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Originally published March 14, 2014 at 2:24 PM | Page modified March 14, 2014 at 4:56 PM

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Editorial: Olympia failed at end of session to act on education, transportation, medical marijuana

Inaction by the Legislature on three critical bills endangers voters’ safety, money and trust.

Seattle Times Editorial

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WITH a failure to act on three critical policies before leaving Olympia late Thursday, state lawmakers showed a disturbing willingness to play chicken with citizens’ safety, money and trust.

The biggest failure involved education. Lawmakers bent to the will of the teachers union in killing a straightforward bill to incorporate student test scores in teacher evaluations.

As a result, the state most likely will lose its federal No Child Left Behind waiver and control of about $40 million. It also means that 1,980 schools will be declared failing under NCLB, and notice will be sent to parents.

That is a corrosive message to send to voters, whose trust is required routinely to approve local levies. And with a proposed $2 billion increase to education funding considered in the near future, the lack of action raises legitimate questions about who really is in control of Washington’s education policy.

In failing to pass a transportation funding package this session, the Legislature plays chicken with citizens’ safety. The collapse of the Skagit River bridge on Interstate 5 last year should have focused lawmakers’ minds: Infrastructure doesn’t fix itself. Inaction carries consequence.

There is blame to go around. Democrats walked away from negotiations on a gas-tax-funded package, but the Republican-controlled Senate never mustered the will even to vote on its own proposal.

Meeting in the middle — as moderate Democrat Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens proposed late this session — would have required nonideological flexibility. That was apparently elusive in an election year.

Lastly, a needless dispute in the state House seriously complicated rollout of the voter-approved experiment with legal marijuana in failing to rein in the unregulated, untaxed medical-marijuana market.

Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, wanted cities and counties to share in future marijuana tax revenue, so long as they allowed recreational marijuana stores. Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, adamantly opposed it, seeking to preserve the marijuana tax revenue for education. They couldn’t find a compromise.

As a result, the unruly medical-marijuana market remains, giving many users no incentive to pay the steep sin taxes at new recreational stores.

More seriously, the federal government now may make good on its promise to target unregulated marijuana businesses. With the world watching Washington’s legal marijuana experiment, squabbling lawmakers endanger medical marijuana patients, and the state’s reputation for thoughtful drug policy reform. What a failure.

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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