AFL-CIO rates Washington state lawmakers after low-energy session

Elections matter: That’s the lesson Washington State Labor Council (WSLC), AFL-CIO drew from the 2016 session of the Legislature. WSLC went to the State Capitol in Olympia with an agenda to make Washington a better place to live and work. It was stymied by Republican control of the Senate, and even the House, controlled 50-48 by Democrats, failed to pass some of its proposals. But then, WSLC knew it was going to be tough going in.

2016 SW Wash Leg Voting Record“Expectations were low for the 2016 legislative session, and these expectations were met,” wrote WSLC President Jeff Johnson in the state labor federation’s 2016 legislative report.

Some examples of what went wrong:

  • Flirting with contempt of court on school funding  The state Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature has failed to adequately fund K-12 education — violating a voter-approved ballot measure. To comply with the court order, next year the state must come up with an additional $3.5 billion to fund public schools. But this year’s Legislature made no decision on how to do that. And Washington has one of the most regressive tax structures in the nation: all sales and property taxes, and no income tax.
  • Boeing whistling on the way to the bank  In 2013, Washington lawmakers gave Boeing the biggest tax break in history — valued at $8.7 billion over 16 years. Since then the company has laid off hundreds of workers. This year, some lawmakers wanted to tie the tax incentive to job creation and maintenance. But the bill couldn’t even make it out of its House committee, much less get a Senate vote.
  • Not dying at work: Maybe next year After a 2015 incident in which a farmworker drowned in a manure pit, WSLC and United Farm Workers pushed a bill to mandate more frequent inspections and improved safety training at dairies, among other things. It died in the House Appropriations Committee.
  • Know the law before you bid  Washington State Building and Construction Trades backed a bill to require that public works contractors be trained in prevailing wage standards and compliance in order to qualify as responsible bidders. It passed the House 50-45, but died without a hearing in a Republican-led Senate committee.

Among Southwest Washington legislators, labor had some solid allies. Five local Democrats had 100 percent voting records for 2016: State Sen. Annette Cleveland and state Reps. Jim Moeller and Sharon Wylie of District 49 in Vancouver, and Brian Blake and JD Rossetti of District 19 in the Longview area.

But six Southwest Washington Republicans had the lowest possible score. No one got 0 percent rating, because WSLC included several bills that passed unanimously, including a bill to extend reimbursement for corrections workers who are assaulted by inmates.

See the full report, and the list of bills and votes here.

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