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Eye On Olympia

Archive for February 2007

Gregoire to state prisons’ chief: No releasing felons because there’s not enough cell space…

“Outraged” by the recent release of dozens of felons due to a shortage of space, Gov. Chris Gregoire took the rare public step this afternoon of publicly blasting her own corrections secretary, Harold Clarke.

The prisoners who were let out of jail had been arrested again for violating terms of their prison release.

“I am hereby directing that any offender in the state serving custody time as a sanction for violation of the terms of his or her release shall serve the full sanction,” Gregoire wrote to Clarke. “…I will not accept bed space as a reason for conditional release. The Department will find space.”

If that costs more, she said, she’ll make sure that the money will be there.

“I expect that the Department will take immediate action to implement this directive,” she wrote, “and early release of violators will not occur again.”

And here’s the audio clip that sparked that faceoff…

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Audio courtesy of TVW

Bill to stop the clock on statutes of limitations in child-sex-abuse cases getting some static..

Sen. Chris Marr is running into some political headwinds in his push to change the law so all sex crimes against children can be prosecuted until the day the abuser dies.

Consider:

•A week after Marr, D-Spokane, had more than half the state Senate signed on as co-sponsors, a couple of Republicans have yanked their names off it, apparently on the grounds that their party, not Democrats, had long pushed unsuccessfully for similar changes.

•One conservative Democrat says he’s worried that the bill will threaten lifelong criminal prosecution for a “youthful indiscretion,” like a teen who has sex with an underage partner at a party.

•Prosecutors and rape victims’ groups have concerns with the bill, saying that in many cases it’s unrealistic for victims to expect a jury to convict a molester decades later.

•A key committee chairman is trying to also extend the deadline not just for prosecution, but also for lawsuits – a change that would draw fierce opposition from insurers.

Marr – backed by a vocal group of Spokane sexual-abuse victims, family members and advocates – says he’ll press ahead. He feels he has to, he said, after making a campaign issue of a years-old vote by Sen. Brad Benson not to add clergy members to the list of people required by law to report allegations of sex abuse. (Benson later voted for a bill that added some religious officials to the law.) Marr ousted Benson in November’s election.

“I didn’t want people to feel I’d made political hay out of it and then just walked away from it,” Marr said.

Several people from Spokane spoke Tuesday at a Senate hearing on the bill. It would do away with any statute of limitations for any sex offense against a child. Under current law, even first-degree rape of a child under age 14 generally cannot be prosecuted 10 years after the crime or after the child turns 21, whichever is later. For some child sex crimes, the deadline for filing is considerably less.


Former Spokane County Prosecutor Don Brockett – who’s been trekking to Olympia every winter for years, trying to toughen the law – said the question is simple.

“Do we have the will to protect our children, or should we continue to sacrifice them to their molesters?” he said. The correct answer, he feels, is clear: “If you mess with our kids, then we’re going to have you look over your shoulders for the rest of your lives.”

Read our full print story here.

Stirring the pot…

Everett horticulturalist Steve Sarich suprised everyone Tuesday by showing up at a Senate hearing with a small cardboard box that I think said “raspberries” on the side.

Raspberries they were not.

Sarich, there for a hearing on a bill (SB 6032) to toughen the legal protections for medical marijuana users, noted that drug agents had raided his home last month, seizing 1,000 marijuana plants. He’s head of “CannaCare,” which provides marijuana plants to medical marijuana users. He grows the plants in his home.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise — but was — when Sarich reached into the little box and, voila, unveiled half a dozen marijuana seedlings in front of the Senate committee.

“That’s six marijuana plants,” he said, plopping what looked like a bunch of tomato seedlings down on the hearing table.

There was a startled pause, after which committee chairwoman Sen. Karen Keiser said “OK, Steve, thank you for bringing that forward.”

Same-sex marriage and domestic-partnership proponents gather at the capitol…

More than 1,000 people showed up today for “Equality Day,” lobbying lawmakers and holding a noon rally to call for legalization of gay marriage, or, at least, a state-run domestic partnership registry. The latter bill is moving ahead, legislative leaders say, although so far, no one’s saying when we’ll see a floor vote in either the Senate or House.

Many in the large crowd were couples, like Mukilteo administrative assistant Erin Furnas, 23, and, on the left, her partner Brianna Bragg, a 19-year-old nanny.

Drawing a lot of attention in the crowd, however, were three of Seattle’s Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence: from left: Sisters “Edith Morecock”, “Charity Case” and “Daya Reckoning.”

At last, we can stop all that talk about “biggest city between Seattle and Minneapolis”…

After a century of second-city sulking for the Lilac City, I’m pleased to report that finally, Spokane’s ticket to undying fame and much-deserved respect is in a little clause tucked away deep in Senate Bill 5318, as amended.

First, though, some background: the bill would require state officials to participate in wildlife management and conservation efforts with other states and Canadian provinces, as part of the “Yukon to Yellowstone conservation initiative.”

For the uninitiated, this largish swath of land in two nations is apparently referred to as “Y2Y.”

Y2Y stretches from Cokeville (pardon?) in west-central Wyoming 1,990 miles to the Peel River in the northern Yukon.

Interestingly, the bill now includes this line:

“As the largest city within the Y2Y region in the United States, the City of Spokane should be recognized as the United States capital of Y2Y.”

That’s right: the Biggest City Between Cokeville and the Peel.

Except for Calgary.

Dammit.

Your right to know no…

Attorney General Rob McKenna has memorably described the slow creep of exemptions to public disclosure laws as a coral-like “accretion” that grows slowly, steadily — and is very hard to get rid of.

Former state Rep. Toby Nixon, an outspoken proponent of open government, has compiled a list of proposed laws that would affect open records or open meetings. Among them:

-HB 2099: Would conceal information related to the Department of Health’s “certificate of need” program, which determines which hospitals and other health-care facilities can expand and where.
-HB 2100: Would exempt information obtained by a newly proposed “Health Resources Strategy Commission.”
-HB 2150: Would allow a new “Judicial Nominating Commission” to decide for itself which of its meetings would be open to the public.
-HB 2255 and HB 2277: Would exempt initiative and referenda petitions from public disclosure
-and SB 6076: Would allow police investigative records to be forever sealed after one year, if no action is taken on the investigation.

Humane Society of the United States: years of mea culpas re: moles and gophers…

The Humane Society of the United States, the prime mover behind the 2000 initiative that banned “body-gripping” animal traps, has spent virtually every year since then defending the measure against repeal by an unlikely alliance of suburban Democrats and rural Republicans.

The ruralites have always hated the measure because they say it makes it much harder to control problem coyotes, raccoons, possums, and so on. The suburbanites have grown to dislike it because moles and gophers are causing major problems in lawns, golf courses, dikes and cemeteries, and under an interpretation of the initiative by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, the measure protects even moles and gophers from the deadly traps.

This has caused a lot of heartburn and lobbying hours for HSUS, whose members spent much of 2000 insisting to lawmakers and voters that the trapping ban wouldn’t protect moles and gophers.

Here’s an interesting exchange from this morning. It starts with hunting and fishing lobbyist Ed Owens, who says that the group “misrepresented” what the measure would do.

Left trying to stave off a repeal is HSUS’ Jennifer Hillman, who repeatedly pointed out Wednesday that HSUS’s Lisa Wathne, who led that campaign seven years ago, is no longer with the group. Here’s Hillman’s take on the situation.

(Copyrighted clips courtesy TVW, Washington’s public affairs network.)

Speaking of TVW…

“I will expect a level of decorum appropriate for being delivered into someone’s living room.”

That’s Rep. Ross Hunter a few minutes ago, warning the standing-room-only crowd — both fans and foes — at a NASCAR speedway hearing that they’re on live TV.

Here are some samples from the testimony of Bremerton’s Jacob Metcalf this morning:

“…the most obscene piece of pork-filled corporate welfare…horrible precedent…ponzi scheme…frivolous entertainment…radical path…questionable lobbying activity…an army of astroturf followers and hired-gun lawyers…dangerous misadventures…”

Still, Metcalf showed some restraint. We noticed that in his written remarks, he’d crossed “bastard” out of the phrase “bastard child of corporate greed.”

NASCAR track tries to get traction…

Calling it the most important economic development proposal he’d seen in 31 years in Olympia, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen today urged skeptical lawmakers to back a $368 million NASCAR track on the Olympic Peninsula.

With the jobs, taxes and tourist dollars the track could bring, Owens told the Senate’s rural economic development committee, “I would hope that you would say ‘How can I help?’”

The track, proposed for industrial land near Bremerton, would be by far the largest speedway in the Pacific Northwest. Florida-based International Speedway Corporation and subsidiary Great Western Sports would pay at least $180 million of the cost. The rest would come from bonds paid with a local sales tax and admissions taxes.
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In exchange, the backers say, the 83,000-seat speedway would draw NASCAR fans from throughout the region – including Canada – for two major race weekends a year. It would be, they say, the economic equivalent of having a Superbowl here every year.

“I’m asking you not to hesitate and let this opportunity die,” Owens told lawmakers.

Tellingly, however, not a single lawmaker from the area around the proposed site is backing legislation to help fund the track. And many lawmakers – as well as the governor – are clearly skeptical that Bremerton is the right site.

“What do you think about the human factor?” asked Sen. Paull Shin, D-Mukilteo, who recalled a bitter fight by neighbors against a similar plan proposed a couple of years ago in Snohomish County. “They live there. They have their home there, and this is their life there.”

“This bill is nothing but corporate welfare for NASCAR,” said Ray McGovern, chairman of an anti-track group called Coalition for Healthy Economic Choices for Kitsap.

“They say that we would be an equal partner,” said Jacob Metcalf, who lives in Bremerton. “We get the risk, pollution and sprawl, and they get to take all the money back to Florida.”

Senate Bill 6040 would create a “public speedway authority” to collect a 5 percent admissions tax and a local sales tax of about 1 cent on a $20 purchase. Most of the money would pay for the bonds that help build the track.

The track has the support of every chamber of commerce, economic development council and labor union in the area, said Grant Lynch, vice president of the International Speedway Corporation and president of its 143,000-seat Talladega Speedway. The tax money used by the project would be created by the speedway and its draw of tourists and business, he said.

It doesn’t, however, have much support in Olympia. So far, only 4 of 147 lawmakers have signed on as sponsors of the bill. Gov. Chris Gregoire met Friday with most of the state lawmakers, two mayors, and a county commissioner from that area.

“They were a resounding no,” the governor said Monday in a meeting with capitol reporters. “They don’t object to NASCAR. They don’t want it in its location in Kitsap county.”

Gregoire wants them to consider Lewis County, about half an hour’s drive south from Olympia. The region recent saw the closure of a coal mine that employed hundreds of high-salary workers.

“They need economic development and I think their legislators would embrace the idea.” But track boosters, she said, “said it doesn’t meet their criteria.

“So at this point in time, I can’t see the political support to make NASCAR happen at the location that is currently being proposed in Kitsap County,” Gregoire said.

Lynch said today that he’d go down to Lewis County to check out the site, but said the goal is too keep the track close to Seattle, the nation’s 13th-largest media market.

“There’s a reason all the stadiums are in King County,” he said. Plus, he said, if the speedway location shifts too far south, fans will patronize hotels and restaurants in Oregon. That would hurt the economic benefits to Washington.

Hoping that some star power will boost its odds, promoters are bringing Richard Petty, Greg Biffle and Darrel Waltrip to Olympia tomorrow to meet with lawmakers and attend a labor union reception.

Lynch also said that the speedway would be the first “green racetrack” in the nation, meeting or beating all environmental standards and spending $1 million to preserve local wetlands and green spaces. The track and buildings would occupy about 350 acres of the 950-acre site, he said.

Doing away with “smokers need not apply”…

More than a dozen House lawmakers want to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against smokers based on their use of tobacco off the premises and during non-working hours.

Two years ago, Washingtonians overwhelmingly banned workplace smoking. Nothing in state law, however, bans an employer from firing or refusing to hire or promote someone solely because he or she smokes.

At least 15 states have so-called “lawful products” laws that “prohibit disadvantaging” a person for lawful use of tobacco away from the workplace, according to House research. In 1992, lawmakers passed a bill much like HB 1154, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Booth Gardner.

This year’s bill builds in exemptions for religious or health groups, who would still be able to refuse to hire smokers.

An aggrieved smoker, under the proposal, could sue for damages, attorney’s fees and court costs.

“This is why I came to Olympia.”

That’s freshman Sen. Chris Marr, after the Senate overwhelmingly passed his bill to add tens of thousands of low- and middle-income kids to state-subsidized health coverage over the next two years.

Click here to read the full print story.

Putting their hearts into it…

Valentines’ Day promotions:

-Sen. Janea Holmquist, who yesterday introduced a bill “to reinstate the voters’ first and true love: the blanket primary.” (SB 6048) The bill would reinstate the vote-for-anyone-in-any-party primary the state had for decades until a party lawsuit torpedoed it.
To avoid a repeat, Holmquist’s bill includes a provision that if the state parties sue, then the state would simply revert to a nonpartisan primary, with no one listed as a Republican or Democrat. The top two winners — regardless of party — would face off in November.

-From the Washington Tax Fairness Coalition: “No more sweetheart deal for Big Oil” under Rep. Steve Conway’s bill (HB 2128) that would add a 3 percent business tax on the gross receipts of major oil companies. The fee would only kick in when gas prices rise above $1.75 a gallon.
Valentine’s Day for oil companies, the group says, is over — and they were handing out those chalky heart candies to make the point. The tax would raise $300 million to $650 million a year for the state, according to executive director Barb Flye.

Eight lawmakers call for investigation of the president and vice president…

These characters drew plenty of attention yesterday as they strolled the capitol grounds in a steady rain.

“Your guilty!” one passerby shouted at them.

“Yes, very guilty,” agreed the larger-than-life Dick Cheney head.

Inside the costumes were Eastside Fellowship of Reconciliation director Linda Boyd, dressed as President Bush, and — as Vice President Cheney — Bill Moyer, director of The Backbone Campaign, a political-theater effort to encourage democrats to be more assertive.

The two were in Olympia to support Senate Joint Memorial 8016, which calls on Congress to investigate whether there is enough evidence to charge the president and vice president with misrepresenting the severity of the threat posed by Iraq, giving Congress “distorted” intelligence, conducting surveillance on “perhaps millions of American civilians without seeking warrants” and “strip(ping) American citizens of their constitutional rights” based on their being designated an “enemy combatant.”

If those charges are true, prime sponsor Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, and eight other co-sponsoring senators want the president and vice president to be impeached.

Similar petitions are being considered by lawmakers in California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico and Vermont, Oemig said.

It’s important to note that these legislative joint memorials are essentially just formal letters from lawmakers to Congress. They’re used as a way to try to prod the federal government into doing something — fixing airline pension problems, issuing a stamp highlighting coal miners, honoring “war dogs”, etc. Around Olympia, the requests are derisively nicknamed “Letters to Santa.”

Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if Oemig’s memorial gets any farther in the process than did Rep. Geoff Simpson’s 2003 House Joint Memorial 4008.

That measure read, in part:

No evidence has been presented that Iraq poses an imminent threat to the security of the United States or the safety of its citizens; and…Hastily implemented unilateral United States military actions would risk the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians without guaranteeing the safety and security of United States citizens, nor would such unilateral actions guarantee the installation of a free and democratic Iraqi government.

and

The Bush administration has failed to articulate a clear strategic objective or outcome of a military attack against Iraq, and such an attack fails to enjoy the support of many of our important allies; and…The members of the Washington State Legislature oppose a preemptive United States military attack on Iraq unless it is demonstrated that Iraq poses a real and imminent threat to the security and safety of the United States.

That measure died quietly in committee, without a hearing.

(Photo by Richard Roesler, copyright The Spokesman-Review)

Some GOP lawmakers to governor: Just say no to Spokane gambling deal…

In a last-minute appeal, three Yakima-area Republican lawmakers are calling on Gov. Chris Gregoire to reject the proposed gambling compact between the state and the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

The compact, they note, is “the most generous” one so far, allowing the Spokanes to have 900 of their own machines, rather than the 675 that all other tribes get now. (That’s probably about to change, however. The state gambling commission will next month consider a proposed compact with every other gambling tribe in the state that would boost their allotments to 900 machines, too. Result: the current 18,225-machine statewide cap would rise to about 25,000 machines, although the statewide compact wouldn’t allow additional casinos.)

“It is clear that other tribes are interested in the Spokane compact, and that if the compact is signed, the future will bring a continued expansion of gambling,” wrote Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside and Reps. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger and Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside.

Their bigger worry, however, appears to be the large casino complex the Spokanes are contemplating for off-reservation land they recently bought near Airway Heights. Without a state gambling compact, the lawmakers note, it would be extremely difficult for the tribe to get rare federal permission for an off-reservation casino.

Honeyford made that point doubly by sending off a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. He wants Kempthorne to turn down the Spokane’s Airway Heights casino request.

“Only three tribes in the nation have been allowed such an off-reservation facility, one of them in Washington State,” Honeyford wrote, referring to the Kalispels’ Northern Quest casino. “If the Spokanes are approved, half of all off-reservation gaming in the nation will be located in Washington.”

What the feds will do is anyone’s guess at this point. But Gregoire, while repeatedly saying that she doesn’t like gambling, has said that she’s likely to sign the state compact with the Spokanes. The alternative to negotiate with the tribes, she said, would be to invite a lawsuit that could leave the state wide-open to an explosion of tribal gaming.

Veteran’s cemetery near Spokane is all but a done deal…

The state House of Representatives voted unanimously Monday to establish an Eastern Washington state veterans cemetery in Spokane County, capping a years-long push by local veterans and the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This cemetery reflects our duty to honor our veterans and their families,” said state Rep. Don Barlow, D-Spokane, the legislation’s prime sponsor. He’s a former member of the Idaho National Guard.

Monday’s vote means that the cemetery – slated for one of two proposed sites west of Spokane – is all but a done deal. An identical bill backed by Spokane Democratic state Sen. Chris Marr passed the Senate unanimously Feb. 2. Gov. Chris Gregoire has repeatedly touted the proposal in Olympia and Spokane.

Currently, all honorably discharged veterans and their spouses are eligible to be buried at the existing national Tahoma Cemetery near Kent.

But with an estimated 140,000 veterans living in Eastern Washington – including nearly 52,000 in Spokane County – veterans’ groups have said for years that it’s impractical for families to drive 280 miles to visit loved ones interred at Tahoma.

State officials had also considered sites in Yakima and the Tri-Cities. The final two sites chosen by the state veterans agency last summer are on McFarland Road near Fairchild Air Force Base and on Salnave Road, off Interstate 90 near Medical Lake.

Gregoire in December proposed spending $7.8 million over the next two years to buy land and build the cemetery. Of that, about $7 million would be reimbursed by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

Republicans pointedly noted that local lawmakers have been pushing for such a bill for years. (Barlow and Marr, both Democrats, were elected in November.)

“This has been a long time coming for Eastern Washington,” said state Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane.

“This is one of those bills where, if you don’t care who gets the credit, you can get some really fine things done,” said Rep. David Buri, R-Colfax.

The bill passed the House 96 to 0.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the issue…

Social conservatives are trying to appeal to an even higher-net-worth power, it turns out.

Joe Fuiten, president of the politically-active group Positive Christian Agenda, has sent out an alert to members asking them to immediately take action on Senate Bill 5336:

“WE DO NOT HAVE THE VOTES TO DEFEAT OR BLOCK THIS BILL! Please pray for God’s intervention, as the majority party lawmakers are bound and determined to take us down the inevitable path to gay marriage in Washington State.

(The capitals and boldface are in the original.)

Singled out for special praying: the 21 senators who have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. Fuiten also asks people to let the lawmakers know that they’re being prayed for.

Fuiten said the bill — which would set up a state domestic partnerships registry that would grant some of the legal rights of marriage to gay-, lesbian- and some straight senior citizen couples — could come up for a Senate vote today.

I’m told that as things stand now, the bill’s not likely to come up for a vote in the Senate this week.

You now own a railroad…

After years of often-rancorous negotiation with a Kansas-based rail operator, the state has agreed to buy a 108-mile stretch of rail line between Cheney and Coulee City.

The purchase price is about $5.6 million, according to Mark Blazer, senior vice president for the western region of Watco Companies, Inc., the company that owns the line.

“We’re happy we could work out the whole process with the state,” he said. “As a private company, it (the line) didn’t work for us.”

Local economic development officials and farmers have urged the state to prop up the line, which Watco said had been operating at a loss for years. The company infuriated some local growers and lawmakers by tacking hefty surcharges onto car shipments, and at one point completely halted shipments.

“Washington for the first time will become the owner of a critical operating rail system that supports a large portion of our agricultural community,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire, who on Thursday signed a memorandum to buy the line. Without the support of lawmakers, farmers and others, she said, “this critical infrastructure would be lost.”

The so-called CW line is part of the larger Palouse River and Coulee City Rail system, which stretches for more than 300 miles across the Palouse and the area west of Spokane. State taxpayers two years ago spent $6.5 million to buy the other main sections of the system: the PV Hooper and P&L branches.

Under the memorandum of agreement, Watco will continue to run trains on all three branches until May 31. After that, the company will continue to operate the PV Hooper branch under an agreement with the state transportation department. The state plans to ask rail operators to submit bids for running the P&L and CW lines.

From Google’s Quote-of-the-Day…

In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.
- John Adams

Dunmire, annoyed at lawmakers, pledges another quarter-million to Eyman’s efforts…

For the past couple of weeks, one of the people who’s been turning up in one hearing after another has been a Woodinville man named Mike Dunmire. Dunmire, a wealthy, retired investor, has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into intiatives run by promoter Tim Eyman over the past several years.

A letter Dunmire sent out today provides an interesting citizens-eye view of the sausage-making that is legislation and committee hearings. He attended — and sometimes testified — at hearings on bills that would modify procedures and fees for citizens or groups who want to end-run the Legislature by putting an initiative or referendum directly on the ballot for voters to decide. (Among the proposals: banning signature gatherers from being paid by the signature, requiring them to wear ID and register with the government, boosting the initiative filing fee from $5 to $100, and repealing the initiative process entirely.)

Among the things Dunmire observed, he said, were:

*Legislators ignorant about the contents of bills that they themselves are co-sponsoring;
* Repeated, purposeful misrepresentation of the facts by the Secretary of State, misleading legislators, the press, and the public;
* Committee hearings where microphones are cut off when citizens are speaking;
* Legislators snickering and rolling their eyes during citizen testimony;
* Far-reaching bills with an “analysis” that is a single paragraph;
* Without discussion or debate, votes on bills with only two legislators present (we asked staffers “How can you vote without a quorum?” - they refused to answer);
* Long lists of citizens signing up to testify against these bills but chairs limiting testimony to three minutes each for just two people; and
* Legislators sponsoring bills that the judiciary has already ruled unconstitutional.

Dunmire was offended. So offended, he said, that he changed his mind about something.

Despite his previous contributions to Eyman’s efforts, he says, he planned to stop this year and steer his cash instead to other business and charitable commitments.

But he was so peeved at how he and others were treated, he said, that he’s going to donate a quarter million dollars to Eyman’s tax-limiting initiative this year.

Fueling concern…

As a lot of western Washingtonians discovered last month, when the lights go out, so do the gas pumps. Wind storm damage that left some neighborhoods without power for a week left some drivers desperately searching for powered stations to fuel up their cars.

“There was a real sense of fear out there that if you went looking for gas, you’d run out before ever finding any,” said Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland. “People were driving by huge stores of fuel that were inaccessible without electricity.”

So Goodman has proposed a bill to issue siphon hoses to every Washingtonian — no, no, wait — has proposed a bill that would require large gas stations to be capable of running off a generator during power outages. Part of their costs to comply could be taken as tax credits. (Small gas stations averaging 125,000 gallons or less pumped per month would be exempt.)

“It’s not realistic and it’s unsafe to ask people to store emergency supplies of gasoline,” he said.

The bill’s slated for a hearing next week.

State to buy thousands of HPV doses, distribute for free…

State officials are planning to spend millions of dollars on more than 100,000 doses of a new vaccine that helps prevent cervical cancer, Washington state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said Monday. The state hopes to distribute enough of the free human papillomavirus vaccine to treat every girl in the state.

The state will not, however, follow Texas’ lead and make the HPV shots mandatory for young girls, Gov. Chris Gregoire said. At least not now.

“I told the medical association that I was reticent to dictate when I think there is a lot of public education that needs to go on,” the governor told reporters Monday at the Capitol. “To go out and start just saying everybody mandatorily has to have this is a little bit troublesome for me.”

The Merck-made vaccine, called Gardasil, can help prevent the spread of human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. An estimated 20 million Americans are infected. Certain strains of the virus have been linked to cervical cancer.

Selecky said she hopes to have the free doses of Gardasil available by late spring.

“We’re getting calls all over saying, ‘When is this going to start?’ ” she said.

To read the full story, click here.

Keep studying, kids…

“I’m not interested. I’m not interested. I am not interested.”

–Gov. Chris Gregoire, when asked what she thinks of some lawmakers’ proposal to delay not just the graduation requirement that high schoolers pass the math portion of the Washington Assessement of Student Learning, but the reading and writing parts, too.

“When you see the progress that we have made — I mean amazing progress — 30-some percentage points in reading and 40-some percentage points in writing, we’re not failing. We’re succeeding. Why would we turn the clock back?”

The governor stopped short of saying she’d veto such a bill, but repeated her point that “I’m not interested in a delay”:

“This idea that we are letting our students down by setting standards — we are letting them down by not setting standards and holding them to standards,”

she said.

Sure, the dome’s nice, but where are the refrigerator magnets?

For years, Republicans and conservative Democrats have been calling on the state to act more like a business, and now it might actually happen.

Every year, tens of thousands of schoolchildren and tourists troop through the state capitol, posing for photos by the dome and peering down from the House and Senate galleries at the lawmakers harrumphing below.

They gawk at the Supreme Court building, peer up at the weight-of-a-Volkswagen chandelier in the rotunda and pose for photos beside the huge bronze bust of George Washington, whose nose gleams from being rubbed so much.

Nowhere in this grand tableau, however, is a place to buy souvenirs. (Update: Whoops — this is wrong. See below.) Anyone wanting, say, an Olympia keychain/shot glass/tiny spoon/magnet or even an Olympia postcard would be well advised to drive several miles away to the Fred Meyer store…in Lacey.

Rep. Sam Hunt wants to change that. The Olympia Democrat has proposed House Bill 1896, which “finds that tourism is encouraged providing a memorable experience and an opportunity for visitors to take something back home with them…” The bill would set up a gift shop in the statehouse, selling souvenirs and made-in-Washington products. The money would help pay for the furnishings in the capitol, where some of the furniture dates back to the 1920s.

UPDATE — and correction: Oh, the shame. I stand corrected. A former lawmaker reminds me that — while there’s nary a refrigerator magnet or snow globe in the collection — the Secretary of State’s office offers a wide array of things with the state seal on them. Most of them related to drinking, as it turns out.

There are wine glasses (different ones) for pinot noir, shiraz, and chardonnay. There’s a double old-fashioned glass ($28), a highball glass (also $28), a liquor decanter ($75), and wine bags in both cloth ($26) and paper ($3).

And for the next morning, there’s a $19 coffee mug.

“Highway to Hell” was apparently already taken by the Seattle mayor’s office…

For years, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown has posted 33 rpm album covers in her office as an indicator of the legislative mood.

With an eye to the political arm-wrestling between Seattle and Olympia over how to replace the multi-billion dollar Alaskan Way Viaduct (another elevated freeway? A tunnel? `Tunnel Lite?’), here’s Brown’s rewrite of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”:

“I’ve looked at the Viaduct from both sides now
from north and south
but still somehow
It’s the tunnel’s illusions that I recall
But we really can’t afford it
at all.”

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

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