Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Can Idealists Accomplish Stuff? Their Progress Is The History Of America's Success-- Meet Pramila Jayapal From Seattle


The last Republican presidential candidate to win Washington was Reagan in 1984. Although Washington is basically a blue state-- Obama beat McCain 58-40 and beat Romney 56-41, both U.S.senators are Democrats and every governor for over 30 years has been a Democrat-- the state Senate is narrowly controlled by the Republicans + one renegade conservaDem, Tim Sheldon from a district across the Puget Sound from Seattle. Sheldon's idea of "bipartisan" is to hand the majority role to the Republicans and to join them in voting against marriage equality and backing their toxic agenda.

But there's a very different kind of bipartisanship, often practiced by some of the most progressive legislators in the country. We touched on it last week with a look at Mike Lux's book, The Progressive Revolution-- How The Best in America Came To Be, and the claims by conservative Democrats that Bernie's aspirations for single payer would cause political gridlock and were not feasible. American history is filled with good progressive ideas opposed by conservatives that, through hard work and determination, eventually become part of the fabric of our country, Social Security, universal suffrage, Medicare, public education, being just a few of them.

In the U.S. Senate, Bernie Sanders' bills for veterans affairs usually have massive support across the aisle. In the U.S. House, Alan Grayson has passed more legislation than any other member of Congress, even with the GOP in control. That's because they focus on items of common interest that are popular with the backers of both political parties. In Olympia, the most progressive member of the Washington state Senate, Pramila Jayapal, currently running for Congress, has been working the same kind of bipartisanship-- bringing up bills to lift the statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault sand for free community college education. There is plenty of common ground on issues like that with members of both parties.

Monday she testified at a hearing in the Senate Governmental Operations committee on her bill to expand democracy through automatic voter registration (SB 6379). She worked on the bill with Washington's Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman. When the bill passes and is signed by the governor it will automatically register eligible voters who sign up for programs that already require citizenship verification, including enhanced driver’s licenses, commercial driver’s licenses, as well as certain programs through the Department of Social and Health Services or the state Health Benefits Exchange. The bill provides an opt-out opportunity for those who decline to be registered. The bill also would update addresses for those who are automatically registered. The idea was to design a bill that responds to the specific circumstances of a state that grants driver’s licenses to residence regardless of citizenship. She had to craft the bill so as to not inadvertently grant voting rights to any non-citizens.

"The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy," she explained when she introduced it. "Yet while our state is a leader in so many things, we are struggling to get Washingtonians to cast ballots and have their voices heard. It is the duty of elected officials, regardless of party, to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be heard. That is the goal of this bill. There should be no barriers between the people and voting, and with this bill one more barrier has been removed. We have worked very hard over the past several months to develop a bipartisan piece of legislation that fits Washington’s particular needs."

Secretary Wyman concurred: "I am pleased to join Senator Jayapal and a bipartisan group of legislators in proposing this welcome expansion of access to the voter rolls. We have a sizable group of people who have not chosen to register through the normal routes of online, motor-voter, mail or in-person registration. We know that some of these potential voters have already given proof of citizenship to the DOL or to health exchange, and so automatic registration should be allowed for them. Our goal in the election community is to register every eligible voter, to remove any barriers to voting, and to promote robust turnout."

Analysis shows that automatic voter registration boosts numbers of registered voters as well as turnout at elections. In addition to increasing voter rolls, SB 6379 reduces paperwork and streamlines the registration process, allowing agencies to integrate voter registration services into existing forms and online prompts. "Passing a bill like this with support from both sides of the aisle helps rebuild trust that we can break political gridlock," said Jayapal. "While voting issues can be divisive at times, we have a bipartisan mandate with this bill. Let’s get it passed through the Legislature and onto the governor’s desk for signature."

If you'd like to help bring this kind of approach to Congress, please consider contributing to Jayapal's grassroots campaign here at the Blue America page for candidates who have endorsed Bernie and are running on the same issues as he is. WA-07, by the way, is the most progressive district in Washington and has a PVI of D+29. Neither McCain nor Romney were able to get even 20% of the vote against Obama and Jim McDermott was reelected in 2014 203,954 (81%) to 47,921 (19%) against Republican Craig Keller. This is exactly the kind of district that is perfect for an innovative, stalwart, values-driven progressive like Pramila Jayapal.

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At 12:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim Sheldon is from Medina, which is Bill Gates neighborhood. It's across Lake Washington, not across the Puget Sound.


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