Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Columbian and The Seattle Times. Editorial content from other publications is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
It has been said often throughout the ages, including by Winston Churchill and in Spider-Man comics and by the Supreme Court of the United States: With great power comes great responsibility.
That must be the mantra of Democrats in Washington as they prepare to control both chambers of the Legislature as well as the governor’s office. Manka Dhingra’s victory Tuesday in a special election in the 45th District returns control of the state Senate to Democrats for the first time in five years, leaving the party with no natural impediment to its agenda.
But rather than view small majorities in both chambers as a mandate from the public, Democrats should view it as a call to act responsibly in welcoming bipartisan input on difficult issues. With all seats in the House of Representatives and most in the Senate up for election a year from now, power can just as quickly swing to Republicans if Democrats do not faithfully act for the good of the state.
For a reminder of the damage created by ideological rigidity, Democrats in Olympia need only look to the other Washington. There, Republicans control both chambers of Congress plus the White House, but they have been woefully impotent in adopting legislation for the benefit of the public. On big issues such as health care and tax reform, Republicans have embraced a unilateral approach that has prevented widespread input and has resulted in shamefully inadequate proposals.
For state lawmakers, next year provides a scheduled 60-day session that likely will prevent any major policy changes. The Legislature’s first duty should be to adopt a capital budget; then it must find a solution for a water-rights issue emanating from a state Supreme Court ruling known as the Hirst decision. The capital budget has broad support but was blocked by Republicans demanding a fix to the Hirst issue. These contentious items provide Democrats with an opportunity to embrace bipartisanship and to demonstrate that accomplishments are more important than dogma.
Lawmakers also likely will need to tweak the expansive budget agreement reached this year in an effort to adequately fund public education. The state Supreme Court has yet to render an opinion on the effort, but a shortfall in funding for special education shows that the work is far from finished.
Beyond that, next year’s agenda is likely to be filled with relatively small-ticket items that can be tallied in the win column by both parties and will look good on campaign flyers for next November’s election. More intense debates about a capital-gains tax, a carbon tax or an assault-weapons ban will have to wait until the broader legislative session of 2019.
For the past five years, Republicans have controlled the state Senate while Democrats have maintained a majority in the House. This has served the public well in forcing give-and-take that has generated compromises. But it also at times has created paralysis, most notably during this year’s record 193-day session and in lawmakers’ reluctance to seriously address school funding until the deadline was near.
Typically, a divided state government is beneficial for the people of Washington. Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas, and a bipartisan Statehouse provides some inherent checks and balances. Democrats must recognize that unfettered control in Olympia is not a blank check for a progressive agenda that ignores the needs of the other party or the millions of Republican voters throughout the state.
President Trump’s opioid declaration is
meaningless without treatment dollars
President Donald Trump recently declared a public-health emergency for the opioid epidemic. The announcement was mostly meaningless to opioid addicts and the people trying to help them because it did not include any useful new ideas or dollars to fight the epidemic, which killed nearly 700 people in Washington last year.
The few details offered with the declaration are especially troubling. The government could redirect resources, potentially taking public-health dollars away from other urgent needs. A renewed focus on prevention, instead of treatment, is also problematic.
The president seemed especially keen on reviving a “say no to drugs”-style advertising campaign. Past attempts using advertising to prevent drug abuse have had no effect and may have even encouraged some kids to try drugs, according to national researchfunded by the federal government.
The research is clear: Medication is the best hope to get addicts off opioids — both prescription drugs and heroin — but that medication is expensive.
If the president truly cares about the epidemic, he should look closer at what is actually working right now in places like Washington state and promise to renew grant money that is offering treatment to more people.
Caleb Banta-Green, a researcher at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, says federal drug treatment grants from the Obama administration are starting to make a measurable impact on the epidemic in Washington because they make money available for treatment medication, including the newer drug buprenorphine and the more traditional methadone. But there’s so much more that could be done.
Those grants that are being used to set up drug treatment centers across the state, in both rural and urban areas, are limited in scope.
If the Trump administration wants to make a difference in fighting the opioid epidemic, it will continue to make this treatment money available and not throw away cash on ineffective TV campaigns.