1. U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has called for a congressional investigation into the CIA’s belief that Russia meddled in November’s presidential election.
“I join in the calls for bipartisan congressional hearings and a comprehensive investigation to begin as soon as possible to get to the bottom of this,” Murray said in a statement on Saturday, “and for disclosure of any evidence that Russia actively worked to hijack our election and elect Donald Trump. President-elect Trump is already disputing the reports and indicating that he’d like to ‘move on,’ but no American should stand for something like this to be swept under the rug or allow President-elect Trump to obstruct an investigation when he gets into office. This is too important, and I will relentlessly pursue this with my colleagues until we get the answers voters deserve.”
(And without D.C. letterhead just yet, incoming Seattle U.S. representative Pramila Jayapal linked the NYT story on the CIA’s assessment about Russian involvement, tweeting: “Must conduct investigation into Russian hacking & interference w/US Presidential election designed to aid Trump.”)
Watch for Sen. Murray to start challenging Trump right away in general. As the ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, she plans to lead to opposition round of questions on three Trump cabinet nominees that are coming before the HELP committee: Health and Human Services nominee U.S. representative Tom Price (whose nomination directly affects the Affordable Care Act and Medicare), Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, and Labor Secretary nominee Andy Pudzer.
For example, on fast-food executive Pudzer, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., Murray said last week:
"I am deeply concerned by Mr. Puzder’s record of standing in the way of progress on issues that would make an immediate difference in the lives of working families, in particular raising the minimum wage and ensuring equal pay for equal work. And I have serious questions about whether a CEO who is comfortable reinforcing harmful stereotypes about women and who is so dismissive of workplace discrimination issues can be trusted to uphold core missions of the Department.
“I am also alarmed by Mr. Puzder’s vocal support for eliminating the new overtime rule and other basic protections the current Department has worked to finalize. If President-elect Trump truly wants to stand up for workers and retirees, he and Mr. Puzder will commit to ensuring these protections are fully implemented.”
The overtime rule Murray is talking about is Obama legislation—being challenged in federal court by the U.S. chamber—that would make 4.2 million more workers eligible for overtime pay by raising the cap on employees who must be considered hourly workers, those making $47,476 or below. The rule change—another example of Democrats getting the backs of the working class—was opposed by the house Republicans.
2. The city council is set to pass Socialist Alternative council member Kshama Sawant's signature tenant move-in fee caps today; Sawant's legislation caps nonrefundable move-in fees (background checks, for example) at 10 percent of first month’s rent while also saying the total cost of a tenant’s security deposit plus the move-in fee may not exceed first month’s rent. Additionally, landlords must offer tenants a six-month plan to pay the security deposit, the move-in fees, and last month’s rent.
Six city council members already voted for the legislation in committee, though one of those yes votes, council member Rob Johnson, is floating an amendment today. His amendment, which was already shot down in committee, would exempt the caps on attached accessory dwelling unit renters and roomie renters. (ADUs are mother-in-law apartments and roomies are renters who don't have a separate front entrance like ADU renters, but live still live in the same house as the owner.)
I asked Johnson, the council's main urbanist vote, if the ADU amendment was aimed at encouraging more housing in otherwise sacred single family neighborhoods. Nope, he says, it's a purely bureaucratic amendment to keep enforcement straightforward; ADU renters and roomies were also exempted from recent pro-tenant legislation prohibiting source of income discrimination due to federal standards.
On Friday, Sawant posted a letter to the council and the mayor signed by 26 community, progressive, and labor leaders saying they didn't support any amendments because the vast majority of rental properties in the city, 21,700 of the roughly 30,000 properties, are rentals with four or less units, the very types of rentals that include ADUs and roomie renters. They fear that that sort of exemption will take too many renters out the equation.
The letter states:
Exempting any landlords, especially those with four or less units on their property, will drastically reduce the number of tenants who benefit from this legislation. Single family homes and smaller properties are typically the most affordable rentals, but tenants of these properties still need to pay high upfront costs under our current system.
3. The King County Council is set to interview three candidates and then appoint the new 37th Legislative District state senator today to replace outgoing state senator (and incoming U.S. representative) Pramila Jayapal.
The 37th Legislative District itself picked Housing Justice Project Executive Director and lefty lawyer Rory O'Sullivan as its number one choice—which has caused some controversy. O'Sullivan is white and the 37th is a majority minority district; Jayapal is Indian and the two state representatives in the district, Sharon Tomiko Santos and Eric Pettigrew are Asian American and African American respectively.
The second top-vote getter was Puget Sound Sage Executive Director Rebecca Saldaña. As Erica C. Barnett reported on Friday, attorney Knoll Lowney filed a suit on behalf of a group calling itself Democrats for Diversity and Inclusion challenging the process and sought to stop the appointment until their claims of rigging were resolved. However, the judge denied their call for a temporary restraining order.
The KC council has overridden an LD's top pick before, however—and, in fact, over the very same issue; in 2013 they appointed second place finisher Mia Gregerson, who is Asian American, to the 33rd Legislative District over the top vote getter, a white woman, for a state rep spot.