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Spin Control

House Republicans, Senate Democrats make assignments

OLYMPIA — Legislative caucuses continued to assign members to committee and internal leadership posts as the countdown to the 2015 session continues.

On Thursday, the two minority caucuses, House Republicans and Senate Democrats, announced some of their spots;

Andy Billig is the only Senate Democrat in the Spokane area. He'll be the deputy minority leader in the Senate and assigned to both the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee and the Ways & Means Committee.

House Republicans from the Spokane area, of which there are many, got several top spots, known as “ranking member” and No. 2 spots “assistant ranking” as their caucus announced committee assignments. The full list is inside the blog, with Spokane reps in italics. Click here to check it out, or to comment.

Today’s fun video: George Bailey reimagined


Before you watch “It's A Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time this year — and face it, you know you will — check out this Jimmy Kimmel rewrite of the script.

UW should expand med training in Spokane, panel says

The University of Washington Medical School should “proceed as soon as possible” to expand and modernize its program in Spokane, a special advisory council set up by the university said Tuesday. 

It should “aggressively pursue regional expansion opportunities”, the council said, with a special nod to the Tri-Cities, where it said expanded residencies and medical education are priorities for the business and health care community. It also should develop more residency programs, particularly for rural and underserved areas.

The special Presidential Advisory Council on Medical Education Access and Affordability, an 11-member body headed by former Gov. Dan Evans, is silent on whether Washington State University should develop its own medical school in Spokane. It does say the two universities should work together on a plan to provide medical education in the state and specifically for Spokane.

UW operates a five-state consortium known as WWAMI – for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho – which was innovative when it started 43 years ago and has been successful and efficient, Evans said: “It needs to be expanded, modernized and adjusted so it can continue to produce high-quality physicians for the next 40 years.”

 The two universities will ask for money for separate medical school programs in Spokane in the upcoming legislative session. UW is seeking $8 million to have more slots for first- and second-year students at the five-state WWAMI program located on WSU-Spokane campus, while WSU is seeking $2.5 million for to begin hiring staff and applying for accreditation for a new med school.

For more information on the advisory council recommendations, go inside the blog.

Inslee undecided on Spokane med school, nothing in current budget plan

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee is undecided on how medical school education should expand in Spokane. The budget he will unveil Thursday and send next month to the Legislature currently has no new money for medical school plans by either of the state's two research universities.

“At this point we're not saying yes or no to the medical school in Spokane,” Budget Director David Schumacher said a few hours before Inslee was scheduled to discuss his priorities for public schools and colleges at internet-connected town hall meetings. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.


Spokane GOP elects leaders

The Spokane County Republican Party precinct officers chose their party leaders for the next two years, electing Dave Moore to the chairmanship he has held since March when the previous chairman resigned.

Also elected in the biennial organizational meeting were Stephanie Cates as vice chairwoman, Susan Wilmoth, state committeewoman, and Mike Volz, state committeeman. All three ran unopposed.

Moore was elected GOP county chairman last March after the resignation of Ben Oakley. This will be his first full two-year term. 

Precinct officers also elected a total of 13 district leaders for Spokane County's five legislative districts. Some districts are so large they have as many as four elected leaders. 

Today’s fun video: SNL on torture report


Saturday Night Live's opening skit was about the Senate torture report.

If you don't know the Spokane connection to this, click here.

Inslee to hold internet town hall on education

 OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee will take his plans for public schools to the public, in Rogers High School and three other locations, via Skype tonight.

With large screens set in the schools to carry the online video-phone connection, Inslee will unveil his proposals for the state to meet court orders to improve public schools, along with other education and public college initiatives for he will will include in his upcoming 2015-17 state budget. He will then take questions from audiences in four locations. 

He'll be live at Newport High School in Bellevue for one hour, starting at 6 p.m., and carried via Skype to the Rogers Commons, the Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center in Moses Lake and the Jason Lee Middle School Auditorium in Tacoma. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Consequences of the election clear in Olympia

OLYMPIA – The axiom that elections have consequences is much in evidence in the capital these days as the Senate’s new Republican majority rearranges the deck chairs.

Although they have kept the title “Majority Coalition Caucus” in an apparent nod to Sen. Tim Sheldon, the one Democrat in their midst, gone is any suggestion of power-sharing with the remainder of the minority Democrats. All committee chairmen or chairwomen are Republicans, as one would expect when a party has enough seats to decide most issues by itself. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Hundreds gather to protest I-594 background checks

OLYMPIA — Hundreds of gun-rights advocates, some dressed in camouflage and a few wearing Santa hats, gathered on the Capitol grounds to denounce the background-check law voters approved last month.

A crowd estimated between 600 and 800 by the Washington State Patrol – and 1,000 to 2,000 by organizers – cheered as a string of speakers called Initiative 594 everything from as unenforceable to “a constitutional abomination.” Some carried rifles, others shotguns, still others pistols or other handguns. One had a sheathed broadsword.

They gathered in fog on the rain-soaked Capitol lawn…  

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog

An unusual split in NW delegation

When congressional votes are close, they usually break down on partisan lines with Republicans in Washington and Idaho voting one way and Democrats the other.

Not the case with yesterday's House vote on the omnibus spending bill, technically known as the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted yes, along with other Republicans from Washington, but Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, voted no.

That put Labrador, one of the House's more prominent tea party conservatives, on the same side as Washington Democrats, including Seattle's Rep. Jim McDermott, who regularly ranks up there with the House's most liberal. But not all liberal Ds voted no; for example Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also the head of the Democratic National Committee, voted yes.

As might be expected, McMorris Rodgers, Labrador and McDermott all had different things to say about the “Cromnibus” as it is being called.To see their different takes, continue inside the blog.

Colbert weighs in on torture and American “awesomeness”


Plenty of folks are dissecting Andrea Tantaros comments on Fox that the Senate shouldn't have released its report on torture because America is “awesome”. Stephen Colbert does one of the best sendups of that and some other media comments.

House Democrats pick committee leaders

OLYMPIA — House Democrats named their committee leaders today and Spokane's two representatives retained their vice chairmanships on key panels.

Rep. Timm Ormsby will be vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli will be vice chairman of the Health Care and Wellness Committee.

For a complete list of the committee chairmanships and vice chairmanships, check inside the blog.

No one in U.S. appears to use the pseudonyms Senate gave to Spokane torture barons James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen

Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar apparently don't exist.

And not just in the pseudonym sense, either.

No one in the United States appears to use the names that the Senate Intelligence Committee chose when trying to obscure the identities of Spokane psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen in the latest torture report, according to a review of various demographic and population databases.

Mitchell and Jessen have been paid more than $80 million from taxpayers for the now-discredited “enhanced” interrogation techniques, which the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigators concluded were brutal, ineffective and did nothing to make the country safer. SR columnist Shawn Vestal takes a closer look at their roles in his column today.

It's unclear why the Senate committee sought to obscure Mitchell's and Jessen's identities, particularly since their roles in the controversial torture techniques have long been known, but it made us wonder how you'd feel if your name was inserted into an official government report in lieu of the actual torture barons so we began searching for people with those names. And, that's when we discovered no one in the U.S. appears to use those specific names, based on searches of some of the most reliable databases, including Demographics Now and Lexus Nexus.

Perhaps that's why those pseudonyms were chosen.



Inslee budget to propose $1 billion in tax hikes

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee's budget proposal for the next two years will include a request for $1 billion or more in higher taxes along with some program cuts, a delay of some new school spending approved by voters and raises for state employees.

Inslee will unveil the details of his budget plans for the second half of his term over four days next week. But in a discussion Tuesday with reporters, State Budget Director David Schumacher said without some new taxes the cuts to state programs would be “horrible.”

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Today’s fun video: Obama plays Colbert


President Obama pokes fun at almost everyone, including himself, in a mockup of The Word on The Colbert Report.


Senate Republicans name committee heads

OLYMPIA — Majority Republicans in the Senate named their committee leadership Tuesday.

Here's the breakdown for Spokane-area legislators:

Sen. Mike Padden of the Spokane Valley remains chairman of Law and Justice, and named vice chairman of Accountability and Reform, a new committee.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner of Spokane was named chairman of Commerce and Labor and vice chairman of Higher Education.

Sen Brian Dansel was named vice chairman of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development and vice chairman of Natural Resources and Parks.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, who serves as majority leader, doesn't get a chairmanship but will lead the majority caucus on the Rules Committee

To see the full breakdown, check inside the blog.

Clark Hager — 100% for the Valley

From this morning's paper: Clark Hager fought for the Spokane Valley to be its own city for years, losing many battles but eventually winning the war.

Hager, 82, who died last month and will be remembered at a service Sunday, was a rock-ribbed conservative who pushed an agenda of smaller, more accountable government and lower taxes. Sometimes he used the pages of the Valley Herald, which he owned for several years in the mid-1990s. Sometimes he used theatrics. He frequently donned a red-white-and-blue top hat like Uncle Sam from a political cartoon. He occasionally towed a large, black-and-white, plastic bovine dubbed the Cash Cow to suggest his beloved Valley was paying more in taxes than it was getting back in services.

“He was 100 percent for the Valley,” said Joe McKinnon, also active in the incorporation movement. “That was the promised land as far as he was concerned.”

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Sunday Spin2: About those Powerball odds

Whenever a jackpot in one of the nation’s state-sanctioned numbers games, officially known as lotteries, approaches the stratosphere, reporters are asked to explain the odds of winning. Being notoriously bad at math, we often find some college professor to explain the formula then turn it into a simile, such as “it’s like being attacked by a grizzly and struck by lightning as you hit a golf ball for a hole-in-one.”

What we try to say, without actually spelling it out: It’s pretty much a sucker’s bet. Washington and other states, however, have extensive campaigns to convince people that they could beat the odds by plunking down a dollar or two.

So the Washington Lottery Commission must be ecstatic about Lisa and Everett Quam, who live near Auburn but could have come straight from Central Casting. They won the $90 million Powerball drawing the weekend after Thanksgiving. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog


Sunday Spin: Has peace broken out in WA ‘War on Xmas’?

OLYMPIA – ‘Tis the night before Christmas, plus about 18, and all through the statehouse not a creature is stirring with complaints about how Washington is waging war on the holiday.


The Association of Washington Business Holiday Kids Tree went up in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday. Gov. Jay Inslee flipped the switch for lights on Friday and the Capitol Building is suffused with the smell of noble fir  that almost obscures the aroma of bacon cooking in the basement café most mornings. Ut may be a minor Christmas miracle that no one has resurrected the complaint that if it looks like a Christmas tree and it smells like a Christmas tree, it by gosh by golly ought to be called a Christmas tree. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.


Spin Control Files: Remembering the Troglodytes

The somewhat erratically executed Spin Control Files feature today travels back to 1982 to remember the Troglodytes. 

Read about it here.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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