The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s Report From Olympia, June 22, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Stay tuned as Legislature works on session-ending deal
Dear friends and neighbors,
The Legislature’s biggest drama continues to play out behind closed doors as negotiators for the House and Senate work on a session-ending deal over the budget. Another team is working hard on a final education proposal. There isn’t much time left before the start of a new fiscal year on July 1, and the pressure is intense. But there really is nothing to report until the final agreements are announced. Keep watching – the next week will prove important.
In the meantime, for those who are keeping track, we ended our second 30-day overtime session on Wednesday and started our third. As of today, we have gone 61 days beyond the 105 days the constitution allotted us this year to finish our work. Has it been worth the extra time? The next week may answer that question as well.
As we wait for that final deal, our attention this week in the Law and Justice Committee turned to the turmoil at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. Student protests have made this small public college the leading national example of a disturbing trend on campuses today – the suppression of free thought and expression by student activists who tolerate no opinions but their own. Our committee looked at the cost of protests and other public safety challenges, and gave the Evergreen administration a chance to explain its tolerance for these disruptions. This and more in this week’s newsletter.
Sen. Mike Padden
Cost of Evergreen disorder: $250,000, freedoms we hold dear
When the Evergreen State College was founded 50 years ago, it billed itself as an experimental college with a non-traditional curriculum – what people in those days called a “hippie school.” Evergreen remains true to that heritage, and that helps explain some of the troubles it faces today. The campus has been torn by protest from students who feel this most-liberal of the state’s higher education institutions isn’t doing enough to combat a variety of social ills, ranging from racism to insufficient sympathy for those who have entered the country illegally. Students targeted a professor who did not cheerfully support one of their protests and forced him to hold classes off-campus. Tense confrontations followed between students and administrators, then death threats, vandalism, heavy police patrols, school closures and some of the most unsettling campus unrest since the 1960s.
In our work session Tuesday, we learned these public safety challenges have come at high cost to taxpayers. The heavy State Patrol presence on campus has cost $135,000 so far. Additional patrols by sheriffs’ deputies cost $12,000. Smashed windows and other vandalism has cost $5,000. The school spent $100,000 to move its graduation last week to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, under high security conditions.
What has galled many is the deference to students shown by Evergreen President George Bridges, whose office was briefly occupied during the protests. Bridges told our committee the vandalism is being investigated and the students directly responsible may be punished if they can be identified. But he defended his decision not to enforce discipline against others who disrupted the campus. Bridges told us, “Intervention in these [early] stages by law enforcement, in my opinion, would have escalated the conflict and resulted in injuries and property damage.”
During our work session, we learned of a disturbing incident that may have contributed to the turmoil that erupted in May and June. A January swearing-in ceremony for Evergreen’s new police chief was disrupted by a band of students who objected to law enforcement presence on campus. President Bridges halted the ceremony. This failure to maintain order may have emboldened the students who led the protests later in the year. We are gathering more information about the incident, to determine whether students ultimately were disciplined and whether the ceremony was rescheduled.
Our committee’s role is limited to the public safety and law enforcement aspects of this campus crisis. Other committees will have to consider matters of academic freedom and campus administration. But clearly these issues are intertwined. One particularly troubling aspect of this case is that a quarter of Evergreen’s faculty has expressed support for the students and urged sanctions against the professor who was run off campus and dared to object. As protest raged across the campus, Michael Paros, professor of veterinary medicine and biology, told us he became nervous for the first time, “not because of threats of white supremacists but because I was worried that someone on campus would think that I might be one of them.”
Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, professor of constitutional law at Central Washington University, said many students and campus leaders have become convinced that ideas themselves are dangerous; that students should be protected, and that they are justified in lashing out against those who express them. “They see language and violence as the same thing,” he said. Laws may not be able to change these troubling developments in campus culture, but clearly this sort of intimidation should not be supported on the taxpayer dime.
This week’s survey: Evergreen’s response to campus crisis
This week’s survey seeks your opinion on the campus protests at The Evergreen State College. Did administrators respond effectively? Click here to offer your response. We will publish results in our next newsletter.
In the news: Evergreen work session draws attention
The crisis at Evergreen has prompted an outpouring of media attention, from as far away as Britain and Israel. Tuesday’s work session was no exception. Here are links to some of the stories that appeared following the meeting.
Northwest News Network (National Public Radio): Evergreen State College president asks legislators for more campus security
The Olympian: Evergreen president wants more money for campus police
The Spokesman-Review: Evergreen president describes how protests ‘blew up’
Revenue forecast up $185 million
A new estimate Tuesday of state tax collections indicates the state will receive a smidgeon more than earlier anticipated. Revenue estimates have been increased by $185 million through the end of the 2017-19 budget period.
This really doesn’t add significantly to the amount the state will have on hand. We will collect $40.9 billion in the next biennium, without a tax increase, up from $38.3 billion in the current two-year budget period. Certainly it is better than hearing tax revenue will decrease. But the prevailing wisdom in Olympia seems to be that this nearly-$200-million gain is new money the Legislature is free to spend. Since the Senate already has proposed a budget that meets the state’s needs without a tax increase, we might also make the argument that this makes a case for greater tax relief or higher state reserves. Who says every windfall is justification for higher spending?
American Legion Baseball tournament coming up
Nothing reminds us that summer is here like an afternoon of baseball. The greater Spokane area once again has the honor of hosting the American Legion Wood Bat Classic, from June 30 to July 3. This tournament offers teams from throughout the West a chance to compete on local baseball diamonds, including those of the Spokane Valley. This tournament is a major contributor to our local economy, and it is a point of community pride. I was chairman of this event for 15 years, and it was an honor to serve. To find out more about game schedules and other information, click here.
If you have a question or concern about state government, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We are here to serve you!
Phone: (509) 921-2460
Street address: 11707 East Sprague Ave., Suite 305, Spokane Valley, WA 99206
Email address: Mike.Padden@leg.wa.gov