Morning Fizz

Working, Taxing, and Housing

Legislature debates two-thirds rule, council members focus on sexist work schedules.

By Josh Feit February 15, 2016

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There were a couple of editorials making the rounds on Friday that you must read:

1. Three Seattle city council members published an editorial in the Puget Sound Business Journal outlining the pitfalls of unpredictable work schedules, particularly calling attention to the burden it places on women and women of color. 

Unpredictable work schedules disproportionately affect women and especially women of color and do not promote the health and well-being of Seattle’s working families, which help build a successful and sustainable economy for our city.

The economic instability that comes with being a just-in-time worker negatively affects workers and our community. This model creates high employee turnover, increasing rates of involuntary part-time employment, keeps working families in poverty and is disruptive to child development.

The editorial (sorry, paywall) was signed by the three new women on the council, Lorena González, Lisa Herbold, and Debora Juarez.

Activist group Working Washington is running a campaign to strengthen guidelines to prevent unfair scheduling practices.

2. The Washington Post's Wonkblog published an editorial on Friday that runs counter to the conventional wisdom about gentrification—that new construction upends low-income people—and seconds a controversial editorial we published last year titled "Expensive New Housing Reduces Displacement." 

The WaPo editorial, based on data from new studies out of California, was titled "The Poor Are Better Off When We Build More Housing for the Rich."

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There was also some action in Olympia on Friday that's worth noting:

3. The Washington senate voted 26 to 23 along party lines Friday to send a constitutional amendment to the voters requiring a two-thirds legislative vote to increase taxes and to close tax breaks. But since the senate needed a two-thirds majority—33 votes—the measure died.  

The measure, sponsored by state senator Pam Roach (R-31, Auburn), would have allowed voters to vote on whether to change the state constitution to require that two-thirds of the house and two-thirds of the senate must approve any tax increases and closing any of Washington’s roughly 650 tax breaks. Several Tim Eyman initiatives to install this mandate—while passing in popular votes—have died for being unconstitutional; his latest was shot down in King County Superior Court last month and is on its way to the state supreme court.  Every GOP bill to require this threshold has died quickly in the Democratic House. 

State senator Marko Liias, (D-21, Lynnwood) called the long Friday debate “political theater,” said about the bumper sticker bill which ultimately had no chance in the Democratic house anyway.

Senate Democrats took advantage of the show too.

“I don’t think this resolution is about anything, but to make it much harder to close corporate tax loopholes,” state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Seattle) said. And state senator Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Seattle) added that a two-third’s requirement would ignore “the real unmitigated power of corporate interests.”

However, state senator Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond) said, “This is what the taxpayers believe. There should be a higher bar for the state to literally take money from them.”

Other Republicans pointed out that the Democrats did not close corporate tax breaks when they controlled both the house and senate. 

The senate minority Democrats tried to amend the GOP’s proposed constitutional change by adding their own language that all new and extended tax breaks would be required to say who benefits from the exemptions and by how much (such a requirement is already in state law). Another proposed Democratic action would have the proposed two-thirds threshold not apply to corporate taxes or corporate exemption closures done to provide money to housing, health care, emergency support and services for veterans. Both proposed additions died along 23-26 party line votes.

4. The state senate passed a senator Randi Becker (R-2, Eatonville) bill on Friday that would require state agencies that fail part of an audit to submit a fix-it plan within 30 days to go to the governor, state auditor, the Office of Financial Management and the appropriate house and senate committee. If the matter is not fixed by the following audit, legal action by the Attorney General’s office could be put into motion.

The GOP bill had a specific agency in mind: the state’s health care authority, which is lagging in its response to a recent audit. This is significant because the HCA recently announced an employee improperly handled the information of 91,000 Medicaid patients. And the GOP senators are already grumbling about the HCA underestimating Medicaid costs by several hundred million dollars. Plus senate Republicans have been noncommittal whether they would confirm three-year HCA director Dorothy Teeter to her post

“All we’re looking for is accountability,” said senator Mike Hewitt (R-16, Walla Walla).

Senate democrats countered that the GOP should not single out the HCA for late responses since the legislature has already been fined $3.2 million so far by the state supreme court for dragging its feet on court-ordered education fixes. “It’s inconsistent to say ‘accountability, accountability, accountability’…when we’re not holding ourselves accountable to the supreme court,” state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37-Seattle) said.

Despite pointing out the double standard, Jayapal voted for the bill, which passed 43 to 6.

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