But things can work the other way too. Bills can get resurrected on cutoff day. And liberal leadership worried that, in addition to losing on some of their priority bills like the pregnancy center bill (and an initiative reform bill), bills they didn't like were poised to rise from the dead.
As the clock ticked toward 5 pm, rumors were hot that conservative Democratic senators, the so-called roadkill caucus, were planning a coup with Republicans to invoke the "ninth order" rule, which would have extended the 5 pm deadline and allowed any bill—such as, who knows, Sen. Jenea Holmquist Newbury's (R-13, Moses Lake) bill to repeal the family and medical leave act, which never even got a hearing—to be brought up for a vote. The dramatic "ninth order" move would have, in effect, taken authority away from the majority party and its committee leaders and allowed dissident Republicans and conservative Democrats to run their agenda for the rest of the evening in the senate.
The roadkill caucus had, in fact, teamed up with the GOP to exert its influence earlier this year, pulling off a mini-coup in January when they hijacked the unemployment insurance bill to favor business over labor. And more recently, this past weekend, they hijacked a workers comp reform bill by backing Holmquist Newbery's striker amendment to give businesses a stronger hand.
It was hard to tell how things were going to play out on cutoff day. Over on the house side (where there's no equivalent parliamentary rule), wary liberals including Rep. Marko Liias (D-21, Edmonds) told us "things could get ugly" on the senate floor, saying he thought there was a move afoot to call for the "ninth order."
After the senate returned from a two-hour lunch break, Fizz headed over to the senate wings and checked on the rumors. Senate Democratic spokesman Jeff Reading, standing just off the floor, would only say that "the dynamic has changed [this year]," referring to the aforementioned coups, and nodded his head "oh yeah," when asked if a "ninth order" run was likely. He said there had been a pep talk in caucus to "hang together," but honestly, he didn't seem confident about how successful that had been.
But moments later, Fizz also ran into roadkill caucus leader Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens), himself, who, while suspiciously nonchalant (he sat us down to chat about Iraq, where he'd served in 2004), simultaneously shook his head "No" when asked about the supposedly imminent coup. He was smiling. Looking down. Bashful.
More mixed signals: Hobbs' roadkill caucus colleague, Sen. Jim Kastama (D-25, Puyallup), kept pulling Hobbs aside to confer as Hobbs was just trying to chill out in the wings. Meanwhile, liberal Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill) predicted the conservatives didn't have the votes.
Hmmm. We also asked majority leader Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) what was going to happen as she rushed into the caucus room. "I have no idea," she joked. But her playful mood didn't last; moments later, we saw her having a tense exchange with Sen. Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver), who had come over into the Democratic wings to confirm some sort of last minute details with her. She turned, mid conversation, walking away from him—and back into the Democratic caucus room—telling him over her shoulder that he had it wrong. Benton, left standing alone and shrugging in disbelief, said to no one in particular, except perhaps the batch of reporters off to the side, "but that was a priority." A deal gone awry?
As the clock approached 5 pm, Republican floor leader Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-9, Ritzville) called for conservative Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen's (D-10, Camino Island) controversial driver license legislation—reportedly a top priority of conservatives—to be the "special order of business." That motion, a canary in the coal mine for the potential coup, failed 23-25, highlighting that the conservatives didn't have the votes to go nuclear with a "ninth order."
If moderate Democrats and Republicans couldn't find consensus on the driver license legislation, then they probably didn't stand a chance passing a motion to invoke the dramatic rule. (Haugen's bill, by the way, would have created a "two-tiered" driver license system, designating licenses of undocumented immigrants with a "not valid for identification purposes" stamp.)
Jordan Schrader at the The Tacoma News Tribune has a nice wrapup on the fate of some key bills, including the big news Erica had yesterday that the King County metro funding bill passed.
Rep. John McCoy votes 'No' on handing workers' comp decisions to management.
2. And while we've got you here, focusing in on Olympia, there's a bill that passed this weekend in the house that—coupled with the senate's workers' comp bill we noted above (Sen. Holmquist Newbry's bill that lets companies settle claims instead of going with the Department of Labor and Industries finding)—caps off a bad first half for labor this session.
The house bill—sponsored by Rep. Larry Springer (D-45, Kirkland)—sets up a five year pilot program allowing companies to use their own claims administrators to deal with short term workers' comp claims. The bill passed 70-27.
Rep. Liias, one of the nay votes among the stalwart faction of labor liberals who opposed the bill—including Reps. Andy Billig, Joe Fitzgibbon, David Frockt, Bob Hasegawa, Laurie Jinkins, John McCoy, Mark Miloscia, Luis Moscoso, Timm Ormsby, and Mike Sells—told us, "that just seemed like the fox guarding the henhouse."
Sponsor Springer, who outlined the safeguards, including L&I's ability to intervene if there are disputes between the employer and worker, says the bill is intended to make workers' comp more efficient and "speed up claims management" getting smaller claims off the L&I rolls—"letting them concentrate on those very difficult claims that drive 80 percent of our costs" as a way of getting workers back on the job faster "so they don't have lost wages—and the trust fund for L&I isn't depleted."
For a stern rebuttal check out Rep. John McCoy (D-38, Tulalip) at the 45 minute mark here:
"This piece of legislation goes to the bottom line," he says. "It's only looking at the dollar value, whenever you start looking only at the dollar value, the employee loses and you're going to do something that's going to get them back to work either too soon or they don't get rehabilitated."
3. President Obama is nominating former Washington State Governor Gary Locke, the current U.S. Secretary of Commerce, as U.S. ambassador to China.