As we approach the February 18 House of Origin cutoff, bills are starting to fly off the floor of the House and the Senate. Two pension reform bills in the Senate could soon be among those moving. SB 5851 and SB 6305 are both currently on the floor.
With policy cutoff behind us the list of living and walking dead bills (nothing is really dead till sine die) is being compiled. Among the proposals that didn't even receive a hearing, however, is a bill based on WPC's recommendation for the Legislature to truly provide Washingtonians the opportunity to participate in the legislative debate while also ensuring lawmakers live by the same open government rules the rest of the state's public officials operate under.
Governor Inslee and Speaker Chopp received awards from the Washington Coalition for Open Government this week (WPC serves on the WCOG board). Inslee received the Key Award for his pledge not to use executive privilege to deny public records requests.
As budget writers continue to face growing demands for increased spending with limited resources, alternative ways of delivering services are being explored. One potential option worthy of consideration are "Social Impact Bonds," or pay-for-performance contracts with non-profits/private businesses to help deliver certain social programs.
The people's right to know has received a serious shot in the arm this session with numerous open government bills under consideration. The Attorney General's proposals to require training of government officials have already received executive action in the House and public hearings in the Senate. Several bills have also been introduced to make more budget related information available online.
During the heat of the debate last year on HB 1128 and whether or not government entities should be able to sue citizens to keep from disclosing public records, the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG) sent out a public records request to determine the extent of any problem facing local governments concerning compliance with the people's right to know.
Although 2014 is a general election year with control of the Legislature up for grabs and still unknown ballot measures yet to qualify, perhaps the most important vote of the year will be tomorrow on Boeing's 777X contract offer. Not only does this union vote have the potential to impact tens of thousands of jobs, but it could dramatically change the state's fiscal outlook, not to mention its economic psyche.
After going through multiple special sessions to adopt the state's 2013-15 budget, the last thing lawmakers will want to do is fight about a 2014 supplemental budget. State agencies, however, have already submitted their 2014 supplemental budget wish list requesting a combined increase in spending of $895 million and 806 new FTEs.
Jason Mercier is the 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.