Morning Fizz

Important Immigrants' Rights Bills Fail in Olympia

Significant bills meet their demise in final week of legislative session.

By Josh Feit March 9, 2016

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 1. Lots of important bills are about to get shelved as this year’s legislative session in Olympia is scheduled to end tomorrow. I’ve noted a couple of them already—Seattle’s affordable housing bill, the pregnant workers fairness act (Heidi Groover at the Stranger filed a longer piece on that yesterday), and per usual, the voting rights act, which would give minority bloc voters clear formal recourse to challenge demonstrably discriminatory election systems.

Another beleaguered bill, sponsored by Democratic state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle) and Republican state representative Drew Stokesbary (R-31, Auburn), hasn’t gotten much attention, but was significant for Seattle.

The bill,  taking its cue from the police violence in Ferguson and Baltimore, attempted to make police forces more demographically in sync with the cities they serve. The legislation, which passed the house 89-7, would have allowed lawful permanent residents (immigrants who hold green cards) to become cops; currently law enforcement jobs are only open to citizens.

The bill, though it had strong bipartisan support in the senate, including from conservative senator Michael Baumgartner (R-6, Spokane), got bogged down in the Republican senate caucus which is antsy about expanding immigrant rights. Similarly, for example, a house bill to make legal, non-permanent residents qualify for commercial truck driver licenses, also stalled in the senate.

Jayapal, who reports she’s trying some last minute lobbying to pass the law enforcement bill, says her bill is a double win for civil rights because it would both make law enforcement “more responsive and reflective of the communities” they live in and give new Americans “important roles” investing them in the community.

2. Several weeks ago, I interviewed Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly about his history working for the bike share company Alta Bikes—which has since become Motivate, the company that operates Pronto’s system and is likely to bid on Seattle’s new bike share contract if the city rescues the program. I was pressing Kubly to see if his relationship with Alta/Motivate raised any conflicts of interest. (He has no financial stake in Motivate.)

A follow up, though. In that post, I reported Kubly had been vetted by the city’s law department to see if there were any conflicts. However, it’s not clear if that’s actually the case. Neither the law department nor the mayor’s office were prepared to go on the record to address the question when— subsequently, led to believe Kubly had not been vetted by the law department—I asked the question again yesterday.

I will report back.

3. I don’t typically talk much about the presidential race (except when asking U.S. congressional candidates the Bernie or Hillary? question.)

However, Bernie Sanders’ upset victory in Michigan last night strikes me as historic. A race that has been focused on the GOP divide and the Republican establishment’s #StopTrump movement suddenly (and ironically) finds itself witnessing the bona fide emergence of another legit movement, this one against the Democratic establishment.

If Trump (seems very likely) and Sanders (looking increasingly likely to me) keep their obvious momentum and win their respective nominations, the GOP and the Democratic Party will finally both be distilled to their basic and respective DNA makeup: Nativist Know Nothings and Socialists.

It’s a fitting replication of early 20th Century U.S. politics (Democratic hero FDR was a bit of a Socialist) when class divisions were starkly drawn—as they increasingly are in the U.S. today.

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