1. Recycling and Composting
Yesterday afternoon, the City Council's utilities committee reiterated their support for ending a pilot program to pick up garbage once every two weeks, instead of every week, that was aimed at encouraging residents to recycle their recyclables and compost their compostables, instead of throwing them in the trash. Originally, the goal was to expand the program (which also reduced the number of trucks on the street and cut greenhouse-gas emissions) citywide.
The downside, besides residents (most of whom did not actually participate in the pilot) who complained about less-frequent service, was basically that people didn't see 50-percent cost savings despite accepting a 50-percent service cut. Instead, the savings were modest—about 8 percent for residential customers.
"It was politically very unpopular, and at the same time didn't save us the kind of money we were trying to save," committee chair Sally Bagshaw said.
It did, however, have the potential to reduce the city's solid waste by 9,000 tons a year, edging Seattle 1.1 percentage points closer to its goal of 60 percent waste diversion (recycling or composting).
Currently, we're at just under 56 percent. Since failure to compost food waste seems to be Seattleites' biggest garbage-related failure (while recycling is mandatory, composting is optional), the city will consider banning the disposal of food waste and requiring restaurants to use compostable containers, instead of giving them a choice between compostable and recyclable.
2. Macklemore and Ridesharing
With the special City Council taxi committee set to vote on capping rideshare companies on Thursday, Grammy-winner local Macklemore tweeted: "Seattle...if you like @Uber and you don't want it shut down in our city...check out action.uber.org/seattle/ and hashtag #saveuberXsea."
Macklemore's link takes you to an Uber petition against the legislation that more than 4,400 people have signed.
At the last special taxi committee meeting, the council was debating either capping the number of rideshare drivers at 300 (Bruce Harrell's original proposal) or 600 (Sally Clark's new proposal.) The council had originally proposed capping the number hours a rideshare driver could work as well (at 16 hours per week), but has backed away from that idea.
Mayor Ed Murray, who says he's against caps in principle, has proposed a temporary rideshare cap while, you guessed it, a stakeholders' task force studies the issue.
The Court, according to staff estimates, says the state needs to add about $3.3 billion to K–12 operation levels for the 2015–17 biennium and $4.5 billion for the 2017–19 biennium to meet the McCleary mandate.
3. Democrats and Tax Breaks
State senate Democrats rolled out a plan to close four tax breaks yesterday—$24.3 million this biennium in a bottled water exemption; $29 million this biennium for out-of-state shoppers; $15.6 million this biennium for re-selling prescription drugs; and $30 million this biennium for oil refineries—proposing to put the $100 million toward K–12 funding in the current budget, including $51.7 million in cost of living adjustments for teachers, which have been suspended for the last six years.
Taking the exemptions off the books would bring in $202 million in the next biennium.
The Democratic proposal is intended to satisfy the Supreme Court, which reprimanded the legislature in January as the session began for not doing enough last session to meet the court's McCleary mandate to fully fund K–12 ed by 2018.
(The court has asked for a funding blueprint by April 30 or else we're looking at a Marbury vs. Madison-style constitutional crisis.) The Court, according to legislative staff estimates, says the state needs to add about $3.3 billion to baseline K–12 operation levels for the 2015–17 biennium and about $4.5 billion for the 2017–19 biennium to meet the McCleary mandate; legislators are rounding that figure to about "$5 billion or more."
They were supposed to add about $1.4 billion this biennium, but fell about $350 million short according to the court. (And the extra funding they did put into K–12, about $1 billion on top of the current, inadequate $14 billion status quo, relied on $521 million in one-time funding, which didn't inspire much confidence from the court.)
At a press conference yesterday, the Democrats said, to pass their funding proposal, they were hoping to work with "the responsible adults in the room" (meaning the Majority Coalition Caucus's moderate leadership, of whom Sen. David Frockt (D-46, N. Seattle) said: "if you talk to people in private moments on the other side," they want to follow the court's mandate.)
Democratic minority leader Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, W. Seattle) said her 23-member Democratic caucus only needs about three Republicans to support ending the tax exemptions.
State Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-6, Spokane), a more conservative member of the MCC, has proposed legislation mocking the Court while condemning them on the senate floor for telling the legislature what to do.
At yesterday's press conference, Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Seattle), a gay parent of four young kids, said, "It's really urgent that we not spend another session not deciding how we're going to go about meeting our obligation...our kids are depending on us."
This morning's Fizz clip stars Sen. Pedersen's catchy double negative:
The GOP says K–12 funding is the legislature's number one responsibility, and thus the Democrats should be prioritizing K–12 funding with money we already have—and only consider closing tax breaks (that is, finding new revenue) for wish-list items. Responding, Sen. Frockt said: "I don't think we can get there with the current obligation we have [to other state needs]."
Frockt's point is one the Democrats have been making throughout the K–12 funding debate: You can't look at K–12 funding in isolation, particularly, for example, when hungry kids don't do as well in school as those from families who are well off.
4. Democrats and Tax Breaks Pt. 2
House Democratic budget leaders are slated to present a McCleary funding plan of their own at a noon press conference today.
Given that the house finance chair, Seattle Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-"Rigorous Analysis of Tax Breaks") is part of the press conference, Fizz is certain the oil tax break flagged in the senate plan (Carlyle has been hot on shutting that one down for a while) will be one among many on the chopping block in a house proposal to close exemptions. (The house Democrats proposed—with limited success—closing $500 million in tax breaks last year.)
5. Republicans and Angry Emails
"As a fellow Republican legislator," Benton's "Importance: High" email began, "I am deeply disturbed by your yes vote on the Democrats' House Bill 2552."Speaking of the house, Republican state Sen. Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver) sent an email to 14 house Republicans yesterday afternoon scolding them for voting in favor of a Democratic bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Reykdal (D-22, Tumwater) to make signature gatherers and signature gathering companies register with the state.
"As a fellow Republican legislator," Benton's "Importance: High" email began, "I am deeply disturbed by your yes vote on the Democrats' House Bill 2552."
It goes on (bolds ours): "Every year, the Democrats propose eliminating the initiative process, increases in filing fees, and imposing ridiculous new burdens on signature collection. Each and every time, the Republicans have stood firm against the Democrats' arrogance. We've stood up to pressure from the unions and special interests to join the Democrats in pushing these additional burdens on the citizen initiative process. After all, the initiative process is a constitutional right of all Washingtonians." Labor did not make a concerted push for the bill.
"HB 2552 is one of the most oppressive Big Government anti-initiative bills they've ever tried. And you voted for it! Even the ACLU opposes it." (True.)
We have calls and messages in to some of the Republicans on the Benton's list, plus union lobbyists and the ACLU.
The bill, which a couple of liberals voted against, including liberal Seattle Democratic Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46, N. Seattle), passed 71-26 early last week.
Although some in the GOP opposed the bill on Bentonesque libertarian grounds, lots of Republicans voted for the bill, in part because the supermarket lobby—one of Republicans' biggest allies—is sick of putting up with signature gatherers who congregate at their doors and bother customers.