Guest opinion: Dems in charge in Olympia, but GOP is helping steer debate

Republicans see their role as fixing or foiling bad bills. Democrats’ tax bills are their new target.

It’s the home stretch of the 2019 legislative session.

With a month to go, Democrats are looking to use their majorities in the House and Senate to drive home ambitious policies covering behavioral health, higher education, environment, labor and taxation — to name a few.

Last week they released their budgets in each chamber and now it’s pretty much a matter of Democrats reaching agreement with Democrats on one spending blueprint by April 28, the last scheduled day.

What about the other team, the Grand Old Party?

Republicans lost ground in the November 2018 election and are outnumbered 57-41 in the House and 28-21 in the Senate.

But they still represent a sizable portion of the state’s 7.5 million residents and the majority of its acreage — too many people and too much territory to be roundly ignored.

In the House, they are the disrupters. They seem to be lying in legislative wait for opportune moments to slow, detour or derail the majority’s machine. Ultimately for them, success will be measured by which bills die, are amended or never get voted on.

“We want to pursue things that unite our caucus and divide the other caucus,” said House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, who is in his first year at the helm. “Republicans can’t defeat anything on the (House) floor in the minority. What we do can impact what Democrats bring to the floor.”

Democratic leaders don’t necessarily analyze it the same way.

Winning support of moderate Democratic senators requires tailoring or shelving of some policy bills, they say.

And, they contend, Republicans can effectively keep a bill from reaching the floor of a chamber by filing a stack of amendments to filibuster on it. There isn’t always enough time on the clock for protracted debate, even when the final outcome is predictable, Democratic leaders say.

Wilcox said the notion that moderate Democrats in the Senate are affecting the party’s agenda overlooks the role of Republican resistance in each chamber.

And as far as what comes up on the floor, he said: “It’s really the majority that makes that choice.”

These dynamics will get fully tested in the final month when the focus turns to the budgets.

House Democrats are proposing a capital gains tax to help make ends meet in their spending plan. It’s not a new idea for them though they’ve offered different versions in the past.

What would be new is if the House actually voted on it before sending the budget to the Senate. House Democrats didn’t do so when Republicans ran the Senate because they figured it was DOA. Ultimately, the tax came off the table during final budget negotiations.

This is a different year with different dynamics. Moreover, there is a very progressive group of first-year lawmakers in the House Democratic caucus.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said there will be a hearing on the capital gains tax legislation but no promises after that.

“We don’t want to spend a lot of floor time fighting over taxes,” he said.

Sounds like the loyal opposition may already be in their heads.

Contact The Herald (Everett) columnist Jerry Cornfield at 360-352-8623, jcornfield@herald net.com or on Twitter, @dospueblos.

More in Opinion

Think About It: 5G whiz!?

A couple of weeks ago, we took our car to Lynnwood for… Continue reading

Aging Successfully: Is Sequim senior-friendly?

Have you ever started a simple project only to discover it was… Continue reading

Data privacy legislation withers in House

One of the most intriguing dramas at this point in the legislative… Continue reading

How our lawmakers voted

With last week’s cut-off deadline for consideration of non-budget bills, state lawmakers… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Darker side of renewables

Before our country, in haste, dives totally into renewable energy, we must… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Community care fuels Sequim Warming Center

The Sequim Community Warming Center was a complete success! I for one… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Of civility and citizenship

What is the relationship between civility and citizenship? When we talk about… Continue reading

How our lawmakers voted

Following the April 9 deadline for bills to gain approval from the… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Retrieving ocean trash is only first step

People across our planet are increasingly aware of the growing amounts of… Continue reading

Most Read