Judging only by the slate of legislation allowed to reach the statehouse floor in Olympia, a casual observer might assume that Washington State is in its best times, basking in a heyday of economic prosperity and fiscal bliss in which precious legislative time can be spent guilt-free to pursue purely social objectives.

Democrat-sponsored legislation to make Washington the seventh U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage has already passed the State Senate, will likely pass the State House by a predictably partisan vote today, and should be signed into law with all due haste by Gov. Christine Gregoire.

By some accounts, the law’s birth will have involved a several month’s-long behind-the-scenes effort to prime public opinion and whip votes, a campaign that also involved leveraging swing Republicans to create a small amount of political breathing room.

Despite the suggestion by some* that same-sex marriage will deliver significant economic benefits for Washington State, the measure is little more than a public relations coup, a clump of spun sugar fed to the media for the purpose of focusing attention on everything but the Democrat’s pathological inability to get down to the core business of governing.

(*In a speech last year to manufacturing interests, Congressman, candidate for governor and late-breaking champion for gay marriage Jay Inslee surmised that a hypothetical gay engineer in the town of Boston would be inclined to relocate to the Evergreen State in the wake of gay marriage legalization. The fact that Boston is in Massachusetts—where gay marriage is already legal—did not calculate into the gubernatorial hopeful’s theory of a migratory surge.)

In contrast, in the other Olympia, while Democrats stage an oft-brutish ballet of effete progress—a demonstration of how the combination of procedural muscle and political choreography is used to keep a campaign of legislative distraction going—Republicans in the state capital persist in trying to drag the legislature back to focusing on matters of core constitutional concern to state government.

Education reform and fiscal stability feature prominently in the Republican agenda, two issues that the state government must grapple with if Washington is to regain a place as an economic and cultural leader among our peer states.

Politics trumped progress last week when the Democratic education committee chairs in each chamber moved to spike bipartisan reform legislation. The mere mention of permitting a small number of charter schools to exist—a solution that is viewed by ever-larger segments of urban and low-income communities as a path to success for current and future generations—and enacting teacher accountability standards by Republicans, was enough to stall progress toward a better way of doing things for our children.

Although the Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday reincarnated the education reform bills that were previously killed by Democrats in both chambers, the House leadership under Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) has yet to show any genuine interest in tackling issues in education.

Republicans appear to have been the target of the stonewall tactic; averting giving the minority party even a small victory is the clear objective. Parents, students, and an underachieving educational system are the collateral victims of the brazen political tactic, as well as at least one Democrat—State Rep. Marcie Maxwell (D-Renton)—fell outside the protective phalanx of the majority party’s enigmatic strategy for governing the state during last week’s education maneuver.

Following the committee action last week, Maxwell voiced a livid complaint to State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz about a tactic that could make her vulnerable with voters this fall, according to an unnamed source. (Maxwell received dishonorable mention in The Seattle Times’ editorial last Friday for not standing up to House Education Committee chair State Rep. Sharon Tomiko-Santos (D-Seattle).)

Pelz was reportedly unmoved by Maxwell’s peril.

One has to think that many families and educators, those trapped in a system that isn’t working—share in Maxwell’s extreme frustration.

When Gregoire signs the same-sex marriage bill into law later this month (rumors are circulating that it the inking ceremony may take place on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day), Democrats will have accomplished a self-serving public relations feat by leaving the people’s business neglected and untouched.