State Sen. Schoesler's Legislative Commentary: Nov. 14, 2019
Last updated 11/14/2019 at 11:18am
Legislators have to be careful about referring to elections in their official communications, like this commentary – but now that the general-election voting is over for this year I’ll make a few observations, starting with a big “thank you” to our nation’s veterans as the holiday to honor their service is at hand. By protecting our country they have protected our rights and freedoms, including the right to vote.
-Initiative 976 – The hard-working taxpayers don’t get many opportunities to reduce their tax bills, so it is no surprise that I-976 passed quite easily, including in two of the three counties where people saw their car-tab costs double or triple because of Sound Transit. It’s more of a surprise (or disappointment) that government leaders in King County didn’t even wait 24 hours before announcing their intent to challenge the initiative in court.
-Referendum 88 – The Legislature could and should have sent Initiative 1000 directly to the ballot for the voters to decide. After all, I-1000 would have undone the civil rights law created by the people in 1998, through I-200. In the end, the voters still got to have their say through R-88, and it appears the 21-year-old law will stay in place.
-Advisory votes on new taxes – The voters finally got their chance to weigh in on the majority party’s Taxapalooza, and gave the thumbs-down to 9 of the 12 taxes enacted during the 2019 session. For 5 of of those 9, the opposition was still at a supermajority level (60%) as of this morning. These advisory votes are not binding, meaning the Legislature may ignore the results – but the message they send should be unmistakable to the majority legislators who will push for a state income tax, an energy tax and maybe more in 2020.
Because we expect the Democratic majority in the Legislature to make another try at a state income tax in 2020, the overwhelming vote in Spokane to prohibit a local income tax is timely. At a minimum, Spokane residents shouldn’t have to worry about their city council doing to them what Seattle’s council did (although that tax was struck down by a judge; Seattle’s appeal of the decision is headed to the state Supreme Court). Click here for details about the Spokane vote. Imagine if voters across our state had the same opportunity to protect themselves!
Committed to addressing regional water needs
No one has persevered like the Columbia Basin Development League when it comes to ensuring access to water in our part of the state. The organization dates to 1964, back when the Columbia Basin Project – one of the most important public works projects of the 20th century – was still in its youth. So it means a lot that the CBDL presented me with its annual Perseverance Award this year at its recent annual meeting (see photo).
As I noted in a news release (click here for it), if the Columbia Basin is to not only survive but thrive, it needs enough water for both communities and an agriculture industry that provides many jobs. That’s why I’ve devoted so much time and energy to finding ways to help this area meet its water needs. With the help of many people and organizations like the CBDL, we’ve accomplished quite a bit, but there is more to do.
Public pressure leads governor to add dam ‘workshop’ in Tri-Cities
I’ve commented more than once about how it makes no sense for state government to talk about breaching or removing the four federal dams on the lower Snake River as a way to increase salmon runs. Olympia can’t tell the feds what to do! Yet the governor allowed his orca task force to target the dams as one of its recommendations, then arranged for a $750,000 taxpayer-funded study of how breaching or removing the dams would affect communities along the river.
Recently I was shocked to learn that neither of the two public workshops (not hearings) related to the study would be in the Tri-Cities, even though they comprise the largest population area near the dams. Clarkston and Vancouver would be the locations instead. I questioned that publicly, as did U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, and the governor’s side conceded.
Here are the details for the workshops in our area:
January 7 – Clarkston, Quality Inn & Suites and Quay Convention Center, 700 Port Drive
January 13 – Tri-Cities, Red Lion Hotel & Conference Center 2525 North 20th Avenue, Pasco
The Vancouver meeting will be January 9. Unfortunately, there is no plan to allow public comments at the workshops – a decision I have also questioned, as reported here in the Tri-City Herald. However, people may fill out this online survey.
Amazon announces computer-science scholarship opportunity
Next year Amazon is granting 100 scholarships to high school seniors who have taken, or are currently enrolled in, AP (Advanced Placement) computer science and intend to study computer science in college.
The Amazon Future Engineer scholarship includes a $10,000/year scholarship toward an undergraduate degree in computer science (up to $40,000 for all four years); recipients also get a guaranteed paid software engineering summer internship at Amazon after their freshman year of college.
The application window will close on January 17, 2020. Students may apply and learn more at this link.