Posts tagged: Mark Schoesler
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.
OLYMPIA — Newly elected Sen. Mike Padden of the Spokane Valley received his traditional hazing by colleagues today as the Senate wound down toward adjournment of the special session.
After passing a $480 million partial fix to the budget and some bills necessary to make that work, Padden received a “point of personal privilege” ostensably to thank other senators for a resolution early this year honoring predecessor Bob McCaslin, someone who was “a delight to be around — most of teh time,” he noted.
McCaslin and Padden were both first elected to the Legislature in 1980. Some other members who served with Padden in the House chided him that things have changed a bit since he left the other chamber in the mid '90s to become a judge. Padden is like the movie character Austin Powers who was frozen in time, Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville said: “We have to help Mike adjust to this century.”
Things have changed politically, too, Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane said. When he was first elected, he was among the Legislature's most conservative members. “Now you're a moderate for the 4th District,” she said. “Although you still vote No a lot.”
Padden was one of just six Senate votes against the supplemental budget.
OLYMPIA – Tuesday is Election Day 2011 – or what passes for one in a state that mailed out its ballots two weeks ago and will spend more than two weeks counting the returns – but it could be a key day for Election Days 2012-21.
That morning is the next meeting of the state Redistricting Commission, which is weighing two proposals to redraw congressional and legislative lines in Washington…
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OLYMPIA – About half of the 15 members of the Spokane-area legislative delegation have volunteered for the same level of pay cuts the imposed on state workers. That’s a level slightly better than legislators statewide.
Many who have done it, like Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, say it’s a personal decision.
“As a businessman, the buck starts and stops with me,” said Parker, who owns a chain of coffee shops. “It’s the same with us as legislators.”
Parker’s seatmate in Spokane’s 6th District, Republican John Ahern, said he doesn’t plan to ask for a pay cut, but he is donating 3 percent or more to charities, ranging from his church and the Boy Scouts to organizations that oppose abortion like Teen-Aid.
“This way I know exactly where the money is going,” Ahern said. If he took a pay cut, the money would stay in the state’s general fund, and go to state programs or agencies he doesn’t support….
OLYMPIA — More than a dozen Senate Democrats want voters to reconsider their decision last November that makes it difficult for them to take state tax exemptions off the books.
On Thursday they unveiled a a new bill that would remove the requirement that both houses of the Legislature give a two-thirds majority to any plan to reduce or end a tax exemption. If it passes — a big “if” considering there are only 10 days left in the regular session and the bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing — it would be put before voters this November for their approval.
While the days are running out for the regular session “there may be an opportunity in the special session,” Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, said.
The Legislature is still struggling with the general operating budget for 2011-13…
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Spokane-area legislative boundaries could change significantly by next year to make up for population shifts from the city’s urban core to the suburbs.
While much of the attention so far on the 2010 U.S. Census figures has centered on Washington gaining its tenth congressional district, the state’s Redistricting Commission may have even more work to do on redrawing legislative districts. The state isn’t adding to the 49 legislative districts it has had since 1933.
“Ten is easier than 49. There’s more areas to quibble over,” Dean Foster, a member of this year’s commission and the 2000 panel that redrew lines after the previous census…
OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats had to delay a vote on a plan to save businesses from paying millions more in higher unemployment insurance taxes after Republicans said the plan didn't to help the workers who have been off the job so long they are running out of benefits.
Yes. You read that right. Democrats wanted to cut taxes for businesses and Republicans blocked it because it didn't do enough for benefits for unemployed. Although that seems like a Bizarro World scenario from DC Comics, it was really a bit of political maneuvering as the Legislature tries to “beat the clock” on changes to Unemployment Insurance.
The House recently passed a bill that cancels a scheduled increase businesses are facing this year for unemployment taxes and uses some new federal money to add $15 per week per dependent for jobless workers with families. Gov. Chris Gregoire has called for the Legislature to block the rate hike but wants the federal money to be used to expand training programs for unemployed workers, to move them into jobs that have a better chance of keeping them employed in the coming years.
But some social action groups and organized labor back the boost in payments for benefits, so Democrats are understandably verklempt and still debating that section. That creates a problem because the rate hike has to be cancelled by a law that is passed and signed by Feb. 8, or it goes into effect for the entire year.
This morning Senate Democrats tried to de-couple the two parts of the bill, with an amendment that cancelled the rate hike but took out the benefits provisions, leaving them to be handled later in the session. That meant a portion of the benefits section which extended unemployment insurance was also removed.
Before they could debate the amendment, however, Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, used a parliamentary maneuver to try to block it. “Without this change in law, 70,000 workers will exhaust their unemployment benefits,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, objected, saying there's time to extend the unemployment benefits but the rate hike needs to be stopped sooner: “The clock is ticking for thousands of businesses in Washington state. Their taxes will go up…We should not be playing politics with cutting unemployment insurance rates to business.”
After Schoesler's motion to block the amendment passed 26-21, a bit more parliamentary maneuvering ensued. Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Des Moines, moved to defer further consideration. Schoesler moved to act immediately on the original bill. Eide moved to adjourn for the day. Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, D-Moses Lake, objected. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, presiding over the Senate, said there's no debating a motion to adjourn. Schoesler called for a roll call vote on Eide's motion to adjourn. (Motions to adjourn are usually done by voice vote with some of the senators on their way out of the chamber.)
Motion to adjourn passed 25-22. They'll be back tomorrow, when presumably they will try again.
OLYMPIA – The town of Fairfield takes the American flag seriously – arguably more seriously than any place else in the country.
Thursday, the state saluted Fairfield for its 100 years of saluting the flag. With about two dozen current and former residents of the tiny southeast Spokane County town in the gallery, the Senate passed a resolution honoring the upcoming Flag Day centennial celebration in Fairfield.
The senators stood and applauded the town. The people in the gallery – many wearing ties, shirts or jackets decorated with the Stars and Strips — stood and waved their flags.
It was not true, as one senator joked, that the whole town of Fairfield was in Olympia to hear the resolution read, said Sen. Mark Schoesler, the resolution’s sponsor. “But I bet it’s the highest percentage of any town that’s ever come to the Capitol.”
To read more about Fairfield’s Flag day, click here to go inside the blog.