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The Washington State Labor Council's annual report on the legislative session


2015 Senate Voting Record 
2015 House Voting Record


Download a printable version 
(2 MB PDF file, eight 11x17 pages)

Also see our archive of weekly 2015 WSLC Legislative Updates from the session, plus previous editions of the WSLC Legislative Report:

2014 -- 2013 -- 2012 -- 2011 -- 2010 -- 2009 -- 2008 -- 2007 -- 2006 -- 2005 -- 2004 -- 2003 -- 2002 -- 2001 -- 2000 -- 1999
 

 

 
Shutdown politics
in the Senate

This is no way to run a state government.

The Republican-controlled Senate embraced the threat of a state shutdown this year so Washington's wealthiest could continue to avoid paying their fair share and to pursue an ideological anti-union agenda. After three costly overtime sessions and 26,000 pink-slip warnings sent to state workers, a budget deal was reached just hours before the shutdown was to begin.

It was a game of political chicken straight out of the GOP playbook in the other Washington, and it brought needless stress to thousands of state employee families and countless other people and businesses that rely on important state services. It also disrespected state employees, holding hostage their first raises in seven years to push anti-union collective bargaining bills that are part of a national campaign financed by billionaire right-wing conservatives.

What did Senate Republican budget negotiators, led by Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond), get out of it? They killed an effort to help fund schools though a capital-gains tax affecting a tiny fraction of the state’s wealthiest families. They avoided closing corporate tax loopholes for oil companies and other special interests by insisting on budget gimmicks, like assuming we'll all be smoking a lot more marijuana. They retained America’s most unfair tax system, where low-income and middle-class workers pay more while the richest people pay the lowest taxes of any state in the nation.

As you'll read throughout this report, it was a theme that played out in most policy areas this year. Gov. Jay Inslee and the Democratic-controlled House pursued measures to address growing income inequality and to make state government function better. The Senate, with its two-vote Republican majority, obstructed those efforts while serving the selfish few at the top and pushing a politically motivated agenda.

But in the end, 2015 will be remembered as the year extremist Republicans decided their right-wing wish list was worth shutting the state down.



Archive of weekly WSLC Legislative Updates from the 2015 session

Jan. 12 -- Let's rise to the challenge!  

In 2015, the Washington State Legislature has the opportunity not only to meet the significant budget challenges, it can also take steps to help rebuild our state -- and its middle class. PLUS, what's changed in 2015; Senate GOP taps anti-union Sen. Baumgartner to chair labor panel; Same old transportation roadblocks?

Jan. 20 -- Some bills are smart, some are just ALEC  

Legislators lined up to support good bills to raise the minimum wage and set a standard for paid sick leave. But in the Senate, a number of bills drafted by the "corporate bill mill" ALEC have appeared to create new collective bargaining obstacles for public employees. PLUS, hearing Tuesday on "ag gag" bill, President's Report on Week 1 surprises, and meet WSLC Legislative Intern Elissa Goss.

Jan. 28 -- Give the people what they want  

It's hard to find legislative issues more popular across party lines than raising the minimum wage and allowing all workers to earn paid sick leave. But more importantly, these proposals are the right thing to do -- especially at a time of growing income inequality and stagnant wages. That was the message delivered in the House Labor Committee during testimony on HB 1355 to accelerate the state's minimum wage increases so it reaches $12 an hour in four years and HB 1356 to allow all workers to earn at least 40 hours of paid time off per year. PLUS: Discouraging wage theft and retaliation; WSLC backs Equal Pay Opportunity Act; Johnson: Create good jobs and tackle climate change. 

Feb. 3 -- Giving companies what they want  

Instead of supporting popular efforts to raise the minimum wage and promote paid sick days, some Senate Republicans are focused on cutting injured workers' benefits and establishing a new sub-minimum wage. Not exactly what we remember them campaigning on, unless it was behind closed doors in meetings with corporate executives and lobbyists. PLUS, get the details on the WSLC Legislative Reception & Conference, plus a rally on the Capitol steps on Feb. 20.

Feb. 10 -- We're being taken for a ride 

Because our aerospace tax incentives lack the accountability standards required in most states, Washington taxpayers are subsidizing one of biggest corporations in the world even as it sheds jobs in our state. PLUS, we are subsidizing low-wage aerospace companies that have employees who can't meet their families' basic needs. Plus, shared prosperity bills to be heard, and Reception, Rally, Conference!

Feb. 25 -- Which side are they on?  

Washington voters will soon find out which side their representatives are on. Three key pieces of the Washington State Labor Council's 2015 Shared Prosperity Agenda are ready for a full vote of the House any day now: protecting workers from retaliation for speaking up about wage theft and simply trying to earn a hard day's wage, increasing the state's minimum wage over four years to create a new floor of $12 an hour, and allowing all workers in Washington to earn sick leave to take care of themselves or a loved one when they are sick. PLUS, hold the ideology on transportation, and more cutoff deadlines loom.

March 5 -- The dismantling of workers' comp  

ProPublica and NPR reported the results of a ground-breaking national investigation into the systematic destruction of the safety net for workers injured on the job, which they found has been "steered by big business and aided by the recent Republican takeovers of state legislatures." Washington's state-run workers' compensation system has not been immune from such cutbacks. Check out the list of Senate bills that would weaken our system. PLUS, the House passes minimum wage and paid sick leave bills, and the Senate approves an "unclean" transportation package. 

March 12 -- Cutoff carnage: The good, the bad and the undead  

March 11 was the cutoff deadline for policy bills to pass their houses of origin, which led to a flurry of floor votes this week. Key bills affecting working families -- some in positive ways and some negative -- have either advanced to the opposite house or are now dead for the session. Here's a summary of some of the working families bills and their status.

March 23 -- Can we get fair hearings?  

Three key bills in the Washington State Labor Council's Shared Prosperity Agenda -- raising the minimum wage, granting paid sick leave, and the Equal Pay Opportunity Act -- will get hearings in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee on March 30. In the meantime, what of the many other bills -- those that haven't received as much publicity, but are nonetheless important legislation affecting many working families? PLUS: America's most unfair tax system, and Don't rob pensions to balance budget.

April 10 -- Broken promises, broken priorities  

Public employees and their families in our communities have suffered enough. The people who keep our neighborhoods safe, care for the elderly and disabled, teach and protect our children, maintain our roads and transportation system, and provide other essential state services have been asked to make many personal sacrifices. Throughout the recession, our state government asked these workers to do more for less, with the promise that in the future, things would get better for them and their families. Now, after seven years of wage freezes and cuts, it's time to keep that promise by funding the modest 3% and 1.8% raises in the contracts.

May 1 -- Sen. Hill's collective bargaining chips 

If a clear bipartisan majority agrees the state employee contracts should be funded, why is that issue still on the table? The answer appeared in The Olympian, which reported that Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) "suggested that changes in collective bargaining policy may smooth the way to Senate acceptance of the pacts." Specifically, Hill wants collective bargaining negotiations currently held in private to be opened to outsiders, a policy being pushed by the right-wing Freedom Foundation. If there is any wonder why people have become cynical about government, look no further than Sen. Hill's ideological gambit.


Additional news stories from the 2015 legislative session appear in the State Government section of The Stand, including:

Senate GOP tea partiers holding state hostage (June 26)

First raises in 7 years signed, sealed, delivered for state workers (July 8)

Star making: The Seattle Times shills for Hill (July 15)


Copyright © 2015  Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO