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On Other Blogs Today: A Not-So-Special Session, Supply and Demand, and More

Our daily roundup.

By Erica C. Barnett May 13, 2013



1. Erik Smith at Washington State Wire previews the "slow-as-molasses" special session, which started today with virtually no action before legislators adjourned until Wednesday. The senate and house have, in theory, 30 days to agree on a state budget; right now, of course, the Republican-controlled senate and the Democratic Party-run house are far apart.

Or, Smith suggests, they could wait until the next state revenue update on June 18, when the forecast may be brighter, requiring fewer cuts. 

Smith writes: 

Since tax collections appear to be on the increase, lawmakers have millions of reasons to loll about on the grass, smell the dandelions, and appreciate that splendid springtime sunshine in the state’s capital city. If they manage to stretch things into a second special session, they could wind up with more money to spend. Meaning it makes sense for them to delay solving the year’s central problem, which is finding $1 billion or so to pay for a Supreme Court decision requiring new spending for K-12 schools. The real deadline is June 30. Lawmakers must pass a budget by midnight on that date or the world of state government might come to an end.

2. Meanwhile, at the Spokesman-Review, Jim Camden reports that during today's senate session, "they managed a quorum, a prayer, and the resolutions from the House that essentially keep all the bills that were introduced in the regular session but not passed in the chamber where they started. ... Total time elapsed: 6 minutes before they adjourned until Wednesday." Then they listened to a choir sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." 

Photographic evidence by Camden:

Image by Jim Camden at the Spokane Spokesman-Review

3. At Smart Growth Seattle, Roger Valdez (whose group promotes small-lot housing development) makes the supply-and-demand argument for more density: More housing supply lowers rents; less housing supply increases them. While I tend to agree at a macro level, because the argument makes sense, I'm not sure it's a winning one.

When you look at the cities with the greatest density—New York and San Francisco spring to mind—you have to argue either that they still don't have enough housing (and therefore housing is expensive) or that housing would be even more expensive if they hadn't built as much as they have. Both are hypotheticals.

A better argument, I think, is that without density, people (who will move here regardless of whether current residents want to pull up the drawbridges) will have to move to the suburbs instead, promoting sprawl and all the environmental, social, and economic problems that entails.

4. KUOW highlights an underreported scandal: The prevalance of sexual harassment in the Washington state farm industry. "For immigrants working on farms in the Northwest, sexual harassment can come with the territory," KUOW reports. "The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which handles cases of workplace harassment, has flagged agriculture as an area of growing concern with some of the most egregious abuses.'

Female immigrant farmworkers are particularly vulnerable to harassment, because supervisors can easily threaten to fire them or have them deported; according to one woman KUOW quotes, her foreman showed up at her house, demanded money, and threw bottles at her when she resisted his advances.  

5. At Seattle Transit Blog, mayoral candidate (and state senator) Ed Murray (D-43) elaborates on comments he made to PubliCola last month about Sound Transit, his opposition to subarea equity (the policy in which money raised in each of Sound Transit's geographical "subareas," must be spent in that subarea), and his evolving views on whether the region has too many transit agencies.

On the latter point, Murray says he realized "my approach was wrong" when he said Sound Transit and the region's other transit agencies should be consolidated into a single agency. However, I wouldn't go as far as STB, which says Murray "no longer supports governance reform"; just few sentences later, Murray hedges, saying that "Agency consolidation may no longer be necessary, but the coordination and integration of our transit agencies remains important."

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