If you were to believe the fawning mainstream press you would think that the 2021 Washington State legislative session was the most focused and successful session in state history. If you ask Democrat Governor Jay Inslee how the session went, he’ll tell you unicorns and fluffy clouds dominated the scene, and all the legislators were pulling their oars in the same direction to help him guide the ship of state.
The numbers, however, don’t lie, and the truth is exactly the opposite to the bill of goods you are being sold.
Inslee, who has demonstrated he is incapable of negotiating honestly, claims that he “had never seen a legislative session that was so productive”. However, when you dig into the actual votes, under Inslee’s “leadership” the legislature has been gradually voting more and more along straight party lines in the last few years – with 2021 setting the dubious record for being most partisan in recent memory.
Using the State Senate voting history, in 2001 through 2006 there were 0 (zero) straight party line votes. From 2007 through 2011, the number hovered around 1 or 2 per year. The number dropped back to 0 for 2012 through 2016, and then only one in 2017, before the partisan jamming really started to take off.
In 2018 there were 5 bills passed on party lines, while 2019 and 2020 saw 6 such bills each year. This year there were 24 party-line votes on Senate bills.
Not exactly the successful session you were told about, unless your definition of success includes being steamrolled by an arrogant majority.
For Inslee, one of the most partisan governors in state history, productive means jamming his legislation down the throats of anyone who opposes him. The 2021 legislative session has exposed what a Democrat majority-controlled legislature means – no room for discussion, let alone dissent, and it’s their way or the highway (and they don’t want to build any more highways).
Democrat Representative Joe Fitzgibbons, the chairman of the House Environmental Committee, told the Wire that a “long session with a reasonably sized majority seems to be a recipe for success.” If you mean that a “reasonably sized” majority means you can pass whatever hyper-partisan legislation you want without having to consider the other 45% of the state’s population, then yes, Joe, you’ll be baking cakes with your partisan recipes all year.
While the rest of the world was dealing with the coronavirus, losing their jobs and homes, Rep. Fitzgibbons was getting giddy at the thought of passing an environmental nothing-burger (his Low Carbon Fuel Standard) and increasing the cost of gas even though its supporters admit it will provide little-to-no environmental improvement. Rep. Fitzgibbons was unable to pass other versions of his carbon tax in previous legislative sessions, since Democrats did not have enough safe seats to pass such unpopular legislation. A vote in support would certainly have cost them some seats, but a slightly expanded majority has allowed the Democrats to throw caution to the wind and jam through higher taxes and record government spending even if it costs them some of their members in the next election.
Back in 2016, when Republicans held the Senate majority and the House was controlled by Democrats, both by a wafer-thin margin, both sides had to listen to each other. Some relatively good legislation was crafted, negotiated, and ultimately passed that actually helped Washington State.
It wasn’t always pretty, but there was some grudging respect across the aisle in both houses of the legislature.
Fast forward to 2020, and as soon as Inslee and some new Democrat legislative “leaders” got enough of a partisan vote edge, all negotiation and any thoughts of talking to the Republicans went out the window. Gone was reasonable discussion, in came a state income tax, a cap-and-trade carbon tax, the low carbon fuel standard (another gas tax), fee increases across the board, and a host of radical social reforms that would make even a liberal Capitol Hill coffee drinker blush.
Inslee even managed to upset his own Democrat leadership by ending what he claimed to be the most productive session in history with partial vetoes of two Democrat-passed bills, because they did not give him 100% of what he wanted. Democrat House Speaker Laurie Jinkins and Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig are left planning on taking Inslee to court, AGAIN, for his overreach.
That must be what Inslee thinks bi-partisanship means – equally upsetting both the Senate and House members in both parties. We have to hand it to Jay on this one, he certainly pulled that off this year.