Workers dismissed as legislature battles | COMMENTARY

  • Monday, October 16, 2017 1:31pm
  • Opinion

Consequences of state lawmakers’ inability to bridge their differences, preventing passage of a capital budget and water rights bill, are far less theoretical these days.

Ten people were laid off from the state parks department two weeks ago and another 15 will be soon from the state Department of Enterprise Services.

They are the first casualties of this cold war of public servants that until now had been waged through a series of staged political events and exchanges of impolite pablum in 140 characters, or less, plus a hyperlink.

The Republican-led Senate is insistent it won’t act on a capital budget – from whence those pink-slipped workers are paid – until enactment of a response to the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision. GOP lawmakers contend the 2016 ruling is damaging rural communities because it puts unscalable hurdles in front of homeowners seeking to drill a well on their land.

In the Democrat-controlled House, most members welcomed the Hirst decision as a win for protecting the finite resource of water. They have gone from perplexed to downright angry at Republicans for fusing the budget and policy bill together.

For months, they and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee lacked the ingenuity and strength to crack the soldered resolve of the Senate majority.

They shouldn’t much longer.

Voters in suburban King County are electing a state senator next month. A Republican is in the seat now which is why the GOP-led coalition enjoys a 25-24 advantage in the Senate. A Democratic won the primary and if she wins in November it will put Democrats in control of the Senate as they are in the House and executive branch.

Then, if the political muscles of Inslee and Democratic lawmakers have not completely atrophied, they would do well to flex them right away.

Inslee could summon lawmakers for a special session as soon as Dec. 4. Democrats would be expected to unite to pass, in order, a bill containing all the projects in the capital budget then one dealing with a Hirst fix and finally one required for the sale of bonds to pay for the $4 billion capital spending plan. That last bill must be approved by at least 60 percent of members in each chamber.

Certainly it’s not critical this all be done in December since the next regular session is in January. Doing so would demonstrate Democrats’ desire to get off their heels and put Republicans on theirs.

Challenges abound for such a course of action.

Making sure all 50 Democrats in the House and what would be 25 in the Senate — not counting the renegade Democrat who caucuses with Republicans — show up is a big one. Conversations are already occurring to encourage all of them to keep their calendars clear.

Once in Olympia, the first order of business would be for the House to pass the capital budget containing $4 billion worth of projects. Then, House Democrats would have to pass a Hirst fix which has not happened all year. Rinse and repeat in the Senate.

If Democrats do find themselves in control of the legislative branch, they should ponder the adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as the consequences of this cold war won’t lessen and the casualties will mount.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter: @dospueblos.

More in Opinion

Letters to the editor for the week of June 14

Reader responds to other reader about leaded fuel Dear editor, I would… Continue reading

Separate the rotten from the ripe

Community pages can do better to spread information, and not libel

Legislature: History, investigations and new laws

The 2019 session of the Legislature included controversy, compromise, surprise, new law and more.

Letters to the editor for the week of Friday, May 31

Why isn’t the city asking for federal funding? Dear editor, I read… Continue reading

Nerd versus flies

I’ve always held that it would be better to fight 100 duck-sized… Continue reading

Write this down, take a little note then send it to the editor

The Reporter is looking for guest opinion writers

A historic era ends, another begins

The Frank Chopp era is over. Washington’s longest-serving speaker of the state… Continue reading

Readers are invited to discuss the future of the paper over coffee

Danielle Chastaine takes over as the new editor of the Renton / Covington-Maple Valley Reporter

Richard Elfers is a columnist, a former Enumclaw City Council member and a Green River College professor.
Thank Zenger and a strong-willed jury for freedom of the press

“No democracy has existed in the modern world without the existence of… Continue reading

Democrats didn’t quite run the entire table

Democratic lawmakers greeted the end of the 2019 legislative session with warm… Continue reading

King County and my grassy lawn

King County and my grassy lawn Do people know that some King… Continue reading