Morning Fizz

Democrats Call for "Fair and Balanced" Hearings, Another Murray Staffer Leaves

Caffeinated news featuring grumpy Democrats in Olympia, musical chairs in Seattle

By Josh Feit March 23, 2015

Caffeinated News

1. The Democrats in the state senate (and in the minority) appear to be getting frustrated out there. They've got their reasons, complaining, for example, that a couple of priority bills that passed the house—paid sick leave, the reproductive health act—haven't been scheduled for hearings in the senate yet.

Two other signature Democratic bills, raising the minimum wage to $12 and the voting rights act (allowing districted elections in communities where minority groups can show they've been boxed out) are going to get hearings, though, Republican chairs say.

But will those hearings be fair? Senate minority leader Sharon Nelson (D-34, West Seattle, Vashon Island) doesn't think so; citing unchallenged testimony on workers' compensation rates from the conservative think tank the Washington Policy Center (the same group that botched the minimum wage story last week), Senator Nelson accused the Republicans of running skewed hearings. The WPC says they were just presenting the facts. Senator Nelson told me: “The intention of the rule is to give all sides of an issue time and opportunity to speak. That hasn’t been happening. I encourage the WPC and all think tanks—right and left—to come to Olympia and give their side of the argument. But when one side is given the opportunity to dominate the conversation, that is problematic.”

Last week Senator Nelson said the Democrats were going to formally present a rule change to mandate "fair and balanced" hearings.

Taken from language that already exists in the house, the rule change states: "To the extent practicable, testimony in public hearings should be balanced between those in support of and in opposition to proposed legislation, with consideration given to providing an opportunity for members of the public to testify within available time. If a person indicates that he or she wishes to testify and is not able to do so within available time, the bill report must contain the person's name and position on the bill...if presenters representing one viewpoint are given an opportunity to participate, an organization or individual representing the other viewpoint must also be invited to participate."

The Democrats complain that 38 people signed up in opposition to the payday lending bill and weren't given a chance to testify. "People travel from all over the state to testify, and not allowing the public to speak because of a chair's political views is deeply troubling for the core principles of democracy," state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle), a strong opponent of the payday bill, said.

For the record: While lots of people who signed in were turned away, three progressive lobbyists, Marcy Bowers from the Statewide Poverty Action Network, Bruce Neas form Columbia Legal Services, and Eric González from OneAmerica testified against the bill. Two proponents, Dennis Bassford from Moneytree, and the sponsor, Democratic state senator (wha?) Marko Liias, testified in favor.

The vote for "fair and balanced" hearings is supposed to come to the floor for a vote this week.

Another communications staffer for mayor 
Ed Murray is leaving.

2. Another communications staffer for mayor Ed Murray is leaving: Mike Gore, the assistant to press secretary Jason Kelly.

The turnover in Murray's press shop, where Viet Shelton recently replaced longtime Murray aide-de-camp Jeff Reading as communications director, is conspicuous. Murray's original press secretary Roz Brazel was let go early last year after a few high-profile gaffes (such as a press release that incorrectly said former department of neighborhoods director Jim Diers was dead). Brazel, who's African American, has filed a discrimination suit that gnaws at Murray, who is reportedly wracked by perceived discord between gays and African Americans. Brazel was replaced temporarily by an interim press person, Megan Coppersmith.

Gore is moving over to the Seattle Police Department where he'll be a special assistant to chief Kathleen O'Toole.

3. In all the hubbub over political consultant Cathy Allen's misfire about "white guy talk-alikes," I forgot to mention something else about incumbent council member Jean Godden's campaign kickoff announcement: Allen noted that Mayor Murray would be in attendance. "The race is important enough that mayor Ed Murray is hurrying back from testifying in Olympia to attend," Allen wrote. 

That'd be Rob Johnson standing by Mayor Murray, right there.

This certainly disrupts the narrative (at least the one in my head) that Murray was all in on his consultant Christian Sinderman's candidate in Godden's race, Transportation Coalition Choices director Rob Johnson.

For those who pay attention to such things, Johnson—as a key player in last year's Metro funding measure—has been part of the Democratic circle that has stood alongside Murray at plenty of press conferences.

But Godden was one of the five council members (Jean Godden, Tim Burgess, Sally Clark, Bruce Harrell, and Tom Rasmussen) who endorsed Murray in the 2013 election over then-incumbent, former mayor Mike McGinn.

It was a big deal for council members to come out against a sitting mayor, and Murray is honoring Godden's support, team Murray tells me.


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