Education panel splits along party lines on legislature’s first day

OLYMPIA — Monday’s opening of the 2017 legislative session featured traditional displays of pomp and calls for unity rather than politics as lawmakers confront an array of daunting challenges.

But it also began ominously as a legislative panel that’s labored to find a path to fully funding public schools adjourned without issuing a final report because its Democratic and Republican members disagreed on what it should say.

In a series of party line votes, the Education Funding Task Force rejected inclusion of Democrats’ four-page offering of policy changes with a $7.3 billion price tag and Republicans’ suggestion of putting in mostly materials received from consultants in months of meetings.

Nancy Truitt Pierce, a Monroe School District board member, attended the task force’s final meeting and afterwards expressed disappointment at the outcome. She said members of the Washington State School District Association, of which she serves on its legislative committee, hoped for a bipartisan blueprint to emerge to jump start the conversation.

She said the recommendations Democrats put out “were a great place to start with. Without even that, you have to start from zero.”

This blast of partisanship blew through the Capitol a couple hours before the formal start of a session scheduled to run 105 days though most anticipate it will be longer because of the issues such as school funding.

“It’s going to be a marathon,” said Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island.

Lawmakers are under a Supreme Court order to ensure the state covers the entire cost of basic education in public schools including salaries of teachers, staff and administrators. For years school districts have been using local property tax collections to cover what the state doesn’t pay and the court has said that has to stop.

Democratic lawmakers say new sources of revenue will be needed and are prepping for hiking taxes while Republicans are not embracing any tax talk at this stage. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, meanwhile, is proposing new taxes on carbon emissions and capital gains and a hike in the tax rate paid by service businesses.

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, in his opening day address, said the House passed a revenue package in 2013 that would have covered the education tab but the Senate refused to act on it.

“This year we must get the job done. Providing full funding of education is imperative,” he said.

Chopp also called for improving Washington’s mental health system and preserving a basic level of health care for residents. He warned that if the federal health care law is repealed as many as 750,000 people in the state could lose their health care.

“If that happens many (of them) will suffer. Many will go bankrupt. Many will be neglected. Many will die,” he said.

Though Chopp at times sounded a partisan drum, he concluded by urging lawmakers to “treat each other with respect, keep an open mind and most importantly hold the public interest as our prime directive.”

House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, followed with an appeal for each lawmaker to set aside their differences as they face the challenges ahead together.

“Let’s get to know each other down here,” he said. “There’s a time to campaign. Now it’s time to govern. Governing is what we were actually hired to do. Let’s do right by the citizens who hired us.”

A number of other issues are going to dominate discussions including reducing homelessness, reforming the Public Records Act and repealing the state’s death penalty law.

Also Monday, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced his proposed legislation banning the sale of semiautomatic military-style assault weapons will be sponsored in the House by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds.

And Snohomish County’s delegation formally welcomed two newcomers Monday, state Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, and Rep. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland, and two returnees, state Reps. John Koster, R-Arlington, and John Lovick, D-Mill Creek.

As expected, Lovick was elected deputy Speaker Pro Tem, which means he’ll be presiding with gavel in hand on some House floor debates as he did in his last legislative stint.

Lovick thanked House members for entrusting him with the responsibility and ended with one of Chopp’s favorite lines, “Let’s get to work.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Suspected impaired driver crashed with Edmonds police officer

Both the driver and officer were injured Friday night and taken to Harborview Medical Center.

Everett killer sentenced to 43 years for fatal home invasion

Edmond Overton, 26, broke into a home and shot two men in October 2017. One of them died at the scene.

Why does a left-turn signal go green when no cars are there?

A commuter noticed the anomaly at an intersection on Everett Mall Way.

Please stop killing bumble bees: They’re not ‘murder hornets’

Beekeepers say residents are mistaking bees and wasps for Asian giant hornets.

Seniors from Marysville schools mark accomplishment with parade

In an attempt to make up for losing the usual graduation, parents planned a city-wide parade Friday.

Burglary suspect identified after fatal Everett break-in

A homeowner shot the man Thursday morning. The slain man had served much of his adulthood in prison.

Edmonds mayor removes finance director with no cause given

Scott James joined the city in 2014. He’s the third department director to leave in the past year.

Neighbors oppose Everett’s possible sale of 92.5 wooded acres

The city has owned the land around Wood Creek, which was once its water supply, for decades.

Watch Gov. Jay Inslee’s Monday news conference here

He is to talk about statewide demonstrations over the weekend.

Most Read