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Eye On Olympia

Archive for May 2009

Hearing time set on R-71 language challenge…

The Thurston County Superior Court has set a time to hear Referendum 71 proponents’ challenge to the proposed wording of their measure: 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Here’s more on R-71 and what this challenge is all about.

Trying to fine-tune the wording, same-sex marriage foes file court challenge…

People trying to overturn a new law giving expanded rights to same-sex domestic partners have filed an 11th-hour appeal of the proposed ballot language.

The move sets their own signature-gathering effort back at least a week, but seems aimed at boosting their odds by trying to make voters see domestic partnerships as virtually identical to marriage.

Shortly before the 5 p.m. deadline today, Arlington’s Larry Stickney filed an appeal with the Thurston County Superior Court. He wants a judge to re-word the description and ballot summary of Referendum 71.

Here’s the summary language originally proposed by the Attorney General’s office (the bold-facing is mine, to highlight the differences):

Same-sex couples, or any couple that includes one person age sixty-two or older, may register as a domestic partnership with the state.  Registered domestic partnerships are not marriages, and marriage is prohibited except between one man and one woman.  This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of registered domestic partners and their families to include all rights, responsibilities, and obligations granted by or imposed by state law on married couples and their families.

Here’s what Stickney proposes instead:

This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities and obligations of registered domestic partners to be equal to the rights, responsibilities and obligations granted by or imposed by state law on married couples, except that domestic partnerships will not be called marriages.

Similarly, here’s the original description wording proposed by the AG:

“Concise Description: This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.”

And here’s how Stickney would like it to read:

“Concise Statement: This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities and obligations of state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partnerships, to be equal to the rights, responsibilities and obligations of married couples, except that domestic partnerships will not be called marriages.

The point, clearly, is to suggest that domestic partnerships are now essentially the same thing as marriage. That’s what critics of the new law have been saying — and proponents have been denying — for months. In fact, state Sen. Ed Murray, one of several openly gay lawmakers and the sponsor of the bill, has repeatedly called the legislation the “everything but marriage” bill.

According to Brian Zylstra, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, the case has been assigned to Judge Thomas McPhee, but no date’s yet been set. (Case number: 09-2-01278-1)

The court typically handles such cases as part of its Friday motion calendar, meaning that the earliest date would be May 29. The Secretary of State’s office says that June 5 or June 12 is probably more likely. 

If it’s the latter date, Stickney and affiliated church groups and social conservatives would have just six weeks to print and circulate petitions. To get R-71 on the November ballot for a statewide vote, they need at least 120,577 voter signatures by July 25th.

Kiplinger’s rates Olympia sixth-best city

In a study of more than 360 metropolitan areas by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, Olympia was rated 6th-highest in the nation for salary growth.

Pay there rose an average of 22 percent from 2004-2008, according to the magazine. Median household income in Olympia is now more than $55,000 a year.

From the magazine:

“Mischaracterized sometimes as a sleepy government town, Washington’s state capital enjoys a thriving visual and performing-arts scene. But its state government continues to be the keystone of the city’s economy; it employs about half of the city’s workforce. Education is another big driver of the city’s growth and character.”

And Spokane? Pretty far down the list, with income growth of 6.5 percent and median household income of $44,694.

The good news for the inland empire is that it’s markedly cheaper to live in Spokane. Kiplinger’s cost-of-living index ranks Spokane at 91 percent of the average cost of living nationwide, putting it on par with places like Boise, Colorado Springs and Fargo, N.D. Olympia’s at 105 percent.

In wake of today’s court ruling, Washingtonians on both sides of the same-sex marriage divide try to gauge lessons from California…

California’s supreme court has upheld Proposition 8, the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The ruling, however, allows thousands of same-sex marriages performed prior to the ban.

California’s experience has been closely watched in Washington, where gay marriage opponents have filed a referendum to undo a state law granting domestic partners most of the rights and responsibilities of spouses.

In interviews, foes of same-sex marriage cite Prop. 8 as evidence that voters, if given the chance, will reject it. (In Washington, the picture’s a little less clear, since the law targeted by the referendum stops short of full marriage.)

On the other side of the issue, some gay marriage proponents see California as an argument for a more incremental approach to winning the right to marry.

“If the brief back-and-forth history of marriage equality in California teaches us anything, it’s that progress must occur with public involvement and input, one step at a time,” said Washington state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, one of several openly gay lawmakers in Olympia.

“…In Washington, we remain dedicated to continuing our conversation with the public and steadily building upon our domestic partnership progress,” he said. “I’m confident that Washington state will soon be ready to accept — once and for all — full marriage equality for all.”

Washington woman is first to die under state’s new assisted-suicide law…

A 66-year-old Sequim woman reportedly became the first person to use Washington’s new assisted-suicide law, approved by voters in November. The group Compassion & Choices says that Linda Fleming, diagnosed a month ago with late-stage pancreatic cancer, took lethal medication Thursday night with her family, dog and doctor at her bedside.

Here’s the statement from the group:

Compassion & Choices of Washington (C&C), a nonprofit organization advocating for better end-of-life care and choices, said that Linda Fleming, age 66, of Sequim, last night became the first terminally ill Washingtonian to die using the state’s Death with Dignity Act. Linda was diagnosed just one month ago with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and was told she was actively dying.
 
Linda was stunned when she received her terminal diagnosis, as she had only recently begun feeling discomfort. Linda’s disease progressed rapidly and her pain worsened dramatically. “I had only recently learned how to live in the world as I had always wanted to, and now I will no longer be here. So my fatal disease arrived at a most inopportune time,” said Linda.
 
After working with her physician and C&C’s Client Support volunteers to carefully consider her choices and make her end-of-life decisions, Linda took her prescribed medication on Thursday evening at home with her family, her dog and her physician at her bedside. “The pain became unbearable, and it was only going to get worse,” said Linda in explaining her decision to use the Death with Dignity law. Linda died peacefully knowing that she had a choice in controlling her suffering and time of death from pancreatic cancer.  “I am a very spiritual person, and it was very important to me to be conscious, clear-minded and alert at the time of my death. The powerful pain medications were making it difficult to maintain the state of mind I wanted to have at my death. And I knew I would have to increase them. I am grateful that the Death with Dignity law provides me the choice of a death that fits my own personal beliefs.”
 
“When a cure is no longer possible, the Death With Dignity Act adds another option for patients dying from a terminal illness. The prescribed medication gives patients peace of mind that they can use to take control of their dying if suffering becomes intolerable,”
said Dr. Tom Preston, MD, a cardiologist and C&C’s medical director, “Most dying patients experience suffering.  The Death With Dignity Act allows a physician to help his patients maintain as much control and dignity as they can at the end of life.  Last night, the Death With Dignity Act provided a way to honor this patient’s final decision.”
 
Dr. Preston said that terminal patients are deriving comfort and peace of mind from prescriptions issued under the new law, and that the law is working as voters and its sponsors intended.

Gregoire orders changes to combat greenhouse gases and climate change…

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who testified at a federal EPA hearing in Seattle this morning, is ordering state agencies to move ahead with changes aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Here’s the press release:

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today issued an executive order, directing state actions to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, increase transportation and fuel-conservation options for Washingtonians, and protect our state’s water supplies and vulnerable coastal areas.
 
“We can’t further delay action on climate change,” Gregoire said. “This executive order benefits our economy as much as our environment. It will protect our natural resources, while creating thousands of green-collar jobs and strengthening our state’s competitiveness in the global race for a clean energy economy.”
 
Gregoire issued her executive order, entitled “Washington’s Leadership on Climate Change,” after testifying in front of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency panel in Seattle. The panel hearing was held to gather comments on an EPA proposal to issue a finding that greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health and welfare.
 
She urged EPA to take action to limit emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases.
 
“We recently learned that climate change will cut the winter snowpack in the Cascades by at least 20 percent,” Gregoire said. “This will have a devastating impact not only on recreation, but also on our water supply, our agriculture industry, and our domestic fish populations. This news is another wake-up call, and one more reason that inaction is not an option. We as a nation and a state must address climate change today. Tomorrow is too late.”
 
In her executive order, Gregoire directed state agencies to:
 
Develop emission reduction strategies and industry emissions benchmarks to make sure 2020 reduction targets are met.
 
Work with TransAlta to reduce emissions from the company’s coal-fired power plant near Centralia by more than half.
 
Ensure Washington has trees to capture harmful carbon, while creating financial incentives for the forestry industry.
 
Work on low-carbon fuel standards or alternative requirements to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.
 
Join with neighboring states and the private sector to implement a West Coast highway accessible to electric and alternative-fuel vehicles. 
 
Address rising sea levels and the risks to water supplies.
 
Increase transit options, such as buses, light rail, and ride-share programs, and give Washington residents more choices for reducing the effect of transportation emissions.
 
Continue to work with six other Western states and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative to develop a regional emissions reduction program design.
 
Work with the Obama Administration to help design a national program that is strong, and reflects state priorities.
 
“We must protect the health of citizens, the health of our environment, and the health of our economy, from the threats of climate change.  We must leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren to enjoy,” Gregoire said. “We will do this by inviting leadership and innovation, which will lead to the creation of thousands of green-collar jobs.”
 
Gregoire thanked Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-Burien) and Sen. Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island) for their tireless efforts to pass legislation this past session. She also thanked the many environmental groups engaged in the fight against climate change.
 
“I want to commend the governor for her tenacity and leadership in pushing forward on our state response to climate change,” said Rockefeller. “Not only is she a leader in our state efforts, she has clearly impacted the creation of the Western Climate Initiative and is in a position to influence national leaders. This executive order is a significant step forward. Where the legislature faltered, the governor didn’t give up.”
 
“Today’s action by the governor represents meaningful progress towards reducing emissions, and assures that Washington remains a key player in the national conversation on climate change,” said Upthegrove.
 
For additional information from the Department of Ecology, visit: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/2009EO.htm
 
To see the executive order, visit: http://www.governor.wa.gov/news/Executive_Order_09-05.pdf
 
To see the Governor’s as-written testimony to the EPA, visit: http://www.governor.wa.gov/news/20090521_EPA_testimony.pdf
 

News roundup…

-Speaking in Spokane, the state’s revenue forecaster, Arun Raha, says he expects the recession to end in August or September.

-The Seattle Times’ Joni Balter is skeptical that the solution to Washington state’s revenue woes is an income tax. Look at Oregon, she writes.

-The Washington Policy Center’s Jason Mercier has a prescription for those budget woes.

-Gov. Gregoire tells the Olympian that she’s got big plans for more state-government reforms. Among them:

“We’re looking at consolidating all the natural resource agencies; asking `can it, should it be done?’” she said.

-And Rich Nafziger, with Senate Democrats, has a good news/bad news analysis of the state budget and state economy. The bad news starts out like this:

First of all, we are in one hell of a fiscal mess. The state does not have the dollars to compete in the future. We ended up this year with a record budget deficit that equalled about one-quarter of our maintenance level state budget. We filled the whole with about $4.0 billion in cuts, $3 billion in federal stimulus dollars and another $2 billion in short term fixes. The bottom line, we are likely to be in the same mess in two years as we are in now. Right off the bat, the federal stimulus dollars are unlikely to be there and the $2.5 billion in short term fixes won’t work for four years in a row. In 2011, we are unlikely to find another $2.5 billion in short term fixes. We start off in a $5.5 billion hole. Can we grow out of this. I don’t know.

Clock continues to tick for R-71 proponents…

I’ll be amazed if someone doesn’t file a court challenge to the proposed ballot language for Referendum 71, which asks voters to veto a new law giving same-sex domestic partners the same state rights and responsibilities as spouses.

Not that the language is that murky. But this is a battle in which words matter — the ballot title says the rights are “equivalent” to those of married spouses, but that the couple aren’t spouses — and both sides are watching closely.

Gary Randall, with the Faith and Freedom Network, said that supporters are reviewing the language now to see if they’ll challenge it. “We’ve got a lawyer looking at it,” he said. On the other side, I’ve got a call in to a spokesman for Equal Rights Washington; haven’t heard back yet.

Perhaps more importantly to opponents, a ballot-language challenge would push back signature-gathering by critical days or even weeks, leaving organizers with a frantic, very difficult task.

Consider the timeline:

-To get the measure on the ballot, proponents have until July 25 to come up with 120,577 valid voter signatures.
-But they can’t print petitions until a five-day window for potential court challenges is up. So a challenge could be filed as late as next Tuesday.
-According to Dave Ammons, at the secretary of state’s office, “Typically, the (Thurston County Superior) court handles such cases as part of their Friday motion calendar. So Friday the 29th would be the earliest that a hearing would be expected, but June 5 or June 12 would be more likely.”

As Ammons notes, that last date would leave backers 6 weeks to print and circulate petitions.

And that brings us to why you don’t see the ballot crowded with more initiatives and referenda. Because getting enough signatures is pretty damned hard.

If you do the math, a June 13 launch date for petitions hitting the streets would mean that organizers have to gather 117 signatures an hour, 24 hours a day, right up until the July 25th deadline. (Calculator handy? It’s 117 signatures x 24 hours x 43 days.)

In the best-case scenario for R-71 proponents — petitions hitting the streets next Wednesday morning — it’s still a lot of work. That would mean getting 85 signatures an hour, round the clock, until the deadline.

Stay tuned.

Gregoire to announce “landmark initiative” to reduce greenhouse gases…

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who will be in Seattle tomorrow to testify at what promises to be a packed and lively EPA hearing on global warming, says that she will afterwards “announce a landmark initiative to reduce greenhouse gases in Washington.”

The hearing is one of only two nationwide on the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed finding that carbon dioxide and several other greenhouse gases endanger human health. The ruling could dramatically speed up efforts to control such emissions.

Among those who will likely be hitting their browsers’ “refresh” button at 10 a.m. tomorrow: rural Republicans, who battled a Gregoire-backed cap-and-trade bill into little more than a study bill this session. That change was a disappointment for environmental groups, some of whom joked that with both the “cap” and “trade” provisions largely stripped from the bill, they were left with just an “`And’ Bill.”

No raises for state elected officials…

Not surprisingly, the citizen’s panel that sets salaries for lawmakers, the governor, many judges and other state-paid officials has voted not to give any of them raises for the next two years.

“The Commission regrets the need to take this action,” said a statement put out this morning by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials.

At hearings back in January, politician after politician (or their surrogates) stepped up to the mic and said that while they work hard, they didn’t want a raise at a time when the state faced a multi-billion-dollar shortfall.

One exception: newly elected state school superintendent Randy Dorn. He stopped short of explicitly calling for more money. But he strongly hinted that the $121,000-a-year salary isn’t enough to keep attracting top talent to the public position.

By comparison, he said, 121 of the school superintendents across Washington are paid more than he is. The top 20 or so make considerably more — $200,000 or more, he said. The former head of a union representing public school support staff, Dorn said he personally took a $25k pay cut to become state school superintendent. He knew that when he ran for the job, he said. But he also suggested that the $121,618 salary wouldn’t attract top-tier candidates in the future.

“How do you get quality people into the position? I think you’re going to have to make it more attractive than it is,” he told the commission.

That’s a point that apparently was not lost on the commissioners, some of whom are concerned that the salaries aren’t staying high enough to draw good judges.

“Future commissions will consider the long term needs of the state and will make continuing salary adjustments to be competitive and attract citizens of the highest quality to public service,” the group said in its statement.

Here are what the salaries are today. They’re frozen through the summer of 2011.

Executive Branch
Governor 166,891
Lieutenant Governor 93,948
Secretary of State 116,950
Treasurer 116,950
Auditor 116,950
Attorney General 151,718
Insurance Commissioner 116,950
Supt. Public Instruction 121,618
Commissioner of Public Lands 121,618

Judicial Branch
Supreme Court Justices 164,221
Court of Appeals Judges 156,328
Superior Court Judges 148,832
District Court Judges 141,710

Legislative Branch
Legislator 42,106
Speaker of the House 50,106
Senate Majority Leader 50,106
House Minority Leader 46,106
Senate Minority Leader 46,106

No reprieve from Gregoire: Dept. of Natural Resources will lose its plane…

As the Washington Policy Center’s Jason Mercier points out, Gov. Gregoire’s list of line-item vetoes in the state budget yesterday did not save the Department of Natural Resources’ plane.

That was despite an 11th-hour appeal from new Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, an experienced pilot who used to use his own small (private) plane to get from his Okanogan County ranch to meetings and campaign appearances.

In DNR’s case, Goldmark wrote to Gregoire earlier this month, the agency’s eight-passenger King Air plane helps state officials and crews deal with wildfires and other disasters. The agency has operated an airplane for 51 years, he wrote.

“I have already reduced the use of the aircraft by 50 percent,” Goldmark wrote. “This reduction will save the agency $300,000 this biennium. In addition, the aircraft saves me and my staff hundreds of hours of staff time otherwise spent ‘on the road’ for unavoidable travel.”

The plane has ferried helicopter mechanics to work on DNR’s fire-fighting helicopters, he said. And two years ago, it was key in monitoring severe flooding in southwest Washington.

“This is the wrong direction for maintaining our emergency response infrastructure while climate change is causing increased frequency and severity of wildfires and major climatic events causing floods, landslides and utility damage,” he wrote.

Mercier colleague Todd Myers — who was also the campaign spokesman for the incumbent whom Goldmark ousted last fall — is skeptical that the plane is crucial to firefighting.

“…The plane in question isn’t an air tanker,” Myers said. “It is an executive aircraft that is not part of the `emergency-response infrastructure’ in any real sense.”

Here’s the budget veto list…

The governor’s office has posted the listed of items she vetoed in the budget. Some, like vetoing lawmakers’ plan to take $29 million from the state auditor’s office, are substantial. But in dozens of cases, the vetoes were simply technical adjustments, such as taking out money set aside for other legislation that didn’t pass.

Here’s the document.

Gregoire inks “necessary evil” budget, says it’s responsible and courageous…

Calling it a “necessary evil,” Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday signed a nearly three-inch-thick state budget bill, cutting billions of dollars in planned state spending over the next two years.

The $35 billion spending plan, hashed out by state lawmakers over several months, makes it official:
-40,000 low-income people will lose state-subsidized health coverage,
-an estimated 3,000 jobs will be eliminated at state agencies and colleges,
-teachers and state workers will get no cost-of-living increase for the next two years,
-hospitals, doctors and nursing homes will lose more than $200 million in state payments,
-millions more will be cut from mental health care and drug- and alcohol treatment programs.

“This is a responsible budget,” Gregoire said, praising the lawmakers who wrote it. “It reflects courage.”

“When you have no money, you have no money,” said Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina.

Gregoire vetoed dozens of budget items, including lawmakers’ proposal to strip $29 million from the state auditor’s budget for efficiency-finding performance audits. State Auditor Brian Sonntag worked out a deal to turn over $15 million of that to the state treasury. The $14 million, he has said, will be enough to keep the audits going.

Many of the vetoes , Gregoire said, were to allow state agencies maximum flexibility as they try to meet the spending targets in the budget. A pet program for female prison inmates was vetoed, for example. It has shown benefits for prisoners, the governor said, but she wanted to let the Department of Corrections set its own spending priorities.

Similarly,

This time, both sides say, it really is for the kids…

Hundreds of people crammed into Seattle Montlake Community Center yesterday to watch the governor sign legislation granting same-sex domestic partners many of the rights of spouses.

The place was crammed with kids. There were strollers, scampering toddlers and a class of fidgeting preschoolers in matching red shirts. Their parents, by and large, were gay and lesbian couples.

Now, the surest way to make a political reporter’s eyes roll is to say that you’re doing something “for the kids.” But in the case of Referendum 71, both sides clearly feel that that’s the case.

Same-sex couples want spouse-style legal protections for their partners and children. With equal passion, foes of the changes say that children do best when raised by a mother and father. Citing religious beliefs, they say they don’t want their children to grow up thinking that being gay or lesbian is acceptable.

Same-sex couples argue that time is their ally, and that the arc of history is bending toward gay and lesbian marriage. Standing in front of a friendly crowd Monday, state Sen. Ed Murray looked into the news cameras and addressed a different audience.

“For those opposed, come meet us and our families,” he said. “We share with you a common love for this state, for this nation, and for their future…Let’s meet, let’s talk. No conditions.”

Some proponents of same-sex marriage argue, in fact, that the public dialogue spawned by the referendum attempt may help their cause. It gives them a chance, they say, to show themselves as loving, committed couples who want the legal protections of marriage for their children and each other.

“This is a unique opportunity to educate the public,” said Josh Friedes, spokesman for Equal Rights Washington. “I think the opponents of gay civil rights may be making a significant error.”

Buy local produce, not art…

The next time you’re buying apples, potatoes or cherries, the state wants you to buy locally.

“Next time you shop, look for Washington products, or ask your grocer for them,” Gov. Chris Gregoire says in a commercial on the state-backed Heart of Washington website. “It’s a delicious way to help support our local farmers.”

What’s good for the farmer is also good for the artist, argues Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens.

So he tacked an amendment onto the state’s $3.3 billion construction budget. Any public art purchased as part of those projects, it said, must be made by Washington artists.

Some lawmakers wanted to temporarily do away the requirement that half of 1 percent of the cost of public buildings go to art. The state has paid for more than 4,600 works of art, worth more than $17 million, at schools, colleges, prisons and office buildings across the state.

Hobbs argued that the money should at least stay in Washington, helping local artists. In addition to 73 people in Seattle and 7 in Spokane, the state’s list of 235 artists eligible for public projects includes people in Canada, California, New York City and Chicago. (Interestingly, the list includes 5 artists from Montana and none from Idaho.)

“This amendment would have shown a skeptical public that we do manage their tax dollars wisely,” Hobbs said.

The reason he says “would” is because Gov. Gregoire vetoed that section of the budget. She said she didn’t want to start a protectionist fight in the art world, particularly if it meant that Washington artists would be discriminated against by other states.

Hobbs argues that it was the wrong decision.

“This veto establishes the public arts program as a sacred cow at a time when vital state services are being slashed and people are losing their jobs,” he said.

Referendum language released — court challenge next?

The Secretary of State’s office today released the summary and ballot language for Referendum 71, which seeks to overturn a just-signed law granting domestic partners most of the rights of spouses.

Anyone can appeal the wording. Last year saw a heated challenge by opponents of the state’s Oregon-style assisted-suicide law. They argued that it was “physician-assisted suicide,” since a doctor fulfills a patient’s request for lethal drugs. Proponents of the law successfully argued that it was wrong to term it “suicide,” on the grounds that the law only applies to terminally ill people, and that dying people cannot choose to live.

Here’s the ballot summary proposed by the AG’s office late this afternoon:

“Same-sex couples, or any couple that includes one person age sixty-two or older, may register as a domestic partnership with the state. Registered domestic partnerships are not marriages, and marriage is prohibited except between one man and one woman. This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of registered domestic partners and their families to include all rights, responsbilities and obligations granted by or imposed by state law on married couples and their families.”

The ballot description is shorter, and if anything is going to have voters scratching their heads, it’s probably that one:

“This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.”

Don’t be surprised if you see a court challenge this time. For one thing, words matter. Ask any pollster.

And even if a challenge fails, it would eat up time in court, cutting proponents’ signature-gathering time by up to a week. And the clock is ticking. Foes of the new law have until July 25 to collect 120,577 valid voter signatures. And to protect against people signing multiple times, or giving a fake name, or not being registered voters, the Secretary of State’s office recommends a total of about 150,000.

Gregoire signs “everything but marriage” bill…

SEATTLE _ In a victory for same-sex partners _ and a starting gun for social conservatives intent on a repeal _ Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday signed into law a bill granting domestic partners most of the rights of spouses.

“They will make for stronger families, and when we have stronger families, we have a stronger Washington state,” Gregoire said.

Proponents, crowded into a Seattle community center, called it the right thing to do. The change offers more protection, such as public pension benefits, for domestic partners and their children.
Church groups and conservative lawmakers are vowing to overturn the law. They’ve filed a statewide referendum on it. If they can gather the more than 120,000 signatures required by late July, voters will decide the fate of the law at the ballot in November.

“At the founding of our country, we made a conscious decision to promote marriage above all other legal unions, because of the inherent value of raising children in a home with a mom and a dad,” said state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Mead. He’s one of several legislators backing Referendum 71, which would overturn the law.

Only a male and a female can create a child, he said. And it’s better for children, he says, to have both a father and a mother.

“I think males and females bring unique traits to a relationship,” he said.

For proponents, the law is a simple matter of fairness.

“It’s a good next step,” said Spokane’s Kyla Bates, a domestic partner with her partner of 22 years, Lori Rodriguez. They have a 7-year-old daughter. “Obviously, I would prefer marriage and all the legal ramifications that go along with it.”

Six years ago in Oregon, the couple found out what it’s like not to have such protections. The couple and their then-infant daughter were in a car wreck.

It was the kind of thing for which they’d prepared, spending thousands of dollars on legal paperwork to ensure that they would be able to make medical decisions for each other.
But “at the hospital, they wouldn’t let me in the emergency room with either one of them, because I didn’t have the documentation with me,” said Bates. “For us, it was a huge wakeup call.”

Washington lawmakers in 2007 approved domestic partnerships, granting hospital visitation, funeral decisions and some inheritance rights to couples who registered. Same-sex couples are eligible, as are senior citizen heterosexual couples.

A year ago, when Bates and Rodriguez’s daughter was hospitalized again, things were different. Staffers treated them as two moms, with the rights to be there and make decisions for their daughter.

When their daughter was a baby, the couple worried about how the girl would be treated by playmates’ families, whether she and they would be accepted. They were pleasantly surprised. There’s never been even a hint of a problem, Bates said. Their friends and neighbors are very supportive.

“We’re a family, they’re a family,” she said.

Bates thinks that same-sex marriage is inevitable. Society as a whole isn’t quite ready for it, she said, but she believes Washington is.

She’s appalled at Referendum 71.

“I think it’s insane,” she said. “The people that think it will hurt them for us to have the same rights as them, I don’t understand their thinking. It has no impact on them whatsoever.”

At least 2,300 teachers notified of a potential layoff…

At least 2,300 school teachers have gotten notices saying they might be laid off, and the number is expected to rise, according to the Washington Education Association.

From a statement put out by the 82,000-member union:

The 2,300 figure does not include jobs eliminated through attrition, such as retirements. The final number of lost teaching jobs is expected to be much higher. The impact on schools is the same either way: Fewer teachers and more students in each classroom.

School districts also are laying off education support professionals, including classroom aides, secretaries and other classified school employees. There is no legal deadline for issuing layoff notices to classified staff.

Speaking to a gathering of WEA members in Spokane yesterday, Gov. Chris Gregoire said she sympathized, but that everyone’s sharing in the pain of budget cuts. And she has repeatedly said that basic education was shielded from cuts that were far deeper in other sectors of state spending. From an AP story:

Gregoire said she was at a loss to make teachers feel better in the present economic climate.

 

“…I can’t express in words how disappointed I am, as I know you are, that as a result of the nation’s financial crisis that hit our state like a ton of bricks in November, we have retreated from that progress,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown also spoke, telling WEA delegates that the state’s sales-tax-based tax structure needs to be revamped to be more stable and fair. Brown has floated the idea of a state income tax on people earning $250,000 or more, although the idea went nowhere in Olympia this year. She told delegates she would need their help for such a change.

Governor signing everything-but-marriage bill into law Monday in Seattle…

From the governor’s office:

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday will take action on three bills which expand rights to domestic partners:
 
Engrossed Substitute House Bill No. 1445, relating to domestic partners under the Washington State Patrol retirement system.
 
Engrossed House Bill No. 1616, relating to the state pension benefits of certain domestic partners.
 
Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill No. 5688, relating to further expanding the rights and responsibilities of state registered domestic partners.
 
 
10:30 a.m.        Gov. Gregoire to take action on HB 1445, HB 1616 and SB 5688
                        Montlake Community Center, Multipurpose Room
1618 E Calhoun St
Seattle

SB 5688 gives domestic partners, including same-sex couples, most of the rights and responsibilities of spouses under state law. (Federal law doesn’t recognize domestic partners.) It  has prompted a referendum attempt by church groups and others who say that is virtually the same thing as same-sex marriage. The Faith and Freedom Network and others have filed Referendum 71, which would ask voters in November if they want to veto the new law.

DSHS consolidating substance-abuse contract offices…

The Department of Social and Health Services is phasing out all its regional offices for the Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the agency confirmed Friday. The offices manage state contracts with local providers for drug- and alcohol treatment.

“Our regional offices don’t provide any direct services to clients,” said Doug Porter, assistant secretary for the Health and Recovery Services Administration.

The staff at the offices total about 25 statewide. The Tacoma office was recently shuttered. The goal, Porter said, is to centralize staff in Olympia. Unlike similar, bigger moves that you’ll see throughout state government as the new budget kicks in, this change was driven by a desire for efficiency, he said, rather than a budget cut.

“I’m not looking to eliminate positions” in the change, Porter said. “I’m looking to better utilize the resources we have.” People getting treatment services, he said, “shouldn’t notice a thing.”

Gregoire advisor and friend Jenny Durkan nominated for US Atty

President Barack Obama has nominated Jenny Durkan, a close associate of Gov. Chris Gregoire and a friend who helped defeat the 2004 gubernatorial election court challenge, to be the top federal prosecutor in Western Washington.

Durkan, 51, is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Washington Law School. Her father, the late Martin Durkan, was a Democratic state senator.

“This group of men and women have distinguished themselves as fair, tenacious and respected attorneys throughout their careers in both public and private service,” Obama said in a statement announcing six picks for U.S. attorneys.  “They will serve their country with distinction as US Attorneys and it is my honor to nominate them for these esteemed positions.”

Gregoire said she was pleased, and hopes the Senate quickly confirms Durkan.

WSU president on governor’s new “Council on Aerospace”

With a stroke of the pen, Gov. Chris Gregoire today created “the Washington Council on Aerospace,” intended to remind Boeing and related industries that Washington loves them.

“The council will oversee state efforts to ensure that Washington remains the leading location in the world in which to design and build airplanes,” said a statement put out by Gregoire’s office.

The 14-member council includes Washington State University president Elson Floyd, University of Washington president Mark Emmert, several state lawmakers, lobbyists for Boeing and one of the major aerospace unions, and a yet-to-be-determined member representing aerospace employers in Eastern Washington.

The state is determined to win a second manufacturing line for the new 787, although that’s not expected anytime soon. And a closely-watched report, released last month, concluded that “Washington is not keeping its competitive edge in attracting and retaining the commercial aircraft industry.”

With Boeing, its suppliers and related businesses accounting for an estimated $36 billion a year of the state’s economy (two-thirds of the state’s exports, 8 percent of the jobs, $5.4 billion in wages, annual wage of $83,370), those are words to make Olympia very nervous.

So Gregoire formed the council, to, in her words, “ensure we are doing all we can in a sustained way to be even more competitive.” She points to the existing tax breaks for the industry, strong aerospace R&D base here, and Washington’s “unparalleled quality of life” as other strong points.

Specifically, the council’s duties will coordinate worker training programs at state colleges and technical schools, R&D at the research universities and advise Olympia on “how Washington can improve its attractiveness to the aerospace industry.”

The council includes:

Rogers Weed, director of the Department of Commerce (chair)
Ann Daley, executive director of the Higher Education Coordinating Board
Charlie Earl, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
Dr. Mark Emmert, president of the University of Washington
Dr. Elson Floyd, president of Washington State University
Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla
Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens
Rep. Phyllis Kenney, D-Seattle
Stan Sorscher, legislative director for SPEEA (Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace)
David Schumacher, government affairs director of The Boeing Company
Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, 
One member representing a labor organization of aerospace Machinists
One member representing aerospace employers in Eastern Washington
One member representing aerospace employers in Western Washington

Fees going up for students, most businesses, and yes, Christmas tree growers…

From my weekly print column

The state budget, slated to be signed into law early next week, includes no new state tax increases. Lawmakers were unable to get a two-thirds vote, even a for a 25-cent increase on your phone bill to pay for better emergency-call-handling.

Fees, however, are a different thing. State law doesn’t require a two-thirds vote for those. And up they went.

Lawmakers approved increases in 48 different fees, totaling $87 million this year and $186 million next year.

Who will pay more? Lots of people. Electricians and plumbers will pay more for their licenses, as will doctors, dentists and Christmas-tree growers. So will most businesses, nurseries, Realtors, funeral homes and architects.

The vast majority of the increases, however, involve higher education. These include tens of millions of dollars in higher tuition, operating fees and a long list of other college-related charges: student and activities fees, a building fee, and lab and class fees.

The Seattle Times has posted a list of the fee increases in the budget this year. Click here.

Rep. Cox bows out (again)…

State Rep. Don Cox is retiring from the statehouse for a second time.

Cox, 69, says he won’t run for re-election this fall. He was appointed Jan. 19 to the seat left vacant by then-Rep. Steve Hailey, R-Mesa, who died abruptly of cancer just after Christmas.

Cox, R-Colfax, said he’ll serve as state representative through the end of the year.

“I have stated from the time of my appointment that we need a person in the position who can make a long-term commitment to the 9th District legislative team,” he said. “There are some well-qualified, respected people who are prepared to make that commitment, but have put their decisions on hold out of courtesy to me.”

Voters need plenty of time to see what each one offers, he said.

House terms are for two years, but appointees need to run at the next general election.

Cox said he was particularly proud that Republicans — by filibustering late in the session, basically — were able to derail a bill that would have cut $60 million in “levy equalization” money that helps small rural schools.

“It never came to a vote,” said Cox, a retired school superintendent. “We fought it hard, and we proved that being in the minority doesn’t mean sitting on the sidelines.”

There’s a long list of people who want Cox’s job.

A delay for “everything but marriage” opponents, as the signature clock ticks…

Opponents of the state’s new “everything but marriage” law for same-sex domestic partners rushed to Olympia last week to file Referendum 71. The clock is ticking, and they only have until July 25th to gather 120,577 valid voter signatures. Assuming a cushion of about 25 percent for duplicate signatures, Mickey Mouses, people not registered to vote, etc., they’ll probably need about 150,000.

Today, however, Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office has said that the ballot title and summary won’t be issued until Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the bill into law. Since Gregoire doesn’t plan to sign the bill until Monday, that means another week lost before Referendum 71 filers can start printing up petitions.

(It also means, however, that the Refendum 71 folks won’t face the risk of spending thousands of dollars printing up petitions, only to see them all rendered moot if Gregoire vetoes some section of the bill.)

“We have begun our work in drafting a title and summary for this measure, but the bill in question has not yet been enacted, as it has not been approved by the Governor as required by the constitution,” deputy solicitor general Jim Pharris wrote today to Secretary of State Sam Reed, the state’s chief elections officer.

Gregoire can also veto parts of the bill. If she does that, Referendum 71 organizers would have to re-file the measure.

More election news: Lots — LOTS — of interest in two E. WA. House seats…

Very few legislative seats are up for election in this off-year, but there’s tremendous interest in two Eastern Washington spots in the House of Representatives.

Four people have so far filed documents with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission to run for 9th District Rep. Steve Hailey’s old seat representing the Palouse region. Retired Rep. Don Cox was pressed into service as an appointee this year after Hailey died of cancer, but Cox has so far not filed paperwork to run for re-election this fall.

Who has? Hailey’s widow, Pat Hailey; Schweitzer Engineering’s Susan Fagan, who scored an early coup getting AG Rob McKenna’s endorsement; WSU’s Darin Watkins (described as “Extremely charismatic. Looks and sounds like a politician” by Palousitics two years ago when he applied to replace departing state Rep. David Buri), and Lamont’s Arthur Swannack, who has been the president of the Washington State Sheep Producers. All are Republicans.

Just to the southeast, no fewer than 5 people are running for late Rep. Bill Grant’s seat, now help by an appointee: his daughter, Rep. Laura Grant-Herriot. Grant-Herriot, running as Laura Grant, recently filed for re-election. She’s the lone Democrat in the race so far.

Also in the running for that 16th district seat: Lawyer/former prosecutor Terry Nealey, Paco city councilman Matt Watkins, and Walla Walla’s Kevin Allen Young, who works as a manager for the state Department of Transportation. Walla Walla County Commissioner Greg Tompkins had filed to run for the seat, but got out of the race recently, citing a family member’s health. “I can’t be in two places at the same time, and right now I am needed by my family more than ever,” he said.

Lastly, Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, is so far running for re-election unopposed.

Election time…let’s see who’s filed…

No, not Lisa Brown yet for governor.

Locally, however, there’s already some interest in city council seats. A quick run through Public Disclosure Commission files shows that:

Tom Towey is running for a Spokane Valley city council seat. Towey’s a Spokane Valley planning commission member, longtime Rosauer’s manager and former write-in candidate for council against councilman Steve Taylor.

Spokane Valley Mayor Richard Munson (who appointed Towey to the commission) is also running for re-election. Munson’s a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and retired stockbroker.

Brenda Grassel, impressively, already has a website up for her run for Spokane Valley City Council. She and her husband own a manufacturing company, Precision Cutting Technologies, and have rental properties.

Steve Eugster, a longtime Spokane attorney, would-be long-haul trucker and law school classmate of Justice Richard Sanders, is running for Spokane City Council against Councilman Michael Allen, a 2007 appointee and former Eastern Washington University official who’s running for re-election.

Eugster was on the council at a more contentious time, departing 6 years ago, and he has uttered what is so far the best quote of the 2009 campaigns, referring to the now-much-less-exciting council: “This `Era of Good Feelings’ is putting us all to sleep.” (Eugster’s political resurrection prompted actual rejoicing from S-R columnist Doug Clark.) Still, judging by Allen’s former job with EWU, his fundraising should be formidable. He was director of the school’s corporate and foundation relations.

Spokane Valley City Councilman Gary Schimmels is running for re-election. He’s a longtime construction company owner who two years ago sold his business, Affordable Lock Express since 1998.

Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin’s running for re-election. She’s a co-owner of a kitchen and bathroom remodeling company.

Challenging McLaughlin is Karen Kearney, a women- and children’s advocate and the former campaign chairwoman for Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

Amber Waldref is running for Spokane City Council in District 1, for the seat currently held by Councilman Al French. She’s works for the Lands Council (a Spokane-based environmental non-profit group) is a Georgetown alumna, and counts among her Facebook friends state Sen. Chris Marr.

Yay, another mention in Forbes…oh, wait…

And Forbes magazine, apparently unimpressed with the official “Near nature, near perfect” city slogan in Spokane, today pronounced the Lilac City the “Scam Capital of America.”

From writer William Barrett’s story:

Welcome to Spokane, Wash., a metropolitan object lesson in what can befall the unwary when rugged individualism is revered and consumers unsuspecting.

The story paints the city as a sort of freewheeling frontier town. And I suspect it has city leaders doubling up on their blood-pressure medication this morning.

News: “widespread crisis of confidence” in the Colville CPS office , misgivings on the right over anti-domestic-partnerships referendum, and the price of booze is going up…

In the print paper:

A 10-month investigation by the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman has found “a widespread crisis of confidence by the community in the child welfare system … that puts children and families at risk of harm.”

(Note: here’s a link to one of the reports and here’s a link to the other.)

-“This is both a referendum campaign and a statement of unity within the faith community,” the Faith and Freedom Network announced shortly after filing Referendum 71 this week. But there are deep divisions among religious conservatives over the move, with many prominent Christian leaders worried that it could backfire.

And even backers of the Referendum seem worried about the following statistic:

In the recent Faith & Freedom Elway Survey of Washington State, we found that 59% of those surveyed between 18 - 35 years old approved of homosexual marriage and 39% did not approve. These numbers are consistent nationally. Clearly our youth are not developing a biblical worldview.

-If you like liquor – particularly high-end stuff – buy it before August. Washington’s liquor control board Wednesday voted to raise the state markup on liquor by an average of about $1 a liter, starting Aug. 1.
     But instead of increasing all prices by a flat $1.05 a liter, the board decided to vary the increase by the wholesale price. A bottle of low-end Monarch vodka would rise from $9.95 to $10.75. But a large bottle of premium scotch would jump from $76.95 to $83.65.

How’s your school stack up?

The conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation, with research from Canadian foundation, has compiled a “report card” on academics at more than a thousand schools across the state.

Here’s a link to the site.

And here’s a story by our Jody Lawrence Turner, with reaction from the state teacher’s union, which was not impressed.

“I don’t know what Washington wants with a British Columbia think tank’s research,” said Washington Education Association spokesman Rich Wood. “And neither one of these organizations has anything to do with our schools.”

The state Superintendent of Public Instruction also puts together a report-card-type measure of school performance, based on test scores. Here’s that link.

No special session…

May 7, 2009
 
Statement from House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown regarding special session:
 
“After a conversation today between Gov. Gregoire, Speaker Chopp and Majority Leader Brown, the three leaders decided against a special session.”
 
“The few issues left on the table in the education and corrections budgets can be taken up when the Legislature next convenes, and after future revenue forecasting provides a clearer picture of the lasting effect of the recession on our state.
 
 “That being said, we stepped up to the challenge presented by what is generally considered to be the worst recession in 70 years. The Legislature approved three balanced biennial budgets, and key legislation that will affect the future of our education system, protect working families, position us toward a greener energy future, and help Washington businesses create jobs.”

GOP Rep. Walsh slapped by locals over co-sponsoring domestic partners legislation….

The Franklin County Republican central committee has “overwhelmingly voted to censure” state Rep. Maureen Walsh “for her sponsorship of the recently passed HB 1727.”

(It probably should be noted here that the prime sponsor of the bill was Rep. Jamie Pedersen. Walsh was a co-sponsor — along with 55 other lawmakers.) From a press release sent out Tuesday by the county GOP:

Despite all her rhetoric otherwise, it has become indisputable to the Franklin County Republican Central Committee that Rep. Walsh is actively working to incrementally legalize gay marriages.

…Representative Walsh has claimed that Republicans favor her agenda of stripping traditional marriage of its meaning and watering down the definition of the words “marriage” and “family”. Thus, we, The Franklin County Republican Central Committee, formally give the Franklin County community and voting constituents of District 16, NOTICE, that Representative Maureen Walsh does not represent the values of the Franklin County Republican Party.

Look for lots more of these types of family fights if foes of the state’s “everything but marriage” law for domestic partners gather enough signatures to try for a voter veto of that new law in November.

(Hat tip: McCranium.org.)



 

More of what we’re reading…

Yet more, um, aggregation this morning:

Senate Democrats’ senior staff director Rich Nafziger, writing on his personal blog, offers a session overview:

The real shock was the extent to which the session hit the friends and allies of the legislative democrats…The Governor and the legislature abandoned organized labor on their two biggest issues, worker privacy and unemployment insurance. Legislation to help child care organizers also failed in the Senate. While their overall scorecard could be seen as positive Environmental organizations were also less that satisfied.

(snip)

So why did their Democratic allies balk? For one very simple reason. The economy is very bad and a majority of legislators in both parties were simply afraid of making it wors(e). Many analysts argued that Boeing was already looking for a reason to leave the state and after last Fall’s bloody strike were not eager to face a more empowered labor movement.

Nafziger’s also been reading philosopher John Gray’s “Gray’s Anatomy: Selected writings.” It’s an interesting choice for a progressive, since Gray argues that “progress is a pernicious myth.” From the book:

No traditional myth is as untruthful as the modern myth of progress. All prevailing philosophies embody the fiction that human life can be altered at will. Better aim for the impossible, they say, than submit to fate. Invariably, the result is a cult of human self-assertion that soon ends in farce.

Far better, Gray writes, to “accept our lives for what they are,” instead of forever judging them against what they could be — or could have been.

What we’re reading…

More catching up (and thank God for tabbed browsing):

-Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, after a drubbing during election season from The Stranger, continues to get no love from Seattle. Writes Horsesass.org founder David Goldstein:

To those fondly speculating about Gov. Chris Gregoire being on the list of potential nominees to replace retiring US Supreme Court Justice David Souter, I offer two words of caution:  Brad Owen.

-As a class project, a Fordham law professor had his students go onto the internet to find out all the personal data they possibly could about someone. In this case, the someone was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Four months later, they turned over a 15-page dossier including Scalia’s “home address, his home phone number, the movies he likes, his food preferences, his wife’s personal e-mail address and photos of his lovely grandchildren.”

Scalia is not pleased. And the click is worth it for the photo alone.

-The AP’s Curtward, courtesy seattlepi.com, has a good roundup of the recent legislative session, detailing, among other things, the drubbing that labor took. There’s also this spot-on line:

Two Seattle senators claimed at session’s end that they would try during the upcoming special session to “continue conversations” about the bill, which is usually code for “we have given up.”

-And as my 7 percent pay cut kicks in — really — here’s yet another prescription for the struggling newspaper industry.

Dino Rossi’s new job, the prospects for a state income tax, and a roundup of higher-education legislation…

Lots — LOTS — to catch up on:

-The Everett Herald’s Jerry Cornfield says that two-time GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi’s got a new job that’s a return to his commercial real estate roots. He won’t rule out running for office again (“Never say never”) but offers these words of advice to prospective candidates:

“I tell them the only reason to run is to be in the right place at the right time to do some public good. I tell them if you want to see your name in the newspaper, I can guarantee you it’ll be surrounded by words that you don’t like.”

-Crosscut’s David Brewster suggests that Gov. Chris Gregoire take up the cudgel to forge ahead with a state income tax, something Gregoire has shown no interest in doing:

Several things may change the political calculation as time passes. The full extent of the cuts will become apparent, possibly leading to marches on Olympia and greater pressure for relief.

(snip)

Any post-session post-mortem by the Governor and her political team would have to notice that her new-taxes-over-my-dead-body stance has gravely jeopardized her standing with the Democratic caucuses, who think she is more interested in protecting her political future than helping other Democrats to do the right thing. She might start calculating how much of her other top agenda items will get through if she sticks to her guns on taxes. And polling might start to show that Sen. Lisa Brown, the Senate Majority Leader who made a quite public case for a soak-the-rich state income tax, is capturing the liberal interest groups and closing off Gregoire’s chances for a third term.

-Also in Crosscut, Daniel Jack Chasan writes about former Seattle City Councilwoman Phyllis Lamphere, a veteran organizer who’s thinking about running an initiative for an income tax next year.

-And, for my higher-ed readers, here’s Randy Hodgins’ list of college-related legislation this session. It’s written for UW readers, but there’s a lot of crossover interest here for students, staff and faculty at WSU and other schools.

Anti-“everything but marriage” measure filed…

As expected, Washington Values Alliance president Larry Stickney this afternoon filed a ballot measure to overturn Senate Bill 5688, which grants state-registered domestic partners most of the rights of married spouses.

More than 5,000 couples have registered in the past two years, including many same-sex couples.

“We disagree with the law…As a citizen of Washington state, I’m here, working with a broad-based coalition,” Stickney said at an impromptu two-minute press conference. “We’re going to do all we can to turn this back.”

“We consider it marriage,” he said. Across the county, he said, “we’re seeing marriage achieved by judicial fiat. And this kind of legislation kind of tees it up for the courts to act.”

Most major ballot measure campaigns (e.g. last year’s assisted suicide measure, or anything by Tim Eyman) milk the news of their filing for maximum free publicity to get the word out. In Eyman’s case, we practically have to roll up our car windows on him as we pull out of the parking lot.

But Stickney was clearly caught off guard — and annoyed — to find several reporters waiting for him at the Secretary of State’s elections division. He initially declined to take questions.

“I’ll have that all in a nice, tidy press release later this afternoon,” he said.

In the meantime, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, sent out a statement saying that he’s confident that Washington voters uphold the legislation. Murray, one of several openly gay state lawmakers in Washington, sponsored the bill.

“People are coming to a growing understanding that gay and lesbian people are their neighbors, their siblings, their cousins and nieces and nephews,” said Murray. And Washingtonians value fairness, he said.

“While it’s regrettable that a referendum is being filed to undo the progress we made this session to treat gay and lesbian families the same as married families, I don’t believe that voters will decide in November to take away rights from anyone,” he said.

Foes of the legislation have until July 25th to gather the more than 120,000 signatures necessary to put it on the ballot. Since not everyone who signs a petition turns out to be a registered voter and some sign multiple times, state election officials recommend a cushion of about 25 percent extra signatures. That means that Strickland and the coalition have less than three months to gather about 150,000 signatures.

He said they’re confident they can do it.

“We’ve got contacts within our coalition with many many thousands,” he said. “We go to the people of Washington. The organizations we’re involved with have large lists.”

Opponents of the “everything but marriage” law for domestic partners seek a voter veto…

(Photo: people waiting to testify at a House hearing re: domestic partnerships in February.)

Foes of the state’s new “everything but marriage” law plan to file a referendum at noon today at the Secretary of State’s elections office in Olympia, according to Dave Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed.

The measure’s apparently being filed by Larry Stickney, president of the Washington Values Alliance, and supporters.

The bill, expected to be signed into law soon by Gov. Chris Gregoire, expands the rights and responsibilities of same sex (and heterosexual senior citizen) domestic partners, granting them most of rights of spouses. It does not allow same-sex marriage. But foes of the legislation, including Stickney, argue that the changes set the stage for a court challenge that could lead to same-sex marriage.

Stickney and supporters would have until July 25th to gather 120,577 valid voter signatures, according to Ammons. If they get enough, the measure would appear on the Nov. 3 ballot for voters to decide.

The filing also means that the new law will be suspended until the referendum is decided.

 

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

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