Sharp elbows, fast moves: Legislature rolls forward

Family leave, workers comp rules and tuition savings are all in play as tensions rise.
Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry

Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry John Stang

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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Comments:

Posted Fri, Feb 1, 5:59 a.m. Inappropriate

as if they're on a circular track, Washington State Democrats have - once again - introduced several bills to implement a state income tax.

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2013-14/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5166.pdf

BlueLight

Posted Fri, Feb 1, 8:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Hardly a surprise, even as there have been several stories in the press the last couple weeks that businesses in income-tax states (especially California) are contemplating moves to non-income-tax states. Washington gets mention as the West's best alternative to California, yet the Democrats in the Legislature seem dead-set to turn Washington into Lil' Californie. Next step: Lil' Greece. This is why the coalition-led Senate, if it is to have any credibility at all, needs to stick to the core services of government and not an unwieldy anti-Democrat wish list of their own.

dbreneman

Posted Fri, Feb 1, 9:29 a.m. Inappropriate

EDITOR:

I'm sorry, but the writing HERE is juvenile. Have we gone back to high school?

Ross Kane
Warm Beach

Ross

Posted Fri, Feb 1, 9:35 a.m. Inappropriate

I have to agree with Ross. There was some decent commentary above, but the distracting nicknames completely ruined it.

Ryan

Posted Fri, Feb 1, 10:21 a.m. Inappropriate

John "Masters of Digital Media, but can't read his screedia" Stang.

Cameron

Posted Fri, Feb 1, 3:31 p.m. Inappropriate

Sorry, unreadable. Trying too hard. Back to the basics. That's all we need. I have appreciated the Olympia coverage, though.

For instance, I can't make sense of this sentence:

"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 ."

Or this one:

"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."

And it's not just the bill that's complex and overwrought:

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.

This sentence hurled forth an image from The Exorcist:

"Senate Democrats have hurled forward a couple of higher education tuition bills, for which the majority alliance leaders are not voicing major enthusiasm."

I'm never particularly enthusiastic when people hurl either, especially on that expensive carpet.

Fun experiment, didn't work, move on.

tom_hyde

Posted Sat, Feb 2, 12:11 p.m. Inappropriate

The Republicans are venting frustration from past Democratic rigidity.

Both parties should admit that ruling isn't governing, and develop procedural rules that promote effective governance, no matter which party is in the majority.

Their inability, or unwillingness, to do so is merely an indication that they're no smarter than the rest of us, and no more capable of burying their hatchets and doing their job.

Sen. Newbry's actions merely confirm that a legislator acting out her or his frustration is useless in governing.

In time, she may wish to have more influence, and study the art of persuasion. Lacking that urge, she gets the satisfaction of running the show--but none of the bills mentioned (or any other proposals so conceived) will become law in this session.

Seneca

Posted Mon, Feb 4, 5:01 p.m. Inappropriate

It couldn't be any worse than the last eight years of Democrat monopoly.

Cameron

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