Morning Fizz

State Legislature Gets a C+ on Racial Justice

The best and worst legislators according to social justice group Washington Community Action Network.

By Josh Feit December 17, 2015

Fizz ya6qpo

 1. Social justice group Washington Community Action Network has released an end-of-the-year report card, grading state legislators’ records for impacts on racial equity. Focusing on 34 bills that had “a particular impact on disparities between white residents and people of color,” CAN’s assessment looked at both voting records and sponsorship (on positive and negative bills, such as raising the minimum wage or easing regulations on payday loan companies respectively.)

The report card also factored in the percentage of people of color in a given legislator’s district.

Screen shot 2015 12 17 at 9.09.20 am brmd33

Overall, the state legislature got a C+. But Seattle legislators did well with the highest grades going to state representatives Jessyn Farrell (D-46, North Seattle), Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, West Seattle, Burien), Gerry Pollet (D-46, North Seattle), and Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill) and state senators David Frockt (D-46, North Seattle), Bob Hasegawa (D-11, Southeast Seattle), Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle), and Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36, Ballard) who all scored A+ or A++.

Jayapal, who co-sponsored the minimum wage bill with Farrell, co-sponsored a bill to help students that weren’t from English-speaking homes, co-sponsored the ACLU’s body cameras bill, and co-sponsored a bill to fund more interpreters for department of health programs, got the highest score on the senate side.

From CAN’s report:

Seven Representatives – Goodman (45th district), Jinkins (27th district), Kagi (32nd district), Moscoso (1st district), Ormsby (3rd district), Riccelli (3rd district), and Walkinshaw (43rd district) - and six Senators – Darneille (27th district), Frockt (46th district), Hasegawa (11th district), Jayapal (37th district), Kohl-Welles (36th district), and McAuliffe (1st district) - received A++ for exceptional overall leadership on racial equity. Representative Moscoso had the highest score in the House, coming in at 105 percent. Senator Jayapal had the highest grade in the Senate and overall, at 111 percent.

As for the failing legislators, all Republicans, CAN reports:

Twenty-seven percent of all legislators received failing grades. Two Representatives - Vick (18th district), Pike (18th district) - and four Senators - Dansel (7th district), Padden (4th district), Baumgartner (6th district), and Roach (31st district) - had exceptionally low scores, at or below 55 percent. In addition, some legislators’ grades were remarkably low given the number of residents of color they represent. Representatives Dent (13th district) and Hargrove (47th district), whose districts are 32 percent and 39 percent of color, respectively, both scored 59 percent on racial equity.

Here's the whole comprehensive CAN report, including an explanation of the scoring system.

2. Speaking of representative Walkinshaw: Earlier this week, when I looked at his fundraising record (Walkinshaw is running for U.S. congress, and I took an early look at how he stacks up against veteran incumbent U.S. representative Jim McDermott in what's likely to be a race that costs millions of dollars), I noticed that Walkinshaw had big donations from Democrats for Education Reform. DFER is a pro-charters group whose agenda doesn't sit well with the knee-jerk liberal crowd he'll need to shore up his progressive cred against McDermott.  I asked Walkinshaw about the $1,900 contribution, which doubled what he got from the teachers' union, and whether he supported the charters fix that some Democrats, like southeast Seattle African American state representative Eric Pettigrew (D-37, Southeast Seattle) support to bring 2012's voter-approved charter law in compliance with state law.

(By the way, Pettigrew, whose district has the highest percentage of people of color in the state at 62 percent, only got an A- grade from CAN, a lower score for a Seattle legislator.)

Walkinshaw told me:

My mom is a public school teacher, I'm a graduate of public schools, and public education is a real passion of mine. I voted against the charter school initiative and data so far does not indicate that they're an effective way of improving our State's public schools. I've had a strong relationship with the Washington Education Association and our local Seattle Education Association. With DFER, I've also agreed with some of their past work on policies to reduce school detentions and expulsions that we know disproportionately affect low income students and students of color. We've seen some encouraging approaches to this lately in a number of school districts in our state. I've been a strong supporter of legislation that Rep. Tomiko-Santos and Rep.Ortiz-Self have championed over the past couple years in the State House that invests in closing the opportunity gap in our schools. A part of this, has included efforts to reduce detentions and expulsions.

3. And speaking of state representative Farrell and legislation that disproportionately impacts people of color and/or low-income families, she's co-sponsoring legislation, "the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act," that would guarantee pregnant workers additional bathroom breaks, water and snack breaks, and flexibility to accommodate doctor appointments. 

White collar workers may not realize it, but women in low-wage jobs have to schedule bathroom breaks.

Rachel Berkson, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington says: "As a mother myself, I understand the challenges of pregnancy, especially for women who work full-time while they're pregnant. At the end of my pregnancy, I was put on bed rest because of complications, but I was fortunate to have an employer who accommodated my needs. Many women aren't so lucky. Without this act, women who need accommodation will continue to be forced to make a choice between healthy babies and their jobs. "

Show Comments