Now that the session is finally over, PubliCola is going to start rolling out the 2011 Legislative Session Awards. Look for "Best Committee Chair," "Best Lobbyist," "Best Legislation," and, of course, our annual Eve Harrington Award.
Today .... the envelope please ... our Most Valuable Player awards, one in the house and one in the senate.
MVP in the House: The Progressive Freshman Democrats
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon
From Rep. David Frockt's (D-46, N. Seattle) domestic violence bill (not to mention his Washington Post- attention-grabbing coal tar sealant bill) to Rep. Laurie Jinkins' (D-27, Tacoma) gay rights bill to Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon's (D-34, Burien, W. Seattle) biker safety bill, this year's group of 12 freshman Democrats (Andy Billig, D-3, Spokane, was another standout on land use and environmental issues) had a major impact on the legislature. Their prominence culminated during the special session when Jinkins' bill to repeal an $83 million bank tax loophole and use the money to pay for K-3 class size funding made it to the house floor.
Jinkins' anti-corporate tax break bill failed because---thanks to Tim Eyman's Initiative 1053---it needed a two-thirds majority, but it accomplished two important things for the Democrats: 1) It put the Republicans on record as supporting corporate tax breaks for the likes of Bank of America and Chase over helping third graders. (The vote was 52-24 with the GOP against). And 2) The vote set the Democrats up to challenge the two-thirds rule in court.
As the house Blue-Green coalition, the de facto progressive caucus in recent years, seemed to lose its battle with the conservative Roadkill caucus, a senate group that gained a stronghold in the house this year when moderates such Rep. Deb Eddy (D-48, Kirkland) pushed through a workers' comp bill opposed by labor, the freshman 12 emerged as the counterbalance, nudging the budget leftward by presenting a unified front in favor a more humane bottom line than the senate's, passing their batch of progressive bills, and coordinating their special session threat to the two-thirds rule.
MVP in the Senate: The Conservative Roadkill Caucus
State Sen. Jim Kastama
The so-called "Roadkill Caucus," a coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans, teamed up this year in the Senate on a few hot-button issues to trump the liberal majority. Sen. Jim Kastama (D-25) led the ad-hoc caucus, including Steve Hobbs (D-44), Jim Hargrove (D-24), Tim Sheldon (D-35), Mary Margaret Haugen (D-10), Paul Shinn (D-21), Craig Pridemore (D-49), and Rodney Tom (D-48), to some serious victories.
In an early sign of their clout, they passed an unemployment insurance revamp—a big win for business and a loss for labor folks, who had wanted a $15-per-child extra weekly benefit.
The senate also passed out multiple versions of legislation reforming the state's workers' compensation system that included the controversial "voluntary settlements" provision, something dreaded by house Democrats and their labor allies. The house wouldn't bite, but the Roadkill Caucus made it a non-negotiable demand and eventually prevailed.
In the ultimate sign of the the Roadkill Caucus' power in the majority-Democratic senate, the budget that emerged from the senate side from Sen. Ed Murray's (D-43, Capitol Hill) ways and means committee read to many like a GOP document.
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