Looks like editors at The Olympian decided to declare April 16 as "Legislative Transparency Day." The capital city newspaper ran two editorials today highlighting our recommendations to improve the public's access to the legislative process.
Last Friday night the Senate approved its operating budget with a bipartisan 30-18 vote. The House is expected to release its counter proposal on Wednesday. As with most budgets there are good and bad components of the Senate plan.
With the Senate about to take action on its 2013-15 budget proposal, the Office of Financial Management (OFM) is weighing in. OFM said this about the proposed use of dedicated I-900 performance audit funds:
Having finished reading the 237 page budget summary I'm now digging in to the actual 401 page bill language. At the pace I'm going I'll be reading the Senate "approved" versus "proposed" budget. Despite being only a few pages in some very interesting studies proposed for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC).
Business taxes took center stage today in Olympia. While the morning started with a work session in the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee on how to reform the state's hated Business & Occupation Tax (B&O), the afternoon began with Governor Inslee's attempt to re-define what a tax increase is.
At noon today the final piece of the state's 2013-15 budget debate will fall into place as the March Revenue forecast is officially released. Due to the impact of the federal sequester, indications are that the currently projected nearly $2 billion increase in revenue for the next budget will be slightly reduced. While this will still mean revenues will be growing, it will likely fall short of funding the projected baseline spending increases and new policy adds Olympia would like to pursue.
Not only are title only bills (essentially blank pieces of legislation) not the most transparent way to introduce changes to state law (or perhaps too translucent) but they are used by lawmakers to circumvent the state Constitution. This is why it is disappointing to see 26 title only bills (13 in the House by Rep. Hunter and 13 in the Senate by Sen. Hill) introduced today. Budget chairs typically introduce title only bills so they "don't get stuck" at the end of session.
Here are some of the titles of the 26 title only bills (HB 2003-2015 and SB 5870-5882) introduced today:
With just hours to go until today's 5 p.m. cutoff in the Legislature, it isn't looking promising for SJR 8205 (Supermajority for taxes) being brought to the floor in the Senate for a vote. The proposed constitutional amendment would implement the policy adopted by the voters on five separate occasions over the past 20 years (since 1993) that tax increases require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature or voter approval.
Tomorrow (March 10) marks the beginning of National Sunshine Week - a time dedicated to celebrating the importance of the people's right to know and the need for strong open government laws. Judging from rumors in the House Rules Committee, the sun may continue to shine bright on Washington's landmark public records law.
Jason Mercier is Director of the Center for Government Reform at Washington Policy Center and is based in the Tri-Cities. He serves on the boards of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and CandidateVerification, and was an advisor to the 2002 Washington State Tax Structure Committee. Jason is an ex-officio for the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce. In June 2010, former Governor Gregoire appointed Jason as WPC’s representative on her Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Panel.