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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: Capitol

For those wanting a historic souvenir: How to get a flag flying over the state capitol today…

In honor of the inauguration of President Obama, Washington state’s Secretary of State is selling U.S. flags that are being flown at the state capitol today. (Yup, there’s some person who’s going to be busy hauling flags up and down all day. Really.)

You can buy the 3-foot by 5-foot flags for $14 if you pick them up at the Secretary of State’s front desk, or they’ll mail you one for $17.25.

“People just snatch them up,” said Dave Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed. Each comes with a certificate, state seal, and Reed’s signature. Any proceeds go to thestate capitol historical furnishings fund.

If you’re interested, call Suzette Black at (360) 902-4151.

Presidential inauguration: the view from the state capitol…

The capitol rotunda and hallways were like a ghost town this morning, as staffers and lawmakers crowded around TVs to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

In the darkened state Senate, about a dozen lawmakers sat at their desks, peering up at a big-screen projection on the wall. Up in the public galleries overhead, dozens of visitors also watched in silence.

Below, in the Democratic caucus room, exuberant senators laughed as Chief Justice John Roberts and Obama stumbled over the oath of office. Then they cheered.

“I think we’re entering a more hopeful period,” said Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane. As he watched the nation’s first African-American president sworn in, Marr said, he thought of the racial dark days of the OJ verdict and Rodney King beating.

“To think that we would stand up this day a few short years later is pretty amazing,” he said.

Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls, watched in his office.

“I had a little lump in my throat for those who’d worked so hard otherwise,” he said of the Democratic president’s victory. “It would have been more joyful the other way.”

In the House Republican caucus room, beneath portraits of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, a few lawmakers and staffers sat in silence, watching a projection TV. Nobody spoke.

Across the chamber, people were crammed into the standing-room-only House Democratic caucus room, where a sheet cake waited on a staffer’s desk. “Go Obama!” it read.

Lawmakers, some wiping away tears of happiness, looked up at the screen. Outside, a toddler squealed with delight and wheeled a stroller around the abandoned floor of the House of Representatives.

Anti-poverty groups rally at capitol…

About 300 people from anti-poverty groups and other organizations held a rally on the capitol steps Monday afternoon. They called for restrictions on payday lending, more health care, and preservation of the General Assistance to the Unemployable program, which provides health coverage and monthly stipends of $339 to people who cannot hold a job, often due to mental health problems.

It’s not just Washington: atheist sign stolen from Illinois capitol, too…

Someone has made off with an atheist sign put up in the Illinois state capitol, according to the (Springfield, IL) State Journal-Register.

The same thing happened recently in Olympia early one morning, although the sign — apparently bent in half by the thief — was recovered by state troopers later that day. The signs were virtually identical, erected by Wisconsin’s Freedom from Religion Foundation.

From the Journal-Register’s story:

The sign was securely taped to an easel.

“It had to take an effort (to remove it),” (Annie Laurie) Gaylor said. “Atheists never engage in vandalism. We don’t go around stealing the Baby Jesus. They don’t follow their own commandments.”

Gaylor said the group hopes to have a replacement sign in place by today. “We’ll put a ‘Thou Shall Not Steal’ sign with it,” Gaylor said.

State officials put their foot down on any more holiday displays at the capitol…

There will be no Festivus pole at the state Capitol this year, no banner reading “Lion of David,” and certainly no poem claiming that Santa Claus will send us all to hell. So sayeth Washington state officials, who after two contentious weeks have imposed a moratorium on any further holiday displays inside the state Capitol. “It was more than we anticipated,” said Steve Valandra, a spokesman for the state department of General Administration. The handful of displays that are already there, he said, can stay. Prodded by requests and a lawsuit, the state in the past few years has allowed holiday displays inside the echoing marble Capitol, which has long featured an evergreen “Holiday Tree” in the rotunda every December. There was a menorah-lighting by Orthodox rabbis, a Nativity scene from an Olympia real estate agent, and then, this year, a sign from a Wisconsin atheist group declaring that there are no gods and that religion is just myths and superstition. That fired up Christians, who promptly added signs critical of atheism and last Sunday held a demonstration on the Capitol steps. One demonstrator assembled a Nativity scene on the spot out of balloons. Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly highlighted the controversy nightly, blasting Gov. Chris Gregoire for allowing the atheist sign. Early one morning, someone stole the sign. State troopers later recovered it. “It certainly stirred people up,” Valandra said of the publicity. “The phone calls, the e-mails, it all started the day after.” Since then, one group after another has sought permission to add displays. A Catholic nun living in a Mexican prison asked to put up a sign wishing atheists well. Someone else wanted to put up a display for the Japanese holiday Bodhi Day, celebrating the enlightenment of the Buddha. An Olympia man wanted to celebrate Festivus. A group from Kansas City sought to honor the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And a gay-hating Kansas group sought to erect its sign proclaiming that the recession is evidence of God’s wrath and that Santa is a child molester. All of which is a bit much, General Administration officials decided, for a small nook now roped off and guarded by a state trooper on the third floor of the Capitol. “We were just anticipating even more, and the area we designated just can’t accommodate them anymore,” Valandra said. If people try to add displays without a permit, he said, troopers will ask them to remove them. Valandra said the department will try to figure out how to handle things next year. So far, he said, nobody’s suggested banning displays entirely. “Everything went fine last year,” he said.

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

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