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Eye On Olympia

Archive for July 2008

State Supremes: unsubstantiated allegations of teacher sexual misconduct shouldn’t be made public…

In a case where the 11 petitioners are all known as John Doe, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 this morning that unsubstantiated allegations of teacher sexual misconduct can be withheld from public disclosure.

School districts can investigate any complaints, the court said, and when the investigations don’t prove any wrongdoing, releasing a teacher’s name would violate his or her right to privacy.

In a lengthy dissent, Justice Barbara Madsen blasted the ruling, saying that students are reluctant to report abuse, school district investigations are often inadequate, and that the secrecy allowed by the court’s ruling is likely to allow abusers to continue to abuse children in schools.

“It is important to bear in mind that unsubstantiated does not mean untrue,” Madsen wrote.

(Disclosure: the S-R and several other newspapers, broadcasters and publishing trade groups filed briefs in this case.)

More on taxes…

As I wrote in the post below, the private Economic Opportunity Institute is proposing a Washington state “high incomes” tax aimed at people making at least $100,000 a year.

The group also looked at a couple of other tax increases, each of which would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the state every two years:

-End some tax breaks: The group proposes ending tax credits involving soda-pop syrup, private-school tuition, a research credit, high-tech factories, stevedore companies, insurance agents and brokers, travel agents and others. The changes would send an extra $400 million to the state every two years.

To sweeten the deal, the group would use about a third of that money to offset $130 million in new tax credits for small businesses.

-Expand sales taxes on some things: Teh group also suggests applying the state sales tax to:

-candy and gum ($61 million over two years)
-consumer services ($255 million). The group says it makes no sense to charge sales tax on movie rentals but not theater tickets, for example, or to tax pet grooming products and not pet grooming services. Plus, it says, the wealthy are more likely to be buying the services.
-detective and security services ($109 million)
-janitorial services ($11 million)
-custom software ($220 million)
-and securities brokers ($128 million)

for a grand total of $784 million more for state coffers per budget cycle, plus $293 million more for local governments.


Toxic Toys legislation goes national…

Months after Washington passed a “toxic toys” bill aimed at limited lead, phthalates and cadmium levels, Congress is reportedly poised to pass a bill setting national standards for lead and phthalates in toys and other childrens’ goods.

According to the Washington Toxics Coalition, a U.S. House vote was slated for today, with a Senate vote likely on Friday. The coalition says the bill bans some phthalates (which are used to make plastics softer and more durable) and reduces allowable lead levels.

This spring, state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, championed a bill that proponents called the toughest toxic-toys legislation in the country. Washington’s law is tougher than the federal bill, and covers things like kids’ cosmetics and the materials in car seats.

A dozen states considered such bills this year, according to the coalition.

That’s the sound of lobbyists saddling up…

For years, lawmakers have been saying that someone should take a look at Washington’s hundreds of tax breaks – some dating back to the Great Depression and further – and see if they’re really still justified.

Well, someone is. The state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee recently recommended some changes.

Washington should torpedo the 1939 tax break for gasoline that evaporates during handling and delivery, the committee said, because modern vapor-recovery systems have sharply reduced such losses. Fuel suppliers and distributors would pay about $2.5 million more a year in taxes as a result.

And lawmakers should consider some threshold for a Depression-era farmers’ exemption from state business tax. At the time, hundreds of farms were being abandoned in Washington, and the average per-capita farm income was $166 a year. Since then, the size and number of profit-turning farms has increased, with more than one-quarter of corporate farms reporting income of more than $100,000 a year. Today, the tax break adds up to about $30 million a year.

In its report, the committee said lawmakers should think about restoring the tax for some farms, saying the legislative record “is unclear on why farms, regardless of profit status, are to be tax exempt.”

Also due for reconsideration, the committee said, is a 1930s tax break intended to help street cars and small private ferries. For most transportation, the state business tax rate is nearly 2 percent. The tax rate is about a third of that, however, if the distance traveled is less than 5 miles.

Here’s a Powerpoint presentation summarizing the recommendations.

Climate Action Team…

The state’s “Climate Action Team” came to Spokane last week, seeking input on ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in Washington.

On the way, they stopped at an Ellensburg-area wind farm.

They met at the Spokane Convention Center, awarded high marks for its green, energy-efficient design.

And they traveled together in a bus. Powered by biodiesel.

S-R endorses an independent over Democratic state Rep. Alex Wood….

The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board today endorsed an independent state House candidate, John Waite, over longtime state Rep. Alex Wood, a Spokane Democrat.

Incumbent Wood, a former radio show host, has plenty of experience. He’s served in the Legislature since 1997. He prides himself on being a team player rather than a superstar. So he hasn’t initiated much legislation or taken on leadership roles in other ways, and he’s critical of new legislators who arrive in Olympia gung-ho about both.

wrote the editorial board.

But constituents should expect, and reward, leaders who act the part. Wood told us that if his personal retirement financials line up, he won’t run again in two years. “After 14 years, there are younger people who need a shot,” he said.

The board instead recommends a vote for Waite, a small business owner and former Spokane city council candidate. (He lost in the primary a year ago.) Noting that as an independent, Waite would likely be shut out of caucus meetings, committee chairmanships and legislative leadership spots, the board also suggested that Waite might want to align himself with one of the parties in Olympia.

The editorial ended with this:

Voters should give Waite a shot rather than send back a placeholder counting down the days to retirement.

Eyman floats a trial balloon: refunding any new taxes over 1 percent a year…

The initiative factory run by Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan and Mike Fagan has turned out a new prototype: a tax refund program that — unless voters say otherwise — would permanently hold state, city and county governments to growing less than the rate of inflation.

The sure-winner title of the proposed initiative: the “Refund Excess Taxes Initiative.”

But what would those “excess taxes” be? The measure, which has no number, would let the state and local government keep only 1 percent more general-fund revenue each year. Anything above that — again, unless voters agree to more — would be refunded.

To put that in perspective, the rate of inflation averages around 3 percent and this year looks like it will end up north of 4 percent. The last time U.S. inflation was below 1 percent was 1955.)

Interestingly, only registered voters could get the refunds, a provision that would exclude many former criminals, legal immigrants, illegal immigrants and people who don’t vote for religious or other reasons. And the refunds wouldn’t be based on how much “excess” tax you paid — it would simply take the total dollars, divide by the number of voters, and cut equal checks for everybody.

Also, this post comes with a caveat: it is common for Eyman to file multiple initiatives each year to test the waters and hone the legalese, then pick just one or two to actually try to get passed. So stay tuned.

The Pam Roach Report…

…is coming. Roach, the often controversial state senator, will soon be blogging from Beijing.

Representing Gov. Gregoire, on August 7th I will present the leaders of Sichuan Province, our sister state, with the promise of a new, privately-funded school building.

she writes. She’s primarily in China, she says, to support daughter-in-law Melanie Roach, an Olympic power-lifter.

Initiative 1029’s next stop: the ballot, or the state Supreme Court?

Due to a mistake made when drafting the measure, opponents of I-1029 want the state Supreme Court to keep it off the ballot in November.

The language of the petitions wrongly says that the measure’s an initiative to the state legislature, instead of going straight to voters. So that’s where it should go, the Community Care Coaliton argues in pleadings filed with the high court today. Going to the Legislature would take longer and be risky for the measure, seeing as how lawmakers considered — and rejected — a similar proposal this spring.

Secretary of State Sam Reed decided to accept the petitions despite the error, partly on the theory that few people actually read the lengthy text of a measure before signing an initiative petition. That decision, the coalition argues, was “arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law.”

The union-backed measure would require more training and background checks for home health aides. Proponents say it would professionalize the workforce in a state where beauticians and animal masseurs need far more hours of training than home care workers caring for elderly and disabled people.

Reed says he and his elections officials

“stand by our decision to accept over 300,000 voter signatures on I-1029 petitions, and believe that the courts will hold that the Elections Division exercised its discretion properly. A similar case went to the state Supreme Court in 1991 and a unanimous court held that an error on the petition did not require the Secretary of State to reject the signatures.”

Legislative town hall meetings: Not exactly a Batman premiere…

Still catching up here, but the state Legislative Ethics Board last week ruled that Sen. Mike Carrell technically violated state law when he handed campaign fliers — upon request, apparently — to a couple of people at a town hall meeting he held in the small city of DuPont. But the board decided to drop the matter, saying it was too minor to merit any discipline.

The most amusing part of the investigation report, however — and a cautionary note to anyone thinking that a seat in the statehouse confers some sort of political star power — is the reference to “one or both of the two members of the public in attendance” at the town hall meeting.

Jobs down slightly…

Mixed news on the economy:

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate rose slightly in June, from 5.3 percent to 5.5 percent, according to the state Department of Employment Security. The number of jobs is holding steady, the agency says, but more people — particularly recent graduates — are looking for work.

Biggest job growth: manufacturing, with 700 new jobs, and leisure and hospitality, with 600.

Biggest declines: construction (-900), finance (-700), and government (-400).

The agency — which runs the state’s unemployment insurance program — says that about 187,860 people are unemployed and looking for work in Washington. (If you’re one of them, try the state’s website for jobs: WorkSource.)

106 days to go…

Republican response to the ethics complaint filed earlier today by Democrats against state Attorney General Rob McKenna:

“The state Democrats are so desperate to resuscitate the floundering campaign of their lackluster and ethically-challenged attorney general candidate, John Ladenburg, that they’ve wildly fired a shot in their own foot. Ladenburg’s fundraising has been anemic, and even prominent Democrats aren’t supporting him. The Democrats are apparently so desperate to shock Ladenburg’s faltering campaign back to life that they don’t mind serving up a huge helping of hypocrisy with their trumped-up charges.”

(The “hypocrisy”? That Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, also appears in public service announcements. As detailed in the link above, Ladenburg says that McKenna is crossing the line, appearing in PSAs that are largely campaign ads.)

State Treasurer’s race: where the cash is coming from…

The race for state treasurer is the classic case of a race that’s fun for Olympia insiders and yawn-inducing for anyone not in the shadow of the capitol dome.

For one thing, it’s a rare open seat in state government. Incumbent Democrat Mike Murphy is stepping down, crossing party lines to endorse his longtime deputy, Republican Alan Martin.

State Rep. Jim McIntire (D-Seattle), meanwhile, who used to be so fond of mentioning that he was an economist that it became an inside joke among lawmakers, is running against one of the state’s top economists: ChangMook Sohn. Sohn — also a Democrat — is the longtime economic weather forecaster for the Legislature.

So far, Sohn has raised the most campaign money ($61,000), with Martin ($53,000) not far behind.

As a lawmaker, McIntire was barred by election law from soliciting donations during the legislative session. He’s raised $24,000 so far. (Numbers are rounded to the nearest thousand.)

Interestingly, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission, both Martin and Sohn are tapping largely individual donors (90 percent and 82 percent, respectively). McIntire, who has long fundraising experience and contacts as a lawmaker, has raised nearly 40 percent of his cash from PACs, parties, unions and other groups.

Rolling on roads near you…

The “National Bush Legacy Bus Tour” is rolling into Boise today, according to its website, and from there heads to Seattle.

Touted as a “45-foot, 28-ton museum on wheels,” the bus is no traveling presidential library. Painted on the outside:

“The Bush legacy: Economy in crisis, endless Iraq war, healthcare’s a mess, record gas prices.”

The bus tour began a year ago in Washington D.C., according to organizers, and is making nearly 150 stops this summer “including most of the hometown offices of Bush’s enablers in Congress, both national political conventions and symbolic and historic locations like New Orleans and Crawford, TX.”

Ladenburg: McKenna’s public service announcements look a lot like campaign commercials…

The state Democratic Party has filed a 9-page complaint against Attorney General Rob McKenna, saying that industry-backed ads featuring McKenna are beyond the bounds of usual public-service announcements. The party wants the ads considered campaign contributions.

“This is a clear and illegal use of public office for political campaigning and a clear violation of public disclosure laws,” charges John Ladenburg, the Democratic former prosecutor trying to unseat McKenna.

Among the ads in question: a 30-second Comcast ad featuring McKenna and McGruff the crime dog. (Topic: identity theft.) Ladenburg’s also critical of an anti-drunk-driving ad paid for by distillers.

Traditional public-service announcements, Ladenburg maintains, should be “paid for by neutral parties in non-election years around issues not directly related to a political campaign.” In fact, he says that if elected, he’ll propose a ban on an elected official’s name, image or title appearing in any public-service announcement during an election year.

McKenna spokesman Adam Faber said the complaint is groundless.

“We just consider it to be a desperate tactic by a man who’s far behind us by any measure,” Faber said. McKenna is confident that the state Public Disclosure Commission will dismiss the complaint, he said.

Meanwhile…

I return, tanned, rested, and astonished at all the stuff that’s happened in the past week. In no particular order:

-The Seattle Times’ Andrew Garber has a good overview of where the $8 billion in new spending under Gov. Gregoire went. From the story:

• About half of Gregoire’s $8 billion budget increase has gone to education. Public schools got an additional $3 billion, and the state’s colleges and universities received close to an extra $1 billion.

• Teachers and state workers have done well. The state’s contribution to pay and benefits for teachers is up about 29 percent since 2004, twice the rate of increase during Locke’s first term. Funding for state-worker pay and benefits has increased 31 percent.

Interestingly, Garber notes that the 31 percent budget rise during Gregoire’s tenure is actually lower than during Republican Gov. John Spellman (36 percent) and during Democratic Gov. Booth Gardner’s second term (45 percent).

-Liberal blogger David Goldstein broke the story — which several newspapers had until then declined to publish — that state lands commissioner Doug Sutherland touched the back and waist of a young female staffer and made a suggestive comment at a meeting three years ago, making her uncomfortable to the point where she later quit.

Democrats, who are trying to replace the Republican Sutherland with Democrat Peter Goldmark, blasted the incident. Sutherland said it was a misunderstood joke; that the woman had just returned from a contentious meeting and he was joking that she didn’t seem to have any arrows in her back. There was no lewd intent, he said.

-Sutherland is also feeling the heat from Times coverage of how his agency, the state Department of Natural Resources, is allegedly being lax in limiting logging on steep mountain slopes. The resulting landslides have inundated homes, clogged rivers and buried roads, according to the series. Sutherland says his crews are doing the best they can to watchdog timber operations, given the manpower and resources DNR has.

-Michelle Obama held a local fundraiser for Gregoire.

-Polling: SurveyUSA had Gregoire leading Republican challenger Dino Rossi 49 percent to 46 percent. Another, by Rossi pollster Moore Information, had the two tied at 45 percent each.

The also-rans…

Barring a stunning election surprise, it will be Gregoire versus Rossi on the November ballot. But there are eight other folks in the running, most of whom you’ve probably never heard of.

Among the contenders:

-an oft-arrested “international man of diplomacy,”
-candidates promoting hemp, holistic medicine and year-round schooling,
-and one who says he invented an automobile engine that runs on air.

Here they are.

The Evergreen State Platoon, 40 years later…

In 1968, 80 young men from Washington state stood in their white shirts and thin black ties in the echoing state Capitol and listened to then-Gov. Dan Evans praise them, the Marine Corps’ new “Evergreen State Platoon.”

By evening, they were on their way to boot camp in California. Many ended up in Vietnam.

On Saturday, 40 years to the day from that hot summer afternoon, about two dozen of the men returned to the Capitol to rekindle old ties and pay their respects to those who never came home.

The men, some with their wives, gathered Saturday afternoon at the state’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where the names of Washington’s war dead are carved into a stone wall. Half a dozen of the names belonged to platoon members.

Here’s a slide show with photos from 1968 and today.

Here’s the print story.

This day in history…

From the Secretary of State’s “This day in history” website function:

This Day in Washington History

July 11, 1889

People living on the North Side of Spokane complained that unsupervised prisoners from chain gangs were roving around the city, bothering and frightening people. Some had roved so far that no one could find them.

BIAW steals the spotlight — and gets blasted by Gregoire — with new billboards…

(Photo credit: Jim Camden, The Spokesman-Review)

“Dino Rossi for governor, GOP. Don’t let Seattle steal this election!”

That’s the message that the Building Industry Association of Washington has plastered on 61 billboards across Eastern Washington. And in case you missed it, “steal” is underlined.

The builders have been pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race, and they’re tailoring some of their ads to Eastern Washington, where every county voted for Rossi over Gregoire four years ago. But the billboards are the most striking example of Rossi’s political allies trying to tap into — or revive — lingering regional tensions over Rossi and Gregoire’s first faceoff four years ago.

In an interview at the governor’s mansion this afternoon, Gregoire called the billboards unnecessarily divisive and said Rossi had — and lost — his day in court over Gregoire’s razor-thin election victory in the 2004 election.

“I have worked as hard as I could to create one Washington,” she said, citing her efforts to free up more water for farmers, boost alternative power and help local economic development groups, among other things.

The state is moving past the idea of an ideological and cultural divide at the crest of the Cascades, she maintains.

“I just think that’s a day gone by and never to be returned,” she said. “I guess I’d have to say shame on him (Rossi) for trying to divide this state up. That’s just wrong. We are one state, and only as one are we as good as we are.”

But what about the election and the perception that Rossi was cheated out of victory?

“He had his day in court and he couldn’t prove anything,” Gregoire said, citing the weeks-long court fight that ended with a Chelan County judge awarding four more votes to Gregoire, who at the time was the state’s attorney general. “His theory was that felons voted. Well, if they did, they didn’t vote for the woman attorney general.”

“It’s nice to try and make people angry, I guess,” she said. “I think it’s the wrong thing. I think people are positive, they want hope. That’s why Barack Obama has resonated with them. His (Rossi’s) message of be-angry retribution, some of the bumper stickers that he’s got out, I just say (are) wrong for Washington State. Those are not the values of the people of this state. We are united. I’m there to solve your problem whether you’re in Eastern Washington or the southwest or central Puget Sound, it doesn’t matter where you live. We are Washingtonians.”

BIAW spokeswoman Erin Shannon maintains that the message is innocuous.

“We’re just trying to remind folks in Eastern Washington that they need to get out and vote,” she said. “Had they turned out and voted in the same percentages as did King County last go-round, they could have changed the result of the elections. Even with King County’s shenanigans.”

“We’ve always maintained that that election was questionable,” she said. The election, she said, “just didn’t pass the smell test.”

Were felons really likely to have voted for an AG, the state’s top law-enforcement official?

“Well, other studies have shown that felons will overwhelmingly vote Democrat,” said Shannon.

As for the Cascade Curtain being an outdated myth, she said, Gregoire’s “the one who’s outdated if she believes that, if she believes the people in Eastern Washington feel she represents them.” She pointed to the governor’s allegedly lukewarm reception for a large uranium-processing plant proposed for the Tri-Cities. The plant — and it’s 400 jobs — will be built in Idaho.

But if it’s about voter turnout, why not say “get out and vote”, instead of “steal the election?”

“We want them to remember,” responded Shannon. “We want them to remember that they have the power to make the difference.”


Rossi campaign: “operatives” with video gear “won’t be welcome to come collect attack ad footage”

Responding to the state Democrats’ new video of their camera people being barred from various Dino Rossi speaking engagements, Rossi spokeswoman Jill Strait says:

Of course we don’t allow Democratic party operatives with cameras to crash our events. In the age of YouTube, the State Democrats have proven their willingness to disregard ethics and use “select” footage out of context to make attack videos. That’s why they’ve been forced to remove several of their web videos for issues ranging from copyright infringement to ethnic slurs. Even if they start using taste in their editing – and soundtrack selection – they still won’t be welcome to come collect attack ad footage.

Dino has always said he welcomes anyone who’s willing to work in good faith to help fix our state’s problems. Democratic partisan operatives with recording equipment don’t exactly meet that standard.

UPDATE: Gregoire campaign spokesman Aaron Toso says the Republicans’ video guy has been welcomed at Gregoire’s public events.

I have personally said hello to the Republican/Rossi tracker at multiple public events. I’ve even cleared space on the media riser for him. It is our policy to be transparent.

Another update: Kelly Steele, a spokesman for the state Democrats, disputes that the resulting videos distort Rossi’s statements:

Never have we infringed on anyone’s copyright, and Mr. Rossi’s statements and news clippings have been presented in context.

Endorsements and counting coup…

The Pierce County sheriff’s deputies’ union last night endorsed Attorney General Rob McKenna for re-election after interviewing both McKenna and his Democratic opponent, Pierce County executive (and former local prosecutor) John Ladenburg.

Political reporters get a lot of “endorsed by” press releases this time of year, and because they would quickly fill up the paper, most of them go straight to the round file. And still they come. Candidates enjoy the stamp of approval and likely fundraising boost, and the groups get a sense of political clout.

As the McKenna announcement illustrates, endorsements also provide a handy opportunity to count coup on an opponent. Which is why his three-paragraph announcement carefully noted in the first sentence that the Pierce County deputies’ endorsement was “right in (Ladenburg’s) backyard.”

For a local example of this sort of political noogie, see the 6th Legislative district (western Spokane) primary faceoff between businessman Kevin Parker and Mel Lindauer. Both Republicans are aiming to unseat Rep. Don Barlow in November.

Both Lindauer and Parker are strong candidates running pretty well-funded campaigns. But in an obvious shot across the bow of Lindauer — an optometric physician — Parker last month secured and propmptly announced the endorsement of the Washington Academy of Eye Physicians.

“In a race which has drawn the attention of physicians across Washington, particularly eye doctors, I am honored an humbled by this strong statement of support,”
Parker said at the time.

Firing back, Lindauer yesterday announced that the state’s Optometric Physicians of Washington had “pledged its full support” to his campaign. So, he said, has the Inland Society of Optometric Physicians.

Update from the Sunshine Committee…

From this morning’s paper:

OLYMPIA – Despite concerns by open-government advocates over two recent court rulings, a state task force looks unlikely to recommend changing the law that allows public officials and attorneys to keep some of their discussions and work secret.

“It’s not broken, so please don’t fix it,” attorney Don Austin told the Legislature’s Sunshine Committee on Tuesday in Olympia.

The group is examining the hundreds of exceptions that allow state and local governments to withhold information from the public. Among the most high-profile: attorney-client privilege for government agencies.

In a Spokane case involving The Spokesman-Review, the state Supreme Court in December ruled 5-4 that Spokane Public Schools was correct to deny the newspaper’s request for records involving a student’s death. Nine-year-old Nathan Walters, who was allergic to peanuts, died on a field trip in 2001 after eating part of a peanut butter cookie.

The school district settled with Walters’ parents but sued the newspaper to block the request to see the district’s investigation of what happened. As the product of its attorneys’ work, the district said, the interviews and other records were exempt from disclosure.

Critics of that court decision and a 2004 one involving attorney-client privilege say the rulings make it easier for public officials to shield much of what they do from the public.

Cities, school districts or any other government agency could simply hire attorneys to do any controversial investigations, then deny any public requests for the records, said Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

“Almost anything that a government agency does could potentially result in a lawsuit,” he said. “If that’s interpreted to mean it’s all privileged, the public could be excluded from almost everything.”

Click here for story.

State severing cigarette agreement with the Yakama Nation…

Saying that untaxed cigarettes continue to be sold on the Yakama Reservation, the state is terminating its agreement legalizing Yakama cigarette sales to non-tribal members.

“Unfortunately this agreement is just not working,” said state Department of Revenue Director Cindi Holmstrom said in a news release this afternoon.

Trying to head off this kind of faceoff, the tribe and the state have been working with a mediator since 2006 to reach agreement amid a complex legal playing field. Among the challenges: tribal members are suing the governor in tribal court.

Under a 2004 agreement with the state, the tribe can impose its own cigarette tax in lieu of the state tax. Under such compacts, tribes typically apply their own tax stamps to the packs. The tribal tax was to start at 80 percent of the state tax and ramp up to 100 percent on July 1st. The tribe keeps the money, and the state considered purchases of tribally-stamped cigarettes by non-Indians to be legitimate.

Both sides agree that that it’s impractical to insist that tribal smokeshops charge the same tax rate as the state would, said the department’s deputy director, Leslie Cushman. The price break allowed in the 2008 legislation — $17.75 in tax per carton, instead of the normal $20.25 — was intended to allow cigarettes to be cheaper enough that people will continue to patronize the rural tribe’s tobacco shops.

“The state doesn’t want businesses to go out of business,” said Cushman. Unlike on many reservations, the Yakama smokeshops are owned by tribal members, not the tribe itself.

The state’s next move, Cushman said, is a reluctant “return to enforcement.”

For years, state agents would play cat-and-mouse games with tribal smokeshops, trying to seize truckloads of untaxed cigarettes en route to reservations. (The state cannot enforce its laws on reservation land.) But the Yakamas have an interesting hole card in this dispute: their treaty includes an unusual provision guaranteeing them the right to travel on the state’s roads. That means that a seizure en route “is probably not allowable,” Cushman said.

“But it doesn’t cover sales and it doesn’t cover possession,” she said of the treaty clause. The state can also still sue tribal members and officers, she said, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is empowered to go onto tribal land and seize sales records.

“We have a lot of options,” Cushman said. “we don’t know which ones we’re going to use.”

Twenty other tribes in Washington agree to charge a tribal tax of the same amount as the state’s. The Puyallup Tribe, which like the Yakamas has privately owned smokeshops, can charge a lower tribal tax — but they also must share 30 percent of that revenue with the state.

“In the long run we are hopeful we can get to an agreement the Yakama Nation and the state can live with,” said Holmstrom.

Today Thimphu, tomorrow Olympia…

The national assembly of Bhutan has banned lawmakers from toting their laptops into the capitol, Thomson Reuters reports, “for fear they might spend their time playing computer games.”

Lawmakers in the Himalayan kingdom, which until recently was a monarchy, overruled objections by lawmakers who said the laptops are more convenient than paper.

As I’ve written before, this is a reform that would be extremely difficult in Olympia, where lawmakers in just a few years have become accustomed to routinely pecking away on email (and sometimes solitaire) on their state-issued laptops during as they listen — sort of — to hearing testimony and floor speeches.

IdahObama?

Bumperactive, an online bumper-sticker maker ($4.50 each), is trying to design Barack Obama bumper stickers for every state.
There’s “‘bama for Obama” (Alabama, yes), “GumbObama” (Louisiana), a Cheeseheads-themed “Obama Favre” for Wisconsin and, for Arizona, “Re-elect Senator John McCain 2008.” (Emphasis on “senator.”)

In this field of competitors, alas, Washington’s bumper sticker comes off as pretty feeble. I has a lot of evergreen trees, the stubby whiteness of Mt. Rainier, and “O B A M A” written across both. It’s no Nebraska (Obama spelled out in corn kernels on a cob), Nevada (his smiling face on slot-machine wheels) or New Hampshire (“Live Free, Vote Barack” on a field of granite.)

But Idahoans, here’s your chance. Idaho is one of the nearly three dozen states with no bumper sticker. Got ideas? The link above includes a way to send ‘em emails. And they’re still accepting ideas for the states that are already done.

Got $3 billion for Olympia, and some pants for Mr. Hill?


-A budget shortfall of $3 billion? The Tri-City Herald’s Chris Mulick does the math and concludes that two ballot measures likely to go to voters in November would cost a combined $313 million — enough to push the state’s two-year expected budget shortfall of $2.7 million just over the $3 billion mark.

-Robert “The Traveler” Hill, who periodically shows up in Olympia to testify, typically on gun issues, is again making Tacoma City Council meetings must-watch TV. From Jason Hagey at the TNT’s blog:


Former sheriff candidate takes off pants at Tacoma City Council meeting: Tacoma City Councilman Mike Lonergan asked the city’s legal staff to find a way to keep Robert “The Traveller” Hill from attending future City Council meetings following Hill’s conduct last night, which included removing some of his clothes and once again mentioning masturbation.

Al-righty then. The link above has more bizarre details.

-Also in the TNT: Oregon may soon have a Top Two style primary similar to Washington’s.


Three years after voters approve smoking ban, efforts continue to end-run it…

From the print paper:

Walk up the stairs above Frankie’s bar in Olympia, and it’s like stepping back to 2005.

Bar patrons are talking over tall mugs of beer, nothing unusual about that. But there are ashtrays – ashtrays! – on the tables. And a slight smoky haze hangs in the air, as people happily puff away on cigarettes and cigars. Three years after voters overwhelmingly approved Washington’s toughest-in-the-nation smoking ban, a handful of bar owners, clubs and others continue to seek ways around it.

Among their recent efforts:

•An American Legion post in Bremerton has a case before the state Supreme Court, arguing that the ban was never intended to apply to private clubs.

•Frankie’s owner Frank Schnarrs has been in court for two years, arguing that his upstairs bar is actually a members-only club, and that the servers are volunteers.

•Cigar fans gathered tens of thousands of signatures this year in an unsuccessful effort to restore smoking in cigar stores and smoke shops.

“This is not about smoking,” Schnarrs said. “This is about freedom of choice.”


Full story is here.

And they’re in…

I-1029 has turned in nearly 317,000 signatures, according to campaign manager Jeff Parsons.

Parsons said he’s confident that the measure will withstand any challenge regarding the initiative-to-the-legislature wording error on the form. (See below)

“With almost 317,000 people signing this, it’s definitely something people want,” he said of the initiative, which would mandate more training and background checks for some home health care workers. “Let the people decide.”

SEIU’s Initiative 1029: Uh-oh…

In 50 minutes, proponents of Initiative 1029 are scheduled to deliver thousands of petitions to the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia. Presumably, they’ll have enough signatures to get the measure — which would mandate more training and background checks for some health workers — on the ballot.

Meanwhile, however, the Community Care Coalition of Washington is rattling its legal sabers over a mistake on the petitions. Instead of saying that I-1029 is an initiative to the people, the petitions wrongly state that it’s an initiative to the Legislature. While I suspect the vast majority of petition signers are unlikely to know the difference (or care), the coalition’s attorneys argue otherwise, saying it’s not a meaningless error.

“To ignore these basic and constitutional differences in the two forms of initiative would underrate the voters of this State and their understanding of the options for the exercise of direct democracy,” write attorneys Kathleen Benedict and Narda Pierce.

The petitions are wrong, they write, and “it would be a dangerous precedent” to allow them to put the measure on the ballot.

“Voters are entitled to notice and clarity as they make their decisions on initiative petitions,” they write, urging Secretary of State Sam Reed to reject the petitions.

Reed’s election officials, who have said they consider the error a minor, harmless one, say they’ll accept the petitions.

My guess: If foes have the cash, this is probably headed straight to court.

As for measure’s backers, they’ve largely been maintaining radio silence in the past few days as word of the error spread. The only notice I and other Olympia reporters have received about the scheduled turn-in of petitions has come from the Secretary of State’s office. And a spokesman for the group said yesterday that they don’t plan a news conference at the turn-in.

Eyman: “We’re the Rodney Dangerfields of politics…”

Controversial initiative pitchman Tim Eyman, whose been booted from meetings and once got pied in the face by political opponents, this week faced a new challenge: the lawnmower man.

Eyman on Tuesday got ready to file his latest initiative petitions, enough to put I-985 on the ballot. A relentless publicity seeker, he called a press conference to announce the victory on the steps of a state building next to the state capitol. But as a TV crew and a couple of newspaper reporters arrived, a state groundskeeper on a riding lawnmower happened to be roaring away just across the street.

“Mow the lawn some other day!” Eyman shouted, as the man obliviously piloted his rig around stone steps and shrubs and sidewalks.

“We’re the Rodney Dangerfield of politics,” Eyman said, launching into his spiel anyway. “No respect.”

Reading from prepared remarks, he touted the measure as a tool in the fight against traffic congestion. He estimates it would raise about $150 million a year for anti-congestion work. Most of that money, however, would be diverted from the general fund, which pays for things like schools and health care. The measure would open up car-pool lanes to everyone during off-peak hours, require more synchronizing of traffic lights, and do away with a requirement that transportation projects set aside half a percent of the cost for public art. Instead, the art money would be spent on anti-congestion work.

Among the things critics are unhappy with: the measure would do nothing to boost busing or other public transit.

But midway through Eyman’s spiel, a rumbling Olympia city bus pulled up at the curb, a few feet away. Then it began beeping.

“The Sierra Club,” he joked, raising his voice to be heard. “The Sierra Club sent out a bus to disrupt our meeting. They are nefarious.”

Its passenger dropped off, the bus rumbled off.

BIAW shifting ad strategy to TV…

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s campaign says that the Building Industry Association of Washington, fresh from a month of radio ads, appears poised to launch new anti-Gregoire ads on TV. The group’s been checking media-buy records at TV stations.

“It is no surprise that Republican Dino Rossi’s biggest special interest friends would sign a blank check to try and buy the Governor’s mansion,” said Gregoire campaign spokesman Aaron Toso.

Another PAC, calling itself Evergreen Progress, appears to be mounting a similar anti-Rossi effort. The group has raised more than $1 million, much of it from public-employee- and other unions, as well as from the Democratic Governors’ Association.

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

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