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One more on the homeless bill, and then we are likely done for maybe three years

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Ed Friedrich’s story on the bill that prolonged a real estate transaction fee to pay for housing for the homeless gives a good synopsis of what went down. We’ve paid a lot of attention to this bill in some part because of state Sen. Jan Angel’s role in stopping it from going to the floor from her committee.

Hours before the session ended Angel was able to introduce the final version of the bill that keeps the funding going, but also addresses some problems Angel and others had with the overall program.

One of Angel’s objections when the bill was in committee was that this fee is only charged in real estate transactions. While individuals who buy homes, change titles, etc. are the ones paying the fee, Angel suggested it unfair that the real estate industry was the only being asked to shoulder the burden. She has also made the case that the real estate market is cyclical, so funding for the program is subject to the market’s whims.

The final bill passed by the Legislature does not change any of that, but it puts in place the possibility that the state could find a different funding source to either supplement or replace the current fee. Following a performance audit of the program the state will convene a task force that will report on other funding possibilities by the end of 2017. Legislators would then have two years to come up with something different before facing another deadline worse than the one they just faced. Missing this deadline would have seen the fee drop and then go away. Missing the 2019 deadline set by the new legislation means the fee just goes away.

Department of Commerce statistics conclude the program has dropped homelessness in the state by 29 percent overall. For families the number is 74 percent. For individuals it’s 5 percent.

In Kitsap County the drop in homelessness appears to be well above the 50 percent target, but that assumes I’m reading the state Department of Commerce report correctly. I’ll check on Monday. In Mason County it looks like homelessness has actually gone up.

The bill also stipulates that at least 45 percent of the funding wind up in the hands of for-profit landlords. Again, assuming I’m reading the Commerce report correctly, I don’t see where that has been a problem anywhere. In Kitsap County $648,478 went to for-profit landlords in 2012. Another $177,529 went to what the state defines as “public” landlords. Nothing went to non-profits. In Mason County $112,379 went to for-profits, and that was all of it.

In the end eight senators and 22 representatives voted against the program, all of them Republicans. All nine of Kitsap’s legislators voted for it.

Below you can watch the conversation on the Senate floor, a discussion led off by Angel.


Recording fee for homeless funding likely to pass

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

The bill to continue charging the $40 fee on real estate transactions to fund programs for the homeless has a good shot of being passed. State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said a Republican version would have extended the program for one year and required that 45 percent of the money go to private, for-profit landlords. Democrats are dead set against setting a fixed number on the private landlord question and want five years on the extension.

So the two sides are still talking.

If the session does get extended, Rolfes said, it will only be to be in compliance with 24-hour requirements on bills.

Nonetheless, if there is a short special session, that’s when the recording fee bill would likely be voted on, so that it can be part of the budget negotiations, Rolfes said.

Another source, Joaquin Uy from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance emailed confirming the private landlord issue and the sunsets as key issues. He also said the two sides are debating reporting and auditing requirements.

Rolfes said Republicans have committed to passing a bill this session.


Angel at center of controversy over funding for homeless

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

State Sen. Jan Angel, the Republican elected to finish the final year of a four-year term, pulled a parliamentary move she is allowed to in her role as committee co-chair, prompting at least one howl from within her own party and a failed Democratic countermove in the main chamber.

At issue is a bill, House Bill 2368, that helps counties and the state fund programs for the homeless. Counties charge a $40 fee on real estate transactions and apply it toward state and county efforts to assist with rental housing payments, grants for transitional housing, emergency assistance, overnight shelters for young people, emergency shelters, and to help human trafficking victims and their families. Under the legislation originally passed in 2005 the fee was set to go down to $30 next year, and then to $10. This year’s bill would essentially make the $40 fee permanent.

Supporters of the bill argued that attaching the fee to documents related to real estate was appropriate, because reducing homelessness helps protect property values, keeps people out of jail and out of emergency rooms. Opponents contend that real estate fees are not an appropriate way to fund efforts to reduce homelessness and that the law was supposed to be temporary when it was written in 2005.

The bill was among those expected to be heard in a Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee hearing, but Angel gaveled the meeting before the bill could be discussed. Once the gavel is hit, TVW stops recording video, but there was audio, (Start at 1:03:45) and the first voice complaining about the meeting’s quick conclusion is Republican Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver, who is hardly liberal lion. Benton, in fact, working with a Democrat from the House, had helped create the compromise bill the committee was supposed to consider. Benton asks about 2368 and Angel says, “The meeting is now adjourned.” Benton expresses disappointment. State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who co-chairs the committee said the bill was a bipartisan/bicameral piece of legislation everyone had agreed to, to which Angel said all parties are not in agreement. “We’ll continue to work on this during interim,” she said, to create a bill that works.

Hobbs told the (Tacoma) News Tribune that Angel was operating with orders from Senate Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom. Angel denied it, saying even if he had issued orders, “I work for the people of my district.”

On Friday Senate Democrats issued a statement that included comment from another Kitsap senator. “In my district, and in districts across the state, this is the most important source of funding we have to help the homeless,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island. “People are playing politics with an issue that should be supported by everyone. There shouldn’t even be a second thought.”

The bill was an amended version that had passed out of the House with a 62-36 vote. All six Kitsap legislators in the House voted for the bill.

Democrats tried to pull a procedural move to get the bill heard on the main floor, but the majority caucus, including Benton, held firm in denying them. The News Tribune said the bill could be part of last-minute dealmaking before the session ends March 13.


The chance of intrigue in the 35th LD Senate race

Friday, February 21st, 2014

If you’re watching the state political landscape and in particular the 35th Legislative District, you might have long ago stopped looking at the Senate race to focus on the campaigns being waged by two Republicans for the opportunity to unseat a Democratic incumbent.

You might be assuming that Tim Sheldon will again open an unlocked door to another term as a state Senator. The primary, though, could be interesting. And Sheldon has made some critics out of people who once were his backers, primarily people in Belfair, because of his work as a county commissioner.

Sheldon, as most of you know, is a Democrat, albeit (How should we put this?) an atypical one. For years his votes on most controversial issues have been aligned with the Republicans. The Democrats enjoyed their majority status in the chamber with his insistence on remaining a Democrat and have been safe from his maverick ways as long as the margin never got close. Once Democrats outnumbered Republicans by just three in the Senate, though, the GOP leadership was able to poach away control by nabbing Sheldon and Rodney Tom, the Democrat who once was Republican and is now the figurehead for the Senate Majority Coalition.

In Mason County, which is the bulk of the 35th, Sheldon has held strong. In 2010 he received 57 percent of the vote against Nancy (grandma) Williams, though that big margin might be deceiving, because she didn’t wage much of a campaign.

The election of 2006 might be a more telling picture. That year, one in which voters had to pick a party, Sheldon only received 43.1 percent in the primary against two challengers. One was a Democrat from the Howard Dean wing. The other was a Republican. In fact, the Democrat, Kyle Taylor Lucas, accused by many of moving into the district just to run against Sheldon, came in second place, netting 32.5 percent of the primary vote. Had she run in 2010 or this year and seen the same result, she would have been on the General Election ballot because of the state’s Top Two primary system.

So far Sheldon faces two opponents in the primary this year. Travis Couture, the Republican, describes himself on his website as “a conservative libertarian.” His arguments espousing that philosophy is clear on the website, and he delivers a message that might well resonate with the 35th District’s more conservative voters. So might his Facebook criticism of Sheldon, “Next time you see an illegal immigrant going to college on your taxpayer dime, just thank Tim Sheldon for voting to pass that this year in the Senate.”

The Democrats have Irene Bowling so far. She has run a music instruction business in Kitsap County and has been well known locally. During the selection process for the county commissioner position left open by Josh Brown, Bowling proved herself a competent candidate. She answered questions well and swayed enough precinct committee officers to make her the second choice as Brown’s successor. I have little doubt that the vast majority of people who voted for Taylor Lucas in 2006 will side with Bowling this time around in the primary. If she gets more than the 32.5 percent Taylor Lucas got, she could even emerge as the 35th District’s first choice out of the primary.

If that were to pan out, then the question becomes whether Couture can cut enough into Sheldon’s lead to do the unthinkable, putting Sheldon into third place.

One of Couture’s challenges could be raising money for the race, at least from the state party. Party organizations get to donate in big amounts. Sheldon isn’t going to get money from either party, but he already has almost $80,000. Sheldon has in the past, though, prevented Republican candidates from getting GOP party money to run against him, or so I’m told. It’s as if every dollar he gets has a huge multiplier effect. It’s early in the game, but that could be tough for Couture. If he as a first-time candidate proves especially adept at raising money and getting signs on voters’ lawns, he could make it interesting. Where Couture might make his biggest splash is on social media, which doesn’t cost a lot and can have a big connector factor.

If there is enough anti-Sheldon sentiment out there then this race could be highly entertaining. In the 2012 Mason County Commissioner primary race Sheldon received 29.4 percent of the vote as an incumbent, a half point ahead of the second-place candidate, Democrat Roslynne Reed. Sheldon won by 8 percentage points in the general election, but those 2012 numbers demonstrate he is not invincible. He does not enjoy the kind of support Norm Dicks had in the Sixth Congressional District.

If you were betting money on the 35th District race, I still wouldn’t dissuade you from betting on Sheldon. But you might look at 2012 and have reason to question your certainty. If he makes it to the general election I don’t see him losing that one. The best chance to unseat him is likely the primary. Bowling, assuming she is the only Democrat who runs, will get the votes from those leaning left. The question will be how the conservative votes will split, whether Couture can effectively make the case that he is more their representative than the incumbent.


Linking teacher pay to legislator pay to boost science instruction and overall teacher pay – updated

Friday, January 31st, 2014

A bill that would link elementary school science teacher pay to what Washington legislators earn got a Tweet from the News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader and a short mention in Crosscut, but nothing more. Why? One reason is because there is no way the bill will pass, and the bill’s author acknowledges as much.

State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, introduced House Bill 2655, “Setting the salaries for members of the legislature,” on Jan. 23. The bill would require the Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials to set legislator pay at the same level as the “average elementary school science teacher.”

Right away, there is one problem with the language of the bill. Technically there is no such thing as an “elementary school science teacher.” Patty Glaser, Bremerton School District spokeswoman, said elementary school teachers certify as generalists. There is another issue that Central Kitsap School District spokesman David Beil pointed out, that because of declining enrollment the district hasn’t been hiring any teachers in any discipline.

All that aside, Seaquist introduced the bill to make a point. He said there has been an impetus to “start kids sooner in science.” So he is looking at, for example, a Central Washington University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education, but then a master’s degree in something like biology, as a good fit in an elementary school. “We want to go in the direction of highly qualified technical teachers, bringing real science to schools,” he said. “We all know we want to go there.”

One problem, he said, is the pay the state and local districts offer teachers.

The average pay for a fresh-out-of college teacher with just a bachelor’s degree is $34,188, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Add that master’s degree and the average starting pay jumps to $41,716. That’s not far from what legislators receive, $42,106 for what is technically a part-time job. But Seaquist points out that a legislator who lives more than 35 miles away from the capitol is also entitled to a $90 day per diem to handle living-away-from-home expenses.

Seaquist makes the additional point that even the near $42,000 starting teachers with master’s degree make does not compare with what they would make in the private sector. I used an automated salary calculator on payscale.com to come up with an estimate that a brand new research scientist would be paid $55,000 annually right out of college. That same program estimated the pay would be around $80,000 after five years.

When I first talked to Seaquist he was clear his bill wouldn’t pass, but that it would get a hearing. And that’s what he wants most, for legislators to be compelled to talk about teachers’ salaries.

“What I’m trying to do is add to the weight of the argument that we have to be fully funding our schools, as the court says,” Seaquist said. “I’m really concerned that the Legislature is not standing up to fully respond to the court’s order.”

That order comes from the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which declared that the state was not fully funding education as it was constitutionally required to do. The court gave the Legislature until 2018 to reach full funding and in mid-January determined that the Legislature’s first attempt to get there in 2013 was too small a step.

Seaquist would not limit the pay discussion to science teachers, but did so in this bill to illustrate how people with skills that are in high demand are underpaid in Washington schools. “I’m using the example of these high-demand, much-in-need teachers to point out that all of our teachers are underpaid,” he said.

UPDATE: Seaquist wrote to say he has asked the committee chairman to not schedule a hearing on the bill. He said he was mindful of the “rapidly growing workload” of the committee and asked it to be pulled.

Nonetheless, there are still two points he would make, and I’ll quote, “… a) our teachers are underpaid and b) we are having a hard time recruiting elementary school teachers with subject matter expertise, especially in the science and math areas. Although the school district gave you the technical answer “we don’t have elementary science teachers” the fact is that we are rapidly moving to STEM education in our elementary schools and these hands-on, research Master’s degree teachers are very valuable. I visited last summer at CWU’s ed school where they are developing new approaches to developing these teachers.”

So while the current reality is that elementary school teachers are generalists, Seaquist believes there will be a call for more elementary school teachers with a science background of some kind. This bill was designed to get legislators discussing that, even if he never expected it to pass.

And to answer one question, this is not the first time I’ve seen a legislator propose a bill knowing full well it would not pass. Talking about things is some of what legislators are paid to do. A bill can be akin to an idea in a brainstorming session, something that doesn’t get accepted on its face, but can be the spark for the ultimate solution.


McCleary responses range from compliant to defiant

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

You might have read the AP story about legislative pushback coming from both sides of the aisle on the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner has a bill that would shrink the court from nine members to five. Part of it is a response to what he sees as judicial overreach, but he also said it would save money.

During AP’s Legislative Preview earlier in January I wondered if state Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville was chafing at the McCleary decision follow-up when he said, “If money were the key to education we’d all long for our kids to be in the Washington, DC schools.” If we were not in the midst of a period in which the court had demanded the Legislature spend more on schools, it would be just another political statement. Coming at this time, however, it seemed like it might be more than partisan posturing.

Jim Hargrove, a Democratic state senator, is also on the record saying he sees “separation-of-power problems” with the court’s approach.

Doug Cloud, who was one of the Republican candidates to replace Jan Angel in the House, said he sees problems with the court’s actions.

If legislators, almost all of whom say they will allocate more money to education regardless, decide to challenge the court’s authority, it could mark a precedential moment in Washington history.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing spending $200 million more from this budget on education, including $74 million that would give teachers a 1.3 percent raise. It would be the first cost-of-living raise since 2008, despite the fact that voters approved annual COLAs in 2000. The governor also cited not just the decision, but the court’s statement that the Legislature was not moving fast enough to get to full funding by 2018.

The governor’s press release follows:
(more…)


This is news: Angel bills get hearings

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Over the first five years of Jan Angel’s legislative career one of her laments has been that her bills don’t get the attention they deserve because she was in the minority in the House chamber.

With Angel’s ascent into the Senate, that has all changed. On Monday her office issued a press release announcing that eight of her bills were getting hearings. We wrote about one of them, the bill that would allow a man who can prove he is not the father of a child to relinquish rights and responsibilities (i.e. child support) of parenthood.

In the Senate Law & Justice Committee hearing on that bill, SB 5997, Angel led off by testifying on the paternity bill, then was allowed to testify on another of her bills, one dealing with first class cities being able to employ warrant officers, so she could leave that committee to go address Angel-authored legislation in other committees.

Even more Angel news: Members of the Senate Majority Coalition want Angel to co-chair the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee with Lake Stevens Democrat Steve Hobbs. Angel does have some experience in banking and coalition leaders say they want to take advantage of that, according to the story by the (Tacoma) News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader.

No one will blame you, though, if you suspect some of this is designed to elevate Angel’s stature in Olympia, especially given that she faces re-election in November. Her opponent last November, one-year appointee Democrat Nathan Schlicher, got the opposite treatment, or so some suspect. If politics are at play, that could have an impact on whether legislation Angel supports gets enthusiastic, or any, treatment in the House.

Even if there are no political forces at play, bills often take more than one session to make it to final passage. First drafts will often have problems that are not identified until they get hearings, or at least introduced. Also , this is a short session and the time frame is crunched, something Angel referenced in her press release. Getting the eight bills heard is a good start, a great start, but any bill has to get passed in the House, too, which means someone over there is going to have to consider it a priority.

On the paternity bill Angel had expected there to be a companion bill in the House. This legislation, or some form of it, was originally introduced in the House during 2011-12 session by state Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla. Walsh and fellow Republican Hans Zeiger of Puyallup had thought to reintroduce the bill in the House, but according to a House Republican Caucus spokesman have decided not to, because the Senate bill was already moving.

If you want to watch the conversation about the paternity bill, it’s on the video below. It’s the first item of discussion, is interrupted briefly by the bill about warrants so Angel can go to another committee. Below the video is the text of Angel’s press release.

(more…)


Kitsap legislators (re)assume leadership posts.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Kitsap legislators have received their leadership assignments for what’s supposed to be the short legislative session that began this week.

State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, was named Senate Democratic floor leader. According to a Senate Democrats statement the floor leader’s role is to “help manage the action on the Senate floor, and to work across the aisle to ensure the debate runs smoothly. The floor leader is also the caucus point person on parliamentary procedure.” Rolfes is also the assistant ranking member on the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.

Potlatch state Sen. Tim Sheldon, one of two Democrats in the Senate Majority Coalition, returns as Senate president pro tempore, which means he runs the Senate floor from up front, wielding the big gavel whenever Lt. Gov. Brad Owen is not there. Sheldon is also vice chairman of two committees, Rules and Energy, Environment & Telecommunications.

New Sen. Jan Angel, elected in November, is vice chairwoman of the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee.

Three Democrats in the House will chair committees this session. State Rep. Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo chairs the Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee. Kathy Haigh of Shelton is chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. Gig Harbor’s Larry Seaquist will chair the Higher Education Committee. Bainbridge Island’s Drew Hansen is vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Republican Drew MacEwen of Union is the assistant ranking minority member on two committees, the Capital Budget Committee and the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.


Tweet the state House Republicans

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Washington State House Republicans will hold a Twitter town hall forum from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Monday. State Rep. Dan Kristiansen and J.T. Wilcox will answer Tweeted questions.

Use the hashtag #solutionsWA.

The party’s press release is below.

No word on when the counties will meet to replace Jan Angel in the House. Josh Brown’s replacement on the commission might happen Monday afternoon.

Washington House Republicans to host Twitter town hall January 9

Washington House Republicans will host the Legislature’s first-ever Twitter town hall, January 9, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Participants can ask House Republican leadership members Rep. Dan Kristiansen and Rep. J.T. Wilcox a 140-character question using the hashtag #solutionsWA.

House Republicans are not the only government entity to make use of this communications trend nationwide. President Obama held a Twitter town hall last July.

“This event will enable people to ask questions and provide their ideas in the days leading up to the 2014 legislative session,” said House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish. “This is a new platform for us. We look forward to hearing from Washingtonians on the issues that are important to them.”

According to Pew Research, nearly one in 10 U.S. adults uses Twitter to share information. And, more than 50 million people in the U.S. use Twitter to get news. However, just like all social media, Twitter has its limitations. Participants and the responding representatives will only have 140 characters to relay their questions, answers and ideas.

“It’s our job as elected officials to involve the public at every opportunity. This is why we use a variety of forums like Twitter, which has a lot of active followers that we may not otherwise hear from on statewide legislative issues,” said House Republican Floor Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm.

The public is encouraged to participate in the January 9 Twitter town hall using #solutionsWA. Those unable to participate or have trouble with #solutionsWA can visit the House Republicans’ Twitter page @WaHouseGOP.

Visit www.houserepublicans.wa.gov for more information about House Republican members, solutions and results.


That’s Senator Angel now

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
Jan Angel (center) with daughters Erin Brinkerhoff (left) and Kara Morkert (right).

Jan Angel (center) with daughters Erin Brinkerhoff (left) and Kara Morkert (right).

Jan Angel, former county commissioner and Republican state representative in the 26th Legislative District since 2009, took the oath of office to be the district’s state Senator on Tuesday.

Angel defeated Nathan Schlicher, who in January was appointed by Pierce and Kitsap county officials, in November to hold the Senate seat for one year. Angel will hold the seat the final year of the term Derek Kilmer was elected to in 2010. Kilmer, a Democrat, is now in Congress. Angel has already begun fundraising for the 2014 campaign when she plans to seek a full four-year term.

Republicans might not get a replacement for Angel before the Legislative session begins on Jan. 13, but that could depend on how quickly Kitsap County commissioners are willing to move. The GOP’s 26th Legislative District precinct committee officers chose Jesse Young as its top choice to replace Angel, followed by Adam Berman and Doug Cloud. All are from Gig Harbor.

The ultimate decision rests with commissioners from Kitsap County and Pierce County council members. As it stands now, it seems unlikely they would meet before Jan. 6. That’s the first date for a meeting of just Kitsap County commissioners and one of the first items of business for them will be selecting a replacement for Josh Brown, who is leaving the board for a position with the Puget Sound Regional Council. Assuming the commissioners would want a full board in making the 26th Legislative District selection, it seems unlikely they would schedule a meeting before Jan. 7.

A Jan. 7 selection meeting would be on time for the Legislature, but it would not give the new state representative any ability to officially craft legislation, choose staff and move into office space well before the session begins.


One more TV spot on the 26th

Monday, November 4th, 2013

In case you needed just one more television look at the candidates for the 26th Legislative District, here is KBTC’s Northwest Now take. If you’re tired of all this television, you can probably rest assured that none of our districts will get this much attention next year.


Jan Angel and Nathan Schlicher stick to the issues on TVW

Friday, November 1st, 2013

TVW’s “Impact” did a half-hour show on the 26th Legislative District Senate race. State Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor and state Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, both stick to issues and their own strengths. In other words, neither talks about the money or slams the other candidate.


Hooray! More mostly bogus advertising in the 26th LD race!

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

We’re less than a week away from seeing election results, but the ads keep on coming. Assuming there might be someone still undecided out there it seemed worthwhile to look at some of the claims and see how much truth we can find. Some of the claims are in new ads. Some are classics.

First, a couple pieces of advice.

  • 1. Question any ad that makes a conclusion based on one piece of legislation.
  • 2. Question any ad that makes a claim based on one part of a single piece of legislation.
  • 3. Question any ad by a politician or group characterizing the opposition’s views.
  • 4. Know that many of the details in campaign ads are true, but they don’t necessarily tell a true story.
  • 5. Assume every single campaign advertisement could be lying to you.

CLAIM: “SHAMEFUL: Schlicher Takes Advantage of Senator’s Choice to Breastfeed”
THE STORY: There is a true story here that doesn’t make Democrats look good even under the most flattering lights. Party leaders deny the worst accusations about the incident, and how much Schlicher was to blame for it is a bigger question. This ad comes from the state Republican Party. The Good Government Coalition also funded a similar ad. I refer you to Washington State Wire and Crosscut stories that discuss the incident. The short version is that a Republican senator who regularly took breaks to nurse her baby was excused from the floor. On one occasion Democrats took advantage of her absence to push a Schlicher-sponsored bill dealing with administrative costs for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to a vote. The bill had the support of 11 of 12 senators in committee. The ad says Schlicher “helped lead an effort by his party for a power play.” It was his bill, sure. He certainly would have benefited politically had it passed. And the Democrats issued a press release after the incident in which Schlicher was quoted. But another Democrat, Seattle’s David Frockt, was the one blamed for pushing the vote. He and other Democrats said they didn’t know the absent senator was off breastfeeding. If you’re skeptical of that, I can’t blame you.

CLAIM: Jan Angel chose tax loopholes for deceased multi-millionaires over education for our kids.
THE STORY:
Angel is a “no new taxes” enthusiast, which gives an organization like She’s Changed PAC, the advertiser here, ample fodder to make statements like Angel likes (insert bad thing here) more than (insert good thing here). Angel’s side employs the same technique. Angel is unlikely to vote for any new tax on the belief that the state can fund its priorities with existing revenues. In this case Angel was opposed to the Legislature’s decision to change state law in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that would have forced the state to refund $160 million in estate taxes to people who can legitimately be called multi-millionaires. The money the state held onto did go to education, so there’s the link between rich people and our kids. The problem is that Angel might be right that the state could eventually have to pay back this money. The Legislature essentially clarified the intent of an older law and applied that clarification retroactively.

CLAIM: Representative Jan Angel chose tax loopholes for Big Oil companies over our kids’ schools.
THE STORY:
This is essentially a new version of the anti-Angel claim above. She’s hawkish on taxes, and considers closing loopholes a new tax. The argument on a She’s Changed PAC flyer makes a lucid and issue-driven argument against Angel’s position on tax loopholes for oil, except for where it definitively links that position with schools. Again, Angel says “Fund education first,” then fund everything else, so she could be for that money, but not when it comes from that tax. Most either/or arguments like this are “either” misleading “or” false. Fund education first, she says, satisfies the state constitution. Schlicher counters that there are other funding mandates required under the constitution, too, so Angel’s suggestion for a funding formula puts other constitutionally mandated programs at risk.

CLAIM: Schlicher opposes the voter-approved 2/3rds majority to raise taxes.
THE STORY:
People for Jobs, Enterprise Washington uses an email Schlicher sent to a constituent. At least most of the ads get it right that Schlicher thinks the Supreme Court was right to overturn the voter initiative, but they leave out the rest of his position. Here’s the quote from a letter he wrote to Kelly Haughton: “While I do agree with the court decision that the initiative was unconstitutional, the message was clear: taxes should not be the default solution of the government in times of fiscal crisis. I support the will of the people to consider a constitutional amendment on the issue and will vote for a reasonable version of an amendment.” Where Republicans can take bigger issue is that he doesn’t think corporate tax loopholes that don’t provide a benefit to the state (And that is the reason to establish a loophole.) should be subject to the 2/3 standard.

CLAIM: “Nathan Schlicher voted against a bill for early intervention to help all students read by the 4th grade, instead favoring the special interests of a campaign contributor.”
THE STORY:
This references Senate Bill 5946, which in part addressed reading skills for third graders. The original version of the bill had no funding provided to local districts, yet directed districts what they were to do. In other places that’s called an “unfunded mandate.” One of the solutions suggested for kids in third grade was discussing whether the student should stay in third grade. Schlicher argued that keeping kids in third grade would be the default solution, because the bill provided no money for anything else. The bill passed by four votes in the Senate, went to the House and came back to the Senate. The final bill had funding. Schlicher voted for that version, which passed the Senate in a 46-2 vote.

CLAIM: “When insurance companies wanted to eliminate basic care like mammograms and maternity care, Jan Angel sponsored House Bill 1804 that would cut our benefits.”
THE STORY:
We’ve addressed this one before, but it keeps coming up in part because Angel has expressed so much outrage over the claim, citing her own personal history of having one third of her breast removed. The Seattle Times ruled that a TV commercial saying Angel “led efforts to eliminate coverage for mammograms,” was “Mostly false.” The Times was right on that ad. But wait, there is more. Angel co-sponsored a bill that would have removed all state mandates on insurance coverage, conditions and services government requires insurance companies to cover. The bill would have exchanged state rules for the mandates under the Affordable Care Act. Had the bill passed, mammogram coverage would have still been required, but only for women 40 and above and not for immigrants. Some women would have lost coverage under the bill. Men get breast cancer, too. The state requires coverage for their mammograms and the ACA does not. Additionally, Angel has stated she is against the Affordable Care Act, even though her voting record is mixed on funding state implementation of the federal law, according to the (Tacoma) News Tribune. So, Angel is against the Affordable Care Act, yet she voted to remove state mandates in favor of ACA rules. This becomes a question of whether Angel supports any government mandates about health insurance. In a campaign questionnaire she wrote that she favored a free market, “menu driven/choice plan.” So if she had her way and insurers got to offer the plans they wanted, would they all stop covering mammograms? In theory they could, but insurance companies wouldn’t stay in business if they didn’t cover anything. Is Angel absolute about her thoughts on insurance companies? I’ve asked and I can’t get an answer. I tried to ask her after the Oct. 3 forum in Gig Harbor if the state mandate bill had passed and Obamacare went away, would she want government somewhere to require insurance companies to cover mammograms? She said she couldn’t answer a hypothetical question. I’ve forwarded a similar question, “Should any government tell insurance companies what they have to cover?” and have received no answer. So, yes, details in this claim are wrong, but until Angel definitively says she is for or against mandates I have a hard time raising the finish flag on the issue.

Cheer up. There’s only one more week of this. It will be months before it all starts again. In these final few days if you’ve seen any other claims you question, let us know and we’ll see if we can dig into it.


Video of Angel, Schlicher and reporters on KING-5 from Sunday

Monday, October 28th, 2013

State Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, and state Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, were the focus of a KING-5 piece on Sunday. The (Tacoma) News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader were also asked about the race. The video follows …

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KING 5 hosts Angel and Schlicher, and a couple of reporters

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Friday morning Jan Angel and Nathan Schlicher sat down with Mark Wright at KING-5 for a segment that will air Sunday morning.

Wright also invited Tacoma News Tribune political reporter Jordan Schrader and me to weigh in once the candidates left.

Both spots will air sometime between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Sunday. Each segment was around five minutes.

Schrader and I were in what I think you would call a “control room” while the candidates talked. I don’t want to provide any spoilers, so you’ll have to watch it to see it. What won’t be on air, though, is the candidates apparently kept on debating well after the cameras stopped rolling. Everything I’ve heard secondhand and could see on the monitors suggested it got a little testy. Nothing too outrageous, but oh, how I wished I could hear what they were saying.

In the control room one of the directors wearing headphones said afterward that they were still talking, like it was a surprise. Another one said they were laughing, but the first director then said that it was “awkward.” They both were out of there before Schrader and I taped.

Enjoy it, if five and five minutes of political talk is your thing.


Audio from Angel’s press conference

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

State Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, conducted a press conference Thursday in which she called on She’s Changed PAC, the committee advertising against her, to return $455,000 to Thomas Steyer, the California billionaire who is spending heavily throughout the country.

Here is the audio:

 

Angel and the state Republican Party argue a $3 million donation Steyer made to his own PAC was illegal. She called on Democratic state Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, to call on She’s Changed PAC to return the money. She also wanted Steyer prosecuted by the Attorney General’s office and the Public Disclosure Commission.

The PDC has since spoken with representatives from Steyer’s PAC and were assured, even before the donation, that the group would be spending no more money in Washington.

Lori Anderson, PDC spokeswoman, said the PDC is fine with that.


UPDATED: State GOP says late Steyer donations to his own PAC illegal

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

The state Republican Party is asking the Public Disclosure Commission to file an injunction against the NextGen Climate Action Committee sponsored by Thomas Steyer to prevent the committee from spending $3 million Steyer donated on Friday.

Lori Anderson, PDC spokeswoman, said within the final three weeks of an election the most a political committee can receive from a single source is $5,000, unless the committee is addressing a ballot initiative.

The committee will have the opportunity to address the complaint. “We will send the complaint to the committee that’s alleged to have received the contribution and they have to defend what they’ve done,” Anderson said.

State GOP Party Chairwoman Susan Hutchison said in a statement, “Senator Nathan Schlicher needs to answer this question: will you repudiate this illegal spending by an outside donor or do you want the people of Pierce and Kitsap County to be represented by someone bought and paid for with illegal out of state money?”

“I would hope that everyone follows the PDC’s rules and that they don’t spend money on our campaign or any campaign in the state. I agree that everyone should follow PDC laws.” Schlicher said. “No one should participate in illegal spending.”

Schlicher said the WSRP’s release trying to link him to the donation is in line with other attacks, such as a mailer that went out suggesting that Schlicher is no longer a doctor and was practicing law again. “This is just another unfortunate attempt to exaggerate and mislead the public and I hope people see through this,” he said.

NextGen now reports $9.3 million in donations. The GOP is probably correct that $455,000 of it has gone to the Schlicher-Angel contest, (I found $400,000 and the party connected other dots and was probably correct.) far more NextGen money has gone to campaigns in other states. I don’t know that this is unprecedented, but it’s not something I’ve seen a lot, if at all. I’ve contacted NextGen’s rep in Sacramento for a response to the complaint and an explanation of the committee’s reported spending elsewhere. If I receive a return call I’ll report it here.

UPDATE: Angel just announced she’s having a press conference Thursday morning on this subject.

UPDATE II: NextGen responded:

NextGen Climate Action released the following statement today:

“Jan Angel is trying to distract from her positions that are harmful to the health of kids and families in Washington. Our lawyers spoke with the Public Disclosure Commission prior to making the contribution and they agreed that the 21 day rule does not apply to FEC registered committees. We are in full compliance with all Washington election laws.”

Matthew Lewis
spokesman

Lewis also confirmed that none of the money donated on the 18th will be spent in Washington. “We’re not concerned about the legal issues at all,” he said.

More as it develops.

(more…)


Jan Angel is talking to the media again

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

State Rep. Jan Angel, the Port Orchard Republican running for a state Senate seat against appointed incumbent state Sen. Nathan Schlicher, a Gig Harbor Democrat, issued a press release Tuesday explaining that she will do interviews with the media. She listed four television appearances she will be making in the coming days.

This follows our story Sunday, As 26th campaign winds down, Angel silent to media requests, and declined invitations to KUOW and the Associated Press. I knew Angel had declined AP’s request, but didn’t put it in the Sunday story in case she changed her mind before the AP story ran Monday.

We wrote the Angel/media story, not out of any personal indignation. People refuse to talk to us all the time. It doesn’t happen often in a political campaign, so we thought it an interesting strategy for a campaign to be silent to the media. We talked to a couple of political experts who weighed in, one who provided several reasons why that would be the preferred option.

Angel’s press release from Wednesday Tuesday states, “Rep. Jan Angel’s position on accommodating media interviews remains unchanged.”

As mentioned before, last week Angel turned down requests from the Associated Press, KUOW and us. The press release doesn’t mention those interviews, but references a move made by KOMO-TV’s Keith Eldridge on Monday. Eldridge apparently showed up at campaign headquarters and her house asking to talk to her. Part of that story included this exchange:

Keith Eldridge: “There was a complaint that she’s dodging the media.”
Keith Schipper (Angel’s campaign spokesman): “I’ve heard that complaint. It’s not true at all.”

To be clear, I did not show up at her doorstep, figuratively or literally, when I tried to get her to talk to me for a story for Sunday. I called her cell phone on Wednesday, hoping to speak to her for 15 minutes on Thursday. When I didn’t hear anything I e-mailed Schipper on Thursday at 10:34 a.m.:

“Keith, I left a message on Rep. Angel’s cell phone and have not heard back yet. I’d like to meet with her today for about 15 minutes for a Q&A story. I could do this over the phone if necessary, but in person would be cleaner audio and I would like to record it.

“The plan is to have a Q&A story on Sunday and include the audio on the Kitsap Caucus blog. I’m meeting with Schlicher at 3 p.m. today in Gig Harbor. What time other than that one would work for Jan? I can be reached at 360-792-3343, or 360-620-9630. If we do this by phone I will give you another number, a Google Voice number that I use to record calls. Thanks.”

He replied four minutes later:

“Steven, Jan isn’t doing any press interviews at this time. With ballots dropping over the next few days, she is 100% focused on using any spare time she has on our grassroots efforts during these last few weeks of the campaign.. I apologize for any inconvenience this may present,”

I read that to mean she would not be doing media interviews for the rest of the campaign. “At this time,” did not suggest that. ” … she is 100% focused on using any spare time she has on our grassroots efforts during these last few weeks of the campaign,” did.

At 10:41 I responded:

“We are going to do the interview with Schlicher and write a story and in that story we will indicate that Jan Angel was not doing press interviews.”

At 1:16 p.m. Schipper responded:

“I understand where you’re coming from, but Jan sat down and was filmed by your editorial board for an hour, you’ve interviewed her in the past, and you’ve attended their forums, so it’s not as if she hasn’t been available and you should be able to get plenty of great answers from those. Also, I am always available so please use me as a resource if you have any other questions on this race as well. This campaign is going to be won in the field, and that is where we’ve set our attention to right now. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience.”

That afternoon I recorded the interview with Schlicher. The next afternoon I e-mailed questions to Schipper and he responded within a few hours, so we had the Q&A story for Sunday to go along with the media story.

Sometime around 2 p.m. Tuesday Jordan Schrader at the Tacoma News Tribune posted an update to an earlier story about the media silence, that Angel had called him and said she never intended to shutdown the media entirely.

At 3:55 p.m. the campaign emailed the press release saying her position on media interviews was “unchanged.”

The press release states that Angel needed time with constituents to clear up issues with ads from Schlicher and the committees campaigning against Angel saying that her backing a bill removing state mandates would have cut off funding for mammograms. I’ve made a request to get clarity from the campaign on that particular issue.

(more…)


UPDATED: ALEC the focus of incorrect campaign arguments

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Candidates in the 26th Legislative District state Senate race have both made comments publicly about state Rep. Jan Angel’s ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

You might not be surprised to know that both Angel, the Republican, and state Sen. Nathan Schlicher, the Democrat, have said things that are factually wrong at worst or unprovable at best.

In the Eggs & Issues debate on Sept. 3 Schlicher said a bill Angel sponsored that would have required drug testing for welfare recipients was a bill originally written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, often referred to in shorthand as ALEC.

ALEC is unquestionably conservative in its orientation, as is Angel. The organization can call itself “non partisan” without smirking, because it does have Democrats who take part. But most of the legislation it favors leans rightward. Angel leans to the right, so it shouldn’t be a shock that she serves as ALEC’s co-chair in this Washington.

The organization does write model bills. So do the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments. So do lobbyists, political party staff members and lawyers representing organizations that want to see legislation. Legislators and their staffs write bills, too. I have no way of knowing what percentage of legislation is written by actual elected officials, but if you were thinking it was the vast majority, you are probably way off.

What scares those on the left about ALEC is that it is funded mostly by the likes of executives from Koch Industries and Exxon Mobil and much of its model legislation serves those companies’ interests.

ALEC has been fighting against the Affordable Care Act and counts as members of its Private Enterprise Council executives from GlaxoSmithKline and PhRMA, companies that contributed to Angel’s state Senate campaign. Also backing Angel’s campaign and serving on the council is Altria Client Services, the parent company to Philip Morris and two other tobacco companies.

Sclicher contended initially that the drug testing for welfare recipients bill was an ALEC model. I’ve scoured the web and can’t find proof. There are articles that make the same claim, but they don’t substantiate it. And I’ve found news pieces in which legislators deny the link. The organization has written several bills dealing with welfare and others for drug tests, but I can’t find the organization’s fingerprints on either of Angel’s drug testing for welfare recipients bills. As you will read later, though, this doesn’t mean her bills were not someone’s model bill.

Angel, in her letter to the editor defending her affiliation with ALEC, made what to many would seem to be a solid point about model bills. “If a bill gets through committees, passes the House and the Senate and is signed by the governor, perhaps it is a good bill!” she wrote.

“Good” might not be the right word for many people, but if a bill ends up getting signed by the governor then you can at least say it reflects the values of the people elected to represent its citizens, no matter who wrote it. “Good” depends on your position in relation to those values.

Angel wrote in her defense, “Mr. Bullock accuses me of sponsoring model bills, which is absolutely not true. My bill on drug testing for welfare benefits was written by me and my staff, and I can prove that.”

There’s ample evidence that if Angel and her staff wrote either of the two drug test for welfare recipients laws, they probably at least borrowed language from bills in other states.

In 2012 Angel sponsored a bill, HB 2424, that would require drug tests for all welfare applicants. The applicants would have had to pay for their drug tests. By that year at least 27 other states had proposed similar legislation. I did not search legislation from all 27 states, but it didn’t take much searching to find four — Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama — that used virtually identical language throughout their bills as Angel did in hers.

In 2013 Angel proposed a new bill, HB 1190, one that would require suspicion of drug usage before a test would be required. The language in that bill contained similar language to legislation in Utah that had passed prior to Angel’s legislation introduction.

Another part of Angel’s letter refuting the ALEC allegations stated that to her knowledge only two ALEC bills were proposed in the most recent legislative session, one of them being SB 5802, a bill requested by Gov. Jay Inslee. I contacted the governor’s office to see if that was true. I received the following response from David Postman, Inslee’s spokesman.

“That bill actually had nothing to do with ALEC. I asked the governor’s energy advisory — who did a lot of work on the bill — and he said he had never seen the ALEC bill. When he went to look at it at my request, he said that the ALEC bill is a very different approach to the issue. Among other things, the ALEC bill would study ‘benefits’ of climate change and calls for creation of an interstate research commission. They are both studies and both about climate change. But our bill was drafted with input from a variety of people and the staff’s experience in previous five-corner efforts here. We ended up with what we thought was a good bill. We were glad it got bipartisan support, though many of Rep. Angel’s Republican colleagues opposed it in the House.”

Angel voted for Inslee’s bill.

UPDATE: This post has generated responses that merit inclusion here.

First, Todd Myers with the Washington Policy Center responded to the statement from the governor’s office. The short version is that some of the governor’s bill did probably originate with an ALEC bill. Here is Myers’ response:

The statement from the Governor’s office is both incorrect and misleading, requiring people to believe in an extremely unlikely coincidence.

First, his description of the ALEC bill is incorrect. It does not look at “benefits” of climate change, nor does it set up an interstate commission. The “Environmental Priorities Act” examines the costs and benefits of environmental policy, prioritizing those which provide the greatest benefit for each dollar.

Similarly, at the center of the Governor’s climate bill, his signature legislation this year, is a study of environmental approaches that examines the “effectiveness” of climate policies measuring “the cost per ton of emission reduction.” This mirrors exactly ALEC’s bill, which the Washington Policy Center suggested to the Governor.

In a piece I wrote to the Governor in January, we recommended that his bill mirror ALEC’s Environmental Priorities Act, which we noted “is a way to make sure we aren’t spending huge sums of money on trendy, but ineffective, environmental policies that starve needed funding for projects with significant potential to help the environment.” Like the Governor, we emphasized the need for effectiveness and ensuring we measure based on how much it costs to reduce one ton of carbon. It was confirmed to us that the
Governor’s office read the piece. When the Governor released his bill later that month, this idea was specifically included. The inclusion of that language is why WPC testified in favor of the bill.

It is unlikely the inclusion of the language we suggested is a coincidence. Although the Governor wrote a book on climate policy, nowhere in the more than 200 pages of his book did he mention this particular approach. His bill was the first time this concept appeared. It is possible the Governor’s office did not know the language came from ALEC legislation, but that does not change the fact that the approach is the same.

Perhaps, however, it is merely a happy coincidence that the exact same metric and approach suggested by ALEC was used by the Governor in his bill. This would mean that Gov. Inslee and ALEC independently came up with the same idea. You would think that such a thing would be celebrated as a bi-partisan agreement on climate policy. Instead, the Governor won’t take “yes” for an answer and choose partisanship over agreement.

If climate policy is as serious as the Governor says, we should not let political games get in the way of good policy and good ideas should be praised, no matter what the source.

Todd Myers
Environmental Director | Washington Policy Center

It seems the governor’s office is not referring to the ALEC model legislation that Angel would have been referencing. The model bill the governor’s office referred to is the one listed on the ALEC website as model climate change legislation. That bill does call for a study that calls for an “Interstate Commission on Climate Change,” charged with studying the effects of climate change, stipulating that “These influences may be beneficial or deleterious, and the Commission will specifically address both hypothetical eventualities in an evenhanded manner.”

The ALEC bill Myers is referring to is the Environmental Priorities Act.

Second, Angel said at the Eggs & Issues she has never sponsored an ALEC model bill. I haven’t found evidence otherwise. But Collin Jergens from Fuse Washington, the organization behind some of the ads against Angel, pointed to one bill that she co-sponsored, a bill that was an ALEC model. Co-sponsoring means your name is not the first on a list of sponsors, that the bill probably didn’t get to the Legislature through your office. I say “probably,” because legislators do sometimes hand off legislation from their office to other legislators.

The bill Jergens referenced was HB 2772 in 2010 and has the identical language as ALEC’s Climate Accountability Act. Angel is a co-sponsor.

Jergens provided a list of Washington bills that he described as “ALEC bills that have been introduced.” The one bill Jan Angel was the prime sponsor of was HB 2268. That bill would have required public school students to take a course in financial literacy in order to graduate. There were at least three Democrats who co-sponsored the bill from 2012 and it got a hearing in the House Committee on Education. While the intent of the bill seems to match the ALEC model, the language of the bill is not the same.


Appleton chief name on bill to remove felony tag on possession of small amounts of drugs.

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

State Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, plans to be the prime sponsor during the 2014 legislative session on a bill that turn possession drugs in small amounts into a misdemeanor.

Sensible Washington, an organization that has backed relaxed drug laws (but not Initiative 502, which voters passed in November) is pushing the bill and announced Tuesday that Appleton would be the primary sponsor in the House. She will be joined by Vancouver’s Jim Moeller, Joe Fitzgibbon of Burien, Chris Reykdal of Tumwater and Jesslyn Farrell of Seattle have agreed to be cosponsors. All are Democrats.

The bill would turn possession of more than 40 grams of marijuana and small amounts of other drugs into a misdemeanor, unless prosecutors can prove there was an intent to distribute the drugs. The maximum jail sentence would be 90 days.

Sensible Washington plans to find sponsors in the Senate to file a companion bill.

Over the years Appleton had sponsored multiple bills that would decriminalize marijuana.

Sensible Washington’s press release follows.

(more…)


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