Today's winner: The Majority Coalition Caucus
Wayward Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina), the insurgent senate majority leader who joined with the senate's 23 Republicans and one other erstwhile Democrat this session, giving a 25-24 advantage to his Republican-powered "Majority Coalition Caucus," got his first big floor win today.
It's not just that he passed a batch of workers' compensation reforms that lower costs for business (the reforms take medical benefits out of workers' comp calculations, lower the maximum settlement amount, and extend the option for structured settlements—as opposed to ongoing payouts– to more workers). No, the real win is that he passed a structured settlement bill 30-19, meaning he picked up even more Democrats.
The real win is that Tom passed a structured settlement bill 30-19, meaning he picked up even more Democrats.
Democratic Sens. Tracey Eide (D-30, Federal Way), Brian Hatfield (D-19, Raymond), Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens), and Mark Mullet (D-5, Issaquah) all signed on, making the settlement option more bipartisan. The reason they signed on: The Republican sponsor, Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry (R-13, Moses Lake), agreed to a Hobbs amendment—one she and the MCC rejected last Friday—that only extended the settlement option age minimum to 40 (down from the current minimum age of 50).
Initially, Tom and the Republicans had wanted no age minimum. Labor worries that the younger the worker is, the more likely (or desperate) he or she will be to take a cash settlement—over more extensive ongoing payments from the state workers' comp fund.
UPDATE: Sen. Holmquist Newbry issued a statement late in the day:
“In a spirit of bipartisanship, we approved an amendment ... that reduces the age restriction to 40. This was an example of our caucus working in good faith with members of the minority party to pass job-creating legislation with broad support.”
During the debate on the senate floor today, lefty labor Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-11, Beacon Hill) directly challenged the notion that the workers' comp bills created jobs, saying the legislation was "balancing costs on the backs of injured workers." His solution to the problem of higher workers' comp rates, "broadening the base," with "health care for all."
Today's second winner: Bike and pedestrian advocates.
This afternoon, the city council, which WSDOT has asked for guidance on the design of the Seattle bridge landing, adopted a resolution endorsing the Portage Bay trail between Montlake and Roanoke, adding an official stamp of approval to bike advocates' demands.
Despite overwhelming support for better bike and pedestrian connections between the new 520 bridge and Capitol Hill, the state Department of Transportation has so far declined to include a new Portage Bay trail in its bridge construction plans.