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Schoesler talks election, mental health

Moscow-Pullman Daily News - 6/28/2018

June 28--With an eye on the coming general election, Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he is confident Washington Republicans stand a

chance to overthrow Democratic majorities in the House and Senate come November.

In a year of dramatic upsets that have many lawmakers scrambling, Schoesler said Washington candidates and incumbents on his side of the aisle are less likely to be unseated.

"We've got some viable people in districts that are a little tougher, (and) my incumbents are working really hard," Schoesler said. "We'll see, but we've got a decent chance of getting the majority back."

In an interview with the Daily News on Wednesday, Schoesler lambasted Washington Democrats and the governor's office over various legislative and executive actions taken in 2018 to push what he called a "laundry list" of liberal priorities.

Among those grievances was a piece of legislation Schoesler said was a preemptive strike on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision barring public sector unions from collecting agency fees from nonmembers.

Schoesler said there are already similar policies in place for Washington's public employees.

"In Washington, it's about choice and freedom for public employees, and I think that's a good thing," Schoesler said. "If public sector workers are well served, they'll join. If they're not well served, they can vote with their feet."

Schoesler said this policy was undermined during the 2018 session when Democratic lawmakers championed a bill that would allow, among other things, the partial public employment of home health care providers to be reclassified as private employees.

Proponents of the dues say they are only the fair share of nonmembers who still benefit from union advocacy and collective bargaining. Detractors, however, say the fees put unnecessary financial burden on already underpaid caretakers and force people to support union activities they may disagree with.

"Home health care workers are not involved in taking care of the homeless (or) building affordable housing, it's just an agenda," Schoesler said. "If you're taking care of your disabled spouse or child, why would your union dues be spent on a head tax battle in Seattle? It makes absolutely no sense."

Schoesler also said Gov. Inslee is to blame for the loss of $53 million a year in federal funds for the state's largest mental health hospital.

Western State Hospital, which handles a large proportion of people in the state admitted involuntarily as criminal defendants, has been at risk of losing federal dollars since a 2015 inspection.

Washington is expected to take over for the loss in funding July 9. Despite the state pouring millions into facility and staff improvements in recent years, officials with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday the hospital would be decertified by the federal government.

Schoesler said the loss is due, at least in part, to Inslee's focus on national issues rather than fixing problems in "our Washington."

"He's been in climate change conferences, visiting the voters of Iowa, and mental health sat by idle," Schoesler said. "Now, $53 million a year later, we get to pay for Jay's actions or non-actions."

Now that the state has met a court mandate to fully fund public education under the McCleary decision, ending a $100,000-per-day sanction assessed against the state, Schoesler said Washington lawmakers have come out from under a shadow.

However, he said, there will still be some familiar legislative issues on the table at the start of the 2019 session.

"There will be emerging issues, of course," Schoesler said. "We'd like to do some things on water, we know we've got to deal with mental health and then there's always the curveball that comes that you weren't expecting."

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to


(c)2018 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)

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