Posts tagged: Mark Schoesler
OLYMPIA — State senators will be able to collect an extra $30 a day for expenses during legislative sessions under a rule approved Tuesday by a committee of their members.
The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee voted 4-3 to raise the allowance for daily expenses by 33 percent, upping the per diem to $120 from the $90 it has been since 2005.
Over objections from some senators who said the question of expenses requires a more comprehensive look, the committee agreed to match the House of Representatives, which raised per diem for its members before the 2014 session started.
“I think it's inappropriate to raise the per diem for members and staff with less than 24 hours notice,” said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “This is the wrong message at the wrong time, and possibly not even the right measure.”
The main expense for legislators living in Eastern Washington or other districts far from Olympia isn't food and rent, he said. It's the cost for trips to and from home. Raising the per diem “is going to reward the people who live closest to the capital,” he said.
Committee Chairman Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said the committee had discussed it enough, and cast the deciding vote to raise the expense allotment for senators, as well as a jump from $30 to $40 in the per diem for legislative assistants.
Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, said legislators haven't received a pay increase since 2008. “We don't need to get rich being in public office, but we sure as hell don't need to go broke.”
Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, made the motion to raise the per diem, even though she doesn't collect it during the session. It would be reasonable to consider other expenses in the coming months, she said, and those who object to the increase have an alternative: “Nobody has to take the full amount of per diem. You can take less.”
Raising the per diem in the House added about $176,000 in expenses for a 60-day session like the most recent one, and would add about $308,000 for the longer 105-day session. Estimates for the committee say the increase for the Senate would add $95,000 in a short session and $155,000 in a long session.
The $30 increase was the largest per diem raise since the Legislature started yearly sessions in 1979. The rate started at $40 in 1979, and was raised gradually, every few years, for most of that period through 2005. Ten years is the longest it has ever remained at the same rate.
OLYMPIA — Here's a bad sign for anyone expecting the Legislature to conclude its business by midnight Thursday: Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler this morning described the supplemental budget, and two controversial bills, as “a work in progress.”
Budget leaders of both chambers have been negotiating differences in the supplemental budgets passed by the House and Senate. No deal has been announced yet, and time is running out to do the work of double-checking and printing the massive spending document before the deal can be introduced in the Senate for a vote.
Two other controversial issues, a bill to add scores on statewide tests for students to teacher evaluations, and the continuation of a fee on document recordings to help projects to fight homelessness, were on a list of bills presented to the Rules Committee as items the Senate could take up today. When Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson said her caucus has problems with both bills, Schoesler said they are, like the budget, a work in progress.
That prompted a question from Lt. Gov. Brad Owen as to when the Legislature might adjourn for good.
The state Constitution, Schoesler said, says it will sine die by midnight Thursday.
“That wasn't my question,” Owen replied. Schoesler offered no response, and the Rules Committee approved the list of bills for floor action.
If the Legislature doesn't pass a budget before midnight Thursday, or has other major issues hanging fire, they could be called back into an overtime session by Gov. Jay Inslee.
OLYMPIA — A transportation package from the predominantly Republican Senate majority may be announced Thursday, although coalition leaders couldn't say Wednesday how much support it has in their caucus.
Instead, they took aim at Gov. Jay Inslee, accusing the governor of a lack of leadership in negotiating something that he and legislators have said the state needs for more than a year — a plan to build new highway projects, fix roads and bridges, reform transportation practices and generate support for the taxes needed to accomplish that. They haven't had a meeting with Inslee since the first day of the legislative session, Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville, said.
“We need to get back in that room,” Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said. “The governor's going to have to show a lot of leadership.”
A spokesman for Inslee called the criticism “utter nonsense” and a sign that those leaders are feeling the heat from constituents and business groups for their own inaction.
David Postman said staff from the governor's office has been in contact with the Curtis King, the Senate Republican working on the package, on a daily basis. The governor convened a dozen meetings on transportation with legislative leaders last year. They broke up in December with King saying it would be up to the Senate to come up with a package as a counter to the proposal House Democrats passed in that chamber, Postman said. According to some recent reports, that package might not be ready until a “lame duck” session after the November elections.
Tom and Schoesler parried questions about whether they had the votes to pass a transportation package by questioning whether House Democrats have the votes to approve the bonds needed for their proposal. Although a list of projects and taxes can pass with a simple majority, the bonds needed to build some of those projects by using the tax money require a three-fifths majority, 60 votes in the House and 30 in the Senate.
“To get to 30, the governor needs to get us in the room. Maybe then you can start meeting everybody's needs,” Tom said.
Inslee and House Democrats can't negotiate with Senate Republicans unless they have the votes to pass their package and get their members to agree to changes they sign off on. “The people who need to be locked in a room is the coalition,” Postman said.
“We have done hard things. And we can do more,” the Democratic governor told a joint legislative session in his annual state of the state address.
Legislative Republicans and a Democrat who joined them to form the Senates ruling coalition were quick to criticize the speech as long on ideas but short on specifics. . .
OLYMPIA – With enough time, things that were once unthinkable can become conceivable options.
I’m not talking about anything as outrageous as using sarin gas or electing a Democrat in the 4th Legislative District. But a few months ago, it would have been incomprehensible to talk seriously about calling yet still another special session of the Legislature this year.
When legislators limped wearily out of Olympia in late June after two overtime sessions, it seemed like returning in January would be more than soon enough.
Now, however, a special session to address some of the state’s major transportation woes is being floated by Gov. Jay Inslee, who said last week he’d consider calling one in November if legislators could agree on a package of projects and revenue. . .
But opponents of the terminals and the increase in coal trains that would feed them say there are negative impacts, too, that the state should study…
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OLYMPIA — Anyone looking for a frenzied pace of activity in the special session would so far be disappointed, and today might best exemplify the pace.
The House isn't doing anything and the Senate had its own version of casual Friday. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who normally presides over Senate activity, wasn't available for the 10 a.m. pro forma session, so Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville was pressed into service to bang the gavel.
Schoesler took the rostrum without a tie, which isn't just a fashion faux pas but outside the normal dress code of the chamber. “I didn't find out I was doing this until five minutes to 10,” Schoesler said.
With one Republican and one Democrat on the floor, Schoesler banged through the business of the day — reading the journal (dispensed with), reading of new bills (skip to the last line), accepting partial vetoes from Gov. Jay Inslee (message received) and adjournment — in three and a half minutes.
Probably not a record, but pretty fast for his first time.
OLYMPIA — Neither the governor nor the leaders of the caucus controlling the Senate will negotiate the budget in the news media.
We know this, because the said so this afternoon in press conferences, which were called to talk about the special session that started today and is mostly about getting a budget agreement
At various times over the span of an hour, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Mark Schoesler and Sen. Rodney Tom all stated emphatically that they would not negotiate in the media. They said they were making progress, or that they were encouraged or that they hoped to be done in the allotted 30 days although it's possible that wouldn't happen.
Inslee said budget negotiators had agreed to “some of the fundamental assumptions” that would underlie the $33 billion plus, two-year operating budget. They hadn't started exchanging offers yet, but he was encouraging them to do so, to reach a consensus.
So what might those fundamental assumptions be? It has to do with how much savings some reforms might produce or revenue a change might produce, he said. But to get beyond that would be beyond the agreement not to negotiate in the media, he added.
Would Inslee support a budget that would close some tax loopholes but not extend temporary business taxes on professional services or continue a temporary tax on beer, as he proposed?
“It is unwise to negotiate in the media,” he said. “The budget I have proposed is a great … but I am going to be agreeing to something different.”
Sen. Rodney Tom, the Democrat who leads the predominantly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus, said his caucus members aren't in a compromising mood, believing they already compromised to put together their no-new-taxes budget that picked up some Democratic votes when it passed the Senate. Republicans gave on accepting federal money from the expansion of Medicaid, which is supporting “Obamacare.”
Of course, that sort of ignores the fact that most of those Democrats voted for that budget as a way of moving the process along, and said they expected it to come back from the House with some tax preferences changed. Bu would any Senate Republicans support any budget that contained any tax changes?
“Right now, we've put together a budget that doesn't require revenue,” Tom said. “We're not going to negotiate the budget in the media.”
The prospects of getting a deal in 30 days after failing to reach agreement during the 105 days of the regular session? Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he's a farmer, so he's an optimist. Senators are being told to be flexible, and either stay in Olympia or be available for teleconferences to discuss negotiaitons.
OLYMPIA — The special session of the Legislature began officially at 9 a.m. with a flurry of inactivity. The House passed a few resolutions and adjourned until Tuesday morning. The Senate went at ease until the afternoon, when Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said enough members would be present to do opening day business like passing the resolutions to get things moving.
Update: At 1 p.m. they managed a quorum, a prayer, and the resolutions from the House that essentially keep all the bills that were introduced in the regular session but not passed in the chamber where they started, at the highest level they reached before sine die.
Total time elapsed: 6 minutes before they adjourned until Wednesday.
So no action on the floor this morning, but there was a floor show of sort in the Rotunda, where the North Klackamas (Oregon) Christian School choir was performing acapella. The accoustics are quite good under the dome, and lots of musical groups stop by to sing or play instruments.
Some of the hymns they sang only confirmed the deeply held beliefs of the press corps that we are all in limbo — we can hear the music of heaven but aren't allowed to get there. Also appropriate was their rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.
Wimoweh, wimoweh. The lege, it sleeps right now.
A close look at the House reader board in the above photo might cause some people to worry where it says “the first special session” — as though the Legislature is preparing for multiple special sessions, rolling on as far as the eye can see.
Not necessarily. That's just how they officially describe things.
OLYMPIA — The Legislature might still finish on time Sunday, even though the House and Senate have two very different budget proposals and disagreements on some key policy issues, Republican leaders of the Legislature and the Democrat who heads up the Senate's majority coalition said today.
“Logjams can be broken,” Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said. “We've seen it before. We could see it again.”
“This place is amazing in the miracles that can transpire,” Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said.
Speaking less than two hours after Gov. Jay Inslee said a special session will likely be needed to reach agreement on several budgets and other policy measures, Tom, who leads the mostly Republican Majority Coalition, and GOP members of the House and Senate, said they believed it might not be necessary.
The dynamite needed to break the logjam, however, would seem to be House Democrats agreeing to a budget with no new taxes, similar to the one the Senate passed two weeks ago. The House is scheduled to vote this afternoon on a tax package that would generate an extra $900 million over the next two years by eliminating or reducing certain tax exemptions, credits and preferences.
Until that tax package passes, negotiations are difficult because the two sides don't have firm budgets in place for starting points, Sen. Andy Hill, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said.
Tom and legislative Republican leaders made clear that if a special session is needed, they will put the lion's share of the blame on Inslee for not doing enough to help negotiate a settlement.
“He's not as active as his predecessor,” Schoesler said, a reference to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who often would mediate discussions and keep legislators in a room until they'd reach a compromise.
Inslee said earlier in the morning he and his staff have had regular meetings with legislative leadership and individual legislators to try to reach compromises, but he can't impose a solution on the different sides.
“I was elected governor, not dictator,” he said. “I think people are acting in good faith.”
OLYMPIA – Legislative Republicans say they will not vote for a gas tax increase or other new vehicle taxes until the state makes major reforms in the way it builds big road projects.
Gov. Jay Inslee, who has urged the Legislature to find new money for road and bridge projects, agreed the state Transportation Department needs reforms to restore public confidence. But he doesn’t think the state should delay a decision on taxes for new projects and needed maintenance.
“We cannot allow these problems to derail us,” Inslee said.
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Gov. Jay Inslee explains his Working Washington Agenda Wednesday.
OLYMPIA — A bill that would require parental notification when a woman under 18 seeks an abortion in Washington could divide the Senate's “majority coalition” intent on passing bills on jobs, budget and education.
The notification bill, with strong support from Senate Republicans opposed to abortion, is likely to get a hearing in the next few weeks in the Law and Justice Committee, whose chairman Mike Padden of the Spokane Valley is a strong supporter. It would be the first bill dealing with parental notification on abortions to receive a Senate hearing in years, and support on the committee makes it likely to clear the panel.
Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who serves as the leader of the coalition of all 23 Republicans and two Democrats, wants to doesn't support bringing such a divisive issue before the full Senate. Although the coalition will have to discuss whether to bring an abortion bill to the floor, he believes they should focus on three things: increasing jobs, getting a balanced and sustainable budget, and improving education.
“We will not divide our caucus on issues that are going to be divisive,” Tom said as a press conference Thursday. At a later meeting with a delegation of local business and civic leaders from Spokane, Tom described himself as “100 percent pro-choice.”
Sen. Mark Schoesler, the leader of the 23 Republicans in the caucus, said there's a wide range of issues addressed in bills being proposed because “members are free to introduce anything they want.” Whether to bring the parental notification bill to the floor, if it gets out of committee, “is yet to be determined,” he said.
OLYMPIA – When the Legislature opens Monday, Spokane will be in a demonstrably different position than recent years.
The years of experience among the area’s delegation will be almost half what it was four years ago, and it will have no one in a top leadership spot in either chamber.
That difference might be most noticeable in the Senate, where a Spokane member has been either the majority leader or minority leader – and sometimes both – since the start of this century. It’s hard to overstate the clout a majority leader has, as gatekeeper and court of last resort, on matters large and small.
OLYMPIA — Mark Schoesler, a Ritzville area wheat farmer, was named leader of the state Senate's Republican Caucus Wednesday.
Schoesler, 55, has served 20 years in the Legislature, was elected by other Republicans to take the place of Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla, who stepped down from the top caucus spot this fall. Sen. Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee was elected caucus chairwoman, the number two leadership spot.
An astute parliamentarian, Schoesler managed debates as floor leader in the previous session and served as part of the GOP's budget negotiating team. As the caucus leader, he becomes one of the “four corners” — the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate, the minority leader in the House and the House speaker — who are key to meetings with the governor when issues deadlock. He also becomes the chief spokesman for the Republican caucus.
He could wield more power than usual in the coming session because Democrats have a thin 26-23 majority in the chamber, and so two or more defections of any Democrats on any issue would give Republicans a majority if Schoesler can hold the caucus together as a block. Two of the most conservative Democrats have also talked about joining Republicans for an organizational vote on the first day that would create a coalition leadership.
OLYMPIA — A bit of drama this afternoon before the Senate broke for lunch, with plans by Democrats to go “at ease” in the afternoon while the Ways and Means Committee holds a hearing on the budget and reform bills connected to it…and possibly come back for votes in the evening or Saturday.
After the motion to go at ease, Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, made a motion to recess until Monday. The difference: under the latter, no votes could be taken through the weekend.
Several Republicans had already headed home for the holiday weekend, and Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, is recovering from surgery. Some Republicans were concerned about orders to return to the Senate on Saturday or Sunday to vote on the budget, and with Hewitt missing, even if they all made it back they could face a 24-24 vote, with Democrats holding most of their members but the three breakaway Ds from an early budget vote casting their lot again with the Republicans.
In case of a 24-24 tie, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a Democrat, would cast the deciding vote.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown argued passionately against recess. The bills that Republicans had been pushing for could get through the committee and be available for a vote Friday or Saturday, she said. If the Legislature has a chance of getting done by Tuesday, they'll need to move that legislation to the House as quickly as possible.
“This is not about the illness of one member. This is about getting the business of the state done,” Brown, D-Spokane, said. “If necessary, I will personally take Sen. Hewitt's vote on that bill.”
There's no problem with holding the hearing, Schoesler said. But the threat of being called back on Saturday or Sunday is a problem with some members already home with their families.
“The threat of a call of the house with a holy holiday coming is a very serious issue,” he said.
Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, said her 94-year-old mother was being baptized as a Catholic on Saturday in Yakima, and “I hope to heck we get to go tomorrow.” Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, said one of her relatives was also being baptized on Saturday. (Note: Catholics traditionally baptize new adult members during their Easter Vigil service.)
Not to be out religious-ed, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said the Democrats two Jewish members had agreed to stay as late as necessary Friday night, which is the beginning of Passover, “willing to forego their very holy day in order to get the business of the state done.”
In the end, Owen ruled that the motion to go in recess came first, took precedence, and called for a vote on that. It passed. Unknown yet whether there will be votes late into the evening Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
The special session opens.
…Or you'll miss it.
The Special Session of the Legislature opened and quickly adjourned for the day. Total elapsed time: About one minute.
In the Senate, Sens. Debbie Regala, D-Regala, and Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, were on hand to see Lt. Gov. Brad Owen bring the gavel down to open for special session, accept a few messages from the governor or the House, and adjourn until Tuesday.
Over in the House, Reps. Laurie Jinkins. D-Tacoma, and Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, were the on the floor for a similarly brief open and close to the day's “business.”
Opening day for a special session is in sharp contrast to the opening of the regular session, which features all legislators in their seats, flags being escorted in by Washington State Patrol or Washington National Guard personnel in spiffy uniforms, maybe a display of rifle twirling in the aisle, prayers and speeches.
The special session was called late Thursday night, the final day of the regular session, when it became clear the Legislature would not reach an agreement on changes to its General Fund operating budget. Gov. Chris Gregoire said she wanted to legislative leaders to meet to decide on a budget framework, then budget writers to work out the details.
She suggested all legislators should come back for Day 1, then go home until a deal was struck. “The last thing anybody wants to see is the full Legislature sitting up here with nothing to do.”
Apparently the Legislature was happy to oblige at least on the second part of that suggestion.
For the sake of comparison, here's a photo taken about midnight Thursday for sine die adjournment of the regular session.
Under the watchful eye of Ronald Reagan's portrait, Rick Santorum holds a press conference in the House Republican Caucus Room
OLYMPIA – Looking for a chance to “plant a flag” in Washington for the March 3 precinct caucuses, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum stopped by the state Capitol Monday to chat with GOP legislators.
Although the Legislature is on break, new legislation continues to pop up. Among ideas is a proposed constitutional amendment from Sen. Dan Swecker of Rochester and other Republicans like Mark Schoesler of Ritzville and Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla.
It requires any initiative that starts a new program or expands an existing one to identify a way to pay for it.
In the past, voters have approved initiatives to give public school teachers regular raises or shrink classroom sizes or, just last month, require more training for home care providers. But the initiatives didn’t come up with new sources of money to cover those changes. Legislators often suspend those directives in tough budget times.
Gov. Chris Gregoire said last week she hadn’t read the proposal, but might support it. The Legislature has to identify a money source when it comes up with a new program, she said. When voters pass legislation at the ballot box, maybe they should, too.