1. The legislative session begins in Olympia today and, taking advantage of the parliamentary rule saying bills that passed out of one chamber last year don't need to go through the whole committee process again, the Democratic house, in a loud political statement for opening day, plans to pass the DREAM Act again this afternoon.
The DREAM Act, which passed last year in an authentic bipartisan vote 77-20, allows children of undocumented parents to get college financial aid from the state. It is sponsored by Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-11, Tukwila) and has deep GOP support, including from Yakima-area Rep. Charles Ross (R-14, Naches).
The senate, controlled by a pseudo-bipartisan coalition, the Majority Coalition Caucus, made up of 24 Republicans and two conservative Democrats for a 26-23 advantage over the Democratic caucus (last year it was 25-24), refused to consider the house bill last session.
The house, in a loud political statement for opening day, plans to pass the DREAM Act this afternoon.
In order to hold the GOP-dominated coalition together, the Democrats and social liberals in the MCC (such as suburban Seattle Republican Sen. Steve Litzow, R-41, Mercer Island and conservative Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom, D-48, Medina ) pledged not to break ranks on what they consider culture war bills. (Yes, Fizz gets that the DREAM Act, along with the pro-choice Reproductive Parity Act, another bill the MCC ignored after the house passed it last year, are more than culture war issues given that someone's economic future is on the line if they can't go to college or don't have insurance coverage for an abortion).
Will the senate block the obvious house priority again this year?
At a legislative session preview in Seattle sponsored by the CityClub on Friday, Sen. Tom, the nominal leader of the MCC who's facing a lot of heat in his socially liberal suburban district for helping the GOP block the Democrats' push for civil rights and women's rights last year, didn't actually answer a direct question about the potential of passing the DREAM Act this year. Instead, he groused that the house had blocked a senate priority last year by refusing to take up workers' comp reform, which passed the senate with an actual bipartisan vote of its own, 30-19. (Giving credit to the MCC's POV where credit's due, PubliCola, in fact, pointed out the discrepancy at the time.)
Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-47, Covington, Kent), the Democratic house majority leader (also at the CityClub forum on Friday), shot back at Tom, however, pointing out that the house had, in fact, passed landmark, GOP-driven workers' comp reform just two years earlier and was still in earnest about tracking the results. The legislation, business-friendly changes to workers' comp guidelines that would expand an employer's ability to offer injured workers' one-time lump settlements from the workers' comp fund rather than ongoing payouts, has had mixed results to date.
It's certainly noteworthy that the Republicans in the house are willing to go along with the Democrats' power play to put the DREAM Act front and center today in a move that could potentially embarrass the likes of their senate allies, Sens. Tom and Litzow—jeopardizing the supposedly socially liberal senators' legitimacy with their constituents, and even more, jeopardizing the GOP's future hold on the senate; Sen. Tom is up for reelection this year.
However, the house GOPers are probably thinking more about their own careers and understand that it's time to stop jeopardizing their political future by denying young people the right to a college education.
2. Erica will have a report on yesterday's $15 minimum wage rally later today. But it sounds like: turnout was big, socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant continued to challenge Mayor Ed Murray's minimum wage task force, and labor leader, King County Labor Council Executive Secretary David Freiboth, was defiantly off-message for the orthodox crowd. For now, Erica's tweets from Sunday's rally are here.
3. Sawant was also speaking on Saturday, by the way.
But not at a high-profile $15 minimum wage rally to dedicated supporters. She was attending to the more mundane business of being a City Council member at a Squire Park neighborhood meeting.
Cranky neighbors pressed her with their somewhat vague concerns about Swedish Medical Center's plans to expand, which, given Sawant's first-week status and the opaque quasi-judicial process that comes with land use decisions, she could only say that she'd have to look into it.
Also: pressed about her seemingly myopic focus on the $15 minimum wage issue, Sawant explained that she was thinking tactically to lay the groundwork to tackle other related issues about economic disparity. Getting a win on the $15 minimum wage, she said, would position her to expand her fight.
4. So Seattle thinks it's all ultra-left with its new socialist City Council member and gay mayor?
Conservative Southwest Washington Democratic state Rep. Brian Blake (D-19, Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties, Aberdeen, Longview, and Kelso) is sponsoring a bill in Olympia that would take plenty of progressive chutzpah to push in Seattle.
Rep. Blake's legislation would prohibit cities from requiring "minimum room area or floor area square footage for single-family residential buildings."
The idea—in sync with controversial, small-lot housing—is intended to promote: "ecologically sustainable and affordable housing, and small home construction" to meet "this growing need."