Republicans argue lawmakers are spending their time on too many side issues.
Today Senate Republicans, who lately have tempered their criticism of majority Democrats who are working closely with them on the budget and other issues, told reporters the Legislature has “drifted” away from the budget, jobs and government reform. They noted hearings have been held or scheduled on:
- recognizing gay marriage.
- abolishing the death penalty.
- registering 16-year-olds to vote.
- creating a state bank.
- banning plastic bags
- mandating businesses to offer sick leave.
Republicans also mentioned bills that haven’t received hearings, including limits on the power of the attorney general and requirements for insurance plans to cover abortion.
Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry:
My concern is we’re not focusing on our major responsibility, and that’s the budget. It seems like a lot of the special-interest issues are pulling … our colleagues’ attention in the wrong direction.
Of course, there are 147 lawmakers, each with their own ideas about what should take priority, and so individual Senate Republicans have proposals to make English the official language or limit how dogs may by chained, for example. And members of both parties are seeking to allow charter schools and crack down on gangs, other controversial issues that are getting hearings.
Senate GOP Leader Mike Hewitt said he asked members of his caucus not to launch into extraneous pursuits this year.
But he noted no leader can completely control what the rank-and-file chooses to do. And the fact is, a lot of lawmakers have time on their hands. Only a small minority of them are part of the committees working on a budget, and an even smaller number are actually in the rooms where budget deals are being hashed out.
Here’s the news release:
Senate Republican Leader and caucus jobs leader worry lawmakers have ‘drifted’ in 2012 session
Washington’s Legislature is almost one-quarter of the way through its 60-day 2012 legislative session. Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and Republican leader on the Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, say they are concerned about the pace and focus of the session:
“We thought legislative leaders had agreed that the top priorities of the 2012 session were to rebalance the budget, enact much-needed reforms and focus on how to help the private sector create jobs. Unfortunately, it seems more time is being spent on things that have nothing to do with improving the state’s financial condition and encouraging job growth – things like abolishing the death penalty, banning plastic shopping bags, limiting the power of the Attorney General, and even registering 16-year-olds to vote. Worse yet, there is even a focus on legislation that would kill jobs, like forcing private employers to provide paid sick leave.
“The governor was right when she said before the session that its focus should be on the budget and jobs. But even though tomorrow we’ll be a quarter of the way through the session, the majority party seems to have drifted away from what should be our primary tasks, as though the pull of special-interest legislation is too strong to resist. The people of our state deserve more of the bipartisan cooperation we demonstrated in 2011, and a focus on reforms and jobs, but so far this session has been hijacked by other agendas. Let’s get to working on what the people want their legislators to accomplish.”