If the Democrats in Olympia won't take on the archconservative Building Industry Association of Washington (the cowering Democratic house leadership snuffed important homebuyers' protection legislation at the BIAW's request last week), Democratic voters should step up and take on the lobby themselves.
By running an initiative guaranteeing homebuyers the right to sue builders for faulty work (that's what the failed bill would have done), progressives can (1) get a necessary law on the books, and, by draining the BIAW's coffers with a ballot fight, (2) slap down the BIAW. These are two things the Democrats in Olympia don't seem capable of doing themselves.
In fact, as the legislative session in Olympia wraps up, the Democrats—scared of using their majority because it might inspire a voter backlash—don't seem capable of much at all. (Sigh. What's the point of protecting your numbers if you're not going to use them in the first place?)
Here are 10 other bills that got killed this session: a bill to make global warming a litmus test for new development; a bill to outlaw plastic grocery-store bags; a bill to regulate payday-loan interest rates; a bill to expand family leave; a bill to provide a working-family tax credit; a bill to cap condo conversions; a bill to stop mentally ill people from getting handguns; a bill to prevent landlord discrimination against Section 8 tenants; a couple of bills to stop strip mining on Maury Island; a bill to protect student free speech.
Ultimate disappointment in the Democrats came to a head late last week, though, when Senator Brian Weinstein's (D-41, Mercer Island) homebuyers-rights legislation—which had become a bellwether bill for the Democrats after leadership chickened out and killed it last year—got killed again. House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43, Wallingford) kowtowed to the BIAW and let the bill rot in committee.
It's maddening that Chopp would kiss up to the BIAW (which also had a hand in killing the global-warming bill mentioned above). The BIAW, through its maze of political committees—such as the Washington Affordable Housing Council—pours millions into GOP coffers. (They also donate to Chopp.) They have pledged to elect archconservative GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi.
Since the BIAW is so hung up on Senator Weinstein's bill, someone should run it as an initiative this fired-up fall. Just as last year's insurance-claim ballot measure, R-67, forced the insurance industry to lay out millions in an unsuccessful effort to kill consumer rights, taking the homebuyer bill to the ballot would similarly screw the BIAW. They'd be diverted from bankrolling Rossi and GOP legislative candidates.
You have until July 3 to turn in 224,800 signatures. If the Democrats won't use their numbers, Democratic voters should use theirs.