Morning Fizz

New Poll: Inslee, McKenna Tied

By Josh Feit March 7, 2012

Caffeinated News & Gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz.

1. A new union-funded poll shows that Democratic US Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA, 1) and Republican Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna are tied in their battle to be governor, 38-38 with 25 percent undecided.

This is the second recent poll to show a tie, departing from a string of previous polls that had McKenna well ahead.

Could it be that the improving economy and the draining GOP presidential primaries are improving Democratic chances in November? Or could it be that this poll, like the previous one, was conducted by groups that favor Democrats?

The poll surveyed 500 likely voters between February 21-23. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

2. A controversial teachers' health insurance bill in Olympia was put on hold yesterday. The bill would (according to its lead sponsors, Roadkill Democrats Sen. Steve Hobbs and Rep. Deb Eddy, along with Republicans Sen. Steve Litzow and Rep. Gary Alexander) rein in state costs (currently about $1 billion a year) and make state spending more transparent, create efficiency by cutting out middlemen brokers, and lower premiums for family members (likely true, according to nonpartisan analysis).

In another interpretation (according to its critics at the teachers union and Premera Blue Cross), it would raise individual premiums (likely true, according to nonpartisan analysis), saddle the state with a new costly bureaucracy, and roll back collective bargaining rights, Wisconsin-style.

The bill—which would pool all teachers in a state-run health purchasing plan, replacing the current model in which all 295 school districts shop on the free market for plans individually bargained by local union reps—was on yesterday afternoon's senate floor calendar. But after both caucuses called for a recess to review the bill, they never returned and the senate was adjourned.

Under discussion—in the majority Democratic caucus, anyway—was an "unfriendly" amendment from liberal majority leader, Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) that would protect union bargaining, keeping the benefit negotiations at the local level, rather than at the state level where benefits would be worked out by a new board.

"It can still pass without [the] WEA/insurance brokers/Premara amendment," Hobbs told Fizz this morning, "but it won't be easy."[pullquote]"We will be trying to determine ... what the problem is."—Tim Burgess[/pullquote]

3. In today's scheduled meeting of the city council's recently formed Government Performance and Finance Committee (a committee whose title thankfully does not, unlike other new council committees we could name, spell out a cutesy acronym), council members will take up an issue that's doubtless foremost in the minds of most of their constituents: The regulation of horse-drawn carriages.

While it's unclear what the impetus for the legislation was, it's hard to argue with the basic idea: That horses who pull carriages, mostly for tourists, in downtown Seattle shouldn't be abused. If the proposal passes, the city will inspect every horse (and carriage) before granting a license for the horse to carry passengers. Additionally, horse-and-buggy licenses will have to include photos of the "front, rear, and both sides of the horse,"; carriage horse owners will have to allow the city to inspect the horse's living conditions; and horses will have to be provided adequate food, water, shelter, sanitation, and space.

In perhaps the oddest section of the bill, carriage horse drivers will be barred from using "any lewd, lascivious, profane, indecent, or obscene words, language or gestures, while waiting for passengers, driving, operating, picking up customers, or while otherwise on duty or in control of a carriage."

Committee chair Tim Burgess was a bit unclear on the legislation as well, telling Fizz:

"The carriage legislation is on our agenda tomorrow morning. [It] came down from Mayor, and we will be trying to determine why and what the problem is."

4. Protesters from Washington Community Action Network staged a sit-in yesterday in state Sen. Joe Zarelli's (R-18, Ridgefield) office yesterday. King-5 TV had the story.

Washington CAN was protesting ranking ways and means chair Sen. Zarelli's budget, which replaced the majority Democrats' budget in a coup last Friday and defunds the Disability Lifeline, makes a $3.3 million cut to children's Medicaid, makes a $200 million cut to the the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program (TANF), raids the toxics cleanup account, and cuts $30 million from K-12 among other harsh cuts that the Democrats had avoided.

See our side-by-side comparison after Friday night's vote here.

5. Left wing US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) lost his reelection bid last night. Will he jump into a congressional race in Washington? The filing deadline is May 18.

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