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Eye On Olympia

R-71: Struggle to finalize petitions continues…

Referendum 71 proponents have been saying for days that they’re on the verge of printing petitions, but the process has faced repeated delays, apparently from the technical challenge of compressing a 113-page bill onto a petition form that people can actually read.

“It will go to print this afternoon,” Faith and Freedom Network President Gary Randall wrote in an e-mail to supporters this morning.

“I and all of us working on this effort are fully aware of the number of days remaining until the names must be turned in to the state,” he wrote. (They need more than 120,000 signatures by July 25th.) Randall said the group plans to add a time clock, ticking down the minutes, to its website.

“We are aware that there are some who should be on our side but are not, for whatever reason. And are predicting our failure,” he wrote. “We are also aware there are those whom we knew would do all they could to oppose us and they have and are.”

He said “several thousand” people have requested petitions so far.

The group’s political action committee board includes three Republican state lawmakers: local Rep. Matt Shea, from Mead; Sen. Dan Swecker and Rep. Jim McCune.

Update on Nirvana bassist’s political run…

Here’s a follow-up: my story from the print paper:

OLYMPIA – Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic is running for clerk of tiny Wahkiakum County, one of the most sparsely populated counties in the state.

He made it clear Thursday that he doesn’t want the job. He’s voting for the incumbent clerk.

“I’m voting for Kay Holland,” said Novoselic, 44. “I love Kay. She works hard in that office and she’s a good public servant. I’m behind her 100 percent.”

So why run against her?

Because Novoselic, the county Democratic Party chairman and author of a book on election reform, is trying to shed light on what he called a “moral outrage” built into the state’s new top-two primary.

Under the current rules, candidates are allowed to list a party preference on the ballot. The parties have no say in who uses the name. The ballot includes a disclaimer noting this.

Making the point that the labels are meaningless, even misleading, Novoselic’s election paperwork says he prefers the “Grange party.”

“There’s no such thing as the Grange party,” he said. Yet candidates can say whatever they want on the ballot. Last year, candidates running for Statehouse seats said they preferred things like “America’s Third Party,” the “Cut Taxes G.O.P. Party,” and, famously, the “Salmon Yoga Party.”

Novoselic is making the same complaint that the state’s major political parties have: that candidates they don’t support can still use the party’s name on the ballot.

That cheapens the rights of those who band together as a political group, he said, and do the hard work of meetings, bake sales and agreeing on platforms.

“It’s an assault on grass-roots association,” he said.

At the next statewide Grange meeting, he said, he’s going to propose statewide changes that would ban people from using party designations without permission. That used to be the law, he said.

Dave Ammons, a spokesman for Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, says the new system works well, with safeguards for parties.

A lawsuit by the state’s major political parties several years ago briefly led to a wildly unpopular “pick a party primary,” in which voters had to select a party’s ballot and vote only among those candidates. That’s how the primaries work in Idaho and Montana.

After years of litigation and legislation, the state now has a hybrid: the top-two primary. Candidates declare a party preference. Parties have no say on that. And the top two vote-getters in the primary – regardless of party – face off in the November vote.

Ammons said about 75 percent of voters say they like the new system.

They key thing, he said, is that the primary is not a party nominating process. It’s simply a winnowing of candidates.

Parties can choose who will be their standardbearer, he said. And those candidates are free to trumpet that news in brochures, ads or in the voters’ pamphlet.

Ammons said he’s glad that Novoselic is adding to the debate, but in this case, “I think you’ve got a solution in search of a problem.”

And parties are free to publicly disavow people whose politics they question. The Franklin County Republican Party, for example, recently “censured” state Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, for allegedly voting too many times with Democrats.

Novoselic said he decided to run for county clerk because it was the only partisan election on the ballot near his Deep River home.

Novoselic is still in touch with his rock-star roots. He’s in a band, with a new recording due out soon.

But he’s also involved in the rural community where he and his wife make their home. He’s the master of the Grays River Grange No. 124, presiding over meetings and rituals. He and his wife grow cabbage and other crops. They’re trying to encourage a local-food movement. He speaks and writes on behalf of election reforms.

Thursday, Novoselic called Holland and “apologized for dragging her into this.”

But what if he wins?

“That’s a good question,” he said.

Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic running for Wahkiakum County clerk…

Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic has filed election papers to run for clerk of tiny Wahkiakum County, one of the most sparsely populated counties in the state.

The county auditor’s office confirmed to me this morning that Novoselic has filed not as a Democrat or Republican, but under the category “prefers Grange party.”

That’s a reference to Novoselic’s longtime involvement in the Grange, a rural community organization with its roots in agriculture and political populism. Novoselic is the Master of Grays River Grange No. 124, presiding over meetings and rituals.

“The formality of what Novoselic calls `The Orthodox Grange’ appeals to his sense of propriety and down-home togetherness,” state oral historian John Hughes wrote recently in his excellent profile of Novoselic. “The old wood-frame Grange Hall radiates history.”

The county is the third smallest in the state, with a population of less than 4,000 people. The county seat, Cathlamet, numbers just 565 people.

Novoselic has long been interested in the mechanics and promise of politics. In 2004, he wrote “Of Grunge and Government — Let’s Fix this Broken Democracy.” He’s a Democrat — in fact, he’s the chairman of the Wahkiakum County Democrats — but Hughes described him as “fundamentally a lower-case democrat who believes that partisanship and the politics of marginalization are harmful to the country.”

He’s also a longtime advocate of ranked-choice voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting.

In a grange blog announcing his candidacy, Novoselic notes that the group is nonpartisan. But under the rules of the state’s new “top two” primary, candidates are allowed broad latitude to describe their political beliefs. (In the new primary’s trial run last year, one man ran as a candidate of the hitherto-unheard-of “Salmon Yoga Party.”

Novoselic, saying he’s a strong believer in the constitutional right of free association, says its a mistake to let candidates describe themselves as members of a particular party, regardless of whether the party actually accepts them. The state’s Democratic and Republican parties have made the same argument for years.

“My problem is not really with a top-two runoff election,” Novoselic wrote on the grange blog. “My issue is with the way candidates can appropriate the name of a private group.”

He’s running against County Clerk Kay M. Holland, who was appointed to the post in January after the former clerk retired. Prior to the promotion, Holland had served as chief deputy clerk for 14 years.

Holland, a fellow Democrat, said she knows Novoselic from the county party meetings, but hasn’t yet talked to him about the decision to file for the seat.

“Nice guy,” she said.

Novoselic keeps his hand in music, playing periodically, but is clearly attached to his rural life and the sense of community he’s found. Here, in an appearance a year ago at Seattle’s Experience Music Project, he talks about trying to balance things:


Hat tip: to Kelly Haughton, at the blog Ranked Choice Voting in Washington.

Only women’s prison in E. WA to shrink by half….

I had this story in the print paper today:

OLYMPIA _ Citing a smaller population of female prisoners, state corrections officials plan to shutter one of two units at Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women, the only women’s prison east of the Cascades.

The 359-woman prison in Medical Lake will shrink to 187 inmates. The rest will be transferred to West Side facilities.

About 30 of Pine Lodge’s roughly 100 staffers will lose their current jobs, the Department of Corrections said, but officials will try to find new jobs for them in the state prison system.

Prison officials said earlier this year they would close the entire prison and transfer all its inmates to a site near Vancouver, Wash. Closing Pine Lodge would save $14 million over two years, they said at the time. But that plan was shelved in favor of a statewide study – due late this year – to determine which prison to close.

Corrections spokeswoman Maria Peterson said Tuesday the unit closure at Pine Lodge is not a preface to closure of the entire facility.

“The plan right now is to run it at about 200 female offenders,” Peterson said.

Lawmakers returning to Olympia in October and December…

No, not for a special session. Just for “assembly days,” the legislature’s periodic gatherings to hold hearings and figure out what to put on the plate for the next session — now just six months away.

This year, the meetings will be later than normal:

-Oct. 1-2 (Thursday and Friday)

-and Dec. 3-4 (also Thursday and Friday)

As Senate and House administrators noted in an email today, “the schedule also allows time for development of a legislative response to the September 17th revenue forecast, if necessary.”

R-71 petitions being printed today; opponents vow to “help neighbors talk to each other” by posting names of all signers online…

Petitions are being printed today for Referendum 71, which asks voters to overturn a new law granting same-sex domestic partners many of the rights of spouses. But those who sign the petitions may be in for a surprise.

Some R-71 opponents have put up a Web site – www.whosigned.org – where they intend to post the names of all the required 120,577 signers.

“We think that it will help neighbors talk to each other,” said Brian Murphy, 45, a Seattle man who helped put up the site.

Referendum 71 organizers say the tactic is way over the line.

“It’s intimidation, there’s no question about it,” said Gary Randall, president of the Faith and Freedom Network, one of the groups backing the measure.

Randall scoffed at the idea that the site will help foster conversations over backyard fences.

“It’s a lie,” he said. “…They may want to get to know their neighbors who disagree with them, but not to have a friendly conversation.”

Eyman associate Mike Fagan running for Spokane city council seat…

Mike Fagan, who for years has helped run Tim Eyman’s anti-tax ballot measures, has filed for a Spokane City Council seat.

“While the city of Spokane braces itself for some lean budget years…the taxpayers of this city deserve to be protected from wanton taxation in order to maintain basic services,” Fagan said in a press release this morning. He said he’ll file at the county courthouse late this afternoon, running for the District 1 seat now held by Al French.

Fagan’s clearly running on his initiative work, saying in his statement that:

Over the last ten years, I have had an impact on every taxpayer in Washington State through my sponsorship of citizen’s initiatives. These efforts have served to bring vehicle license tabs down to a reasonable rate, capped property tax increases, re-established the function of the state auditor, and reigned in the uncontrolled growth of Government. I will continue to serve the citizens of my district, and the city of Spokane with the same bulldog determination as I have portrayed in these endeavors.

Fagan is a disabled veteran, who served as a criminal investigator and contracting officer in the Army. He’s co-founder and co-director of “Voters Want More Choices,” a political action committee that runs Eyman’s measures. The initiatives are a profit-turning venture for Fagan, his father Jack Fagan, and Eyman, who solicit donations to a “compensation fund” for themselves.


Referendum 71 foes launch whosigned.org to publicize the names of people who sign the petitions…

A group opposing Referendum 71 says it will publicize the names of everyone who signs petitions to put Referendum 71 on the fall ballot.

The group, which has named the site whosigned.org, says that the referendum process “must meet a high standard of transparency to ensure a fair and open discussion in the public forum.”

The referendum asks voters to veto Senate Bill 5688, a new law granting domestic partners many of the same rights and responsibilities of spouses. From the website:

Once signature petitions for initiatives and referenda are submitted and verified by the Secretary of State they are part of the public record.  When signatures for Referendum 71 have been verified WhoSigned.Org will:

-Work to make this public record signature information accessible and searchable on the internet.
-Flag the 3% signature sample that is certified by the Elections Division of the Secretary of State.
-Provide Washington State Voters with a way to check that the public record of their advocacy is correct.
-Provide Washington State Voters with a way of reporting when their signature has been recorded either fraudulently or in error.

(I’m hoping to hear back from Brian Murphy, one of the organizers of the site. Will update when I do.)

R-71 proponents drop lawsuit over ballot language, say petitions ready tomorrow…

Washington Values Alliance President Larry Stickney has dropped his challenge to the ballot language for Stickney’s Referendum 71, and organizers say that petitions could hit the streets as early as tomorrow.

The measure asks voters to veto legislation that gives domestic partners many of the same rights and responsibilities as spouses, but not the right to actually marry.

The language, as is normal, was written by the attorney general’s office. Stickney last week filed a challenge, wanting to tweak some of the language. But proponents already face a very tight timeline — July 25th — to gather the 120,577 voter signatures required to get the measure on the ballot.

“After a meeting in Olympia yesterday, we decided to withdraw our filing in favor of having a few more days to collect signatures,” R-71 proponent Gary Randall said in an e-mail to supporters over the weekend. “We became aware of several things that were in motion to further delay our signature-gathering.”

Randall says that petitions should be available Tuesday. They’ll apparently be several pages long. That’s because Senate Bill 5688 was 112 pages long, and the initiative process requires that an entire bill be printed on the petitions that voters are asked to sign. (Virtually no one reads this text, but it has to be there.)

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

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

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