Lobbyists in Olympia gave the state Legislature a C- for its work this year.
While not stellar, that’s better than state lawmakers have fared in past years.
According to the annual Elway Poll of lobbyists, the Legislature’s overall performance in 2016 was slightly better than in any year since 2011.
On a 4.0 scale, the Legislature this year earned a grade point average of 1.78 — an improvement from 1.73 last year and the six-year low of 1.54 in 2013.
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Yet lobbyists still docked the Legislature for its work on certain issues, especially K-12 education. Grades were lower than last year in five of eight subject areas, according to the report released Tuesday.
“Maybe the overall grade mostly reflected relief that the session is still not going on,” Elway Research, Inc. pollster Stuart Elway wrote. Many lobbyists ranked “getting finished” the most significant accomplishment of the 2016 legislative session, he said.
Maybe the overall grade mostly reflected relief that the session is still not going on.
Pollster Stuart Elway on why lobbyists gave the Legislature an overall grade of C- this year, despite docking lawmakers in several areas
Lawmakers spent 20 days in a special session to complete a budget this year, but that pales in comparison with the three special sessions they required in 2015 to finish their work.
More than half of lobbyists gave the Legislature a D or an F for its work on K-12 education, causing the Legislature to earn a D+ in the subject.
The state remains in contempt of court in the McCleary case over the Legislature’s failure to come up with a plan to fully fund public schools by 2018. In August, that state Supreme Court began imposing $100,000 a day in sanctions for the Legislature’s continued lack of compliance.
In response, lawmakers passed a measure pledging to study the issue in more depth and solve remaining school-funding problems next year.
In comments to Elway, one lobbyist said, “The Legislature’s continued refusal to comply with McCleary shows an incredible lack of leadership.”
Another: “Complete state denial by all parties on education-funding issues is deeply disturbing.”
The bar was set low, and the Legislature didn’t get over it.
Lobbyist’s comment in annual poll grading the Legislature’s performance
At the same time, most lobbyists rated the supplemental budget lawmakers passed last month as satisfactory or better, even though many said the process took longer than it should have.
One lobbyist praised the Legislature for not raising taxes, but noted that is “the best that can be said” about the session. Others expressed amazement that more wasn’t accomplished this year.
“The bar was set low, and the Legislature didn’t get over it,” one lobbyist said.
Lobbyists were even more critical of Gov. Jay Inslee, giving him the lowest rating they have since he took office in 2013. Inslee, a Democrat, received lower ratings than any of the Legislature’s four political caucuses for work accomplished in 2016.
The first-term governor, while still predicted by lobbyists to win a second term in November, earned a rating of 1.11 on a 4.0 scale — essentially, a D.
Inslee faces Republican challenger Bill Bryant, a two-term Port of Seattle commissioner.