is time to dive into the accomplishments of the other four […]

  11. […] fellow conservative Jack Louws. Now Ericksen is seeking reelection to retain his senate seat after another challenging session in Olympia and with a strong candidate coming out of the wings, he is staring down the barrell of a […]

  12. […] to a vote. Whether it is a state transportation budget, or meaningful environmental protections or even his own bills, Ericksen has been unable or unwilling to move legislation forward in the […]

  13. […] could argue that having a functional state senate IS the pro-business position and that Ericksen’s obstinence (or incompetence)  as committee chair is driving business groups to find a better senator for the […]

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