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Eye On Olympia

Archive for June 2008

Some Democrats taking aim at Seattle’s ban on guns on city property?

Half a dozen Democratic state lawmakers — all of them from districts with large rural areas — today called on the state’s attorney general to weigh in on whether a city can ban otherwise-legal firearms from city property.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels recently issued such an executive order:

“It is the policy of the City of Seattle, acting in its proprietary capacity, to adopt and enforce policies, rules, and contractual agreements that, consistent with state law, prohibit the possession of dangerous weapons, including firearms, on City property.”

“I’d like to know whether cities like Seattle can set aside the Bill of Rights when you walk onto city property,” Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, said in a press release today. He said he thinks such a ban “infringes on the right of citizens to legally carry a gun.”

“There’s a lot of questions, but I would also like to know if state laws are being pre-empted by Seattle’s mayor,” he said.

The other lawmakers signing the letter include:
-Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond
-Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview
-Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen
-Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam
-and Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw.

Although all are running for re-election this year, three of them — Hatfield, Takko and Blake — are running unopposed.

Washington lawmakers ran into a similar issue firsthand several years ago, when they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars installing and staffing metal detectors and X-ray machines at the entrances to the state capitol.

But because lawmakers have long been reluctant to go the extra step and ban firearms in the building, the screenings led to a bizarre result: security staff were confiscating things like hammers, screwdrivers and pepper spray, but anyone with a concealed weapons permit was free to pass through, pistol, bullets and all.

The leased machines were soon removed.

California (cars), here we come…

Starting with the 2009 model year, new cars sold in Washington must meet strict California emission standards. Buy a car that doesn’t and you’re in for a shock: You won’t be able to register it in Washington.

Here’s our story.

Teachers’ union, Semler endorse Dorn…

Not a lot of suspense on this one, but the Washington Education Association has endorsed Randy Dorn, a (different) union official running to oust state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson.

The WEA is at odds with Bergeson, it’s former president, over her support for the controversial Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests and what the union sees as an ongoing lack of school funding.

Dorn is also endorsed by the union he heads, the Public School Employees of Washington, which represents bus drivers, food workers, custodians, tutors and other working in schools.

Also today, Richland School Superintendent Rich Semler, a popular candidate who dropped out of the race recently over family health issues, endorsed Dorn.

With smoking rates still high among low-income folks, Medicaid in WA to cover nicotine patches, etc.

Starting this week, Washington smokers covered by Medicaid can get more help quitting, including things like nicotine-replacement patches or gum.

Although smoking rates have declined sharply, the percentage of smokers remains high among low-income people, according to the state Department of Social and Health Service.

“The new benefit will make a real difference in the lives of people who can least afford to get help quitting smoking,” state Health Secretary Mary Selecky, a Colville native, said last week.

The smoking rate in Washington has dropped 24 percent since 2000, when the state launched a tobacco-prevention program and began ramping up tobacco taxes. That works out to about 235,000 fewer smokers in Washington.

And since smokers tend to have more health problems – and the state is a health provider for thousands of primarily low-income people – fewer smokers tend to mean lower costs to taxpayers. (The federal Centers for Disease Control estimate that an average of 14 percent of Medicaid costs are related to smoking.)

The smoking decline in just the past eight years, DSHS estimates, will mean $2.1 billion in future health-cost savings. (NOTE: I’m still waiting to hear back from the state re: how much this change will cost.)

Even for those not on Medicaid, Washington provides a free “Tobacco Quit Line” – 1-800-QUIT-NOW or I-800-2NO-FUME in Spanish – for information, advice and “quit kits.”

Since 2000, DSHS says, more than 100,000 people have called.

TVW: new Inside Olympa host…

More from the in-box…

Now that veteran Associated Press reporter Dave Ammons has gone to the dark side – i.e. gone to work as a state-paid spokesman – he’s gone from his dual role as the longtime host of “Inside Olympia,” a weekly interview show on the TVW public-affairs network. (In Spokane, it’s Comcast channel 25.)

In Ammons’ place: Austin Jenkins, a public radio capitol correspondent whose mild-mannered delivery camouflages a knack for asking probing questions.

The interview-style show isn’t likely to replace primetime. But it’s a rare long-form look at the minds, motivations and goals of elected officials, from obscure agencies to the governor and top lawmakers. It typically airs Thursday-, Saturday- and Sunday nights.

Democratic Party ad draws ire of Italian-American group…

In a new twist on the governor’s race, a decades-old Seattle Italian-American club on Wednesday blasted the state Democratic Party for using the Sopranos TV theme song as the backdrop to a recent video critical of Republican Dino Rossi.

The group was unhappy — really unhappy — with what it views as an attempt to link Rossi’s Italian-American heritage to mobsters. When I called him, Italian Club of Seattle president Brian DiJulio likened the ad to running an image of “Little Black Sambo” in a campaign ad about an African-American candidate.

“Italian Americans are the only ones who seem to be discriminated against and it’s seen as OK,” he said. “There’s just right and there’s wrong and it’s time for Italian-Americans to say we’re not mobsters. We’re governors and lawyers and doctors and priests.”

“This is clearly a smear tactic on their part,” he said. DiJulio said he doesn’t consider himself either a Republican or Democrat.

The group is calling for the video to be yanked from the Web, for a public apology from the party (and Gov. Chris Gregoire) and for the resignation of state party chairman Dwight Pelz.

The state GOP echoed much of that, saying that:

“Gov. Gregoire’s political operatives have engaged in bigotry with this web video in order to shift the focus away from the ethical clouds surrounding Gregoire.”

That’s from Luke Esser, state Republican Party chairman, who pronounced the sound track offensive, shameful, unacceptable, insulting and outrageous.

“What’s next? Dino is also part Tlingit, Alaskan Native. Are they going to attack him for that, too?”

Esser asked.

A spokesman for Gregoire’s campaign referred me to the state Democratic Party, which this evening issued an apology — sort of — and said it will replace the ad’s audio track.

“Our video is in no way meant to allege or imply that Republican Dino Rossi or his extremist, right-wing developer allies have ties to the mafia or organized crime,”

state party spokesman Kelly Steele wrote in an e-mail. He said it’s a catchy song that “jibed stylistically” with the ad’s message.

“That being said, we’d like to apologize to Rossi’s friend Mr. DiJulio, his organization, and anyone else we may have inadvertently offended,”

Steele wrote. The video will remain the same, he said, just with a different song.

Steele also noted that Rossi himself has repeatedly referenced The Sopranos while campaigning. He cited a Rossi speech yesterday on Mercer Island, in which Rossi criticized the state’s high gas, alcohol and liquor taxes.

“If we raised them any more,” Rossi reportedly told the crowd, “Tony Soprano would want to get some of that action.”

Print story’s here.

Ballot measure — and the labor union paying for it — dodges a very expensive bullet…

It turns out that there’s an errror on the thousands of petitions being signed to put Initiative 1029 on the ballot in November. In language presumably carried over from an earlier draft of the measure, the form says that it’s actually a petition to the state Legislature, rather than straight to the fall ballot.

That technical mistake could have been a very expensive one, potentially torpedoing the measure and the hundreds of the thousands of dollars spent gathering signatures. So far, campaign-finance reports have shown that the vast majority of the money has been put up by the Service Employees International Union. (The measure would require more training and better background checks of some health-care workers.)

“It’s a big thing,” said Eddie Agazarm, co-owner of the Olympia-based signature-gathering firm Citizen Solutions. (The company’s not working on I-1029.) The error was discovered by one of his workers. Agazarm notified state election officials about the problem this morning.

“I don’t see how it could be” allowed on the ballot, he said this morning. “Right on the front of the petition, it says it’s going to the Legislature.”

But the Secretary of State’s office says the mistake’s not a show-stopper.

“Our office determined that it was not a fatal flaw or that would-be signers were misled,” said Dave Ammons, a spokesman for the office. He sent out a statement from assistant elections director Shane Hamlin, who said:

“Our office is authorized to reject petitions, but not required to do so. This error does not rise to a level that suggests voters were misinformed as a result of the error or that a signer would have acted otherwise if the petition correctly stated that it is an initiative to the people.”

Agazarm was surprised by the decision. He cited an e-mail he got earlier this year from Adam Glickman, a spokesman for SEIU 775NW, which was lobbying for more technical requirements for ballot measures. In it, Glickman pointed out that petition rules must be followed if signatures are to count:

There are plenty of existing reasons voter’s valid signatures are excluded. If the sponsor prints petitions on the wrong size paper, otherwise valid signatures don’t count. If the sponsor fails to print the correct warning on the petition otherwise valid signatures don’t count. If the sponsor fails to accurately print the title or summary or initiative text on the petition otherwise valid signatures don’t count.

Glickman wrote at the time.

“It’s worse than ignoring it,” Agazarm said of the Secretary of State’s decision about the error. “They’re going to acknowledge it and accept the signatures. I guess we can just ignore all these election laws.”

Print story’s here.

News report on candidates avoiding the word “Republican” on the ballot…

I can’t recall the last time I heard the state Democratic Party highlighting a Fox News video, but they want to make sure you see this one. It highlights the fact that 28 Republicans are going by GOP, no party, or some other term on the state’s new “Top Two” primary ballot. Among the folks in the video: Spokane County Republican chairman Curt Fackler, whose running for state insurance commissioner with no party designation listed.

Rule 1 for candidates: Buy your name…

Running for office — or even thinking about it? Here’s a hint: Buy your domain name before your critics do.

State Attorney General candidate John Ladenburg got an unpleasant suprise last week when he found that a staffer for the King County Republicans had bought the rights to the domain names www.johnladenburg.com and www.johnladenburg.org. They were registered by Matthew Lundh, treasurer and political director of the Republican group. Whois records show that the sites were registered last November. (Lundh said he saw Ladenburg listed as a candidate on a Christmas party invitation from the Democrats — months before Ladenburg announced he was running.)

Ladenburg, a Democrat, calls himself “the rightful owner” of that domain and said he “wonders if the web identity will be used to build a Republican website misleading voters” about his career and record.

In an interesting sentence, Ladenburg said that the purchase of a site with his name by someone else “is not a crime, but it is purposeful, and if used to spread lies and misleading information, then I do consider it a type of theft.” He’d rather you visit www.ladenburg.org.

Lundh said he had no plans to put up a hit website.

“I registered it more to make a point,” he said. The point: that someone who’s made identity theft and cybercrime a key part of his criticism of Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna should at least know enough about the internet to buy his own name.

“He’s kind of way out of his league here,” said Lundh. “You’d think he probably would have registered this 15 years ago.”

Lundh said he’ll happily transfer the sites to Ladenburg if he’s reimbursed for the $7.95 or so he paid for each. He said neither Ladenburg nor anyone from his campaign has ever contacted him.

“If they want them, they can have them,” he said.

So, you ask, what other domains are still available out there? A quick check shows that all the major “gregoire” domains have been bought up, although apparently mostly by Gregoires who have no obvious link to Gov. Chris Gregoire. All the “rossi” domains: also gone.

Surprisingly, www.chrisgregoire.biz remains available, as does www.dinorossi.biz. At least for now.

Ballot measures: who’s got cash…

Thanks to Lori Anderson with the PDC, here’s a peek into the checkbooks of the groups pushing or opposing several ballot measures this year. (The measure summaries in parentheses are mine.)

-Initiative 985 (Tim Eyman’s measure designed to steer more money into transportation projects, synch up more traffic lights and let everyone drive in carpool lanes during off-peak hours): $511,170 raised and $454,287 spent.

-Initiative 1000 (Which would allow physicians to legally prescribe lethal drugs to late-stage terminally ill people who want to end their lives): Proponents have raised about $1.2 million and spent more than $1 million. Opponents, known as the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide, have raised less than $91,000 and spent about $54,000.

-Initiative 1029 (A union-backed measure to expand training and some background-check requirements for some health care workers): Raised $350,000; spent $267,159.

-Initiative 1030 (Aimed at holding down property taxes): Raised $9,640 and spent all of it.

How do these compare to the most expensive political campaigns the state has seen? So far, nowhere close. Anderson says Initiative 330 (primarily a doctors-versus-lawyers fight over medical malpractice liability) was the most expensive ballot-measure fight in state history, with $16 million spent by both sides.

Other biggies, according to PDC records:
-$15.4 million on a tort-reform fight last year
-$7.7 million battling over an effort to expand tribal gaming in 2004,
-$7 million spent in 1997, mostly by new-stadium proponents,
-$5 million in 2006, over a property-rights measure patterned after a controversial Oregon law.

State budget forecast: some rain’s falling…

Steve Lerch, a state economist, is predicting about that this two-year state budget cycle will bring in about $60 million less than predicted four months ago.

Lerch was speaking to the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

In the 2009-2011 budget cycle, he thinks, the hit will be worse: $163 million less.

The reasons aren’t suprising: high oil prices, “somewhat lower” employment, nervousness about the economy and fears about home values translating into lower consumer confidence and spending.

The good news: things are worse elsewhere in the U.S.

“That doesn’t mean it (the economy) is maybe where we’d like to see it,” said Lerch, “but we still continue to do better than a relatively weak U.S. economy.” Gas stations and grocery stores, in particular, are doing well.

The real estate excise tax — a windfall in recent years that fueled a large surplus in state coffers — has dropped off dramatically. Lerch says it’s the worst downturn in those tax receipts in more than two decades.

“We’re assuming one more quarter of really pretty big decline in real estate excise receipts,” he said.

“That’s a dramatic decline off of a really big high,” observed Rep. Jim McIntire, D-Seattle.

True, Lerch said. In recent years, the real estate tax had jumped by 20-40 percent a year.

What’s this mean to state services, payroll and programs? Probably not much for now. Much of the $60 million decrease has already been factored into state budget planning for this two-year cycle, according to state budget director Victor Moore. And although it’s a lot of dollars, it’s a small percentage of the state’s $33 billion general-fund budget.

“Not much of a change,” said McIntire.

The hit in the ‘09-11 budget cycle is more worrisome. Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, yesterday suggested a state hiring freeze to hold down state payroll growth. But so far there haven’t been widespread calls for such a move.

“The problem is we made spending commitments based on that abnormal growth” in recent budget years, he said.

Legislative budget staff have estimated the state budget shortfall in the 2009-2011 budget cycle to be $2.5 billion, which would be a major hit. Moore suggested that it’s likely to be less, although he wouldn’t put a figure on it.

For now, Moore said, the state is curtailing unessential travel, reducing meeting costs, and looking for other ways to save.

“We know it’s essential that they start paring back,” he said.

Lerch predicts that the housing market is likely to start recovering by the end of this year. And he foresees “weak but positive” employment growth on the horizon.

“We’re forecasting that Washington is not going to be in a recession,” he said.

TVW debate mirrored in Associated Press’ struggle to retain control over its content…

As I mentioned last week, TVW is trying to keep bloggers from downloading, editing and posting audio or video excerpts from the public-affairs network’s copyrighted coverage.

Washington political bloggers, most notably www.horsesass.org founder David Goldstein, are resisting, saying that under a legal doctrine called fair use, they should be allowed to use short excerpts of copyrighted work.

As it turns out, the Associated Press is engaged in a very similar tussle. The New York Times reported yesterday that the AP is trying to set standards for how much can be quoted from its stories without infringing on AP’s copyright.

Last week, according to the Times, the news cooperative

took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.

After a flurry of criticism by bloggers, the AP backed off slightly, saying it would rethink the policy. But it has also posted this page, offering bloggers 5-25 word quotes of AP stories, subject to AP’s terms of use, for $12.50 each.

Sounding a lot like TVW’s arguments, an AP spokesman told the Times:

“Cutting and pasting a lot of content into a blog is not what we want to see,” he said. “It is more consistent with the spirit of the Internet to link to content so people can read the whole thing in context.”

Although the struggle to retain control of their content is similar, the motivations of TVW and the AP are different. With widespread cutting-and-pasting of parts or all of its news articles to blogs that pay nothing to AP, it’s losing potential readers — and money.

TVW, on the other hand, seems more worried about its devoutly nonpartisan, gavel-to-gavel-coverage nature being tainted by its content turning up in political attack ads. TVW’s proposed solution is a no-cost, YouTube-like embed code for bloggers to link directly to the content — on TVW’s site.

(Full disclosure: The Spokesman-Review is a member of the AP, I’m one of the bloggers who was asked to stop using TVW’s content, and I occasionally appear on TVW broadcasts.)

Class of 2009: slightly better WASL results than their predecessors so far…

About 85 percent of Washington’s high school juniors have already passed the new reading and writing standards they’ll need to get a diploma, the state’s top school official said Monday, a slight increase from last year.

But the Washington Assessment of Student Learning results, released Monday, also suggest that English-language learners continue to struggle to pass the controversial test.

Among juniors learning English as a second language, only about 47 percent passed both the reading and writing WASL.

“We have to improve the program resources that high schools have to help these students,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson said. “We’ve got to work smarter.”

She’s suggesting giving new immigrants a later graduation date, better screening in bilingual classes for students who need more help, and more state dollars to support these programs. Schools with small populations of non-English speakers are in particular need of help, she said.

This year’s seniors – the Class of 2008 – is the first that has to pass the reading and writing WASL or alternatives in order to graduate. Two weeks ago, Bergeson announced that more than 91 percent of seniors met the standard.

Of this year’s juniors, Bergeson said, “I know they’re going to rise to the challenge, just like this year’s graduating class did.”

Last August, fewer than 84 percent of this year’s seniors were passing, according to Chris Barron, a spokesman at Bergeson’s office.

The WASL test has drawn fire from many teachers, education advocates and some lawmakers, who say that the series of tests, starting in 3rd grade, take up too much time and money. They also say that the emphasis on testing has squeezed out other important learning.

Bergeson, business groups and other advocates of the test have long argued that they bring critical accountability to an educational system that needs to show taxpayers that it’s working well. Bergeson also argues that the tests show that a diploma is meaningful.

“The Class of 2008 is well-prepared and has the skills to take that next step in life,” she said Monday. “Now we want to keep that momentum going.”

Demo convention: the abbreviated version…

Ahh, sunny Spokane. Here’s how things went this weekend at the state Democratic Party convention:

-There was general agreement on the party platform.

-Gov. Chris Gregoire blasted her presumptive Republican challenger, former state Sen. Dino Rossi, as someone who “pretends he is an outsider who has never seen Olympia, Washington,” criticized the state budget that he (and Democrats) wrote, and said the difference between Rossi and unpopular president George W. Bush is

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

-More re: the governor: This from the S-R’s Jim Camden, covering the convention for us:

There’s no doubt who this convention is designed to boost.

Sure, there are cardboard cutouts of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the grand hallway, and paraphernalia for candidates of all levels. But the Washington Democrats, like their Republican counterparts two weeks ago, are focusing on the governor’s race as they gather for their convention.

Want proof? Chris Gregoire’s signs out number every other candidate’s in the grand hall.

Her volunteers are walking around in white t-shirts with her name plastered across their chests.

Her smiling face adorns every identification tag, turning every delegate, alternate and guest into a walking campaign sign for Gregoire.

-Longtime State Rep. Jim McIntire got the Democratic nod as one of two Democrats running for state treasurer. (The other is ChangMook Sohn, who for years has been the Legislature’s chief economic weather forecaster.)

-Compared the Republican version a couple of weeks ago, the Tacoma News-Tribune’s Niki Sullivan reported:

it’s a bit more laid back: There aren’t as many security guards and we can walk wherever we want (even on the floor!) without supervision. Music (mostly 90s rock, it seems) is often played while candidates approach the stage.

Another difference: There are a lot more bloggers covering the event — including partisan bloggers. I’m still getting used to sitting at the press table and having my next-door neighbor clap and cheer during candidate speeches.

-Democrats also endorsed former lawmaker and current union president Randy Dorn in his quest to unseat state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson.

-Meanwhile, in Idaho: The state Republican convention proved more colorful, with delegates ousting the current party chairman, who promptly said he planned “to largely withdraw from politics” and also booting three Ron Paul delegates. More on the former.

A couple more candidates drop out…

In the 41st legislative district, Republican Valery Chan has dropped her bid for an open Senate seat. State Rep. Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island; and Republican Bob Baker have also filed for the seat.

And in King County, superior court candidate Eddie Aubrey has dropped out.

Here’s the list of candidates.

In great demand: TVW footage…

Really. The state’s public affairs network, famous for its “gavel-to-gavel” coverage of the legislature, state supreme court, etc., is clamping down on bloggers lifting video or audio from the site.

On Friday, the network started contacting bloggers, including me, who use excerpts from its recordings. TVW has long allowed TV and radio reporters to edit and use its content and apparently still does.

But the network, which copyrights its work, says it’s worried about its streaming-video clips turning up in campaign attack ads. That could presumably draw official ire that could threaten the goodwill and access the network has worked hard to gain.

It’s not hard to imagine the content being put to attack-ad use. TVW cameras and microphones have inadvertently caught lawmakers falling asleep at their desks, stammering foolishly in floor speeches and ranting at each other.

This week, the network has successfully asked YouTube to pull this video, posted by Horse’s Ass political blogger David Goldstein. So Goldstein promptly…

Rossi and GOP…

In a tussle made possible by the new rules for Washington’s “Top Two” primary, the state Democratic Party is claiming that Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi is trying to deceive voters by saying he prefers the “GOP” party on the primary ballot, instead of simply saying “Republican” like most candidates.

State Democratic Party chairman Dwight Pelz is calling on Rossi to change it to “Republican.”

Pelz cites the Wall Street Journal, which in 2002 decided to avoid the abbreviation GOP because it felt some readers might not know that the abbreviation (for “Grand Old Party”) refers to the Republicans. And if Rossi won’t change it, Pelz wants the state’s top elected official — Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed — to change Rossi’s designation to “Republican.”

This seems highly unlikely, seeing as how Reed’s office has repeatedly said that under freedom of political speech, candidates can write almost anything that’s not obscene in the little spot for party preference. One guy, after all, is running as a member of the hitherto-unheard-of “SalmonYoga” party.

The Democrats list a long number of past instances in which Rossi referred to himself as a Republican: Public Disclosure Commission filings, the 2004 voter’s pamphlet, newsletters when he was a state senator, etc.

Rossi apparently has no intention of changing, judging from a response that I got to that question from his campaign spokeswoman, Jill Strait.

“It’s ridiculous to claim that our campaign all of a sudden decided to start using GOP” she writes in an e-mail. “Since 2004, all of our TV ads, bumper stickers and signs have all said `Rossi for Governor, GOP.’ We have put millions of dollars into `Rossi for Governor, GOP’ and it just made sense to keep using it. No one has ever complainted that by doing so we were denying our affiliation with the Republican Party.”

As evidence, Strait included this video clip of excerpts of Rossi’s 2004 ads, in which she notes the phrase “Rossi for Governor, GOP” appeared repeatedly.

Not smoking, but apparently still drinking…

Bars and taverns “have bounced back strongly” from the hit they greatly feared when the state indoor public smoking ban took effect in Dec. 2005, according to the state Department of Revenue.

As an industry, their average growth rate was actually stronger after the ban, according to the department. Specifically, their tax reports suggest that they made 20 percent more in 2007 versus barely growing (0.3 percent) in 2006.

So…the smoking ban helped most bars? That’s what proponents of the initiative predicted at the time. But alas, correlation is not causation. (i.e. Just because I put my hat on and it rains doesn’t mean that my hat made it rain.) DOR says it didn’t try to figure out why revenues changed the way they did.

“Perhaps patrons are just returning to their favored places because the alternatives were not as convenient,” said DOR economist Stephen Smith. He said cigarette tax hikes sometimes show a similar result: a short-term dropoff in sales that picks up again over time.

Download a Excel file of the sales-tax data here.

Private developers aren’t cities, judge rules in water-rights case…

From tomorrow’s paper:

OLYMPIA _ A King County judge on Wednesday threw out parts of a controversial 2003 state water law Wednesday, throwing into question the water-system expansion plans of potentially hundreds of developers and private water systems statewide.

“It’s a pretty big deal that’s going to prevent further harm to junior water right holders, in-stream flows and aquifers,” said Patrick Williams, an attorney for the Center for Environmental Law and Policy. CELP was one of several environmental groups and six Western Washington Indian tribes challenging the law.

In an oral ruling, Judge Jim Rogers said that state lawmakers went too far five years ago when they classified private water systems and developers as local governments. That allows them to bypass longstanding use-it-or-lose it laws designed to prevent people from claiming more water rights than they can use.

Who voters will see first on the ballot…

Ballot order can matter a lot, particularly for lesser-known seats with a lot of candidates. The order of candidates’ names is randomly chosen by election officials.

So how did candidates fare this year?

-Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers: last on the list of half a dozen contenders for her seat.

-Dino Rossi, presumptive GOP candidate for governor: first among 10 candidates. Democratic candidate Chris Gregoire is listed third.

-Some statewide incumbents — Auditor Brian Sonntag, Secretary of State Sam Reed, and Lt. Gov. Brad Owen — all got top billing in their runs for re-election.

-Others didn’t. Challenger John Ladenburg will be listed ahead of Attorney General Rob McKenna. And lands commissioner candidate Peter Goldmark, a Democrat, will be listed above incumbent Republican Doug Sutherland. In both cases, however, only two people are on the primary ballot, so both are virtually certain to face off again on the November ballot.

-State school superintendent Terry Bergeson will be listed last among the six candidates for her seat.

-For an open Spokane Valley-area legislative seat: Matt Shea, Tim Hattenburg, Ray Deonier, Anthony P. Honorof, and Diana Wilhite.

-In the western-Spokane 6th Legislative District: Marcos James Ruiz Jr., Mel Lindauer, incumbent state Rep. Don Barlow and Kevin Parker.

-and in the rural northeastern-Washington 7th district: Sue Lani Madsen, Shelly Short, Mike Davis, Peter Davenport, Kelly White.

Expect a ballot by late July. The primary is Aug. 19th.

Here’s a list of candidates in the order they will appear on the ballot.

Initiatives: the quick and the dead…

From a story I wrote in Sunday’s paper:

Unhappy with reports of abuse at camps for troubled teens, Angela Smith decided to turn directly to voters for reforms.

The Seattle woman wrote a citizen’s initiative. She recruited 100 volunteers, got thousands of petitions printed, and set about collecting signatures.

Four months later, things look bleak. Volunteers have dwindled. The campaign war chest consists of a single $20 donation. And although she needs to come up with about 225,000 signatures by July 3, boxes of blank petitions are still stacked in her living room.

“We’re not very close, unfortunately,” she said.

Smith’s experience is being repeated around the state, as initiative proponents discover it’s easy to launch a ballot measure but tough to bring it in for a landing.

So what’s likely to make it (and what’s dying on the vine)? Read on…

Although nearly 60 measures were proposed in Washington this year, interviews with proponents suggest that just a handful are likely to get enough signatures by next month’s deadline. Among the casualties: Products in Washington will not get a universal five-year warranty, car-license tabs will not become free, and hens and sows will have to wait for relief from cramped cages and pens.

Here’s the story, which includes a listing of how the many measures are faring.

More filing news…

-Half a dozen people have now filed to run for state school superintendent.

-State Rep. Alex Wood, who started the day with no filed opponents, how has two Republicans and an Independent running against him.

-A Bremerton man listing his name as “(Blue Collar) Brad Gehring” is running as a Republican for a 35th District legislative seat.

-Bellingham’s Hue Beattie is running as a member of the “True Democratic Party” against a Republican and four other Democrats.

GOP, in sotto voce

I blogged this morning about Spokane GOP chairman Curt Fackler’s decision to list no party in his run for state insurance commissioner.

Here’s another example of a Republican candidate apparently seeking a little distance from the brand: Mercer Island public-releations entrepreneur Valerie Chan filed to challenge Republican-turned-Democrat Fred Jarrett for a state Senate seat. The swing district includes Mercer Island and parts of Renton and Bellevue.

It’s only 16 paragraphs into Chan’s 17-paragraph press release that we learn that she’s a Republican.

And even that comes with Chan’s dislaimer that “finding practical solutions are (sic) more important than political parties.”

And here’s more background on the political nature of the district from the TNT’s Joe Turner.

(Sotto voce explainer.)

More filing surprises…

-Nine people have filed to fun for governor, including several perennial candidates. Among them: Tacoma’s Will Baker. Baker, who once described himself as an “international man of diplomacy,” has run for Washington secretary of state, auditor and governor and been repeatedly arrested for disrupting government meetings.
-The battle for the House seat of retiring state Rep. Bob Sump, R-Republic, has become a five-way race — with all the candidates being Republicans. Jack Miller, a local Democrat who twice ran for that seat in the past, told me this morning that he has no plans for a three-peat in the 7th district, a GOP bastion.
“You look at the numbers and it is a very quixotic thing to do,” he said.

-So far, 544 people have filed. Their order on the ballot — which can be a critical factor for lesser-known candidates — will be determined tonight at the Secretary of State’s office. Is there some random number generator that determines the rankings, I asked earlier today.

Nope, said Secretary of State’s office spokesman Dave Ammons. It’s done with Bingo-style numbered balls.

Spokane County GOP chairman files for office…as “no party preference”

Spokane businessman Curt Fackler filed last night to run again for Insurance Commissioner. As several other candidates around the state have done, Fackler listed no party preference.

But Fackler is the Spokane County GOP chairman.

Why not run as a Republican?

“I feel that insurance is a nonpartisan issue,” he said. “And on a statewide basis, I feel that having an R after your name isn’t that advantageous. I’m not denying that I’m a Republican.”

Three people have filed for the seat: Democratic incumbent Mike Kreidler and Republican challenger John R. Adams.

E WA does its part…

And Eastern Washington continues to do its share to field longshot candidates this year.

we’ve got local candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state, along with a healthy crop of folks vying for one of those small brown desks on the House and Senate floor.

Among the statewide candidates:

-Medical Lake’s John Aiken is running for governor for the second time, after losing the 2004 Republican primary to Dino Rossi. Aiken’s platform includes reviving the timber industry, boosting home ownership, year-round schooling and a largely-unified curriculum statewide.
-Arlene Peck, a Constitution Party member and Spokane Valley retiree, is running for lieutenant governor.
-Marilyn Montgomery, a Spokane woman who’s also a member of the Constitution Party, is running for secretary of state.

Justice Debra Stephens has a challenger…

A Tacoma man named Jack Hill has filed to run against Spokane native Debra Stephens, a state Supreme Court appointee now running for her seat.

No opponents yet for five local lawmakers…

It’s now the next-to-last day to register as a candidate for election this year, and according to the Secretary of State’s website, five Spokane-area state lawmakers face no opposition so far:

-Rep. Alex Wood, D-Spokane,
-Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane,
-Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda,
-Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville,
-Rep. Steve Hailey, R-Mesa.

More on new 9th District candidate…

Heard back from Tyana Kelley, a Pullman Democrat running for the seat now held by state Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax.

A 2002 Whitworth graduate, Kelley says she grew up in Spokane as part of a family with deep roots working for the once-mighty Kaiser Aluminum.

“I don’t have a political background, which is exactly why I am running for this position,” she writes. “I don’t have my own agenda to push through Olympia.”

Her concerns include changing the WASL test requirements for high school graduation and putting more money into college financial aid programs. She also — who doesn’t? — wants to boost access to health care. But she says she’ll spend the campaign as a sounding board, listening to local concerns and vowing to reflect those in the statehouse.

And in a nod to the fact that Democrats have nearly a two-thirds majority now in both the House and Senate, she writes:

“We need someone who can go over to Olympia and work with the Democratic majority to get real work done for the people of eastern Washington. We don’t need two people who only vote down the party line and continue to accomplish nothing.”

Her campaign sounds a lot like that of Caitlin Ross, a young Democratic candidate who ran in 2006 on a similar education/health care/listening platform and vowed to be a voice for a forgotten region.

And in the 9th, a Democratic challenger to Rep. Joe Schmick…

Tyana Kelley, a 28-year-old Democrat from Pullman, has filed to run for the state House seat that state Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, is hoping to keep.

Schmick represents the sprawling 9th District, not to be confused with the even-more-sprawling 7th District. In geographic shorthand, the 9th is the Palouse, although it stretches all the way down to Oregon, into Franklin County, and includes part of Spokane County.

And Dunn picks up a GOP opponent..

State Rep. Jim Dunn, R-Vancouver, known for his coiffure, girth and Louisiana-drawl-inflected floor speeches, has a Republican challenger in the primary.

Vancouver’s Joseph James, a dog trainer, clothing company owner, and owner of “Dog Adventure Camp” is challenging Dunn. (The website just went down as I was typing this; presumably it’s being updated.)

Dunn has drawn fire from both sides of the aisle over alleged sexist remarks to a staffer. The incident got him yanked from all his committee assignments, a pretty severe slap for a lawmaker.

Also vying for the seat, Vancouver Democrat Tim Probst.

In other campaign filings…

The Alliteration Party is apparently winning in the 35th district, where candidates Fred Finn and Daryl Daugs are running against each other.

Stevens County Republican challenges county commissioner…

In Stevens County, Republican Erica Breien has filed campaign-finance paperwork to challenge incumbent commissioner Malcolm Friedman, a fellow Republican running for re-election to his Position 3 seat.

(Breien’s campaign website is a bit mystifying. The first page is fairly straightforward stuff about running for office and wanting support and ideas. But click on “issues” and you’ll find a lot of inactive links to a treehouse project. My guess: these are software placeholders for a site under construction.)

I couldn’t find a website for Friedman. If you know of one, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll be happy to link to it.

Surprises from Monday, the start of Filing Week…

-Spokane Libertarian John Beck and Spokane retiree Barbara Lampert filed to challenge McMorris Rodgers. Lampert is one of at least two Democrats seeking to oust the former state House minority leader.
-John Moyna, a night janitor running against Senate Majority Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, was one of the few candidates who listed no party.
-Spokane Independent Marcos James Ruiz, Jr. filed to run for the state House seat of Rep. Don Barlow, D-Spokane. Among his campaign expenses so far: $65.13 for “dog food for campaign mascot.”
-Christopher Winter, a Green Party supporter from Clarkston, filed to run against Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax. Among his planks: a 30-hour work week, hemp production and free college for undergraduates.
-And Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican who until recently had no declared challengers, now has two: Seattle Democrat Jason Osgood and Bellevue’s Mark Greene, chairman of the little-known “Party of Commons.”

Here’s the frequently-updated list of candidates who’ve filed so far.

Candidates play it straight with ballot descriptors…

Maybe it’s just that political candidates who file on opening day tend not to be spitball-shooters, but so far it looks like candidates are abiding by Secretary of State Sam Reed’s plea to not grandstand with colorful ballot language.

With the first day of filing wrapping up, most candidates are playing it straight when asked to put a party preference between the ballot wording “(Prefers ________ Party)”.

A few declined to state a party preference at all. Bellevue’s Mark Green, who’s challenging Reed, listed his party preference as “Party of Commons.” A lot of Republicans are writing in “G.O.P.” (Grand Old Party Party?) and Democrats seem divided on whether its the Democratic or Democrat party.

Still, Andrew Villeneuve at the Northwest Progressive Institute argues that candidates might as well have some fun. The new top-two primary largely excludes minor-party candidates from the ballot, he notes.

“Since the primary is already a joke, it might as well be entertaining,” writes Villeneuve.

And they’re off…

I took a new camera over to the Secretary of State’s office in the capitol this morning, putting on a wide lens so I could better capture the long line of politicians filing for office on the first day of Filing Week.

But there was no line.

Maybe it’s the Internet. You can now file for office and pay the filing fee online, as 70 percent of candidates are expected to do.

Or maybe it’s the fact that, these days, candidate order on the ballot is determined by lot, not by who shows up first to file.

Among the few that showed up early this morning: State Auditor Brian Sonntag, Secretary of State Sam Reed, Supreme Court Justice Charles Johnson and Spokane retiree Barbara Lampert. Lampert carefully wrote out her check for a $1,652 and became a Democratic candidate for Congress. She’s run for something every year since 1996, although she has yet to win.

“It’s about giving the voters a choice,” Lampert of her low-budget, longshot run. “I am very much against uncontested races, and whether or not you’re the last one standing, you do get your ideas out into the dialogue of the day.”

After three hours, about 60 candidates have registered. Here’s the list.

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

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