Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. As Fizz noted earlier this week, a voting rights bill that the Democratic state house passed this month presents a litmus test for senate Majority Coalition Caucus leader Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina); Tom a renegade Democrat who facilitated a Republican coup to become senate leader, has pledged not to block his party's civil rights agenda.

Rep. Luis Moscoso's (D-1, Bothell) Voting Rights Act, as civil rights advocates call the bill, allows minority communities that present data proving discrimination at the polls to force local election authorities to amend voting rules by switching to district-based voting. It's a way to prevent at-large majorities from blocking significant voting blocs, such as Yakima's Latino population, from having political power. (Latinos make up more than 40 percent of Yakima, but don't have a single seat on the all-white, at-large seven-member city council.)

After yesterday's senate government operations committee hearing on Moscoso's bill, an AP report showed that Tom's coalition may fail the litmus test. Government operations committee chair Sen. Pam Roach (R-31, Auburn) told the AP "it was not likely the bill would advance from her panel."

"It's a long reach," she said, noting that her committee consists of four Republicans and three Democrats. "These haven't traditionally been Republican issues."

Here's what the AP didn't note, though: Sen. Roach is sponsoring a bill herself to change from at-large voting to district voting.

Roach's bill, which passed out of her committee in February and out of the senate in early March, specifically targets King County's at-large hospital district board in Federal Way, Kent, Renton, and Auburn that governs the Valley Medical Center.

Not only is Tom's Majority Coalition Caucus blocking the Democratic agenda, but they appear to be going about it hypocritically.

Making the exact same argument voting rights advocates from OneAmerica and the ACLU made at yesterday's hearing in support of Moscoso's bill, Roach has complained that having at-large elections prevents public hospital district board members from truly representing their communities.

Not only is Tom's Majority Coalition Caucus blocking the Democratic agenda, but they appear to be going about it hypocritically.

We have a call in to Sen. Roach.

2. Speaking of yesterday's hearing on the Voting Rights Act, here's a troubling fact that came to light: Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-11, Beacon Hill), speaking in favor of the bill, noted that voter turnout determines subsequent spending on constituent outreach.

"Those with the least participation, should have more in outreach funding. It's an example of institutionalized racism, and presents disadvantages in our communities."—Sen.  Bob Hasegawa

"One barrier that we had in the house of representatives," Hasegawa (who used to be in the house) told the committee, "is that those districts that have lower [voter] participation get lower mailing budgets—which tends to have a downward spiral [on voter turnout]. That's how it's set up in the house, and I've complained."

Startled by his revelation, Fizz called Hasegawa.

He told us: "The mailing budget in the house is determined by voter participation. When you have typically low turnouts, which is directly related to income levels, you get a smaller mailing budget, a downward spiral. My district 11, the most diverse in the country, has the smallest mailing, per capita, and the fewest registered voters. In my opinion, those with the least participation, should have more in outreach funding. It's an example of institutionalized racism, and presents disadvantages in our communities."

3.  Hey, this is pretty cool. PubliCola's former TechNerd (yes, in our heady heady startup days, we had a tech columnist!), Glenn Fleishman, was ranked as having one of the best Twitter feeds in the country by Time Magazine.

Way to go Glenn. And apologies that Josh stopped following you. He says he couldn't keep up. You tweet too damn much.