But with some ambiguous hem-and-haw language in their testimony, the labor lobbyists glossed over a key fact: the benefits the two bills would grant were already bargained into being by their unions and Gov. Jay Inslee’s office. These bills are needed to give after-the-fact approval to what the governor already agreed to.
This isn’t a huge deal, but it is from the “easier to ask forgiveness than beg permission” school of thought. The governor’s office and the unions could have worked with legislators ahead of time to make these benefits legal. Instead, they chose to bring it to the Legislature as a fait accompli.
It’s a leverage move. “The job is already half-way done, it would be silly not to complete it.” The proper process should be for the unions to approach legislators and argue their case for these benefits, which would prompt a more thorough review of the bills and their cost. By using this after-the-fact approach, the bills came to the Legislature looking like ho-hum agency request legislation, not a specific ask by the unions.
Rep. Drew Stokesbary (R-Auburn) stuck up for proper process Tuesday, offering an amendment that would have stripped HB 1521’s emergency clause and delayed implementation until the next round of contract negotiations. Rep. Paul Graves (R-Fall City) spoke eloquently to why Stokesbary’s amendment improved the bill. House Democrats voted it down on 50-48 vote and stuck with this flawed process instead.
This one small incident is emblematic of the way that lawmaking and budgeting have been flipped since collective bargaining for state employees went into full effect in 2004. Like these two bills, state employee contracts (some of the most expensive items in the state budget) are presented to legislators as a done deal.
Legislators are expected to rubber-stamp decisions made elsewhere, without their input. This process suits the governor’s office and the unions just fine. It’s legislators and the voters who should balk.