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Spoilers and underdogs in the 35th

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Someone who didn’t want to be named said to me within the past few days that Tim Sheldon and Travis Couture should be considered the front-runners in the 35th Legislative District Senate primary race. Someone else said that Tim Sheldon might come in third, that Irene Bowling is the odds on favorite to come in first. Others wonder if there is any way Sheldon could come in third. There is.

We’ve addressed this question before, but it merits repetition, especially in light of the fact that some are speculating that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who describes himself as a Democratic Socialist, or democratic socialist, is pondering whether to run for president in 2016. Should he run it could spell November doom for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Warren or whoever gets the Democratic nomination. I don’t seem him winning as an independent, but I know enough people who appreciate him for his candor. And sometimes candor like that resonates enough with voters that they shed their traditional patterns and make an exception in an election.

You know what else makes me think Sanders plans to run? I just received an emailed newsletter from him, the first time that has ever happened.

Chances are Sanders would be a spoiler for someone else. To see how that works, consider the presidential election of 2000. I’m the first to say that the primary responsibility for Al Gore’s loss that year was Al Gore himself. He disappointed voters in nearly every opportunity he could. But Ralph Nader’s Green Party candidacy was a factor among many. Gore lost by less than 600 votes in Florida, where Nader received more than 97,000. New Hampshire also went for Nader in big enough numbers that it’s conceivable Gore could have won that state’s four electoral college votes had Nader not run. Tough to say. But this provides the definition of a spoiler, someone who doesn’t have much chance to win, but can spoil it for someone else.

Technically, there can be no spoilers in the 35th District primary. It would take four candidates for that. If the fourth-place candidate takes enough votes to cause another candidate to come in third instead of second, that’s a true spoiler. With only three candidates in this primary, the loser in this case just loses without damaging anyone else.

Here are some reasons to consider, though, that someone could in effect fit the spiritual definition of spoiler.

Democrat Tim Sheldon has a long history in Olympia and has added to it as a Mason County commissioner. In 2006 Sheldon received 72.3 percent of the vote in the general election. In 2010 his numbers were down, getting about 62 percent in the primary and general election while running against someone who barely campaigned. That was a down year for Democrats, even for those who often side with Republicans. That’s a tough hurdle to beat, making Bowling and Couture underdogs by default.

Democrats came relatively close to unseating Sheldon in 2006, but it was in the primary. That’s one key.

That year, 2006, was when Washington voters had to pick a party to vote in during the primary election. That meant Republicans who wanted Sheldon to return to Olympia had to select a Democratic ballot and pick him. The Republican, Mark Shattuck, came in third, but advanced, because thems was the rules. With that, Sheldon received 43.1 percent of the vote to Kyle Taylor Lucas’ 32.5 percent. This year there is no such burden. Sheldon only has to come in second to advance. It’s possible that perception of an easier path could make some of Sheldon’s traditional supporters more relaxed about voting.

Meanwhile, it’s the more passionate voters who take part in primaries. Bowling will certainly get all the support Lucas did, and probably more. Traditional Democrats who pay attention will vote for her. Lucas carried some baggage for being perceived as a carpetbagger, and some people were incensed that Sheldon had to run against anyone. Now that Sheldon has caucused with Republicans for two years, some of those who were outraged in 2006 are not so surprised.

Speaking of passion, Couture describes himself on his website as a “conservative libertarian.” Have you ever seen Ron Paul supporters at a convention? There’s your passion. So while Sheldon has some cred with conservatives, it is not out of this world to think that Couture’s following will represent well in August. Shattuck received 24 percent of the vote in the 2006 primary back when A. It was a pick-a-party primary, and B. Ron Paul had not yet risen to national relevance and C. Sheldon didn’t have the negatives he has now.

Those negatives include his decision to caucus with Republicans and a couple of local issues. I didn’t hear much local fallout from anyone about Sheldon’s decision to caucus in the Senate with Republicans, other than the complaints from those who would never vote for him anyway. There might be a fair contingent out there, though, who were rubbed the wrong way by Sheldon’s decision, people who didn’t yell and scream about it but are moved to believe that the maverick might have gone too far off the ranch for their tastes. They could either vote for someone else, or not vote at all.

The local issues are ones that arise more out of Sheldon’s service as a county commissioner. New Belfair sewer customers don’t like the price they’re paying for service they’re getting in large part because of Sheldon’s insistence. And just last week Sheldon and a fellow commissioner enacted a six-month moratorium on marijuana grow operations. I’m not sure how much angst that is going to inspire, but there is potential.

In 2012 voters in the 35th District picked Democrat Barack Obama for president and Republican Rob McKenna for governor. They split on state House representatives, backed Democrat Derek Kilmer, voted against gay marriage and for legal marijuana. On statewide issues voters in the 35th come in consistently a few points more conservative than the state as a whole. They’re not afraid to elect traditional Democrats, though, and have sent Kathy Haigh to Olympia in the House year after year. It’s a tough district to pigeonhole.

Sheldon likes to appeal to people who don’t make political parties their number one priority. That plays better in a general election, when turnout is high, than it does in a primary, which appeals to more committed voters. Should Bowling and Couture finish 1-2 or 2-1, then one of them, the second place finisher in November, could be seen as the spoiler. The other one will go to Olympia. Should Sheldon come in first or second in the primary, the spoiler factor goes away and we focus on favorites and underdogs.

 


Fearing an October surprise, we discover a candidate lives here

Friday, July 4th, 2014

This election, like any other, could see its fill of well-timed surprises. We tried to avoid one recently and might have prevented it all together. In the end it might never have happened, because there doesn’t seem to be much reason to launch a residency challenge of Republican Michelle Caldier.

Caldier is running to unseat state Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, in the 26th District.

Looking into candidates is something we should do as a matter of course, but we don’t find everything. We check court records, including the bankruptcy courts. We don’t hire private investigators. A candidate’s opposition sometimes does. They’re free to spend the money.

Part of my motivation goes back to 2004. Sherry Appleton, who has represented the 23rd District since then, was running against two Republicans, back when Washington primaries meant picking one candidate from each party. Frank Mahaffay beat Paulette DeGard for the Republican spot on the ballot. It was in October that I learned of Mahaffay’s court-verified financial issues. Because it was so late in the election season Scott Ware, then the editor, and I debated whether to include the problem in the election profile. In the end we decided we couldn’t leave it out. Appleton won by a large margin, so I don’t think that one piece of information ruined it for the Mahaffay, but I wished I had found it before the primary.

I learned of Mahaffay’s financial issue through a tip. Since then I have found some things ahead of the partisan tipsters, one candidate’s two bankruptcies, for example. Still, political parties are working hard to find any indiscretion they can. No doubt we will get emails from people doing opposition research. It was an email from an oppo researcher that informed me of auditor candidate Kelly Emerson’s recent employment as commissioner in Island County. I don’t mind investigating the stuff sent to me by the studious partisan operatives, but the more we rely on them the bigger the chance that they will sit on an issue waiting for the most opportunistic timing to lob a bomb.

With Michelle Caldier I did wait a while to see if someone would publicly ask the question how a Kenmore dentist came to seek election in a district that is miles from either of the 26th District’s book-end bridges. I gave the operatives some time to speak up. After all, the primary between Seaquist and Caldier will be little more than a straw poll. There are other races with more on the line in August. Eventually, though, I gave in to my question.

Using basic Internet skills I found two addresses for Caldier, one in Kenmore and another in Port Orchard. Searching county records the Kenmore property was still listed in her name. The Port Orchard property was not. Moreover the Kenmore property had four bedrooms while the Port Orchard place had one. I then contacted the Kitsap County Elections office to find out when she had registered to vote here. It was in November. I then found evidence that she had sold her home in Kenmore in May. Pictures of the home on a real estate listing looked to me that the house had been staged to present well for potential buyers, that it was unlikely someone had been living there too recently.

That was the information I had when I called Caldier and asked when she moved here. She responded that she would like to meet with me in person. I was a bit frustrated that she wouldn’t just deliver an immediate answer, but after asking again and getting the same response, I agreed. She came in the next morning with Chris Tibbs, Kitsap County Republican Party chairman. He took the blame for her reluctance to speak on the phone, saying he had coached the candidates, the first-time candidates anyway, to request a sit-down meeting.

The meeting itself was valuable and in the end I see no evidence of a residency issue. I’ll provide more details about her story later. She’s providing them, too. In short, she was motivated in large part to consider running by work she did on legislation in 2013. She grew up in Kitsap County, said she always considered it home, but established her dental practice to have enough business to serve the market she sought. For family reasons she and her sisters have moved back here. Her dental practice is a mobile one, stretching from Pierce to Skagit County. What’s more, in May she took ownership of a house in Port Orchard after renting a home or staying with family here since sometime last year.

The question over Caldier’s residency was an easy one to form. It came up for me from the moment she announced her candidacy. Seaquist, for his part, said he hadn’t been too concerned over it. But that doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t make an issue of the residency based just on the question, planting doubts late in the game.

If you have a question about any candidate, feel free to email me at sgardner@kitsapsun.com and we might look into the issue that makes you wonder. And do it as soon as you think about it. With Washington’s three-week election window from when ballots go out and when they get returned it’s even more important to avoid October surprises. Let’s keep peace at hand, if you know what I mean.

 


Tim Eyman audio on latest initiative

Friday, May 9th, 2014

This is the audio from Tim Eyman’s speech to the Central Kitsap Republican Women, who met for their luncheon at the Admiral Theatre in Bremerton on May 8, 2014.

One final note: This is something we might consider doing more of in the future. That might mean posting audio from events like this, but I also could see us recording interviews and doing other kinds of storytelling on a regular podcast.

I’m a fan of the podcast medium itself, but I don’t know how much demand there is for a hyperlocal podcast. Let me know and if there is enough interest I will do my best to make this a regular thing. Comment here, or email me at sgardner@kitsapsun.com.


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 …

(more…)


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…)


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