In an election year with the shorter 60-day legislative session, it’s typical for lawmakers to leave Olympia with a to-do list for the next year. Lawmakers want to get home quickly and begin fundraising so they can get re-elected.
But we’re concerned the 2014 Legislature left too much undone. Regardless of who voters send back to Olympia next year, they will not have time, even in a 90-day session, to resolve the myriad social policy and fiscal issues left outstanding.
Meanwhile, many of the important decisions lawmakers punted into 2015 will continue to adversely affect people’s lives. We think that’s irresponsible.
By failing to incorporate statewide test scores even minimally into teacher evaluations, lawmakers waved goodbye to $44 million in Title I funds. It’s unlikely now the federal Department of Education will extend the No Child Left Behind waiver.
That hurts students, particularly those who need extra help to succeed.
By failing to regulate the medical marijuana market, lawmakers undermined the revenue potential from state-regulated retail stores scheduled to open in June. People now buying cannabis at medical dispensaries will have no motivation to pay higher prices at state-regulated stores, cutting the state out of much-needed revenue. And we know that a lot of medical marijuana gets resold to recreational users.
That violates the will of everyone who voted for a regulated cannabis industry in Washington, and every person who would have benefited from programs receiving additional tax revenue from state pot stores.
The Department of Justice told the state to get its Wild West medical market under control. By dropping this ball, the Legislature practically invited federal intervention.
Maybe a swift and persistent crackdown on nefarious medical dispensaries by the Seattle U.S. District Attorney’s office will help convince state lawmakers the DOJ was serious.
By failing to pass a transportation revenue package, lawmakers disregarded public safety. The need to repair and maintain the state’s roadways and bridges is obvious. It shouldn’t take another bridge collapse and possible loss of life before lawmakers act.
That hurts everyone who uses state roads, including both truckers and commuters, and all those construction workers looking for work and the businesses that would benefit from their employment.
Those three items are only the top of the unfinished business list. Lawmakers failed to act on firearm safety, women’s reproductive rights, lifting the ban on education in state prisons, moving the winter economic forecast up to February, and the state Voting Rights Act.
Lawmakers also did not seriously address K-12 basic education funding or show due respect to the state Supreme Court’s request for a plan by April 30 to meet requirements of the McCleary decision. On that issue alone, the Legislature must find an additional $7 billion for K-12 schools, not to mention higher education needs.
We can’t imagine how lawmakers will get all of that and more done in one session next year. Until legislators find the will to act, Washington citizens continue to suffer the consequences.