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Eye On Olympia

Archive for February 2003

It’s the water…

In spring, where April showers bring mold, shoe-sucking mud, and batallions of slugs, we often wonder how the state’s founders settled on this mossy burg for their capital.
Here’s the answer, according to the archivists of the Secretary of State’s office:
From the 1850s throught the 1920s, city after city fought for the title. Such mighty metropolises as Steilacoom, Pasco, Port Townsend, Vancouver and Yakima all vied for the chance to be Washington’s seat of government.
Olympia, however, had been named the territorial capital in 1853, simply because it was the only town with a newspaper. And for seven decades, scrappy Oly managed to hang on to the state-capital title like a starving man with the last salami.
The feuds were finally put to rest in 1927, when a multi-million-dollar domed capitol building in Olympia was finished, sealing the deal.

The Mustard Bug is Back…

The Spokane Conservation District’s well-traveled Volkswagen beetle, fueled by mustard-seed “biodiesel,” has been spotted around the Capitol recently.
District spokesman Jim Armstrong’s trying to prod lawmakers into passing tax incentives for the vegetable-oil-derived fuels, which can be burned in regular diesel engines. Two bills would also encourage state agencies and fuel districts to use a 20 percent blend of the fuel in their vehicles.

Oh, Harold, we miss ya…

Former Sen. Harold Hochstatter, a Moses Lake Republican famous for perplexing quotes and obscure references, has compiled a list of dozens of his best statements, and we’re once again reminded how much we miss his ability to spice up a Legislative debate.
We’ll let him take it from here:

-“Being in the minority is like falling off your horse and catching your foot in the stirrup. You are present for lots of action, but can’t affect the outcome.”

-“I’ve had it with the stakeholders. I represent the bagholders, the working stiffs who can’t attend endless meetings, but end up paying the bills.”

-“If you say `Jesus’ at school, you had better be cussing.”

-“I am one of those people who are always treated unfairly. My life has been an unbroken chain of undeserved kindnesses.”

-“In minutes now, the gavel will bang and the budget will be done. But no other institution balances its budget with a hammer. That hammer falls on the brows and knuckles of my constituents, on their hopes and dreams, on their families, businesses and churches. It falls on their children, their future.”

-(on expanding gambling): “Like financing the propagation of the Gospel with a tax on prostitution.”

-“A God that makes sex, wine, love, laughter, and friendship won’t have any trouble entertaining me for an eternity.”

Hochstatter printed up 500 copies of the little book, dedicating it to the lawmakers who served alongside him.
“I’ll miss you all intensely,” he wrote, “but it just wasn’t funny anymore.”

So where is Harold now? He’s filling in as interim pastor at the Orient Community Church, north of Kettle Falls. That job’s normally held by another senator, Bob Morton, who’s off doing battle in Olympia. It’s a small church, with a congregation of about 50, and a dozen or so at Tuesday night Bible study.

Hochstatter said he misses the Senate debate, but not the bureaucracy. “It was a source of frustration. I didn’t see that I was doing any good, he said. “Maybe I can do something eternal up here. Things that really do matter.”

Gay marriage bill…

Some House lawmakers are proposing a bill to allow same-sex civil unions. Washington’s Legislature has the second-highest number of openly gay lawmakers in the nation (four), second only to California’s five.
The bill, proposed three days after Valentine’s Day, is House Bill 1939

Ergo sum…

The Republican-led Senate, which has made pro-business bills a priority this year, on Tuesday voted to make compliance with the state’s controversial workplace-ergonomics rules VOLUNTARY, essentially leaving the rules toothless. Businesses have been battling the rules, saying that adjustable cash registers, tables, special lifts and other changes would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to comply.
But the bill, SB 5161, faces much tougher going in the Democrat-led House of Representatives. And that’s going to be the story of a lot of bills this year — passing one house amid much partisan fanfare, only to be whittled down or to quietly die in the other chamber.

Gambling issue is heating up…

The battle’s getting hotter in Olympia over whether to allow taverns, mini-casinos, bowling alleys and fraternal clubs to have the same slot-style machines that Indian casinos now have. Proponents say tribes have an unfair monopoly on the machines.
On Thursday night, the coalition seeking the machines unveiled a list of 30 lawmakers — including some heavyweights in both parties — that have agreed to sign on as sponsors. Locally, the list includes Reps. Jeff Gombosky, D-Spokane; John Ahern, R-Spokane; and Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.
On the other side: an alliance of tribes and prominent politicians, including several former governors. They describe a state blanketed with flashing neon come-ons to get-rich-quick, and say that’s where Washington’s headed if this proposal moves ahead.
Stay tuned…

In re: your recent purchase of 4 boxes of Ho-Hos…

They may be annoying, but are those supermarket club cards from Safeway, QFC and others a threat to personal privacy? Some state lawmakers think so, and they’ve introduced SB 5710 , which would require supermarkets to give out the cards without requiring a shopper’s name, address, phone number or social security number. There’s an 8 a.m. hearing on the bill Friday, Feb. 21.

Trouble in the Senate Republican camp…

A simmering dispute over whether a state Senate staffer improperly snooped in colleagues’ emails has turned into a bitter staredown between Senate Majority Leader Jim West, R-Spokane, and Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn.
Last week, the Senate suspended new Roach legislative assistant Kelly Hinton as part of an investigation into improperly accessed personal emails.
Roach has been in the spotlight since last week due to allegations — anonymously emailed to reporters and vehemently denied by Roach — that she pointed a gun at a former aide and campaign worker last year.
Roach said she turned over the emails Hinton discovered to the Senate clerk, expecting an investigation of the senders. Instead, Hinton was suspended.
“I though there would be an investigation into the abuse of state computers,” Roach told the News-Tribune of Tacoma. “Instead, I’ve been intimidated and bullied and threatened by caucus leader Jim West. This is just a depraved, power-hungry jerk.”
West’s response: “An emotional outburst on the part of the senator,” he said. “I’m not going to engage in any way, shape or form.”
On Monday, Roach announced that she had unilaterally re-hired Hinton. On Monday night, West — the Senate’s top Republican — handed Roach a letter saying that she can’t do that.
“Until such time as this investigation is resolved, Mr. Hinton will remain on suspension,” West wrote.
Stay tuned…

West and Roach have both raised eyebrows with volatile outbursts in the past. In 1998, West left a phone threat on the voice mail of Building Industry Association of Washington lobbyist Tom McCabe, leading to a three-month investigation but no criminal prosecution. The same year, Roach rose from her desk on the Senate floor to rail against someone who had moved flowers from her desk.
Both of these incidents were captured on tape, and Tenino political consultant and one-time legislative staffer Mike Sando has posted both — set to appropriate music — on his Web site.
To hear West’s phone threat, go to this link and click on the photo.
To hear Roach’s flowers speech, go to this link and click on the photo. “I couldn’t help myself,” said Sando. “With those two fish in that pond, I knew they’d go at it at some point.”

What’s cooking…

Senate Democrats are releasing a jobs-stimulus proposal today, and the week’s long list of hearings includes this surprise: Senate Bill 5571, which would ban human cloning in Washington and back it up with a $100,000 fine.

A hardy perennial…

Saying Eastern Washington has more in common with Eastern Oregon and Idaho than with mossy Puget Sound, two local state senators have — once again — proposed a law that would lay the groundwork for cleaving the state of Washington in two.
Senate Bill 5663 finds that “Urbanization and rapid growth in the western portions of Washington and Oregon have progressively heightened (the) divergence of cultural and economic values from that of the eastern portions of the states,” and that a “reconsideration” of the three state’s boundary lines is in order.
No mention is made of moving state capitals to accomodate the boundary switcheroo. But we’d love to rename this website “Eye on Mockonema.”

Targeting skirt-peepers and murderers…

The House and Senate have overwhelmingly passed a bill that allows people to be convicted of felony murder if victims die from what would otherwise be considered an assault. After a state Supreme Court ruling last year, lawmakers were worried that 300 murderers in Washington could try to have their convictions overturned on the grounds that they only intended an assault, not a killing. The bill, SB 5001, is an attemnpt to prevent such challenges.
Another bill fast out of the gate this year was HB 1001, which bans so-called upskirt photography of women without their consent. Another Supreme Court decision last year concluded that such photography — popular on porno websites — wasn’t illegal if done in a public place like a mall or festival.
“When we passed the voyeurism law in 1998, we were under the impression that we had prohibited this kind of event,” said Rep. Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup. House lawmakers passed the upskirt-photo ban unanimously.

Prescription drugs in the House…

On Friday, the House of Representatives plans to debate a bill designed to provide at least some help to senior citizens struggling to pay prescription-drug costs. Read a summary here.

Business makes its pitch, and finds allies in the Senate…

On Wednesday, Washington small businesses will have their day in Olympia, pushing for — among other things — a lower minimum wage for teens and trainees. It’s now $7.01 an hour, or a bit over $14,000 a year. Hearings on this are slated for Wednesday and Thursday.
In the Senate, meanwhile, Republicans on Wednesday plan to launch four business-related bills, including proposals to reduce regulations and squelch Washington’s new ergonomics rules, intended to prevent workplace injuries. Look for a fight from Democrats, particularly over ergonomics, which organized labor sees as a critical worker-protection issue.

Garbage thieves, teachers’ cottages and a tell-all rule for gifts to doctors…

Among the interesting bills kicking around the Legislature this week:
-Senate Bill 5599, which would make it a criminal offense to steal someone’s garbage.
“One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure,” said Sen. Dave Schmidt, R-Mill Creek, who said he was startled to learn that there was no state law specifically outlawing the theft of refuse. He’s worried about identity-thieves rummaging through trash for credit-card billings, bank statements, or other documents useful for fraud.
“The threat isn’t about someone reading love letters or discovering you have a really bad sweet tooth,” he said.
-House Bill 1399, which would require drug companies to annually report all gifts they gave to doctors and other prescribers.
-House Bill 1229, which would allow school districts to use school construction money to build “teachers’ cottages” in ritzy school districts where it’s hard to find housing that’s affordable on a teacher’s salary.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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