Caffeinated News

1. Anti-tax initiative hawker Tim Eyman sent an email to his supporters this weekend urging them to call Republican state Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-25, Puyallup) along with three other GOP state senators—Joe Fain (R-47, Auburn), Andy Hill (R-45, Kirkland) and Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island)—and lobby all of them to vote for a Republican proposal to change the state senate rules so that it takes a two-thirds vote to advance a tax increase.

The Tacoma News Tribune had tweeted late last week that Sen. Dammeier opposed the rule. And Eyman told his supporters he's afraid that the trio of suburban Seattle Republicans also opposed the idea. (I interviewed Sen. Fain on Friday about his support for a .10-plus gas tax increase to fund transportation, and while he wouldn't give me a straight answer about the two-thirds idea, he did say coolly: "I'd imagine the caucus is going to have a conversation about the implications of that on Monday."

The GOP needs 25 of their 26 vote majority to pass the rule; the proposal is an end-run around the 2013 Washington State Supreme Court decision which said the two-thirds rule on tax votes (passed repeatedly through Eyman initiatives) was unconstitutional (the constitution only requires a simple majority on taxes) and overturning that Court ruling would require a constitutional amendment—a two-thirds vote (!) and a vote of the people.

The constitution also gives each legislative chamber the right to set its own rules. And the senate rule change being proposed by the Republicans wouldn't actually be a vote on taxes itself, but rather a vote to bring a tax measure to the floor for final passage where it would then, abiding by the Court, only require a simple majority to pass. Sneaky. (Eyman's email says the other 22 senate Republicans support the rule change.)

"Can the power to set rules de facto trump  constitutional rulings?" —Sen. David Frockt

Eyman notes that voters passed his two-thirds rule by big numbers in all four of the targeted senators' districts. He also gave out phone numbers, including Sen. Fain's personal number, but a disconnected number for Sen. Litzow, though.

Democratic Sen. David Frockt (D-46, N. Seattle) says: "Under the guise of 'the power to set their own rules,' could the senate enact a rule that only senators over the age of 40 have the requisite wisdom to vote on bills therefore we are going to ignore Article 2 Section 7 [of the state constitution] that says you only have to be of voting age to be elected as a voting member of the legislature? Can the power to set rules de facto trump other constitutional rulings? Makes no sense."

2. Vulcan lobbyist Barb Wilson posted pictures over the weekend of Mayor Ed Murray and Murray staffers hanging out at the Seahawks game. Vulcan bought Murray and his husband Micahel Shiosaki tickets for Saturday's playoff game, a gift that the city ethics director Wayne Barnett said was kosher, according to Murray chief of staff Chris Gregorich, because the mayor was performing "a ceremonial function."

Murray's ceremonial function? He appeared on the big screen and was announced (along with King County Executive Dow Constantine and Gov. Jay Inslee) during the game. 

City rules are stringent about avoiding any appearance of a conflict of interest (See 4.16.070 C 1). And Mayor Murray is currently convening an affordable housing task force that is contemplating a developer fee that Vulcan and Wilson are opposing.

 UPDATE: After telling me this morning that Vulcan provided Mayor Murray with the playoff game ticket, they contacted me this afternoon (at 1 pm), to tell me that the Seahawks themselves provided the ticket. I am checking  to see if Vulcan was involved in the gift.

3.  And in more questionable Seahawks mania: I have to wonder if the decision to allow the Seahawks logo and messaging to appear on Metro buses' route number boards is okay with Metro advertising guidelines

I have a call in to Metro to see if the Seahawks paid for the prominent spot and if any other businesses have been allowed to advertise in the same prime advertising real estate.

And when you follow the link to the advertising guidelines [above], note the second bullet point under section 2.3: "Preventing the appearance of favoritism by the County."

4. City Council member Tom Rasmussen is raising questions about the Seattle Department of Transportation's proposal to expand car sharing like Car2Go.

Rasmussen isn't against the idea itself, he says, which would increase the number of companies and licenses allowed; currently, one car share company, Car2Go, has all 500 available free floating parking licenses, which allow their members to park in paid and residential spots for free. SDOT's proposal, coming to council this week, would increase the available licenses to 500 a piece for four companies—and 750 if the car share company serves the entire city.

Tying the car sharing program to its general policy to decrease personal, single occupancy vehicles, SDOT explained that the new RPZ money would pay for related programs such subsidizing low-income transit cards and giving cash incentives for getting rid of your car.The part of the proposal Rasmussen raised questions about was the price of the license. SDOT wants to charge $1,703 total—a $500 increase over the current free floating license fee for Car2Go. The increase would come from raising the residential portion of the license (the Restricted Parking Zone or RPZ neighborhood parking stickers) from $200 to $700. Rasmussen wanted to know what the increase was paying for. Fees must come with a direct link (or nexus) to the program.

Tying the car sharing program to its general policy to decrease personal, single occupancy vehicles, SDOT explained that the new RPZ money—they figure $650,000 from an estimated 1,300 cars (Car2Go jumping up to 750 licenses and two new companies starting out at 250 each) X $500—would not just pay for literal things like stickers and signs and paperwork for the RPZ fees , but also for separate, but related programs such subsidizing low-income transit cards and giving cash incentives for getting rid of your car.

Neighbors who are chagrined about new fleets of car sharing cars taking up spots on their streets should look at the flip side: Studies show that if more people are sharing cars, less people will own cars. And with the program also raising more money from RPZ fees to get even more people out of their cars, SDOT's plan will actually ease parking demand.

Rasmussen's transportation committee is expected to pass the proposal on Tuesday.





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