A white-collar roller derby smackdown hit the marbled halls of Olympia this week.
Bruised egos. Parliamentary pummelin'. Crashin' and smashin'. Talkin' smack. Fouls called. Fouls ignored.
No visible tattoos or fishnets. We're guessing adult language behind closed doors.
Taking advantage of a power jam, the GOP's Pachyderms of Pain put the West Side's Dems of Doom on the defensive in the Senate this week. With Sen. Janéa "Buffy the Democrat Slayer" Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, as lead jammer, Republicans will try to to put some points on the board for the first time today with the passage of five worker compensation bills on the Senate floor.
Senate Republicans have the 25 votes to pass the bills, but could use the political boost if the Democrats led by Sen. Ed "Wonkenstein" Murray, D-Seattle, support them. If the Democrats back the bills, the 23-Republican-two-Democrat majority alliance can say the bills are truly bipartisan. If the Democrats go down swinging today, the majority alliance's bipartisan claims will still ring hollow.
That will signal whether the Republican bills will survive a trip to the House's arena, where Democrats led by House Speaker Frank "Darth Skater" Chopp, D-Seattle, rule big-time.
If House Democrats block the bills, "we're open to compromise," said Republican Senate Caucus Leader Mark "Palouse Mongoose" Schoesler, R-Ritzville. However, he would not provide specifics where compromises could be made.
Holmquist Newbry's bills are complex. The biggest proposed changes include allowing employees to influence what criteria are used to determine the extent of a worker's injury and fitness to return to work; to provide young workers with an option that was first created to enable older workers to retire rather than undergo difficult rehabilitations and retraining; and to override a state court ruling that said the worker's compensation system's chief mission is to protect injured workers.
Democrats are po'd about how these bills plus a proposed repeal of Family Medical Leave Act were handled Monday in the Senate's Labor and Commerce Committee, which is chaired by Holmquist Newbry. At the last minute, she pushed an expected contentious debate on repealing the family leave act from the beginning to the end of the agenda. That move had two effects. It constricted the medical leave repeal hearing into just 25 minutes, leaving people unable to testify. And it prevented the lengthy family medical leave debate from runing out the clock and delaying her five workers-comp bills from receiving the vote that passed them out of committee for Friday's floor consideration.
Committee member Sen. Karen "Harum Scarum Karen" Keiser, D-Kent, charged that the chairwoman should be called for cutting the track, believing that was a deliberate tactical move by Holmquist Newbry to make things easier for the Republicans' 4-3 majority on the committee.
The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Steve "Tacoma Terminator" Conway protested Holmquist Newbry's five bills were saying "hasta la vista, baby" to the committee before the members had a chance to study the details sufficiently .
"The new majority gave five extremely complex bills that make sweeping changes less time than you'd normally give a single bill of comparable complexity," Conway said. "When we requested the opportunity to ask about the likely impacts of the bills on the state Department of Labor and Industries, all we got was the bum's rush. ... Republicans are telling us: 'We don't care whose benefits are cut, as long as we cut benefits.'"
That Monday, Holmquist Newbry told Conway said these bills had been around in past legislative sessions, but the then-majority Democrats never gave them hearings. Consequently, she said, legislators should already be familiar with the issues addressed by the bills. The majority alliance's leaders said they delayed a Wednesday full Senate vote on the bills until Friday because the Democrats requested more time to study them.
On Wednesday, leader of the 23-Republican-2-Democrat alliance, Democrat Sen. Rodney "Mad Max of Medina" Tom said: "All our committees are working well together."
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