Report says many Mid-Columbia lawmakers fail at racial equity

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldDecember 11, 2012 

Several Mid-Columbia lawmakers received failing grades on the latest racial equity "report card" released Monday by the Washington Community Action Network.

But one lawmaker with a failing grade countered that the report is biased and doesn't account for the issues of importance to minorities living in his district.

"It assumes the minority constituents in my district don't care about jobs or schools," Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, told the Herald. "I think the motives of the group who put this out are very much suspect."

The report graded the Legislature and individual lawmakers on an A to F scale based on their votes on 25 bills introduced during the 2011-12 legislative sessions that the group claimed addressed issues of civil rights, institutional racism, immigration and disparities in education, housing and access to health care.

"Legislators have a choice, and their votes can either increase access and opportunities, or reinforce barriers that deny some families the opportunities they need to thrive," Paola Maranan, executive director of the Children's Alliance, an organization that served as part of the coalition that produced the report, said in a statement.

Each legislator received a letter grade based on an overall score on a 0 to 100 point-scale. Anything over 90 points was an A, 80-89 was a B, 70-79 a C, 60-69 a D, and less than 60 rated an F grade.

The Legislature as a whole received a "D" grade.

More than 40 percent of lawmakers -- 40 representatives and 20 senators -- received failing grades in the report.

Many Republican lawmakers received "D" or "F" grades, while many Democrats earned "B" grades. Only a few lawmakers earned "A" grades.

Mid-Columbia Reps. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, Larry Haler, R-Richland, Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, and David Taylor, R-Moxee, as well as Sens. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, and Schoesler received "F" grades.

Reps. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, and Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, received "D" grades.

Schoesler, who recently was elected Senate Republican leader by his caucus, said he doesn't believe the report accurately reflects how Republicans work on behalf of minority groups.

Schoesler's 9th District seat includes Adams and much of Franklin County, including west Pasco -- both counties have majority Hispanic populations.

He told the Herald that his Hispanic constituents care about the same issues as constituents of other races or ethnicities -- job creation, good schools and affordable higher education.

And those priorities match those of the Republican caucus and the two Senate Democrats who joined with Republicans on Monday to form a new majority coalition, he said.

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com

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