January 23, 2015
LEAD: Legislative Education, Advocacy & Direction
2015 Edition 2

First Week of the Session
Hot Topics: Transport and Education

Here’s a synopsis of last week from our man on the ground, Michael Shaw—

“The 2015 legislative session started last week and the first week’s hearings were mostly work sessions or public hearings pertaining to the Governor’s proposed operation budget. However, on the first day of session, the Senate Republicans pushed through a procedural rule requiring two-thirds vote of the Senate to consider any new taxes on the Senate floor. The Senate rule only applies to new taxes, instead of those in current law. The expectation is that it would mostly apply to proposals such as a capital gains tax or a carbon tax.


On transportation…


While the Governor’s transportation proposal to use a carbon charge in lieu of a gas tax to fund transportation projects was not embraced by the Senate, various transportation leaders are negotiating among themselves regarding a potential transportation funding package. The Senate Republicans have a slight majority: 25 R’s to 24 D’s (with Senator Sheldon, a Democrat caucusing with the Republicans for 26 to 23 coalition majority). I suspect that not all the Republicans would vote for a transportation funding package. Accordingly, this gives the Senate Democrats some leverage. Hence the negotiation I reference earlier. Senate Democrats are standing firm in their support of Sound Transit Phase 3 (ST3), and Senate Republicans that I have spoken to seem comfortable that ST3 is part of the transportation funding conversation, but are adamant in their opposition to the Governor’s carbon tax proposal.


On Education…


If the Senate does pass a transportation funding package, perhaps in early February, the House is not expected to immediately take up the issue. I have been told they must address the basic education funding issue first. Any transportation funding package would become part of a later grand bargain as the Legislature grapples with the Supreme Court mandate to fund basic education, the class size initiative 1351, and the mental health costs involved in two recent court cases. There is a lot on this Legislature’s plate; some must be done (budgets, education funding, mental health funding) and some people want to do (transportation funding and marijuana issues: HB 1411, HB 1412, HB 1413, and SB 5417).


In closing, this session will end on April 26th. Some assume this Legislature will need additional time to reach agreement on the budget issues, and in a place where all the issues can be detangled in order to reach a deal, I tend to agree.”

If you have any further questions about how to join the Chapter’s Legislative Committee, please contact LC Co-Chairs Josh Peters and Esther Larsen. If you have questions or ideas, contact Leila Willoughby-Oakes, LEAD Editor.

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