Sen. Bailey sticks her neck out

So much for a do-nothing Legislature. Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, the Washington DREAM Act, also dubbed the Real Hope Act, passed the state Senate on Friday, 35-10. Common sense trumped partisan inertia. And the outcome defines the public good.

“We want all who reside in Washington state to get a good education,” Bailey said on the Senate floor. The center, it seems, can hold.

The DREAM Act is a bipartisan proposal that would make undocumented Washington high school graduates eligible for the state’s Need Grant, which helps the poorest undergraduate students pursue degrees. The DREAM Act only extends to Northwest students, many brought to the United States as children, who already are woven into Washington’s social fabric.

Bailey underscored that the Need Grant is underfunded, so she inserted an additional $5 million, evidence that her values are embedded in the bill. She emphasized the need to support veterans, highlighting her other bill, SB 5318, which limits the waiting time for veterans and active duty service members to be eligible for resident tuition. As we editorialized, SB 5318 is an excellent bill that merits passage. But lawmaking isn’t a zero-sum game, and Friday proved that.

“It would be wrong to pit these good students against our brave veterans. So I applaud the Senate for passing both measures and not creating a false choice between kids and soldiers.” said Zack Hudgins, House sponsor of the DREAM Act. “We are in a global competition for talent. We can’t afford to turn our backs on students in Washington who want to go to college.”

A senator from Minnesota said once that politicians either grow or swell. Bailey’s willingness to find common cause and advance two worthy measures is emblematic of her leadership and growth as a committee chair. It also could be a harbinger of more progress, including a state transportation plan and Senate passage of the Washington Voting Rights Act.

Liberal tacticians fume that this is all election-year politics. But motivations are extraneous. In the long view of history, what matters is the passage of the DREAM Act and the attendant windfall for Washington students. While Hudgins was the bill’s author and agitator, Bailey is the hero and the political closer. Fifty years ago, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, it was Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen, not Democrat Hubert Humphrey, who was the closer.

Both Republicans and Democrats draw strength from Harry Truman’s wisdom, that the way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit. Now, to get things done.

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