Today's winner: Reproductive rights advocates.
NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest applauded Gov. Elect Jay Inslee's explicit promise, during his inaugural speech today, to sign the Reproductive Parity Act. The bill, which was thwarted in the state senate during budget deliberations last year, would require insurers that pay for maternity care to also fund abortions; it includes exemptions for religiously affiliated institutions.
Inslee's statement got a standing ovation from the Democratic side of the room, plus one member of the so-called "Majority Coalition Caucus" caucus of 23 Republicans and two conservative Democrats, Rodney Tom (D-48) and Tim Sheldon (D-35)—Republican Steve Litzow (R-41)—an awkward sight that undermined the idea that the coalition represents a true majority.
The other 24 MCC members, including conservative Tom (a sponsor of last year's RPA), remained seated.
Litzow, whose vote against the bill last year helped kill the RPA (and lost him his seat on NARAL's board) is co-sponsoring this year's version of the bill along with moderate Democrat Steve Hobbs (D-44). Litzow has a longstanding reputation as a rare pro-choice Republican, and said last year that he voted against the RPA because Democrats were trying to use it to hijack the budget process.
Of course, it's far from clear that the RPA will make it to a vote. As we've noted, anti-choice Sen. Randi Becker (R-2) is now the head of the senate health-care committee, and will be in charge of deciding whether to let the RPA go to a vote. When PubliCola asked Becker about the RPA last week, she told us:
I haven't had an opportunity to examine the new RPA bill, but in fairness to all parties I will keep an open mind about the issue in the coming session. With previous versions of the bill, two of my biggest concerns were the measure's potential fiscal implications and the possibility that it could infringe on the religious freedom of health-care providers.
House minority leader Richard DeBolt said today that Inslee's shoutout for the RPA was "a surprise to me" on "a day that was supposed to be a day of unification. ... I don't like special-interest politics being brought up during an inaugural speech. Getting people back to work should be the focus."
Caveats aside, reproductive-rights advocates were already celebrating Inslee's vow to sign the RPA this afternoon. In a statement, PPVNW public policy director Jennifer Allen said, "As we move forward in implementing the Affordable Care Act, ensuring just and equitable coverage is a pocketbook issue for Washington women."
And NARAL field director Tiffany Hawkins said, "Denying insurance coverage for abortion interferes with a woman's ability to make these important choices for herself and her family."
And a second Jolt: Seattle Weekly's editor resigns.
In another Jolt that comes just a week after the announcement that Village Voice Media sold Seattle Weekly to community-newspaper and Little Nickel publisher Sound Publishing, Weekly editor Mike Seely announced today that he's resigning. In a post on the Weekly's blog, Seely said he was not asked to leave, and that he's taking a job at ReelWorld, a Ballard company that produces radio jingles.
The Weekly was at the center of a major controversy in 2011, when the Seattle Police Department linked their classified site, Backpage.com, to numerous charges of child sex trafficking. Defending the Weekly on KUOW, Seely suggested that Backpage might be a net benefit to law enforcement, likening the site to a "bowl of fruit" (child prostitutes) that attracts "flies" (pimps and sexual predators), and said the site was simply too large to make it feasible to check escorts' ages. VVM spun off Backpage into a separate company earlier this year.