Under Rodney Tom's leadership, the Senate has taken a hard-right turn. Members of Tom's caucus have introduced bills that would weaken Washington's clean energy initiative, undercut the state minimum wage with a "training wage", and require parental notification for abortion.
As Senate Majority Leader, Tom has also sponsored a number of bills that would have a negative impact on working families in his district and across the state, including:
Sponsored a bill to repeal Washington's Family Medical Leave Insurance Act (FMLIA).1
Passed by the legislature in 2007, the FMLIA would provide for partly paid leave of up to five weeks for the parents of newborn or newly adopted children. Forcing new parents to go back to work prematurely means reduced bonding time, limited breast-feeding, and more challenges to scheduling immunizations and other doctor's visits. Paid time at home has also been shown to reduce the chances that a new family slips into poverty.2
Sponsored a bill to repeal the state's Working Families Tax Rebate (WFTR). 3
The WFTR would refund a portion of the state retail sales tax to households who qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and would help families and communities recover from the economic recession.
Sponsored legislation that would place geographical restrictions on local paid sick leave measures or repeal local paid sick leave all together.5 6
Local paid sick leave gives workers the right to earn leave for sick days, preventative care, or to care for a sick child. Paid sick leave also helps businesses maintain healthier, happier, more productive employees.
Sponsored legislation backed by payday lender MoneyTree that would create a new type of ultra high-interest predatory loan.7
This bill was drafted in consultation with MoneyTree's lobbyist and was opposed by consumer advocates and the Department of Defense, who object to the targeting of military personnel by predatory lenders.8
Sponsored two bills designed to weaken our state's workers' compensation system and place a greater burden on injured workers and their families.9 10
Under these proposals, unscrupulous employers would be able to pressure injured workers into taking a smaller, one-time payment, instead of the long-term compensation they need to get healthy and get back to work. To add insult to their injuries, workers would be forced to negotiate settlements with corporate lawyers while they are recovering and trying to get back to work.
Finally, instead of working to closer unjust tax loopholes that benefit special interests at the expense of our kids, Tom sponsored a bill that would create a new tax break for restaurants that use certain items to flavor food during the cooking process.11
Tom has also repeatedly stated that he supports the Reproductive Parity Act (RPA) and the Washington DREAM Act - but has prevented both of these bills from having a vote in Senate, despite the fact that both bills would pass if they were given a chance for a vote.
The RPA would require insurance companies in Washington to cover abortions and ensure that women continue to have access to reproductive health care.12 Tom spoke in favor of the RPA at a pro-choice rally in Olympia earlier this session.13 Tom has even signed onto a letter pledging his support for the RPA if it came up for a vote in the Senate.14
However, Tom gave control of the committee that oversees the bill to an anti-choice conservative who refuses to let the RPA move out of her committee.15 Tom could use his power as the Senate Majority Leader to bring the RPA up for a vote, but has refused to do so at the expense of thousands of Washington women who would benefit from the RPA.16
Washington's DREAM Act would extend state-based financial aid to young aspiring citizens in Washington and help to make higher education possible for many undocumented young students. Tom has said he supports the bill, but he allowed a conservative Republican to chair the higher education committee in the Senate who not only refused to schedule a vote, but also canceled a hearing for which more than 100 students had come to Olympia to testify.17
Instead of taking responsibility for empowering a conservative to chair this important policy committee, Tom blamed the Senate Democrats who support the bill for not playing along with his coup when he sided with Senate Republicans in order to become Majority Leader.18
As Majority Leader, Tom is most powerful person in the Senate and it is within his control as the leader of the Senate to bring the RPA and the DREAM Act to the floor for a fair vote. Unfortunately, Tom has failed to take a stand for the important measures he claims to support.