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Eye On Olympia

Archive for April 2008

From the police report…

State Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, was arrested Sunday afternon on charges of fourth degree assault and interfering with reporting of domestic violence. He says — see below — that the charges are baseless and that he’ll be exonerated.

In essence, Simpson told the police that he and his ex-wife were arguing over tax paperwork that she was about to tear up. Any contact between the two, he said, was “incidental” to his efforts to save the documents.

Here’s a summary of what’s in the King County Sheriff’s Department incident report, filed Monday morning by officer Christopher Sawtelle:

According to Sawtelle’s report, Simpson and his ex-wife got into a dispute at the home they used to share before their recent divorce.

The report is pretty heavily blacked out, but it seems that during the argument over tax paperwork, Simpson allegedly grabbed his ex-wife’s hand and squeezed it painfully. When she went to pick up the dropped paperwork, he then allegedly grabbed her arm and painfully squeezed that. He weighs 265 pounds; she weighs 150.

At that point, Simpson’s ex-wife apparently got his cell phone and said she was calling the police to help her get her belongings. Simpson allegedly “grabbed the phone from her then grabbed onto her arm and drug her out of the house.” She called for a deputy.

Two arrived. Sawtelle said he could see “some minor reddening” on Simpson’s ex-wife’s upper arm. Simpson, meanwhile, allegedly told the other officer that he never grabbed anyone.

Due to the allegation, Simpson was then arrested.
Simpson subsequently volunteered to give a statement. He said he, standing behind her, grabbed the tax paperwork from his ex-wife because she was about to rip it up.

“He stated that he never grabbed onto her and that any contact was incidental,” the report says. “He stated that he took the phone away from (her) only after he told her to give it back and she refused, and that again, any contact was incidental.”

Simpson said he never grabbed her or twisted her wrist.

A witness whose name is blacked out also told the deputy that he heard Simpson’s ex-wife call out to him in a “frantic” voice and that he saw Simpson holding onto her arm and trying to pull her out of the house.

Click here to read the police report.

UDPATE: Barbara Baker, chief clerk of the House of Representatives (and a lawyer) said she’s advising House Speaker Frank Chopp to find out more about what happened before proposing any discipline.

“The House of Representatives takes criminal charges against any of the members very seriously — especially those of domestic violence,” she said in a written statement. “…I will be talking later this evening with the Speaker and other members of leadership about this unfortunate situation. Our next steps will be based on what we learn in the days ahead.”

Washington, welcome to the spotlight…

From this morning’s paper:

If there’s any doubt that Washington’s about to be a national battleground in the fight over assisted suicide, just take a look at the checks.

With months left to go before Election Day, Washington’s Initiative 1000 has drawn cash contributions from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Among them: more than 400 contributions from California, nearly 150 from New York and $215,000 from the Oregon group Death With Dignity.

Proponents of the measure, which would allow terminally ill people to get a lethal prescription, had raised about $900,000 by the end of March. Both sides predict an emotional, bitter battle in the only state to be considering a ballot measure on this issue this year. Opponents have raised about $50,000 so far.

“They didn’t get California, couldn’t get Vermont, and they’re trying to get Washington,” said Marilyn Golden, a California-based disability rights advocate who was in Eastern Washington last week arguing against the measure.

Recent polling by both sides suggests that between 60 percent and 64 percent of voters support the measure. Former Gov. Booth Gardner and other proponents hope to keep that number up while proponents try to whittle it below 50 percent by November.

Both sides agree that the battle over I-1000 is a David-and-Goliath struggle. But both claim to be the underdog.

Opponents, with about one-sixteenth of the money proponents have collected, would seem to have a lock on the underdog title. But proponents say that in state after state, money has quickly flooded in from politically powerful groups: doctors, the Catholic Church and right-to-life groups.

Click here to read the full print story.

About those Playboy magazines you never got

A now-defunct company that sold magazine subscriptions on the auction site eBay has agreed to refund thousands of dollars to Washingtonians who never got their publications.

Cheapest-Magz, run by Wilmyr Dagohoy and Eireen Ejem-Dagohoy, has agreed to pay $15,000 in refunds, a fine and attorneys’ fees.

The company, initially based in Bremerton, sold thousands of subscriptions to magazines like Newsweek, Oprah, Playboy, TV Guide and Wired. In thousands of cases, the state attorney general’s office says, the magazines never came.

“A promise to deliver is a promise to deliver,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna.

Customers who paid for subscriptions with Cheap-Magz will be contacted within 40 days and sent a check equal to what they paid. Anyone with questions should call the AG’s Consumer Resource Center at 1-800-551-4636.

Eyman: Home a-loan…

OK, so that’s a crappy headline. But in what is either a sign of desperation or a novel way to light a fire under campaign donors, initiative promoter Tim Eyman says he’s taking out a $250,000 second mortgage on his Mukilteo home in order to pay signature gatherers.

He hopes to get that money back from contributors.

Initiative 985, in case you’ve misplaced your scorecard, would open up carpool lanes to all vehicles in off-peak hours and steer red-light camera money into anti-congestion projects, among other things. (Spokane readers: that last item means that your red-light fine could pay for smoother traffic in, umm, Seattle, but I’ll write more about that if I-985 makes it to the ballot.)

Eyman says the campaign has raised nearly $280,000, but needs $290,000 more to pay signature gatherers now. For the measure to appear on the fall ballot, Eyman needs about 250,000 valid signatures by July 3rd.

In recent years, Woodinville investor Mike Dunmire has shoveled hundreds of thousands of dollars into Eyman’s measures and a “compensation fund” for Eyman and his Spokane partners, Mike and Jack Fagan.

But that well may be running dry. In a letter to supporters Tuesday, Eyman said Dunmire informed him that

“because of charitable donations and other obligations, we can’t count on anything more from him in the foreseeable future.”

Hence the loan. Eyman hopes that donations in the coming months will repay it.

“I’m jumping off a big cliff,” he wrote to contributors. “Please help catch me.”

The 3-bedroom, 3-bath, 3-car-garage home on a golf course that Eyman bought a decade ago for $433,000 is now worth $844,000, according to the local county assessor’s office.

Senate Majority Leader has a challenger: the night janitor at Dick’s Hamburgers…

John Patrick Moyna, 52, has just filed paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission to run as an independent for the 3rd District seat long held by state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.

Moyna is a night janitor for Dicks Hamburger’s, a Spokane icon. (For whatever it’s worth, Moyna is a vegan.)

He has an extensive personal/campaign web page, on which he describes himself as:

“the Independent minded populist candidate for principled politics who is too conservative for democrats, too liberal for republicans, too radical for libertarians, too constitutional for greens, and too controversial for patriots.”

A South Carolina native who grew up as an on-the-move military brat, landed in Spokane for a few years as an adult, and subsequently spent nearly a decade on the road as a “homeless tramp,” he offers the hard-to-argue-with observation that:

A community that does not recall what it was yesterday, and does not understand what it should be today, will fail in its efforts to reach its goals in the future.

and

Inovation is gained by the renovation of conservation.

He is the only candidate to have filed against Brown.

Connelly named to executive ethics board…

Gov. Chris Gregoire has appointed Spokane City Attorney Mike Connelly, a former legislative candidate and former Spokane city attorney, to the the state’s executive ethics board. Connelly is also a former member (and chairman) of the state Public Disclosure Commission. His term on the ethics board runs through Sept. 30, 2011.

(NOTE: And he’s not to be confused with Mike O’Connell, counsel to the state’s legislative ethics board. An earlier version of this post said that O’Connell worked for the executive ethics board, which would have made life hard for whoever takes their meeting minutes. But two different boards? All is well. Mea culpa.)

Moving on…Other appointments of note:

—Hoquiam lawyer Keith Kessler, husband of state Rep. Lynn Kessler and subject of a famous confrontation last year between Rep. Kessler and Rep. Dan Roach, has been named to the Evergreen State College board of trustees.

—and Gonzaga safety and security associate director Robert Cepeda has been appointed to the Commission on Hispanic Affairs. Cepeda’s term ends Aug. 1, 2008, which looks like a typo but isn’t. According to the governor’s office, Cepeda is serving the remainder of a term for a commissioner who resigned.

Retired teacher running for Ferry County commissioner…

Robert Lee Heath, a 63-year-old retired elementary school teacher in Inchelium, has filed campaign finance paperwork to run for the Ferry County Commissioner seat held by Republican Mike Blankenship.

Heath, a Democrat, is still working on a platform, although he said he wants to boost economic growth. He also said he’s been hearing a lot from area residents opposed to the county’s new plan to allow off-road vehicles on many local roads. Blankenship has drawn a lot of fire over the ORV plan, which is aimed at bringing in ORV tourism dollars. Blankenship has said the routes were carefully chosen and that the community desperately needs some revenue.

Heath — who owns an ORV — said he wants to ride the route and look at maps before taking a position on the matter.

Senate war chests for 2008 and beyond…

Running some things through the PDC database on a slow day shows that although it’s still April, some state senators have racked up pretty good campaign war chests:

At the top is Spokane’s Lisa Brown, the Democratic Senate majority leader, with $131, 104. Brown has been in the statehouse since 1993 and is one of the two most powerful lawmakers in Olympia. She’s up for re-election this year. No one has filed to run against her.

Others:

-Sen. Mararita Prentice, D-Renton, who chairs the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee: $129,900.
-Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver: $107,842.
-Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla: $102,199.
-Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, who is GOP’s budget point man in the Senate: $73,868.
-Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, who was just named chairman of a legislative pension policy committee: $65,971.

And some in the Senate are planning well in advance. Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls, is sitting on more than $61,000 in campaign cash, and Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, isn’t far behind at $54,635. Why that’s more impressive than it seems: their next elections aren’t until 2010.

And it’s important to remember that candidates don’t have to spend the money on their own race. While they cannot directly donate so-called surplus funds to another candidate, they are allowed to send the money to political parties or a caucus political committees, which CAN give the money to candidates. And being a money magnet for your party — and by extension, your legislative colleagues — is a quick way to amass clout in Olympia.

SurveyUSA poll on governor’s race: Gregoire 50, Rossi 46…

From a poll of 634 likely voters:

Incumbent Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire takes 50% of the vote in an election held today, according to this SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for KING-TV Seattle and KATU-TV Portland Oregon. Republican Dino Rossi, who ran against Gregoire four years ago, takes 46% of the vote today. Rossi leads by 11 points among men; Gregoire leads by 20 among women — a 31 point gender gap. Voters under age 50 narrowly break for Rossi; Gregoire leads by 9 among voters 50+. 16% of Democrats cross over to vote for Rossi; 7% of Republicans vote for Gregoire. Independents split 5:4 for the incumbent. Gregoire wins by 13 points in metro Seattle; Rossi leads by 2 points in the rest of Western Washington and by 12 points in the eastern part of the state.

Note: The original headline on this post had Rossi at 44, rather than the correct 46. Mea culpa.

Olympia’s publicist laureate…

From a (tongue-in-cheek) post on Olyblog, a community blog in the capital city:

Olympia. Olympia! Olympia is a land of puppies and rainbows and leprechauns where people spontaneously dance in circles in the street. No one ever dies and there are no unhappy people there. Olympia was created on God’s eighth day, the one where he created cool places that weren’t meant to be known about by too many people. Olympia single handedly created all music composed since the early ‘90s, for real. And none of that music sucks…Our parks are second to none, our selection of cool ethnic eats is primo, and we’re working on our lack of non-white people. The heavens open up on a weekly basis and angels descend down to fifth street singing the praises of God’s special place.

(Poster summerisle, in case the sarcasm isn’t coming through, was apparently unhappy with restrictions on what can be posted on the blog.)

Campaign finance violations cost Bob Apple $4,200…

The state Public Disclosure Commisson voted unanimously this afternoon to fine Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple the maximum possible $4,200 for failing to file campaign finance reports during his successful run for office last year.

Here’s a copy of the state’s 58-page investigation report.

In essence, the commissioners found, Apple failed to file several reports, failed to report about $1,400 in contributions, failed to provide detailed information on nearly $8,000 in campaign spending, and failed to fill in the state watchdog agency when he changed treasurers.

In a telephone hearing, Apple today told the commission that he wasn’t trying to hide anything and that the PDC staffers were lying about his lack of compliance. He said he’s “had an unbelievably difficult time dealing with the Attorney General’s office and the PDC and the lies are just unbelievable…These people do not tell the truth. As an elected official, I am appalled.”

The chairman, Bill Brumsickle, told him that name-calling wouldn’t help.

Apple sounded increasingly frustrated as the hearing progressed.

State might be holding your cash — here’s how to check…

From a weekly column I write for our suburban editions:

The odds are pretty good that the state of Washington is holding at least a little money that belongs to you.

Scroll down for links to find out.

Under state law, banks, insurers, utility companies and similar entities must turn over unclaimed money or property to the state after a certain period of not hearing from the owner. In most cases, that’s three years.

Most of the property is cash or old shares of stock, but the state also gets the contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes: jewelry, old photos, love letters, even once a pair of false teeth. Every few years, the state auctions those items off, saving the money for anyone who might someday claim it.

There is no time limit for filing a claim. Some of the unclaimed money in Washington’s database dates back to the mid-1950s.

As you’d expect, most of the abandoned accounts are small. Although some are worth thousands of dollars, the state database includes plenty of old accounts worth only $25 to $50.

Still, it adds up.

The state Department of Revenue is now sitting on about $600 million owed to about 3 million people. Trying to pare that number down, the agency has started sending letters to the last known addresses of people owed more than $75. Last year, it returned a record $39 million to more than 82,000 folks. But while they were doing that, another $100 million in unclaimed money rolled in.

The database includes businesses, too. A quick check shows the state is holding money for nearly 500 entities with the word “Spokane” in them.

So how do you find out if you’re owed money?

The easiest way is to go to the state’s online database: www.claimyourcash.org. (Make sure you get that .org right.) After an annoying “how’d you hear about us” question, it will take you to page where you can type in a name or a business and find out what’s owed, where it came from, and roughly how much. You can even file the claim online.

Don’t have Internet access? Then call the state’s Unclaimed Property Section at (800) 435-2429. Or you can write them, at Department of Revenue, Unclaimed Property Section, P.O. Box 47477, Olympia, WA 98504-7477.

Reader bonus: If you’ve ever lived or done business in Idaho, you might want to check their program as well, at http://tax.idaho.gov/ucp_search.htm or (800) 972-7660, then press 5. The Idaho Web site also includes links to other states’ unclaimed property programs.

Some shortcuts: Here’s info on Montana’s program.

And Oregon’s.

And California’s.

And a site that has links to the official unclaimed property programs of many other states. Note: you often have to drill down a click or two to find a searchable database on these sites.

Happy hunting.

What can you say in 16 characters? Primary voters are about to find out…

From tomorrow’s paper:

Heads up, voters: You’re ballot might look a little strange this August.

Secretary of State Sam Reed on Wednesday proposed rules for the state’s first-ever Top Two primary. In a move designed to avoid another court challenge by political parties, the new rules allow candidates to indicate a “preferred party.”

But under the proposed rules, a candidate is free to write virtually anything he wishes in the space between “prefers” and “party.” The only limits: it can only total 16 characters and can’t be obscene.

“People can describe themselves however they wish,” said Trova Heffernan, a spokeswoman for Reed. “It’s their First Amendment right.”
In between “prefers” and “party,” candidates could write “NO NEW TAXES,” for example, or “ANTI WAR DEM” or even a short commercial pitch (“A GOOD BUDWEISER”) on the ballot.

Farfetched? Perhaps. But Washington’s ballot is no stranger to theatrics. A man named Mike the Mover has run for more than a dozen offices over two decades, largely as cheap advertising. And Michael Goodspaceguy Nelson has also run repeatedly on a platform that includes interplanetary colonization. In 2004, the two ran against each other in the gubernatorial primary.

The state’s major political parties find nothing funny about the change.

Sen. Weinstein: Back to asbestos…

State Sen Brian Weinstein, who says he’ll step down when his term ends in December, has taken a job as senior counsel with the Seattle law firm Bergman and Frockt. The company specializes in asbestos- and consumer-protection cases.

A University of Texas law school graduate, Weinstein specialized in asbestos cases before being elected to the Senate four years ago. He won numerous multi-million-dollar claims on behalf of exposed workers.

Weinstein, who chairs the Senate’s consumer-protection committee, has had a long-running clash with the most vocal conservative industry group in the state, the Building Industry Association of Washington. Weinstein blasted shoddy and dangerous home construction in his committee, repeatedly trying to pass bills to make it easier to sue such builders. And Weinstein was a political pinata in the builders’ monthly newsletter.

Gas? Expensive. Why? Tune in tomorrow…

Attorney General Rob McKenna will tomorrow release the results of a year-long investigation into Washington fuel prices.

A Powerpoint presentation will be posted here tomorrow afternoon.

The last time the AG’s office did a study like this (1991), much of the answer boiled down to…market forces. Here’s a (very large file warning) link to that report.

Working Families Tax Credit — an increasingly popular idea…

The legislative news service Stateline has a good roundup today on states matching the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.

This was a big issue in this year’s legislative session, when Washington became the first non-income-tax state to approve a state match for the federal tax checks.

A total of 24 states now have such a program, Stateline’s Christine Vestal reports, ranging from 3.5 percent state match in North Carolina to 32 percent in Vermont. (Washington, D.C.’s match is 35 percent, and Wisconsin has a unique approach, with a state match ranging from 4 percent for a family with one child to 43 percent with three children.)

Washington State, however, is the first state without an income tax to try this. Writes Vestal:

Experts say the new law (scheduled to take effect in 2009 for the 2008 tax year) could open the door for eight other states — Alaska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Wyoming, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Florida — with no income tax.

And later in the story:

As a result of the recent surge in new state EITCs and expansions of existing programs in eight states, benefits will reach 2.5 million more people than in 2006, bringing the total number who benefit from state EITCs to 7.8 million. New laws since 2006 have increased state benefits by $617 million, raising the total state benefits to $2.2 billion, according to data provided by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

The state tax benefits are designed to supplement the federal EITC, which amounted to $43.3 billion in 2007 and is expected to total $44.7 billion this year – more than the government spends on either Food Stamps or welfare.

“EITCs basically increase the take-home pay of low-income workers,” said Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution. “That’s especially important now because wages have stagnated since 2000, and food, energy and housing prices have been rising. The extra money in workers’ pockets helps fill the gap,” she said.

Republican lawmakers in Washington say the state is moving too fast. They cite a $2 billion to $2.4 budget deficit projected in the 2009-2011 budget cycle, and say the new program — tentatively slated to start next year — would only worsen that.

More specifics on Rossi transportation plan…

Saying that key transportation chokepoints are “a foot on the air hose of the Washington economy,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi’s 30-year, $15 billion plan includes:

·Hwy 520, Evergreen Floating Bridge

·Widening of I-405, Renton to Bellevue

·US 2 Corridor improvements

·SR 9 Corridor improvements

·Hwy 167 extension and improvements

·Widening Hwy 509 to I-5

·The Cross Base Highway in Pierce County

·Replacing and improving the Columbia River bridge

·and Hwy 395, the North Spokane Corridor.

Rossi, who will talk about his plan tomorrow in Spokane, said that local residents shouldn’t be asked to pay higher taxes for the long-planned North Spokane Corridor. He wants to spend $2.2 billion (in 2007 dollars) of state money to build the 60-mile-an-hour highway from I-90 to U.S. 395 at Wandermere, including half a dozen interchanges and a six-lane collector system along I-90.

Rossi said he wants to eliminate the sales tax on hybrid, electric and alternative-fuel vehicles for the next decade and have the state motor pool filled with those types of vehicles by 2015.

He also wants to spend $200 million on clearing the way for fish to get through nearly 1,700 state-owned culverts statewide. It would open up more than 2,300 miles of potential salmon habitat, he said.

Other elements: he would put $500 million toward 27 “unfunded, underfunded or delayed” projects and put another $368 million into the account that pays for ferry construction and ferry terminals.

Where would all this money come from?

·40.2% the state sales tax on new and used vehicles will be dedicated to transportation projects. (Total: $7,711 million)
·The elimination of state sales tax on transportation projects. (Total: $2,433 million. NOTE: This savings would be shaved from the cost of projects.)
·Half of the current and future eastside subarea equity Sound Transit surplus would go to HOV projects on the eastside of Lake Washington.(Total: $690 million)
·Tolls on the 520 bridge to begin once the bridge is completed in 2014. Tolls will cost $1.54 one-way (2007$) and provide $721 million in revenue.

Rossi notes that his plan wouldn’t require a tax increase “and through the responsible use of tax dollars, we will protect education, health care, and all of the other vital services that we must continue to provide.”

But the two sales tax proposals would strip about $10 billion from the state’s general fund, which pays for schools, health care and other state services. That’s a huge hit, and that’s why budget writers have long fended off efforts to tap the general fund for transportation work.

Rossi argues that his plan would take less than half the money from state sales taxes on new
and used vehicles, and that it simply makes sense to steer some of this transportation-related tax money back into the system.

Here’s a link to the full plan.

UPDATE: The liberal-leaning advocacy group Fuse has weighed in on the plan, which director Aaron Ostrom calls “a recycled 1950s-style freeway construction bonanza with a twist. The twist is that he’s financing it by diverting funding from schools rather than with gas taxes.”

The group is unhappy that the plan focuses so heavily on roads, with no funding for public transit. And it’s absurd, Ostrom says, to divert money from the general fund at a time when budget analysts are predicting a $2 billion shortfall in the next state budget.

“If you like traffic and political gridlock,” Ostrom said, “this is the plan for you.”


Bond makes it official: he’s challenging Fairhurst for Supreme Court seat…

Attorney Michael J. Bond filed amended campaign paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission yesterday, spelling out that he’s seeking the seat now held by Justice Mary Fairhurst, who recently announced that she’s running for re-election.

Rossi hits the road…

And now back to work.

Gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi will be making the rounds of the state tomorrow and Wednesday, touting what he would do to relieve traffic congestion and kickstart projects like the North Spokane Corridor.

He has stops planned in Bellevue, Sultan and Spokane. (Spokane: Courtyard Marriott, 401 N. Riverpoint Blvd., Wednesday at 2 p.m.)

For a preview, here’s what his campaign website has to say about the issue. The short version: more accountability, smarter spending, and a primary focus on congestion relief. But there are few specifics amid the list of things like “find the streamlined areas of efficiency and implement them.”

Here’s more about a plan floated by House Republicans in the waning days of the session this year.

UPDATE: And here’s an excerpt from a pre-emptive broadside by Democrats:

“The transportation challenges in our state didn’t develop overnight, and they won’t be solved overnight by Republican Dino Rossi’s road and bridge fairy,”

said state Democratic Party chairman Dwight Pelz in a press release. The plans by Rossi and other Republicans, he says, would “divert money from critical health care and education programs.”

Idaho GOP sues to close the state’s primaries…

For years, I’ve wondered why Washington’s pick-a-party primary was constantly referred to as “Montana-style,” rather than “Idaho-style.” Idaho’s closer, after all, and both have open primaries in which a person is free to pick the party whose primary they wish to vote in. That’s what Washington has had recently, although a recent Supreme Court ruling means that August’s primary will likely look a lot like the old vote-for-whoever-you-want blanket primary.

But maybe Washington’s lawmakers and election officials were just prescient. Reports the Assocated Press:

The Idaho Republican Party is suing the state in federal court, hoping to force the closure of Republican primary elections to anyone who is not a registered Republican.

Brown on panel with Dalai Lama…

The Dalai Lama is in Seattle for five days, as part of a “Seeds of Compassion” event that’s drawing tens of thousands of people.

Today, he’s joining state Senate Majority Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, Costco’s Jeff Brotman, King County Executive Ron Sims and others in an afternoon discussion about “how to foster compassion in the workplace and community.”

After more than three decades, Ammons steps down…

David Ammons, after 37 years covering Olympia for the Associated Press, is stepping down.

Ammons, who will turn 60 in September, will leave the AP to become the new communications director for Secretary of State Sam Reed.

His departure is a significant loss for both AP readers and for Olympia’s capitol press corps. Ammons has been a stalwart, managing to wring news out of even the most news-free press conferences, showing newcomers the ropes, and — as his longtime column showed — serving as the institutional memory for a place that often forgets too quickly. He’s very well-sourced and has a gentle interview style that viewers saw in his frequent appearances as a host on TVW.

We’ll still have him to kick around as Reed’s spokesman, but he’ll be missed.

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Fundraising update: Sixth legislative district House races…

It looks like state Rep. Don Barlow, D-Spokane, is going to get a run for his money this year — emphasis on money.

Republican challengers Kevin Parker and Melvin Lindauer, according to new campaign finance reports, have raised $31,515 and $15,961 respectively. Barlow, who was subject to a fundraising freeze during the January to March legislative session, is reporting $24,372.

The District’s other House incumbent, Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane, is also looking at a significant challenger this year. Democrat John Driscoll has raised $13,034 in his race to make the 6th go from all-Republican to all-Democrat in just four years. Ahern’s at $18,867.

Republican Sen. Brad Benson and Rep. John Serben were ousted by Democrats in 2006, after years of Republican domination of the western Spokane district.

The numbers for Barlow and Ahern may seem low now due to the session freeze, but it’s generally easier for incumbents to raise cash.

Stay tuned. It’s only April.

GOP tries to bus-t Gregoire; her campaign scoffs…

The state GOP sounded the klaxons this afternoon, noting that Gov. Chris Gregoire’s biodiesel campaign bus has…Oregon license plates. They included photos, which my colleague Jim Camden will soon post here.

“Gov. Gregoire has been making it harder and harder for businesses to survive here in our state for three years, so it’s no surprise that her campaign hired a bus with Oregon license plates to save money,”
state GOP chairman Luke Esser said in a press release.

The symbolism, he said,

“couldn’t be plainer…Time and time again, small businesses have been thrown under the bus by Gov. Gregoire, and until Dino Rossi has been elected governor, our business climate will only continue to get worse.”

What of this, I asked Gregoire campaign spokesman Aaron Toso.

Toso said the bus was rented from a Washington company: Seattle-based Meridian Transportation Resources.

“They serve the region, so it does happen to have Oregon plates,” he said.

Citing recent kudos from Forbes magazine and Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, Toso said Gregoire has a excellent record of working to promote business in Washington.

“There’s the governor’s record, and then there’s an argument over license plates,” Toso said. “Their candidate wants to talk about license plates.”

Carder files against state Rep. Wood

Undeterred by her 33 percent showing against Democratic state Rep. Alex Wood two years ago, Spokane Republican Laura Carder has filed campaign paperwork for a rematch.

She said she’d really like to see someone challenge state Sen. Lisa Brown, who’s running for re-election in the same central-Spokane district.

“But I would like somebody with a little more clout to run against her,” said Carder. “And, frankly, I still have all these signs that say `state representative.’ That’s the main reason.”

The former computer programmer and community volunteer describes herself as a Ron Paul Republican. Her campaign website — which she says she’ll update soon — is here.

She acknowledges that the district tilts heavily Democratic, but says she’s hoping to win by campaigning against property tax increases, for proper nutrition, and “getting rid of the indoctrination” in schools. On that last item, she said, she questions that humans are causing climate change — or even that it’s changing — and would like to see “creation science” taught in schools along with evolution. She’d also like to give hiring priority to U.S. citizens over non-citizens.

She said she ran in 2006 mainly so that the District 3 choices would include at least one non-Democrat. “I didn’t expect to win,” she said.

And this year?

“Well, it’s possible,” she said.

Hat tip: Chris Mulick.

Memo to candidates: About all that campaign videographer you hired…

Via MSNBC comes this AP story about a Kansas video production company that for 30 years was Wal-Mart’s in-house recorder of meetings and presentations.

Wal-Mart ended the deal in 2006, a move that left Flagler Productions with an awful lot of video that unions and attorneys are interested in.

“The videos provide insight into the company’s real corporate culture when they’re not in the public eye,” Wal-Mart Watch spokeswoman Stacie Lock Temple said Tuesday.

Wal-Mart reportedly offered $500,000 for the video archive, but the company thinks that it will be far more lucrative to charge $250 an hour to have researchers look for things in the videos.

“Needless to say, we did not pay Flagler Productions to tape internal meetings with this aftermarket in mind,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Daphne Moore said.

Fairhurst runs for another term on the high court…

State Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst, a Gonzaga Law grad, is running for a second six-year term.

“For me, it’s not about ideology,” she said in a campaign announcement. “It’s about making common sense decisions within the letter of the law.”

The conservative Building Industry Association of Washington has said it’s likely to put its political clout — and dollars — behind a court candidate this year, most likely a challenger for Fairhurst’s seat. BIAW says its main issues on the court are open government records and defense of property rights.

The Olympian’s Brad Shannon says that Seattle business attorney Michael J. Bond looks like a possible Fairhurst opponent.

Like Gov. Chris Gregoire, Fairhurst is launching a multi-city tour this week, speaking to community groups and meeting supporters in Spokane and rolling through Wenatchee, Moses Lake, Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula city of Union. (I’m waiting to hear back from the campaign re: dates and location specifics.) She says she plans three “formal kickoff events” in May in Spokane, Seattle and Olympia.

Fairhurst’s campaign website is here.

Bond is a fellow Gonzaga Law grad and former Marine lawyer. He has a pretty folksy YouTube video here — handheld signs, banjo music — spelling out the many cases in which he’s defended professionals and businesses against liability claims. And a blog here.

More from campaign trail: Rossi v. Gregoire preview…

The battle lines in the governor’s race seem pretty clearly drawn already. More from today’s paper:

Gregoire criticized Rossi, who launched his own campaign months ago, as a doom-and-gloom naysayer “who does nothing but criticize and promote fear across the state.”

Rossi fired back, saying that Gregoire has raised taxes and dramatically increased spending, while doing little to help improve schools, transportation or public safety.

“All we’re doing is talking about her record,” Rossi said. “She’s about the only one in the state who doesn’t consider that fair.”

The two have little in common on the campaign trail. What she calls “investments” he calls “total fiscal recklessness.”

and this:

Yes, the polling has been close, concedes state Democratic Party chairman Dwight Pelz. But he said Gregoire is pulling ahead.

“The more we let people know about her record, the stronger her electability becomes,” he said. And after four years in office, he said, she has a track record: she’s invested in education, demanded better progress on traffic congestion, and saved for the future.

“And Dino Rossi has to spend the next few months reminding people that back in 2003 he was a state senator,” said Pelz.

Democratic nominating conventions: adding to this year’s primary confusion?

Catching up…

Our Jim Camden, on the decision by Washington’s state Democrats to hold conventions to nominate their candidates this year:

Democratic State Chairman Dwight Pelz said the conventions are necessary because the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the state primary initiative took away the influence parties can have in naming their candidates. Democrats will try to regain some control by having precinct officers attend nominating conventions for legislative, county and congressional seats. For statewide offices, delegates to the state convention will be asked which candidate they support.

“We don’t want precinct committee officers to nominate candidates, we want the public to do that. But that’s been taken away from us,” Pelz said.

The change, Camden says, could mean more confusion for voters as they prepare for the state’s first ever Top Two primary. It will also certainly mean more meetings for the Democratic Party faithful. Republicans, he said are studying whether to hold nominating conventions this year.

More:

A candidate who wins the endorsement of a nominating convention will be eligible for money and other help from the party, and can list the endorsement on his or her campaign literature, Pelz said.

But it won’t show up on the primary ballot, Trova Heffernan, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Sam Reed, said. Rules for the wording of party preference on the ballot are still being drafted, but they won’t include recognition that one candidate was nominated by the party and another wasn’t.

Here’s a link to Camden’s political blog, Spin Control 2.0.

Ladenburg/McKenna campaign preview

LegalNewsLine has a good overview of the race for Attorney General, in which Pierce County executive John Ladenburg, a Democrat, is aiming to oust Republican incumbent Rob McKenna.

Among their differences: whether to unionize support staff in the AG’s office.

Ladenburg also says he supports a change that’s been championed in Olympia for the past two years by Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane. Ormsby has tried and failed so far to convince his colleagues to allow parents to sue if an adult child is killed as the result of negligence. McKenna reportedly opposes such a change, saying the state is already far more exposed than most to expensive lawsuits.

“There are basically no boundaries or limits on claims that are brought against state taxpayers by a tort claimant,” said McKenna, a former King County councilman.

Hat tip: the TNT’s Political Buzz.

Seattle proposes disposable bag fee…

As a way to discourage the waste spawned by hundreds of millions of plastic and paper bags, the Seattle Times reports today that city officials are proposing making stores charge customers 20 cents for each disposable bag. Customers would be encouraged to bring their own reusable bags instead.

Forget the canvas sacks at home? Shoppers at grocery, convenience and drug stores will pay the price starting Jan. 1, if the City Council approves. A family buying six bags of groceries a week would spend $62.40 a year in bag fees. The city will issue one free reusable shopping bag to each household.

As writer Sharon Pian Chan notes, the city’s mayor, Greg Nickels, has banned the buying of bottled water by city departments and has proposed that all new taxis get at least 30 miles a gallon.

More details on the bag fee:

Store owners would keep 5 cents of the bag fee to cover costs. Smaller businesses that gross less than $1 million a year would keep the entire 20-cent fee. It would not apply to the smaller plastic bags such as those available in produce sections.

Seattle Public Utilities estimates the city would collect $10 million per year. About $2 million would go to provide and promote reusable bags. The rest would go toward waste prevention, recycling and environmental-education programs.

Fundraising update: 4th district: an early lead for Shea…

In the race to replace retiring state Rep. Lynn Schindler, R-Otis Orchards, local attorney Matt Shea has a big early lead in fundraising.
Shea, according to financial disclosure reports filed with the state, had raised about $13,500 for the race by late February. Fellow contenders Diana Wilhite ($0) and Ray Denonier ($850) were far behind.
Still, it’s early. And a contested legislative race can easily cost $50,000. The next monthly reports are due in a week.

Sorry — if you’d only been held prisoner a little bit longer…

Among the bills signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire this week was Senate Bill 6237, a seemingly minor bill to modify eligibility criteria for prisoner-of-war license plates.

The bill, however, was the culmination of a decade-long fight by a Korean War veteran named Dean Gehring and his family.

According to the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Derek Kilmer, Gehring was captured by enemy troops during a patrol in North Korean territory. He was held in a shack for two days, escaped, and made his way — starving — to United Nations forces a week later.

As harrowing an experience as this was, it wasn’t enough to get Gehring a Washington state Prisoner of War License Plate for his car, because the state requires that a prisoner be held at least 29 days to qualify for a POW plate.

said a press release from Kilmer’s office earlier this year.

Gehring’s family — he died last year — has repeatedly called for easing the 29-day rule. This year, Kilmer got the bill passed. It takes effect June 12. Under the new rules, anyone held captive who received a federal prisoner of war medal qualifies for the free license plate.

Crosscut and Chopp…

Crosscut’s David Brewster has a good piece today about House Speaker Frank Chopp, a behind-the-scenes dealmaker who has amassed a large Democratic majority while wielding tremendous clout over what bills move and what don’t in Olympia. He describes Chopp as:

a veteran poverty warrior from Fremont Nation, is generally thought to be not just the most powerful speaker in memory but the most powerful political figure in the state. Powerful enough to intimidate both the governor and the barons of the Legislature.

Last of the bills signed/vetoed, Gregoire launches campaign…

More from today’s paper:

Wrapping up the last of more than 300 bills, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday signed dozens of legislative measures, including a supplemental budget and a controversial bill aiming to limit toxic chemicals in toys.

But the governor also wielded her veto pen, cutting about $15 million from the budget, including $500,000 for the Airway Heights wastewater treatment plant. Gregoire listed the project as one of dozens “that, although valuable, are not essential to do right now.”

Now the campaigning — fundraising, a bus tour of the state — begins in earnest.

Read full story here.

What’s in it for you…

After using her veto pen to slice off about $15 million (sorry about that $500k for the wastewater treatment plant, Airway Heights), Gov. Chris Gregoire today approved a $291 million supplemental operating budget that leaves $850 million in savings.

Here’s a handy list that includes some of the budget highlights, county by county. The boldfaced items are new money in the supplemental budget. The regular text ones were included in last year’s $33.4 billion main budget.

Stranger’s political reporter stepping down…

Josh Feit, political writer for Seattle’s The Stranger, is leaving.

I’ve been planning this for a while (I wanted to get in one more legislative session), so I’ve saved enough money to cool out for a bit while looking for a new job.

he writes on the paper’s blog, the Slog.

Feit worked hard to cover Olympia’s undercurrents, blasting Frank Chopp in a long story last year and unabashedly lobbying hard for certain bills. From a January story:

Sigh. The do-gooder lobbyists understand the Democratic mandate: low expectations.

This is unacceptable. This is the second year in a row of heavy Democratic majorities in both houses. It’s time for the Democrats to deliver. This should be a time of high expectations, not low ones.

Objective? Absolutely not. But Feit provided a valuable finger on the pulse of urban liberals, and added news heft to the postings on the Slog.

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

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