Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Governor schools lawmakers on sausage making

It's been said that watching a bill make its way through the legislative process is akin to watching sausage being made. Unfortunately for the sausage makers in Olympia, the Governor doesn't have to eat what they make and can cut out any section of a bill she doesn't like. As with any good chef who would take offense at such a partial rejection of their masterpiece, lawmakers attempted to leave the Governor with a take it or leave it option on HB 2893: Changing school levy provisions . . . READ MORE

Friday, March 26, 2010

U.S. House members launch transparency caucus

Rarely does a good idea come first from Washington D.C. versus the state laboratories of reform but here is one exception. Yesterday Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House formed a congressional transparency caucus to help promote open government initiatives . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 25, 2010

WPC letter to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown

Earlier this week Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said I was wrong about the Legislature not being transparent this session. When pressed by reporters about various shady practices, she said that she wasn't aware of what they were talking about. To help provide Senator Brown with the details we sent her this letter today.

Budget logjam? State law to the rescue

As the 2010 Special Session enters its eleventh day, with no end in sight, the Governor has decided to dust off state law to help bring about a resolution.  According to The Olympian . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Senate Majority Leader defends transparency record

Yesterday at her media availability, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown was asked about the Legislature's use of title only bills and the lack of adequate public notice on committee agendas. Repeating her previous statement that the Legislature is much more transparent today than when she first took office, Brown defended the Legislature's use of title only bills and said she was unaware of the transparency problems described by reporters. In fact, Brown said that I was wrong for indicating there was a problem. Here is the video of her exchange with reporters . . . READ MORE

Sunshine Committee discusses constitutional transparency amendment

The state's Sunshine Committee met this morning and had a spirited discussion on numerous issues. One of the agenda items was a proposed constitutional amendment. Here is the text of that proposal . . . READ MORE

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tax increases built on "faith" and "hope"

As the special session enters day 8, agreement on how to raise $800 million in taxes for their budget plan remains elusive for majority Democrats. Despite calls to refocus on spending reforms instead to balance the budget discussion has focused almost exclusively on tax increases since the special session began. One tax increase already on its way to approval by the Legislature is a bed tax on hospitals. Here is one interesting floor speech on HB 2956 (bed tax) from last Friday that described the tax increase as one built on faith and hope . . . READ MORE

Friday, March 19, 2010

Public need not attend

Keeping an eye on the Legislature has become increasingly difficult this session as legislative transparency has fallen way down on some lawmakers' priority list.  Here is just the latest example.  Around 6 p.m. last night the Senate Ways and Means Committee announced it would hold executive session today on at least five bills. The short notice of the hearing wasn't the only problem with this announcement. No time or location was provided; instead the notice said TBA. As of 11 a.m. this morning the web agenda still say TBA on time and location of the executive session. Thanks to a tip though I know the meeting will take place in the Senate Rules room. In fact, I am currently sitting in the room watching Senate Ways and Means staff set the room up for the meeting . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 18, 2010

911 tax introduced for voice over internet lines

Today Representative Morris introduced HB 3216: Concerning enhanced 911 emergency communications services. According to the bill: "A state enhanced 911 excise tax is imposed on all interconnected voice over internet protocol service lines in the state. The amount of tax may not exceed twenty-five cents per month for each interconnected voice over internet protocol service line whose place of primary use is located in the state . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Senate committee defends adoption of title only bill

Today the Senate Ways and Means Committee held a work session on SB 6853. This bill was introduced on February 9 as title only and has the distinction of being introduced, heard in public hearing, and adopted by the committee all on the same day despite no details being available. Generally when a work session is held a committee will invite stakeholders to make presentations about the policy being discussed. Unlike a public hearing, however, the general public is not allowed to comment. Not only was no public testimony taken, but the entire work session consisted of the members talking amongst themselves. In particular, the discussion focused on a defense of why the committee heard and adopted a title only bill. Here is video of the work session . . . READ MORE

Car insurance increase proposal back on House agenda

The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to hold an executive session tomorrow on HB 2365. This bill first showed up on the House agenda on March 10 as a title only bill. Once the hearing started a striker amendment was introduced which would insert the text from SB 6871 which the Senate rejected on March 8. If the striker is adopted the bill would add a surcharge to car insurance policies to fight auto theft . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Session's most notorious "ghost bill" on Wednesday's agenda

At 11:42 this morning (Tuesday) the Senate Ways and Means Committee announced it would hold a public hearing tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12:30 p.m. The agenda for the hearing was blank until 7:28 this evening. Along with planning a public hearing on 7 bills and an executive session on at least 5 bills, the committee will also hold a work session on SB 6853. This bill was introduced on February 9 as title only and has the distinction of being introduced, heard in public hearing, and adopted by the committee all on the same day despite no details being available . . . READ MORE

U.S. House to adopt health care bill without voting on it?

Throughout the year we've highlighted the challenges state lawmakers have had with embracing a transparent legislative process. Not to be out done, the U.S. House may be poised to show it can play even bigger games than state lawmakers. Struggling to secure the votes needed to pass health care legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has identified a new strategy: adopting the bill without having members vote for it. The Washington Post has the details . . . READ MORE

Monday, March 15, 2010

Senate adopts rule change to speed up votes

Minutes after convening for special session this afternoon the Senate adopted SR 8719. The resolution makes the following amendment to Senate Rule 45: "All reports of standing committees must be on the secretary's desk one hour prior to convening of the session in order to be read at said session. During any special session of the legislature, this rule may be suspended by a majority vote." The impact of this change is a bill that is adopted by a committee can be voted on by the full Senate on the same day instead of having to wait until the next day . . . READ MORE

Sunshine Week shines light on lack of legislative transparency

Since this is national Sunshine Week, you will see lots of stories about open government and the importance of providing citizens with meaningful access to the activities of their government. Here is a sampling from the editorials across the state highlighting the need for legislative transparency reforms . . . READ MORE

Friday, March 12, 2010

Will Treasurer be forced to use short term borrowing to pay bills?

Governor Gregoire has officially called a special session to start next Monday. One of the bills to be considered will be the state's supplemental budget. Based on language currently in the House version of the budget, the state Treasurer may be forced to use short term borrowing to pay the state's bills, even if a "balanced" budget is adopted. Consider Section 904 of the House budget . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Jersey Governor targets size of state government

With a special session all but assured for what the Seattle Times calls increased spending, it is interesting to hear what New Jersey's new Governor is doing to solve their budget deficit . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Senators: No per diem for special session

Several Senators introduced a bill today to prohibit lawmakers from receiving per diem if called into a special session. According to SB 6883 - Restricting the payment of legislators' expenses: "During any special session of the legislature convened within thirty days following a regular session of the legislature under Article II, section 12 of the state Constitution, no member of the legislature shall receive any allowances for per diem expenses under Title 44 RCW." As we previously discussed, if a special session is called it should be done by the Legislature and not the Governor to ensure that it is limited to only the budget.

House ghost bill is failed Senate car insurance increase

Riddle me this. The Senate fails to adopt SB 6871 (car insurance increase) on March 8 by a vote of 20-26. The House Ways and Means Committee holds a public hearing and schedules for executive session HB 2365 (a title only bill) for today. A striker amendment is introduced to HB 2365 for the Committee to consider. The striker is the text of SB 6871 which failed the Senate. The punch line is?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is a special session necessary?

Running against a constitutional clock to adjourn in a few days some lawmakers are openly discussing the need for a special session to balance the budget and raise taxes on recession strained Washingtonians . . . READ MORE

Legislature proposes $130 million of fee increases

Long has there been arguments over what constitutes a "fee" increase versus a "tax" increase. It seems each year the legislature fights over the definition, even if the minds are made up about increasing whatever it is they end up calling it. Senate Bill 6444, the supplemental operating budget, includes $130 million in fee increases over the next ten years . . . READ MORE

Life Sciences and Research Targeted with 33% Tax Increase

If you were up late last night (technically this morning I guess) you could have seen the House pass its tax package on a 52-45 vote. There is much to discuss about the 162 page bill that can be read here, but interesting enough amongst the menu of tax increases is a tax on the very life science industry the Governor has been pushing for several years. The language in the bill states that the 0.5 percent increase, increasing from 1.5 percent to 2 percent (a 33% tax increase) in the B&O tax applies to . . . READ MORE

Monday, March 8, 2010

Idaho Governor to taxpayers: We'll love you if your state won't

Tax policy is one of the ways states compete with each other for businesses. It looks like Idaho Governor Butch Otter is taking this to heart. Today Otter released a "love letter" to businesses in Washington and Oregon. Here is Otter's letter in full . . . READ MORE

Most transparent Legislature ever?

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown was asked by reporters last Friday if the public has been given enough opportunity to participate in the discussion on the various tax proposals now being adopted. According to the Capitol Record Brown responded . . . READ MORE

Friday, March 5, 2010

Senate holds sham "public" hearing on income tax

It looks like the public weren't the only ones kept in the dark yesterday on the Senate Majority's income tax plan. Ranking member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Sen. Joe Zarelli, believes yesterday's hearing was in violation of Senate rules and asked for the hearing to be postponed. Here is the video exchange between Zarelli and the Committee Chair, Sen. Margarita Prentice . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 4, 2010

$9.6 million annual car insurance increase moves forward

The Senate Ways and Means Committee took executive action yesterday on SB 6871. Along with increasing court filing fees the proposal would also add a surcharge to car insurance policies to fight auto theft. According to the I-960 fiscal impact statement, the new charge is expected to collect $9.6 million annually from auto policyholders . . . READ MORE