November 13, 2017
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Dhingra wins in 45th District; Democrats prepare to take over Senate

Attorney Manka Dhingra, a Democrat, won last week's hotly contested race to fill the seat of the late Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond.

The victory of Dhingra means the end of the five-year control of the Senate by the bipartisan Majority Coalition Caucus, which was led by Republicans. With Democrats now in the driver's seat in both chambers of the Legislature, as well as the governor's office, their policy wish list is long for the upcoming short legislative session, Jerry Cornfield writes in The Herald:

"Inslee and Democratic lawmakers are not shy about their desire to try to strengthen gun control laws, toughen environmental regulations, expand abortion rights, broaden voting laws and design a means for taxing carbon emissions."

Inslee told The Seattle Times that he won't wait until the longer 2019 legislative session to resume his push for carbon legislation.

He also said he is interested in calling legislators back to Olympia in early December to pass a nearly $1 billion capital construction budget. Senate Republicans had said that bill must be paired with a fix for the Hirst ruling, which is turning rural well water case law into a squeeze on development and homebuilding.

While Democrats now control the Senate and can call the capital budget forward for a vote, the accompanying bonding measure requires a 60-percent vote -- meaning five Republican senators must join the Democratic majority and vote in support of the bonds.

“We still have some leverage,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake.

The Seattle Times Editorial Board said that major legislative changes are unlikely, since moderates in the Democratic Party have not demonstrated an appetite to vote for big taxes on carbon or capital gains.

"Democrats who control the state House didn’t have the votes this year to enact a tax on carbon emissions, despite Inslee’s continued push for it. That hasn’t changed overnight," The Times wrote. "And the capital gains tax House Democrats proposed earlier this year still doesn’t have enough votes to clear the state Senate, even if Dhingra’s lead holds and Democrats take over. Too many moderate Democrats in Olympia already say they won’t vote for it."

Other newspapers agreed that bipartisanship will be necessary for both the progress of the state and to ensure that this electoral victory isn't short-lived for the new legislative majority party.

"Democrats may relish the win as a rebuke of President Trump and his policies, but their control of the Legislature could be short-lived if their focus isn’t kept on this Washington and the desire of the public to see completion of work — reached through bipartisanship — on a list of issues in the state," The Herald's Editorial Board wrote. "Voters have shown they’re comfortable with change and just as comfortable with changing things back."

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Rural Jobs Summit

Why Rural Economic Development Is Top of Mind in Washington State and Elsewhere

By Joshua Wright

Rural economic development is a thorny, multi-layered topic with many challenges and few obvious answers. But the summit -- hosted in Moses Lake by the Association of Washington Businesses -- was encouraging, not just because it focused on solutions for small towns and regions but also because so many people attended the event.

Sweeney himself said it speaks well for Washington that 250 decision-makers from every part of the state came together to talk rural jobs and economies.

"We put our focus on where the need is, and the need is the biggest in rural communities," said Brian Bonlender, director of the Washington Department of Commerce.

Read the full essay at
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Association Health Plans offer model for the nation

By AWB President Kris Johnson

Since they were created, Association Health Plans (AHP) have grown in popularity, insuring as many as 400,000 people at their peak. Many of those people were not previously insured. For AWB's plan, approximately 40 percent of employers did not have prior coverage. It's clear that AHPs expand health care access and choices for small employers, their employees and families.

What's more, employers that start with an AHP tend to renew. Historically, as many as 90 percent renew coverage year after year...

Washington's AHPs offer high-quality health insurance plans with consumer protections like guaranteed issue (nobody can be denied coverage) and renewal built in. They are fully insured and comply with all state and federal mandates, including those contained in the Affordable Care Act such as dependent coverage up to age 26, lab and X-ray, preventative care and mental health services.

Read the full column in The Wenatchee Valley Business World
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