Supporters pack Labor Temple at 15Now.org rally as minimum wage momentum builds
An overflow crowd packed into the main hall at Seattle’s Labor Temple Sunday afternoon for a rally kicking off the launch of 15Now.org, a grassroots campaign dedicated to passing a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle. If today’s rally is any indication, local support for this struggle is only growing and broadening, both among the grassroots and within the traditional Democratic power base that is organized labor. “This is the most important thing that my organization will be working on,” King County Labor Council executive secretary Dave Freiboth said. Among the speakers were leaders from various immigrant communities (many of whom were integral to Kshama Sawant’s City Council election), fast food strikers, and Seattle’s Transit Riders Union. The Stranger, 1-12-14.
Students winning as Eastside Catholic twists gay marriage logic
The ongoing morality play about gay marriage at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish keeps getting foggier. Except for one part that is becoming clear: The student protesters are winning. Consider the jumble of values, rules, and official gobbledygook the students have exposed with their agitating in the past month: It’s apparently OK to be gay and teach there. Unless you get married—then you are fired. With the caveat that if you agree to get divorced—then you can keep your job. Now if you’re a lesbian who teaches part-time and announces on the radio that you’re getting married—not only do you keep your job, you get a raise! Danny Westneat, Seattle Times, 1-11-14.
Ds and Rs agree: 2014 legislative session likely to be a speedy one
If Democratic and Republican lawmakers share one goal heading into their 2014 session Monday, it is this: Get done on time. Many are arriving for the scheduled 60-day session exhausted and hung over from 2013, when they met nearly nonstop for six tension-filled months to get a budget deal done, then again in the fall under duress to appease the Boeing Co. to secure the 777X program. Throughout the course of the regular and three special sessions, Democrats controlling the House and Republicans ruling the Senate quarreled on nearly every decision of importance. The dynamics aren’t likely to change this time around. “Everything we’ll want to pass, they’ll hate. Everything they’ll want to pass, we’ll hate,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-44). “It’s 60 days and out of here.” Jerry Cornfield, Everett Herald, 1-12-14.
Transportation tops issues in Olympia
The Legislature meets for a 60-day session this year to take up issues including transportation, mental health, medical marijuana, state pensions, abortion, and tuition assistance for students who aren’t legal residents. Transportation will be the biggest debate of the session, and it could easily consume most of the Legislature’s time. The GOP-led majority in the Senate and the Democratic majority in the House have been trying for months to agree on a tax package that would increase the state gas tax by more than 10 cents a gallon and fund about $10 billion to $12 billion in transportation spending over the next 12 years, including expansions to Interstate 405 and Highway 167. Lawmakers remain stuck on longstanding issues, including stormwater treatment, sales taxes collected from transportation projects, and funding for public transportation. New issues have cropped recently, including the prospect of cost overruns on the Highway 99 tunnel and the Highway 520 bridge. This is an issue likely to be decided during the final days of the session. Seattle Times, 1-11-14.
Pressures grow for Rodney Tom, Senate majority leader
Sen. Rodney Tom is a majority leader without a party. Democrats can’t forgive him for crossing party lines last year, along with Sen. Tim Sheldon, to give the GOP control of the state Senate. The party is targeting Tom in this year’s elections. And some Republicans, who owe Tom (“D”-48) big time for putting them in charge, say he could be replaced with a majority leader from their own party if they pick up at least one more seat in November. With that cloud overhead, Tom goes into another legislative session Monday as the ostensible leader of an unwieldy coalition of 24 Republicans and two Democrats — himself and Sheldon (“D”-35). Their priorities include pushing through a series of laws, including changes to the state’s workers’ compensation system and state pensions. Tom also says the Legislature should act on a transportation tax package this year. Yet, while Tom holds what’s historically been one of the most powerful jobs in the Legislature, it’s not clear how much clout he has to bring about those goals. Seattle Times, 1-12-14.
Keeping up with the Legislature is easier with Web, TVW
Keeping tabs on the Legislature, which sometimes features dueling floor sessions or dawn-to-dusk committee hearings, can be challenging in the state capital and even more so across the state. But the Internet and other technology makes it easier than a generation ago, both for reporters in Olympia and for readers at home. Catch it live. Watch most floor debates and some committee meetings live, either on the cable television feed for TVW or if your Internet connection is reasonably fast, its website. TVW has a daily schedule on the website both for TV and webcasts. Catch it later. The website’s archive system saves floor sessions by day and hearings for nearly every House and Senate committee. The hearings are arranged by day, and list the bills discussed. You may search for hearings or action on a bill by its number. Leg.wa.gov website. The Legislature’s web site offers a wealth of information beyond the phone number and address for legislators. The link to the bill information app on the left side of the page is among the most useful for tracking legislation. If you know the bill number, enter it into the search window. You’ll get the legislative history, including vote counts, and links to the original bill and its iterations. Jim Camden, Spokesman-Review, 1-11-14.
Op-ed: Time for Washington to pencil in a CRC alternative
The thinking is that light rail will be a boon to central Vancouver and will better connect the city to Portland. There are good intentions behind such opinions, and future growth and development on this side of the river will be contingent upon being part of the Portland metropolis rather than an outlying suburb. Because of that, I fear that Washington’s decision to take its ball and go home is going to leave it permanently on the sidelines. If the Oregon Legislature manages to come up with money for the CRC this year—still a long shot by all indications—then Oregon will have complete control over the project and any accompanying tolls. Considering that an estimated two-thirds of the tolls would be paid by Washington residents, this reflects a dereliction of duty on the part of Washington lawmakers. While Oregon has indicated that it won’t consider the project without light rail, Washington must at least put forth such an option and generate discussion. Leaving the future of the project entirely in Oregon’s hands? You might as well stick a pencil in your eye. Greg Jayne, Columbian, 1-12-14.
Deadly serious: Capital punishment repeal in Washington faces an ideological divide
It’s an issue of life and death, but you wouldn’t have known it by listening to the assembled legislators and citizens talk. The March hearing of the Washington state House Judiciary Committee was all official-sounding sentences and professional courtesies. The formality glossed over the raw emotion of this discussion of death and justice and capital punishment. More than 21 representatives—including one Republican—sponsored House Bill 1504 to repeal Washington’s death penalty. Former GOP Gov. Dan Evans prepared a written statement in support of repeal and about 20 citizens attended, giving their testimony in support of repeal. No one testified against. Although pro-repeal activists paint the issue as clear-cut—a practical economic decision—the issue remains in many ways an ideological one. As last year’s hearing highlighted, plenty of vocal and organized support exists for repealing the death penalty. By contrast, there’s little or no organized pro-death penalty support. But that isn’t to say there is no resistance. Pacific Northwest Inlander, 1-9-14.
Supreme Court to take up Constitutional question raised by Noel Canning labor dispute Monday
When Noel Canning, a soft-drink bottling company in Yakima, appealed a federal labor board’s decision upholding a union contract two years ago, Gary Lofland did what any attorney would do. “You raise every legitimate issue you can for your client’s interest,” said Lofland, of Yakima’s Halverson Northwest Law Group. That meant taking aim at the appointments of two National Labor Relations Board members who voted in favor of the Teamsters Union representing Noel employees. Lofland filed an appeal of the NLRB decision in March 2012. He agreed with Republicans and called for the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit to invalidate the decision based on a lack of constitutional power for the recess appointments. A year ago, the appeals court ruled in favor of Noel Canning, prompting the Obama administration to ask the Supreme Court to review the case, known as NLRB vs. Noel Canning. In oral arguments scheduled for Monday, high-powered constitutional lawyers on both sides will argue for either a broad or narrow interpretation of the Recess Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Yakima Herald-Republic, 1-12-14.
Congressional candidate follows ‘spiritual path’ into politics
Marianne Williamson has spent three decades offering a path to inner peace for those who seek it. Now she’s entering an arena in which inner—and outer—peace seems in particularly short supply: She’s challenging Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) for the congressional seat he first won when Gerald Ford was president and the country was preparing to celebrate its bicentennial. Using words that wouldn’t be out of place at one of her spirituality lectures, she said that getting involved in the campaign could become “a transformation in your life” and an “act of love” for country and others. Such comments seem to resonate in parts of Waxman’s largely coastal district, which includes some of the nation’s wealthiest, most politically active communities, including a good chunk of those in the entertainment industry who have admired Williamson. Los Angeles Times, 1-13-14.
Op-ed: Enemies of the poor
Suddenly it’s OK, even mandatory, for politicians with national ambitions to talk about helping the poor. This is easy for Democrats, who can go back to being the party of F.R and LBJ. It’s much more difficult for Republicans, who are having a hard time shaking their reputation for reverse Robin-Hoodism, for being the party that takes from the poor and gives to the rich. And the reason that reputation is so hard to shake is that it’s justified. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that right now Republicans are doing all they can to hurt the poor, and they would have inflicted vast additional harm if they had won the 2012 election. Moreover, GOP harshness toward the less fortunate isn’t just a matter of spite (although that’s part of it); it’s deeply rooted in the party’s ideology, which is why recent speeches by leading Republicans declaring that they do too care about the poor have been almost completely devoid of policy specifics. Paul Krugman, New York Times, 1-12-14.
To Think About
The racism at the heart of the Reagan presidency
Why did Ronald Reagan do so well among white voters? Certainly elements beyond race contributed, including the faltering economy, foreign events (especially in Iran), the nation’s mood, and the candidates’ temperaments. But one indisputable factor was the return of aggressive race-baiting. A year after Reagan’s victory, a key operative, Lee Atwater, gave what was then an anonymous interview, and perhaps lulled by the anonymity, he offered an unusually candid response to a question about Reagan, the Southern strategy, and the drive to attract the “Wallace voter.” Unlike Wallace and Nixon, Reagan was not a moderate, but an old-time Goldwater conservative in both the ideological and racial senses, with his own intuitive grasp of the power of racial provocation. For Reagan, conservatism and racial resentment were inextricably fused. Ian Haney-Lopez, Salon, 1-11-14.