Say what you will about State Sen. Steve O’Ban’s package of bills and investigations attacking Sound Transit, but at least he’s not circumventing the normal legislative process. When he didn’t get his way last session, he didn’t wait to catch his opponents off guard and strike fast. He took his show on the road to the affected communities. Last week, he resubmitted some of his bills from last year, with minor changes, all of which will have to go through normal process if they are to become law.
Senate Bill 6164 and SB 6299 would allow voters within a county to nullify their Sound Transit taxes by a countywide vote. The bills do not limit the vote to those in the ST taxing district within a county, nor relieve Sound Transit of any obligation to build or operate transit within a county that votes to nullify ST taxes.
SB 6301 would elect Sound Transit Board members from 11 single-member districts. Besides ignoring the principle that you don’t change a board’s leadership simply because you want the organization to fail in its mission, the devil remains in the gerrymandering details.
These bills face a long road to becoming law: a committee public hearing in the Senate, vote out of committee, vote out of the Senate Rules Committee, vote in the Senate, a committee public hearing in the House, vote out of its committee and House Rules, and a vote in the House. That’s still dozens of steps short of the Seattle Process, but it is a lot more than what transit advocates got from House Democrats last week.
Last Tuesday, several bills left over from last year that had passed the House were pulled from the House Rules Committee, including Engrossed House Bill 2201 — which would alter MVET tax calculations and is predicted by ST to reduce funding for ST3 by $2.2 billion over the life of the package — and put on the floor calendar for last Wednesday. The power to pull bills from committee is traditionally performed only by either a floor vote or the Speaker of the House, and usually only when there is no time left for normal committee process. Hold onto your umbrellas, but there is still seven weeks left in this session.
Only an overloaded schedule, or sudden cold feet as constituent calls and emails suddenly poured in overnight, stalled the House from re-doing their vote from last year, when the Republican-controlled Senate may have wanted to keep the issue alive for the fall campaign. Those predicting the Republicans would choose grandstanding over a policy win were right.
Some thought the House would not offer the compromise again once they didn’t have a Republican Senate with which to contend. As of the second day of the session last Tuesday, it appeared they would be proven wrong.
Transportation Choices came out with a statement as quickly as possible, only hours before the planned vote.
There is chatter that the House Democratic Caucus has decided better of amputating Sound Transit’s ability to complete ST3. Whatever solution there is to the problem of needing to cater to the car lobby and find a (probably more regressive and pollution-positive) alternative funding source, there ought to be some basic public process, which includes a committee public hearing in each house.