Tuesday, February 16, 2010

SB 6688 - Concerning filling vacancies in nonpartisan elective office

The Washington state legislature has it's hands full tackling budget issue this session, but it appears they also found time to erode counties rights and responsibilities concerning filling vacancies as well as increasing partisanship.

Senate Bill 6688 aims to change the way that county vacancies are filled. It's interesting that this bill comes up after Whatcom County had it's own difficulties recently in filling a non-partisan county council seat.

As I read the bill it sets out the following vacancy plan:
1. County executive chooses three possible candidates to fill vacancy.
2. Count council votes on the possible candidates.
3. If a majority of the council agrees on a candidate they fill the vacancy, otherwise the state governor chooses the successor from the list.

My initial response upon seeing this bill was to ask why is the State legislature taking it upon themselves to setup county specific rules? This is not something that should be the purview of state government. Once I got past that initial revulsion of state infringement on local issues the following questions arose:
The state governor is a state-wide partisan office.

  1. How is the state governor more qualified to make a county specific decision than the more local, non-partisan county executive?
  2. Since the governor is elected on a statewide basis. Doesn't this in effect give voters outside the county a voice in filling vacancies?
  3. Doesn't the state governor have other more pressing state wide issues to concern themselves with? How much time could they possibly devote to making a county specific decision taking in nuances and traits specific to that county?
  4. If the state attorney general has made it a pratice to not issue opinions on county specific legal issues for counties operating under home rule charters then how/why should the state governor be given authority to name a successor in those counties?

So far SB 6688 has passed the Senate and will be discussed on Feb 19th at 11am before the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Affairs. Please take some time to contact the members of this committee and voice your opinion on this bill. Also please contact your state representatives and ask them not to infringe on the rights and responsibilities of county government.

It is clear after Whatcom county recently went through the process of filling a vacancy that changes and clarifications are needed to our county process. My understanding is that the Whatcom county council is taking steps to clarify this process, let's handle this on a local level and not rely on outside influences to determine who fills non-partisan county positions.

Please contact your state representatives today!
40th LD
REP Dave Quall
REP Jeff Morris
SEN Kevin Ranker - Voted FOR SB 6688.
42nd LD
REP Doug Erickson
REP Kelli Linville
SEN Dale Brandland - Voted AGAINST SB 6688.

I'll be asking my 40th LD representatives where they stand on this bill. Hopefully we won't see it get enacted. Stay tuned.

Update 1: County councilman Ken Mann also commented on this bill. Included with his post is a comment from Bellingham city councilman Stan Snapp. Thanks Ken and Stan for your support of non-partisan local government!

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