WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate is pulling an all-nighter. More than two dozen senators will take turns speaking from tonight through tomorrow morning to drum up support for legislation to address climate change.
Technically it's not a filibuster, since the senators aren't delaying a vote on a bill. So it's not quite like the last all-nighter staged by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, prior to the government shut down in October, when he spoke for over 21 hours by himself.
In a speech in the beginning hours of the event Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., cited the effects climate change is having on the federal budget and how businesses stand to benefit from efforts to combat it.
“We know the solutions to reduce pollution and emissions that cause climate change create good-paying jobs,” Murray said. “Jobs that put money back in families’ pockets through low-cost energy sources and increased efficiencies in homes.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., briefly spoke at the event's beginning about the affect climate change is having on Washington's fishing industry. She's expected to speak more Tuesday morning as the event is winding down.
OLYMPIA — Sen. Tracey Eide, a Federal Way Democrat, said she will not run for re-election this year, opening up a seat in one of the state's swing districts.
Eide, an 18-year-veteran of the Legislature, has served for the last two years has shared bipartisan leadership of the Senate Transportation Committee. During that time the Legislature has tried, without success, to find a package of major transportation projects and related tax increases that would satisfy both the Democrat-controlled House and the Senate controlled by a coalition that is predominantly Republican.
As part of that effort, Eide joined with Republican senators for a statewide “listening tour” of voters on transportation issues last summer and fall.
Eide said in a press release that she had decided after her 2010 election that this term would be her last “and that I would pour myself into this term and then open the door for someone else.”
She's the senator from the 30th District, which has a Democrat Rep. Roger Goodman and Republican Rep. Linda Kochmar.
OLYMPIA – There is so much talk in legislative debates of the need to level the playing field that one wonders if an army of bulldozers should be dispatched to sporting facilities around the state.
Such leveling is almost always a major part of any call for tax breaks, whether it's for server farms or border-community retail stores. But the playing fields for alcohol sales are apparently the most cattywampus, judging from efforts to “tweak” Initiative 1183.
You remember I-1183, the initiative that was going to lower the price of hooch and make everyone happy by getting government out of the liquor business and letting the marketplace take control?. . .
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OLYMPIA — The Seahawks' flying mascot Taima made a guest appearance in the Legislature this morning, posing for pictures and being present in the House when a resolution of his honor was adopted.
The resolution, by Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, commended the augur hawk as a good luck charm and a uniting element of Eastern and Western Washington. The bird is owned and trained by David and Robin Knutson of Spokane County's West Plains, who bring Taima to the Seattle stadium for every home game so he can be the first Hawk out of the tunnel at game time.
“He's a symbol of excellence and possibilities,” Parker said.
Taima didn't do his signature flight above the House chamber, or during his visit later to the Senate. David Knutson said he's worked bigger, noisier crowds, so that wouldn't have been a problem. But Taima is molting and not in training, so he isn't up to his game-day standards.
Mike Leach addresses state Senate.
OLYMPIA — The Washington Senate elevated the 1915 Cougar football team to the status of National Champion today, honoring the team that went undefeated and won the 1916 Rose Bowl.
With current WSU Coach Mike Leach at the rostrum, the Senate passed a resolution honoring the 1915 team as the first West Coast team to win a Rose Bowl, beating Brown University 14-0. That victory “helped restore the nation's faith in college football and put an end to the practice of celebrating the Pasadena Tournament of Roses with events such as ostrich races, polo matches and chariot races, beginning the annual tradition of the Rose Bowl Football Championship”, the resolution said.
Technically, Cornell University was the national champion in 1915 — at least according to CollegeFootballPoll.com, which lists champions recognized by the NCAA. That team went 9-0, but didn't play in a bowl.
Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, acknowledged that the practice of naming a national champion didn't take hold for decades after the 1916 game, but for much of the last half century, any team that went undefeated AND won the Rose Bowl would have been declared the national champion.
Leach started his remarks by saying he watched “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in preparation for his visit to the Senate chamber. “So I stay up here and talk until I collapse,” he said.
But he didn't. Leach thanked legislators for everything they do to support higher education and said he hoped “to put a team out that everybody can be proud of” in the fall.
Padden calls for a vote on firearms bill.
OLYMPIA — A person under a restraining order for domestic violence can be ordered to surrender all firearms under a law that passed the Legislature this afternoon.
In a 49-0 vote, the Senate sent to Gov. Jay Inslee a bill that allows the subject of such a restraining order to be required give up his or her guns after a hearing if a judge rules that person is a credible threat. The bill was first proposed last year in the House and went through several changes as it moved back and forth between the chambers.
Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said the bill complies with both the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the stronger protections for having firearms in the state constitution. “There are times when people should not have these firearms,” he said.
With an amendment for due process procedures that include a notice, the hearing and the judge's finding, the National Rifle Association dropped its opposition to the bill, Padden said. HB 1840 passed the House 97-0 last month.
Inslee said legislators have moved to the center, but still haven't come together on a transportation package.
OLYMPIA — With time running out in the legislative session, Gov. Jay Inslee acknowledged “something's got to break very very soon” to pass a package that would pay for major transportation improvements through higher gas taxes.”
That something, however, is not going to be a promise from him not to impose by executive order low carbon fuel standards that would raise gasoline costs. There's no plan to do that, Inslee said, and any standards would only come after extensive study, conversations with interest groups and public hearings.
Discussions with lawmakers take place almost daily, Inslee said, and both Republicans and Democrats have moved closer to the middle on a transportation package. But there's no agreement.
Republicans said Wednesday fears that Inslee would impose carbon fuel standards by executive order after the session ended, thus raising gas prices even higher than the 11.5 cents in increased fuel taxes, had some of their members balking at the transportation package.
They're just using the carbon fuel tax as an excuse for inaction, Inslee said today. There's no proposal, so there's no way to calculate costs.
“I think everybody needs to take a deep breath and not get their knickers in a twist,” he said.
Inslee urges Legislature to approve student testing bill.
OLYMPIA — The Legislature should approve a bill requiring statewide testing in an effort to keep $40 million in federal funding for local schools, Gov. Jay Inslee said today.
Speaking at a press conference while teachers opposed to testing requirements were filling the halls outside the legislative chambers, Inslee said he does not “have the luxury” of getting into a philosophical discussion about the value of standardized testing. To have any chance to keep federal money from the No Child Left Behind program, the state should pass a law that requires that by the 2017-18 school year, students' scores on statewide tests are used as at least part the way teachers are evaluated.
Collective bargaining agreements and local school boards would be able to determine how the tests are used, Inslee said.
Federal education rules require standardized statewide tests to receive the money; state law currently says those tests can be used, but doesn't say the must be used, causing the U.S. Department of Education to say it will cancel the money. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has not given “an absolute guarantee” the state will get a waiver and continue to receive the money before 2017-18, Inslee said, but added: “I'm highly confident we will.”
A bill to require testing died recently in the Senate when most Democrats joined with the chamber's more conservative Republicans to kill it. Opponents said they had heard from teachers, administrators and school boards in their districts concerned about the time and expense of additional testing on top of new evaluation procedures.
Activists trying to rally support for immigration reform outside Spokane City Hall got a rude welcome to the Inland Northwest this morning.
A young man walked briskly past the ongoing news conference and, with TV cameras rolling, muttered, “Go back to Mexico.” He then continued toward the intersection of Post Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard and swiveled back to face the group, raising his arm in a Nazi salute and yelling, “Heil Hitler” before extending his middle finger as he scampered away.
The activists from Fast for Families ignored the racist antics and continued their rally, though one of the organizers later confided that while the group is accustomed to occasional heckling, the one-fingered Nazi salute marked a new low.
It also marked another reminder that while the Inland Northwest has made huge strides in confronting the region's ugly history as a haven for white supremacist movements, reminders still linger.
The activists are criss-crossing the country trying to drum up congressional support for the immigration reform bill that won approval in the U.S. Senate last summer but the House version has bogged down in that chamber. The group called on Eastern Washington residents to urge Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane to use her leadership status to let the bill onto the floor for a vote.
“We know that if the vote were held right now it would pass,” said Rudy Lopez, who was among a group of activists who fasted for 22 days outside the U.S. Capitol to hep call attention to the need for immigration reform.
Joining the activists in a show of support this morning was Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart and several community members.
Majority Coalition members watch vote count on liquor sales bill. It passed 26-23.
OLYMPIA — In a fight over fixing problems with an initiative that got the state out of the liquor business, the Senate tried to make it cheaper for restaurants and bars to restock from local stores.
After much talk about the proper way to “level the playing field” and not “pick winners and losers”, the Senate voted 26-23 to allow restaurants and bars to buy liquor from retail outlets without paying the 17 percent tax that other consumers pay. It was an expansion of a law passed last year that allowed them to avoid the tax by buying from the old “contract” stores the state had before Initiative 1183 ended the state's monopoly on wholesale and retail liquor sales.
Some senators wanted to remove the tax for all purchases, arguing the state should not pick winners and losers with its liquor tax policies, but an amendment to do that failed on a 21-28 vote. Others said they should only even out the laws for different retailers, not giving some stores an advantage in selling to bars and restaurants who need to restock certain items between deliveries by distributors.
SB 6220 now goes to the House, which must pass it in its current form before next Thursday or send any changes back to the Senate.
OLYMPIA — Native Americans who were arrested and jailed for”off-season” fishing in tribal waters before a federal judge ruled they were within their treaty rights are getting the legislative version of an apology.
A unanimous Senate approved and sent to Gov. Jay Inslee a bill allowing those pre-1975 convictions from what's sometimes called the salmon wars to be vacated, wiping away any criminal records from tribal members arrested and jailed for fishing outside seasons set by the state. Native Americans insisted they had treaty rights that allowed them to fish regardless of state rules, and in a landmark decision in 1974, U.S. District Judge George Boldt ruled they were right and the state was violating their rights. His ruling stood through the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
But the convictions remained on the records of tribal members who were arrested and state law didn't provide a good way to expunge them. HB 2080 allows any tribal member with a conviction related to fishing activity prior to the Boldt decision to apply to the sentencing court to have it vacated. For tribal members who have died, family members or the tribe can apply to have convictions vacated posthumously.
Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said the bill was a chance for the state to apply justice and get the matter behind it.
“Every now and then we get a correct a mistake,” Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle said. “It's the closest this branch of government can come to an apology.”
Green, who operates medical marijuana dispensaries in
The former real estate appraiser got into the medical marijuana business after the housing market crashed. On Wednesday, the state Liquor Control Board said Green did the best job of some 4,700 applications from would-be pot entrepreneurs at filling out forms, passing inspections and otherwise meeting requirements for a license to grow and process marijuana. The board awarded him the first license issued under Initiative 502 in a ceremony part patriotic oration and part Chamber of Commerce pep talk.
“Freedom is what brought us here today,” he told a packed hearing room and a half-dozen television cameras. “This program is a testament to what we can achieve in our country if we are persistent enough… Cannabis prohibition is over” . . .
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Last year we brought you the story of Shelby, the dog who showed up at a Senate hearing in support of a bill to make it easier for landowners to fight off wolves attacking their livestock and pets.
The six-year-old Siberian Husky mix didn't speak, of course, but she did show off the wounds from his encounter with a wolf on her owner's ranch outside of Twisp. Shelby was definitely Spin Control's favorite hearing witness of the entire session, and the bill eventually passed.
Now comes word from the Wenatchee World, via colleague Rich Landers Outdoors blog, that Shelby is back on the mend after another tussle. This time it was a cougar.
She's expected to recover. A depredation permit has been issued for the cougar.
WASHINGTON - Sen. Patty Murray continued her criticism of President Obama's proposed cuts for cleanup of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, taking his budget director to task at a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee which she leads.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Office of Management and Budget director, defended the proposed Hanford cuts, as well as the rest of the president's budget, during this morning's hearing.
“A number of those programs are for pieces of work that have been completed,” Burwell said. “The administration is committed to make the progress we need at Hanford.”
Murray wasn't convinced: “Yeah, well we have really serious challenges in making progress at these nuclear clean up sites across the country,” she said. “We need a long term, sustainable plan for this.”
The Department of Energy said Tuesday it has made significant progress at the site and has shrunk the size of the cleanup area. As a result, the department plans to shift money to other cleanup sites.
In January, Congress approved $2.15 billion for cleanup at the nuclear weapons facility. Obama's budget has $2.083 billion.
OLYMPIA — In a prelude to end-of-session budget negotiations, the House dumped the Senate's no-new-taxes budget that extended some tax loopholes for businesses, replacing it with a plan to spend an extra $140 million on education and other programs, partly by raising several taxes.
Democrats and Republicans traded charges of who was being irresponsible in making plans to raise money and spend it. . .
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OLYMPIA — A plan to name Palouse Falls the official state waterfall passed the Senate and was sent to Gov. Jay Inslee this afternoon.
On a 46-3 vote, a plan devised by students at Washtucna Elementary School cleared its last legislative hurdle and seems likely to become law.
The falls is one of the nation's tallest, and the park around it is one of the few state parks that operates in the black, Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said. Nearby Lyons Ferry State Park, among those close because of budget constraints, will be one of the first to reopen and a hiking trail will link the two parks, he said.
“Let's show the kids in the Palouse area the process does work if it's a good idea,” Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said.
Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said he grew up near the falls and has many fond memories of it. Next year he said he might introduce a bill to rename the state Flaming Geyser State Park for Roach.
OLYMPIA — A unanimous Senate voted to bar tax breaks for the state's fledgling marijuana businesses.
On a 47-0 vote, it passed SB 6505, which says the state's new marijuana entrepreneurs who have filed for licenses to grow, process and sell recreational marijuana won't be eligible for various tax preferences that other businesses might enjoy.
Marijuana is not an agricultural commodity, and growers won't get certain tax breaks farmers who grow other crops receive. The bill excludes marijuana and marijuana-infused products from which eliminates the ability for persons in that industry to take advantage of tax breaks for agriculture. Marijuana businesses will also be ineligible for eight B&O tax preferences; 16 sales and use tax preferences; four additional excise tax preferences; and four property tax preferences, two for real property and two for personal property.
The bill was sent to the House.
OLYMPIA — A bipartisan plan to use state lottery money for bonds to build new classrooms passed easily in the House today.
On a 90-7 vote, the House approved a bill to build some 2,000 classrooms for kindergarten through Grade 3 classes which will be reduced in size as part of a plan to improve public school. It would sell $700 million in bonds, and pay them off over 20 years by taking $50 million annually from the state's lottery revenue.
A few Republicans said they agreed with using lottery money for education but objected to the bond plan. The state should be patient, use the lottery's cash flow, and avoid bonds and their interest payments.
House Capital Budget Committee Chairman Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, said bonds would quickly provide the money school districts will need to have all the necessary classrooms by the 2017-18 school year.
Earlier in the morning the House passed a separate Supplemental Capital Budget with $166 million in new projects. Included in the lists are $1 million for the Spokane Valley Tech center and $2.9 million for the Veterans Cemetery Expansion.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers made the national “fake news” last night for her use of Bette in Spokane as an example of Obamacare problems.
Stephen Colbert referred to her as “Republican den mother” and aired a snippet of her response to Obama's State of the Union address in which she decries Bette's plight… followed by the explanation from The Spokesman-Review that Bette wouldn't use “that Obamacare website.”
“There's another flaw with Obamacare,” Colbert reported in mock seriousness. “You have to go on it to use it. That's how they get you.”
It's a pretty funny bit… and we're not just saying that because he mentioned the newspaper's coverage. On the other hand, it didn't hurt.
OLYMPIA — Bottled water would carry the standard sales tax and out-of-state shoppers would have to apply for a refund of taxes they pay at the register under a proposal approved this morning by the House Finance Committee.
On an 8-5 party-line vote, the panel voted to close four tax exemptions and dedicate the estimated $100 million it would raise next year to a cost-of-living raise for teachers and school supplies.
Also among the tax preferences the committee voted to close is an exemption on fuel that oil refineries use to operate their facilities and a preferential rate on the business and occupation tax that drug resellers have.
“We have a tax code that is Swiss cheese,” said Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, who voted for the bill while acknowledging “this won't fix that bigger problem.”
But Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said charging out-of-state shoppers Washington sales tax will hurt retailers in cities that border Oregon and Idaho. Even though they can apply for a refund, they'll see the tax at the check out register, they'll say “I'm not fillin' out no form”, leave their goods on the counter and never come back.
Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, said voters rejected putting the sales tax on bottled water, and the other proposals have been studied and rejected. “This is a tired, worn-out set of proposals.”
The bill now moves to the House, where it is separate from majority Democrats supplemental budget but could be added later. The Senate budget has no similar set of tax changes.