“Short” Session Underway

by Council 2 Deputy Director Pat Thompson on January 1, 2016
          The 60 day “short” session began on January 11th under the cloud of the McCleary Decision that seeks full funding of our state’s education system. The Supreme Court has held the Legislature in contempt for not meeting its obligation and is fining them $100,000.00 per day although the actual fine is more symbolical than real. Estimates to fully fund schools are 3.3 billion for the 2015-17 budget and grows to 4.5 billion for 2017-19.
           This clearly over shadows most everyone’s hope to fund other programs but there are other needs that require additional revenue.
           All of the anti-worker, anti-public employees, and anti-collective bargaining bills from last year are still technically alive that includes the following list:

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.
SB 5982 – (Senator Braun R – 20th District) Would increase the normal retirement age to 67 years for new employees (only because they can’t do it to current employees under our State’s Supreme Court Decision). Our Union has long advocated that 30 years should equal a career and this measure would force the normal retirement age beyond the reach for many of our members.
SB 6005 – (Senator Braun again) Would cap the pension calculation at the State’s average annual wage currently $52,635. Again for all new hires. This is completely arbitrary and would dramatically cut pension benefits for thousands of public employees. Not surprisingly, it’s aimed only at PERS, TERS, PSERS, and the Higher Education plan, not the Legislators themselves, Judges, Fire or Police.
And Now For Some Good Bills
HB 2438Concerning gradually increasing the local government share of excess liquor revenues until the percentage-based method for distributions is restored.
Sponsors: Representatives Nealey, Reykdal, Wylie, Vick, Orcutt, Seann, Wilcox, Kirby, Condotta, Hudgins, Stokesbary, Schmick, Tharinger, Rodne, Magendanz, Zeiger, Walsh, Muri, Rossetti, Springer, Sells, McBride, Kuderer, Bergquist, Hargrove, Goodman.)
            This bill proves that the parties can work together.
            Alcohol consumption increases public safety and health costs at the local level. In recognition of this, the state has shared liquor revenues with cities and counties for over 80 years. When voters approved liquor privatization through initiative 1183, they also approved increased revenue for local governments to fund public safety. This promise of enhanced public safety funding has not been honored.
            Until 2013, liquor profits were shared 50% to the state, 40% to cities, and 10% to counties. This sharing allowed both state and local government revenue to grow as liquor prices and consumption increased.
            On the last day of the 2012 legislative session, legislators approved ESHB 2823, which capped local liquor profits at 2011 dollar amounts. Cities and counties now receive $49.4 million annually. The local government share no longer grows, and additional profits generated by liquor privatization go only to the state.
            As a result, more than $150 million in city and county liquor revenue has been diverted to the state general fund.
HB 2576Concerning public record act requests to local agencies.
Sponsors: Representatives McBride, Nealey, Ryu, Tarleton, Springer, S. Hunt, Johnson, Zeiger, Rossetti, Clibborn, Peterson, Haler, Hargrove, Jinkins, Gregerson, Senn, Hickel.
            Another bi-partisan solution to a major problem.
            We support open and transparent government and continue to seek the best ways to meet this commitment. Washington Public Records Act is an important and powerful law that protects citizen’s right to know. The vast majority of requests are focused and most requestors are willing to work with cities to get the information they need.
            Unfortunately, the Public Records Act has not kept pace with changing technology and there are a growing number of requestors who monopolize resources with broad, voluminous, commercially driven or retaliatory requests that do not provide a public benefit proportionate to the tax-payer dollars needed to fulfill these requests.