Here's one place where American Democracy fails: in little rooms in Olympia where "bipartisan" politics play out.
On February 27, after TVW turned off its cameras at a Senate Financial Institutions, Housing, and Insurance Committee hearing, state senator Jan Angel (R-26), to the astonishment of her colleagues, suddenly killed off a bill that funds most of the state's homeless programs by ending the hearing before bringing it up.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Madam Chair, what about 2368?" asked Senator Don Benton (R-17) when Angel adjourned the committee without warning. Others immediately chimed in. "To abruptly adjourn this meeting without protecting the homeless really, really bothers me, and it will affect those who need a voucher just for housing over their heads on a cold day," said Senator Sharon Nelson (D-34). Bill 2368, with bipartisan cosponsors, would have prevented a 62.5 percent cut in funding for programs that transition the homeless into shelters and homes, according to the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. The funding comes from modest recording fees on real-estate-related documents.
Why did Angel kill funding for the homeless?
It turns out that Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, who was elected as a Democrat but has since decided to caucus with Republicans as part of a bipartisan "coalition," called and told her to table the bill, according to committee member Senator Steve Hobbs (D-44), who says Tom admitted that to him directly. Rumors abound that Tom did it merely to perturb Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp. "He didn't say he wants to poke Frank Chopp in the eye," Hobbs says, "but I think everyone knows what Frank Chopp's thing is." Housing has long been Chopp's signature issue.
Pressed over the phone, Tom admitted that he did tell Angel, the Republican chair of the committee, that he opposes the bill. But he denied telling her to kill it. He doubts the state's efforts to fight homelessness are working and his position has nothing to do with Chopp, he says.
"It's not clear if Rodney Tom did this as a favor to bankers and realtors, or out of political retribution," says Fuse Washington's Collin Jergens. "This is a new low for Rodney Tom."