OLYMPIA...Gov. Jay Inslee has signed legislation boosting the expense allowance for members of the state’s Electoral College, the party activists who cast the state’s electoral votes for the U.S. presidential ticket that wins the state popular vote. The rate had been unchanged since statehood.
House Bill 1639 adjusts the travel, meal and lodging compensation by linking to the rate for state officials and employees on official business, which is periodically adjusted by the state budget office to reflect inflation.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman and her staffers who worked on the legislation were among those at the bill signing Tuesday afternoon.
Wyman's legislative intern, Nate Hauger of Central Washington University, helped shepherd the bill through the long legislative process. In a rarity at the Capitol, he not only testified on behalf of the bill but also served as researcher and bill-drafter.
"I'm proud of Nate for his contributions on this bill, and I'm glad he could be here today to watch the governor sign it into law," Wyman said. "Nate did an outstanding job as our intern this session, and he learned a lot about the legislative process through his work on the electors’ compensation bill."
Right after signing the bill into law, Inslee smiled and told Hauger, “Make sure those electors do a great job!”
The Electoral College compensation rate has not been adjusted since 1891 — $5 a day for expenses and 10 cents a mile for transportation costs. In the early years, lawmakers were told, the main cost was for a hotel room and a stable and hay for the horses carrying electors to and from Olympia.
The current rates: a maximum of $61 a day for meals, $88 for lodging and 56.5 cents per mile for transportation.
The measure passed both chambers with strong bipartisan support. The House approved it 78-19 and the Senate passed it 38-10.
The bill was sponsored in the House by Reps. Steve Bergquist, D-Seattle, and Liz Pike, R-Camas, and others. It was championed in the Senate by Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, and others.
The Office of Secretary of State organizes the gathering of the Electoral College in Olympia at the Capitol after each presidential election. As in most states, the winner of Washington’s popular vote gets the state’s full bloc of electoral votes – currently 12 votes, one for each congressional district and two at-large. The College met in the State Reception Room last Dec. 17 to cast votes for President Obama and Vice President Biden.
They were chosen at party caucuses and the state convention by fellow Democrats last summer, and came to Olympia for the Electoral College gathering from across the state, some at great distance.