Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "Washington State Government and Politics"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Book Review: "Washington State Government and Politics"

The politics of the State of Washington is one that has emerged from strong progressive and populist sentiments, according to some of the scholars whose works have been collected in this very useful volume of information explaining Washington politics and governance. This book is an excellent reference explaining how the various branches of Washington government operate and the background to how they become as they are.

Washington began as a state founded by optimistic settlers with utopian dreams, and to some degree that sentiment continues resonating. It has been an activist state which tends to have one of the largest percent of female legislators. Washington was one of the first states to enacted abortion rights and to create a state Equal Rights Amendment. Still, there also exists a strong conservative base, as was noted when Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley was defeated by a ‘Gingrich Revolution’ candidate in 1994.

Comparisons between the Washington government, including its legislature, and governing in other states can be made through examining this book. As in other states, Washington voters appear to dislike their legislature but support their particular legislator, showing legislators have a closer connection to their voters even if the public doesn’t always like the legislative results.

Washington is an initiative and referendum state which allows voters to place policy questions before voters to decide. This process thus often restricts legislators in how they may handle issues and debatably makes Washington more open to public interaction in policy making. On the other side, this places decisions more into the hands of interests in elections and less into the hands of a representative democracy. The legislature has found it is very constrained in developing a state budget as previous referendums require limiting expenditures and revenues as well as calling for mandated spending. This leaves limited flexibility in shaping a budget, which has become more of a concern in recent years as the state has been experience decreasing economic growth.

Some authors consider Washington as having a “moralistic political culture” with citizens placing high expectations of strong performances from their public officials. The political parties are considered by authors in this book to be relatively weak. Voters have weak political party affiliation. There has been a growing increase in the number of ballot questions over the last couple decades, indicating the voters are more apt in Washington to take major issues into their own hands rather than allowing political leaders to become as involved as they may be in other states.

A unique role is provided to the Lt. Governor who often only presides over the Senate in most states. The Washington Lt. Governor chairs the Senate Rules Committee in addition to presiding over the Senate and makes appointments to several commissions and task forces. This makes their Lt. Governor potentially more influential than Lt. Governors from other states.


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