Thursday, March 8, 2012

Keeping it short

Rep. Cindy Ryu measures a bit over five feet, one inch from head to toe, but she hoped to stand tall on the floor of the House in praise of a yet-more-diminutive colleague,Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, who is retiring after 15 years in the Legislature.
Alas, Ryu was unable to rise in salute to Kenney, what with the crush of business at the session’s close.
But here’s what she planned to say in her not-long speech.
As a fellow member of the Short Caucus, I would like to talk about legs.
I know the saying, “If you want something done, you ask a short, busy woman,” is true because over the last year and half, I’ve seen and learned from Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney about:
setting goals, putting legs on them, and charging into whomever or whatever the challenges and barriers may be.
Rep. Gutiérrez Kenney is an embodiment of how we can achieve the American dream, one step at a time.
Phyllis, you are leaving large footprints to fill.  I will miss you.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Fighting antisocial media

Victims of malicious impersonation attacks on Facebook, Craigslist and other electronic media now have another means of holding the culprits accountable, thanks to a bill signed March 7 by Gov. Gregoire.
House bill 1652 was passed by the House in 2011 but died in the Senate when the session ended. This session, it made it through both houses on unanimous votes.
The measure specifies that under Washington state law, a person may sue someone who intentionally impersonates the victim on a social networking site or online bulletin board to harass, threaten, defraud or humiliate the victim so that the victim suffers financial or physical harm.
Supporters of the bill cited cases from Washington and around the country in which electronic impersonators posted phony Craigslist ads that led to sexual assaults and thefts or created a humiliating fake Facebook page in the name of the victim.
The bill excludes impersonation that would be protected as political, artistic or satirical expression, or that is performed by law enforcement personnel in a criminal investigation.
Washington state law has not specifically recognized electronic impersonation as an offense, and the malicious behavior could be difficult to take legal action against absent such a recognition.
For more on “e-personation,” click here to read a January article in the Tacoma News Tribune.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Bipartisan tributes to Reps. Dickerson, Finn, and Gutièrrez Kenney

Three retiring members of the House Democratic Caucus were honored this morning with resolutions on the House floor.
Representatives Mary Lou Dickerson, Fred Finn, and Phyllis Gutièrrez Kenney are all retiring at the end of their terms this year.  As is the tradition in the House, the three were each called up individually to the rostrum as their resolution was read in full, after which House members from both sides of the aisle rose to say additional words of praise and share stories – and humorous anecdotes – about them.
Rep. Dickerson has served in the House since 1994, and currently chairs the Health & Human Services Appropriations & Oversight committee.  She represents Seattle’s 36th Legislative District. In a floor tribute from Republican Rep. Norm Johnson, he mentioned Rep. Dickerson’s 2008 receipt of the “Smackdown Award” from Fuse for her efforts to keep toxic chemicals out of children’s toys and products. The resolution honoring Rep. Dickerson can be found here
Rep. Finn came to the House in 2009 to represent the 35th Legislative District.  He serves as vice-chair of the Community & Economic Development & Housing committee.  His House colleagues were likely surprised to learn today that in the 1960’s and 70’s, Rep. Finn was a member of a rock-and-roll band called The Routemen.  The band even performed at the 1965 World’s Fair.  The resolution honoring Rep. Finn can be found here.

Rep. Gutièrrez Kenney first came to the House in 1997, and chairs the Community Development & Housing committee.  She represents Seattle’s 46th Legislative District.  Fellow Seattle lawmaker Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos noted in her tribute this morning that Rep. Gutièrrez Kenney is a cancer survivor. A recent HDC Advance post about her retirement announcement can be read here, and the resolution honoring her can be read in full here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Death and Taxes

As the old quote from Benjamin Franklin goes, there are no certainties in this world except death and taxes. Our stories on dead bills and tax reform generated the most hits on this blog over the last 30 days, followed closely by a lighthearted story about Rep. Tina Orwall breaking the House roll call machine.

As the 2012 regular legislative session comes to an end, House Democrats would like to say a quick “thank you” to our readers. And a very special thank you to those who share our posts and tweets across your social networks. We hope this blog serves a valuable resource for residents across Washington to get real-time information on important issues from their elected representatives.

After the session dust settles, the HDC staff will be working behind the scenes making some tweaks to our blog. We have some ideas in mind, but we’d also like to hear from you. If you have any suggestions or things you’d like to see on our blog, you can tweet your thoughts to us at @WAHouseDems or submit your comments to

Thank you again, and stay tuned to The Advance for the latest on the ongoing budget negotiations and other legislative news.

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Statement from Majority Leader Pat Sullivan regarding special session and budget negotiations

“In the House, we still have our eyes on midnight tomorrow.  We may not get there, but we sure aren’t quitting.

“I can’t share any details of any budget negotiations or agreements now – it’s just premature at this point.  But as soon as we are able to, we will make a proposal available to the public.

“Things are just so fluid right now that anything I tell you could very well be out-of-date before it even gets reported.”

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

Much work, some play

Rep. Ruth Kagi took a brief break from floor action yesterday to participate in a life-sized version of a “Chutes and Ladders”-style board game about early learning.  The game was hosted by MomsRising, an organization that focuses on issues related to children and families.  

Yesterday’s game, which took place on the lawn behind the Legislative Building, was meant to draw attention to the importance of funding early learning programs.  Rep. Kagi, who chairs the House Early Learning and Human Services committee, is pleased that tens of thousands of Washington children will soon benefit from a valuable preschool-to-kindergarten skills inventory.  Her bill to speed up the phasing-in of this skills inventory – called the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WAKids – was approved by the legislature on Monday and is now headed for the governor’s desk. It will help teachers as well as parents know the specific strengths and weaknesses of each child, so that they can get the strongest possible start to their educational careers.  You can read more about the bill and WAKids here and here.

Rep. Kagi takes a few steps forward while her co-players look on.
Photo courtesy of MomsRising

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

What is a caucus, anyway?

You can use the political term “caucus” as a verb, noun or something exotic like a past participle, which are apparently made in Switzerland by the scientists slamming atoms together at the speed of light.
Here’s a real-life example that we are NOT making up:
“We’re going to caucus now, because the caucus hasn’t caucused on that bill yet.”
If you are an average citizen back home, that sentence will rightfully confuse you. However: This is actually sort of important as to how politics works.
Let’s pull back the curtain a little and give you a peek at how this works.
The word itself is still a mystery
We first thought “caucus” was the Latin word for “a group of people wearing uncomfortable clothes and drinking bad coffee while they talk about subsection 3 of RCW 42.03.010”
But no, that is wrong. Though the root meaning of the word is shrouded in mystery.
Some say it comes from the Greek kaukos and Latin caucum (drinking vessel). Others insist it comes from the Algonquian caucausu (advisor). Still others claim that Algonquian is quite possibly a word we made up two seconds ago.
Anyway, during the 18th century, which is actually the 1700s – also confusing – Americans started using “caucus” to refer to a political meeting.
Presidential caucuses: the same but different
On March 3, Washington state held presidential caucuses, which sounds like “a political meeting that involves a bunch of Secret Service types and the leader of the free world.” But that’s not it.
In the presidential caucuses, people show up at their local precincts, talk about the candidates and then they vote for delegates. A presidential caucus is quite different from a presidential primary, where you mark your ballot at your kitchen table and mail it in. No talking. No debate. No bad coffee and Krispy Kremes.
In politics, lawmakers uses caucuses to get organized and try to pass laws. The U.S. House and Senate has approximately 5.83 bazillion caucuses. Click here to see a list of them. Do not hit PRINT, which would kill many trees.
Here in Olympia, we don’t have so many caucuses. You have the main four: the House Democratic Caucus, House Republican Caucus, Senate Democratic Caucus and Senate Republican Caucus. That sounds like a lot, but it’s really simple: the Democrats in the House and Senate, then the Republicans in the House and Senate.
The House Democratic Caucus Room
Then there are smaller caucuses that are created – or die off – as the years go by.
You’ve got bipartisan caucuses arranged around geography, like the Coastal Caucus.  Then there are caucuses based on a shared interest in an issue like the Ferry Caucus (state ferries), the Working Families Caucus and a Women’s Caucus.
Some caucuses are bipartisan, which is a fancy word meaning lawmakers from both parties belong.
Other caucuses are bicameral, which is an even fancier word for “a political group with members from the House and the Senate.”
The rarest of caucuses is both bipartisan and bicameral. There is no such thing as tripartisan or tricameral, though the great state of Nebraska does have a unicameral legislature – one chamber of lawmakers instead of a House and Senate.
It’s all part of America’s great diversity of democracy, the product of urge to experiment and try different things. There’s probably an Algonquian word for that.

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March is Women’s History Month!

Photo credit:
Back in 1981 then-Representative Barbara Mikulski, a democrat from Maryland, co-sponsored a joint Congressional Resolution declaring the week beginning on March 7, 1982 as the first “Women’s History Week” to celebrate the struggles, contributions, and accomplishments of American women. Over thirty years later, Senator Barbara Mikulski is now the longest serving female senator in U.S. history and we celebrate the entire month of March as Women’s History Month.
In 1995, President Clinton began the tradition of issuing a presidential proclamation every March in honor of Women’s History Month. These proclamations have honored women such as aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart to abolitionist Harriet Tubman to Nellie Bly, a groundbreaking investigative journalist.  You can read President Obama’s 2012 proclamation here.
Washington state has a proud history of female leadership. In 1976, Washington elected Governor Dixy Lee Ray. Governor Ray was the fifth female governor in the United States, and only the second who wasn’t a wife or widow of a previous governor. Patty Murray became Washington’s first female senator in 1992, ‘the year of the women’ in which five females were elected to the U.S. Senate. Finally in 2004, following Governor Chris Gregoire’s election, Washington became the first state to have both a female governor and two female senators.
Based on the National Conference of State Legislatures’ figures, the Washington State Legislature has the fifth highest level of female representation in the country. The House Democratic Caucus is proudly home to nineteen female representatives. Seven of those women serve as committee chairs, in addition to the six who are members of leadership.
In March we will be celebrating the women at the table, the struggles they overcame to get there, and the men who helped them along the way.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

No, not that CSI...

Innovation and collaboration.
House Bill 2799, approved by the House on Monday afternoon, embraces those two elements to help turn around a handful of struggling public schools. The bill creates a five-year “Collaborative Schools for Innovation and Success” (CSIS) pilot program that encourages colleges of education to partner with underachieving elementary schools.
Up to six partnerships will be approved with half of those receiving grant dollars from the state. The applications must use research-based models of teaching that will close the opportunity gap and improve student learning. The ultimate goal is to test new and creative approaches to teaching in these schools where the traditional education model has struggled. 
CSIS also provides a great opportunity for teaching colleges to see firsthand how the student population has changed. It will help them retool their programs to meet the learning needs of today’s kids.
“CSIS builds upon the four pillars of education reform: quality teaching, strong community partnerships, a focus on student achievement, and measuring your results,” said Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, chair of the House Education committee.
While this idea isn’t necessarily a new concept, this will be the first program of its kind put in place by the state. The University of Washington’s Ackerley Partner School Network has seen success with its innovative approach to partnering with local schools. It’s that type of success the legislature is hoping to replicate with the CSIS pilot project and perhaps on a much larger scale down the road. 

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Moving Washington Forward budget advances!

Investing in transportation infrastructure not only fuels thousands of jobs statewide, it also helps to avoid expensive delays in work that needs to be done. The supplemental budget the House just passed creates or sustains 43,000 jobs over the next biennium.
In the face of declining receipts from gas taxes and other transportation revenue streams, the Connect Washington Task Force recently predicted Washington would need roughly $21 billion over the next decade just to preserve the system and make strategic investments in the transportation backbone of our economy.
The $9.8 billion budget adds about $876 million to the two-year budget enacted last year. While Moving Washington Forward is not the long-term answer to financial challenges identified by Connect Washington, it will provide the short-term means to…well, to continue moving Washington forward.
In addition to investing in roads and highways at the state and local level, the supplemental budget invests funds to keep the ferry system afloat and fund a second 144-car ferry. There are also important investments in transit, freight mobility, the Washington State Patrol and Washington’s highly successful Safe Routes to Schools program.
Photo credit:
The Moving Washington Forward budget also looks to the future with $33 million in seed money for projects such as fixing I-5 congestion in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area. The seed money will enable shovels to hit the ground quickly once future revenue sources for major projects have been agreed upon.
All told, the Moving Washington Forward budget that House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn led through the House will mean more jobs today, more jobs tomorrow, and a good start on solving transportation problems in every corner of the state.

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

American heroes visit Olympia today

Legislators took a short break from deliberation of budgets and bills today to meet some true American heroes -- four Tuskegee Airmen, along with members of their families.

Visiting the House Democratic Caucus were Captain George Hickman, Col. Ed Drummond, Airman George Miller (pictured), and Tommie Lamb, the President of the Tuskegee Sam Bruce Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. During World War II, African Americans in many U.S. states still were subject to the Jim Crow laws; the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government.

The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army.  Despite the adversities, they trained and flew with distinction, becoming one of the most highly- respected flyer groups of World War II.  Their story was just recently featured in George Lucas's motion picture Red Tails.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Read your Reed’s Rules!

Thomas B. Reed
Thomas Brackett Reed has been dead for more than 100 years, but his spirit was very much alive Friday, March 2, in the Legislature. It happened to be HOO cutoff day, meaning bills originating in the “house of opposite origin” required consideration by 5 p.m. or else they were dead for the session, except for bills relating to the budget and some other specific measures. So the House worked busily to pass Senate bills, and the Senate worked busily to pass House bills – until the minority Republicans in the Senate were joined by some Democrats to form a one-vote ad hoc majority, invoking parliamentary rules of procedure to redirect the Senate’s business.

That’s where Reed comes in: The rules of parliamentary procedure that govern the Washington state Legislature are his, originally published in 1894 as “Reed’s Parliamentary Rules.” Ours is the only state legislature in the nation that uses Reed’s Rules: The majority of legislatures rely on “Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure,” while others use “Jefferson’s Manual” or the well known “Robert’s Rules of Order.” In addition, the Washington state House and Senate each have their own rules that supplement Reed’s Rules.

The Republican maneuvers basically brought progress to a halt in both House and Senate, and cast a cloud of uncertainty about what the Legislature can get done by the March 8 end of the current session.

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

Photo credit: Library of Congress