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Spin Control: The 2018 Legislature, by the numbers

OLYMPIA – A sign of spring in the Capitol: Legislators are gone and the cherry blossoms are coming out. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
OLYMPIA – A sign of spring in the Capitol: Legislators are gone and the cherry blossoms are coming out. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

When a session ends, there’s a certain amount of statistics compiled for individual legislators and the Legislature as a whole.

It’s something like at the end of the baseball season, only instead of wins and losses, hits, runs and errors, it’s bills introduced, bills passed and votes taken.

Just as you can enjoy baseball without diving deeply into the stats, you can grasp much of what the Legislature did without crunching lots of numbers. But if you’re interested, here are a few, courtesy of Washington Votes:

New bills introduced: 1,425

Number of bills passed: 310

Total roll call votes (bills and amendments): 1,041

That’s a pretty good clip, considering it was a 60-day session and they only passed 377 during the 193 days they were in their regular and special sessions in 2017.

Washington Votes also lists the bills introduced by each legislator, his or her votes and the total of missed votes. A total of 71 legislators had a perfect record on votes this year, down from 96 in last year’s 105-day regular session. There was quite a bit of flu, colds and other “general crud” going around the Capitol this year, but all House Republicans have at least one missed vote as a result of their protest over the bill involving a change for individual providers of home health care services Spin Control wrote about two weeks ago.

Topping the list of missed votes were Sens. Maureen Walsh and Mike Baumgartner, with 237 and 174, respectively. But it’s fair to note that they had extenuating circumstances. Walsh suffered a heart attack, had a couple of stints put in, came back to work and had to go back into the hospital when they found fluid around her heart.

Baumgartner was away when his wife suffered a miscarriage in her 20th week of a pregnancy. They were in the minority in the Senate, so it’s fair to say nothing failed because of their extended absences.

Democrats erase Obamacare (sort of)

Washington is wiping Obamacare off its book of statutes.

Democrats in the Legislature proposed and passed a bill to do it, and their fellow Democrat, Gov. Jay Inslee, signed the bill last week.

But wait, you’re probably saying. Weren’t the Democrats huge fans of Obamacare, or as it is more formally known, the Affordable Care Act?

Yes, but because they realize that President Trump and the majority Republicans in Congress are not, and are doing things to chip away at the ACA, they took defensive action during the 2018 session. They replaced all references to the ACA with the phrase “applicable federal law.”

Right now, that is the ACA. But if Congress ever makes good on all those campaign promises to replace Obamacare, Washington will be in position to make the transition.

March Madness persists with Legislature gone

In the recent past, the Legislature has been in session during the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and fans of Gonzaga or any other team in the tournament have been known to find a television close to the House or Senate floor to monitor the game.

This year, the Legislature adjourned before Selection Sunday, but that didn’t mean some folks didn’t have to find ways to follow the action.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who picked the Zags to win the tournament in his brackets, announced the score of the First Round game when he entered the conference room Thursday morning to sign bills. When Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, arrived for the signing of a bill he sponsored, Inslee feigned shock.

“I thought you were at the game,” the governor said, adding when he last checked Zags were up 19-13.

“It’s 22-20 now,” said Riccelli, who had just checked the score on his cell phone. When the bill was signed, hands shaken and souvenir pens distributed, he said he was going back out into the hallway to monitor the game until another of his bills came up for signing.

Just sayin’

Some lawmakers seem to be hanging onto hard feelings over their unsuccessful plan to rewrite the state’s Public Records Act to exempt themselves from most of the rules other government officials follow and carve out a different system for themselves.

In touting the accomplishments of the late session on Twitter late last week, Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said her head was “still spinning from the sheer depth and breadth of significant new laws we passed.”

But Keiser, who is generally media friendly as well as media savvy, couldn’t resist a dig over the public records bill that was passed quickly and later vetoed at the request of about 100 lawmakers – including Keiser.

“Too bad local newspapers obsessed over its special interest instead of reporting real news,” she wrote.

Not to get overly defensive, but The Spokesman-Review devoted a full page of newsprint to activity in Olympia and Boise for much of the session, with more than 100 stories and columns about various bills, issues and policy debates. Eight involved the Legislature’s plan to amend the Public Records Act. The rest involved everything from taxes and the budget to election reform and fighting opioid addiction.

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