Leadership Blog



House Democrats tip their hand on Hirst

Published on July 28, 2017
With two days to go in the Legislature’s third overtime session, I thought we had a good shot at wrapping things up on a positive note. Senate and House negotiators had verbally agreed on a final capital budget, and House Democrats had received another offer that would permanently solve the situation caused by the Hirst... Read More

Some parting thoughts with the Capitol in the rearview mirror

Published on July 21, 2017
The speaker of the House is known for holing up in his office, and as the 2017 legislative session fizzled to a strange end yesterday, the news media took note of that more than usual. One journalist reported how Speaker Frank Chopp hadn’t spoken with reporters all week about the two things that I hoped... Read More

Work continues, but what a day June 30 was

Published on July 01, 2017
The drive home to Adams County today gave me time to reflect on the magnitude of what the Legislature accomplished yesterday. It was something. A new operating budget is always a heavy lift by itself, but the 2017-19 budget had to dovetail with the school-funding reforms that represented five years of collective effort (more for... Read More

A generational solution that puts students, hard-working taxpayers first

Published on June 30, 2017
I’m reminded today how more than seven years ago, a group of Republican senators proposed a way to significantly increase state funding for public schools and in turn take the pressure off local school districts to come up with money for basic education. I was a co-sponsor of that landmark plan, introduced by former Senator... Read More

Former governor Spellman on education: Constitution, conscience, and common sense

Published on June 22, 2017
John Spellman honored me with a visit yesterday. It’s been a while since our previous time together, but Washington’s 18th governor, at age 90, is as sharp and inquisitive as I remembered. In 12 years as King County executive and four years as governor, he accomplished much, as his “Legacy Washington” story explains. However, the... Read More

Budget talks continue…and so does the spin

Published on June 12, 2017
The former FBI director spoke last week about the challenge posed by media coverage of sensitive topics involving classified information. Because officials who know the details aren’t inclined to talk to reporters, he told a Senate committee, they have to “leave it” when reports are off-target. Budget negotiations in Olympia (which have been going since... Read More

The state’s ‘commitment to tolerance’ gets a test at Evergreen

Published on May 31, 2017
Jerry Kulm graduated from Ritzville High School in 1967, the same year legislators in Olympia decided to create what would be the first four-year college in southwest Washington. He died serving in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam in 1970, a year before classes began at that new institution – The Evergreen State College, here in... Read More

Don’t be taken in by the spin – legislators are negotiating

Published on May 22, 2017
Democrat lawmakers still are trying to convince anyone within earshot that our Senate majority is boycotting negotiations toward a new operating budget. For instance, the Senate’s minority-caucus chair recently wrote that Democrats are “ready to sit down at the table.” Right after accusing our Senate majority of employing “alternative facts.” A few days earlier the... Read More

Busting the Democrats’ myth about ‘Connecting Washington’

Published on May 18, 2017
All year long Democrat lawmakers have mentioned the “Connecting Washington” transportation package of 2015 when talking about reaching major agreements this year. For the longest time that didn’t make sense. There wouldn’t have been a 2015 package if Democrats hadn’t fumbled the first try in 2013. Why keep bringing it up? Now it’s clear. Democrats... Read More

House majority plan would have King County property owners pay more

Published on May 18, 2017
My Democratic counterparts in the House criticize how our Senate majority’s education-funding reforms, and the budget proposal which supports them, would keep property taxes as the primary source of support for schools. They claim a property tax “is indiscriminate, hitting rich and poor people alike – and disproportionately hitting certain districts, especially in the Puget... Read More

School administrators look to Goebbels, Lenin for advice?

Published on May 05, 2017
Wearing a T-shirt with an image of a prominent Nazi war criminal might be enough to get a student sent home. But the Washington Association of School Administrators thinks it is OK to share public-relations advice from a prominent Nazi war criminal if you’re trying to get school administrators to be effective advocates. The Washington... Read More

Democrats get touchy when someone else touches their tax ideas

Published on April 28, 2017
I don’t remember the governor saying a thing earlier this month when the House Finance Committee had a public hearing on the smorgasbord of taxes in House Bill 2186. But he declared it a waste of time for our Ways and Means Committee to have a public hearing this week on Senate Bill 5929, which... Read More

Democrat excuses for delaying Hirst fix don’t hold water

Published on April 11, 2017
This past week the House majority and the governor admitted they are in no rush to find a remedy for the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision. House Democrat leaders said they’d address Hirst in “negotiations.” Governor Inslee calls Hirst a “distraction” from work to reform the K-12 funding system. Those excuses are full of holes. After... Read More

Fix Hirst ruling while work toward McCleary agreement continues

Published on February 10, 2017
It obviously has not been easy for lawmakers to come up with legislation that fixes the constitutional issue about school levies raised in the McCleary ruling, treats students and taxpayers in 295 diverse districts equitably and responds to long-standing compensation concerns from teachers and district officials. If it was, the Education Equality Act passed by... Read More

Our K-12 plan will be out soon, then we can get this job done

Published on January 18, 2017
This week Republican legislative leaders had their first meeting of the session with statehouse reporters. As expected the press corps asked first about education funding – including, when will they see a plan from Republicans to fully fund our K-12 schools? A freelance writer wondered whether the plan would come in a week or two,... Read More

Without Dr. King, could we have had Dr. Floyd?

Published on January 16, 2017
As we reflect today on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and what he meant to our country, I think about another distinguished African-American leader: my late friend Dr. Elson Floyd, the former Washington State University president who lost his battle with cancer in June 2015. The “Big Coug” and I didn’t spend a lot of... Read More

Senators: Thank you for your service

Published on January 03, 2017
Legislators leave office for a variety of reasons, and the when and how of their exits generally dictates our options for saying farewell. Sometimes an announcement comes during a session, which allows us to respond in person; otherwise it happens later in the year, and that opportunity is lost. We learned during the 2016 session... Read More

How far will governor go to keep a great teacher in the classroom?

Published on December 21, 2016
According to Governor Inslee, state government has an “obligation” to pour many more billions of dollars into Washington’s K-12 schools. That’s on top of the additional billions budgeted by the Legislature for basic education in the past four years. “In this day and age, we owe our kids and parents more,” the governor declared on... Read More

Reflections as our Senate majority coalition enters its fifth year

Published on December 09, 2016
My former Senate colleague, Ed Murray, made a dire prediction ahead of the formation of our Senate Majority Coalition Caucus four years ago. In an interview with TVW, the now-Seattle mayor predicted that if two Democrats (Senator Tim Sheldon and former Senator Rodney Tom) joined with the Senate’s Republican members to form a new Senate... Read More