Mid-Columbia legislators got low marks in a report based on bills that impact disparities between racial groups, though some improved from three years ago.
Reps. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, and Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, were among the 27 percent of state House and Senate members to receive an F from the Washington Community Action Network’s Facing Race report.
The report was based on legislators’ votes on 34 bills that involved raising the state’s minimum wage, enacting paid family and medical leave, investing in teacher diversity and other issues.
“There is some playfulness in the idea of grading legislators like school children,” report author Margaret Diddams said in a statement. “This report shows us that 27 percent percent of legislators should probably be dropped from class and there are a lot more that need some tutoring from the community during session.”
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This report shows us that 27 percent percent of legislators should probably be dropped from class, and there are a lot more that need some tutoring from the community during session.
Margaret Diddams, author Facing Race report
The report also takes into account the racial makeup of a legislative district and how the legislator represents the minority groups.
District 8, which includes Kennewick and Richland, is made up of 25 percent people of color. District 9, which includes west Pasco and rural Franklin County, is 29 percent. And District 16, which includes eastern Pasco and rural Benton County, is at 41 percent.
Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, received a D-minus, while Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, all got Ds.
The grades were an improvement over 2012 — the last year Washington CAN! graded legislators. At that time, Schoesler, Hewitt, Haler and former Sen. Jerome Delvin all got Fs.
“The intent of this grading is not to stigmatize legislators for their votes, but rather to initiate a dialogue about how Washington state can move forward toward racial and economic equity, and increase opportunities for all,” the report said.
The intent of this grading is not to stigmatize legislators for their votes, but rather to initiate a dialogue about how Washington state can move forward toward racial and economic equity, and increase opportunities for all.
Facing Race report
Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, received a B-minus, the highest grade for any Republican in either chamber. She received a D in 2012.
Former Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, who resigned amid an ethics investigation during the 2015 session, received a D-plus. Her replacement, Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, did not appear in the ratings.
The report considers both the legislator’s voting record and the leadership they showed in writing or co-sponsoring “racial equity” bills. Voting in favor of such bills helped their grades while voting against it hurt them.
The report, which was endorsed by more than 60 organizations, goes over steps needed to achieve racial equality in the 2016 legislative session. They include approving body cameras to monitor police brutality, continuity of health coverage, dual language programs in schools and eliminating the death penalty.
Washington CAN!, with more than 40,000 members, claims to be the state’s largest grassroots community organization.