Category Archives: Legislature

Angel optimistic about keeping teachers’ COLA in budget

Sen. Jan Angel, D-Port Orchard, was one of several local (Kitsap and Mason County) legislators who responded to my request for input on the education budget for 2015. Specifically I asked for their thoughts on the chances of a teacher’s COLA being reinstated and other thoughts on teachers’ salaries. Perhaps due to crossed wires on her part, mine or both, Angel’s response came late for inclusion in my article, which ran today.

Note, Jan. 28: I have heard from Senator Angel that she did send the response last week, so apparently there was a technical glitch in the email on our end. My apologies, Jan.

I am posting her comments here, along with links (here) to the full responses I got from Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, and Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo.

Chris Henry, education reporter
Sen. Jan Angel

Describe the pressures you will face as a legislator to reinstate the COLA?

Budget challenges have forced the Legislature to delay or set aside I-732 as we worked to pay for our priorities of government and, when it comes to education, we had to pay for what is most effective for student achievement first. This year with $3 billion additional revenue in state coffers, we potentially have the ability to pay for increased maintenance costs, the minimum investment in schools required by McCleary and the teacher COLA required by I-732. Of course, the specifics of the budget will go through negotiations and restructuring, but as our revenue outlook currently stands, we are likely to have enough money to provide the teacher COLA this year, which I do support.

Describe the pressures you will face as a legislator to suspend the COLA to pay for other education expenses.

We want to prioritize our education spending toward what will do most to address our 77% graduation rate and our lacking student achievement rates. I believe that providing a great teacher in every classroom is very important for student success and making sure we provide them competitive compensation is part of reaching that goal. Our teachers are hard-working and dedicated to our children and I want to make sure we do the best we can for them. As the budget is scrutinized and negotiated, I hope we can reach a solution that supports our teachers while meeting our obligations on other budget demands.

What, in your opinion, are the chances the COLA will be reinstated?

Based on our revenue outlook and initial reactions from budget-writers, the chances are positive.

The governor’s office projects a $2 billion shortfall, despite rising revenue. Randy Dorn at OSPI thinks, with the class size initiative, the real cost could be at least $4.5 billion and possibly closer to $7 billion for the 2015-2017 budget. Given the projected budget shortfall, is it realistic for the Legislature to discuss teacher/school employee compensation in the upcoming session?

The Governor assumes some cost increases that are not required for the government to keep running, but I think the importance of supporting teachers and the fact that we have a statutory commitment suggests that we give it our most thoughtful consideration.

In your opinion, why is/isn’t compensation a compelling issue at this time?

As mentioned before, the direct correlation between student achievement and teacher compensation is not clear, so it is difficult to prioritize when we are trying to reach higher student success rates. Prioritizing a budget is difficult work, but I hope we can address this with the tax dollars we’ve been given to work with. I would also like to see additional training dollars allocated. Our teachers have been asked to perform a number of new duties without training provided to do so – – this creates frustration and puts them in a difficult position.

If you support a compensation reset for school employees, how should the Legislature pay for it?

This is a complicated budget issue that requires negotiation and the prioritization of available funds. We are still in the process of determining what is the best use of taxpayer dollars so we’ll have to see how much we have to work with before we can begin the strategy of putting these pieces together. Teachers receive several different types of pay so this can be complicated.

End Jan Angel

Sheldon upended by Senate minority coalition

Standing at the rostrum Washington state Senator and soon-to-be-defeated in his bid to repeat as Senate President Pro Tem Tim Sheldon gets a photo taken by staff photographer Aaron Barna holding his new grand-daughter Scarlett born on Dec.13. 2014, while joined by his wife Linda and daughter Alex on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, during the opening day for the 2015 legislative session in Olympia. (AP Photo/The Olympian, Steve Bloom)
Standing at the rostrum Washington state Senator and soon-to-be-defeated in his bid to repeat as Senate President Pro Tem Tim Sheldon gets a photo taken by staff photographer Aaron Barna holding his new grand-daughter Scarlett born on Dec.13. 2014, while joined by his wife Linda and daughter Alex on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, during the opening day for the 2015 legislative session in Olympia. (AP Photo/The Olympian, Steve Bloom)
Call it symbolic revenge for a real defection. One party pulled two of the opposite party over to form a coalition. That was true two years ago when Republicans lured Potlatch Democratic state Sen. Tim Sheldon, along with Rodney Tom, to form a de fact majority in the chamber, a majority that was boosted by the election of real Republican Jan Angel.

One of Sheldon’s rewards in return was election to what (Tacoma) News Tribune reporter Jordan Schrader described as a “mostly ceremonial job,” of president pro tempore.

Sheldon lost that gig on Monday.

Even after the Republican Party announced in early December Sheldon’s return to the role, which would have put him in charge of the chamber in the case of Lt. Gov. Brad Owen’s absence, Democrats helped maneuver to get Sheldon out of the seat. They nominated Republican Pam Roach. Republicans tried to counter by nominating Democrat Karen Fraser. But Democrats, Fraser included, voted as a bloc and along with Vancouver Republican state Sen. Don Benton, elected Roach to the position.

The Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate described it as Democrats settling a score with Sheldon, making “the most of an opportunity to hold Tim Sheldon accountable for his treachery.”

Sheldon told Schrader he thought Democrats were retaliating and that they will want something in return. Roach said they did not ask for anything.

It’s a mostly symbolic victory and will do little to change the agenda in the chamber. The first evidence of that was the Senate’s vote to require a two-thirds vote to approve any tax increases, a rules change in the chamber that passed with a 26-23 vote, exactly the number of the Republican+1 majority.

The Sheldon upset went down officially within 12 minutes, which is on the video that follows. Of course, it really took flight in conversations for which there is no video, so this will have to do.

Legislators say Supreme Court should be a party affair

courtcoverThere is enough Supreme Court aversion to go around, even to the state version of the highest court in the land.

Sometime before Christmas, among the multitudes of greeting cards I received was the one you see here on the left. You probably have to click on each image to see them clearly.

My favorite part is at the end of the inside part of the courtinsidecard. “This card is a parody and not actually from Chief Justice Roberts.” It’s a good thing that disclaimer is there, because Roberts could sue and eventually appeal the case all the way to himself.

The message of this card is that the U.S. Supreme Court is secretive and accountable to no one. State lawmakers have a different complaint about the state nine, and they say partisanship is the answer.

The bill is unlikely to get a hearing, according to other news reports and one local legislator. It sends a message, nonetheless. House Bill 1051, sponsored by state Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, and co-sponsored by 15 Republicans and three Democrats, begins with this subtle epistle:

The legislature finds that because the supreme court has decided to act like the legislature and has thus violated the separation of powers, the supreme court should be considered partisan like the legislature.

Why the dig? Because the state Supreme Court has not only ruled that the state is not meeting its paramount constitutional duty in adequately funding education, the court has a bucket of solutions it can choose from should the Legislature’s response to that ruling be deemed inadequate.

Two local legislators, Democrat Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo and Republican Jesse Young of Gig Harbor, are among the co-sponsors.

Young did not respond to requests for comment. Appleton responded to an email saying she believes the bill will not even get a hearing. Asked why why she is backing it, she replied that she isn’t. “It was just a message to make people aware there are three branches of government, and we don’t make constitutional rulings, and they should not tell us how to write budgets.”

Asked what the court should be allowed to do in its role as a check against the state government’s two other branches, Appleton said the court’s job is to determine the constitutionality of laws. “We have a job to do, and they are part of the solution, but not doing the legislature’s business by telling us how to write a budget.  We know full well what we have to do, and we will do it, in spite of the Supreme Court, not because of it.”

Among the solutions the court has discussed should the Legislature fail to meet the court’s definition of “adequate” education funding is one that would void the budget completely, undoing all tax loopholes. It seems unlikely the court would resort to that option first, but should it employ anything there are legislators who believe it would be out of its bounds.

Hugh Spitzer, a constitutional law professor at the University of Washington, said any constitutional revenge by the Legislature would require near unanimity of the lawmaking body, which doesn’t seem likely. More within reach is legislators stalling state law fixes requested by the courts.

Legislators have threatened the court financially in the past, but that seems unlikely, too. Punishing the courts financially “punishes the public if the public doesn’t have access to the courts,” Spitzer said. Furthermore, in a pinch the Supreme court could order funding from the state. It never has, but it could.

Washington would not be the only state with partisan judges and it wouldn’t be the first time the state had such a setup.

According to Judgepedia, seven states elect Supreme Court justices in partisan elections. In two states the justices are nominated in party primaries or conventions and other states involve the parties in lower court assignments.

Spitzer said Washington judges were elected in partisan elections until 1907. Partisanship came back came back a few years later when Republicans were upset that a Democrat had been elected in a non-partisan election. GOP legislators managed to put two more seats on the bench, got two of their own elected and then made the judge races non-partisan again.

Maybe this Legislature ought to consider doing that. If they did it during presidential election years, when all our televisions are affixed to Fox News and MSNBC, we might not notice. The newspapers would cover it, but who reads those anymore?

 

Kitsap’s state senators assume leadership roles

All three of the Kitsap Caucus’ state senators will have leadership roles in the 2015 Legislature. Two of them are repeats, while Jan Angel takes on a new responsibility.

Jan Angel
State Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, was elected Senate Majority Coalition Caucus vice chairwoman and named to the panel that selects committee leaders.
Angel, first elected to the Senate in 2013, was re-elected in November and will begin a four-term in January.
The caucus position puts Angel in place to be a liaison between coalition leadership and committee chairs and to lead caucus deliberations when the chairwoman, Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, is not available. Angel also will be part of the effort to hire and fire coalition staff.
“I’m excited to get to work building on the bipartisan success we achieved as a caucus last year,” Angel said in a written statement issued by the coalition. “I have all the right tools to be a leader in this role with my previous experience leading committees and developing employees as a small-business owner and I am very grateful for the confidence of my Senate colleagues.”
The senator was also appointed to the Committee on Committees, which helps select which coalition senator goes on which committees.

Tim Sheldon
State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, retains his role as Senate president pro tem, even though Republicans have and outright majority now.
Sheldon, along with former state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, began caucusing with the 23 Republicans in 2013, giving the GOP a de facto 25-24 majority known as the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus. With the election of Angel later that year the coalition’s majority rose to 26-23.
Tom retired from the Senate, but Republicans won the major contested races and took actual control of the Senate 25-24. Sheldon said all along he would continue to caucus with Republicans, so the coalition remains intact. His reward is keeping the leadership position.
“This recognition I have received from my colleagues is a demonstration of the bipartisan ideals that have governed our coalition since Day One,” Sheldon said in a statement. “We always said our chief concerns were jobs, education and the budget, and not partisan politics.”

Christine Rolfes
State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, resumes her role as floor leader for the Washington State Senate Democratic Caucus. This is her second year in that job.
The floor leader is the party’s point person on parliamentary procedure and in facilitating floor debate on the Senate floor.
“I am honored to have been selected again by my colleagues to serve as their floor leader,” Rolfes said. “We are facing some significant challenges in 2015, but I look forward to working across the aisle to ensure things run smoothly.”

ALEC returns as a campaign issue in the 26th

perryState Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, is getting heat from her opponent regarding Angel’s involvement with the American Legislative Exchange Council. This is something we addressed in the 2013 election, but since this treads into matters of substance, it’s worth revisiting.

ALEC is a nationwide organization that goes to great efforts to get conservative policies enacted in state legislatures. Angel is a conservative and has been affiliated with the organization for some time. She has never really denied that, but when she wrote the Facebook post you see pictured on the left here, she never let on that Rick Perry, Texas governor and one-time candidate for president who recalled two of the three agencies he planned to eliminate, was speaking at an ALEC conference when she snapped his picture and gushed, “what a champion!”

At its core the question that seems worth asking is whether Angel or Arbogast better represent the values of the 26th District, and Angel’s affiliation with ALEC could be evidence to support whatever conclusion you make. Instead much of the debate centers on whether legislators should be sponsoring what are called “model bills.” A model bill is one written in one place and used either verbatim or as a template in several states.

Some of ALEC’s model legislation would ban states from prohibiting insurance companies from using credit scores to deny or charge more for coverage, is tough on minimum wage standards, goes after Obamacare and would limit how much a state could require electric utilities to provide a certain percentage of its energy from clean energy sources.

Those are some examples. You can go to alec.org and alecexposed.org to get a bigger picture.

This issue arises from the following exchange that took place in the Oct. 7 Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues forum between Angel and Democrat Judy Arbogast.

Question: Can ALEC really write laws that best serve a state as diverse as Washington, and if yes, how?

Arbogast: Absolutely not. ALEC provides ready-made legislation for every state and that’s the biggest problem. It’s also backed by big corporations, not the people who are trying to actually solve the problems. People who know me know that I’ve been very opposed to ALEC since I first heard about it. I certainly know that it’s not good for the people. That’s why any bills that I propose will come from the people themselves, They will not be premade as some of the bills have been presented by my opponent.

Angel: Your opponent has never offered an ALEC bill that I’m aware of, (And at this point you can hear people laughing at the statement) the only ALEC bill, seriously, the only ALEC bill that’s come to the Legislature actually came through your governor, Gov. Inslee, And I want to talk, I’m so glad this question came up, because ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. I belong to that. The mission statement is free market and individual liberties. I am proud to stand for that. I make no apology and I actually question anyone that would question those values. As far as model legislation, we sit on task force, which I am proud to sit on Economic Development, Commerce and Insurance. That task force works on issues nationally. The last task force meeting I attended we worked on national catastrophes like the slide that we just had, how did that affect everybody ’s insurance premiums. Now if a model bill is written it is up to the legislature whether they take it back to their state. And if the state House and Senate pass it and the governor signs it, maybe it’s a good bill.

We’ll dissect those arguments later, but following the debate and after my story was written, Samara Ressler, campaign manager for Arbogast, sent me an email titled “Forum Clarification.” She then provided a list of three bills Angel co-sponsored Ressler said come from ALEC model bills. They are Senate Bills 6300 and 6307 during the 2014 session and House Bill 1804 in 2011.

SB 6300 would have required more unions to increase financial reporting requirements and does seem to have much the same language as ALEC’s model legislation, “Union Financial Responsibility Act.” SB 6307 prohibits local jurisdictions from enacting minimum wage requirements higher than the state’s. It is much the same as ALEC’s “Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act.”

The House Bill 1804 in 2011 would have prevented the state from spending any money to implement Obamacare. At the time the justification was the health care reform measure was still making its way through constitutional challenges. Supporters said they didn’t want to burden the state with efforts for a program that could become moot. I don’t see ALEC’s direct fingerprint on this bill, but it’s old enough that it might have just disappeared from the organization’s website. And ALEC wrote a lot of legislation aimed at weakening health care reform, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility this started with ALEC.

This gets to the core issue. Whether the bill was an ALEC model or not, it would have limited the impact of federal health care reform efforts. What is the more important factor to you?

When we addressed this similar question in 2013, we pointed out that lots of organizations write model bills. ALEC might do it the most, but several organizations do it. Legislators don’t write many of the bills they propose. They are written by lobbyists, lawyers and others who have an interest. And I’m willing to bet that when legislators do write their own bills, they get lots of help.

This is not to say that finding out whether a bill is a model bill is unimportant. An organization like ALEC has a specific mission and won’t typically write legislation that doesn’t forward that mission.

So let’s break down the forum comments.

Arbogast: ALEC provides ready-made legislation for every state and that’s the biggest problem.

“Model” legislation is a “problem” in the sense that it could be trying to solve a problem no one was aware anyone had. Beyond that, though, you have to give the Legislature enough credit that it will tackle issues it deems important. If a model bill, tweaked to reflect what’s needed in legislative language in Washington, addresses an issue enough legislators think is worthy of attention, the bill can make it to the governor’s desk.

Arbogast: People who know me know that I’ve been very opposed to ALEC since I first heard about it. I certainly know that it’s not good for the people.

This is the values statement that would seem to be the more important issue.

Arbogast: That’s why any bills that I propose will come from the people themselves, They will not be premade as some of the bills have been presented by my opponent.
Angel: Your opponent has never offered an ALEC bill that I’m aware of.

If Arbogast wins I suspect some on the right will watch the bills she sponsors to see if there’s anything else out there that’s similar to trace a bill at its roots. It might be a model bill from an organization on the left.
Angel’s claim that she never offered an ALEC bill rests on whether you think “offered” means she was the prime sponsor. We showed that she co-sponsored bills using ALEC bills as models, but she has not been prime.

Angel: The only ALEC bill that’s come to the Legislature actually came through your governor, Gov. Inslee.

We did address that claim last year and there is some dispute. The governor’s office said its bill dealing with one aspect of climate change did not come from an ALEC model, but a spokesman for the Washington Policy Center said that it did. Angel is off in saying the “only ALEC bill” unless what she meant by “come through to the Legislature” was “passed the Legislature.” Otherwise, her co-sponsorship of two ALEC-based bills seems to negate her statement.

Angel: ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. I belong to that. The mission statement is free market and individual liberties. I am proud to stand for that. I make no apology and I actually question anyone that would question those values.

When Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Bershire Hathaway Energy, Intel, Bank of America, etc. decided to stop participating with ALEC I doubt any of them were troubled with the concept of free markets or individual liberties. Google’s Eric Schmidt was especially harsh answering a question from a caller to the Diane Rehm show:

Kristen: I’m curious to know if Google is still supporting ALEC, which is that fund lobbyist in D.C. that are funding climate change deniers.
Schmidt: We funded them as part of a political game for something unrelated. I think the consensus within the company was that that was sort of a mistake. And so we’re trying to not do that in the future.
Rehm: And how did you get involved with them in the first place? And were you then disappointed in what you saw?
Schmidt: Well, the company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts. What a shock. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring. And the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people. They’re just literally lying.

I’m guessing Angel would differ with Schmidt on that.

LD 26-2 puts on a side show, unless this is the main event we can expect from here on out

State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, and his Republican challenger, Michelle Caldier of Port Orchard, engaged in two robust debates last week on the issues. One of the debates was in Bremerton on Tuesday. The other was in Gig Harbor on Thursday. They have at least three more forums scheduled before the election.

Before that they sat in the same room for an Aug. 29 meeting with the Kitsap Sun editorial board. In all those meetings they focused on issues one of them will try to tackle as a legislator in Olympia in 2015.

An incident after the editorial board meeting launched a side show that has picked up steam. Caldier said Seaquist is trying to intimidate her. Seaquist said Caldier’s allegations are false and that he is consulting with an attorney. Both say they want the escalation to stop.

For the Kitsap Sun meeting both candidates had driven their cars, with Caldier parking directly in front of Seaquist. After the meeting they separated to their cars and Seaquist took at least a couple of photos. Caldier said he did it as she was getting into her car. He said that is not true, that she was in the car when he snapped the shots.

This is the photo Seaquist provided. He said there is one other, but that it would look just like this one because the two shots he took were one right after the other.
This is the photo Seaquist provided. He said there is one other, but that it would look just like this one because the two shots he took were one right after the other.

Seaquist said he was checking messages on his phone when he saw the the trunk open on Caldier’s car and the hard top slide into the trunk. He said he hadn’t seen a hard-top convertible in some time and wanted to snap a quick photo to discuss the car with someone he knows. The model of the car was prominent on the car’s tail section and he said he knew he would never remember it. So he took a shot.

Caldier confronted him about the photo and both agree he acknowledged snapping a picture. Her recollection of the conversation afterward was a little fuzzy this week, but he said she complained that she had been photographed at her house. He said he told her it wasn’t anyone doing it on his behalf.

On Sept. 2, four days later, Caldier posted a Facebook entry reading: “I came out of a candidate interview and saw Rep. Larry Seaquest, my opponent, taking pictures of me as I got into my car. Wow…. I felt like I was being stalked!” Some of her Facebook friends described that as “creepy” or “gross,” and some suggested it was an act of desperation.

On Sept. 5, three days after the Facebook post and a week after Seaquist took the photo, she filed a report with the Bremerton Police Department. The report includes a couple of statements Caldier said do not reflect what she told police. The report said Caldier told police Seaquist had taken other photos of Caldier in the past and that he just laughed at her when she asked him why he was snapping more pictures. On Friday she said she told police other people had snapped pictures, that Aug. 29 was the first time Seaquist himself had done it. Also, she said Seaquist did talk to her about the photos when she confronted him.

Both candidates question the other’s motives in the incident. Caldier said she doesn’t believe his story that he was impressed with the car because she believes he has seen it before. She said it’s another chapter in a long history of the opposition trying to intimidate her. Seaquist said he hadn’t seen her car before and that he did nothing wrong, that his sole interest was the car and that Caldier is falsifying what happened to turn it into a campaign issue.

CONTEXT

Candidates can expect to have their photos taken in odd places, to be followed. One of the comments on Caldier’s Facebook post came from state Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, who wrote: “They pulled that on me all last run. I was followed frequently and many other weird things. What a journey.”

Keith Schipper, Angel’s communications director in the 2013 campaign, said he was tasked by the state Republican party to track Angel’s opponent, Nathan Schlicher, for part of that campaign. A tracker’s job is primarily to go to all the opponent’s events possible and to film, seeing if a candidate can be caught saying one thing to one group and something else to another. Or, if the tracking yields real gold, the candidate has a “Macaca” moment, a reference to the 2006 Virginia Senate race when Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen referred to a Democratic operative as “Macaca,” which he said was gibberish, but Democrats said was an intentional racial slur. Allen lost the election.

Schipper, who also tracked Jay Inslee in 2012 when he ran for governor and is working on Republican legislative campaigns again this year, said officials from the candidate and the party are mostly polite to the opposition tracker. It’s the people hosting the events who can get hostile. So parties’ and candidates’ campaigns in larger races typically know better than to hassle the tracker.

The 2013 26th District Senate race was unique, though, in how high profile it was for a legislative race. That each side employed trackers was because it was so high stakes. It was the most expensive legislative race in state history. It was the only Republican-Democrat race in the state and affected the balance of power in Olympia. Both candidates said they were followed.

That race was a legislative exception. The Seaquist-Caldier race, while close, is unlikely to draw so much attention that the state party would employ operatives. And even if the state party did, taking pictures at a candidate’s house is unlikely.

Nonetheless, Caldier said that when she was living in a home she rented before she bought her current home she saw people taking pictures of her at her house. She said some were also taking pictures of her sister. And one day a neighbor caught people going through her mail. Since Caldier recently returned to Kitsap County after years living in Kenmore, it’s possible someone supporting Seaquist was trying to investigate whether she deserved a residency challenge.

You might remember the private investigation that went into former County Commissioner Josh Brown’s residency during his first run. When Lary Coppola ran for mayor he found matches stuck in his door, presumably a tactic to see whether he lived where he claimed his residence.

If the Caldier mail incident was campaign related, Schipper and Fred Finn, who represented the 35th Legislative District as a Democrat for four years, said it was unlikely it was ordered by the party or Seaquist’s campaign. Schipper likened it to supporters who go out and vandalize campaign signs, adding it would more likely be a supporter going rogue. Finn agreed. “Sometimes supporters have more energy and enthusiasm than common sense,” Finn said. “I can’t imagine it’s anything organized.”

MOTIVES

Whatever motive Seaquist had in taking the picture, it is unusual for a candidate to be taking a photo of another candidate. “You don’t ever see candidates doing that to each other,” Schipper said. “You don’t see their staff members doing it.”

Caldier again looked at the incident in context of the whole campaign. “I’ll take a lot, but this one was kind of the last straw. This is moving forward to November and it feels like the behavior is escalating,” she said. “I want the behavior to stop. I would never take pictures of him without asking his permission. For him to be sitting in his car taking photos of me without asking my permission is wrong.”

Seaquist makes no apologies and said he has no interest in meeting with Caldier to resolve the issue. “Everything here has been created and invented by Dr. Caldier. Nothing here was started by me,” he said. “This is not a misunderstanding on my part. This is entirely a creation of hers. I have done nothing intimidating.”

Particularly galling to Seaquist was another single assertion in the police report. Caldier, when told Seaquist had not committed any crime, said his action concerned her because “she has been told that Seaquist had been violent in the past with people.”

On Friday Caldier said that comment referred to what she heard from Marlyn Jensen, a Gig Harbor Republican who ran against Seaquist in 2008. Jensen, also contacted Friday, said her relationship with Seaquist was fine during the 2008 campaign, but repeated a charge she made in newspapers in 2009, that when she went to Olympia to lobby on a couple of issues he yelled at her in his office. She was lobbying on a property rights issue and neither he nor his legislative assistant were there when she went by, so she and others left bags of dirt from their properties with a handwritten note urging Seaquist to vote for property owners.

A few days later Jensen returned to Olympia to lobby on another issue and said she went back to his office and was told by his receptionist to go in. She said Seaquist berated her for leaving the dirt. On Friday she repeated what she said five years ago, that she feared for her safety.

In 2009 Seaquist denied he did anything to make her fear for her safety. He said he can be firm, but invited anyone to call any legislator or member of a Navy crew he was ever affiliated with and that they will confirm that he is “famous for being calm and cool under pressure.”

Caldier said she filed the police report to end the escalation of intimidation. Seaquist doesn’t believe that, because the final statement in the report is, “Caldier does not want Seaquist contacted.” He said he thinks that’s evidence she plans to use the police report to escalate her own personal campaign against him.

Seaquist said he is “prepared to launch a lawsuit. The very essence of my character is being challenged.”

NOSTALGIA

At their core you have two candidates who have fundamentally different ideas about how state government should operate. That might be the focus of the remaining campaign.

In 2013, during the most expensive legislative race in history the campaign became particularly nasty. Angel accused Schlicher of taking the low road with his ad that said she would cut mammograms. Schlicher took exception to campaigns targeting him for voting for budgets he said she voted for, too.

Schlicher’s backers put out ads saying Angel supported tax breaks first for A. deceased millionaires and B. big oil companies over education for kids. Angel’s supporters advertised that Schlicher was against early reading intervention for children because a contributor didn’t like it and that he opposed a 2/3 majority for tax increases.

All of those arguments mischaracterized the opponents’ positions, but anyone willing to make a concerted study at least could look at those claims and make a calculation as to where the candidate stood on issues that would face the Legislature. A resident of the 26th might not have appreciated the inundation of advertising that blanketed the district, but do you think that same resident might not prefer that to what we’re seeing in the 26th Legislative District Position 2 race this year?

Spoilers and underdogs in the 35th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:
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This is news: Angel bills get hearings

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.

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Kitsap legislators (re)assume leadership posts.

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

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

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.