Open Government

WPC's Center for Government Reform's mission is to partner with stakeholders and citizens to work toward a government focused on its core functions while improving its transparency, accountability, performance, and effectiveness for taxpayers.

What's New

E-911 Service Fee to Increase 36% under HB3216

March 22, 2010 in Blog

As my colleague Jason Mercier pointed out last week, Democrats introduced HB 3216 last week, which would expand the 911 service fee that landline and cell phone users pay to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) lines. It also raises the E-911 fee from $0.70 to $0.95 (state and county fee combined) for everyone. 

Tax increases built on "faith" and "hope"

March 22, 2010 in Blog

As the special session enters day 8, agreement on how to raise $800 million in taxes for their budget plan remains elusive for majority Democrats. Despite calls to refocus on spending reforms instead to balance the budget discussion has focused almost exclusively on tax increases since the special session began.

One tax increase already on its way to approval by the Legislature is a bed tax on hospitals.

Here is one interesting floor speech on HB 2956 (bed tax) from last Friday that described the tax increase as one built on faith and hope.

Discussing the tax increase Sen. Rosa Franklin said:

"Hospitals I think brought forth an idea of which might help and it’s really one on faith. Sure, fiscal responsibility, bow waves, whatever. Nobody has any money. The feds don’t have any money. The state doesn’t have any money. So what we are acting now on is one I would say is of hoping that it will work . . . let us vote for the bill, send it on, hope it works and then hopeful that the economy will come back and that we will be able to really solve some of the economic problems . . ." 

Here is the video of her full floor speech including a response by Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt. 

As to the policy details of HB 2956, WPC's Health Care Director, Dr. Roger Stark, highlighted how states game the Medicaid system with these type of ploys in this study: How state officials use bed taxes and other schemes to manipulate Medicaid and increase costs to taxpayers

Ghost bills and mystery hearings hurt legislative process

March 22, 2010 in In the News
Bellevue Reporter
Bellevue Reporter
Monday, March 22, 2010

UPDATED: Public need not attend

March 19, 2010 in Blog

Keeping an eye on the Legislature has become increasingly difficult this session as legislative transparency has fallen way down on some lawmakers' priority list.

Here is just the latest example.

Around 6 p.m. last night the Senate Ways and Means Committee announced it would hold executive session today on at least five bills. The short notice of the hearing wasn't the only problem with this announcement. No time or location was provided; instead the notice said TBA.

As of 11 a.m. this morning the web agenda still say TBA on time and location of the executive session. Thanks to a tip, though, I know the meeting will take place in the Senate Rules room. In fact, I am currently sitting in the room watching Senate Ways and Means staff set the room up for the meeting.

When I asked what time the meeting would start I was told as soon as the Senate concluded floor action. This means there will likely be little to no public notice of when the meeting will start.

Another concern, TVW cameras are not available in the Senate Rules room which means unless you are sitting in the room you will not be able to see what debate occurs on the bills being adopted.

Surprisingly, if you know how to maneuver the Legislature's electronic bill book you will be able to find this agenda for the meeting.

Note that it says the meeting will start at 12 p.m. in Senate Hearing Room 4 (a room covered by TVW cameras). Also note the big bold letters at the top of the agenda: "Broadcast LIVE on TVW." 

Unfortunately for citizens, this agenda is not accurate. The meeting time is still TBA and will occur in the TVW-camera-free Senate Rules room.

UPDATE (4:25 p.m.)

As of 4:25 p.m. the web agenda still says TBA but the Ways and Means hearing will begin any moment. It appears no public notice beyond the brief mention on the Senate floor a few moments ago will be issued.

UPDATE (4:50 p.m.)

The hearing has just concluded. The web agenda still says the meeting time is TBA. The most interesting exchange was the rejection of an amendment to eliminate the state printer offered to EHB 2969. Unfortunately the amendment is not currently available online so I can't link to it. Those voting against the amendment said there wasn't en!
ough notice or time to consider the impact.

Legislative Roll Call Report

March 19, 2010 in In the News
The Daily News (Longview)
The Daily News (Longview)
Friday, March 19, 2010

Legislative Games: Public Hearing before Introduction

March 18, 2010 in Blog

Yesterday we highlighted the "Transparency Games" that continue to be played in the state legislature.  The post covered a public hearing held by the Senate Ways & Means Committee on SB 6889, which at the time of the hearing hadn't been officially introduced by the Senate. 

At the conclusion of our post we wrote:

"It will be interesting to see how the bill history will read for SB 6889.  Will they acknowledge that the public hearing was held before the bill was introduced?"

Well, after several phone calls to Senate staff this afternoon here is the result:


Now the legislative record accurately reflects that a bill was heard before being introduced.