The progression of thought for some politicians about the wisdom of the voters can be as predictable as it is ironic.
At the end of the first campaign, most winners are honored – and sometimes pleasantly surprised – at being chosen by voters. It is the rare first victory speech that doesn’t include the phrase “humbled by the trust the people have placed in me”, or words to that effect.
Over time and subsequent victories, that evolves for many into the certitude that the voters are making the wise decision. Later, some decide that voters smart enough to elect them aren’t smart enough to make other decisions that might be laid before them.
The journey goes from “Let the Voters Decide!” to “What do they know?”
City Council members seem dangerously down this road. . .
OLYMPIA — Anyone looking for a frenzied pace of activity in the special session would so far be disappointed, and today might best exemplify the pace.
The House isn't doing anything and the Senate had its own version of casual Friday. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who normally presides over Senate activity, wasn't available for the 10 a.m. pro forma session, so Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville was pressed into service to bang the gavel.
Schoesler took the rostrum without a tie, which isn't just a fashion faux pas but outside the normal dress code of the chamber. “I didn't find out I was doing this until five minutes to 10,” Schoesler said.
With one Republican and one Democrat on the floor, Schoesler banged through the business of the day — reading the journal (dispensed with), reading of new bills (skip to the last line), accepting partial vetoes from Gov. Jay Inslee (message received) and adjournment — in three and a half minutes.
Probably not a record, but pretty fast for his first time.
Official logo for legal marijuana in Washington state, courtesy Washington State Liquor Control Board.
OLYMPIA — Anyone planning to grow legal marijuana in Washington should expect to do so inside, pass a tough background check and keep up with their paperwork.
The state agency setting new rules to comply with the voters’ decision to legalize recreational marijuana for adults released a 46-page draft of dos and don’ts Thursday for would be growers, processors and sellers of the drug.
Sellers would have to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, playgrounds, child care centers, public parks or libraries. Stores could have limited signage or advertising, with no views of products from the street. And absolutely no kids allowed in the stores, processing facilities or growing areas.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board will be taking public comments on the proposal through June 10 before issuing final rules. . .
OLYMPIA – Out-of-state money pouring into the campaign coffers of this fall’s initiative to require labeling of genetically modified food products make clear that Washington will once again be a battleground state for progressive causes.
Supporters of Initiative 522, which would require any product sold in Washington stores to say if it contains genetically altered substances, have raised nearly $2 million for various campaign organizations. Three-fourths of it came from businesses or people outside Washington who won’t be voting on the measure this fall.
“It’s part of a national movement,” Liz Larter, a spokeswoman for the Yes on I-522 campaign, said of efforts to require consumers be told if their products contain modified ingredients. But Washington is likely to be the only state where the battle will be joined at the ballot box this fall after a similar measure failed last year in California. . .
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The Daily Show makes fun of President Obama's “I didn't know about this until I heard it on the news” explanations for recent scandals.
The Capitol Building above Capitol Lake on Wednesday morning.
OLYMPIA — Day 3 of the special session is quiet, inside the Capitol and out.
The Senate Government Operations Committee had a “work session” in the morning on recall elections. The Senate had a four-minute pro-forma session at noon before adjourning until Friday. Two new bills were introduced, including SB 5935, which would turn Washington into a Right-to-Work state. That whirring sound you hear is Big Jim Farley, coiner of the term “the soviet of Washington”, spinning in his grave.
Budget negotiators met during the morning.
Gov. Jay Inslee is signing some bills passed in the regular session at 1:30 p.m.
The city may have grounds to challenge two proposed charter amendments and seek court orders to keep them off the ballot, lawyers have told the Spokane City Council.
Groups supporting the initiatives say that would be “a direct subversion of the democratic process” but the
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OLYMPIA – As a Senate committee approved tougher laws against impaired drivers Tuesday, some senators wondered aloud if the Legislature isn’t at least partially responsible for putting more drunks on the road by expanding the places where alcohol is consumed.
Less than an hour after the Senate Law and Justice Committee gave unanimous approval to a proposal that would require more and quicker jail time for drivers convicted of alcohol or drug impairment, Gov. Jay Inslee signed four bills the Legislature recently passed that add new places from which a person might be driving after legally consuming alcohol. . .
OLYMPIA — A law that toughens the state's drunk driving laws, in part by increasing mandatory jail time, received unanimous approval this morning from the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
Despite concerns by some senators that it didn't go far enough, or provide money to cities and counties for the higher costs of extra prosecutions for driving under the influence, all committee members gave it at least tentative support.
Just who was responsible for some of the drunks on the road was part of the debate. The Legislature must accept some responsibility, Sen. Jeanne Darnielle, D-Tacoma, said because it continues to increase the number of places where a person can consume alcohol — at movie theaters, public markets and spas — and then drive home.
The voters should accept some of the blame, said Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn. They opened up sales of distilled spirits in supermarkets through a 2011 initiative, and legalized marijuana consumption by adults in 2012. Stores like Costco now have mountains of liquor on display in their aisles, she said.
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, tried unsuccessfully to attach amendments that would pay for increased prosecutions and incarcerations by extending the temporary tax on beer that was imposed in 2010 and is due to expire on June 30. Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said taxes to pay for the bill is something the Ways and Means Committee will address.
The bill makes a fourth conviction for driving under the influence a felony, down from five convictions under the current law. It sets up mandatory jail time or treatment programs for earlier offenses, would allow judges to order a drunk driver to abstain from alcohol and submit to mandatory daily testing.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that tougher drunk driving laws were one of the three top priorities for the special session, along with passing an operating budget for 2013-15 and a package of new transportation projects that will require some new revenue.
Pass an operating budget. Pass a new package for transportation projects. Toughen penalties for those who drive drunk or high.
At a press conference on the opening day of the 30-day special session, Inslee acknowledged that three other things he listed as priorities two weeks ago might not get done.
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OLYMPIA — Neither the governor nor the leaders of the caucus controlling the Senate will negotiate the budget in the news media.
We know this, because the said so this afternoon in press conferences, which were called to talk about the special session that started today and is mostly about getting a budget agreement
At various times over the span of an hour, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Mark Schoesler and Sen. Rodney Tom all stated emphatically that they would not negotiate in the media. They said they were making progress, or that they were encouraged or that they hoped to be done in the allotted 30 days although it's possible that wouldn't happen.
Inslee said budget negotiators had agreed to “some of the fundamental assumptions” that would underlie the $33 billion plus, two-year operating budget. They hadn't started exchanging offers yet, but he was encouraging them to do so, to reach a consensus.
So what might those fundamental assumptions be? It has to do with how much savings some reforms might produce or revenue a change might produce, he said. But to get beyond that would be beyond the agreement not to negotiate in the media, he added.
Would Inslee support a budget that would close some tax loopholes but not extend temporary business taxes on professional services or continue a temporary tax on beer, as he proposed?
“It is unwise to negotiate in the media,” he said. “The budget I have proposed is a great … but I am going to be agreeing to something different.”
Sen. Rodney Tom, the Democrat who leads the predominantly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus, said his caucus members aren't in a compromising mood, believing they already compromised to put together their no-new-taxes budget that picked up some Democratic votes when it passed the Senate. Republicans gave on accepting federal money from the expansion of Medicaid, which is supporting “Obamacare.”
Of course, that sort of ignores the fact that most of those Democrats voted for that budget as a way of moving the process along, and said they expected it to come back from the House with some tax preferences changed. Bu would any Senate Republicans support any budget that contained any tax changes?
“Right now, we've put together a budget that doesn't require revenue,” Tom said. “We're not going to negotiate the budget in the media.”
The prospects of getting a deal in 30 days after failing to reach agreement during the 105 days of the regular session? Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he's a farmer, so he's an optimist. Senators are being told to be flexible, and either stay in Olympia or be available for teleconferences to discuss negotiaitons.
OLYMPIA — The special session of the Legislature began officially at 9 a.m. with a flurry of inactivity. The House passed a few resolutions and adjourned until Tuesday morning. The Senate went at ease until the afternoon, when Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said enough members would be present to do opening day business like passing the resolutions to get things moving.
Update: At 1 p.m. they managed a quorum, a prayer, and the resolutions from the House that essentially keep all the bills that were introduced in the regular session but not passed in the chamber where they started, at the highest level they reached before sine die.
Total time elapsed: 6 minutes before they adjourned until Wednesday.
So no action on the floor this morning, but there was a floor show of sort in the Rotunda, where the North Klackamas (Oregon) Christian School choir was performing acapella. The accoustics are quite good under the dome, and lots of musical groups stop by to sing or play instruments.
Some of the hymns they sang only confirmed the deeply held beliefs of the press corps that we are all in limbo — we can hear the music of heaven but aren't allowed to get there. Also appropriate was their rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.
Wimoweh, wimoweh. The lege, it sleeps right now.
A close look at the House reader board in the above photo might cause some people to worry where it says “the first special session” — as though the Legislature is preparing for multiple special sessions, rolling on as far as the eye can see.
Not necessarily. That's just how they officially describe things.
OLYMPIA – The Legislature returns to town Monday in search of a compromise on a two-year operating budget that keeps the state in the black, uses relatively few accounting gimmicks, may or may not raise taxes and doesn’t get them hauled into court on a case they can’t win.
If those lines give you a sense of déjà vu, it’s probably because the same thing could have been written about the start of every regular session and special session since 2010.
A Google search would likely show it has been written by someone each of the last four year. Probably at least once by me.
Every regular session starting in 2010 required at least one special session to finish work on the budget. (Some careful readers might note that was when I started covering the Legislature full time in
Some years they go directly from the regular session into the special session, or take just a few days off for Easter or some other holiday that coincides with end of their allotted time. This year, Gov. Jay Inslee called a two-week break before going into overtime, sending most of them back to their districts to spend time with their families, and in a few cases, raise money for this year’s campaigns. While most don’t have to worry about re-election this year, a few have dreams of another office, like Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray who’d like to be mayor of
Not everyone was sent home for the duration, however. Leaders of the budget committees and their staffs were searching for a compromise that could be presented to the caucuses or sent to a hearing soon after other legislators return. At the end of last week, Inslee was doing his best to remain optimistic without over-promising.
Negotiators were making progress on a budget compromise, Inslee said, but not enough he could say for with any certainty the Legislature will be working full-time from the get-go Monday. He expects negotiators from both parties and both chambers will “start making the hard compromises necessary” and legislators could have a few other issues, like getting tougher on repeat drunk drivers, to occupy their early days back.
Compromises are a given, considering operating budgets passed by the Senate and House are more than $1 billion apart in terms of total spending, and the House budget calls for ending or shrinking some tax exemptions the Senate does not.
Inslee included himself among the folks who will have to compromise, although he didn’t suggest what his compromises might be, which would be akin to a poker play turning up his hole cards before going all-in during a game of Texas Hold ’em.
When the Legislature adjourned on April 28, Inslee described the sides as “light years apart.” Other than to say they were making progress Friday, Inslee said he couldn't elaborate: “We've agreed not to talk about negotiations.”
Perhaps, as colleague Jerry Cornfield of the Everett Herald suggested later, they’re approaching a point where they’re at least in the same solar system.
But don’t expect the rocket to land any time soon.
Remember how Congress moved almost like greased lightning to keep stop the slowdown in commercial flights that the sequester was going to cause?
And remember how the jaded among you said that was just because they were getting to leave on recess, and didn't want to face delays as they flew home for the break?
Well, turns out there's some dough left from the money the FAA moved around to keep air traffic controllers off furlough, and it's going to help the little airports like Felts Field. And gee, they almost never fly into the little airports…at least not outside of campaign season.
People thinking about running for local council or district offices who haven't yet made up their minds need to make a decision pretty quick. Filing week starts Monday morning.
On the ballot this year are council seats in cities and towns throughout Washington, as well as many mayoral slots. The City of Spokane has three openings — one for each council district — and the City of Spokane Valley has four at-large seats on this year's ballot.
Neither of those cities have a mayor's race — Spokane's isn't until 2015 and Spokane Valley's mayor is chosen from the council — but Cheney, Deer Park, Fairfield, Latah, Medical Lake, Millwood and Rockford are all electing mayors this year.
Many school districts, fire districts, water districts and cemetery districts also have positions on the ballot.
Most races are non-partisan, but Eastern Washington's 7th Legislative District has a partisan race to fill a state Senate seat. Bob Morton resigned his seat at the end of last year, and John Smith, a Colville businessman, was appointed to fill the position at the start of the legislative session. To retain the seat, Smith will have to survive the August primary and win the November election.
Smith is a Republican, but under the state's Top 2 primary system, the two candidates with the most votes in the primary advance to the general election regardless of party. In the strongly Republican 7th District, it's not unusual for two GOP candidates to be on the general election ballot.
Most candidates have until the elections office in their county closes on Friday afternoon to file for office. Candidates for offices in districts that cover more than one county, such as the 7th Legislative District, file with the Secretary of State in Olympia.
OLYMPIA —Negotiators are making progress on a budget compromise that would cover the state's operating costs for the next two years, Gov. Jay Inslee said this morning.
But not enough that Inslee could say for certainty whether the Legislature will be working full-time starting Monday, when the special session starts.
“I think progress was made this week,” Inslee told reporters after ceremonial bill signings in his office conference room. He expects negotiators from both parties and both chambers will “start making the hard compromises necessary.”
The Legislature failed to pass a two-year operating budget during its 105-day regular session which ended April 28. Inslee called a special session to begin May 13, but budget staff and key leaders have spent parts of the last two weeks trying to find areas for compromise. Operating budgets passed by the Senate and House are more than $1 billion apart in terms of total spending, and the House budget calls for changes in tax exemptions the Senate does not.
When the Legislature adjourned on April 28, Inslee described the sides as “light years apart.” Budget negotiators met on Tuesday and today, he said. Other than to say they were making progress, Inslee said he couldn't elaborate. “We've agreed not to talk about negotiations.”
After convening at 9 a.m. Monday, legislators could hold hearings on some other issues that they or Inslee would like brought up in the special session. Among those are tougher rules for repeat drunk-driving offenses which had strong support when introduced but hit a few roadblocks over questions of funding in the final weeks of the session. Inslee said he thought negotiators were “99.5 percent of the way” to a compromise that would save counties and cities money on drunk-driving cases but may cost the state more money. If that's the case, budget negotiators will have to be sure the operating budget will have money to cover those changes, he said.
Figures released Thursday by the state Department of Revenue showed that taxes from retail sales, which make up nearly half of the $109 billion in taxable sales, rose about 5.3 percent. Mike Gowrylow, a department spokesman, said the drop in consumer-driven retail sales tax revenue bottomed out in 2011 and showed increases in all quarters of 2012. But “it’s not like a big boom,” he added.
Total sales were still well below the nearly $119 billion collected in 2007.
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Washington beer drinkers pay a higher tax than any state west of the Mississippi in the continental U.S.
So says the Tax Foundation in its weekly map feature that shows various tax rates.
The rate in Washington is 76 cents per gallon, which is eighth highest in the nation. Alaska and Hawaii are higher, but all the states around Washington are significantly lower.
The listed rate includes the temporary tax set to expire on June 30. Some folks in the Legislature were considering making that tax permanent, but the beer tax extension was pulled from the most recent tax proposal in the House of Representatives.
If that tax goes away, the beer tax will go down to about 26 cents per gallon, which would still make Washington the highest in the region, but bring it down to about 25th in the nation.
OLYMPIA – State officials who ask the Legislature for more money or expanded programs could be fined, and pay the penalty out of their own pocket, if they don’t properly file lobbying reports with the Public Disclosure Commission.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, sets up a civil penalty of $100 per statement on a state agency head who fails to file lobbying reports with the commission and allows any state official or employee who improperly spends public money on lobbying to be fined.
Supporters say it’s a way to keep public money from being used to lobby for more public money. It doesn’t keep state officials from supplying information in response to legislative requests.
Signed Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee, it takes effect at the beginning of 2014.
The felony firearms registry, which would be maintained by the Washington State Patrol, was the most significant gun legislation to pass in the recently concluded session. Inslee challenged legislators to go further in the upcoming special session, which starts Monday, and vote on background checks for all gun purchases.
“We’ll not leave until gun violence is addressed in our state,” Inslee told reporters after signing a total of 25 bills on a wide variety of topics.
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