Isn't it weird that...

1. Isn't it weird that ... the Citizen Commission that reviews tax breaks, which usually rubber-stamps the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee's (JLARC) findings (to renew breaks or not), disagreed with JLARC on more than a quarter of their findings this year. 

JLARC and the Citizen Commission work in conjunction to assess the effectiveness of certain tax breaks, according to the review process established by the legislature in 2006. However, this year the Citizen Commission disagreed with JLARC on six recommendations—26 percent. In the 2011 report, the commission endorsed 23 of the JLARC’s 25 recommendations. 

The Citizen Commission disagreed with JLARC on six recommendations, 26 percent.

Yesterday, JLARC presented their annual review of tax breaks to the House Finance Committee, taking into account their performance over a 10-year period. Currently, there are 619 tax breaks on the books. This year, JLARC reviewed 23 of them. More often than not, JLARC’s critique of tax breaks is that the legislature hasn't named specific policy objectives for tax preferences, giving the committee no metrics for judging them.

This year, JLARC recommended terminating one tax break, keeping ten in place, and getting review and clarification on 12.

However, instead of waiting for more review and clarification for those 12 tax breaks, the Citizen Commission tightened their grip on almost half, by calling for five of the 12 (including what they called underperforming or outdated tax breaks for high-tech and biotech companies, travel companies, and businesses that use commute trip reduction programs) to either be eliminated or allowed to expire.

Additionally, the Citizen Commission decided a JLARC-approved tax break for ferry repair should be reviewed. And while the Commission endorsed the JLARC recommendation of tax breaks for insurance companies, they added that if further review found no compelling reason for offering differential rates, then the tax break should be scrapped.

The divergent makeup of each group may explain their divergent analysis. JLARC’s sixteen members include an equal number of House and Senate members, Democrats and Republicans, as well as auditor Keenan Konopaski and 19 other staff members.

On the other hand, the Citizen Committee is a leaner, less legislative group able to make gutsier recommendations without the political gridlock. The five voting members, appointed by the senate, house and governor, include Stephen Miller (Washington Education Association), James Bobst (Pacific Fibre Products, Inc.), Ruta Fanning (former JLARC legislative auditor) and Paul Guppy (Washington Policy Center). The committee also includes two non-voting members, state auditor Troy Kelley and JLARC chair Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36, Seattle).

As the legislative session presses on, so will the need to make up a $1.6 billion (and probably greater) revenue shortfall. While JLARC’s only termination—a tax brake for manufacturers doing a final bit of assembly on Chevrolet trucks at the Port of Seattle— is estimated at $0 in savings (because no one is using it), the savings from the Citizen Commission’s elimination of tax breaks totals to $158.1 million for the 2013-2015 biennium.

2. Isn't it weird that ... anti-choice Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry (R-13, Moses Lake) has become the Republicans' poster child for women's rights?

In 2007, the senate passed  a bill 41-8, which pushed workplaces to accommodate breastfeeding. Se. Holmquist Newbry voted 'No.'Last week, you'll remember, when Sen. Holmquist Newbry was excused from senate proceedings to breastfeed her new baby, Sen. David Frockt (D-46, N. Seattle) tried to exploit her absence, which gave the Democrats a momentary advantage, by trying to get a Democratic bill—which had apparently been stalled by GOP leadership—voted onto the floor.

Pretty tacky, although Frockt says he didn't realize the reason for Holmquist Newbry's absence.

Frockt also pointed out that the GOP was in no position to accuse a Democrat of disrespecting child care: The Republicans in the senate are currently trying to repeal the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act, which guarantees parents paid time off to be with their newborns, among other rights. (Holmquist Newbry is a co-sponsor on the repeal legislation.)

Okay recovery from Frockt, though here's an even better zinger.

In 2007, the senate passed  a bill 41-8, which pushed workplaces to accommodate breastfeeding.

It read:

An employer, if requested by an employee, is encouraged but not required, to become infant-friendly.

An employer may use the designation "infant-friendly"on its promotional materials and otherwise, if the employer has an approved workplace breastfeeding policy addressing at least the following: (a) Flexible work scheduling, including scheduling breaks and permitting work patterns that provide time for expression of breast milk; (b) A convenient, sanitary, safe, and private location, other than a restroom, allowing privacy for breastfeeding or expressing breast milk; (c) A convenient clean and safe water source with facilities for washing hands and rinsing breast-pumping equipment located in the private location specified in (b) of this subsection; and (d) A convenient hygienic refrigerator in the workplace for the mother's breast milk.

 

Holmquist Newbry was one of just eight "No" votes on the 2007 bill.