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Eye On Olympia

Archive for August 2005

Judge’s reaction…

“I don’t think I can comment on that case. Technically I think it’s still a pending case in the sense (that) the voters are the tribunal at this point…It’s always nice to be affirmed, I can tell you that.”

Benton County Superior Court Judge Craig Matheson, whose decision to allow the recall against Jim West to proceed was upheld by the state Supreme Court. Matheson, as an outside judge, was brought in to Spokane to hear the case.

If you want to listen to the court case…

To listen to an online recording of the oral arguments in “the Matter of the Recall of James e. West, Mayor of the City of Spokane, go to these links on the website of TVW, Washington’s public-affairs TV network. (These are audio files only, not video).

For Windows media player: click here

For Real Audio: click here

NOTE: The recording starts with a sharp rapping sound, which repeats three times. That’s the slamming of the bailiff’s gavel as the nine justices walk into the courtroom.

Paying to police itself…

The nation’s largest seller of tobacco products — 7-eleven, Inc. — has agreed to new procedures aimed at cutting tobacco sales to minors.

“The fewer kids who start smoking, the fewer who will eventually die from smoking-related illnesses,” said Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna.

The 7-Eleven agreement is the seventh inked between retailers and a 32-state enforcement group. They include: Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Rite Aid and gas stations operating under the Exxon, Mobil, BP ARCO and Amoco brands.

According to McKenna, 7-Eleven agred to:
-check the ID of anyone who looks like he or she is under 27,
-prohibit the use of vending machines, self-serve advertising displays, free samples or the sale of cigarette lookalike products,
-and to hire an independent group to conduct random compliance checks of the 900 stores in the states that signed the deal.

Poll raises GOP Senate hopes…

At first we thought we were reading an old George-Nethercutt-for-Senate press release. On Wednesday, supporters of GOP maybe-candidate-for-Senate Mike McGavick sent out a press release touting a poll saying that Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell’s yes votes are “well below the 50 percent mark, at 46 percent.”

Sure, that sounds like an uncomfortable spot for a seasoned incumbent with strong name recognition. But flash back to a year ago, when Cantwell’s fellow senator, Democrat Patty Murray, was the subject of similar press releases by Republicans. Murray’s numbers, according to the same Strategic Vision polling firm, were 49 percent in August, and 48 percent in September. Still, she beat the GOP’s George Nethercutt handily.

Stay tuned…

First order of business: fire whoever picked that acronym…

Secretary of State Sam Reed has been named president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, or, yes, NASS.

The 101-year-old organization includes secretaries of state from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Initiatives: the primer:

We’ll be writing a lot about ballot measures in the coming weeks and months on this site. So here’s a short review of the major items on the fall ballot:

I-330: Would limit pain-and-suffering awards in medical malpractice lawsuits to $350,000, with some exceptions, as well as limiting the fees paid out to patients’ attorneys.

I-336: Would institute a “three strikes, you’re out” policy for doctors, allowing revocation of physicians’ licenses after three “incidents of medical malpractice” within a decade, unless there are mitigating circumstances. Would also set up an insurance fund — paid for by health care providers — to help pay out large jury awards. And it would limit the number of expert witnesses in a malpractice case.

I-900: Tax foe Tim Eyman’s much-touted “900-pound gorilla,” this measure would require the state auditor to conduct performance audits of state and local governments, checking for efficiency and effectiveness of each agency’s operations.

I-901: Would ban indoor smoking in public places — as well as smoking within 25 feet of doorways and other ventilation openings (windows, ducts, etc). The director of the local health department, however, could approve a smaller smoke-free zone around entrances and vents.

I-912: Would repeal the state gas tax increase, which totals 9.5 cents by 2008.

August heats up…

Okay, we’re calling an early end to the political dog days of summer. There’s too much afoot to ignore:

-A libertarian non-profit law firm, the Institute for Justice, is appealing a court order that radio talk-show touting of (what became) Initiative 912 be reported as political advertising. The case was brought by the prosecutors in San Juan County and three Puget Sound cities, including Seattle. “The prosecutors’ message to the people of Washington is: shut up and pay your taxes,” Charity Osborn, an Institute for Justice Washington chapter attorney, said in a statement emailed to reporters Monday.

-The National Conference of State Legislatures is holding its annual convention in Seattle next week, bringing lawmakers from across the country. Big topics: higher education, alternative ways to pay for public schools, natural gas, high-tech trash, uninsured patients, uncompensated medical care and (wait, let me get my cell phone) driver distractions.

-and after that comes the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors conference, also in Seattle. Topics: ballot measures, the No Child Left Behind Act, budget pressures from public pensions and health care, etc. Speakers include Gov. Christine Gregoire, two-time Pulitzer winner Eric Nalder and our own Steve Smith, editor of The Spokesman-Review.

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

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