Isn't It Weird That... (Olympia Supersize Version)

Lots of weirdness out of Olympia today, including Republican & Democratic hypocrisy.

By Josh Feit and Carryn Vande Griend January 29, 2013

1. Isn’t it weird that … Democrats are bashing a GOP bill that would award electoral college votes by congressional district, rather than the current winner-takes-all system, as a desperate Republican attempt to rig the rules, while Democrats themselves are sponsoring their own bill to undo majority-takes-all systems in local elections?

And isn't it weird that ... Republicans aren't on board with a Democratic bill to undo majority-takes -all systems in local elections while pushing a bill that would award electoral college votes by Congressional District, rather than the current winner-takes-all system?

The Republican bill, which is part of a national Republican effort to capitalize on recent gerrymandering that has given the GOP an advantage in Congress, would give red counties in Eastern Washington a greater say in which candidate wins the state’s 12 electoral votes.

For example, if the bill had been enacted before the recent presidential election, Obama would have won nine votes and Romney three, bill-sponsor Rep. Matt Shea (R-4, Spokane Valley) said in a hearing this morning, asserting that splitting the electoral college would be a fairer system for voters on the east side of the state who feel disenfranchised by the current Democratic-dominated system.

Five Republicans are co-sponsoring the bill; zero Democrats have signed on.

What differs is the particular voting bloc they aim to rescue. Republicans are playing for a greater Republican impact in presidential politics, while Democrats want to ensure a stronger voice for minorities in district politics.Meanwhile, 29 Democrats and zero Republicans have signed on to a bill that would allow local governments to redraw election lines if disenfranchised voters can prove that racially polarized voting exists—meaning at-large elections give the advantage to white majorities over minority voting blocs.

The bill, known as the Washington Voting Rights Act, seems necessary. Currently, the ACLU is suing the city of Yakima because several residents, including former city council candidate Rogelio Montes, argue the substantial Latino population (33.4 percent as of 2010) was overlooked and underrepresented by the white majority in the 2011 City Council election.
The intention of both the Republican and Democratic bills is to offset the tyranny of the majority.

What differs is the particular voting bloc they aim to rescue. Republicans are playing for a greater Republican impact in presidential politics, while Democrats want to ensure a stronger voice for minorities in district politics.

Shea's bill had a hearing this morning where Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, W. Seattle, Burien) bashed it, asking—"If a state were to have a partisan redistricting process and conceivably have a situation by which the winner of the popular vote in that state did not get a majority vote of the electoral votes because of how the district was drawn, would you see that as problematic?"

Meanwhile, the Democratic bill, sposored by Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-1, Mountlake Terrace) with Fitzgibbon as one of the many co-sponsors, has a hearing tomorrow.

2. Isn't it Weird That ... a Republican state senator is pushing legislation in Olympia to stigmatize undocumented immigrants while Republicans in the supposedly more idelogical Washington (no "bipartisan" Majority Coalition Caucus in D.C.) are lining up with President Obama on a path to citizenship bill.

What Republican state senator are we talking about...?

3. Isn't it Weird That ... Conservative state Sen. Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver) has cut and pasted the language of his drivers' license billcontroversial legislation to make drivers' licenses dependent on proof of U.S. citizenship—and slapped it on the end of his voter database bill, which instructs the secretary of state to maintain a computer database of all the state's registered voters?

Maybe Benton is trying to construct a COINTELPRO surveillance apparatus, but what we imagine he's actually up to is this: His drivers' license bill is too controversial to get a hearing in the Transporatation Committee, which is where the bill landed. (Democratic Sen. Tracey Eide co-chairs the committee and wields the power to prevent any bill from getting a hearing).

Benton has attached the "shall show his or her lawful presence within the United States" language to an unrelated bill.

So, Benton has attached the "shall show his or her lawful presence within the United States" language for getting a drivers' license to his voter database bill, which was referred to the Governmental Operations Committee.

That committee is chaired by Republican Pam Roach (R-31, Auburn). Additionally, the Republicans have a four to three advantage, Benton himself is the co-chair, and his co-sponsor on the database bill, Sen. Ann Rivers (R-18, La Center), is also a member.

Immigration rights groups such as OneAmerica oppose the drivers' licensce bill because they believe the legislation will put undocumented immigrants in a precarious situation (they aren't going to stop driving to work or driving their kids to school), while creating unsafe roads.

4. Isn’t it weird that … the Republicans are all about honoring the Washington State Supreme Court's McCleary decision (they're demanding the state fully fund education before funding any social service programs), but they're thumbing their noses at the Supreme Court when it comes to workers' rights?

Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33, Des Moines) pointed out this irony yesterday during the senate Commerce and Labor Committee hearing on a series of bills to scale back workers' compensation.

"Its unfortunate that we have a double standard."—Sen. Karen Keiser 

“It is convenient, I think to put forward a bill that actually circumvents a state Supreme Court ruling on this very subject of whether non economic damages, the pain and suffering damages, should be awarded in workers' comp,” she said, adding: 

It’s interesting that apparently some state Supreme Court rulings say, the one that says we have to fund basic education immediately, has more impact than others such as this one that says injured workers should have pain and suffering accounted for. Its unfortunate, I think, that we have a double standard.

The 2010 state Supreme Court decision Keiser was talking about? Tobin v. Department of Labor and Industries. The decision bars the state from compensating itself for benefits paid to an injured worker by taking a cut of the pain and suffering damages awarded to the worker from a third party.

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