Despite confronting a $2.8
billion deficit and 9.5
percent unemployment rate, Washington state lawmakers
were able to score key progressive victories this year. Although tax
and budget issues were undoubtedly the predominant legislative focus,
elected officials made significant strides on several issues during both
the regular and special
session, including, children's health, workers' rights,
weatherization, and providing initial foundation for the implementation
of federal health care reform.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission
(FEC) decision earlier this year gave corporations the same First
Amendment rights as citizens with regard to advocating for or against
political candidates, unleashing
a flood of new corporate cash into state races and a range of new
state policy initiatives that aim to protect the integrity of their
elections. In response, states are pursuing other reforms, such as
requiring shareholder approval for corporations spending election cash,
tighter public disclosure and attribution in ads, public financing of
elections, and calling for a federal constitutional amendment to reverse
the Citizens United decision.
Even as right-wing state legislators and attorneys general from various
states unleash a barrage of attacks in an attempt to halt federal health
reform before it starts, progressive state legislators and officials
have been pushing back, highlighting the benefits that states will
receive and the increased provision of quality and affordable care for
families through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Democrats have tightened the purse strings on Attorney General Rob McKenna in an attempt to limit Washington's role in challenging health care reform.
At lawmakers’ behest, the governor’s budget office has subjected the Republican’s agency to a freeze on state contracts, canceling an exemption awarded days earlier.
State leaders might go further. Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday that she is open to an idea being weighed by legislative leaders: a budget proviso that would block McKenna from spending state money on a 13-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform effort signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama.