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    Central Washington senator emerges as champion of business

    Janea Holmquist Newbry is making the most of her first chance to chair a committee. Business groups applaud while labor interests complain.
    Janea Holmquist Newbry

    Janea Holmquist Newbry

    Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, right, and Sen. Steve Conway.

    Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, right, and Sen. Steve Conway. John Stang

    Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry

    Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry John Stang

    It's been a good legislative session so far for Janéa Holmquist Newbry.

    The Republican senator from Moses Lake and two colleagues — Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, and Rep. Mike Manweller, R-Ellensburg — held a press conference on March 14 to celebrate 22 Senate business-oriented bills being passed and sent to the Democrat-controlled House. The three are the Republicans’ business issue leaders for their chambers.

    They were flanked by representatives of almost all of the business lobbying groups in Olympia.

    A sign propped up next to them said that Washington's businesses pay the ninth highest share of taxes among the 50 states —providing, 56.8 percent of state and local revenues versus a national average of 47.9 percent. These and other statistics on the sign came from the Association of Washington Business, the Washington Research Council, the Washington Roundtable and the Washington Association Realtors — all business groups.

    Holmquist Newbry has introduced 22 bills so far this session, mostly complicated business and labor legislation. Four ended up on March 14's list of celebrated bills. Her top successes were three workers' compensation reform bills. Her biggest setback was an attempt to create a training wage — below minimum wage — for teen employees.

    Most of the 22 Senate-passed business bills went through the Labor and Commerce Committee, which Holmquist Newbry chaired. Her ascent to a chair position occurred when two Democrats joined 23 Republicans last December to create the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus controlling the Senate. That is the first time she has been part of a majority, where a lawmaker has greater opportunity to make a mark.

    Holmquist Newbry, now 38, was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2002 as the youngest member of that chamber, following a three-year stint as a legislative aide. She switched to the Senate in 2006. She has run either unopposed or won by a huge margin in each of her races in east-central Washington. Her day job is described as "insurance consultant" on Web sites, although Holmquist Newbry views being a full-time legislator as her real job. She is young enough to sometimes say "awesome" when complimenting a person testifying before her committee.

    Her voting record is among the most conservative in the Senate. The Association of Washington Business, the Washington Farm Bureau and the National Federation of Business consistently rank her voting record very high — all three naming her their "legislator of the year" at some time or another. Environmental and labor organizations consistently rank her very low.

    "I don't believe she's carrying anyone's water," said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, a frequent opponent of Holmquist Newbry on business and labor issues.  "I think she's sincere."

    Kris Tefft, lobbyist for the AWB, believes she is motivated by attracting jobs to her agricultural district, which is also sprinkled with high-tech sites such as a Boeing test airfield in Moses Lake and a Microsoft data center in Quincy. The district stretches across Kittitas, Grant and Lincoln counties and a small part of Yakima County.

    She is deeply into business and labor issues — one of the most cutthroat and volatile subjects in the Legislature with deep-pocketed interests pounding each other across a wide front.

    Holmquist Newbry declined to be interviewed for this story, citing her busy schedule with all her spare time taken up with caring for her first-born 4-month old son Makaio, which is Hawaiian for Mark. Holmquist Newbry and her husband, Matt, love vacationing in Hawaii.

    As new chairwoman of the Senate's Labor and Commerce Committee, she introduced or shepherded a host of pro-business bills through her committee to Senate floor, where her party dominates.  "She is not a shrinking violet," Tefft said.

    About business groups' success this year under the Majority Coalition Caucus, Adam Glickman, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union Local No. 775, said, "The business community pulls a lot of weight in Olympia, and are not shy about pressing their advantage."  Sen. Keiser said, "None of this was accidental. It was planned." 

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    Posted Mon, Mar 25, 9:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    "[Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry's] biggest setback was an attempt to create a training wage — below minimum wage — for teen employees."

    Contrary to the talking points of its supporters, Senate Bill 5275 wasn't "for teen employees." As written, that bill would have created a sub-minimum-wage without regard to a workers age or experience level.

    Holmquist Newbry was being incredibly disingenuous when she "told the media that the training wages were intended solely for teens in hopes that the lower wages would encourage employers to hire them." If that's what she wanted, then she would have drafted the bill accordingly and/or supported the one-sentence amendment by Sen. Brian Hatfield that clarified "The special training certificate applies only to workers that are nineteen years of age and younger."

    Posted Mon, Mar 25, 9:55 a.m. Inappropriate

    This is probably an excellent article but the picture of the senator y'all are using is so offensive I'm steaming again so I have yet to read it. When crosscut chose to use the frowny face picture for the baby feeding attempted coup, I checked other stories for the picture each was using. Not that one. Then I checked her bio page for the senate. Not that picture. It feels as though you are deliberately selecting a picture that will stigmatize a woman senator of the wrong party as a mean you know what. Common, crosscut, you're better than the partisan, sexist publication such small minded tactics imply.

    Posted Mon, Mar 25, 11:58 a.m. Inappropriate

    When Sen. Keiser said she didn't think Sen. Holmquist Newbry was "carrying anybody's water," she was exercising senatorial courtesy and collegiality. Holmquist Newbry is carrying the water of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a right-wing outfit, funded by the Koch brothers and other reactionaries, that pushes its anti-union, anti-environment, anti-public education, "starve-the-beast" model legislation in every state legislature in the country.

    This has been reported many times, and verified. To make no mention of ALEC in this story renders it nothing more than a puff piece. The author, and whoever his editor is, should be ashamed.


    Posted Tue, Mar 26, 3:06 a.m. Inappropriate

    And please correct "Mike" Manweller to Matt Manweller. Thank you.


    Posted Wed, Mar 27, 7:55 a.m. Inappropriate

    Looks like State Senate Demos are getting a taste of what they've been feeding the Repos for years in Olympia. Welcome to politics, folks, where gamesmanship rules the day.

    Posted Wed, Mar 27, 2:09 p.m. Inappropriate

    At some point a minimum wage exceeds the worth of some people who are untrained and unqualified but willing to work. It's nice to believe that the employer should absorb the training period and it's even better to think that everyone is now or will soon be worth $9 per hour but I think we all know the latter is not true. So, regardless of the fellow travelling associates of Ms Newbry and her alleged contributors, the idea is good. It's for 17 weeks. Why that idea should be offensive escapes me.


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