The Gristle

Half Time

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

HALF TIME: The 2017 Washington State Legislature struck a milestone in their 105-day regular session last week, passing the last day to move bills out of committee in their organizing chamber. A lot of proposed bills were trapped in committee this session, and that’s become a new strategy for the Republican caucus in Olympia: Introduce a slew of controversial bills that have little chance of passing a general vote and allow them to chew up limited committee time, then refuse to allow those and other bills that might pass to come to the floor of the full chamber for a vote.

Republican leadership is able to decide what bills pass in the Senate not by ordering their members to vote a certain way, but by tightly controlling which bills are allowed to come up for a vote at all. The strategy permits Republicans to curry favor with their lobbyists and donors, while demonstrating their bona fides with hardline constituents without exposing themselves by means of an official vote to the wrath of a more moderate general public.

It’s how Republicans survive in a moderate state with plenty of progressive core values like Washington. And it is an approach that allows Republican values—which favor the paralysis of government and inability of progressive goals to move forward—to carry the session in Olympia.

In truth, the Legislature has probably cleared its most burdensome hurdle this session, passing a bill out of committee sponsored by Representative Kris Lytton (D-Anacortes) to stall the impacts of a school levy lid for one more year. A companion bill also passed in the state Senate’s chamber of origin. The two bills must be reconciled.

Under current law, school districts’ taxation authority was scheduled to go down in January 2018, and the resulting “levy cliff” would force districts to make severe cuts in coming months—most notably in teachers’ salaries, which unresolved would force the layoff of hundreds of teachers around the state by September. Bellingham School District, for example, is looking at budget cuts amounting to $3.7 million without relief. Other area school districts were similarly impacted. Yet removing the levy cliff also reduces the urgency to fix the state’s school-funding system before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn in April.

Republicans sought a showdown on their proposal to fund public education through a proposed “levy swap,” reducing local property tax levies for schools and replacing them with a statewide property tax to meet the state Supreme Court’s requirements in the 2012 McCleary ruling that the state must fully meet basic education funding needs. Republicans needed the levy cliff in place to cause Democrats’ sufficient pain to surrender to their plan. To that end, representatives of the 42nd District, Vincent Buys and Luanne Van­Werven, joined their majority caucus and voted against 40th District Lytton’s proposed levy cliff extension. A dozen Republicans in districts less safe than the 42nd came over to pass the extension in the lower House.

Overall, the essential problem with the Republicans’ levy swap solution to McCleary is it once again allows the Legislature to dodge a clear legislative, budgetary function and constitutional duty assigned to that body by the courts, and kick the burden back on state voters. With the high bar of 60 percent approval required for property tax levies under Washington law—and the dead certainty no Republican leaders would actually campaign in favor of the levy swap they’re proposing—the statewide measure would likely fail, leaving the state exactly where it is with the funding of schools. But, hey, the People Will Have Spoken.

The larger problem facing Republicans this session is they do not hold a majority in the lower House, and they struggle to maintain even their hairsbreadth hold on the Senate, reduced to a tie created by the resignation of state Sen. Brian Dansel (R-Republic) who has taken a job with the Trump administration as special assistant to the U.S. agriculture secretary.

The situation of Republicans is worsened by the repeated absences of state Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), who has likewise taken a position with Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. Lacking Dansel’s integrity, Ericksen has pledged he will be able to do both jobs. Yet he’s been AWOL from about 75 percent of his meetings and votes in Olympia this session, while still drawing full salary and comps.

Ties in the Senate will be resolved by recently elected Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib, a Democrat who has made it clear that he wouldn’t hesitate to use the office to block legislation or cast a tie-breaking vote on crucial legislation—thus ending the Republicans’ so-called Majority Coalition Caucus they’ve worked since 2012 to ensure the paralysis of that body.

And thus Republican aims are now best served by refusing to allow matters to come to a floor for a vote at all, letting escape only those uncontested enough to draw nearly universal support. To date, lawmakers have passed a total of 57 bills (42 in the House, 17 in the Senate) almost all by unanimous or near-unanimous votes.

Commenting on the impact of Ericksen’s absences, Sen. Kevin Ranker noted, “We’ve had very little floor action, because the Republicans only hold a one-seat majority. So when Doug is gone it is 24-24, and the Lt. Governor breaks the tie. Republicans will not allow anything to come to the floor when Doug is not there and there is a chance it won’t go their way,” the Orcas Island Democrat said. “So no major legislation is on the floor unless Doug is there. And because his attendance is sporadic, we have hearings with no notice, votes with no notice, executive sessions with no notice. It does not create good government.”

Past Columns
Crisis In Court

June 9, 2021

A Community of Color

May 26, 2021

Grand Slam

May 12, 2021

Carbon Pricing Reality

April 28, 2021

Third Time’s A Charm

April 14, 2021

Salmon Need Water

March 31, 2021

Mid-Point

March 17, 2021

Carbon Pricing

March 3, 2021

‘Stop The Steal’

February 17, 2021

Camp 210

February 3, 2021

A capricious flower

January 20, 2021

‘More Work To Do’

January 6, 2021

Pathways for Pathogens

December 23, 2020

Make A Difference

December 9, 2020

Down to the Wire

November 25, 2020

Blue Wave 2020

November 11, 2020

Dark Deeds

October 28, 2020

Fire and Water

October 14, 2020

Defining Family

September 30, 2020

Smoke and Acrimony

September 16, 2020

Tuesday
Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Unmasked WACK Exhibit

11:00am

“Unmasked: Imagining New Beginnings” will show from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays June 4-26 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The exhibit features two-dimensional ceramic art from…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Unmasked WACK Exhibit

11:00am

“Unmasked: Imagining New Beginnings” will show from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays June 4-26 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The exhibit features two-dimensional ceramic art from…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Vast Exhibit

10:00am

View the rotating landscape show “Vast” from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through June 27 in Edison at Smith & Vallee Gallery, 5742 Gilkey Ave. As pieces from the multi-artist show sell,…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Julie Paschkis at i.e.

11:00am

View new works by Seattle artist Julie Paschkis from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through June 27 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The pieces combine gouache, ink, cut paper,…

Spring Has Sprung Exhibit

11:00am

See works by 16 regional artists at a “Spring Has Sprung” exhibit from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through June 27 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and…

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am

From 9am-3pm, stop by the Twin Sisters Farmers Market’s Nugents Corner Market in the parking lot of the Bluebird Building, 3833 Mt. Baker Hwy. From 10am-3pm, the Kendall Market will take…

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am

Stop by the Lummi Island Saturday Market from 10am-1pm in the field next to the Islander Grocery, 2106 S. Nugent Rd. The market will feature produce, art and good works from island nonprofits…

Concrete Saturday Market

10:00am

The Concrete Saturday Market takes place from 10am-1pm at the Concrete Community Center, 45821 Railroad Ave. The longtime event continues Saturdays through Sept. 4. COVID-19 protocols will be…

Origins and Evolutions Farewell

11:00am

For the final week, see “Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” from 11am-4pm Tuesday through Thursday, and 11am-4pm Sat., June 26 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

Mary Bly in Conversation with Meg Tilly

12:00pm

From 12pm-1pm, tune in for “Mary Bly in Conversation with Meg Tilly” on Zoom. Bly—who has been celebrated as “the thinking woman’s romance writer” in the Washington Post—will share her new…

Rainbow Reads

3:00pm

Students in grades 6-12 can join Whatcom County Library System for virtual “Rainbow Reads” discussions from 3pm-4pm every Wednesday on Zoom. Do you love reading and stories with LGBTQIA+…

An Evening with Stacey Abrams and Cari Champion

4:00pm

Livestream “An Evening with Stacey Abrams and Cari Champion” from 4pm-5pm on Zoom as they discuss the urgency of voter suppression and how to empower citizens to use their power to shape the…

Rachel Michelberg and Cami Ostman

6:00pm

At 6pm, join Village Books for a virtual conversation between Rachel Michelberg and Cami Ostman on Zoom. The two will discuss Michelberg’s new book, Crash: How I Became a Reluctant…

Piano Nights with Paul Klein and Aaron Guest

6:00pm

Pianist Paul Klein plays from 6pm-8pm every Tuesday in the Tap Room at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. From 6pm-8pm Wednesdays, Aaron Guest takes a turn at the piano. For now, Klein…

Wednesday
Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Unmasked WACK Exhibit

11:00am

“Unmasked: Imagining New Beginnings” will show from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays June 4-26 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The exhibit features two-dimensional ceramic art from…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Unmasked WACK Exhibit

11:00am

“Unmasked: Imagining New Beginnings” will show from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays June 4-26 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The exhibit features two-dimensional ceramic art from…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Vast Exhibit

10:00am

View the rotating landscape show “Vast” from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through June 27 in Edison at Smith & Vallee Gallery, 5742 Gilkey Ave. As pieces from the multi-artist show sell,…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Julie Paschkis at i.e.

11:00am

View new works by Seattle artist Julie Paschkis from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through June 27 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The pieces combine gouache, ink, cut paper,…

Spring Has Sprung Exhibit

11:00am

See works by 16 regional artists at a “Spring Has Sprung” exhibit from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through June 27 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and…

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am

From 9am-3pm, stop by the Twin Sisters Farmers Market’s Nugents Corner Market in the parking lot of the Bluebird Building, 3833 Mt. Baker Hwy. From 10am-3pm, the Kendall Market will take…

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am

Stop by the Lummi Island Saturday Market from 10am-1pm in the field next to the Islander Grocery, 2106 S. Nugent Rd. The market will feature produce, art and good works from island nonprofits…

Concrete Saturday Market

10:00am

The Concrete Saturday Market takes place from 10am-1pm at the Concrete Community Center, 45821 Railroad Ave. The longtime event continues Saturdays through Sept. 4. COVID-19 protocols will be…

Origins and Evolutions Farewell

11:00am

For the final week, see “Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” from 11am-4pm Tuesday through Thursday, and 11am-4pm Sat., June 26 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

Mary Bly in Conversation with Meg Tilly

12:00pm

From 12pm-1pm, tune in for “Mary Bly in Conversation with Meg Tilly” on Zoom. Bly—who has been celebrated as “the thinking woman’s romance writer” in the Washington Post—will share her new…

Rainbow Reads

3:00pm

Students in grades 6-12 can join Whatcom County Library System for virtual “Rainbow Reads” discussions from 3pm-4pm every Wednesday on Zoom. Do you love reading and stories with LGBTQIA+…

An Evening with Stacey Abrams and Cari Champion

4:00pm

Livestream “An Evening with Stacey Abrams and Cari Champion” from 4pm-5pm on Zoom as they discuss the urgency of voter suppression and how to empower citizens to use their power to shape the…

Rachel Michelberg and Cami Ostman

6:00pm

At 6pm, join Village Books for a virtual conversation between Rachel Michelberg and Cami Ostman on Zoom. The two will discuss Michelberg’s new book, Crash: How I Became a Reluctant…

Piano Nights with Paul Klein and Aaron Guest

6:00pm

Pianist Paul Klein plays from 6pm-8pm every Tuesday in the Tap Room at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. From 6pm-8pm Wednesdays, Aaron Guest takes a turn at the piano. For now, Klein…