caption: Task force governing.
art cred: malcolm smith
Two proposals dominated the news from Olympia as the legislative session came to a close last week: (1) A last-minute request that the state kick in $75 million to help renovate the Sonics' KeyArena, and (2) A homebuyers' bill of rights, which would have given people the fundamental right to sue contractors for shoddy work. Predictably, the leadership in Olympia responded to both lightning-rod issues without showing a hint of leadership.
On the Sonics, Governor Christine Gregoire and house Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43) outlined their big solution in a March 10 letter: "A joint task force on financing options."
On the homebuyers' bill, Chopp put senate-approved legislation creating a right to sue contractors aside and, in a March 11 letter, proposed his own legislation that would set up "a legislative task force to study consumer remedies."
It was a fitting end to what could be called the session of the task force.
Earlier in the session, two of the most relevant bills to come up—a universal health-care bill sponsored by Senator Karen Keiser (D-33, Kent) and a tax credit for working families proposed by Senator Craig Pridemore (D-49, Vancouver)—were both ditched in favor of substitute legislation calling for "work groups," "contracts with an independent consultant," "deliberations to review," and finally, rather than any legislation, "a report."
The task-forced version of Senator Keiser's health-care bill actually called for a study of a previous study. I'm not joking. SB 6333 "Required the work group to... begin deliberations by reviewing in detail the findings and recommendations of the 2006 blue-ribbon commission on health-care costs."
Our quick review found that the legislature created no fewer than 14 new "advisory committees," "work groups," "interagency work groups," "studies," and "task forces" this session to deliberate on everything from the financial-services industry to tolls to the student achievement gap (didn't we already have a huge blue-ribbon commission on education, "Washington Learns," in 2005?). And as I already mentioned, the legislature opted for task forces instead of legislation on health care and tax credits for working families.
Maybe somebody should set up a task force to review the legislature and come back with a recommendation for how it can actually legislate.