The following newsletter was sent to Sen. Padden’s subscribers March 7, 2019. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Legislature’s ‘urban agenda’ steers state leftward, risks backlash
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As our 2019 legislative session turns to action on the House and Senate floors, many of us are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the direction it has taken. Under one-party control, this year’s Legislature is passing bill after bill to expand the power of government, drive up costs for working families, and impose Seattle values on the entire state. Nowhere is this more evident than the sex-education bill our urban colleagues rammed through the Senate last week.
Senate Bill 5395 requires every public school district in the state to teach a comprehensive sex-education program, starting in kindergarten. The curriculum would be imposed from the top down, written by bureaucrats in Olympia, reflecting urban attitudes and values. The bill would strip local school districts of their ability to devise sex-education programs that reflect their communities, if they choose to offer the subject at all.
This bill prompted one of the biggest debates we have had so far this year. In my own speech on the Senate floor, I said that If I could have saved up all my no-votes for just one bill, I would have voted against this one 20 times. It’s not just that this is an inappropriate subject for five-year-olds. The bill is really about the promotion of a social agenda, and about forcing it on students of all grade levels, regardless of their parents’ wishes. If anything, this will provide a further inducement for parents to remove their children from the public schools and place them in private schools or home-school situations.
The sex-education bill is a perfect illustration of our challenge in Olympia this year. Urban lawmakers have taken the position that their values should govern all who live in Washington. Opposition is dismissed as backwardness, and the diversity of views we find in this state is ignored. We have a term for this sort of attitude. We call it “tyranny of the majority.” We see it in proposals for higher taxes, higher state spending, higher electricity prices, higher gas prices, greater power for labor unions, and a host of other areas. The sex-education bill is just the start – I’ll tell you about some of these proposals this week.
Senator Mike Padden
The urban agenda in Olympia
There has been plenty of talk lately about the Green New Deal in Washington D.C., and the striking similarity of the legislation we have been seeing in the Washington Legislature. Certainly there are parallels – you can read about them here. What we are seeing in Olympia is really an expansion of this effort, allowing government to establish greater control of our economy and daily lives. This urban agenda also encompasses higher taxes and a social agenda many of us find disturbing.
Here are some of the most troubling proposals before us this year:
- Senate Bill 5116, approved by the Senate last week over much opposition from our side of the aisle, is a key element in the governor’s carbon-reduction plan. The bill requires electric utilities to abandon fossil fuel generation by 2045 – all power would have to come from “clean” sources. Unfortunately, “100 percent renewables” is the kind of phrase that looks good on a bumper sticker, but doesn’t make much sense for our state. Washington already is one of the cleanest states in the nation, because of our reliance on clean low-cost hydropower, and it will become cleaner as coal is phased out. Essentially this bill will require Washington utilities to replace the small fraction of power we get from natural gas, at great expense, using technology that is either untried or unreliable. Nor would it have any measurable impact on world climate, ocean conditions, snowpack, forest fires or polar bears, as advocates like to claim. You’ll pay for it, in the form of higher electricity bills.
- Senate Bill 5129 and House Bill 1343, the governor’s tax legislation, would increase taxes on some businesses by 67 percent, and enact a new income tax on capital gains. This tax almost certainly would be expanded into a general income tax when roller-coaster tax collections fall short in the next recession. This measure flouts the will of the people, who have rejected an income tax nine times since 1934.
- Senate Bill 5412 and House Bill 1110, the governor’s low-carbon fuel standards proposal, would create a massive subsidy program for carbon-reduction projects. Motorists would pay for it with dramatically higher gas prices. A carbon-reduction subsidy program could be created with no additional impact on consumers – Senate Republicans proposed such a program in 2015. But urban interests are fixated on punishing those who drive.
- Senate Bill 5693 requires dairy farmers and fruit growers to report whether they employ slaves, hold workers in economic servitude or engage in human trafficking. Urban lawmakers claim this will help consumers make informed choices. But this bill really is an insult to this state’s hardworking farmers, and it is a clear indication of attitudes toward farming in Seattle and the central Puget Sound region.
- Senate Bill 5489 would give activists the power to dictate state environmental policies, without input from the public or business. A task force of activists and state-agency heads would recommend new regulations to promote “environmental justice” – a term that can be used to justify virtually anything. State agencies would be required to adopt these recommendations.
- House Bill 1515 imposes new restrictions on independent contracting – a major goal for labor unions, which can only organize workers in traditional employment situations. This affects professionals in many trades, many of whom find they can make a better living on their own. A more-direct assault on contracting, banning booth rentals for hairdressers and barbers, was defeated by public protest, but proposals to impose high employment taxes on independent workers still could be revived.
Another ‘Three Strikes’ initiative?
Already we are seeing public opposition to the legislative majority’s stridently-liberal bent. The first indication came earlier this session when more than 1,000 angry hairdressers stormed the Capitol to protest the proposed booth-rental ban, and convinced the sponsor to abandon the bill. We saw it again last week, when the Senate Ways and Means Committee considered a bill that would end the certainty of life-without parole. It may just have worked there, too.
Senate Bill 5819 is one of a series of bills this session that would reduce sentences and qualify inmates for early release. Inmates would be considered for release after serving 15 consecutive years, or 20 years in cases of first-degree murder. The primary arguments for early release are saving money and relieving prison crowding. This ignores the impact on communities and crime victims, as well as the Legislature’s own responsibility for closing prison facilities in the last recession.
This bill would render meaningless the popular “Three Strikes You’re Out” law passed overwhelmingly by Washington voters in 1993. Washington’s three-time-loser law provides automatic life-without-parole sentences after three convictions for a serious or violent felony. Supporters of the early-release bill claim crime is no longer a top public concern. Last week we learned this claim may be put to the test.
At last week’s Ways and Means hearing, Seattle radio talk host John Carlson, co-author of the 1993 initiative, said that if the bill passes, he will re-file “Three Strikes” and lead another campaign. “Since its passage, violent crime has plummeted,” he said. “I do not understand why this committee would seriously consider making it easier for violent felons – repeat violent felons – to get out of prison sooner.”
That left majority lawmakers to decide whether they would risk a public rebuke. Last Friday was the deadline for the committee to consider policy-related bills, and this one didn’t make it out. We can’t say for sure it’s dead, because that’s the majority’s call. But its prospects look substantially less promising.
Senate passes school-safety bill
The Senate this week passed a bill I have sponsored that will improve school safety when violence is threatened. When a situation forces a lockdown or evacuation, Senate Bill 5514 requires law enforcement to notify all nearby schools, public and private. The measure, which passed unanimously, is an important step in helping authorities keep our children safe. You can read more about it here.
In the news:
Hutton Settlement celebrates its 100th anniversary
An article in the Spokesman-Review calls attention to the fact that the Hutton Settlement is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. This important institution, northeast of Millwood, provides a safe, stable home for 1,500 children in need. It receives no government funding of any kind – and offers us a reminder of the importance of private activity in maintaining our social safety net.
This week it was my honor to host Katie Christensen as a Senate page. Katie, 15, lives in Spokane Valley and attends University High School. She is the daughter of Kirt and Emily Christensen.
The Senate page program gives youths age 14 to 16 a chance to see their Legislature in action. Students deliver messages and correspondence, monitor floor debates, and attend a special page school. If you know of a young person who would appreciate an opportunity to participate in the Senate page program, more information is available here.
We’re in Olympia for the duration. 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: (360) 786-7606
Street address: 106 Irv Newhouse Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia, WA 98504
Postal address: PO Box 40404, Olympia, WA 98504
Email address: Mike.Padden@leg.wa.gov