The 2014 Legislative Session kicks off on Monday, January 13. As you may know, the Washington State legislature meets for a 105-day regular session in odd-numbered years when they are writing the two-year operating budget, and a 60-day regular session in the even-numbered years, or “supplemental operating budget” years. This year’s regular session is scheduled to adjourn on March 14. Special sessions have been frequent in recent years, so it would not be a surprise to go into overtime.
The membership of the Legislature has been very fluid in both the House and Senate with retirements, elections, and legislators taking other opportunities. The Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC), made up of 24 Senate Republicans and two rogue Senate Democrats, gained another seat with the defeat of Senator Nathan Schlicher by Representative Jan Angel in the November 2013 general election. This gives them a three-seat advantage over Senate Democrats. Senate Democrats also recently elected a new Minority Leader after former leader Ed Murray was elected Mayor of Seattle.Taking over for Mayor Murray is Senator Sharon Nelson, who represents the 34th Legislative District, consisting of West Seattle and Vashon Island.
For the first time in several years, the Legislature is not faced with a projected revenue deficit leading up to session. The last revenue forecast in November predicted a $25 million surplus of revenue over existing spending obligations. While it’s a welcome relief to not face additional cuts, $25 million is a drop in the ocean (just 0.008%) of a $33 billion-plus budget. This tiny fiscal cushion will not allow the legislature to restore any of the deep cuts they have enacted to dozens of worthwhile expenditures over the past few budget cycles and will likely result instead in a status quo supplemental budget given the partisan divide. Keep in mind: teachers and state employees have not had one cost of living increase for the past six straight years!
The recent Machinists–Boeing conflict has led to speculation that labor is in for a tough session. Many Republicans, including the State Republican Party, are promoting the idea that Washington should become a “right to work” state. For those who don’t know what that means, it’s a requirement for unions to represent workers even if the workers choose not to pay dues for that representation, which essentially guts the union and transfers all the power in the collective bargaining relationship to employers, resulting in lower pay and fewer benefits for workers statewide. In addition, with Boeing, the largest private employer in Washington, shifting its employees to a 401(k) Defined Contribution (DC) plan from a Defined Benefit (DB) pension plan, Republicans and other friends of Wall Street who seek to destroy public employee DB plans and convert them to similar DC plans are licking their chops.
As for the WSCFF legislative agenda, we will provide updates on specific issues through the Legislative Updates on our website (www.wscff.org) and at the 2014 WSCFF Legislative Conference. We encourage you to sign up for the Legislative Updates as they are the primary method for the Legislative Team to communicate with the WSCFF membership.
To sign up for the updates, log into your account and go to the “Account Settings” link from the home page. Below your personal contact information, you will find “Mailing Lists.” Check the “Legislative Updates” box, and then hit the “Save Settings” button. If you have any trouble with this process, please contact the Council office. Someone is always available during business hours to assist.
The WSCFF Legislative Team is responsible for the day-to-day lobbying in Olympia and around the state. It is comprised of WSCFF President Kelly Fox and Legislative Liaisons Geoff Simpson and Michael White. The Legislative Team is directed by WSCFF resolutions and the WSCFF Executive Board.