In Olympia, all eyes are on November instead of January. In other words, it's all about the '08 legislative elections instead of the '08 legislative session.
Skittish about rocking the boat with any big agenda items, the supermajority Democrats don't want to lose their dominant numbers. So they're putting the kibosh on any expectations for major Democratic legislative victories—like expanding health-care coverage or consumer protection.
Even minor items have Democrats watching their backs. Late in the afternoon after the first day of the session on January 14, a carload of environmental lobbyists laughed that it was their regular allies, the Democrats, who were hesitant to sign on to a green-appliances sales tax credit they were pushing, while some Republicans seemed happy to oblige.
Sigh. The do-gooder lobbyists understand the Democratic mandate: low expectations.
This is unacceptable. This is the second year in a row of heavy Democratic majorities in both houses. It's time for the Democrats to deliver. This should be a time of high expectations, not low ones.
Thankfully, some Democratic legislators get it.
Senate Bill 6221
Last session the Democrats added 65,000 kids to the the state health care program. Cool. Now Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33, Kent) wants to help get coverage to the 600,000 uninsured adults. She's also got a bill queued up to guarantee women's access to Plan B.
House Bills 2530 and 2531
Freshman representative Sharon Nelson (D-34, Vashon Island), appointed by her district to fight against strip mining on Maury Island, has queued up two bills that would check Glacier Northwest's mining expansion. The first one, for example, would challenge the company's Department of Fish and Wildlife permit on the grounds that Glacier's work has a negative impact on fisheries.
Senate Bill 6385 and House Bill 2837
Senator Brian Weinstein (D-41, Mercer Island) and Representative Brendan Williams (D-22, Olympia) are pushing a bill, killed last year, that would give homebuyers a cause of action for negligent construction—a simple right consumers currently don't have.
House Bills 2422, 2424, and 2425 (or "The Maralyn Chase Agenda!")
They laughed at Representative Maralyn Chase (D-32, Shoreline) last year when she proposed a cap-and-trade bill on CO2 emissions and leadership quickly killed it. This year the session started with a Governor Christine Gregoire press conference in Seattle to announce a cap-and-trade bill. Now Representative Chase wants to outlaw nonrecyclable bottles and grocery bags, and outlaw death-to-the-environment small-engine equipment like leaf blowers. Listen to this woman. This year.
And based on last year's work, there should be some other high expectations for 2008: Let's fully expand domestic partnerships—and how about including young het couples? And let's put some regulations on the payday-loan industry's rates and the pharmaceutical industry's marketing tactics. And let's make sure tolling dollars can go to transit, not just pavement.
If we don't have high expectations of the supermajority Democrats in January, what's the point of voting for them next November?