Identifying when a legislative roadblock is being placed in Olympia can be a bit like spotting black holes in outer space; by their nature, they defy detection and you have to look carefully for signs of what happens around them, or in the case of transportation reform legislation, what does not happen.
In that vein, we give credit to state Sen. Steve O’Ban (R-Pierce County) for discovering evidence that a vortex suspected to exist around Senate Transportation Committee co-chair Tracy Eide (D-Federal Way) and which is blocking progress toward key reforms does indeed exist.
During a Jan. 22 committee work session at which State Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson was answering legislators’ questions about high-profile trouble spots on WSDOT-managed projects including more than $400 million in fixes to cracked pontoons and other issues with the Highway 520 bridge replacement project. O’Ban queried Peterson on the subject of the Legislature’s oversight role, specifically asking whether she was aware of any legislation that might have required WSDOT to notify the Legislature of such massive problems in a timely manner.
Peterson said she was aware that there had been a bill in the House last year that would have obligated her department to report to the Legislature on high-dollar cost mistakes. After turning to check with an aide, she mentioned that the bill had passed and that her office was preparing documents for the Senate committee.
O’Ban, of course, knew the bill – HB 1986 – had passed the House in a time long, long ago during the 2013 regular session by a vote of 87-7. He knew because he had sponsored it and he also knew it had gone nowhere in the Senate under Eide.
“It did pass out of the House, it’s now stuck in this committee in the Senate. So I’m hoping that the Senate will hear it and it will become law,” said O’Ban.
Legislators say the darnedest things under duress. Though barely audible on TVW’s recording, Eide grumbled to Peterson, “Give us the rest of the package.” Package would seem to refer to the Democratic proposal to raise gas taxes. Cue nervous laughter.
O’Ban may only be in his freshman year as a Senator, but he plays like a senior.