Unopposed lawmaker's fundraising no laughing matter

By Peter Callaghan June 25, 2014 6 a.m.

Steve Kirby is considered one of the funnier members of the Washington Legislature. Low bar, perhaps, but the South Tacoma Democrat usually finds a way to make light of situations, like his re-election campaigns.

Callaghan: California teacher tenure ruling has less impact here

By Peter Callaghan June 18, 2014 6 a.m.

It was natural for people who follow education policy and politics to use sweeping, even apocalyptic language in reaction to a California legal decision last week. The decision in Vergara v. California found a trio of that state's teacher-protection laws unconstitutional after plaintiffs proved that leaving "grossly ineffective teachers" in place has a disproportional impact on poor and minority students.

Callaghan: Election activity freeze period chills out challengers

By Peter Callaghan June 11, 2014 6 a.m.

There was a time in Washington when legislators facing re-election had to stop taking advantage of taxpayer-funded staff and resources three weeks before they filed for office.

Callaghan: Oh, if only the justices would tell the Legislature this

By Peter Callaghan June 4, 2014 6 a.m.

How the Washington Supreme Court would respond to the Legislature's latest filing on compliance with the McCleary school-funding ruling if the justices weren't so polite:

Callaghan: Sage advice for the Class of 2014: Get over yourselves

By Peter Callaghan May 28, 2014 6 a.m.

The springtime ritual of campus crusades against commencement speakers is less about disregard for free speech and more about the sense that graduation is about the graduates and the graduates only.

Callaghan: Washington voters have PTSD: Post-traumatic session disorder

By Peter Callaghan May 21, 2014 6 a.m.

There's something about Washington's 2014 election that isn't quite right. Even after getting its official kickoff with last week's filing period, it feels a bit off.

Callaghan: Primary primer reveals candidates' odd preferences

By Peter Callaghan May 14, 2014 6 a.m.

It's filing week in Washington, the time when candidates put their name on the line for a shot at being underpaid and under-appreciated — and that's if they win.

Callaghan: Say WA? It's time for a new Washington slogan

By Peter Callaghan May 7, 2014 6 a.m.

The state of Washington has all but privatized tourism and visitor promotion. A bill passed last session, House Bill 2229, creates a mechanism to collect money from hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and retailers to pay for a promotion effort. The Washington Tourism Alliance must decide before the end of the year how to apportion the payments to raise $7.5 million.

Callaghan: Rodney Tom might be least political politician in state

By Peter Callaghan April 23, 2014 6 a.m.

Rodney Tom is an unlikely political leader. That's because unlike the caricature that was created by opponents as the man who would be king, Tom isn't all that political — at least not in a partisan political sense.

Callaghan: Putting the fun back in the school funding discussion

By Peter Callaghan April 9, 2014 6 a.m.

In an announcement that was shocking though not unexpected, Washington's school superintendent and the head of the teachers union said they would move the public school system to another state unless it received more money from taxpayers.

Callaghan: Contrary to reports, Republicans are alive and well

By Peter Callaghan April 2, 2014 6 a.m.

If you're a consumer of political news, keep in mind this important rule: "Every prediction about the next election made in the immediate aftermath of the last election is wrong."

Callaghan: Justice's departure will echo throughout state court

By Peter Callaghan March 26, 2014 6 a.m.

That paraphrase of Mark Twain was how state Supreme Court Justice James Johnson began his call the morning after he announced his resignation for health reasons. No, he’s not terminally ill, Johnson said. Instead, two unrelated health issues combined to make it difficult to work.

Callaghan: Legislature lived up to (extremely low) expectations

By Peter Callaghan March 19, 2014 6 a.m.

I too am sick of contrived winners-and-losers lists that political reporters and columnists produce after sessions of the Legislature.

Callaghan: If George liked green, yellow and blue, why can't we?

By Peter Callaghan March 12, 2014 6 a.m.

I'm a stickler for decorum and consistency, even when it comes to such details as logos. For example, I don't care how much money sports teams can make with different hats and uniform colors. I demand they never vary from what is official. A pink Yankees hat? The Babe would not be pleased.

Callaghan: Education bill's unheralded details will need attention

By Peter Callaghan March 5, 2014 6 a.m.

Sometimes the best stuff is at the bottom of the press release and the end of the press conference.

Peter Callaghan: Does transparent tax loophole make better loophole?

By Peter Callaghan February 26, 2014 6 a.m.

A couple of other debates received most of the attention last week when the Legislature hit one of its self-imposed deadlines. The Senate considered and defeated a revision to the state's teacher and principal evaluation system. Later, the House took the Senate up on its offer of creating and funding a state version of the Dream Act to allow college-bound students without legal immigration status to still qualify for financial aid.

Callaghan: Legislating behind closed doors now all too common

By Peter Callaghan February 12, 2014 6 a.m.

Lots of stuff gets introduced in the Washington Legislature that is never heard from again.

Callaghan: Bill from Senate coalition resorts to partisan politics

By Peter Callaghan February 5, 2014 6 a.m.

When there is no apparent public policy reason for a bill that looks a lot like political revenge, it is usually safe to conclude that it is the latter.

Callaghan: State risks $44 million in education funding from feds

By Peter Callaghan January 29, 2014 6 a.m.

Legislative Democratic leaders have a new myth to go along with their longtime favorite, the Loophole Fairy. The Loophole Fairy fuels the belief that every tough budget problem would magically disappear if only Congress could close unneeded tax breaks. While such loopholes may exist, the political will to close any is in short supply.

Callaghan: Court decision: Legislature must live up to its word

By Peter Callaghan January 22, 2014 6 a.m.

In her majority opinion in McCleary v. State of Washington, state Supreme Court Justice Debra Stephens knew she was wading into unfamiliar waters.

Calaghan: Seahawks fans, hope for best, prepare for worst

By Peter Callaghan January 15, 2014 6 a.m.

I'm not sure how to break this to all of those in the region getting revved up over the current edition of the Seattle Seahawks, so I will try the direct route.

Callaghan: Choices are designed to circumvent state constitution

By Peter Callaghan December 11, 2013 6 a.m.

It's a dance performed around the state a couple of times each year. A member of the Legislature or county government resigns — to take on a different office or to "spend more time with my family." The local party apparatus begins a process that gives them relevance: the constitutional duty to nominate three people for the vacant post. Then, the county legislative authority — county councils or county commissions — appoints one of the three.

Callaghan: In a partisan Legislature, nonpartisan roles are essential

By Peter Callaghan December 4, 2013 6 a.m.

So a couple of state Senate staffers are told they won't have jobs by the end of the year. Big deal, right?

Callaghan: Why polls don't matter to Boeing's Machinists union

By Peter Callaghan November 27, 2013 6 a.m.

A recent statewide poll suggests a large majority of Washington voters would have ratified the contract that Boeing presented to its Machinists union earlier this month.

Callaghan: Respected and feared, but Boeing isn't loved anymore

By Peter Callaghan November 13, 2013 6 a.m.

One after another, the state's business and local government leaders took to the microphone to praise Boeing last week.

Callaghan: Finding college graduates (who don’t know they are)

By Peter Callaghan November 6, 2013 6 a.m.

It is central to Washington’s economic and education policies, as it is in most states: Increase the number of residents with college degrees and certificates, and you make them more prosperous and the state more competitive.

Callaghan: An open government ruling 14 years in the making

By Peter Callaghan October 23, 2013 6 a.m.

I wasn't as shocked as some last week when the state Supreme Court found that governors have a constitutional exemption from disclosing certain documents to the public. Since I'd been denied records by a former governor who cited executive privilege, a decision backed up by a past attorney general, I assumed there was a strong likelihood the court would side with those who felt executive privilege existed.

Callaghan: Not all unimportant questions come with answers

By Peter Callaghan October 16, 2013 6 a.m.

In hopes of adding to America's lack of knowledge of public affairs, we ask 30 questions but provide absolutely zero answers.

Callaghan: Revenue before reform — or the other way around

By Peter Callaghan October 9, 2013 6 a.m.

I always look forward to the filings and oral arguments by the plaintiffs — and winners — of the landmark litigation known as McCleary v. State of Washington.

Callaghan: Answer Man says: Ignore Russian guy behind curtain

By Peter Callaghan September 18, 2013 6:01 a.m.

What are we all to make of the complex international and national events that are filling cable TV news, at least until the next Zimmerman trial? At times when complex questions abound, simplistic answers from The Answer Man are more needed than ever.

Callaghan: Washington under pressure again to reform education

By Peter Callaghan August 21, 2013 6:01 a.m.

When it comes to education reform, Washington state lives by this guiding principle: Anything worth doing is worth doing as sloooooowly as possible.

Callaghan: Let's assume they're all cheating; it's just easier that way

By Peter Callaghan August 7, 2013 6:01 a.m.

I'm going to simplify things and assume that every Major League Baseball player doing well is using performance-enhancing drugs.

Callaghan: Taxpayers must pony up for Tim Eyman initiative

By Peter Callaghan July 24, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Waste, fraud and abuse, Tim Eyman style: Washington taxpayers will pony up $240,000 for a government program that has dubious benefits and has been proved ineffective. Sounds like a job for Tim Eyman? Well, no, because this example of the waste of tax dollars is his creation.

Callaghan: How low can you go? Off-year primary turnout will tell

By Peter Callaghan July 17, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Elections officials worship at the altar of voter turnout. For them, it is the one measure of the effectiveness of their staffs and their own self-worth. The county auditor with the highest turnout is exalted at the next auditor convention, winning applause and the right to be the first one through the buffet line.

Callaghan: Lawmakers fail to shake addiction to creating loopholes

By Peter Callaghan July 10, 2013 6:01 a.m.

I'm Washington state. And I'm a loophole–aholic."

Callaghan: Contradictions make it tough to take Benton seriously

By Peter Callaghan June 26, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Meet state Sen. Don Benton: born-again champion of the respectful workplace.

Callaghan: Lowdown on possible shutdown of state government

By Peter Callaghan June 19, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee's press secretary characterized the lack of information about a state government shutdown that might happen July 1 like this: "There are more Qs than As right now."

Callaghan: Washington Legislature acting an awful lot like Congress

By Peter Callaghan June 12, 2013 6:01 a.m.

People often ask me, "Why can't the Washington State Legislature be more like Congress?"

Callaghan: A three-stop tour of Washington's political landscape

By Peter Callaghan May 29, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Three columns, none deserving of full treatment:

Callaghan: 'Real' unemployment rate used for political arguments

By Peter Callaghan May 22, 2013 6:01 a.m.

It's sometimes called the "real" unemployment rate and it's always the number preferred by out-of-power politicians who use it as proof that the economy isn't as good as the incumbent president or governor says it is.

Callaghan: Budget harmony elusive amid cacophony of rhetoric

By Peter Callaghan May 15, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Everyone knows that if Gov. Jay Inslee really wanted the state Legislature to finish its work quickly — especially passing a two-year budget that boosts funding for public education — he should have brought them back into special session immediately.

Callaghan: Fixing levy system tougher than finding $1B for schools

By Peter Callaghan May 8, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Here's something to contemplate during the Legislature's version of spring break: the difficult job of finding $1 billion-plus in additional state money for public schools might be the easy part of meeting the state Supreme Court's mandate in the McCleary decision.

Callaghan: Hybrid light-rail routes proposed in Tacoma fall short

By Peter Callaghan April 17, 2013 6:01 a.m.

A white tent marked something of a milestone for the long process of expanding the reach of Sound Transit's Link light-rail line in Tacoma. Inside the tent next to the Tacoma Dome station earlier this month, the latest of a series of open houses was hosted by the regional transit agency to let folks comment on plans to grow the line that has been running for 10 years.

Callaghan: Inslee fails to make grade on measuring schools' success

By Peter Callaghan April 10, 2013 6:01 a.m.

In his first three months in office, Gov. Jay Inslee hasn't been especially active in the legislative process. Compared to his predecessor, Chris Gregoire, who was perhaps a bit hyperactive, Inslee has been more hands off. Other than his recent assertive condemnation of a Senate budget proposal, his engagement has been limited.

Callaghan: Like it or not, Seattle a big driver of state's economy

By Peter Callaghan April 3, 2013 6:01 a.m.

When he was the director of the Washington State Association of Counties, Gary Lowe was one of my go-to guys for perspective on how things worked in the state Legislature … and why. Lowe was just cynical enough to be realistic about the failings of the process and just idealistic enough to keep trying.

Callaghan: Boeing has long used its clout to ground bills in Legislature

By Peter Callaghan March 27, 2013 6:01 a.m.

It's No. 51 on the "Jacobsen and Metcalf Laws of Parliamentary Democracy."

Callaghan: 'Anti-politician' Gardner leaves an admirable legacy

By Peter Callaghan March 20, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Elected officials, especially one as prominent as a governor, tend to accumulate enemies. Booth Gardner, who died Friday night, is the exception to the rule. When he left office after two terms as Washington's 19th governor, his approval-to-disapproval ratio was two-to-one -- robust enough that he probably could have won a third term if he wanted. He didn't, which is also rare for a politician (and explains a bit about why he remained popular).

Callaghan: Loyalty to Obama fails to earn Gregoire a cabinet post

By Peter Callaghan March 13, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire may still get asked to serve in President Obama's administration. But if the call doesn't come, she has no one to blame but herself.

Callaghan: Court's ruling on taxes should have surprised no one

By Peter Callaghan March 6, 2013 6:01 a.m.

The biggest surprise about last week's state Supreme Court ruling on the two-thirds tax-hike initiative is how surprised so many people were -- or pretended to be -- about the outcome. The only real mystery about the ruling was whether the court would finally find a way to endorse what most lawyers and legal scholars already knew -- that the state constitution reserves to itself the number of legislative votes needed to raise taxes.

Callaghan: Lawmakers again try to pull curtain on sunshine laws

By Peter Callaghan February 27, 2013 6:01 a.m.

How do you know when a politician is getting ready to restrict public access to government records? When they say how much they support public access to public records. That was the pattern during a recent hearing in Olympia on a bill to give local governments the right to drag their constituents into court to keep them from getting otherwise public records.