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Eye On Olympia

Archive for March 2004

Re: your hanging: Sorry about that…

We strongly suspect that Chief Leschi would argue that it’s too little and much, much too late, but nearly 150 years after Washington’s territorial government hanged the Nisqually chief for allegedly murdering local soldiers, the Legislature is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the questionable conviction. Even Army officials, arguing that Leschi had been wrongly convicted, tried at the time to prevent the execution.

Recently, both the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously approved the measure.

“This is a chance to say we are truly, truly sorry,” said the proposal’s prime sponsor, Sen. Marilyn Rasmussen, D-Eatonville.

The Oracle at Olympia…

“Things are constantly evolving…All options are open.”

Gov. Gary Locke, asked whether he would veto the leading proposals to replace the state’s unconstitutional blanket primary.

Zags in the House…

For more than half an hour Monday night, the House of Representatives turned into a living room.

Someone figured out that the big video screens that show voting roll calls also work quite well as TVs. The Gonzaga game was immediately tuned in, and while clerks printed up amendments and leaders hashed out deals, many tiredlawmakers clustered around the tube and cheered on the ‘Zags.

“What a steal!”
“That was explosive!”
“Good rebound…”
and, of course, “Down in front!” from a lawmaker in the back.

Someone — Rep. John Ahern? — even distributed a few Gonzaga bumper stickers.

Gay marriage II…

“We pay our bills. We pay our taxes. We’re good citizens. We’re tired of waiting.”

Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, one of four openly gay state lawmakers, calling for state approval of gay and lesbian marriage.

A new lease on life…

Battered women and rape victims who have to flee their homes for their own safety got some help from state lawmakers last week.

Both the House and Senate have unanimously passed HB 1645, which makes it easier for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to break rental agreements.

“It doesn’t make sense to force them to stay in danger because of a lease,” said Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, the bill’s sponsor.

The bill allows the victims to break the rental agreement, so long as they pay the current month’s rent. It also bars landlords from kicking a renter out or denying a rental agreement because someone’s a domestic violence victim. Kessler called such screening “a slap in the face” for people and their children who are trying to escape abuse.

The bill now goes to Gov. Gary Locke to be signed into law.

Clubbing a tax to death…

State lawmakers last week cut young golfers a break, saying that high school golf teams shouldn’t have to pay taxes when they practice at local golf courses.

The state tax code technically requires collection of a tax, even when golf courses donate the use of their greens to the student teams.

“A donation to high school students should not be taxed,” said bill sponsor Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn. “Even if the teams paid the tax, the paperwork involved would be overwhelming.”

And the tax break’s not just for golfers. The bill also gives a similar exemption to pool, skating, bowling and ski lifts that donate their services to nonprofit groups like schools.

And this is the simpler of two competing proposals…

Something as indiscreet as straight talk is not encouraged in Olympia, where a tax is invariably called a “revenue plan,” and state prisons are crammed with “offenders,” not inmates.

Even so, lawmakers have outdone themselves this year in attempting to find a name for a proposed primary election system that’s based roughly on Louisiana’s version.

It was called the Cajun Primary, until actual Cajuns complained. It was also the Louisiana Primary, until critics began pointing out that Louisiana is perhaps not the best place upon which to model a political system.

Then it was the Top Two, the Two-Forward, the Modified Blanket Primary, the Qualifying Primary, and incredibly, earlier this week, one lawmaker described it as the “Two-Person-Advance Modified Blanket Primary.”

Stay tuned…

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

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