Olympia politicians' egos may kill veterans bill everyone likes
A tiff over who gets credit, the House or Senate, endangers identical bills that would let out-of-state military veterans pay in-state tuition.
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
OLYMPIA — In Washington’s state Capitol these days, it appears that even unanimous support isn’t enough for a bill to become law.
A piece of legislation that has won the backing of Gov. Jay Inslee and every single state lawmaker may nonetheless die here Friday because of political squabbling.
The problem, say leaders in the Republican-run Senate and Democrat-led House, is that the two parties disagree on which chamber should get credit for the politically popular proposal, which would give in-state college tuition to out-of-state military vets.
But one of the chambers has to pass the other’s bill for it to go to the governor for final approval, and each house thinks its version should be officially entered into the history books as law.
In an election year, that’s enough to stall a bill.
If one side doesn’t budge by 5 p.m. Friday — the last cutoff for nonbudget-related bills — the measure could lose its chance of becoming law.
Inslee and leaders in the Senate and House all said they didn’t want that to happen, calling the policy a priority. Inslee said in a news conference that it would be “unthinkable” for the state to not adopt the proposal. But nobody offered a solution to the impasse.
Several minority Democratic senators pledged Thursday to try to force a Senate vote on the House version, but both chambers adjourned for the night with no such move.
“It’s the Senate’s turn,” said state Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, who sponsored the House version.
“It’s their responsibility,” said state Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, who sponsored the Senate version, nodding toward the House floor. “You should talk to them.”
Bailey said the idea and most of the bill’s language originated in the Senate.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville, noted the Senate has voted for the bill twice while the House has voted for it only once.
But Appleton argued the House has already passed Senate versions of several related bills that started in the House — most prominently the so-called state Dream Act giving financial aid to students who were brought into the country illegally when they were children.
Passage of the bill was seen as a major victory for Latinos, and Republicans got a lot of credit in that community when it passed.
Now the Senate should return the favor, Appleton said.
Bailey and Schoesler said they hope the House passes the bill. Appleton said she hopes the Senate passes the bill.
Appleton added that she wants the House to just pass the Senate version, but the decision is up to leadership, which has not shown a willingness to do so.
“It’s very frustrating. It’s frustrating for veterans, and it’s frustrating for me,” Appleton said. “It’s not about me, and it’s not about Barbara Bailey. It’s about veterans.”
Bailey expressed a similar sentiment.
“This issue is too important for political posturing,” she said. “It makes me absolutely angry. I will not stand for it. One way or the other, our veterans will get what they deserve.”
When pressed on what she plans to do to make that happen, Bailey said she did not know.
“Something,” she said.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal