Legislative Session Off And Running

by Council 2 Deputy Director Pat Thompson on February 13, 2015
As the fifth week of the Legislative Session comes to a close, over 2,000 Bills have been introduced. Many of these are “Message” Bills and may not even see a hearing, others are moving through the process on a very partisan vote and stand little chance of passing in the opposite chamber given the House has a Democratic Majority while the Senate is controlled by the Republicans.
The Senate Commerce and Labor Chair Senator Michael Baumgartner (R) Spokane wasted little time in hearing and passing out several extreme measures offered by an ultra-extremist anti-union group. These are the same corporately funded folks who have tried and failed to pass “right-to-work” initiatives in four cities after trying and failing in last year’s legislature. Here’s just part of their agenda this year:
SB 5329 – Would require that all Union negotiations be done in public. That’s right, out of all the negotiations that are done by cities and counties only the labor negotiations would be subject to a public meeting requirement. It should be noted that all labor contracts are subject to public debate as part of the current process.
SB 5602 – Would prohibit release time for public employees who participate in negotiations or act as stewards for their local union. Most of our contracts have clauses that allow for employees to participate in certain union activities at no loss of pay.
SB 5045 – Would require a yearly vote on Union Security! This is a barely veiled right-to-work measure that would allow open shops and force the Union to recertify its membership annually.
It remains to be seen if there are fifty votes to move any of these measures from the Senate floor.
The bills that would create a “Plan 4” 401K type pension have not yet been introduced but relatively early in this process.
The combined effect of Tim Eyman’s tax cutting initiatives, the recession, and the State’s lack of support for Local Government have created an unsubstantial revenue model for Counties and Cities.
The 1% property tax limit simply can’t keep up with growth or even modest inflation.
Both the Association of Washington Cities and the Washington State Association of Counties have aggressive agendas to seek additional revenue through legislation designed to permit local options such as a utility tax or increases to the current 1% property tax. More details and Bill numbers will follow in the next report.