True, this crazy world never stops spinning, but still – this week was notable.
Among many state and national stories packing a wallop:
- The 4th-ranked House Democrat, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), lost in a primary to his 28-year-old “Democratic Socialist” challenger.
- The U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s travel ban.
- The court ruled that government workers have a 1stAmendment right to not be involved with a union, ending their forced unionization.
- After ruling in a similar Colorado case involving a baker who refused to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding, the court sent the Arlene’s Flowers case back to the Washington State Supreme Court for reconsideration.
- And Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, which set the Left’s collective hair on fire.
(By the by, with the above three rulings, Attorney General Bob Ferguson went 0-3 at the Supreme Court this week.)
Though expected, the court’s labor union ruling in the Janus case is a big one. Not only do government employees across the nation now have the right to not join a union, they can also decline to pay representation fees to one.
State and local government unions here are likely to see membership declines. They may respond by lowering dues to hang on to members, further reducing their coffers for spending on politics.
Olympia Democrats’ attempt this session to inoculate public unions from Janus consequences looks unsuccessful. As the Freedom Foundation put it, the point of HB 2751, which went into effect just 20 days ago, was to allow government “to seize full union dues from employees’ pay automatically, even if the employee never joined the union or authorized the deductions” in case the unions lost in Janus.
That law now seems inoperative, given that the court specifically ruled that workers must affirmatively authorize dues and employers cannot presume workers’ consent.
Lost in the shuffle, in more ways than one
Given all these major stories, it was possible to overlook a pretty impactful story here – one for which Jay Inslee is directly responsible.
Federal regulators on Monday yanked federal certification from Western State Hospital. The Lakewood facility is the state’s main in-patient mental hospital and houses many of the most difficult cases, including the criminally insane.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration has failed to manage Western State or significantly improve it. The problems at the hospital are well-documented and well-known, but Inslee has neglected the problem in five and a half years as governor.
Faced with the need for urgent change, Inslee has done…not much of anything.
As usual, you’ll pay for it in the end
Inslee’s failure will be immediately felt in the state’s bottom line. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services decertifying Western State means the hospital will lose out on $53 million in federal funding – money the state must now make up.
Said Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia), a Republican budget leader: “I’m disappointed that our executive branch can’t seem to focus on an issue that we’ve been working on for years.”
Even some Democrats are willing to admit that management issues, including long-running problems with Western State’s workers, are part of the problem. “This goes back to the endemic cultural problems at the hospital,” Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) told the Times. “To see that nursing care, and quality improvement and governance are still being cited — these are things that were being cited two years ago,” Jinkins said, adding, “That is extremely frustrating.”
As problems at Western State stacked up, the state lost numerous court cases and adverse rulings over conditions there. Jonathan Martin noted in 2016 that “A federal judge said Inslee’s human-services staff ‘failed to show the leadership and capacity for innovation’” and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant called Inslee’s management “negligence and incompetence at best and an election-year cover-up at worst.”
Inslee’s veto, on behalf of the usual suspects
Legislators from both parties moved forward in 2016 with a plan to improve care at Western State, but Inslee vetoed it. The Times ed board noted at the time, “To the bafflement of lawmakers and mental-health advocates, Inslee gutted an important, bipartisan piece of legislation intended to force reforms on the dysfunctional psychiatric institution.”
Why would he do that? A union important to his re-election campaign, the Washington Federation of State Employees, asked him to.
Given Inslee’s history of failure at Western State, the Times ed board didn’t bother sparing his feelings this morning:
“This latest blow highlights the ongoing failures of leadership, internal governance and quality control that have persisted at the hospital under Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s watch, despite the state Legislature continually throwing money at the problem since Inslee took office in 2013…Almost six years into his tenure as governor, Inslee deserves the blame for the state’s mental health debacle that his administration has lacked the urgency to address for too long.”
And what does Jay Inslee have to say about all of this? Well, this week he has found the time to comment on the Arlene’s Flowers case, the travel ban, the Janus case, his appointment of a new director of the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises, and even Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.
About Western State? Not one word. Says a lot, doesn’t it?