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Originally published Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 4:24 PM

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Editorial: The homeless are victims of legislative malpractice

The homeless need a voice to speak up for them in the Washington state Legislature, not to make their plight worse.

Seattle Times Editorial

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STATE Sen. Jan Angel’s willingness to kill a bill that would help the homeless is wrong. Senate leaders have less than a week in the legislative session to fix the Port Orchard Republican’s blunder.

A Feb. 27 audio recording of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee captured an awkward exchange during which co-chair Angel abruptly cut off the meeting before the panel could vote on ESHB 2368. The proposal, which is opposed by the real-estate industry, keeps in place a modest $40 document-recording fee for homebuyers.

Angel, a former real-estate agent herself, adjourned over the objections of a fellow Republican and Democrats, who announced they had reached a compromise to renew the surcharge with a sunset clause. Angel’s spokeswoman said the senator feels the bill “still needed more work.”

Since 2006, this money has become a lifeline for tens of thousands of families statewide trying to keep a roof over their heads. In King County, LifeWire uses the funds to help domestic violence victims with transitional housing. YouthCare provides rental vouchers with case management for homeless kids. Compass Center in Renton houses veterans.

Senate Majority Coalition Caucus leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, defends Angel and says the recording fee has increased too much. The initial surcharge authorized in 2005 was $10. Both say there’s no urgency for a renewal this year because funding won't be reduced until summer 2015. Tom adds a study is under way to determine whether the money is being used effectively.

On this issue, both show stunning disregard for the process.

County officials need certainty and the ability to set their budgets months in advance. Contracts are expected to be signed by the end of 2014. There are no general funds to replace the recording fee if it’s reduced.

A first-term state senator, Angel was named co-chair of the Senate's housing committee in late January in a disappointing mid-session shake-up. State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who was the sole chair now is co-chair. Known for his moderate record, Hobbs would not have allowed this program for homeless citizens to be jeopardized needlessly.

Washington's state senators must now find another way to pass ESHB 2368.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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