How Democrats should use their big­ger ma­jori­ties at the state Capi­tol

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - Tri-city Forum Opinion -

Early elec­tion re­turns sug­gest the state Capi­tol will turn a shade bluer, but Wash­ing­ton law­mak­ers’ top pri­or­i­ties for next year should re­main largely un­changed.

Their pri­mary aims must in­clude shoring up the state’s men­tal-health sys­tem – in­clud­ing fix­ing West­ern State Hos­pi­tal, which re­cently lost $53 mil­lion in an­nual fund­ing af­ter fail­ing yet an­other fed­eral in­spec­tion.

And law­mak­ers must fi­nally start fol­low­ing the state’s Pub­lic Records Act, in­stead of con­tin­u­ing to try to evade it.

Leg­is­la­tors also must con­tinue work­ing to en­sure the state’s new K-12 school-fi­nance model op­er­ates as in­tended. To that end, they must cor­rect their fail­ure to ad­e­quately fund spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion, an over­sight that con­tin­ues to hurt school dis­tricts through­out the state.

Not all of this work will be es­pe­cially ex­cit­ing. How­ever, re­solv­ing these is­sues will help en­sure the well-be­ing of some of Wash­ing­ton state’s most vul­ner­a­ble well into the fu­ture.

Even with their larger ma­jori­ties, Demo­cratic lead­ers will still need to work across the aisle with mi­nor­ity Repub­li­cans. They'll need Re­pub­li­can votes, for in­stance, to make changes to Ini­tia­tive 940, a po­lice-ac­count­abil­ity mea­sure that passed eas­ily Tues­day night.

The ini­tia­tive re­moves lan­guage in Wash­ing­ton law that makes it nearly im­pos­si­ble to hold po­lice crim­i­nally li­able when they mis­use deadly force. This is a much-needed change. Yet ear­lier this year, leg­is­la­tors, po­lice groups and the ini­tia­tive spon­sors agreed to some im­prove­ments to the mea­sure that were later struck down by the state Supreme Court. En­act­ing those agreed-upon changes with a two-thirds vote of the Leg­is­la­ture will help en­sure the suc­cess of the new po­lice-ac­count­abil­ity law.

These are im­por­tant is­sues that de­serve the Leg­is­la­ture’s full at­ten­tion next year. Demo­cratic lead­ers should en­sure they use their in­creased power at the state Capi­tol to fo­cus on these and other press­ing lo­cal mat­ters — and not just to voice their dis­plea­sure with the pres­i­dent and his poli­cies com­ing out of Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

TED S. WAR­REN AP

Democrats in­creased their con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture af­ter last week’s mid-term elec­tion.

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