Isn't It Weird That (Starring Rodney Tom and Ed Murray)

Some weird things we noticed about the transportation package negotiations and the minimum wage task force negotiations.

By Erica C. Barnett and Josh Feit January 10, 2014

Roll the the video on that Schoolhouse Rock classic "I'm Just a Bill." 

This is the state version.

Isn't it Weird That

Isn't it Weird That the state senate majority leader doesn't understand the basics of legislative procedure?

At a CityClub legislative preview in downtown Seattle today, senate majority leader Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina), challenged by senate minority leader Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, Maury Island) to "take action and pass a transportation package," told Nelson it didn't make sense for the senate to pass a transportation package until they reached a deal in advance with the governor and the state house.

Why not? Because, he explained, he doesn't think senators should have to vote twice on a bill; meaning, if they have to pass a bill, only to have it tweaked by the house and sent back for a second vote, why not take care of the negotiating in advance?


The process Tom is whining about is exactly what the legislature does all session with major pieces of legislation—such as the operating budget, the capital budget, or, say, a transportation package. For example, the senate passes a bill. It goes to the house. The house concurs or amends it. And kicks it back. And if need be, they conference about it. See? There are even all these parliamentary terms to describe this age-old process.

Nelson was calling b.s. on Tom because it's been impossible for her Democratic cohorts in the house to negotiate with the senate majority (24 Republicans, plus conservative Tom and Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-35, Potlatch) because the house Democrats don't know who they're actually negotiating with. In other words, the Republican senate leaders are coming to the table—without having demonstrated that they can pass a transportation package—without any legitimacy. The house Democrats, in contrast, are at the table with a bill in hand that they actually passed. 

Isn't It Weird That ... Mayor Ed Murray can, under the rules adopted by his minimum-wage task force, have as many staffers and advisors on hand at meetings of the committee as he wants?

Meanwhile, all of the committee's members—who include representatives from the corporate world (Chamber of Commerce director Maud Daudon), labor (SEIU 775 head David Rolf), small businesses (Lost Lake and Five Point Café owner Dave Meinert) and the city council (council members Sawant, Licata, and Harrell) are limited to a single staffer apiece. 

Originally, Sawant, along with other committee members, questioned an initial decision to exclude former Sawant campaign spokesman and current omnipresent ally (and spokesman for the Socialist Alternative Party) Philip  Locker as her one "staffer"; Locker is not a city employee, but an outside political advisor.  He will now be allowed as Sawant's one "staffer" at the meetings.

Murray's staffers will continue to outnumber any individual committee members' staff. Currently, Murray's team includes two city of Seattle staffers, plus two political advisors, Christian Sinderman and Sandeep Kaushik. "It's the mayor's committee—he can have his people in the room," Kaushik says. "[We're] all advisors to the mayor."

Based on current chatter, the committee seems (and it's early yet; Murray has set a deadline of May 1 to come up with a proposal) likely to come up with a proposal that will placate small businesses and nonprofits (which don't typically pay anything close to $15 an hour) while increasing the minimum wage substantially from its current level of $9.32 an hour—and leaving both the Chamber of Commerce and Sawant unhappy.


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