Little Marko was on fire.
He praised the governor for jumping in “to find solutions” to problems afflicting the I-405 toll lanes, coming up with the “creative idea” to deploy more incident response vehicles on highways and pushing to increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations.
In all, Liias dropped in a dozen or so shout-outs to the governor.
That proved about a dozen too many for Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, AKA the floor leader for the Republican majority.
“I want to congratulate Little Marko,” began the smiling Fain who then restarted to address the senator more formally.
“I want to congratulate Sen. Liias for his 12 references to Gov. Inslee in his floor speech. I cannot imagine anyone in this chamber is going to be able to best that tonight nor am I going to allow that to happen,” he said, promptly calling for the vote which passed the budget.
Liias, along with a couple of Democratic senators who spoke before him, might have felt a need to remind the Senate majority of Inslee’s existence because the governor had deliberately kept his head down and voice removed from the legislating scuffles in the homestretch of the session. The session ended and a special session looms.
Inslee, by his own admission, was quiescent, which Webster’s and Random House dictionaries define as quiet, still or inactive.
The governor steadfastly refrained from offering insight or commentary on budget negotiations between the House and Senate. He said he wanted to avoid mucking up the mood and flow of the talks.
“I have been quiescent in these negotiations,” he told reporters. “I’ve been passive about requiring any particular thing because they need to get their budget done.”
He vowed to veto bills if an agreement wasn’t reached before the end of session. His declaration immediately imperiled dozens of bills sitting on his desk awaiting his signature.
Lawmakers in both parties responded with a collective ho-hum. A few snickered and dared him to carry out the threat. They said many of those bills came from state agencies he oversees. Essentially, they said, he’d be rejecting bills he requested.
In the end, Inslee vetoed, carrying out his threat.
While the governor may explain his distance as a strategy to not get in the way, he also seemed to still be smarting from the Senate’s firing of his transportation secretary, Lynn Peterson. And the lingering cloud of the Department of Corrections foul-up continues to cast a shadow on his administration.
Inslee is certainly counting the hours until lawmakers finish their work and depart Olympia. Then he can hit the campaign trail for re-election rallies where he’s certain to recapture his mojo.
He’ll be able to preach about combating climate change and abolishing economic inequality. He’ll be able to champion the need to reduce carbon emissions and raise the minimum wage, proposals he’s failed to advance in four legislative sessions.
Inslee is a renowned practitioner of retail politics and really enjoys this aspect of electoral politics.
And after Little Marko’s performance, the governor may want to bring him along as the opening act.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @dospueblos