Robert Ullman
The Good

Closing the "Gun Show Loophole"

Critics ridiculed Seattle's recent gun buyback event, pointing to the open-air gun bazaar that spontaneously sprang up on the sidewalks surrounding it as evidence of the program's futility. But the more appropriate target of ridicule is the gaping hole in state law that allows such unregulated private firearm sales in the first place. House Bill 1588 would close this so-called gun show loophole, finally requiring universal background checks on the sale of all firearms, not just those from licensed dealers. An estimated 40 percent of firearms are currently sold without a background check. That's just crazy.

Keeping Lady Parts Free

Another year, another round of bills fighting to keep crosses out of our clams. Here's the first no-brainer, ladies: Knocked-up women should have the freedom to decide whether they want to have a baby or have an abortion, and if their insurance carrier covers one option, it should goddamn well cover the other. That's been the rule in Washington State for years—despite persistent Republican opposition to "reproductive parity" laws—and under Representative Eileen Cody's (D-Seattle) bill, HB 1044, it would remain the law of the land.

Still, accessing abortion care is harder now that almost half of the hospitals in Washington are Catholic-affiliated, which is why Senator Kevin Ranker (D-San Juan Island) has introduced a bill that would require hospitals and clinics that receive public money to provide for, or refer for, all legal services, including women's reproductive rights and end-of-life care. "In rural areas, there aren't many options," Ranker says. "We shouldn't allow the sole health-care provider to limit the legal medical choices you have available."

Saving Bus Service

This bill isn't just "good," it's essential for bus service as we know it. Metro is facing a 17 percent service cut next year, simply because King County lacks the authority to tax itself sufficiently to fund its own transit system. This bill would allow the county—if it so chooses—to charge $40 for car tabs and slap a 1.5 percent excise tax on vehicles. If Olympia fails to pass this bill, "You'll be waiting for a bus, it will be full, and it will go by because there won't be enough buses to serve the demand," says bill sponsor Representative Jessyn Farrell, a Democrat from Northeast Seattle. But HB 1959 is facing opposition from outside the county. Fourteen Republicans, who mostly live in tiny towns, unsuccessfully tried to stop it from passing out of committee. Why the fuck should they care if city folk choose to tax ourselves to pay for our own bus service? Lawmakers "bring their ideologies to the table and there is definitely an anti-tax, anti-transit sentiment," Farrell laments.

Ending the Dance Tax

Bars with dance floors shouldn't be taxed more than big venues, like the Paramount and the Moore, simply for having dance nights. But they are. In fact, an obscure 9.5 percent tax on tickets and cover charges (in addition to the business taxes the clubs already pay) has hurt at least three popular music venues in the past few years: Century Ballroom, Neighbours, and Tractor Tavern. Senator Ed Murray (D-Seattle) is sponsoring SB 5613 to repeal this duplicative, unevenly applied tax.

Taxing the Rich to Pay for Schools

There are lawmakers in both parties (yes, we're looking at you, Governor Jay Inslee) who tell us that they can close the $900 million budget gap, while funding K–12 schools enough to meet the state's constitutional obligations, without raising taxes. But, of course, they're lying. That's why we need SB 5738, which would raise more than $600 million a year for education, mostly by imposing a 5 percent tax on capital gains over $10,000 a year. It doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing, but we'd be assholes not to pimp it.

Keeping Voting Accessible

Even though Washington State doesn't face the racial voting obstacles of, say, Florida or Mississippi, people of color here don't always see their votes make a difference. For example, only 4 percent of elected officials in Eastern Washington are Latino, even though Latinos represent more than 50 percent of the population in counties like Adams and Franklin. That's because almost all local elections are conducted at-large, or citywide, rather than by district, which can mean minorities are consistently outvoted by thin margins. House Bill 1413 would help fix that by letting cities and towns switch to district-based elections that finally give racial minorities a fair shot at winning office.

Other bills would make it easier for young people to vote. Representative Joe Fitzgibbon's HB 1267 would allow people to register to vote on Election Day, while HB 1279 would allow teens to preregister to vote (then they could vote after turning 18).

Saving Cyclists

Here's a popular bill that has died in past years for stupid procedural reasons. Representative Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline) is once again sponsoring a safe-streets bill, HB 1045, that would allow cities to lower speed limits on side streets to a safe 20 miles per hour (from the usual 25) without requiring a traffic study, which can be prohibitively expensive. It has bipartisan support, and its backing outside Olympia is broad: the AARP (the olds!), AAA (the cars!), public-health organizations (the humans!). Just pass it, already.

The Bad

Gutting Rights for Workers

Republicans hate working people. They just do. How else to explain these latest legislative assaults on working people? Senate Bill 5275 would establish a "training wage," by which employers could pay workers 75 percent of the state minimum wage for the first 680 hours of work. That's $1,562 out of the pockets of a minimum- wage worker. Another bill, SB 5728, would invalidate local sick-leave ordinances entirely (including in Seattle). Thanks, Republicans!

Punishing Kids Who Don't Read Good

Republicans religiously oppose taxes to pay for schools, but they yammer about the need for innovative education reforms. So what's their innovation this year? A bill to hold back kids who flunk third-grade reading. "Students of color will be disproportionately retained," argue opponents cited in a legislative report, and SB 5237 provides zero new money to actually help failing students. This isn't reform; it's putting a scarlet letter—an "F" grade—on disadvantaged kids by holding them back.

Grading Schools

This bill is designed to punish teachers for the students who fall through the cracks of our criminally underfunded, overcrowded schools. Senate Bill 5328, birthed from the tax-raising-averse loins of Senator Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island), would grade schools based on student achievement. Good schools would get an "A"; bad schools would get an "F." That's it. A stupid letter grade devoid of rewards or ramifications.

The Fucking Nuts

Making Shooting Easier

Senate Bill 5831 would make clay pigeons bought by nonprofit gun clubs exempt from sales taxes. Even if they're making money selling the opportunity to shoot at them. YUP! This is a real bill. Sponsored by the senate Republican whip, Ann Rivers, it's a marriage of hating taxes and loving guns that makes absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever.

Keeping the State Poor Forever

A two-thirds requirement for tax increases, which was struck down last week, made raising taxes pretty much impossible. Fortunately, the same holds true for passing constitutional amendments like SJR 8205, Senator Pam Roach's (R-Glock) resolution to impose the two-thirds requirement by constitutional amendment. Democrats would have to be fucking nuts to vote for this.

Honoring Reagan

Here's what you pay Senators Don Benton (R-Vancouver), Pam Roach (R-Auburn), and Nathan Schlicher (D-Gig Harbor) 40 grand a year to do: adopt Senate Resolution 8614. It resolved that the state senate "honor and cherish the life and work" of Ronald Reagan, citing reasons such as "Ronald Reagan determined that one key to a prosperous economy was a low tax rate." There's no public record of how much we're paying them to clean Reagan's ghost-spooge off their mouths every day. recommended