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Eye On Olympia

Archive for November 2007


As lawmakers rush to reinstate his Initiative 747, ballot measure promoter Tim Eyman isn’t exactly lavishing them with praise.

In hearings today, he called lawmakers “amateurs”, told Democrats “You’ve kind of sold out every principle you believe in,” and exhorted them to broaden the bill with these words:

“Don’t partially pander. If you’re going to pander, make sure that you totally pander.”

Not surprisingly, they declined his suggestion.

But wait, there’s more. It turns out an Eyman fan named Paul Fraser has created a feature-length documentary about Eyman. Title: The Battles of Tim Eyman.

Is Tim Eyman a sly huckster out to hoodwink the public or is he a citizen activist fighting for the public good? The answers may surprise you!

Actually, Fraser’s answer won’t surprise you in the least if you view the trailer by clicking on the website.

Fraser reportedly trailed Eyman for well over a year, gathering video. Here’s more on Fraser:

…he has written, directed and produced independent films. In addition, Paul has produced countless television commercials.

Inadequate and incomplete media coverage of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dino Rossi inspired Paul to produce, “The Battles Of Tim Eyman”.

A former credit manager, Paul is now the executive producer of the film and video department for Delux Entertainment.

It’ll be Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax…

Colfax businessman and farmer Joe Schmick, 49, will replace Rep. David Buri, R-Colfax in the state House of Representatives.

County commissioners from Spokane, Whitman, Adams, Asotin, Franklin and Garfield counties voted Monday for Schmick out of a pool of candidates recommended by district Republican precinct committee officers. Buri stepped down recently to take a job with Eastern Washington University.

Schmick got 11 votes to Palouse Mayor Michael Echanove’s 6 and Cheney’s Tedd Nealey’s 1, according to Mary Beth Becker, clerk for the Whitman County commissioners.

Schmick owns a 900-acre wheat, barley and bean farm, as well as a vending-machine business in Spokane and Whitman counties. He ran unsuccessfully for the House in 2006. He ran on a four-plank platform: jobs, health care, education and property rights.

An Eastern Washington University alumnus (accounting), he’s served on the state barley commission and farm bureau and is former president of the Whitman County Farm Bureau.

A ferry tale…

“In 1707, the British navy lost four warships and 2,000 lives in the Isles of Scilly. The first ship to hit the rocks was Admiral Shovell’s. Three more ships full of sailors and soldiers followed the leader to their deaths.”

So begins what has to be the most literary of the many recent criticisms of the state ferry system. Read the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s Lynn Harsh’s full post here.

And now back to the horse race…

A new poll between the two presidential frontrunners suggests that Washington is a tossup in next year’s election.

The University of Washington’s Washington Poll reports that an Oct. 22-28 poll of 601 registered voters (margin of error: =/- 4 points) found that 46 percent of the respondents favored Hillary Clinton. The same percentage favored Rudy Giuliani. (In Eastern Washington: Giuliani 58 to Clinton’s 37.)

But when the faceoff is Barack Obama versus Giuliani, the poll found, Obama does well: 50 percent to Giuliani’s 42 percent, with substantially more of the Giuliani voters not feeling strong about it. (Eastern Washington: Giuliani 49 percent to Obama’s 41.)

Among Democrats in the primary, Clinton leads 44 percent to Barack Obama’s 29 and John Edwards’ 16.

Among Republicans, the primary race is tighter: Rudy Giuliani has 34 percent to John McCain’s 19, Fred Thompson’s 16 and Mitt Romney’s 15.

A Powerpoint with more of the poll results is available here.

An end to the meatloaf?

Catching up…

Among the questions I’m frequently asked by visiting Eastern Washingtonians during the legislative session: “Where can we get something to eat?” (It’s comes in third, after “Is parking always this hard to find?” and the inevitable “Do you have a bathroom?”)

Until now, the nearby prospects have been bleak. The Prichard library building housed a cafeteria-type operation for the past few years, but that closed this summer, after the operator concluded that she couldn’t turn a profit in the off-session.

Now, good news: students and instructors from South Puget Sound Community College are taking over the operation.

According to the state’s landlord agency, the Department of General Administration, the college’s baking and pastry program students will serve food with a “focus on the use of fresh products from local vendors.”

That sounds promising, particularly given the cafeteria’s culinary track record.

The students and staff hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, but will open for operations in the first week of January. The session starts the second week.

Dunn: Not done…

Embattled Rep. Jim Dunn, stripped of his committee assignments and state travel money and publicly rebuked by his own caucus leader after an alleged “inappropriate” remark to a woman after a recent Tri-cities meeting, is vowing to run for re-election next year.

Here’s what Dunn had to say to Columbian columnist Gregg Herrington:

“She just happened to be sitting in the wrong place,” Dunn said. “I was upset about something else and unfortunately that affected my remark to her. … The incident wasn’t all that great, and I apologized within a few minutes. She seemed to be OK with it. She didn’t move away.”


A lot of this is political crap. … I haven’t done anything to be ashamed of. I have done nothing the constituents of my district should be ashamed of either.”

(Hat tip: Chris Mulick.)

Gregoire: Sex offenders “will be held accountable”…

Flanked by sheriffs from several counties, Gov. Chris Gregoire this morning announced a sweep — eventually statewide — to corral sex offenders who refuse to register or violate other terms of their release.

Three sex offenders were arrested in the hours following the 6 a.m. Monday launch of what Gregoire termed “Operation Crackdown.”

Gregoire’s set aside up to $100,000 to pay for police overtime for the four counties — Chelan, Douglas, King and Yakima — now taking part. Gregoire said she intends to make the push statewide.

Most of those being sought in Chelan and King counties are Level 1 offenders, judged less likely to reoffend than 2s or 3s. But they still have to register, even if homeless.

“We’re trying to make the point to them that we’re not going to play games,” said King County Sheriff Sue Rahr. “…We want the Level 1s to know that we are watching them.”

WSU: Veep, schmeep…

S-R reporter Tom Clouse reports today that Washington State University was offered the chance to host the 2008 vice presidential debate in Spokane.

…And said no.

WSU had been hitting up corporate donors to cover the $1.35 million cost of a presidential debate, in anticipation of “the opportunity it would have provided to showcase WSU and our region on a national and international stage,” as Michael Tate, the school’s Vice President of the Division of Student Affairs, Equity and Diversity said Monday.

But the No. 2? Not so much, apparently.

This on Tuesday from the delighted-sounding understudy, St. Louis:

“Anytime St. Louis is put before national and international viewership, it’s great,” (convention commission spokeswoman Donna) Andrews said. “Where we get the benefit is from the … media coming in to cover the debate. We hope they make a long weekend around it.”

Andrews said she was surprised Spokane officials turned the event down.

“We don’t know the factors that went into that,” Andrews said. “Spokane turned it down, great. St. Louis will take that business.”

Said Harry Sladich, director of the Spokane Area Convention and Visitors Bureau:

“I’ll bet the cities who hosted the vice presidential debates didn’t have near the impact,” he said. “We would rather save ourselves for another day when we can get a presidential debate.”

Gregoire calls special session: Nov. 29th…

Saying that the state has no assurance that all local governments will comply with her request to keep their 2008 property-tax increases below the now-unconstitutional 1 percent limit, Gov. Chris Gregoire has called a one day special session “to deal solely with property taxes.”

“I believe we can easily enact the necessary legislation during a one-day session,” she wrote tonight to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, House Speaker Frank Chopp, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt and Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt.

Interestingly, Gregoire is sending them TWO proposed bills: One would reinstate the 1 percent property tax limit (Initiative 747) that the Supreme Court threw out Nov. 8.

The other “will provide a property tax deferral for all families under our state’s median income level.” (Median household income in Washington for 2006, according to the state budget office: $56,807.) If both pass, it’s unclear from the letter what effect the latter might have on state and local coffers.

In a brief interview earlier tonight, Brown, D-Spokane, said that she hoped the session’s talks would be broader than simply reinstating the 1 percent cap.

“There are concerns about whether or not we’re really providing relief to the people who need it most,” she said. Although there are exemptions and deferrals for senior citizens, she said, those don’t touch younger families struggling to afford a home.

State economy: a little drizzle…

As Rep. Jim McIntire, D-Seattle, noted at the start of yesterday’s revenue forecast, the economy looked like the Olympia weather outside: a little rainy.

Chang Mook Sohn, the state’s chief revenue forecaster, says that tax and other revenues are now likely to be $130 million lower than expected — a big number, yes, but only 4/10 of 1 percent of general-fund revenues — in the 2007-2009 two-year budget period.

Why? Largely due to less real estate excise tax rolling in. That’s what was primarily driving a long string of better-than-expected revenue forecasts over the past three years.

State revenue growth — a roaring 18.7 percent increase in 2005-07 over the prior biennium — is now expected to taper off to about 7.6 percent for 2007-2009.

Also, employment growth is slowing, particularly in the construction industry and, to a lesser degree, in aerospace.

Nonetheless, Sohn said, employment is “still very strong” here, growing 3 percent a year while nationwide it’s growing at just 1.2 percent. Aerospace, construction, software and professional and business services still remain relatively strong.

All told, the state has gained nearly 240,000 new jobs in the last three years, almost 47,000 of which were in construction.

Sohn said he’s not expecting a recession in 2007-2009, although he said that $100-a-barrel oil over the long term would both crimp growth and spur inflation. Still, Sohn said he’s expecting oil prices to stabilize at $70-$80.

For details, see here and here.

The leak-prone ship of state…

At, writer Ryan Grim has a roundup of the types of leaks that political reporters tend to get, and why.

A couple of examples:

The Pre-emptive Leak: A corollary of the above, this is a strategy to disseminate damaging news extremely early in a campaign so that it’s an old story by the time it matters.

Lehane cites an example from last decade. “In 1998, congressional Republicans had a report on Gore and campaign fundraising that was designed to be devastating,” he writes in an e-mail.

The report “‘found’ its way to The Wash[ington] Times on a Saturday morning, which (a) tainted the report as it was covered initially in a right-wing publication, (b) diminished news value by having [the] Times preview it, (c) came out on a Saturday a.m. (good day to kill a story) and (d) allowed Gore operation to point to the leak as proof of the partisan nature of the inquiry and undermine its credibility.”

The Accidental Leak: “It’s generally a good rule of thumb to be friendly with the press. [But] not everyone in the press is your friend,” says Jones. “It’s a transactional relationship.”

Forgetting that can result in loose lips and is a surprisingly common reason for a leak.

Hat tip: Gene Rose at NCSL.

Simple majority victory announcement imminent…

In Seattle in about an hour and a half, People for Our Public Schools will make “an announcement” that will presumably be a declaration of victory in the tight race to make it easier for school districts to pass property tax levies.

Early reaction from lawmakers:

“The number one priority of people in Washington state is educating our kids, and that’s shown with the apparent passage of the simple majority for local schools…it’s obviously a close vote, but I’m happy the voters have spoken.”

-Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, who chairs the Senate education committee

“…I’m thrilled that voters have spoken and our schools will now be on equal election footing as fire districts, sports arenas and jails.”

-Sen Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, who sponsored the bill in Olympia — as she has since 1993.

Idaho’s Otter finds retail politics a hard sell in the Silver Valley…

S-R staff writer Erica Curless has a wonderful story this morning about wonderfully-named Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and his “Capitol for a Day” visits around the state.

These are a variation on Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire’s town-hall meetings, but apparently with less advance publicity.

Shoshone County wasn’t too captivated by Gov. Butch Otter’s visit Tuesday, with only a mother and her home-schooled son showing up for the “Capitol for a Day” session.

But if you’re picturing a big, echoing room with three people in it, think again.

About 40 people crammed into the room, but they didn’t exactly count as “average citizens.” All were elected or held some type of government job.

“I’ve never seen so many suits in Wallace in my life,” Mayor Ron Garitone said while welcoming Otter and several directors of state agencies, including Environmental Quality and Housing and Finance. “Someone drove by a little while ago and asked who died.”

Otter has held 11 of these events, at which he offers his time to any resident with a question, problem or compliment.

In Wallace, however,

His offer was met with silence and nervous glances around the room, which was decorated with paper Thanksgiving turkeys and fake leaves.

As Curless reports, even the home-schooled fourth grader was lukewarm on the event, yawning, staring off into the distance and venturing that “it probably won’t be interesting to me for another 16 years.” A visit to the capitol in Boise — in which he posed for a picture in the governor’s stuffed leather chair — was more exciting than actually meeting the man himself. (Aside to Olympia: Why don’t kids here get to sit in the governor’s chair?)

To salvage the day, Mayor Garitone

suggested the governor walk down the street and check out the “probabilistic” center of the universe – a sewer access cover that declares Wallace the official center of the universe. No one can prove it is or isn’t the center, Garitone explained in a 2004 dedication ceremony of the curious city landmark.

But as Randy Stapilus notes, low turnout (and reportorial snickering) shouldn’t detract from what remains a good idea.

The fact that you didn’t have an automatic flash mob at Wallace doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. The fact that the results weren’t entirely under control may mean you were doing something right.

Correction: Otter’s event was actually titled Capital for a Day, which presumably saved everyone the cost of schlepping the dome up Highway 95 and the Lewiston Grade.

Update: A sharp-eyed reader in Olympia notes that former Gov. Gary Locke did exactly the same thing in Yakima, Spokane, Vancouver and Everett.

Simple majority is LEADING…

In a stunning turnaround from election night a week ago, late-arriving ballots, particularly from King County, now have HJR 4204 winning, at least for now. The numbers:

YES: 722,031
NO: 716,998

Numbers still coming in…Stay tuned…

Simple majority gap is down to 649 votes…

Boy, this is starting to feel like 2004.

New vote tallies are starting to roll in on HJR 4204, the constitutional amendment to allow passage of school tax levies by a simple majority, rather than the decades-old requirement of a 60 percent “supermajority.”

The amendment is still failing so far, but the margin — more than 1,000 votes this morning — is now down to 649 votes.

Your 2008 presidential primary ballot, the early version…

Sure, it’ll have Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. But Washington’s 2008 presidential primary ballot will also include folks like Democrat Mike Gravel (bring U.S. troops all home in 120 days, free health-care vouchers for all, end the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax, allow same-sex marriage, end the criminalization of drugs) and Republican Alan Keyes (similar plan with the income tax and a national sales taxes, get the U.S. out of the United Nations, pro-death-penalty, anti-gay-rights).

So says Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, today releasing a preliminary list of candidates on the ‘08 presidential ballot. Under state law, Reed must pick potential nominees who are “generally advocated, or recognized by national media.” Minor party candidates are nominated by their parties’ conventions.

“There were a couple of people right on the cusp,” said Reed, citing both Gravel (pronounced “gra-VELL”) and Keyes. “I decided to err on the point of being inclusive rather than exclusive.”

And Reed had a sad note for the Al Gore fans out there: “Very importantly, the candidate has to consent,” he said. Reed’s office keeps getting requests from folks who want to draft Gore, but to avail. “So far, he hasn’t consented yet.” (And it doesn’t look likely: yesterday it was announced that Gore had joined a California venture-capital firm.)

Washington will vote in the primary on Feb. 19, a couple of weeks after most of the country. That was a calculated risk by Reed and Democratic and Republican leaders, who decided that the state had more clout to gain as a potential tie-breaker than jostling for candidates’ attention in the first found alongside giants like California and New York.

For those of you — like, perhaps, Prophet Atlantis — who want to get on the presidential primary ballot yourself, there’s still time. You can petition for a spot by getting signatures from 1,000 registered voters “who affiliate with” the GOP or Democratic Party. Deadline: Dec. 21, 2007.

Here’s the 2008 ballot list so far:

-Joe Biden
-Hillary Clinton
-Chris Dodd
-John Edwards
-Mike Gravel
-Dennis Kucinich
-Barack Obama
-Bill Richardson

-Rudy Giuliani
-Mike Huckabee
-Duncan Hunter
-Alan Keyes
-John McCain
-Ron Paul
-Mitt Romney
-Tom Tancredo
-Fred Thompson.

Rep. Buri’s replacements nominated…

Palousitics covered the GOP precinct committee officers’ picking of three nominees to replace former Rep. David Buri, R-Colfax.

The day, according to writer (and PCO, apparently) Tom Forbes, started with six nominees: Jeff Phelps, Tedd Nealey, Joe Schmick, Michael Echanove, Allan Gainer and Darin Watkins.

Here’s some comment from each.

When the dust settled, the top three were:

Palouse Mayor Michael Echanove, Colfax farmer Joe Schmick and LaCrosse farmer and teacher Tedd Nealy.

-Joe Schmick, a farmer from Colfax.
-Tedd Nealey, a farmer and teacher from LaCrosse.
-and Michael Echanove, mayor of the city of Palouse.

All three have run unsuccessfully for legislative seats before: Echanove in 2004 and Schmick and Nealey last year.

The final selection will be made by the county commissioners in the legislative district, meaning Whitman, Spokane, Adams, Asotin, Franklin and Garfield counties.

Rossi: Don’t wait until January to reinstate property tax limit…

GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi wants Gov. Chris Gregoire to call a one-day special legislative session by the end of November to reinstate the 1 percent property tax cap that the state Supreme Court yesterday threw out.

“This cannot wait until January,” Rossi said, raising the specter of big tax hikes now. “…Simply asking local governments to not raise taxes is not enough.”

Gregoire said yesterday that she’ll push lawmakers — in January — “to thoughtfully reinstate a property tax cap.” She’s previously said that the right level would be somewhere between 1 percent and 6 percent, but not set a number that she’d like to see.

Washington Poll: Gregoire slightly ahead of Rossi…

Gov. Chris Gregoire enjoys slightly more support than Republican challenger Dino Rossi, according to a new poll from the University of Washington.

The poll (Phone interviews of 600 registered voters, margin of error +/- 4 percent) shows the following support for the following candidates:

Gregoire: 47 percent
Rossi: 42 percent
Libertarian Ruth Bennett (who I don’t think is running yet, if at all in 2008): 2 percent
“Other”: 1 percent
Undecided: 7 percent

The Washington Poll, a nonpartisan survey sponsored by UW’s Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Sexuality, correctly called five of the six measures on the ballot this month, erring only in suggesting that voters would agree to make it easier for school districts to pass school levies.

The year before, the poll correctly predicted 5 races out of 5.

The geographical breakdown in the most recent poll is:

Puget Sound: 50 percent Gregoire, 38 percent Rossi, 2 percent Bennett.
Eastern Washington: 36 percent Gregroire, 52 percent Rossi, 5 percent Bennett.

Recently registered voters seem to like Rossi (45 percent to Gregoire’s 38) and Bennett, whereas stalwart voters (voting in three out of the past three general elections) like Gregoire: 49 percent to Rossi’s 42.

Party defectors are about equal: 5 percent of Democrats said they supported Rossi; 6 percent of Republicans backed Gregoire. Independents were also about equally split between the two: 43 percent Gregoire to 41 percent Rossi.

Interestingly, the results suggest that Gregoire does better among older voters (45 years old +) than Rossi does.

I-747 property tax cap thrown out by state Supreme Court…

In a split decision, Washington’s highest court minutes ago ruled that a property tax cap approved by voters in 2001 is unconstitutional.

“The text of the initiative misled voters about the substantive impact of the initiative on existing law,” Justice Bobbe Bridge wrote for the court’s 5-4 majority.

Initiative 747, approved by 58 percent of voters, generally capped total property tax increases at 1 percent a year, unless voters approved more. Today’s state Supreme Court decision means that limit reverts to its 1997 level: 6 percent more per year.

In a dissent, Justice Charles Johnson wrote that voters clearly understood what they were doing: reducing the tax increases to 1 percent.

“The majority seems to suggest that the voters are unable to think or read for themselves, when in fact our democratic process is based on the assumption that voters do in fact read and understand the impact of their votes,” he wrote.

The initiative was challenged by three non-profit groups and one county: Whitman County.
The county commissioners there have said that they were worried that limiting the tax increases to 1 percent — below the average rate of inflation — would slowly eat away at the budgets of fire departments and other small taxing districts in the region.

The central issue in the court case was whether voters thought they were reducing the cap from.
In November of 2000, voters approved anti-tax activist Tim Eyman’s Initiative 722, which lowered the cap from 6 percent to 2 percent unless voters okayed more. The lower cap was promptly challenged in court.

While that court fight was going on, Eyman in 2001 launched a yet-stricter measure — Initiative 747 — to bring the cap down to 1 percent.

In February 2001, the 2-percent cap was declared unconstitutional, a decision that the state Supreme Court upheld that September. The property tax cap reverted back to 6 percent more per year.

Meanwhile, however, Eyman was pushing ahead with I-747, gathering and filing signatures and getting the measure on the ballot in November 2001. It passed.

The problem: the new ballot measure language cited the old 2 percent cap.

As a result, King County Superior Court udge Mary E. Roberts ruled a year ago, voters were led to believe they were voting for just a modest reduction in the cap — from 2 percent to 1 percent. In reality, the cut was much more dramatic: from 6 percent to 1 percent.

“The voters were misled as to the nature and content of the law to be amended,” Roberts wrote in a June 2006 ruling. “…The constitution forbids this.” So she declared I-747 to be unconstitutional.

The state Supreme Court today agreed, with Bridge saying “Simply put, a voter reading the textt of the initiative would have perceived a much smaller impact on government coffers than would actually occur under I-747, a fact the dissent ignores. The text of the initiative misled voters about the substantive impact of the initiative on existing law.”

Wrote Johnson: “Here, voters were informed there was a previous higher tax, and this amendment reduced that maximum tax to one percent.

Whether the former tax cap was six percent or two percent, the voters understood the effect of this law was to reduce the tax, and this is what they voted to approve.”

UPDATE: “Now every homeowner in Washington is threatened with a massive property tax hike,” said Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla. Such jumps could be particularly big, he suggested, if state tax officials interpret today’s ruling to mean that cities, counties and other local taxing districts could have increased taxes 6 percent a year all along.

Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said Republicans will again try to pass a bill to reinstate the 1 percent limit. But doing so would require significant support from Democrats, who have a strong majority in both the House and Senate. Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, said earlier this year that she thinks she and lawmakers can find a middle ground somewhere between 1 percent and 6 percent.

UPDATE 2: Eyman — working the phones hard with reporters this morning — sounds indignant, although the ruling seems likely to spin up the anti-tax folks that tend to write him checks.

There are 1,700 local taxing districts, he said, and “every single one of them now has a checkbook that’s been granted to them by five justices of the Supreme Court.”

What happens next, Eyman said, will be a crucial test for the governor and legislative leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle.

“The liberal justices did Frank Chopp, Lisa Brown and Christine Gregoire no favors by dropping this powder keg in their laps right now” on the eve of a major election year, Eyman said.

If the Legislature and governor reinstate a cap that’s higher than 1 percent, Eyman said, “all the people that are just dying to have their property taxes lower are going to storm the castle in Olympia.”

Update 3: GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi says he’s not surprised that Gov. Gregoire doesn’t support a return to the 1 percent cap: “…She is after all the governor for the government who is more concerned about making people pay higher taxes than honoring the will of the voters.”

Long-awaited ruling on state tax limit coming in the morning…

The state Supreme Court says it’s likely to issue its opinion tomorrow morning in Washington Citizen Action v. State of WA, which challenges the constitutionality of Washington’s I-747 property-tax limit. (Among the plaintiffs: Whitman County.)

It’s a complex case, but here’s a primer:

Prior to 2000, local property tax increases were typically capped at 6 percent more per year. But in November of that year, voters approved anti-tax activist Tim Eyman’s Initiative 722, which lowered the cap to 2 percent unless voters okayed more. The lower cap was promptly challenged in court.

While that court fight was going on, Eyman in 2001 launched a yet-stricter measure — Initiative 747 — to bring the cap down to 1 percent.

The 2-percent cap was declared unconstitutional by a Pierce County judge in February 2001, a decision that the state Supreme Court upheld in September of that year. The property tax cap reverted back to 6 percent more per year.

Meanwhile, however, Eyman was pushing ahead with I-747, gathering and filing signatures and getting the measure on the ballot in November 2001. It passed.

The problem: the new ballot measure language cited the old 2 percent cap.

As a result, King County Superior Court udge Mary E. Roberts ruled a year ago, voters were led to believe they were voting for just a modest reduction in the cap — from 2 percent to 1 percent. In reality, the cut was much more dramatic: from 6 percent to 1 percent.

“The voters were misled as to the nature and content of the law to be amended,” Roberts wrote in a June 2006 ruling. “…The constitution forbids this.” So she declared I-747 to be unconstitutional.

That ruling was appealed to the state Supreme Court, and argued this past May. (Justices Mary Fairhurst and Jim Johnson recused themselves.)

Town-hall meeting on health care with Sen. Marr and Rep. Barlow…

Local Democratic lawmakers Chris Marr and Don Barlow will hold a town hall meeting Nov. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Southside Senior Activity Center, 3151 E. 27th Ave., Spokane.

Topic: health care issues, “including long-term-care insurance, nursing homes, the sale of Deaconess and Valley hospitals, Medicare co-payments, and help with prescriptions for low-income patients.”

Back in the saddle again…

Oh, it’s good to be back. The Fred Russell trial in Cowlitz County, my base of operations for the past 3 1/2 weeks, is over. (Russell, the WSU student who drove drunk and killed three other students in 2001, before fleeing to Ireland for several years, was convicted on all counts. He’ll be sentenced in Whitman County, probably next month.)

But alas, while I’ve been basking in the pale fluorescent lights of Courtroom 2 and frantically filing copy over the wireless at Kelso’s Sunrise Bagels (good bagels, too), much has happened:

-Rep. Jim Dunn, R-Vancouver, was publicly slapped by his own caucus over “inappropriate” comments he allegedly made to a woman after a recent legislative meeting. (Postman was on it, and has the full story — or the full obtainable story — here.)

(Also: David Goldstein, at, gave this incident the memorable headline “BREAKING… Republican legislator outed as heterosexual.”)

-Gov. Chris Gregoire became a cover, um, governor. Governing magazine named her — the only governor on the list — one of nine “Public Officials of the Year.” From the article:

Opinion polls early on ranked her as one of the three least popular governors in the nation. Yet she hung tough during the recounts, the lawsuit, the shouts of protest and the bad poll numbers. “I said whether I’m governor for four months or four years, we’re going to get going here,” says Gregoire. And that’s just what she did.

With each passing year, Gregoire’s approval rating has increased, and her standing as a deft and inclusive deal-maker has grown more solid. The list of her accomplishments would be the envy of any governor, ranging from budget surpluses to ambitious education and economic development initiatives to the resolution of some of the state’s longest running legislative battles.

(GOP chairman Luke Esser’s version: “38 Years in Gov’t Earns Gregoire Bureaucrat Stardom.”)

-State Rep. Don Barlow, D-Spokane, was the first state lawmaker to “shadow” a nursing home worker for the day, as part of a push by the Service Employees International Union to show legislators what rank-and-file health-care workers’ jobs are really like.

-And, oh, yes, there was an election. As things stand now:

-Rainy Day fund, Tim Eyman’s I-960 and Referendum 67: all passing.
-Allowing school levies to pass with a simple majority of votes, instead of the current 60 percent “supermajority”: failing.
-multi-billion-dollar tax increases for roads and transit in central Puget Sound: failing.
-Spokane Mayor: Likely Mary Verner. Incumbent Dennis Hession (who’s election night party briefly banned reporters) looks like he’ll join the very long line of one-term Spokane mayors.
-and in east King County, perennial candidate Richard Pope lost to Republican King County Councilwoman Jane Hague, “despite her pending drunken-driving charge and her admission that she once padded her résumé,” as the Times put it.

And thanks, readers, for sticking with me. Check back early and often.

Prison Secretary Clarke New England-bound…

Harold Clarke, Secretary of the state Department of Corrections, has resigned. He’s moving to Massachusetts, which has hired him to head that state’s prison system.

In a six-sentence news release, Gov. Chris Gregoire thanked Clarke for his work.

“Secretary Clarke has made significant contributions to public safety in Washington,” she said. “This has not been an easy task for Harold or his family and, on behalf of the people of Washington, I thank him for his service.”

State GOP chairman Luke Esser — one of many Republicans to criticize Gregoire for the Department of Corrections’ early release of some felons — said that Clark is being “scapegoat”ed by Gregoire.

“I disagree with Harold Clarke’s approach to public safety,” Esser said in his own press release, “but I don’t blame him for leaving after Gov. Gregoire threw him under the bus for following her orders.”

Look for felons and prisons to be a big GOP talking point in the governor’s race, judging by this and other recent Republican criticism of Gregoire.

“Gov. Gregoire continues to support the early release of felons and has explicitly pursued a “no-new-prisons” policy of knowingly refusing to build sufficient prison capacity – even though she increased state spending by a record 33%,” Esser said.

NOTE: Dammit. Due to inattentive editing on my part, the quote marks and critical words “Esser said” were missing from the last paragraph of this post for most of the day. Mea culpa.

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

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