Archive for December 2010
OLYMPIA — Washington residents who are shopping for insurance are now able to check out their prospective agent and insurance company online.
The Washington Insurance Commissioner's office debuted today a new toolkit that allows consumers to enter the name of the agent, the insurance company, or the location and see any past violations or complaints.
It also explains the ins and outs of different kinds of insurance, allows you to file a complaint online.
“In the past, these types of things sometimes required phone calls, letters in the mail and waiting time while a staffer looked up information,” Commissioner Mike Kreidler said. “With these new tools, people can get the information instantly.”
The agency als has a new page on Facebook...but then, doesn't everyone this side of Outer Mongolia have a page on Facebook?
OLYMPIA — New numbers from the Washington Secretary of State's office confirm what political experts in Spokane have long believed:
Central Spokane's 3rd Legislative District, along with being among the state's poorest, is among the state's lightest voting.
The state Elections Office released voter turnout for the state's 49 legislative districts this morning, and they show a wide range of ballots cast, voter registration and turnout (ballots cast divided by voters registered) across the state.
Spokane's 3rd District was fourth from the bottom as far as ballots cast and turnout. Final tallies show that 35,835 voters, or 63.3 percent of those registered in the district, cast a ballot.
Other legislative districts that are completely or partly in Spokane County did significantly better:
The 6th District was fourth from the top, with 64,673 ballots, or a 74.5 percent turnout of its 86,796 voters.
The Valley's 4th District was 17th, with 58,461 ballots or a 72.4 percent turnout.
Northeast Washington's 7th District was 24th, with 55,411 ballots and a 74.2 percent turnout.
Southeast Washington's 9th District was 28th, with 51,223 ballots and a 73.1 percent turnout. (The turnout was slightly smaller in the 4th, even though the number of ballots is larger, because the 4th has considerably more registered voters than either of the two rural districts.)
OLYMPIA — Senate Republicans released their list of committee assignments today, and Spokane's freshman Sen. Michael Baumgartner appears to be someone they're putting a lot of stock in.
Baumgartner will start his first day in the Legislature as ranking Republican on the Senate Economic Development, Trade and Innovation Committee. He also gets a spot on Higher Education and Workforce Development and Ways and Means (aka a Colleges and “How get and spend your money”)
Not bad for a freshly minted legislator. But there are some perks that come with knocking off an incumbent from the other party, as Baumgartner did in ousting Chris Marr.
Northeast Washington's Bob Morton is the ranking Republican on the Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee and has a seat on Environment, Water and Energy.
Spokane Valley's Bob McCaslin, the Senate's most senior member who missed much of last session with health problems, is on Government Operations, Tribal Relations and Elections and Judiciary.
Southeast Washington's Mark Schoesler will serve as Republican floor leader and have seats on Ways and Means, Rules, and Agriculture and Rural Economic Development.
OLYMPIA — In what has become an inevitable consequence of one of Washington's athletic teams going to some sort of post-season contest, Gov. Chris Gregoire has bet salmon-for-steak on the U-Dub Huskies to beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Thursday's Holiday Bowl
She made the bet with Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman today. Huskies win, she gets some Omaha steaks; Huskers win, as they did rather handily earlier this year, Heineman gets salmon filets.
Gregoire describes the Huskies as having an “inspirational season”, while Heineman describes himself as confident in a Husker victory.
Not sure if anyone in the kitchen at the governor's mansion is checking to see if they have plenty of steak sauce. But maybe she'll be able to get back to even by making a bet with the governor of Delaware on the EWU Eagles game next month.
Or go inside the blog to take the quiz the old fashioned way:
Spin Control is taking most of this week off, but in honor of the season is reprinting previous versions of the 12 Trivias of Christmas quiz, leading up to Friday when this year’s quiz will appear on the blog (and in the paper on Christmas Day.) This 12 Trivias of Christmas is from last year.
In honor of the holidays, Spin Control usually lays off politics to brighten our
readers’ spirits with the annual Christmas Quiz.
It’s a tradition that dates at least to the last time Christmas was on a Sunday and there were no good topics for a political column. It’s also a chance to mix a bit of cheer with political trivia. For those who think Christmas and politics don’t mix, they obviously aren’t getting all the e-mails I get from elected officials. They all wish you the very best these holidays, by the way.
And why not? Next year’s an election year. But enough of such cynicism.
Here are this year’s 12 Trivias of Christmas:
1. In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” what public service job did George Bailey have during World War II?
a. Draft board member
b. Air raid warden
c. Police auxiliary
d. War bond salesman
2. When Walt Kelly rewrote “Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly” to “Deck Us All with Boston Charley” for Pogo, what Washington city did he include?
c. Walla Walla
3. Where did Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer first appear?
a. In a children’s book
b. In a song written for Gene Autry
c. In an article in the Saturday Evening Post magazine
d. In an animated television special
4. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah stems from a war between the Israelites and whom?
5. Christmas was once against the law in an area that is now which U.S. state?
a. New York
b. North Carolina
c. Rhode Island
6. What general was made commander of the Allied invasion forces on Christmas Eve, 1943?
a. George Patton
b. Douglas McArthur
c. George Marshall
d. Dwight Eisenhower
7. What first lady wrote a Christmas story that features a girl named Marta?
a. Eleanor Roosevelt
b. Jackie Kennedy
c. Barbara Bush
d. Laura Bush
8. If one follows the Bible religiously, what figures should not be in a Nativity scene?
c. Wise Men
9. What elective office did Scrooge facetiously suggest his nephew seek?
a. Mayor of London
b. Member of parliament
c. Prime minister
d. Chancellor of the exchequer
10. What kind of music does John Candy’s band play in “Home Alone”?
a. Heavy metal rock
d. Country swing
11. When and where did the first celebration of Christmas Day on Dec. 25 occur?
a. 2 A.D. in Nazareth
b. 363 A.D. in Rome
c. 1066 A.D. in England
d. 1703 A.D. in Paris
12. In 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts read from which book of the Bible in a Christmas Eve telecast from space?
Answers inside the blog.
OLYMPIA — A creche, aka a Nativity Scene, will be erected on the Capitol Campus this evening, and stay up through next week.
State officials said they approved a display permit this week from a Bothell, Wash., resident, for an outside Nativity Scene that will have about 10 pieces.
Hunter Abell, an Eastern Washington native who is now an attorney over here on the West Side, said he read a recent Spin Control item about the Catholic League's problems with getting their creche up, checked with the league and some other folks who might be putting up a display, and found out no one else was interested. So he decided to make the request on his own.
He picked up a set several days ago with figures ranging from one and a half to about three feet — the tallest being the standing figures like the magi — deciding that if the state said no, he could always put it up on his front lawn. But they approved his display permit.
“The Capitol is the people's house, and the campus is kind of the people's front lawn,” Abell said.
He plans to load Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, assorted shepherds and magi into his car and drive them to Olympia this afternoon. A sheep might have to be strapped to the roof, and unfortunately the figures don't qualify him for the carpool lane, so the planned 6:30 p.m. set up time on the South Tivoli lawn will depend a bit on traffic.
The Catholic League never got around to filling out their permit, and their creche, a one-piece ceramic display that was really meant for inside, might not have been very visible or held up well in the wet South Sound weather. Abell said his plastic figures will do just fine.
So it would seem that the big three — a menorrah, a Nativity scene and a display by atheists — have all been accounted for this season without a shot in the war on Xmas being fired.
To borrow a line from Tiny Tim, “God Bless us, every one.”
In honor of King Cole, whose memorial service is Thursday morning, I present what may be my favorite photo in The Spokesman-Review's great photo archives. It's from the grand opening of Riverfront Park.
Here's the caption:
President Jimmy Carter momentarily looks the wrong way as the flag is raised during his May 1978 visit to Spokane's Riverfront Park. King Cole, a major influence in bringing Expo '74 to Spokane points the direction to president should be facing. Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus (left) and former Spokane Mayor David Rodgers (2nd from left) watch the ceremony. File/The Spokesman-Review
Also to commemorate Cole, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner has ordered flags at city-owned properties to fly at half-mast on Thursday and is encouraging others to also fly flags at half-mast.
Spokane's CityCable 5 announced this week that it will replay chats between Mayor Mary Verner and King Cole. The programs originally aired in 2008.
They will be shown at:
Spin Control is taking most of this week off, but is reprinting some previous versions of its 12 Trivias of Christmas, leading up to this year’s quiz which will appear on Dec. 24 on the blog and Dec. 25 in the paper. This quiz is from Dec. 24, 2008.
We’ve survived the 2008 election, the War on Christmas and the War on the War on
Christmas, which can only mean one thing: It must be time for the Spin Control
This annual feature stems from several things. Newspapers are always hurting for something to fill their pages around Christmas; the author soaked up way too much Christmas trivia in a former job that involved reading lots of newspaper filler over the holidays; and over the years, readers offered other bits of Christmas trivia, so the stuff piles up.
Some of this year’s questions have a government or political theme, others are just, well, trivial.
1. Poinsettias became a holiday staple in the United States thanks to what type of government official?
a.) A president.
b.) A U.S. senator.
c.) A governor.
d.) An ambassador.
2. In the song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” what day involves government officials?
a.) Day 6.
b.) Day 8.
c.) Day 10.
d.) Day 12.
3. According to the Bible, who was emperor
when Jesus was born in Bethlehem?
4. Which of the following do not have a display in
the Washington state Capitol this year?
5. The original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, lived about 1,400 years ago and had a day job. He was:
a.) A duke in what’s now Holland.
b.) A count in what’s now Romania.
c.) A prince in what’s now Italy.
d.) A bishop in what’s now Turkey.
6. What’s the name of the angel who told the shepherds “peace on earth to men of good will.”
d.) None of the above.
7. Who set Christmas Day as Dec. 25?
a.) Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome.
b.) Pope Gregory, who established the basic calendar we use.
c.) St. Luke the Evangelist, who wrote the most complete Nativity account.
d.) William the Conqueror, who was crowned king of England on that day in 1066.
8. American newspapers used to make a big deal out of what foreign leader’s Christmas tree, describing it for readers in great detail every year?
a.) The king of England.
b.) The kaiser of Germany.
c.) The czar of Russia.
d.) The emperor of Spain.
9. In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Mr. Potter is mostly a mean, rich banker, but he does hold a government position at one point. What was it?
a.) He was on the Planning Commission, so he could stop houses being built at Bailey Park.
b.) He was on the Public Safety Committee, which is why he could swear out an arrest warrant against George.
c.) He was a member of the state Financial Institutions Department, which is why the bank examiner kept showing up at the Building & Loan.
d.) He was the head of the Draft Board, which is how he knew George was 4F.
10. Abbreviating Christmas as “Xmas” drives some people crazy, but others say it’s no big deal. What does the X stand for?
a.) It’s an atheist’s way of saying Jesus didn’t exist.
b.) It’s an agnostic’s way of saying Jesus is an unknown factor.
c.) It’s a use of a letter from a foreign language.
d.) It’s an 19th century abbreviation for “I’m not writing this out because everyone knows what it means.”
11. What’s the name of Rudolph’s girlfriend (or more accurately, doe-friend) in the animated classic “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”?
12. The U.S. Postal Service issued its first Christmas stamp in 1961. When did it issue its first Hanukkah stamp?
a.) 1961. They were released at the same time.
b.) 1962, because sales were so good the previous year.
c.) 1971, when Richard Nixon was courting the Jewish vote for his re-election.
d.) 1996, in a joint effort with the Israeli government.
Answers inside the blog.
Washington gets a new congressional district, upping its population in the U.S. House of Representatives from nine to 10, Census Bureau officials announced today.
Politicians all over the state, from Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, to Luke Esser, state Republican Party chairman, are thrilled. And why not? It will create a whole new congressional race in 2012.
“At a critical time in our nation’s history, not only do I welcome the additional representation in our nation’s Capitol, I am pleased Washington state’s share of federal funding to support critical programs like Medicaid and education will also increase,” Gregoire said.
Esser had a slightly different take: “An additional congressional seat gives our state the opportunity to send another voice to Congress to advocate for limited and fiscally conservative federal government. This year our state helped to fire Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House…
Spin Control is taking most of this week off, but is reprinting previous Christmas quizzes in advance of this year’s quiz, which will appear on Friday evening. This 12 Trivias of Christmas first appeared on Dec. 23, 2007.
Merry Christmas, political junkies.
With the War on Christmas held down to a few skirmishes this year, such as the assault of a firefighter Santa in Spokane, it’s likely that only the truly politically obsessed would be reading this column near or on Christmas. For the rest of us, the eggnog beckons and presents need to be wrapped or unwrapped.
The bad news is there isn’t much politics that happens outside of Iowa and New Hampshire during Christmas week. The good news is Spin Control routinely accounts for this with its annual 12 Trivias of Christmas Quiz, a mixture of yule-themed government and political factoids that you might be ashamed of yourself for knowing.
Online, at www.spokesman review.com/blogs/spincontrol, we offer this as a multiple choice quiz. Print readers know that’s for wusses: Either you know it or you don’t. Cover the answers at the bottom and take the test:
1. The Gospel of Luke says Joseph and Mary were going to Bethlehem for a census, but what was the cause of the census?
2. The Magi, who weren’t really kings regardless of what the song says, did meet with a real king before they found Jesus. Who was it?
3. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus might have been classified as an illegal immigrant for the first few years of his life. To what country did Joseph and Mary take him after he was born?
4. Who was crowned king of England on Christmas Day?
5. What war involving American troops technically ended with a treaty on Christmas Eve?
6. What government leader was deposed on Christmas Day?
7. When good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Stephen, what country was he in?
8. What government employee is mentioned in the song Frosty the Snowman?
9. The song “Silver Bells” was inspired by what yuletide tradition?
10. What civil servant helps prove Santa’s existence to a judge in “Miracle on 34th Street”?
11. With whom did Ma Bailey have Christmas Eve lunch in “It’s a Wonderful Life”?
12. What did Gen. Waverly use to buy the Columbia Inn in “White Christmas”?
Answers inside the blog
Spin Control is taking most of this week off, but is reprinting Christmas Trivia quizzes from past years. This 12 Trivias of Christmas first appeared Dec. 24, 2006.
The worst thing about a political column on Christmas Eve is that most people
are filled with the spirit of the season and will not sit still for smacking
someone upside the head, even if that person is a politician whom they would say
on the other 364 days of the year much deserves it.
Last year, in that spirit – which allows lions to lie down with the lambs and Democrats to drink mulled wine with Republicans – Spin Control offered Christmas trivia from its store of yuletide lore. It proved so popular that some suggested forgetting real politics year-round.
That’s not going to happen. But we did come up with a new version of the 12 Trivias of Christmas, and because some readers have already been primed by the holiday trivia contest last Friday in 7, this is definitely the Politics Version. Put your hand over the answers at the bottom until you finish.
1. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Bible says Augustus was emperor of Rome and Herod was King of Judea. Who does it say was governor of Syria?
2. What American president signed the law making Christmas a federal holiday?
A. Abraham Lincoln;
B. Ulysses S. Grant;
C. Theodore Roosevelt;
D. Woodrow Wilson.
3. Who is the leader of the Island of Misfit Toys in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?”
A. King Moonracer;
B. Queen Glenda;
C. Princess Rainbow-Brite;
D. Prince Jolly-Times.
4. Soldiers in what war stopped fighting each other on one Christmas Day?
A. The American Revolution;
B. The Civil War;
C. World War I;
D. World War II.
5. What American general took advantage of Christmas revelry by the enemy to mount a successful attack?
A. George Washington;
B. Andrew Jackson;
C. William Sherman;
D. Dwight Eisenhower.
6. What government leader is mentioned in Dickens “A Christmas Carol?”
A. Mayor of London;
B. Queen of England;
C. Archbishop of Canterbury;
D. Prime Minister of Parliament.
7. Who was the first president to mail out official Holiday Greetings from the White House?
A. Abraham Lincoln, who sent cards by Pony Express to California;
B. Woodrow Wilson, who wanted to cheer up the country during World War I;
C. Calvin Coolidge, who didn’t want to make a Christmas speech so he mailed out a message;
D. Herbert Hoover, who was trying to blunt criticism after the stock market crash.
8. What state government official plays a pivotal role in the Frank Capra Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”?
A. The governor, who owed Mr. Potter a favor because of all those campaign contributions;
B. The land use commissioner, who had zoning questions about homes built in Bailey Park;
C. The bank examiner, who wanted to look at the Building and Loan’s books;
D. The attorney general, who was indicting George Bailey for embezzlement.
9. Which White House family had a pet that was originally given as a Christmas gift?
A. The Lincolns, whose pet turkey named Jack was spared from being Christmas dinner;
B. The Roosevelts, whose dog Fala was a gift from Eleanor to FDR;
C. The Nixons, whose dog Checkers was a Christmas gift from a supporter in Texas;
D. The Clintons, whose cat Socks was a present from Hillary to Chelsea.
10. Which of the following did Bill Clinton NOT give Monica Lewinsky as a Christmas present?
A. A copy of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”;
B. A Rockettes blanket;
C. A marble bear’s head;
D. A pillow from Air Force One with the presidential seal.
11. Who was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House?
A. Thomas Jefferson, in the first year the White House was occupied;
B. Andrew Jackson, who was known for large, often boisterous, celebrations;
C. Franklin Pierce, who had a tree sent from his native New Hampshire;
D. Millard Fillmore, who did little else memorable in his term.
12. What president banned Christmas trees from the White House?
A. Ulysses S. Grant, because they reminded him of the terrain outside Vicksburg;
B. Teddy Roosevelt, who thought cutting trees was bad for the environment;
C. FDR, who didn’t want to seem to be wasting money during the Depression;
D. Ronald Reagan, who believed trees were responsible for most pollution.
Answers inside the blog.
Spin Control has most of this week off, but in the spirit of the season is reprinting Christmas Trivia quizzes each day from previous years, leading up to this year’s quiz on Friday evening. This quiz first appeared on Dec. 25, 2005:
The worst thing about a political column on Christmas is that many people don’t
read the newspaper on Dec. 25 for anything but the post-yule sales, and most of
those who do read will not, in the spirit of the season, countenance smacking
someone upside the head – even if that person is a politician whom they would
say on the other 364 days of the year much deserves it.
If the lions can lie down with the lambs, then Democrats can drink mulled wine with Republicans, and Constitutionalists can eat fudge with the Green Party. And political columnists can slip something else past their editors on the theory that they’re in a sugar coma from guzzling eggnog.
Years ago when I was an editor – on a temporary, fill-in basis for another newspaper that was desperately short-handed because of vacations over the holiday season – I spent several Decembers scanning small-town newspapers looking for news in the hinterlands. Unfortunately, there seldom was any news in the hinterlands in December, so the small papers filled much of their space with short blurbs or factoids about the holiday season.
Over time, I collected enough Christmas trivia to play “Stump the Santa” at any watering hole. Or to fill in a column on an apolitical day like this.
Answer the questions from your own knowledge base. No checking Google, and no cheating.
1. Name the wise men mentioned in the Book of Matthew.
2. In the song “Santa Baby,” the singer wants a deed to what?
3. The song “White Christmas” first appeared in what movie?
4. How long had Jacob Marley been dead when he appeared to Scrooge?
5. How many presents does St. Nicholas leave under the tree for each child in the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas”?
6. What night does King Wenceslaus see a poor man “gathering winter’s fuel”?
7. What’s the name of the ski lodge in the movie “White Christmas”?
8. What is the date for 12th Day of Christmas?
9. Who was the young reindeer’s coach in the 1964 TV special “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”?
10. What song is Janie Bailey practicing on the piano on Christmas Eve in “It’s a Wonderful Life”?
11. The song “Silent Night” was written for what musical instrument?
12. If you gave your true love the gifts of the 12 Days of Christmas, how many gifts would she have on the 12th day? No fair using a pencil and paper to figure this out.
Answers inside the blog
OLYMPIA — The state could balance its books by the end of the June by cutting more funds for school children, dropping payments to small school districts, eliminating some health care programs on March 1, and mailing checks worth some $253 million a day later.
Those are the main proposals in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s supplemental budget that seeks to keep Washington state out of the red through the remainder of the fiscal year.
Last week, the Legislature cut some $588 million out of the General Fund budget that pays for programs and salaries through June 30. But economic forecasts in November suggested the state had a gap of about $1.1 billion between what it could expect to collect in tax revenues and what it had on the books to spend.
That left about $512 million the Legislature will have to to cut when the Legislature convenes next month. Gregoire’s proposals for those cuts, as announced this afternoon, include:
· Eliminating additional state funds for kindergarten through 4th grade class size reduction efforts for the entire 2010–11 school year, saving $42.1 million.
· Reducing levy equalization payments to eligible districts by 6.287 percent for Fiscal Year 2011, saving $18.0 million.
· Shifting part of the June 2011 apportionment payment to school districts from the last business day of June 2011 to the first business day of July 2011. This will result in $253 million in savings in the 2009–11 budget.
· Eliminating all subsidized insurance from the Basic Health Plan beginning March 1, 2011, which covers about 66,000 people, to save $26.8 million in General Fund-State and $21.3 million in other funds.
· Eliminating the Disability Lifeline Grant and Medical programs, saving $43.5 million in GF-S and $22.6 million in federal funds.
The biggest savings, which comes from delaying payments to school districts by one day, shifts that cost into the next biennium. It is sometimes called an accounting gimmick, because the state has to make the payment, and is merely shifting it to a new budgeting period.
In practice, the state General Fund would borrow that money from other state funds that have surpluses on July 1 and pay it back over the two-year budget cycle that starts that day. The General Fund borrows and repays other funds throughout the year because of cash-flow problems, but because the state must close its books for the 2009-11 biennium on June 30 without a deficit, state officials said it is easier to repay that money over the next two years than the remaining months in this biennium.
It’s a gimmick, several state officials conceded, but it allows the state to end the biennium without a deficit.
Rep. Gary Alexander of Olympia, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he supports many of the governor’s suggestions for cutting programs in March that she wants to cut in the next biennium, such as Disability Lifeline and Basic Health. Those cuts are “inevitable”, he said, and making them sooner increases the savings to the state.
But he doesn’t support shifting the June apportionment payment to schools to July 1. He likened it to another accounting gimmick the state used several decades ago in an economic downturn, when it continued to count revenue from the month after the biennium closed to pay for expenses incurred earlier. Expenses continued to outpace revenues and slide forward, and it took the state years to recover from the so-called “25th month,” Alexander said.
“One of our objectives… is to develop a sustainable budget,” he said.
OLYMPIA — With little fanfare or complaints, Seattle Atheists have erected a decorated tree and a sign on the Capitol campus in honor of not-Christmas.
A tree? As in, a Christmas Tree?
Not exactly. The group calls it “A Tree of Knowledge” — although it’s unclear if they’re unaware of the Biblical implications of such a title, or co-opting it.
But their tree looks suspiciously like a Christmas Tree, considering it’s about a 6-foot conifer with decorations hanging from the boughs. No toys or angels or smiley snowmen for the atheists, however. Their decorations consist of pictures of famous scientists like Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, covers for books like “Cosmos” and a small copy of the Periodic Table of Elements. (I know what you’re thinking: These atheists sure know how to trim a tree!)
And, of course there’s a sign. If you can’t read it on the photo above, it’s reproduced inside the blog.
In case anyone’s wondering, there is no Nativity Scene on the Capitol Campus at this point. The Catholic League was faxed the standard form for campus displays that every group must submit, but the group hasn’t yet responded, Steve Valandra of state General Administration said. So far, the creche remains in the GA vault, awaiting the form or a request to send it back to the league.
Not sure if this qualifies as a salvo in the war on Christmas or not.
OLYMPIA — Reaction to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposed 2011-13 budget continues to come in from groups who don’t like parts of it.
It balances the budget on the backs of toddlers. — Washington State Association of Head Start and ECAP.
Endangers families across the state. — Poverty Action Network.
Complete statements can be found inside the blog.
OLYMPIA — A complaint that an aide for Sen. Chris Marr improperly used a state computer for campaign purposes was dismissed Wednesday by the Legislative Ethics Board. The computer didn’t belong to the state, and it was used by Marr, not his aide, the board concluded.
The complaint was filed by Steven Neill, a supporter of now Senator-elect Mike Baumgartner in October. Neill contended that a campaign e-mail was sent out by Marr legislative aide Barb Bumann on state time and a state computer, and that Marr would thus be guilty of violating the state’s campaign law through “knowing acquiescence” of that action.
The ethics staff investigation concluded, however, that Bumann didn’t have a state laptop during the 2010 campaign season — or any other time. As Marr’s unpaid campaign treasurer, she did loan the campaign her personal laptop to file reports with the Public Disclosure Commission, and to send out campaign updates. She also gave Marr and some other campaign members the password so they could have access to the laptop; although the e-mails had Bumann’s name in the header, both she and Marr said he sent out the campaign e-mails.
“No evidence to the contrary was discovered,” the staff said. And the e-mails seem to be written by Marr, because they refer to “I, me and my opponent” and have his cell phone number on it, the staff said.
The complaint was dismissed for “lack of reasonable cause.”
The omnibus appropriations bill for this fiscal year (which started on Oct. 1, by the way) that is moving through Congress has at least 6.631 earmarks worth $8.6 billiion, Citizens Against Government Waste says. At least because the organization hasn’t located all the anonymous earmarks placed in the bill, although it knows there’s at least one — a $450 million line item for an alternative engine for the hot new jet fighter.
The average American child grows up without both biological parents around at some point. The Family Research Council says its Index of Belonging and Rejection has concluded that 45 percent of American children spend their childhood in a home with their biological mother and father there, and legally married, from birth until they leave home.
About half of U.S. residents have slow Internet speed…or none at all. The Communication Workers of America says its research indicates that 49 percent of U.S. residents don’t have the minimum FCC broadband standard of 4 megabits per second download/1 megabit per second upload. The U.S. is 15th among industrialized nations as far as average Internet speed at 3 mbs (we should all hang our collective heads in shame) while South Korea is first, with 34 mps.
Washington state does a bit better than the national average, with 4.8 mps. Idaho a bit worse, with 2.6 mps
If you have more than half you holiday shopping left, you are average, according to the National Retail Federation. The average person in their survey had completed 49.5 percent of his or her shopping by the second week of December, their annual survey reports. That’s up from 46.7 percent last year.
Since we’re not talking about posting this on a government website, or playing it on a monitor in the Capitol Rotunda, this isn’t a political “Nativity Scene.”
It’s just fun.
In a week marked by budget cuts, budget cuts and more budget cuts, can’t we all use a little fun?
OLYMPIA — One casualties of the state’s revenue gap in today’s budget proposal by Gov. Chris Gregoire would be Washington’s 2012 presidential preference primary.
The state estimates it would save about $10 million by scrapping the primary, which was mandated by voters in a 1989 initiative but has met with limited acceptance from the state’s two major political parties.
Democrats essentially ignore the results of the primary, choosing all of convention delegates through the precinct caucus through state convention system. Republicans have used varying formulas to award at least part of their delegates from the results of the primary and the rest from the caucuses. In 2008, the split was about half and half.
Along with saving money for a statewide mail-in ballot, it would also save the quadrennial jockeying to get a primary date that’s close enough to the beginning of the process that there’s still some doubt about the parties’ nominees, but not so close that Washington is clumped in with a bunch of states and dwarfed by them.
Washington is also the only state that has both a primary and caucuses and two different systems by the parties for apportioning presidential delegates.
State GOP Chairman Luke Esser, while giving Gregoire some credit for an overall budget that “is a step in the right direction toward fiscally responsible government,” was critical of cutting the primary, saying it contradicts the will of the people expressed in the initiative.
“And it disenfranchises military voters serving overseas and many other voters. The voice of the brave members of the armed forces fighting for freedom in faraway lands will be silenced because they can’t attend a preinct caucuses, as will the voices of those who must work during the caucus, who are home-ridden or tending sick children,” Esser said.
Probably an easy call for Gregoire, he added, because Democrats have always ignored the primary results.
But Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, said he reluctantly agreed with Gregoire the state can’t afford a primary in 2012 under current conditions. Reed said he hoped it would be back in 2016.
The state canceled the 2004 presidential primary to save about $6.8 million during a one-day special session in December 2003.
OLYMPIA — Reaction to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget was swift Wednesday as some of her normal alliles is social service groups and progressive circles denounced it while Republicans gave it qualified favorable reviews.
Fellow Democrats tried to praise her for the effort of compiling a budget that cut $4.6 billion over two years with committing to any of it.
State workers represented by Service Employees International Union, who care for seniors and the developmentally disabled, gathered outside the governor’s office to protest the cuts to key social service programs. They clustered around the exits to the office with empty wheel chairs in which they placed signs predicting the kinds of injuries and problems patients could suffer because of the cuts.
Karen Washington, who works for Chesterfield Services home care in Spokane, said workers who are already struggling to make ends meet, will have their wages and benefits cut, too. In the end, many patients who are able to remain in their homes or with family because of state services will wind up in more expensive settings like nursing homes and hospitals because of the cuts, she said.
Asking the sick and disabled to shoulder so much of the state’s budget problems “is not only not fair, it’s immoral,” Washington said.
Read more reaction inside the blog.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and Office of Financial Management Director Marty Brown announce the proposed 2011-13 state budget.
OLYMPIA—Saying the state faces an economic crisis that requires cuts and restructuring, Gov. Chris Gregoire is proposing deep cuts in some of the state programs that enhance schools and serve the poor.
Her proposed 2011-13 budget, the starting point for discussions that will dominate next year’s legislative session, calls for what she calls “devastating” reductions.
“The safety net will be stretched thin in some places and eliminated entirely in other places,” she said in her budget message. “This is a budget that touches every community throughout the state.”
Go inside the blog to see some of the biggest cuts.
OLYMPIA — Unions for state workers have agree tentatively to cuts in wages and increases in health premiums for the next two years.
Union leaders and Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the tentative agreement, which include furloughs that will bring most wages down by 3 percent, in a hastily called press conference Tuesday afternoon. State employees will also carry the cost of any increases in health care in the coming two years, and the state share will be set at its current amount.
The unions cover all state workers, in agencies throughout the state to nurses at Eastern State Hospital and corrections officers at Airway Heights. State managers will experience similar cuts, and elected officials will ask the state Commission on Salaries to lower their salaries by like amounts.
“This is real sacrivice by public employees,” Gregoire said, adding she’d fight any legislative attempts to extract more from union and non-union workers during the upcoming session.
Under the agreement, which must still be ratified by the unions’ memberships and approved by the Legislature, about 90 percent of all state workers will have their hours cut by slightly more than 5 hours a month, and agency managers and employees will work out schedules to handle these flexible “furloughs” without closing their doors or compiling overtime by other staff. The only ones exempt from the cuts will be those workers who earn less than $30,000 a year.
The state will continue its current contribution of $850 a month to health insurance, which is currently 85 percent of the cost. State workers currently pay $150 and will pay any increases over the next two years.
The agreements would save an estimated $176 million in the state’s general fund over the 2011-13 budget period, and a total of $269 million for all agencies covered by all state funds.
A $20 tax on vehicles owned by drivers living in the city of Spokane won’t be approved this year.
The Spokane City Council voted unanimously on Monday to postpone a vote on the tax until Jan. 10. The decision ensures that if the tax is approved, revenue won’t be used to balance other parts of the city’s budget.
Under state law, tab taxes must be spent on streets. However, the council had contemplated creating the tax and then diverting other street money to pay for non-street shortfalls.
Council members will consider a plan next month that would spend the tax to fund street construction projects that would be completed by private companies — similar to how the city’s voter-approved street property tax is spent.
OLYMPIA — The list of state senators and their years of legislative service came out today and, while it’s not unexpected, it does offer a reminder that state Sen. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, is the most senior member of the Senate.
By quite a bit.
McCaslin took office in 1981. The next closest senator, in terms of seniority, is Republican Pam Roach, who came in in 1991. Five Democrats are tied for third after getting elected in 1993.
To see the full list, go inside the blog.
OLYMPIA — The state should cut off automatic increases to some state retirees and keep others from retiring then being rehired for their old jobs, Gov. Chris Gregoire said today.
It should also revamp health insurance programs to find savings from large purchase and reductions in unneeded services, she added.
Gregoire unveiled several proposals Monday afternoon that she said could spell big savings over the next two-year budget cycle and beyond. It’s part of a slow roll-out of her fiscal 2011-13 budget, which will continue Tuesday and wrap up with a full budget book Wednesday.
Among the proposals floated Monday were an end to automatic increases to most of the retirees on the state’s oldest pension systems, PERS 1 and TRS 1. The increases were passed by the Legislature in 1995 as protection against inflation, but with inflation low, Gregoire is calling for the state to go back to the old system of letting the Legislature vote on any adjustments it sees fit.
OLYMPIA — Less than 48 hours after the special session to trim what’s left of this year’s budget, Gov. Chris Gregoire will release the first piece of her first proposal for the 2011-13 budget this afternoon at a 1:30 p.m. press conference. It deals with pensions and health care costs.
More details coming Tuesday before the big roll out Wednesday.
While this budget is never adopted in its entirety, it becomes a starting point for discussions that are expected to consume next year’s legislative session. With the state’s revenue outlook grim, it will essentiallly be a continuation of cuts approved Saturday.
Set next Tuesday aside for marking something other than the Winter Solstice. It will also be the day Washington state finds out whether it will add one more congressional district.
The U.S. Census Bureau will announce the national headcount and the state-by-state breakdowns. From that, states learn how many congressional districts they will have for the next decade.
The national population is estimated to be between 305.7 million and 312.7 million, up from 281.4 million in 2000, and the biggest gains are in the South and West.
Washington is reportedly on the cusp of having grown enough to get a new congressional seat, going from nine to 10…and won’t that make for fun line-drawing by the state commission that will figure out those boundaries next year?
Idaho is expected to stay steady at two House seats.
Former City Councilman Steve Eugster said Wednesday that he no longer plans to run next year for Spokane City Council president.
Earlier this week City Councilman Steve Corker announced that he will run for the seat.
Eugster filed to run for council president last year after he lost a bid for city council.
“I want to spend the last years of my life engaged in intellectual legal efforts, as opposed to political legal efforts,” Eugster said in an interview.
In a case that ended in the state Supreme Court, Eugster was suspended from practicing law for 18 months. That suspension ends on Dec. 13.
Eugster could be back at the state's top court next year, arguing a case challenging how state appeals court judges are elected.
Council President Joe Shogan took the lead this year on the plan to create a vehicle tab tax while others on Spokane City Council examined other ideas — including a parking lot tax. Shogan’s plan is pretty much the only tax left that might be used to help balance the 2011 budget. But it’s facing growing opposition on the council.
Three council members were especially angered by the surprise vote to move $1.5 million of street money to the city’s rainy-day fund where it could be used to help fund the fire and police budgets. That proposal wasn’t publicly vetted until Monday, just before the money was shifted in a 4-3 vote. In the audio clip, Rush is explaining that that vote makes it highly unlikely that he would support a tab tax for the 2011 budget. That, along with arguments from Corker in favor of moving a tab tax vote to January, prompted Shogan’s harsh response.
Spokane’s 2011 street budget was slashed by $1.5 million on Monday in a move that may mean extra city layoffs.
The Spokane City Council voted 4-3 on Monday to shift $1.5 million in street money to the city’s rainy-day fund where it could be used to reward departments with unions that made requested concessions.
City Councilman Steve Corker suggested the cut to help cover the cost of maintaining police and fire jobs. The city’s fire union recently ratified concessions that will save the city about $700,000 next year. But to save all the jobs called for in the agreement, the city needs closer to $1.4 million. A similar situation will occur in the Police Department if a tentative deal with the Spokane Police Guild is approved by members this week.
The union that represents Street Department workers, Local 270 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, hasn’t made the concessions asked for by Mayor Mary Verner. Council members said they wouldn’t have targeted the street budget had the union cut a deal.
Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said she is “disappointed” that Local 270 had not made concessions.
“The concept is we have to be as fair as possible to not reward those who are not coming to the plate,” McLaughlin said. “It’s appropriate to now look at the areas where our hands are being forced.”
Spokane City Councilman Steve Corker announced Monday that he will run for Spokane City Council president next year.
Corker, 69, is a former advertising and marketing executive who was first elected to the council in 1999. Rather than run for re-election, Corker ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2003. He also lost a City Council election in 2005. He returned to the council after winning a seat in 2007.
The only other candidate so far in the race is City Councilman Steve Eugster, who announced his intention to run for the position last year. City Council President Joe Shogan is term limited from running again.
Compare the map of voters above with the maps below of the way votes stacked up in key races.
Statistics may be for losers, as Scotty Bowman once said. But losers who don’t pay attention to statistics may be destined to keep losing.
So it might be wise for Spokane County Democrats to consider statistics from last month’s election that show they lost the courthouse essentially because they did poorly in areas that voted well.
Well, duh, you might say. People generally lose by not getting enough votes. But it’s the way most Democratic candidates didn’t get enough votes that should have them rethinking their strategies and suggest Republicans could settle comfortably into the “castle” on the north side of the Spokane River as well as expect to hold most of the county’s legislative seats and Eastern Washington’s congressional seat.
OLYMPIA — Three recounts of West Side legislative races were completed Friday and Republicans held on to win all three of them, defeating incumbent Democrats in each case.
Hans Zeiger finished ahead of House Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Dawn Morrell by 30 votes after Morrell picked up 17 votes in the recount.
Vincent Buys finished 149 votes ahead of Rep. Kelli Linville, the House Ways and Means chairwoman, after Linville collected five votes in the recount.
Steve Litzow beat Sen. Randy Gordon by 92 votes after Gordon gained two votes in that recount.
Line up for the Legislature when the session starts in January: 56 Democrats, 42 Republicans in the House of Representatives; 27 Democrats, 22 Republicans in the Senate.
There were no recounts in Spokane County
OLYMPIA — State officials and the state employees unions have a tentative agreement that bumps the amount workers pay for health care coverage up slightly.
Right now, the state picks up 88 percent, and the employees 12 percent of the cost of medical insurance. Just a few months ago, state officials said the state couldn’t afford to keep paying such a big share, and were suggesting something in the range of 75 percent state/25 percent workers.
The state and its unions are negotiating new contracts, and have reopened some existing contracts. On Thursday night, the Washington Federation of State Employees announced they’d reached a tentative agreement:
State will pay 85 percent, employees will pay 15 percent.
Why did the state cut its request back so much? Glenn Kuper, a spokesman for the Office of Financial Management, said the most recent charges from use of the medical plans, along with new projections for costs over the next few years, indicate that the state won’t be paying as much for its workers’ health care costs.
. State officials had projected that health costs would climb with the prospect of layoffs, as people who feared they may lose their jobs used health care while they had it. That didn’t happen. In recent months, costs declined then levelled off, Kuper said.
The tentative agreement calls for the state to pay $850 and a worker to pay $150 a month. If rates rise, they will rise by that same ratio for both parties.
This is all tentative because contracts are still under negotiation.
The Washington Policy Center says the state needs to change the way it negotiates with its unions, and give the Legislature more say in setting state wages and benefits.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray agreed recently to take the job of chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a group dedicated, as its name suggests, to getting more Democrats elected to the Senate.
Considering last month’s election results, it’s not surprising there wasn’t a long line of aspirants to the job. Murray herself had to be talked into it.
She doesn’t take over until the first of the year, a spokeswoman said. So she is not responsible for the DSCC’s latest plea for cash: For a donation of at least $5, they will send you a special set of “poetry magnets.”
You know, the kind with a few words that can be rearranged on the refrigerator to make endless variations of bad free verse. Among the magnetized words and phrases: Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, birthers, filibuster, crazy, extremist, donkey and elephant.
OLYMPIA — The state’s naughty and nice list for charities and fund-raisers is out today, and state officials are suggesting that people be careful as well as generous this holiday season.
About $1.4 billion was donated to charities in the last year, but about $400 million of that didn’t go to the charity and instead went into overhead, administration or fund-raising costs.
The amount that actually goes to charitable work varies widely, and the state puts together a report each year on how much is spend on non charitable works by commercial fundraisers.
How widely? At the top of the list is Geen Point Call Center Services, Inc., which turns over 98 percent of what it raises to its charity clients.
At the bottom is DialogueDirect, Inc., has a negative percentage of -122 percent, meaning it actually costs charities more than they receive.
OLYMPIA — As it has for several years, a Seattle-based Jewish group erected a menorrah at the Capitol. A menrrah was inside in 2005-8, but all private displays were moved outside in 2009 after controvery involving a sign by atheists and requests to put a Festivus pole and other displays.
OLYMPIA — After nearly two hours behind closed doors, legislative leaders and Gov. Chris Gregoire broke their huddle over budget problems but emerged with no consensus on a special session to close at least some of a gap of $1.1 billion projected for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The only agreement seemed to be that the meeting was “productive.”
“We’re all moving in the right direction,” Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, the Senate Republicans’ budget expert, said. But there’s no specific time table for making decisions, although his preference is “sooner rather than later.”
Democrats said they needed more time to get consensus on possible cuts. Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said a short session that could cut “hundreds of millions” out of the budget only makes sense if they could reach an agreement. But he won’t know if that agreement is possible for his caucus until next week, when legislators are gathering for interim committee meetings.
Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said House Democrats are also discussing different ideas for cuts.
Some of the big ticket items on lists proposed by Gregoire and Senate Republicans include the state’s Disability Lifeline program and the Basic Health Program. Scaling back or eliminating those programs could be difficult in a special session that lasts only a couple days, as Gregoire wants. And there are questions whether such major changes should be made by outgoing legislators in a lame-duck session, or the new crop of legislators elected in November, who take office next month.
But whether the cuts are made this month, or after the new Legislature meets in January, the cuts could affect to affect public schools, state colleges, services for seniors, the disabled and workers who don’t have health care benefits at their job and rely on the state for the Basic Health plan, Murray said.
“What programs I can’t answer until I talk to our members,” he said.
Because of falling revenue projections over the last three months, the state faces a gap of about $1.1 billion between the cost of programs and salaries it has on the books and the revenue it can expect to take in between now and the end of June. Gregoire ordered a 6.3 percent across-the-board reduction in October in most departments and programs not protected by the state constitution, but last month’s revenue projection suggests that’s not enough and the state needs to cut more, either this month in a special session or at the beginning of the new session before tackling a budget for 2011-13 in which revenue projections are also down.
Another meeting between Gregoire and legislative leaders is scheduled for Thursday, with more possible on Friday and Saturday.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire and top lesgislative leaders are meeting behind closed doors this afternoon, looking at ways to cut the state’s budget.
Some leaders are here in Olympia, while a few like Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Minority Leader Mike Hewitt are on conference call.
Gregoire has said she wants some agreements on what to cut before she’ll bring the Legislature back for a special session to avoid days or even weeks of little activity before the final votes. Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, argued before the meeting however that she should just call them in and let public pressure keep them to on a short course.
Zarelli also released Senate Republicans’ proposals for cutting the budget. A comparison with the list suggested by Gregoire last week shows some similarities. Both would:
Tap about $205 million in federal funds for education.
Cut about $55 million by eliminating the Disability Lifeline program, which was formerly known as General Assistance/Unemployable, which are payments to some state residents who are disabled and can’t find work.
Cut about $54 million out of the Department of Corrections through staff reductions and program and prison consolidation. McNeil Island’s prison facility would be closed.
Cut about $26 million from the state’s Basic Health plan.
Make changes to the state’s levy equalization system, saving about $18 million under Gregoire’s plan and $21 million under the Senate Rs plan.
But there are some differences. Gregoire would eliminate the K-4 enhancement program, which provides smaller class sizes in the lower grades, and save $81.5 million. Senate Rs would eliminate all day kindergarten, for a savings of $22.6 million, plus eliminate or reduce some bilingual education programs.
Senate Rs also would put a five-year limit on some welfare programs, and terminate some programs for immigrants and undocumented residents.
House Republicans said they’ll release their proposals after the meeting.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire meets at 1:30 p.m. today with Democratic and Republican leaders of the state Senate and House to discuss the state’s budget problems and their suggested solutions.
And the prospect of a special session to address them.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans released their list of suggested cuts. They had refused to release the list Tuesday, saying that would be up to the governor. The governor’s office said it would be up to Senate Republicans.
After a day of this “After you, Alfonse. No, no, after you Gaston”, Senate Rs finally decided to take the initiative. We’ll post their list soon.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave birth to an 8 pound, 4 ounce baby girl just after midnight today in Washington, D.C.
McMorris Rodgers, who is among the House Republicans’ leading users of social media, announced the birth with a message on Twitter and a Facebook post headlined “It’s a girl.”
“Brian and I are overjoyed by the birth of our daughter,” she wrote. “Both the baby and I are doing well at the hosptial.”
Their son Cole is 3 1/2. McMorris Rodgers is the first member of Congress to give birth twice while in office.