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.

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Senate moves step closer to tax increases

February 11, 2010 in In the News
Seattle PostGlobe
Seattle PostGlobe
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Washington Legislature Should Smell Some Strong Starbucks

February 11, 2010 in In the News
The Biz Coach
The Biz Coach
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Senate votes for full suspension of I-960

February 10, 2010 in Blog

At 11:10 this evening the Senate voted to suspend all of I-960's taxpayer protections, not just the 2/3 vote requirement suspension adopted just yesterday.

The vote for full suspension of I-960 was 26 to 22.

This evening's vote occurred because Senate Democrats said the bill adopted yesterday to only suspend the 2/3 vote requirement was done in error.

ly, Democrats blamed Republicans for the late night vote. According to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown:

"We want to vote on the bill today, but the minority party has made it clear that it’s going to block the procedural vote that would allow that to happen.

We are disappointed – we don’t see a substantive reason for delay. We had a very thoughtful and thorough debate yesterday, and preventing a final vote on the bill today only serves to slow down the budget process.

We’d like to vote on the bill at a reasonable hour so the public can follow the debate, but if that’s not possible, we are prepared to work past midnight into the next legislative day so that we can vote on the 960 bill and send it over to the House as soon as possible."

This drew a strong rebuke from Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt:

�s curious that at eight o’clock in the evening Senator Brow!
n would say Republicans denied the Senate the opportunity to vote on this bill today. At that point, Democrats in charge of the chamber hadn’t even brought the bill up for its first vote – let alone a final vote. It’s taken them all day to get this bill to the Senate floor. We would have been happy to have this debate during the daylight – except they weren’t organized enough to get this done before dark.

We are thrilled to take Senator Brown up on her offer to debate this issue at a reasonable hour. We agree that every person in our state should be able to see how their taxes are going to be raised and what is being done to them in the dark of night. Let’s take the final vote tomorrow, when everyone is awake and watching."

Senate Bill 6130 is now scheduled for public hearing and executive session on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. !
in the House Finance Committee.

Democrats concerned about the "Spirit of I-960"

February 10, 2010 in Blog

A spokesperson for the Senate Democrat caucus made an interesting comment today on why the Democrats are seeking suspension of the requirement for non-binding advisory votes for tax increases not first approved by voters.

According to Austin Jenkins:

Senate Democrats deny that fear of ballot-box retribution is their motivation for suspending the entire initiative. Instead, a caucus spokesman argues that as long as the advisory votes are required, the "spirit of [I-960]" would dictate that any tax increases be delayed until the voters have their say. But since the state is hurting for cash now, the Democrats' argument goes, they can't afford to wait for the advisory votes this fall.

While this new found respect for the "Spirit of I-960" is curious in light of the effort to suspend the la!
w, the intent section of I-960 makes it clear the true goal of this provision was so that voters would be able to make the Legislature aware of their views.

From I-960:

Our state constitution guarantees to the people the right of referendum.  In recent years, however, the legislature has thwarted the people’s constitutional right to referendum by excessive use of the emergency clause.  In 2005, for example, the legislature approved five hundred twenty-three bills and declared ninety-eight of them, nearly twenty percent, “emergencies,” insulating them all from the constitution’s guaranteed right to referendum.  The Courts’ reviews of emergency clauses have resulted in inconsistent decisions regarding the legality of them in individual cases.  The people find that, if they are not allowed t!
o vote on a tax increase, good public policy demands that at l!
east the legislature should be aware of the voters’ view of individual tax increases.  An advisory vote of the people at least gives the legislature the views of the voters and gives the voters information about the bill increasing taxes and provides the voters with legislators’ names and contact information and how they voted on the bill.  The people have a right to know what’s happening in Olympia.  Intent of section 6(1) of this act:  If the legislature blocks a citizen referendum through the use of an emergency clause or a citizen referendum on the tax increase is not certified for the next general election ballot, then an advisory vote on the tax increase is required.  Intent of section 6(4) of this act:  If there’s a binding vote on the ballot, there’s no need for a non-binding vote. 

The Senate is poised to vote on the et="_blank">full suspension of I-960 later today.

Ghost tax bill rising

February 10, 2010 in Blog

The ghost tax bill is moving in Olympia.  Yesterday the Senate Ways and Means held a public hearing on SB 6853.  The bill has no text.  First, it took Committee members 21 seconds to cancel their rule that bills must be available to the public for at least five days.  Later the Committee received a staff briefing on the bill - that took 35 seconds.  Then the only witness, Amber Carter of the Association of Washington Business, spoke for 65 seconds, speculating about what the bill might contain in the future.  She asked that her organization be included in any discussions if and when lawmakers decide to provide the bill with text.  Later the Committee passed the bill - that took 22 seconds. !
; The Committee's actions on SB 6853 are shown in a related blog post by Jason Mercier, WPC's government reform director.  Still unknown is what effect this tax legislation might have on Washington's economy or the jobs, families and lives of people across the state.

What does legislative transparency look like?

February 10, 2010 in Blog

Earlier today we highlighted a troubling trend of the legislature moving away from transparency. One of the examples we highlighted was SB 6853: Relating to creating the legislative review of tax preferences act of 2010.

Legislative transparency takes a beating

February 10, 2010 in Blog

The Legislature's commitment to transparency is taking a serious beating. Consider the handling of these bills:

Continuing this troubling trend, the Legislature is considering repeal of the state's Sunshine Committee while failing to act on the Committee's recommendation that the Legislature's double standard exempting lawmakers from the state's public records law be repealed.