On the final Friday of the year, Mayor David Condon made an unexpected move: He announced he planned to veto City Council President Ben Stuckart's sprawling local CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORMS that the council had passed, 6 to 1, nearly two weeks earlier.
Condon argues that the council's ordinance would create a burden on the city's bureaucracy, would push spending to less-accountable political action committees and could potentially run into legal problems. He says that such campaign finance regulations should be handled at the state level. "I think the state system is working," Condon says.
It's not the first time the conservative-leaning mayor has vetoed city council measures that impose additional regulations. Condon vetoed the council's sick leave mandate in 2016. But this time, the council didn't see it coming.
The city council had run the bill by several departments, including city legal, grants management and human resources, but the mayor, in a departure from past practice, hadn't told the council he had any concerns.
In particular, Condon criticizes the ordinance for not being "evenly applied," arguing that, by imposing campaign finance restrictions on city contractors but not on city unions, it would unconstitutionally restricted free speech rights of one group but not another.
"When you prohibit one versus another, it starts getting into a definite legal gray area," Condon says.
But according to Stuckart, one of the reasons why they exempted unions from the restriction was because of concerns raised by the city's own HR and legal departments.
"My original version was something [Condon] probably agreed with," Stuckart noted wryly.
But ultimately, Condon says he fundamentally disagreed with the council president on key features of the ordinance. While the original bill passed with enough votes to override the mayor's veto, Condon says he hopes it will spark discussion.
"In my opinion, the veto will help us [have] a longer debate," Condon says.
But Stuckart says that debate could have easily happened last month.
"I wish we would have had that discussion before we passed it," Stuckart says. (DANIEL WALTERS)
Give Them a Break
It's a new year, and for many workers in Washington state, that means getting PAID SICK LEAVE to go along with a pay bump.
Starting Jan. 1, employers are required to provide paid sick leave to most employees if, for example, the employees need to take care of themselves or their family members, if their workplace or child's school has been closed by a public official for a health-related reason, or for absences that qualify for leave under the state's Domestic Violence Leave Act, according to the state's Department of Labor & Industries.
The requirement was put in place under Initiative 1433, which was approved by voters in fall 2016, not long after Spokane City Council passed its own sick leave ordinance.
Employees accrue paid sick leave at a minimum rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked, including part-time and seasonal workers. It must be paid at normal hourly compensation. Employees can begin using accrued paid sick leave beginning on the 90th calendar day after the start of employment.
The statewide initiative is also responsible for the increase the minimum wage. In 2018, minimum wage increased from $11 to $11.50 per hour, though workers who are 14 or 15 years old can be paid as low as $9.78 per hour.
In the 2017 session, the Washington legislature passed a paid family and medical leave law, which will provide workers with 12 weeks of leave following the birth of a child or a serious health condition. But the Employment Security Department won't start collecting premiums to pay for that law until 2019, with benefits available in 2020. (WILSON CRISCIONE)
Hunting Rights and Recognition
In a major victory for people who are part of the Arrow Lakes (Sinixt) tribe, one of the 12 Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued a ruling officially RECOGNIZING THE SINIXT as aboriginal people with hunting rights in Canada.
In 2010, Richard Desautel, a Sinixt descendent and member of the Confederated Colville Tribes, hunted for elk in traditional Sinixt territory, then alerted B.C. authorities about the hunt in an intentional move to force the courts to examine the issue.
By bringing charges against Desautel, the government argued that although the Sinixt may exist in the United States, they no longer exist in Canada, and therefore don't have hunting rights there. The Arrow Lakes Band was declared "extinct" by the Canadian government in 1956, and their reserve land was reverted back to the provincial Crown's ownership.
But the Colville Tribes argued, and now two courts have agreed, that their people lived in the area that now straddles the border long before European contact, and their rights should be upheld there, despite the international border that was imposed.
"Until 1846, Okanogan and Ferry county, those were parts of Canada," says Colville Tribal Chairman Michael Marchand. "We didn't really move anywhere, Canada moved, the border moved."
It's hard to convey just how important the Dec. 28 decision is for the Sinixt people, says lawyer Mark Underhill of Arvay Finlay in Vancouver, B.C., who worked Desautel's case.
"They have the right to hunt, but more importantly, and this sounds a little strange to say, they're getting their identity back," Underhill says. "That just means everything to the Sinixt people. They've been fighting for generations for recognition in Canada." (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)