No public input needed for fast-tracked union bill

March 8, 2011

The House demonstrated last night how efficiently it could move priority legislation when the public is cut out of the process. HB 2011, introduced just this past Saturday, was the last bill acted on by the House last night and passed by a vote of 59-36.

As we highlighted yesterday, HB 2011 would change the collective bargaining rules for employees of the Department of Corrections and was a priority of the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE). No public hearing or committee review occurred on the bill before last night's floor action.

Although the bill was adopted after 5 p.m. (cutoff), as noted by the House Democrat Caucus blog, as long as "debate" started before the cutoff time the bill could still be considered:

"It’s House of Origin cut-off today, and floor action is scheduled to begin at 9:00 this morning. This is the last day to pass any non-budgetary House bills.

Cut-off is officially at 5 p.m. meaning no further bills can be brought to the floor after that time. Debate, however, can continue so we're likely to go a little late."

Here is a short video showing the "debate" beginning on HB 2011 before 5 p.m. followed by an immediate break of action for caucus meetings:

The fast-track treatment of the bill was not well received by some lawmakers, including the ranking member of the House Ways and Means committee Rep. Gary Alexander. According to the Seattle PI:

“This bill, which has fiscal consequences, never came through a fiscal committee. There was no public input,” said Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia. Alexander said the cost to the state would likely be 'significant,' but pointed out the cost estimate hadn’t even been completed yet. The state faces about a $5 billion operating budget deficit over the two years.

Here are Rep. Alexander's comments on the floor expressing these concerns: