With a Win on the Eastside, Democrats Could Flex Political Muscles Fast

The deadlock in Olympia is leading to layoffs and frustration, but perhaps for not much longer.

OLYMPIA — Consequences of state lawmakers’ inability to bridge their differences, preventing passage of a capital budget and water rights bill, are far less theoretical these days.

Ten people were laid off from the state parks department last week and another 15 will be soon from the state Department of Enterprise Services.

They are the first casualties of this cold war of public servants that until now had been waged through a series of staged political events and exchanges of impolite pablum in 140 characters, or less, plus a hyperlink.

The Republican-led Senate is insistent it won’t act on a capital budget — from whence those pink-slipped workers are paid — until enactment of a response to the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision. GOP lawmakers contend the 2016 ruling is damaging rural communities because it puts unscalable hurdles in front of homeowners seeking to drill a well on their land.

In the Democrat-controlled House, most members welcomed the Hirst decision as a win for protecting the finite resource of water. They have gone from perplexed to downright angry at Republicans for fusing the budget and policy bill together.

For months, they and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee lacked the ingenuity and strength to crack the soldered resolve of the Senate majority.

They shouldn’t much longer.

Voters in suburban King County are electing a state senator next month. A Republican is in the seat now, which is why the GOP-led coalition enjoys a 25-24 advantage in the Senate. A Democrat won the primary and if she wins in November it will put Democrats in control of the Senate as they are in the House and executive branch.

Then, if the political muscles of Inslee and Democratic lawmakers have not completely atrophied, they would do well to flex them right away.

Inslee could summon lawmakers for a special session as soon as Dec. 4. Democrats would be expected to unite to pass, in order, a bill containing all the projects in the capital budget then one dealing with Hirst fix and finally one required for the sale of bonds to pay for the $4 billion capital spending plan. That last bill must be approved by at least 60 percent of members in each chamber.

Certainly it’s not critical this all be done in December since the next regular session is in January. Doing so would demonstrate Democrats’ desire to get off their heels and put Republicans on theirs.

Challenges abound for such a course of action.

Making sure all 50 Democrats in the House and what would be 25 in the Senate — not counting the renegade Democrat who caucuses with Republicans — show up is a big one. Conversations are already occurring to encourage all of them to keep their calendars clear.

Once in Olympia, the first order of business would be for the House to pass the capital budget containing $4 billion worth of projects. Then, House Democrats must pass a Hirst fix, which has not happened all year. Rinse and repeat in the Senate.

With action on the capital budget and a Hirst bill complete, only the bond bill would remain. Because its passage requires support from a handful of Republicans, lawmakers must ponder the risks and rewards of their votes.

If the bond bill failed, it would leave Democrats with a Hirst remedy and no capital budget. Sure, they could heap blame on Republicans for blocking the budget, but is that an acceptable outcome?

For Republicans, if a Hirst bill is headed to the governor’s desk anyway, is it worth continuing to prevent passage of the capital budget which they know contains money for projects and programs in their districts?

There are some clinging to hope that a Democratic victory in the Senate race next month will spur crafting of a bipartisan Hirst compromise and erase all the stress on the spending plan.

If Democrats do find themselves in control of the legislative branch, they should ponder the adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as the consequences of this cold war won’t lessen and the casualties will mount.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter: @dospueblos.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Teaser
King County approves emergency grant after U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Washington is expecting an influx of people seeking abortions from out of state.

Fedor Osipov, 15, flips into Steel Lake in Federal Way during last year's heatwave on June 28, 2021. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Heatwave expected to hit King County

Temperatures will likely reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, June 26, and Monday, June 27.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII: Examining Auburn police officer’s grim tattoos

Episode 5 in special podcast series that explores Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

t
Des Moines Police arrest murder suspect in Kent | Update

Medical examiner identifies body found June 20 in Duwamish River

Photo courtesy of King County.
Officials urge caution when swimming this summer

Cold spring temperatures and larger than normal snowpack have created dangerous conditions

File photo
Fireworks ban takes effect this year in unincorporated King County

The new law does not extend to cities, which each have their own regulations around fireworks.

A semiautomatic handgun with a safety cable lock that prevents loading ammunition. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Large-capacity ammo magazine sales ban starts soon in Washington

Starting July 1, a 10-round capacity becomes the limit for sales. Meanwhile, “there is a rush on magazine purchasing.”

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
All that the tides reveal: Puget Sound’s hidden intertidal world

Exploring King County beaches during the lowest tide in the last 13 years.

Most Read