Today was the deadline—or "Cutoff Day"—for policy bills to pass out of either the house or senate in the state legislature.
With the senate under Republican control and the house under Democratic control, taking note of which bills each chamber sends over to the other can help preview the dealmaking that will begin as we head into the last half of the session.
For example, earlier this session, the Democratic house sent the Reproductive Parity Act (a pro-choice bill that guarantees health care coverage for abortions) to the senate, while the senate sent workers' comp cutbacks to the house. We're not saying the Republican senate will pass the RPA if the Democratic house signs off on the senate's anti-labor bill. But as one side's bills pile up on the other side's desk, those kinds of trade scenarios become clearer.
An additional factor to keep in mind this year as you monitor the dealmaking: Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina), the renegade Democrat who joined with the Republicans to become the senate majority leader, had pledged that by empowering the Republicans he would not jeopardize the Democrats' social agenda. With things like the RPA landing in the senate's lap, that promise will be tested over the next month and a half.
"I rise as a Republican," he said, "to pave the path to citizenship."
And that brings us to today's Jolt: The house sent the DREAM Act over to the senate today, 77-20. The bill makes children who are undocumented immigrants eligible for financial aid to go to college.
Rep. Charles Ross (R-14, Naches) was perhaps the most passionate speaker today. "I rise as a Republican," he said, "to pave the path to citizenship."
Ross has been an adamant supporter of the bill from the beginning. And, in the end, brought about 20 Republicans along with him. "I want the kids in school today, who play soccer with my kids ... to have the same opportunities ... to be able to become a state legislator and more. I ask [us] to look beyond and look into the future and say to those immigrant kids that if you work hard and want to succeed, we will do nothing in this nation to hold you back."
Ross did feel the heat from his own party. Rep. Jason Overstreet (R-42, Lynden), one of the 20 Republicans to vote against the bill, followed Ross and said while he respected the passion of the bill's supporters, passion could not trump law. "What laws should you be allowed to break?" Overstreet asked everyone in the chamber. Some Republicans also objected that there was not enough money to expand the state need grant, which was already short on funds, and warned against making "promises the state couldn't keep."
In a glimpse of things to come: Just as the house passed the DREAM Act, a Democratic attempt to pass the DREAM failed in the senate. It's a strained argument; basically, it's like saying to your kids, when we can afford it, your sister can go to summer camp, but you can't.
Toby Guevin, lobbyist for the bill's main proponents at OneAmerica, the state's immigrants rights group, told PubliCola the funding issue was a separate policy matter. "We're just trying to even the playing field by making all kids eligible," he said.
Before the vote, Ross asked for another chance to speak, and in a scripted moment with bill sponsor, Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-11, Tukwila), clarified that the bill did require students to sign an affidavit declaring that they intend to become U.S. citizens.
In a glimpse of things to come perhaps, and in some legislative asymmetry: Just as the house passed the DREAM Act, the senate, at the request of Republican Sen. Barbara Bailey (R-10, Oak Harbor), ruled that Sen. Ed Murray's (D-43, Capitol Hill) attempt to attach the DREAM act to a separate bill expanding financial aid to the state's online university was invalid.
Murray had sponsored the DREAM Act bill on the senate side; it disappeared early in the session.
After his amendment went down late today, Murray took the mike to inform the senate that the house had just passed the DREAM Act bill with a lopsided bipartisan margin.