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Spin Control

Archive for February 2010

Where there’s a will, there’s sometimes a won’t

OLYMPIA – Three weeks of debate over suspending Initiative 960, can be boiled down to this: If you change an initiative, you are crushing the will of the people. Not if it’s something that really needs doing, in which case you are exercising the leadership the people elected you to show.
No it’s not. Yes it is. No. Enough already, let’s vote because we all know this sucker’s going to pass, and the people can express their will in the fall elections. Yeah, just you wait. No you wait.
In the wake of all the “will of the people” talk, the Secretary of State’s office last week released a list of initiatives passed since 1952, when the current rules for amending initiatives were reset by constitutional amendment. It suggests the will of the people, as expressed at the ballot box on initiatives, is not so sacrosanct that one should never, ever change it.
Of the 45 that have passed in those 57 years, at least 29 have been changed, many more than once. And that was before the recent tweaking or evisceration of I-960.

To continue reading this post, go inside the blog…

WA Lege Day 48: Senate passes budget

OLYMPIA – With the bare minimum votes needed and debate over taxes yet to come, Senate Democrats passed a general fund budget Saturday designed to close the state’s $2.8 billion budget gap.
Even without a firm decision on which taxes to add or alter to raise more than $900 million in extra revenue, the combination of programs cut, reserves tapped and federal funds gave almost everyone in the chamber something to dislike.
Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Seattle, called it an ugly budget for an ugly time. And as the chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, it’s her budget.
Senate Republicans swung between complaints that the proposal doesn’t cut enough in tough economic times, and cut programs that do valuable work that they support.
Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, who is one of the staunchest opponents of any tax increase and among the most vociferous against Democrats’ decision to suspend the super-majorities needed to enact such hikes – said the proposal was wrong to cut the Frances Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton for children and adults with autism, whom he said were among the most vulnerable in society.
“Some of these cuts in this budget are just too severe and too painful to people in the community,” Benton said.
Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, called the more than $800 million in budget cuts “token savings”. The initial proposal didn’t cut enough, and money for individual members’ projects got added back during committee hearings at the rate of “a million here, a million there.”
“We are fiddling while Rome burns,” he complained.
No, said Senate Majority Leader, Lisa Brown, D-Spokane: “On the contrary, senator, we are passing a budget. We are moving the process forward.”
To read the rest of this story, click here to go inside the blog

WA Lege Day 48: WEA amendment fails

OLYMPIA — Washington teachers should be able to tap into a union trust fund to reduce their health insurance costs, Senate Republicans argued in the debate over the state’s budget.

Republican Sen. Dale Brandland proposed an amendment that allows teachers to tap into the Washington Education Association’s Rate Stabilization Fund, which he insisted was a “slush fund” with more than $100 million in it.

Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said teachers who belong to unions have the opportunity to make their voice known in leadership elections.

Amendment fails 25-17.

And we’re on to the debate on the bill itself.

WA Lege Day 48: Operating budget debate begins

OLYMPIA — The Senate is beginning its debate on its budget proposal to fill the $2.8 billion gap in the state’s operating budget.

First up is an amendment on home health care workers, sponsored by Republican. It goes down 26-16.

Next is an amendment by Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, to move $250,000 in funding for a school district reorganization committe and move it into free lunches for low-income children.

“If we have a quarter million dollars to add to the budget, let’s add it to something that helps kids more than another study,” Schoesler said.

Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, said the idea is to find out if the state could save tens of millions of dollars if the districts were managed better. The goal is to reduce administration, the goal is not to close any schools, but to find some savings for taxpayers. It fails on a voice vote.

WA Lege Day 48: Senate passes transportation budget

OLYMPIA — The Senate passed a multi-million dollar transportation budget this afternoon on a vote of 41-3.

The proposal was described as a jobs bill, a way to improve government and a guide for the more contentious operating budget, which comes up next.

Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, said described it a boost to the struggling economy.

“Given the economy, the biggest issue we face in this chamber is jobs,” he said.

The only voiced opposition centered on a proposal to spend $590 million in federal money to build a high-speed rail line between Seattle and Portland. Republican Sen. Mike Carrell said his constituents in Lakewood will be cut off as a “sleepy little track” becomes an express route, with up to 50 trains a day.

WA Lege Day 48: Discussion of Senate Transportation Budget underway

OLYMPIA — The Senate came back from caucus and has taken up the Transportation Budget.

Amendments done. Debate and vote on bill starts now.

WA Lege Day 48: Some bill action (but not the budget)

OLYMPIA — Senators ran through a list of non-controversial bills — and argued over one contentious one — then broke for party caucuses before taking up budgets.

Republicans tried unsuccessfully to push through a series of amendments to HB 1080, which allows impact fees to be assessed and collected for fire protection districts. They argued that impact fees will cause further problems for the struggling housing construction market and cost  jobs; Democrats said the issue isn’t construction jobs, it’s paying for fire protection in developiing areas.They passed it 31-14.

Also passed, with unanimity or close to it, were bills on fire protection facilities, biodiesel fuel labeling, deferred prosecution costs and tax reporting surveys.

Debate on the Senate’s transportation and general fund budgets is scheduled for later this afternoon. Scheduled, but not guaranteed.

Stay tuned.

Gregoire: Stay off beaches with tsunami advisory

OLYMPIA — Washington coastal beaches are under a tsunami advisory as a result of the earthquake in Chile, which means folks should stay away from them, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Saturday.

Here’s her full statement:

“Our hearts are with the people of Chile following last night’s earthquake.

“As a result of the earthquake a tsunami wave was generated and is now spreading across the Pacific Ocean. A tsunami advisory is in effect for the entire Washington coast. However, there is no tsunami watch or warning currently in effect for the Washington coast.

“We are closely monitoring the situation. It is strongly recommended that people stay away from beaches and coastal waters this afternoon and should be alert to strong currents in coastal harbors. Coastline communities will be notified should conditions change and should follow the advice of their local emergency management agencies.”

WA Lege Day 48: ‘Retarded’ term struck from law books

OLYMPIA — Rahm Emmanuel take note: You’ll have to watch your language in this Washington.

The state Senate gave unanimous approval Saturday to a law that takes the term “mentally retarded” from state law, substituting it instead with the phrase “individuals with intellectual disabilities.”

“We all know it’s demeaning to refer to people as mentally retarded,” Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park.

Well, maybe not quite everyone. White House Chief of Staff Emmanuel did recently call congressional Democrats “(bleeping) retards”. But even he had to apologize, at least to people with intellectual disabilities.

House Bill 2490 already passed the House and is headed to the governor.

WA Lege Day 48: And they’re back

OLYMPIA — Senators have returned from caucus and are voting on some fairly noncontroversial bills, such as expanding the safety zone around emergency vehicles.

WA Lege Day 48: Ain’t no such thing

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats called for a two-minute caucus, and after they left Lt. Gov. Brad Owen,who presides over the chamber to express some doubts about their ability to tell time.

“Three words that don’t go together: two minute and caucus,” he said.

They’ve been out for several multiples of two…

When they return, budget debate is expected.

WA Lege: Fill in the blanks

OLYMPIA — Proposed budgets are almost always “fluid documents.” This year’s budget proposals are so fluid that House Democrats don’t even have a tax package yet and Senate Democrats are making changes so fast that they aren’t even numbered.

Last night in a Senate Ways and Means Committee budget hearing, Democrats offered an amendment to add $1 million to the Department of Social and Health Services budget “to contract for the provision of an individual provider referral registry, pursuant to SB xxxx.”

Senate bills come with numbers, not x’s, so one can look them up and figure out what that line refers to.

For full text, Click here to go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 48: Saturday budget talks

OLYMPIA — The Legislature has a Saturday workday. Both Ways and Means Committees had morning hearings and the Senate has an 11 a.m. session, which started and went into caucus.

Details to come.

WA Lege Day 47: House budget moves without tax numbers

OLYMPIA — The House committee that oversees spending passed a Democratic plan to fix the $2.8 billion gap in the state budget Friday. But that bill had a gap of its own.

It calls for some $857 million in new tax revenue, but doesn’t specify where it comes from.

“We are the Ways and Means Committee, and this budget is going to require some new taxes,” Ranking Republican Gary Alexander of Olympia said. The ways to spend money are spelled out, but the means are not, he said.

Democrats acknowledged it was unusual to pass a budget without taxes in it, but that information will be added eventually.

“This is not the budget we’re going to vote on before March 11 — God willing,” Chairwoman Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, said.

Budget writers are still trying to craft a package of tax increases that can get the needed support within their caucus.

“We don’t have a revenue package completed yet. I’m disappointed in that, too,” Vice Chairman Mark Ericks, D-Bothell said.But if the taxes were spelled out, he doubted  Republicans would have voted for it, anyway.

The House budget proposal moved out of committee on a 12-10, party-line vote.

More fun video: Stewart does the Health Care summit

The Daily Show had its take on the Health Care Summit last night. It’s worth watching, particularly for those who OD’d on C-Span Thursday.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bipartisan Health Care Reform Summit 2010
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorVancouverage 2010

Fun videos: Views of Obama’s first year

If you think Obama is the greatest thing since sliced bread or sign that the Apocalyps is near, theres’s a video for you.

Think it’s a disaster? You’ll like this clip:


Think he’s great? This one’s for you.


 

WA Lege Day 47: Budget hearings

OLYMPIA — The Ways and Means committees for both chambers have hearings this afternoon on their respective operating budget proposals.

The challenge may be greater for the House W&M panel, however, because at this point, House Democrats have not yet spelled out the “means” to pay for their “ways.” They have not yet released a tax package to explain how they’d add $857 million of new tax revenue into their budget; they’ve only spelled out cuts and fund transfers, which aren’t enough to cover the projected $2.8 billion deficit.

Before the 1:30 p.m. committee hearings, the House will be taking up a few other revenue issues, such as a toll on I-405 express lanes.

Boundary Dam bill advances

OLYMPIA – One of this session’s David vs. Goliath matches involves Pend Oreille County in the role of the shepherd with the slingshot, and Seattle City Light, starring as the over-sized  Philistine.

The utility may take issue with the characterization, but few other people would have objected Thursday during the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee hearing, which passed along a bill designed to solve the long-standing dispute between the two over the Boundary Dam.

The city utility owns the dam, built in the 1950s, and uses much of the electricity to keep the lights on, the homes warm, the stores and coffee houses open in Seattle. It also sells the excess power, at a good rate, to other users across the West.

It doesn’t pay local taxes, but instead pays a negotiated impact fee to the county for the dam. When the latest 10-year contract on those fees expired in 2008, negotiations over the next 10-year agreement broke down. Pend Oreille County thought they should be considerably higher; Seattle City Light disagreed.

The Legislature held off jumping into the dispute last year, but it dragged on for 2009, and Pend Oreille County was sorely missing those payments. $1.3 million is not chump change in a place with high unemployment and underemployment. This year, Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, dropped a bill that ordered a utility of a city with more than 500,000 people (read: Seattle) that has a dam in another county (as in Pend Oreille)  to negotiate impact payments, keep making payments set up under an old contract while negotiating a new one, and pay the cost of arbitration if negotiations break down.

Considering that there are considerably more legislators who represent Seattle than Pend Oreille, and Democrats control both houses, one might have thought Republican Kretz’s bill had about as much chance as the Jamaican bobsled team getting the gold. But no…

To read more, go inside the blog

In case you’re wondering about health care claims

With the president and leaders of both house of Congress from both parties at the Summit on Health Care, you had to know there would be filibustering with claims being made.

So how to determine who’s telling the truth? PolitiFact has an ongoing tally of claims from all sides. You can see how they keep score by clicking here.

WA Lege Day 46: Thoughts of overtime amid homeschoolers and cattlepersons

OLYMPIA — The session is three-fourths of the way over, and legislators are in the long uphill slog toward completion.

Maybe. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown on Wednesday at least left the door open for overtime. Asked about wrapping up by the March 11 deadline, Brown would only say that the Senate will have its budget voted on by then…leaving open the possibility that if the House and Senate budgets are very far apart, that may take longer.

The spending packages aren’t the same, but they have many similarities, she said: “The revenue piece is going to be the most difficult piece.”

How difficult isn’t exactly clear because House Democrats have not yet announced their tax plan. That may happen today, although at 9:30 a.m., there was no schedule for such a release.

In the meantime, committee hearings continue, many of them for appropriations items (full schedule inside the blog.) It is Home Educators Day, with the Christian Homeschool Network set up in the Rotunda, and the Washington Cattleman’s Barbecue at noon, set up on the north lawn. Hope the cattlemen brought enough meat and buns for the kids.

Gregoire signs I-960 suspension

OLYMPIA – There was no drama, but plenty of theatrics, as Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill Wednesday making it easier for the Legislature to raise taxes.
Gregoire signed a 16-month suspension of some provisions of Initiative 960 as its prime sponsor Tim Eyman looked on, sometimes with a disapproving frown on his face, at one point holding his nose and pointing one thumb down.
“Now, you must behave,” Gregoire told Eyman at one point.
“I am behaving. This is my self-control,” he replied.

To read the rest of this story, click to go inside the blog.

House Dems: No tax package today

OLYMPIA — Democrats in the House of Representatives are not yet ready to describe the “means” to support their “ways.”

When announcing a general fund budget Tuesday that had lists of cuts and a fairly specific number for the amount raised in taxes — $857 million — leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee said the details on the tax package were coming…on Wednesday.

No time listed, so the press corps dutifully showed up in the morning expecting a briefing to be scheduled at any time. Not yet, was the word; we’ll let you know.

“I don’t think they  have a package,” Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt jabbed during a noon meeting with reporters.

Shortly before 2 p.m., word came down that there’d be no announcement on taxes — oops, those are called “revenue packages” now — Wednesday from House Democrats. No time yet, but one has to know that it will happen in at least the next two weeks … because that’s how much longer the Legislature has to get all its work done. And a budget is really Job 1.

To that end, the Senate Ways and Means Committee scheduled four hours of hearings Wednesday on their tax proposals. You can read this morning’s story about Tuesday’s release of budget plans by clicking here.

A chart comparing some aspects of the three working budgets can be found here.


 

Lege Rs: Democrats plans will cost jobs

OLYMPIA — House and Senate Republican leaders denounced budgets proposals from the other party for raising taxes that will touch everyone and hurt small businesses.

Sen. Joe Zarelli, of Ridgefield, the GOP’s top numbers guy in the Legislature, said the wide array of potential tax increases would hit car buyers and home buyers, both of which are needed to fuel the recovery.

They would create imbalances for communities that border another state, encouraging people to drive across state lines to buy gasoline, candy, soda or bottled water, and discourage out of state residents from shopping in Washington, he said during a sit-down session GOP leaders had with the  news media.

That’s a conglomeration of tax proposals from Gov. Chris Gregoire and Senate Democrats. The two proposals differ significantly in which taxes they’d raise or institute in an attempt to balance some program cuts with new sources of money. As of noon, the House had yet to announce a tax package to explain how it would raise an extra $857 million.

Rep. Gary Alexander, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee wondered how the panel will hold hearings on a budget that doesn’t spell out taxes. “We don’t even know what the “Means” are.”

Murray campaign tries to capitalize on Tea Baggers

Some people were shocked when a speaker at the Asotin Tea Party gathering suggested Sen. Patty Murray be “hung.”

Most were shocked at the suggestion of violence; a few language purists were appalled by the grammar.

Murray’s re-election campaign was so shocked that it included a video of Tea Party organizer Dianne Capps’ statement in its latest fund-raising appeal.

The letter, signed by Campaign Manager Carol Albert, suggests a line has been crossed from the normal campaign tactics. So for anyone who hasn’t seen the clip, she includes links to a page with the YouTube video (which includes the statement, the cheering crowd and the rest of the nearly two-minute news report from local Lewiston, Idaho, station KLEW ), and a page that allows one to donate from $25 to $4,800 to the Murray re-election campaign.

The YouTube clip is below. Most of it is a discussion of the Tea Party’s goals for organizing locals (they should probablyl be happy the Murray campaign is circulating that) but it does start with Capps making a stab at a cinematic reference to “Lonesome Dove.”

“What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd?” Capps asks. When she doesn’t  get much of a response, so she has to ask again, then provides the answer: “He got hung. And that’s what I want to do with Patty Murray.”

(Note to Capps:. Regardless of how Larry McMurtry writes, the past tense for stringing someone up by the neck is “hanged.”)

Tea Party organizers  have since insisted that Capps’s comments were taken out of context, that she was just filling time unexpectedly when another speaker didn’t show up, that her comments that she wanted to hang Murray with votes were edited out (KLEW says no such comments exist on their unedited versions of tape) and that the media is trying to  hype this as a way of discrediting the movement. OK, and that “Geld Obama” sign in the video is what? A misspelling?

Albert’s initial comment to the Associated Press about Capps’ comment was it was “unproductive.” Apparently, the Murray campaign is working on a way to make it productive — for them.



 

WA Lege Day 45: More tax talk

OLYMPIA — House Democrats are expected to explain what or who they would tax to raise an extra $857 million through the middle of 2011.

Their budget that was released Tuesday had a list of cuts they would make, and explained how much money they expected to get from the feds and other sources. But while they were clear about the amount, they did not release any details about the source of these new taxes.

The budget proposals from Senate Democrats and Gov. Chris Gregoire had taxes along with all the cuts and transfers, so it’s a bit difficult to compare all three across the board until the House D’s  Revenue Committee chairman Ross Hunter announce that little detail.

Gregoire has scheduled a 4 p.m. ceremony to sign a bill that suspends the two-thirds majority needed to raise taxes and several other provisions of Initative 960 through July 1, 2011. Republicans and initiatve sponsor Tim Eyman are asking her to line-item veto the suspension of advisory votes on tax  hikes and state Voter Guide listings of each legislator’s tax votes.

In a letter to Gregoire/press release to his supporters, Eyman suggested the governor “throw some crumbs to the peasants”. Gee, when he asks so nicelly, how could she refuse?

Budget hearings include the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s double session on the Democrats in that chamber’s tax package. A full schedule is inside the blog.

Senate Dems: Sales tax hike would help balance cuts

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats unveiled a budget proposal that calls for a three-tenths of 1 cent sales tax hike for the next three years, an extra $1 per pack for cigarettes and the elimination of a string of tax exemptions.

At a morning press conference, Senate Democratic leaders said the state should cut about $840 million in programs, raise about $920 million in new taxes, transfer about $500 million from the Rainy Day Fund and other accounts and count on about $585 million in health care payment money from the federal government to fix a projected hole in the state’s budget.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane called the budget, which has its first hearing this afternoon in the Ways and Means Committee, “a moral document…a document about people.”

The proposal has some significant differences from Gov. Christine Gregoire’s latest plan to fill that $2.8 billion hole.

Gregoire said last week she did not support a general increase in the sales tax because of fears it would hurt a recovering economy. In a press conference this morning, she said the sales tax proposal was “no surprise,” but she would have to study the Senate Democrats’ plan.

“I continue to be concerned about the revenue source being the sales tax,” she said.

 

WA Lege Day 44: Budgets, budgets, budgets

OLYMPIA — Today’s a money day at the Capitol. Senate Democrats present their budget proposal at 9 a.m., followed by House Democrats at noon for the operating budget.

Senate Ways and Means Committee has a budget hearing at 3:30 p.m., and the House Ways and Means has a budget hearing at 6 p.m.

By midnight, everyone’s minds will be numb from numbers.

Complete hearing schedule is, as usual, inside the blog.

Senate suspends I-960 yet again

OLYMPIA — The Senate voted for the third time to suspend some requirements of Initative 960, including the two-thirds supermajority needed to raise taxes.

In a 26-21 vote, Democrats managed a third round of a change needed if they raise any taxes to help fill a $2.8 billion hole in the state’s general fund budget.

Republicans denounced it as a maneuver “in the dark of night.” Not so, said Sen. Jeanne Kohl Welles.

“It’s not like the state of wahington has gone to sleep at 7:10,” she said.

Among Spokane area legislators, Sen. Lisa Brown, D, voted yes. Sens. Bob Morton and Mark Schoesler, both R, and Chris Marr, D, voted no. Sen. Bob McCaslin, who was hospitalized last week, was excused and didn’t vote.

Wa Lege Day 43: Senate takes up I-960

OLYMPIA — The state Senate is taking up the suspension of various provisions of Initiative 960 again this evening.

The House has sent the suspension back, and it means a straight up or down vote.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said the House did one good thing, which was adding back the notification provisions of the tax impacts of any proposals.

But the rest of it is still bad, he said. It still should have the requirements that every legislators record on tax votes be printed in the voters pamphlet, and the advisory vote in November of any tax that’s increased.

“Every legislator should welcome the advice of the people,” said Benton, who recently announced his campaign for U.S. Senate.

Republicans can’t amend the bill. So debate has begun.

Some Republicans like some stimulus money

OLYMPIA — When the 1-year anniversary of the federal stimulus package rolled around last week, the state Republican Party was vocal in its condemnation.

“A complete boondoggle,” was the phrase State GOP Chairman Luke Esser used in denouncing a media event featuring Sen. Patty Murray and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to “prop up their failed stimulus package.”

Today when discussing Washington state’s transportation budget, which is being helped by more than $600 million in various grants from the feds generated by the stimulus package, Senate Transportation Committee Republicans were no where  near as critical.

In fact, they kind of like stimulus money, as long as it’s spent on transportation projects.

“I’m definitely in favor of the stimuls funding,” Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester and the ranking Republican on the committee said. “They go directly into  jobs. My quibble is about stimulus in other areas.”

Added Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima: “We have to look at this as our tax m oney coming back to us.”

WA Lege: Trans Committee — don’t raise toxics tax

OLYMPIA – Raising the tax on hazardous substances first levied by voters in 1988 is a bad idea, leaders of the Senate Transportation Committee said Monday.
It would add about 3 cents in taxes to a gallon of gasoline, might make voters skeptical about any future gas tax requests to pay for road projects, and would almost certainly generate a legal challenge, Democrats and Republicans who head the committee said.
Gov. Christine Gregoire last week proposed nearly tripling the tax, from .7 percent to 2 percent, on hazardous substances produced in the state. Although in the long-term the tax would be used for environmental cleanup around the state, for the first three years, the lion’s share would be shifted to the general fund to help fill a $2.8 billion hole in the state’s budget.
State Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, said  he had two problems with raising the tax. One is the indirect connection between the production of things like gasoline and the environmental problems. It makes more sense to tie the cost of cleanup directly to the source of the pollution, such as sewage discharges, he said.
The other is the idea of diverting some of the money into the general fund. A bill that would enact the governor’s proposal has 23 supporters, he noted, but that’s two shy of a majority needed to pass a tax and may be losing support among its initial backers.

WA Lege Day 43: Roads budget and another I-960 vote

OLYMPIA — Stop me if  you’ve heard this one: The Senate is going to vote today on whether to suspend portions of the law that requires two-third supermajorities for tax increases.

Democrats see it as a necessary step in getting something constructive done on a budget that fills a $2.8 billion hole in the state budget; Republicans see it as flaunting the will of the people.

Deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say. The Senate did vote on this (twice) two weeks ago. But when the bill went to the House, folks over there made changes, so it needs to come back to the Senate  for another vote. The good news: probably won’t be any amendments this time (thus removing the possibility of it going BACK to the House, for more tinkering). The bad news: there will still be an opportunity for speechifying.

Action on that bill is set for this evening.

Before that, Democrats will announce their Transportation Budget at noon. Committees have a fairly full schedule, with the bill on the House Human Services Committee agenda prompted by Phillip Paul’s escape from an Eastern State Hospital outing to the Spokane County fair, one that is moving fairly smoothly and already passed the Senate.

Full committee schedule is inside the blog. Click here to see it

WA Lege: Tax this.

OLYMPIA – The Legislature is moving toward a fight over taxes that will ultimately come down to which ones to raise.
Although Republicans and some Democrats will say “none,” odds are the debate will be between bumping one big tax, like the sales tax, or a finding small increases or new taxes on a bunch of things.
Gov. Chris Gregoire sent legislators a “menu” of the latter last week, with new or bigger taxes on things like petroleum at the refinery, candy and bottled water. Each has a rationale: candy makes you fat; oil products drip out of cars, wash down the storm drain and into the water supply; and bottled water is a silly affectation that dumps a gazillion clear plastic bottles into landfills.
But if state officials are serious about taxing things we don’t like or shouldn’t do, it’s time to consider the suggestions inside the blog:

In town, at a hall. It’s a town hall meeting

OLYMPIA — With the session about two-thirds gone, some legislators are using the time this weekend or next week to check in with the voters and talkabout what’s happened so far, and what’s up next.

In the Spokane area, legislators from the 6th District have town hall meetings on Saturday, while House members in the 4th District are doing one by phone rence on Tuesday. Here’s the info on both.

Democratic Sen. Chris Marr and Rep. John Driscoll have two meetings Saturday:
10 a.m. at Northwood Middle School, 13120 N. Pittsburgh
 2 p.m. at Hamblen Elementary, 2121 E. Thurston.

Republican Rep. Kevin Parker also has two meetings, but at different locales:
9 a.m. at Ridgeview Elementary, 5610 N. Maple
11 a.m. at the Museum of Arts and Culture, 2316 W. First.

Republican Reps. Larry Crouse and Matt Shea have a “telephone town hall” starting at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday. To participate, dial in close to that time at 1-877-229-8493, and use a PIN of 15550.

On a “newsy” note, a group of social, education and environmental organizations supporting tax increases to stave off further program cuts is mobilizing forces to attend the town hall meetings of Democrats. A  notice from Rebuilding Our Economic Future Coalition is asking for its supporters to attend the Marr/Driscoll events.

 

Keeping track in the Senate

OLYMPIA — Sports analogies in politics are often imprecise and overused, but they can be fun.

After “cut off” this week, when bills that don’t get out of their original house are for all intents and purposes dead, Senate Democratic staff compiled a spreadsheet of whose bills were still alive.

It’s pretty straight forward math, sort of like a batting average:divide bills introduced into bills passed to get the percentage.

It shows that some people introduce lots of bills, but only get a few passed. Others start with fewer but get a bigger pass percentage.

Sen. Lisa Brown, for example, only introduced two bills, but both of them passed. So she’s batting 1.000, which tells you two things: Brown, as majority leader, is judicious about the bills she sponsors; and members of her caucus are smart enough not to tick of their leader.

Sen. Chris Marr, another Spokane Democrat had the third highest batting average at cutoff, at 57.14 percent,  with 12 of his 21 bills still alive.”And without steroids,” he noted.

Only Brown and Sen. Kevin Ranker of San Juan Island (6 for 10 or .600) were doing better at this point.

As any ball player will tell you, the Ws are what count in the end. But while the season is still being played — er, session is still underway — stats make interesting conversation.

WA Lege Day 40: Two-thirds of the way done?

OLYMPIA — The Legislature passes a calendar point today with Day 40 of a 60 day session. As any 4th grader learning fractions will tell you 40/60 = 4/6 = 2/3.

Quite a bit — primarly budget and tax/no tax debates — will have to be jammed into that final third. So much that some people are already talking about the game going into overtime, or extra innings or a shoot out or whatever sports metaphor seems most appropriate. Nothing really unusual about that, but the Lege has managed to get out on time for several years, even last year when the budget problems first hit.

Both houses have floor sessions this morning and committee hearings in the afternoon. Many legislators have “town hall” meetings this weekend, so the Capitol will be quiet this weekend in anticipation of the days ahead.

Committee schedules, as usual are inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 38: Flights of fancy for the N Spokane corridor

OLYMPIA — Getting $35 million for the North Spokane corridor was a big deal, even over on the other side of the state.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Sen. Chris Marr all made the trip over for the ceremony. Rep. John Driscoll, who has a chunk of the road in his 6th Legislative District was interested in coming along, but the governor’s staff said the plane was already full.

Driscoll booked a commercial flight out of Sea-Tac and made it to Spokane in time for the 10 a.m. ceremony,  hs staff said. Unfortunately for the governor and her group, the fog kept them in Olympia for a while longer. The media event was rescheduled for 11 a.m., to give the fog time to lift and let them make the flight.

“They got there eventually, the ceremonial check changed hands, ceremonial words were spoken, and Driscoll headed back to Olympia,” legislative aide Dan Frizzell noted in a press release. “Flying coach.”

Which begs the question: Why didn’t the governor and everyone else fly coach, too?

WA Lege Day 39: Therein lies the rub

OLYMPIA — The House and Senate  have pro forma sessions today to accommodate full hearing schedules.

After several late nights in the House of Represenatives debating the suspension of Initiative 960, legislators might be happy to know that today is “Massage Awareness Day.” They can become aware in the Rotunda. There will also be a Head Start Rally on the  north steps of the Capitol in the afternoon.

The House voted late last night to suspend the initiative, 57-41. For a report on the debate, and a list of how Spokane area reps voted, click here.

For a complete look at the committee schedule, go inside the blog.

House votes to suspend I-960

OLYMPIA – Debate over the need for supermajorities to raise taxes stretched into its second night Wednesday in the House of Representatives and invoked everything from the Gospel to the law of the jungle.

There were warnings about taking away the voice of the people, who passed the initiative by a 51 percent majority in 2007, and warnings about gutting programs that people need to educate their children or build their roads.

There were quotations from great minds, like Thomas Jefferson, who warned about big governments, the evangelist Mark, who started his Gospel with the admonition to repent, and Isoruku Yamamoto, the Japanese admiral who bemoaned waking the sleeping giant of the American people after bombing Pearl Harbor.

There was a dispute on whether it was easier to raise taxes and not do the hard work of reforming state government, or easier to cut the budget to avoid facing voters and explain the need for taxes.

In the end, the House voted 51-47 to do what everyone expected: suspend the two-thirds majority required to increase taxes through mid-2011, allowing majority Democrats to raise taxes to help fill a projected $2.8 billion budget gap. The Senate voted to suspend the initiative last week, but because the House changed some of the provisions, the bill must go back for a new vote in the other chamber..

Democrats in the House and the Senate have yet to release budget plans, but Gov. Chris Gregoire released her newest budget package Wednesday, and it has more than $600 million in tax increases, coupled with some $1 billion in cuts.

Most Republicans who took the floor Wednesday night to denounce the bill used up every second of their allotted 10 minutes for speeches. They talked repeatedly of the will of the people, who, Rep. Dan Roach said, “want it to be hard to raise taxes.”

But Rep. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, said cutting state programs will further divide the “haves” from the “have nots” and harm the state as a whole.

“It’s not the rule of the jungle where the big dogs eat the little dogs,” Hasegawa said.

For a look at how they voted, go inside the blog

Gregoire floats tax plan

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed this afternoon a series of tax increases as part of what she calls a “balanced approach” to the worst economic times in more than 70 years.

She said the Legislature should pass a budget that makes about $1 billion in cuts, raises about $605 million in taxes, factors in expected increases in federal funds for medical programs, and uses about $677 million in budget reserves or fund transfers.

For that extra tax money, Gregoire wants the Legislature to:

— extend the sales tax to candy and gum;

—place an excise tax of 1 cent per ounce on bottled water;

—place an excise tax on soda that amounts to a nickel for a 12 ounce can;

—increase the hazardous substance tax from .7 percent to 2 percent, which amounts to an increase of 3 cents to 5 cents per gallon, depending on who’s making the estimate.sources in the oil industry said could raise the price of gasoline by about 4 cents per gallon;

—eliminate business and occupation tax exemptions for sales of gold bullion and syrup used in carbonated beverages, and require corporate directors to pay taxes on the fees they receive for their services.

It does not have a general increase in either the sales tax or the B&O tax. Some legislators have proposed a temporary increase in the sales tax of up to 1 percent, tied either to a time limit or a sign that the economy was improving.

Gregoire said she and her fiscal advisers studied a sales tax increase and rejected it as being regressive and possibly hurting the recovery. But she does extend the sales tax to candy, gum and bottled water, and hikes taxes on cigarettes, all of which she calls discretionary.

“I don’t think the economic recovery of the state of Washington relies on cigarettes, candy, gum and bottled water,” she said.

Gregire also wants the Legislature to make some other changes to the state’s tax code, including an exemption to the business and occupation tax for out-of-state companies that sell directly to consumers. A state Supreme Court case last year said the current exemption for door-to-door sellers like Avon and Mary Kay representatives also covers out-of-state wholesalers like Dot Foods; fixing that would bring in another $154 million in the current biennium.

Gregoire told leaders of both parties in both chambers of the Legislature that she still plans to close 10 state institutions as a way of saving $180.5 million. Among those institutions is Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women in Medical Lake.

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, described the governor’s latest budget proposal as a measured approach, which is what majority Democrats in both houses say they are seeking.

“Everybody has a different view of what ‘measured’ means,” Tom said.

Senate Democrats are split between a budget that raises a menu of taxes, the way Gregoire is proposing, and a budget that gets most of its new money from something like a general sales tax increase. They expect to release a budget proposal early next week.

Although Tom indicated the final shape of the Senate budget is in doubt, he also said theyare waiting for the House to pass a bill to suspend the supermajority required to raise taxes before releasing a budget: “The longer we put that budget on the table…we’ve got 550 lobbyists that will come down on it like — you fill in the word.”

Republicans in both houses have said that except for changes to state law to correct the tax the Supreme Court lifted from out-of-state wholesalers, they oppose tax increases because of their effect on the economy.

WA Lege Day 38: Return of the committee hearings

OLYMPIA — Having killed many bills on Tuesday, the Legislature returns to committee hearings today for the bills that made it out of one chamber, and now must be considered by another chamber.

The House didn’t vote on a proposal to suspend parts of Initiative 960 last night, so they will take that rather thorny issue up again late this morning…and possibly this evening if they don’t finish before the hearing schedule kicks in for the afternoon.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to release her budget and tax package sometime this week, possibly as early as today. The state Senate will follow with its proposal as early as next Monday, and the House should have its out within a day or two.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Eastern Washington’s Republican congresswoman, is at the Capitol this morning visiting some old colleagues from the days when she was a legislator here from the 7th District.

Mr. Yuck is here, but not as a comment on what the Legislature is doing. It’s National Poison Week. (Comments about drinking Kool-Aid are discouraged for the next few days.) There’s a symposium on Innovations in State Government, sponsored by the Secretary of State’s office, and a wildlife and recration reception.

Full list of committee hearings is inside the blog.



WA Lege Day 37: House to go late on I-960 bill

OLYMPIA — The state House of Representatives is settling in for a late night on their version of the bill to suspend tax-raising restrictions in Initiative 960.

House Democrats have made some changes to ESSB 6130, which means if it passes in its present form it will come back to the Senate for another vote.

One can expect a rerun of arguments for and against that were made last week. For those hanging on every word, check out the live broadcast on TVW.

WA Lege Day 37: if it looks like a tax…

OLYMPIA — A proposed charge on court filings to help pay for publicly financed state Supreme Court races is more like a fee than a tax, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen just ruled.

That is likely to make it difficult to pass a Senate bill that would have added $3 to the cost of court filings. Why, because a tax currently needs a two-thirds majority to pass, while a fee needs only a simple majority.

Debate over Senate Bill 5912 came to a halt earlier today when Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, raised a point of order about the charge. Seems more like a tax, Benton said, because its levied for a more general purpose, and the “nexus” of the money and the purpose are relatively remote.

After several hours of staff study, Owen sided with Benton. Setting up publicly financed judicial campaigns may be an overall benefit to society, he said. But paying for campaigns seems only remotely connected to a charge on court filings. It is more properly considered a tax.

Further action on the bill is pending.

Supremes schedule R-71 hearing

OLYMPIA — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 28 whether the names on ballot measure petitions are public records.

The Washington Secretary of State’s office announced this afternoon that the date has been set on a case that is getting national attention because it involves a series of First Amendment and public records issues.

The information at the heart of the case are the names and addresses on the petitions to put Referendum 71 on last fall’s ballot. After the Legslature expanded rights for same-sex couples last spring, opponents gathered signatures to let voters overturn the bill. Supporters of gay rights requested the names under the state’s public records law, but referendum sponsors objected, saying the signers could be subjected to harassment.

Although the state has previously released the names from initiative and referendum campaigns, judges have disagreed over whether the names in this case are public records. Most recently, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said they are, but that ruling is on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case.

WA Lege Day 37: Tax bill out of House

OLYMPIA — The House approved a bill that gives local governments more authority to impose a one-tenth of a cent local sales taxes through 2014, primarily for public safety concerns, without submitting them to a public vote.

It also allows counties to levy a utility tax, cities to impose a utilty tax on water sewer districts, allows a real-estate excise tax to be collected for parks.

In revising the bill, however, the House used some of the language first proposed by Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, that restricts local hotel-motel taxes to be used for tourism projects and not siphoned off for general government purposes.

(Spin Control Fact Check note: The earlier versions of this post refered to the language from Parker as an amendment. It was actually part of the “striker” which is used for a more general revision, than an amendment, which goes to a specific part.)

“I was thrilled” that the bill included that language, Parker said. Not so thrilled that he voted for the bill itself when it came up for a vote later, mind you.

“The bill was a massive tax increase,” Parker said. “The amendment made a bad bill a little bit better.”

It passed 51-47 and heads for the Senate. For the roll call of the bill on final passage, go inside the blog.

Readings from elsewhere: NYT features Inland NW Tea Party movement

It’s always nice when other parts of the country notice us in the Inland Northwest, right?

OK, not always. The New York Times has a large story on the Tea Party Movement that prominently features folks from North Idaho and Eastern Washington. And by prominently, we mean from the first paragraph, right through to the last.

You can read it by clicking here. Feel free to click on the comment button above and let other readers know what you think.

WA Lege: Playing catchup

OLYMPIA — Spin Control took a three-day weekend to celebrate President’s Day (our favorite is Millard Fillmore). The Legislature did  not.

In fact, they’ve been busy moving bills through the two houses in advance of today’s cutoff, so a fair amount if action took place on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Fortunately, the Associated Press was on duty at the Capitol, so inside the blog is a roundup of weekend action, courtesy of the AP. Click here to see it.

 

WA Lege Day 37: Cut ‘em off at the didn’t pass

OLYMPIA — At 5 p.m. today, some legislative coaches will turn into pumpkins — or some other type of vegetation that will be thrown on the compost heap.

That’s because today is one of several “cut off” days. A bill must be out of its house of origin by 5 or fall by the wayside as the legislative process moves forward.

Because of that, relatively noncontroversial bills that have come out of their committees will be moving through the House and Senate at a fairly rapid pace. The controversial ones, not so much.

But that means if you tune into TVW, you can probably catch one house or the other in action.

WA Lege: A goof or an evil plot?

OLYMPIA – Is it better to be incompetent or duplicitous?
That’s the choice being set up for Senate Democrats by initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman after last week’s double vote on suspending portions of a ballot measure requiring supermajorities for tax increases.
The proposed suspension wasn’t a surprise. Making some change to the voter-approved law restricting tax increases has been on the Democrats to-do list since the session began. There were questions of how and when they would try to change it, but never if.

Cabildo named to SCC trustees

OLYMPIA — Ben Cabildo’s appointment to the Spokane and Spokane Falls Community Colleges Board of Trustees was confirmed today by the Senate.

Cabildo, a director of AHANA/Community Minded Enterprises and chairman of the Unity in the Community celebration, was cited for “commitment to communities of color and his active role in Spokane’s economic development.”

 

WA Lege Day 33: Forecast day

OLYMPIA — While the Legislature has a busy schedule of votes over (mostly) noncontroversial bills, the real attention today is on the revenue forecast.

It’s out, and it’s a good news, bad news kind of thing: Bad news that it’s down, good news that it’s only down slightly; bad news that when coupled with increased demand for state services, the overall impact is that the state has a gap of about $2.8 billion between what it can expect to take in and what it would have to pay out if all the current programs and services were to continue under current schedules.

The final good news is that Gov. Chris Gregoire and the leaders in the Legislature have been waiting for this forecast before releasing new budget requests. So that will start as early as next week.

Whether that’s good news or bad news depends…on what they propose, and what you want in or out of the budget.

For the news story on the revenue forecast, click here.

Spokane Park Board endorses Verner’s pick, Leroy Eadie, for park director

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner has opted not to make another change in the leadership of the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department.

After firing one director in 2007 and forcing the resignation of another late year, Verner has nominated interim Park Director Leroy Eadie to take the position.

On Thursday, the Spokane Park Board unanimously voted to endorse her recommendation. The Spokane City Council will have the final say. Verner appointed Eadie the interim park director in October after she asked then-Director Barry Russell to resign the post.

WA Lege Day 32: Tie sales tax to unemployment rate?

OLYMPIA – A proposal to raise the state sales tax by 1 cent on the dollar, and tie it to high levels of unemployment, was introduced Thursday in the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane and one of the House Bill 3183’s 15 co-sponsors, calls it “an interesting concept”, even while conceding the sales tax is “a terrible revenue source.”

“I’m not crazy about the sales tax. But it’s one of the very few options available to the state,” he said.

The bill would raise the state’s share of the sales tax by 1 percent starting June 30, with 80 percent going to the state’s general fund, and most of the rest being set aside for roads and bridges. It would keep that extra penny per dollar in place until the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.5 percent for four straight months. The other half-cent would come off after the unemployment rate dropped to 5 percent.

Minutes after the bill was introduced, the Washington Policy Center, a conservative organization, was warning the sales tax could be in place for a long time. The state’s current unemployment rate is 9.5 percent and a tax increase of this magnitude could cost the state thousands more jobs, said Jason Mercier of the policy center.

Ormsby said the bill was introduced in the hope of getting a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee and generating discussion: “I’ll be interested to see what kind of reaction is out there.”

There is no similar proposal in the Senate. Gov. Chris Gregoire has said she’d consider any options the Legislature sent her, but has not called for a sales tax increase.

Newsflash: GOP says Murray, Obama agree

Vice President Joe Biden makes a stop in Seattle Friday morning to help raise money for Sen. Patty Murray’s re-election campaign.

Normally Spin Control wouldn’t care because a) it’s closed to the press except for a pool reporter which ain’t us; 2) it’s in Seattle, which is a bit of a schlep to see folks going in for breakfast; and thirdly we kinda already knew Murray was running for re-election.

Then Republicans called with notice of a special phone-in press conference Thursday in which Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was going to discuss Biden’s visit to Seattle for Murray. That was a phone call, rather than a schlep, so Spin Control dialed in…

WA Lege Day 32: Education reform debatable

OLYMPIA — After a late night Wednesday on I-960 changes, the Senate is scheduled to debate a package of education reforms today. Both house could take floor action into the evening, but probably not as 11:15 p.m., which is when the Senate adjourned Wednesday.

United Way organizations and Service Employee union members are around lobbying legislators and advocates of affordable housing are staging a demonstration in support of funding for those programs on the Capitol Campus.

WA Lege: Deja vu. Senate Democrats suspend I-960

OLYMPIA – Senate Democrats were forced to hit the replay button Wednesday night and hold another debate on a bill to suspend voter imposed limits on tax increases.

That gave Republicans a chance to once again complain that they were thwarting the “will of the people” by setting aside requirements for a two-thirds majority to raise taxes, place such increases on a November ballot for an advisory vote and issue financial projections on any bill that would affect state revenue.

It gave Democrats a chance to once again assert the state was in the worst financial times since the Great Depression and desperate times call for bold action.

In the end, the result was essentially the same. After more than about two hours of debate on various Republican amendments – all of them failed – and the suspension itself, the Senate voted 26-22 to suspend all of I-960 through the first half of next year. After that, all provisions for supermajority passage of tax increases, public advisory votes and fiscal notes would come back into law.

A Tuesday bill that merely suspended the supermajority provisions – although Democrats mistakenly thought it suspended the whole initiative – passed 26-23. The difference Wednesday: Sen. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, was absent.

Between now and then, however, are this year’s session, which is mainly dedicated to fixing an estimated $2.6 billion gap between what the state is expected to collect in taxes and what it would need to pay out for the projects and services it now has.

Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed a budget in December that would close that gap strictly by cutting state programs, jobs and services, but she has since said she wants to “buy back” some of those cuts with a combination of new federal money and tax increases.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said Democrats will not bring an “all cuts” budget to the Senate floor because it would devastate too many programs for children, the sick and the elderly.

But that means tax increases, which Republicans generally oppose. Even if all Democrats were to vote on a tax increase their leaders proposed, they’d still be one vote shy of the two-thirds majority, and even within their ranks some members are unlikely to support some proposals.

They probably do have, however, a simple majority available for most increases currently being discussed.

For a breakdown of how the Senate voted, go inside the blog

WA Lege Day 31: Debate on I-960 changes begins anew

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats were able to bring their proposed fix to the suspension of Initaitve 960 to the floor at about 9:40 p.m., which is more than two hours earlier than expected.

Debate began with amendments by Republicans to put things back into law that the Democratic measure seeks to strip out of the bill: voter notification, advisory votes in November for any tax increase the Legislature imposes in the spring.

The first two went down with Republicans and a few Democrats including Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, voting yes but the majority of Democrats voting no.

Final vote could still be sometime after midnight. The debate is supposed to be the same, albeit somewhat more strident, than Tuesday’s. The result is expected to be the same, also.

The Spokesman-Review’s press deadline is much earlier, however, so Spin Control will close down and update in the morning.

WA Lege Day 31: I-960 change could hit ‘bump’

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats apparently have a bill to do suspend Initiative 960 the way they want. Now they need Senate Republicans to go along if they have any chance of doing it before midnight.

It all has to do with the “bump” as explained by Jeff Reading of Senate Democratic staff:

The Senate is now heading back onto the floor to …attempt to move the 960 bill from second to third reading so that it may be voted on for final passage.

Procedurally, it takes a two-thirds vote of members present to “bump” a bill from second to third reading in the same day. The Republicans have indicated they won’t give the bump.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, have been huddling off and on, apparently in an attempt to negotiate this one out. Without the bump, Democrats would have to wait until after midnight, so they wouldn’t be making the move in the same day…

 

WA Lege Day 31: Calling Oscar Rogers. Sen Dems bring up I-960 bill again to fix it

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats are due to return for an evening session to address the big “oops” moment so far this session.

They reportedly are working on a bill that will do what they said they intended to do Tuesday: Suspend all aspects of Initiative 960 through July 1, 2011. What they did, however, was suspend only the “supermajority needed for any tax increase” portion of I-960. That left in place such requirements as public advisory votes on any increase and financial statements on any bill that has a fiscal impact.

Apparently when the Democratic caucus decided to swap the bill that went through committee hearings for a “simplified” version, the staff thought simplified meant one thing and the senators thought it meant something else.

Strangely enough, the Republican senators seemed to understand exactly what they were voting on, and even commented on how the version that passed was not as bad as the version that went through the committee hearing.

At 7:50 p.m., Democrats were starting to come out of caucus…one can only hope they have a plan, and a bill…that they’ve read. And that they will, in the words of that great Saturday Night Live character Oscar Rogers: “Fix it. Fix. It. Fix it.”

Wa Lege Day 31: Patient field trips limited

OLYMPIA — Patients at state mental hospitals who have been judged criminally insane would be severely restricted from taking trips away from their facilities under a bill passed unanimously by the House of Representatives.

HB 2717, inspired by the escape of Phillip Paul during an Eastern State Hospital field trip to the Spokane County fair, says such patients would need a court order for any trip that isn’t needed for medical treatment, to attend the funeral of an immediate family member or to visit a terminally ill family member. When away from the facility, they would need to be under the direct supervision of a hospital staff member.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, said the bill is designed both to reassure the public that escapes like Paul’s won’t happen again and to send a clear message to the Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees Eastern.

“This measure codifies some of the governor’s recommendations and effectively bans such outings with exception of very specific and defined services,” Shea siad.

The bill passed 97-0. It now moves to the Senate.

From Rs, with Love

If you’re sweetie is a red-blooded Republican, you probably lie awake nights thinking of the appropriate greetings for Valentine’s Day.

Now you can get some sleep, thanks to the Republican National Committee, who is happy to provide a series of e-cards making fun of their (and possibly your V-day crush’s) least favorite Democrats. So  much more touching that flowers, sweeter than chocolates, and a chance to give money to the RNC rather than Hallmark.

Above is one of 18 cards. The rest can be found here. 

WA Lege Day 31: Nonprofit changes pass House

OLYMPIA — A proposal to give judges more flexibility in dealing with disputes on the boards of nonprofit corporations sailed through the House of Representatives today.

HB 3046 essentially gives a Superior Court judge the same options in dealing with a deadlocked nonprofit as with a dispute on a for-profit corporation, Rep. John Driscoll, D-Spokane, said.

Although a Senate version of this bill was attacked at a committee hearing (for previous story, click here) as interfering in a dispute between the owners of Deaconess Medical Center and Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center of Inland Northwest Health Systems, the House version is prospective only, Driscoll said. It wouldn’t apply to any action currently in the courts.

It passed 97-0, and heads to the Senate.

Taking the initatives: 19-year-old drinkers, 18-year-old pot smokers and sealed tapeworms

OLYMPIA — The initiative process, which when it plays out to the passage of a proposal by the voters is apparently sacrosanct, is a messy process at the beginning.

For $5 and some words typed into a word processor, almost anyone can file an initiative petition with the Secretary of State’s office.

Today, Dustin Reischman of Pullman filed a proposal to lower the state’s drinking age to 19. Before you can say it, no Reischman isn’t too young to by a six-pack at the local 7-11. He’s 22…which is still young enough to remember those dry late teen years.

Earlier this month, James Vaughn of Orting filed a proposal to replace the state seal featuring George Washington with the image of “a tapeworm in a three-piece suit.” Vaughn didn’t submit a drawing (thankfully) for his proposed seal switch.

Other initiatives, along with the more highly publicized Eyman-backed “give us back the supermajority for tax increase” proposal, a series of state sovereignty ideas and a legalized marijuana proposal, include one to require the teaching of the federal and state constitutions and the Declaration of Independence in state schools and another that would tighten up ID requirements for immigrants.

You can see all of the proposals by clicking here.

ID can find budget savings that WA can’t

Colleague Betsy Russell at Eye on Boise tells of an election-related savings in Idaho that isn’t available in Washington. But even if it was, Washington Republicans would probably be more than happy to put the money in the budget.

As reported here, it seems that Gov. Butch Otter’s office was submitting its 2011, which, like the governor’s budget in Washington, is mostly staff expenses. There’s also $15,000 contingency line item for transition, should Otter not be re-elected and a successor have to take over. (All kinds of campaign slogans come to mind, like “Save 15K with ButchO”)

In Washington, the gubernatorial election is still nearly three years off. But Republicans have been out of the governor’s mansion for so long that if this comes up in 2012, they’ll see it as a worthwhile investment.

WA Lege Day 31: Fixing an “Oops”

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats will be looking for a way to fix Tuesday’s faux pas of passing a bill they didn’t intend to pass.

The changes to Initiative 960 that they approved Tuesday afternoon in a 26-23 were limited to suspending the two-thirds majority through July 1, 2011. A few hours later they  had an “Oh, spit” moment. What they meant to do, Senate Democrats said , was to suspend ALL the provisions of I-960 through 2011, which includes things link the requirement to put any tax increase up for an advisory vote in November and reporting requirements that estimate the costs of any bill with a financial impact.

Seems like they were talking about several things in caucus Tuesday and the thing they wanted got confused with one of the things they talked about but decided against. (Don’t we all hate it when that happens.) They are voting on bills of lesser import this morning while they figure it out. Can’t wait to hear what Senate Republicans will have to say about all this — could be some sort of reference to the gang that couldn’t legislate straight or something along those lines.

In other business, it is State Potato Day at the Capitol.

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Baker, the county assessor, will face Republican challenger from his office

Another Republican Spokane County officeholder will face a challenge within the party and within his office. But it appears this time the incumbent won’t discipline his challenger.

Vicki Horton, a residential appraiser in the county assessor’s office, filed paperwork this week with the state Public Disclosure Commission indicating that she will challenge her boss, Assessor Ralph Baker, in the August primary.

Last week, Deputy Prosecutor Dave Stevens, a Republican, announced he was challenging his boss, GOP Prosecutor Steve Tucker. Stevens criticized Tucker’s leadership and referred to Tucker as “an absent administrator.” Tucker placed Stevens on paid leave the next day.

Baker confirmed on Tuesday that he plans to run for reelection. When told by a reporter that Horton was running, Baker said: “That’s great.” He added that he was surprised she decided to pursue the office but that he had no reason to discipline her for running. Baker called Horton “a very good employee.”

Horton, who is the union shop steward for the office, said Baker is “a very nice person,” but added: “I have a few things I would like to see different.”

Wrapup: I-960 suspension passes the Senate

OLYMPIA – The Legislature would be able to raise taxes this session and next with a simple majority vote under a bill approved Tuesday in the state Senate.

In the most contentious Senate debate this year – one that constantly invoked “the will of the people” and at one point became a showdown between grandmas in the chamber – Democrats suspended the need for a supermajority on tax increases imposed by voters in 2007.

Just hours after a 26-23 victory, however, they said they’d made a mistake and intended to suspend all the requirements of Initiative 960, including the need for statewide advisory votes on any tax they choose to raise. Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, the bill’s prime sponsor, said in an evening press release the majority party will bring up a new version to the Senate floor “as soon as possible … to suspend I-960 in full until July 2011.” (WEDS update: Senate Democrats expect to introduce a bill to “fix” that problem sometime today and suspend all of I-960 for that time period. No time table at this point but watch Spin Control for updates.)


To read the rest of this story, click here to go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 30: Bill passes 26-23

OLYMPIA — The Senate approved changing state law to allow taxes to be raised this year and next with a simple majority.

After a lengthy debate and a time out for parliamentary measures, the Senate voted 26-23 to suspend the provisions of Initiative 960 that requires a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. The supermajority would return after July 1, 2011.

All Republicans voted against the bill, as did five Democrats, among them Sen. Chris Marr of Spokane. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, voted to pass the bill which is generally regarded as a step toward raising some taxes to help close the state’s projected budget gap..

It now goes to the House of Representatives.

WA Lege Day 30: A fix found, vote coming

OLYMPIA— A roll call vote on the bill is coming now that they’ve made a change in the title. Count in a few minutes

WA Lege Day 30: Fixing the title

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats apparently will have to resurrect a Republican title that they previously rejected to pass a bill that makes changes to the supermajority requirements for tax increases.

That means Democrats take an amendment that they don’t like, for a title written by Republicans to a bill they don’t like. Should anyone care? Only in the sense that the title of the bill, if it passes, can restrict any changes the House may try to make when it moves to the other chamber.

There’s a huddle at the podium by leaders of both parties, while the remainder of the senators are milling about.

WA Lege Day 30: Title problems

OLYMPIA — Debate a bill to suspend the supermajority to raise taxes has come to a halt on the floor of the Senate.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, raised a “point of order” that because of changes approved by Democrats, the bill’s title is no longer accurate.

After conferring with staff attorneys, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who is presiding, agreed. The title includes the term permanent, and nothing in the bill is permanent any longer. The bill needs an accurate title.

Democrats are trying to figure out a parliamentary way to change it.

WA Lege Day 30: Brown defends simple majority votes

OLYMPIA— Debate continues:

Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield: “I do think there is a difference between one initiative and another. People think a little bit about their pocket books, on both sides, than they do about policy. Let’s try to keep a leg up (on Oregon, where voters  It is our role to lift people up, but not necessarily take care of them.

Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane: “I respect the constitution and the constitution lays out the balance of powers. The Legislature, it is vested in us, to create the budget and to balance the budget, which is the most important bill we pass. If you hold the budget to minority rule, some would say held hostage…then you are holding the policy of the people … also hostage to minority rule. We have the task and responsiblity, which we hold very, very seriously, to balance the budget. If I brought an all cuts budget to the floor, it would not get 25 votes, it would not get 10. It will not be an all-cuts budget this year. We cut much deeper last year than I wanted…we did it because we had to bring a balanced budget to the floor. (This year’s budget) will be fair and honest to the people. I uphold (my constituents) trust in me.”

Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said Republicans predicted budget deficits three years ago: “We have been saying there’s a crash coming, and nobody listened. Part of what we’re in today is global, but part of it is self-inflicted.”

WA Lege Day 30: More grandmas, and one not

OLYMPIA — Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, warns of severe cuts, even if there are tax increases.

“You talk about restructuring of government? There are going to be complete programs that are going to be eliminated. We give out billions of tax breaks every year and there’s virtually no accountability. We have tax breaks with no job requirements at all…no proof of benefits to the state at all…We need to look at all the options. This is not about tax increases this is about looking at all the options.”

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island: “I have 43 grandchildren. I believe it’s our moral responsiblity to take care of people. I’ve never voted for a general tax increase, but I will this year. We don’t spend tax money on transportation projects. We don’t put any art in it.”

Sen. Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake: “People have spoken loud and clear. The bill before us emasculates the initiative. Say it only suspends for two years, but I don’t know of a tax that lasts for two years. They last forever. Raising taxes is meant to be the last resort. You only need one of our members to (get two-thirds). Raising taxes in a recession will lead to job losses. This is not just about raising taxes, this is about listening to the public.

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue: “First I want to make it clear that I am not a grandmother. We’ve cut already $4 billion. Just over 12 percent. The great Rossi budget, that was a 9.5% People in my district don’t look at corporate loopholes as tax increases; they want us to look at them. We are facing a very different environment than when the voters passed this. This is not an easy vote, but it is the right vote.”

WA Lege Day 30: Debate continues on changes to I-960

OLYMPIA — Sen. Cheryl Pflug says of the 1,001 letters she’s received, only six approve repealing the supermajority to raise taxes

If you do this, many of you will return to a wall of rage at home” Pflug, R-Maple Valley, warned. “People are hurting, and you are hurting them more.”’

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, “What is it about the will of the people that worries you? What does it really mean? I believe we have to listen. I think we’re seeing that (wall of rage) all across the country. Now we see the same kind of arrogance that caused many of us to run for public office. And now here we are, seeing it again, amongst us. Are we in tough times, of course we are. Is it going to be hard to reduce the budget, you bet. We can do this without (the bill) We don’t need it, we don’t have to circumvent the will of the people.”

Sen. Tracy Eide, D-Des Moines: “We are in unprecedented times. How many of you have lived through a time like this? How many of you have family members who are unemployed? I do. I have friends who have business that they are cut way back. I had a 401K that now is a 101K. We are in a crisis. We need to think logically. And who do the people of this state turn to when they need help? They turn to us. A wise man told me last week ‘Tracy, those of us who have, have to help those of us who have not.’ I’m voting for this bill to keep our options open. We need to step up to the plate and help them.”

Wa Lege Day 30: A fight among grandmas

OLYMPIA - If this is an emergency, why is the state still spending money for art projects in the prisons, Sen. Mike Carrell, R, asked. Why spend $2 million on art for the Seattle tunnel

Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma:”We have heard a lot this afternoon about the will of the people. The will of the people also has to have compassion in it…Grandma does not deal in metrics and the lingo of today. She doesn’t deal in Twitter. The services she is receiving will be eliminated or cut drastically. She is scared…I promised grandma that my vote will be for her. I told the kids education is important and they should stay in school. I will not throw them under the bus, I will put them on the bus.”

Sen. Pam Roach R-Auburn: “I’m a grandma, and I don’t want to have my taxes raised. Taxes are going to be going up in a variey of ways. Grandmothers run those shops. ..Right now things aren’t good and we will be further depressing the economy. More taxes will not help this economy…We need to do what the people are telling us to do, and that means restructuring…It means being creative, not doing things the way we’ve always done. I’m a grandma and I’m not voting for this bill.”

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle: “I’m a grandmother and I am voting for this bill. If we don’t want to amend laws, why do we even have a Legislature? Many bills have amended initiatives. 67 percent of the voters approved an increase to the state minimum wage, three of them last year. 68 percent of voters approved medical marijuana, we’ve had bills to change that… Republicans and Democrats introduce bills …to amend initatives brought forward by the vote of the people. All of these statements about going against the will of the people are spurious.”

WA Lege Day 30: Democrats defend the changes

OLYMPIA—Some of the problems with the original bill suspending the supermajority required for tax increases have been removed, Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said.

That doesn’t necessarily mean any Republicans will vote for it, he said.

Democrats defended the suspension.

“This is a significant issue. We do not take lightly, changing or even suspending the will of the people,” Sen. James Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said. The first amendment to I-601 was suspended by Sen. Bob Morton, a Republican. Republican Sens. Jim West and Dino Rossi also suspended initiatives, some of them by bigger margins than I-960, Hargrove said.

“It’s disengeniuous to suggest that one side of the aisle always upholds the will of the people and the other side does not,” he said.

The drop in the budget is worse than the drop in the early 1980s, when the state extended the sales tax onto food purchases, he added, and “I don’t intend to do that.”

“In all our districts we see homes foreclosed and businesses closed. It wasn’t state government that got us there. It was waste, fraud and greed on the part of corporate America,” Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle said.

Republicans talk about the big majorities in their districts that voted in favor of I-960, but his district voted heavily against it, Murray said. The state has a republican form of government that sends legislators to do the work of the government.

WA Lege Day 30: Time to vote?

OLYMPIA — A Republican amendment described as an attempt to fix technical problems with the title is being discussed.

“Enough is enough,” Sen. Rodney Tom, a Democratic vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee argues. “It’s time to vote” on the bill itself.

Amendment fails 22-26, like the previous ones, with all Republicans and Democrats Tim Sheldon and Chris Marr voting yes.


WA Lege Day 30: Debate continues

OLYMPIA — Arguing against changes to the state’s supermajority for tax increases continues, and some senators are attempting to usie t to their best advantage

“The citizens voted their conscience. Now we’re throwing that away. We’re ignoring the will of the people,” Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, who recently announced he was running for the U.S. Senate, said while looking straight into the television camera. “Shouldn’t we ask the people who put it in place if they feel the current situation warrants gutting the protections they put in place?”

Turns out the camera wasn’t on, but a candidate running for higher office needs all the practice they can get

WA Lege Day 30: ‘No sense of urgency,

OLYMPIA — Republicans argue that the bill should remove the emergency clause, because immediate enactment would block any chance of referendum by voters unhappy with suspending I-960. They have an amendment to that effect.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, “How can you say it’s an emergency when you haven’t even reached across the aisle to try to solve the problems.”

It will gut taxpayer protections without even giving voters “the time of day,” Benton said.

Democrats say that Republicans previously complained about the slow pace of the action, and that removing the emergency clause means it wouldn’t go into effect until long after the session is over. And if a referendum is filed, the supermajority wouldn’t be suspended until after the votes are counted from the November election.

Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R, notes that Democrats are only one-vote shy of a two thirds majority right now.

Republicans demanded a roll-call vote. It failed, 22-26, with all Republicans and Democrats Tim Sheldon and Chris Marr voting yes

WA Lege Day 30: Real debate starts

OLYMPIA —First up is a Republican amendment that limits the suspension for just this session.

Sen. Mike Carrell, R, warns that if Democrats repeal the provisions of Initiative 960, “there will be another referendum in November” on them.

Sen. Pam Roach, R: “There will probably be a new initative on the ballot, too.”

Sen. Val Stevens, R, quotes Abraham Lincoln in warning against “thwarting the will of the people. You are telling the people…we know better than you, we are a monarchy.”

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D, says initiatives are special because they can’t be vetoed by the governor, and are in the state constitution ahead of legislative powers.

Sen. Mike Carrell, R: “These are serious times. These are not times we should look at further burdening the people. Let’s just do it for one year, if you feel you must do it.”

Amendment fails 21-27, with Republicans, plus Sheldon and Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, voting yes.


WA Lege Day 30: Debate on debate

OLYMPIA — A debate on how to debate the changes to tax-raising laws pits Republicans, who want to be able to have unlimited debate, against Democrats, who say that three-minutes per senator is enough and unlimited debate is really just obstructionism.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the three-minute speech rule should be suspended for “one of the critical issues of this session.”

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said that proposal is “in the spirit of obstrucing” the issue through filibustering. With five different amendments, and each of the 49 senators speaking, that’s 250 speakers. At three-minutes per, they could be there all day, she noted.

“We’re prepared to be here as long as it takes,” Brown said.

Schoesler’s proposal dies on a party-line vote.

WA Lege Day 30: Debate on changes to I-960 begins

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats are making a move to simplify changes to rules governing tax increases. Rather than a complicated array of changes to Initiative 960, they are suggesting an amendment that simply suspends it until July 1, 2011.

The original bill suspended the two-thirds majority for some tax votes until that time, but repealed other changes, such are removing tax loopholes, permanently.

At July 2, 2011, the entire initiative would go back in place, they said.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, has moved to suspend the three-minute rule on debate.

There will be a fair amount of parliamentary wrangling for the next few minutes..

WA Lege Day 30: And they’re back

OLYMPIA— The Senate has returned from caucus and will take up SB 6843, the bill to suspend supermajority votes for tax increases

WA Lege Day 30: A break in the ‘action’

OLYMPIA — The Senate is “at ease”, going into caucus to discuss something.

While they don’t have to announce, it’s likely for the upcoming vote on the bill to suspend Initiative 960 rules on supermajorities for tax increases.

Stay tuned.

WA Lege Day 30: ‘Early savings’

OLYMPIA — The Senate approved a round of budget reductions as a downpayment on more cuts to come.

On a bipartisan vote, it approved the latest version of cuts first approved in the House of Representatives, ESHB 2921. Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, seemed to be foreshadowing the coming fights by noting “we are working together on some things.”

It passed 45-3.

A bill to suspend raises for most non-union state employees, with a few exceptions like college instructors who are taking on extra duties in the summer, passed 33-15.

WA Lege Day 30: Senate votes to suspend bonuses

OLYMPIA — By a vote of 48-0, the Senate suspended bonuses for state employees not covered by union contracts.

Vote on suspending super-majority for tax increases coming, likely before lunchtime

WA Lege Day 30: Senate floor debate on tax votes coming

OLYMPIA —The state Senate has reconvened for floor debate on several major bills.

First up, after confirming several gubernatorial appointments and introducing guests in the gallery, will be the debate over a bill covering flooding in the Green River Valley,

That will be followed by a bill suspending bonuses for many state employees, then a range of bills  that cover everything from the disposition of human remains to transferring emergency food assistance programs to the state Ag Department to the placement of minors during child welfare cases.

At the end of the list is SB 6843, which allows for changes to Initiative 960, the law passed by voters in 2007 that requires a two-thirds majority to approve any tax increases.

Stay tuned. Spin Control will offer updates as warranted.

WA Lege Day 30: Senate floor action

OLYMPIA — The state Senate will vote soon on whether to suspend the supermajority provisions of I-960 for tax increases.

Republican members have been ready for a while, walking about the floor making “drink the Kool-Aid” references. Democrats are just coming out of their caucus where they discussed the upcoming votes.

In the gallery are more than 100 white-coated pharmacy students, so if anyone really does take poison, they could come in handy…

Before voting on Senate Bill 6843, they’ll be voting on propsals to freeze pay and hold back on bonuses for state workers.

WA Lege Day 30: At halfway mark, vote to suspend I-960 likely

OLYMPIA — This year’s regular legislative session is half over, and while there’s not much to show for it so far, the Senate may be pushing ahead this morning with a vote over suspending the supermajority provisions in Initiative 960.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee sent the bill out Monday on a party-line vote. It allows taxes to be raised with a simple majority through June 2011, and permanently repeals the two-thirds majority for some types of tax changes, such as removing exemptions.

If that makes the legislators nervous, depressed or queasy, that’s probably OK because it is Pharmacy Day, and the state Pharmacy Association is in the Rotunda and the Reception Room, and the Connected Care Mobile Healthcare Unit is out in the park.

It is also the Sexual Assault Coalition Lobby Day and Catholic Advocacy Day. Gov. Chris Gregoire had an early morning at the Peace Arch in Blaine, as the Olympic Torch made a dip down into the United States on its way to the Vancouver Games.

Hearing schedule, as usual, is inside the blog.,

Marr gets his first opponent for reelection

State Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, will have a challenger in the November election.

Republican Michael J. Baumgartner, 34, filed paperwork last week with the state Public Disclosure Commission indicating that he will run against Marr for the senate seat representing the Sixth Legislative District, one of the most competitive districts in the state.

The competitive nature of the district attracts a lot of money, and Marr has a head start in fundraising. As of this week, Marr reports having raised about $180,000 for this year’s campaign.

Reached Monday evening, Baumgartner confirmed his run and portions of his resume. This is his first run for office. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an employee of the U.S. State Department. He’s a graduate of Pullman High School and Washington State University and holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University.

Baumgartner said that in Iraq he worked closely with Ryan Crocker, the Spokane Valley resident who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

Photos of Baumgartner in Afghanistan can be found at redcounty.com, a GOP blog.

I-960 changes out of committee

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats pushed changes to voter-approved tax-raising restrictions out of committee today, moving one of the more contentious issues of the legislative session toward a floor debate.

Democrats on the Senate Ways and Means Committee rejected several amendments proposed by Republicans that would have reduced the amount of time the supermajority required in Initiative 960 was suspended and made some other changes to SB 6843.

As written, the proposal suspends the two-thirds majority needed for any tax increase through June 30, 2011, which means taxes could be raised for the supplemental budget for this biennium and the main budget for the next biennium with a simple majority vote.

Sen. Joseph Zarelli, ranking Republican on the committee, said an amendment to limit the suspension to this session only was “a middle ground.” If the economy is still bad next year, the Legislature could take up extending the change at that time.

But Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said there would be more economic forecasts after the Legislature adjourns this year but before it returns next January. “We need the flexibility this would provide.

The amendment failed 8-13, on a party line vote.

To read more on this topic, click here to go inside the blog:

WA Lege: RIP assault weapon ban, sovereignty bill, Erickson Day

OLYMPIA — Some obituaries were written over the weekend for bills that “died” in the Senate last week. That is, they didn’t get out of their committee after having a hearing .

It’s a list with enough diversity to make everyone shed a tear and heave a sigh. Among the casualties:

SB 6396: A state ban on what are often called military style semi-automatic assault weapons.

SB 6472: Requiring proof of citizenship or U.S. birth certificate, plus party preference when registering to vote.

SJM 8005: Urging federal officials to keep “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

SJM:8018: Asserting state sovereignty under the 10th Amendment

SJM 8020: Calling for a repeal of the 17th Amendment, which requires U.S. Senators to be elected, rather than appointed by the Legislature.

SB: 6486: Free flu shots for hospital and health care workers.

SB 6452: Requiring limited service pregnancy centers, often operated by church groups opposed to abortion, from give truthful and  medically valid information to patients seeking services.

SB 6567: Requiring DNA to be collected from illegal immigrants

SB 6744: Privatizing the Worker’s Comp system.

SB: 6284:Declaring Oct. 9 Leif Erickson (you know, the first white guy who discovered America) day.

For a more complete list of bills that died in the Senate, Click here to go inside the blog

Gregoire: Many questions about schools ruling

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire says there are too many questions about last week’s court ruling on the state’s definition of “basic education” to say whether she supports an appeal.

Billions of dollars of state school funding could be at risk in the decision by a King County Superior Court Judge Johne Ehrlick that the state isn’t living up to its consitutional responsibility to provide for basic education, Gregoire said at a press conference Monday.

But a final order has not yet been entered, and any decision on an appeal will wait until she talks with Attorney General Rob McKenna and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.

“The attorney general has the ultimate decision-making authority here,” said Gregoire, herself a former attorney general.

One question they have to discuss is whether a King County trial judge’s decision should be taken to the state Supreme Court to be any order has statewide impact.

Some legislators  have signed a letter urging that the state not appeal the decision, but instead comply with Erlick’s order. Gregoire declined to say how that would sway her decision, other than to say: “Ask them if they’ve read the decision.”

For other comments from the press conference, go inside the blog:

WA Lege Day 29: I-960 Bill committee vote possible

OLYMPIA — The Senate Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote this afternoon on a bill that would suspend supermajorities for tax increases.

If it comes out of committee as expected, it could go to a floor debate on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, the House Ways and Means Committee discusses a proposal to break up the state’s “mega-agency”, the Department of Social and Health Services.

Gov. Chris Gregoire talks about the need to free up credit. The state Nurses Association is lobbying legislators.

Full schedule of hearings can be found inside the blog.

Bikers win a round

OLYMPIA – One of the surest things about this legislative session is that police officers will be honored.
The only real question is how many proposals, from better pension benefits for slain officers’ families to constitutional amendments to keep more bad guys in jail, will be buttressed by references to six officers killed in two months on the West Side.
Opposition to one bill was denounced last week as an invitation for Washington to be the “cop killer capital of the country.” Should a resolution be introduced to beatify all six, the only likely argument would be whether they should skip the interim step and go straight to sainthood.
With this increased attention to law enforcement, it’s possible the most surprised group to make a pilgrimage to the Capitol last week were bikers. Not the kind of bikers who pedal, but the kind who don leather and “get their motors running.”
A couple dozen bikers, some in the colors of their individual motorcycle clubs, showed up at a hearing of the House Public Safety Committee, asking for a law protecting them from the cops.
They told of being targeted by police, stopped for no apparent reason, searched, questioned and generally harassed simply because they ride around on two wheels instead of four. They call it profiling, and liken it to what minorities, particularly young black males driving nice cars in predominantly white neighborhoods, complain about.
It’s illegal to profile minorities, it should be illegal to profile motorcycle riders, the bikers said.

Stevens remains employed, but Tucker reviewing “options”

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Dave Stevens said early this afternoon that he has officially informed his boss, Prosecutor Steve Tucker, that he is running against him in the August primary.

The meeting, which started about 10:30 a.m., lasted a minute and a half or less, Stevens said.

Stevens said he told Tucker that he was running for prosecutor and Tucker responded: “We’re reading the union contract and considering our options.”

Stevens, who brought two union representatives to the meeting, said he wouldn’t speculate on what Tucker will do.

“I’m going to keep working as hard as I’ve always been working,” he said.

WA Lege Day 26: Boeing, medical marijuana and a deadline for Senate bills

OLYMPIA — The state Senate has passed a resolution affirming that they really, really like the Boeiing Co.

Even though it moved its headquarters to Chicago and plans to open an assembly line for its new jetliner in South Carolina, the state appreciates all the aerospace giant has done for Washington, the Senate says in Senate Resolution 8676, with a wide array of bipartisan cosponsors that was passed passed this morning. The resolution may smooth over some talk earlier in the session that if Boeing is going to keep  moving stuff out of the state, the Legislature should start looking at all those tax breaks it has been given over the years.

The Senate also expanded the classifications of people who can authorize medical marijuana. Along with physicians, SB 5798 would allow nurse practitioners and naturopaths to authorize marijuana if it would help their patients. It passed 37-11.

Today is the day that Senate bills dealing with policy must get out of their committee or die.

A complete list of committee hearings is inside the blog.

Tucker, Stevens scheduled for morning meeting

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Dave Stevens should find out more about his employment status this morning when he meets with his boss, Prosecutor Steve Tucker.

Stevens announced this week that he will challenge Tucker in the August primary. Both are Republicans. On Thursday, Tucker said “all options are on the table” when asked if Stevens would be let go. Tucker also promised to follow the deputy prosecutors’ union contract if he takes action against Stevens.

Today’s meeting between the two is the first between the candidates since Stevens announced.

PHOTO CREDIT: Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker in his office May 26.2006. DAN PELLE, The Spokesman-Review.

Resolution to honor Stockton

OLYMPIA — A resolution honoring basketball legend John Stockton for his careers at Gonzaga Prep, Gonzaga University and the Utah Jazz has been introduced in the state House of Representatives.

It honors Stockton, the recent Hall of Fame inductee, for his basketball accomplishments, contributions to the city and state,  and “for being a positive role model on and off the court.”

Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, the sponsor and a fellow alum of St. Al’s Elementary School, said the resolution is expected to come up in a pro forma floor session — what sports announcers might call a break in the action — later this month.

Passage of such a resolution is routine, but the recipients at that point are a bit unusual. It asks the resolution be transmitted immediately to Stockton, the NBA Hall of Fame, the Spokane Youth Sports Association, Spokane City officials — and Jack and Dan’s Bar & Grill. 

Stevens will challenge Tucker for Spokane County prosecutor

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Dave Stevens announced Thursday that he’ll challenge his boss, Prosecutor Steve Tucker, in the August primary.

Both Tucker and Stevens are Republicans, and the battle is off to a tough start.

“Until I came here, I’d never seen a total lack of leadership,” Stevens said in an interview Thursday. “There needs to be a determined leader, not an absent administrator.”

Tucker has filed paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission indicating that he plans to seek reelection. He did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday afternoon.

This week, Stevens, 47, won an endorsement from the Spokane County Republican Party. Michael Cathcart, an executive board member of the party and Stevens’ campaign manager said Tucker has not yet asked for the endorsement from the party. Cathcart said party rules allow for the endorsement of multiple candidates.

Good things to remember about polls

Sometimes, real truth is found in the funny pages. Or in this era, on Web sites devoted to comics.

Artist Jorge Cham at www.phdcomics.com hit the nail on the head about polling better than several sociology and journalism text books we’ve perused, and we’ll try to remember it as polls start coming fast and furious later this year.

I-960 hearing: Testimony over, committee discussion to come

OLYMPIA — Testimony for and against a proposal to suspend some provisions of Initiative 960 and permanently change others is over.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to have an “executive session” at some future date. Rest of the day’s hearing is scheduled to be filled with olther bills, such as a proposal end some tax exemptions for utilities that buy machinery and equipment to bulid renewable energy geneation sources.

Initial schedule called for the exec session on the I-960 bill to be today, but it appears they’ll fill out the time with other bills.

I-960 hearing: Fire chiefs say pass changes; farmers, biz groups say don’t

OLYMPIA —Last panel of speakers for and against a bill to make changes to I-960.

Mike Brown of the state Fire Chiefs said fire departments need help with 9-1-1 upgrades, hazardous materials equipment.He urges it to pass.

Scott Dahlman with the Washington Farm Bureau says his organization is strongly opposed to changes because they because it “usurps the will of the people.”

“Why not go to the citizens with a proposal?” he said. “In a down economy, this is not the time to be raising taxes.”

This debate today is not about the need to raise revenue,” Dahlman. You can raise revenue, it’s just more difficult. Send (voters) a package. They did it in Oregon.”

Amber Carter with the Association of Washington Business, said it didn’t take a stand on I-960 but strongly supported the two-thirds majority. The group doesn’t oppose the removal of some notification provisions, but is adamantly opposed to removing the supermajority.

Passing changes to I-960 is “the first step” to raising taxes, she said. The state should go back to the priorities of government process, look at pensions, health care, eliminate state control of liquor stores and state printing.

Would AWB support extending the two-thirds majority to tax exemptions, which cut taxes for some companies, as well as tax increases, Sen. Joe McDermott asked.

The group would have to look at it, but “I don’t think that would help our state with economic recovery,” Carter said.


I-960 hearing: is it unconstitutional?

OLYMPIA — The chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee called Initiative 960 “clearly unconstitutional,” but a Republican member of the panel strongly disagreed.

“It’s clearly unconstitutional,” Sen. Margarita Prentice said after another witness argued against any changes in a law passed by voters. “The Supreme Court was given an opportunity (to say so) and it punted.”

That prompted a retort from Sen. Cheryl Pflug: “If our Supreme Court didn’t declare it unconstitutional, it’s not. It’s inappropriate for a member of this body to say we know better.”

I-960 hearing: “Return majority rule”

OLYMPIA— Jerry Reilly of the Eldercare Alliance urged the Ways and Means Committee to approve changes to Initiative 960.

“Please return majority rule to the state of Washington,” Rielly said. Then use majority rule to pass a budget that meets the state’s needs..

I-960 hearing: Look what’s on the chopping block

OLYMPIA — Seth Dawson, a representative of human service organizations, urged the Legislature to temporarily suspend Initiative 960’s requirements for super-majority support for tax increases.

“There’s nothing pretty about amending this initiative…, There’s nothing pretty about enacting these cuts,” Dawson said.

“I don’t envy your position. The best choice at this point is to proceed with this measure,” Dawson, whose clients include the Coalition for the Homeless, said.

Suppose more revenue comes in Sen. Linda Parlette said. AT some point aren’t we still going to have to reduce spending?

“Probably,” said Dawson.

The state cut spending last year, Sen. Karen Fraser said. It can’t just keep cutting.

“It’s time to look at a system of new revenues,” Dawson said. Mental health was cut last year, now it’s asked to take more.

I-960 hearing: Pretty short notice

OLYMPIA — A critic of a proposal to suspend some aspects of Initiative 960 complained at the speed at which the bill got a hearing.

Jim Copeland of Spanaway, who said he lost his business, noted the bill was announced at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and in a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

“Pretty short notice, huh?” Copeland said.

Williams: Exhaust all options first

OLYMPIA — Bob Williams of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, urged legislators not to “gut” Initative 960.

The Legislature couldn’t balance its budget when it was taking in record amounts of revenue, he said. “Your total spending is up $13 billion.”

Every budget that Gov. Gregoire has submitted spent more than the revenue forecast. Then the Legislature used “accounting gimmicks” to spend more, Willams, the head of the conservative fiscal think tank said.

Moody’s Rating agency is already warning about the state’s tendency to use one-time spending sources, he said.

“If you raise taxes in the recession….you will find that you get less revenue and more unemployment,” Willams said. “Use the (priorities of government) process to cut spending.”

I-960 hearing: Eyman argues against changes

OLYMPIA — Tim Eyman, the prime sponsor of Initiative 960, warned “citizens are watching arrogant Democrats who think the law doesn’t apply to them.”

This bill means you are above the Constitution. Voters have made clear that if state government is going to raise taxes, it must be a two-thirds vote or a vote of the people. You’re violating the law, you’re sidestepping the constitution … and believe the voters don’t have a right to know what you’re doing.”

The system is working, he said: “If you can’t get two-thirds of your colleagues to sign on to the bill, put it before the voters. You haven’t even done that.”

“Drop this stuff about the transparency provisions. The two-thirds is bad enough.”

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, told Eyman the Legislature has to balance many things, including the need for revenue as well as the need.for spending.

“You’ve talked about one side, as you usually do. I’d like you to speak about the other side.”

Voters passed an initiative requiring performance audits, Eyman said.

“You’re not answering my question,” Kline said.

I-960 hearing: Tough times require tough decisions

OLYMPIA — Nick Federici of  the low income housing alliance, says the state doesn’t have a spending problem, it has a revenue problem. It cut its budget last year.

Without this bill, the Legislature has no options other than to cut, he said

It would be irresponsible for you to try to cut your way out of this budget deficit,” he said. It would result in more mentally ill people on the streeti.

“In tough times you can make tough decisions about what the right balance is,” Federici said.

Other initiatives have been overturned completely by the Legislature, he said. This one only suspends the supermajority temporarily.

Kim Able of the state League of Women Voters, defended the changes to the transparency requirements. They still provide the public with information.

I-960 hearing: Roach “look at the vote” in 2007

OLYMPIA — Sen. Pam Roach warns that repealing I-960 will result in a higher percentage of voters supporting a new initiative to reinstate the two-thirds majority needed to raise taxes.

I-960 failed in the city of Seattle, Roach said, but it passed with big margins in other parts of the state.

I-960 hearing: Benton “strongly opposed

OLYMPIA — “What does the phrase will of the people mean to you,” Sen. Don Benton asked the Ways and Means Committee.

Of course Initiative 960 makes raising taxes more difficult, Benton said. But that’s what the people wanted. It also makes government more transparent.

“Too many of our citizens find the legislative process a mystery,” Benton said. “Too often legislators hear more from lobbyists than their constituents.”

THe voters did support the initiative, he said. “Why does public knowledge frighten so many here?”

Don’t throw out the rules for giving more information on the cost of legislation to the public.

WA Lege Day 25: Blogging Sen. Ways & Means hearing on I-960

OLYMPIA — The Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing on proposed changes to Initiative 960, the law that requires a two-thirds majority to pass a tax increase, is just starting.

Spin Control will attempt to blog the highlights. Thus far, it has mainly been milling about, with committee staffer Diane Criswell giving the standard report of bill highlights on SB 6843.

In the audience is initiative maestro Tim Eyman, Evergreen Freedom Foundation head Bob Williams.

Sen. Don Benton and Sen Pam Roach have been called for testimony.

WA Lege Day 25: A way around I-960?

OLYMPIA — The first step in Senate Democrats’ efforts to put together a budget that could include tax increases may take place this afternoon, when a bill to suspend Initiative 960 through June 2011 is scheduled for a committee hearing.

The bill, SB 6834, is described as “Preserving essential public services by temporarily suspending the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases and permanently modifying provisions of Initiative Measure No. 960 for improved efficiency and consistency with state budgeting.” For more information on the bill, read this morning’s story by clicking here.

The official hearings schedule still includes the caveat that it will be among bills up for a hearing if it is referred to committee, but that schedule hasn’t been updated since Wednesday afternoon, before Democrats announced they had introduced the bill.

Elsewhere around the Capitol, it is Energy Independence Lobby Day, Asian Pacific American Legislative Day. Miss Tri-Cities is making the rounds, and there’s a sing-along concert in the Rotunda at 3:30 p.m. (Where’s Mitch Miller when you need him?)

For a full list of the days committee hearings, click here and go inside the blog.

No. 1 consumer complaint: Collection agencies

OLYMPIA— When it comes to consumer complaints, collection agencies are at the top of the list for people who called the state attorney general’s office last year.

That’s up from No. 3 in 2008, the AG’s office reports. Collection agencies beat out telecommunications problems, last year’s numero uno, and retail sales complaints, which dropped from 2 to 3.

Making the biggest jump in the top 10 were Cable Networks and Program Distribution, up to 4 from 8.

For the complete list, plus historical data,  click here.

Senate Democrats want to suspend 2/3rds votes on taxes

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats formally proposed this afternoon a plan to suspend the super majority required to raise taxes through the middle of 2011 and make other permanent changes to the tax-limiting initiative voters approved two years ago

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, called Initiative 960 a “straightjacket on our state in a time of economic crisis” and a requirement that gives a minority the ability to obstruct the Legislature.

Senate Bill 6843 would suspend through June 2011 the requirement that all tax increases must pass with a two-thirds majority, and make a simple majority the permanent rule for any tax increase needed to carry out a policy approved by voters in an initiative that didn’t come with its own source of taxes.

The most obvious examples of the latter would be money needed for smaller classroom sizes and for pay raises for teachers, which were both passed in voter initiatives in 2000 but have been suspended in tight state budgets.

It also would allow the Legislature to “clarify legislative intent” on tax policy if the state Supreme Court were to interpret the law as not allowing a particular tax or tax exemption. That’s significant in light of a court decision last fall that ruled against a tax for Dot Foods, an out of state supplier. That ruling is estimated to drop state tax revenues by  $137 million per year.

Sen. Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said the proposal was a prelude to raising taxes to bail out poor state budget decisions of the past. “It creates a climate of fear and apprehension that will only quash job creation and put more people out of work.”

Democrats have talked of their intentions to suspend the super majority since before the session began and Republicans have talked just as long that such a move would flaunt the will of the people.

Republicans have introduced a bill to “reaffirm” the two-thirds majority and initiative sponsor Tim Eyman has already begun gathering signatures on a ballot measure asking voters to reinstate the super majority in November. He and other co-sponsors filed the initiative on the first day of the legislative session.

The bill is one of two proposals being discussed by Democrats looking for a way around the two-thirds majority requirement imposed in I-960. The other would be to repeal it entirely, Brown said.

The bill has a title that some might regard as “high-faluting.” It is official called “Preserving essential public services by temporarily suspending the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases and permanently modifying provisions of Initiative Measure No. 960 for improved efficiency and consistency with state budgeting.”

The bill will get a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee Thursday afternoon, and likely  come to the Senate floor sometime next week, Brown said.

WA Lege Day 24 update2: Law enforcement bills sail through House

OLYMPIA — Both houses of the Legislature passed resolutions honoring law enforcement officers killed in West Side incidents late last year. The House of Representatives then gave overwhelming support to bills that were spawned by those slayings.

By a vote of 96-0, the House approved changes in the state’s bail laws that require bail be set after an individual reports on a suspect rather than a simple schedule used by a judge that sets bail.

By the same margin the House approved tougher penalties for relatives who help a fugitive, making the lighter sentences currently available to relatives only apply to those under 18.

They also approved a bill directed at the Phillip Paul escape during an Eastern State Hospital field trip to the county fair last fall. In the future, when a mental health facility patient escapes who is either criminally insane or being treated after found incompetent to stand trial for a crime, state and local law enforcement officials must be notified, as well as other government agencies, relatives, the victim of the crime or the victim’s next of kin, and any witnesses who testified against the patient in court. That bill also passed 96-0.

The House put off a vote on a constitutional amendment that would allow judges to hold some suspects without bail even if they weren’t facing a capital crime. The bill was requested by the governor and supported by a bipartisan coalition. House Republicans contend the bill was delayed to let Democrats who plan to vote no to do so when relatives of the slain officers were not in the gallery.

Kastama responds to Sunday column: The road to recovery will be long

OLYMPIA — Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, took exception to a portion of Sunday’s column regarding the pace of legislative action on addressing the state’s budget crisis. He offered an op-ed column, which didn’t fit the editorial page’s guidelines, and will be trimmed down to a letter.

But since this started in Spin Control, we’re  happy to run the op-ed column in full, without comment. It starts here, and jumps inside the blog:

Economic recovery needs more than a quick fix

 By Sen. Jim Kastama

 A recent column by Jim Camden in the Spokesman-Review questioned the speed and scope of the Legislature’s efforts to create jobs. In particular, the piece quoted me as saying, “The recovery’s going to come one job at a time,” and characterized that viewpoint as inadequate because we lost so many jobs so quickly.

I’d like your readers to know why that perception misses the mark.

  We’re not going to bounce back from this recession by putting people back to work in the same jobs and fields from which they were laid off. Many of those jobs are gone forever, in industries that are or will soon be gone as well. Any hopes of a quick turnaround, however well-intended, are naïve.

  The media’s penchant for quick answers and fast results only exacerbates matters by pressuring lawmakers to rush to short-term solutions that sound good but accomplish little — and obscure the actual nature of the challenge before us.

  Our economic landscape is changing on a magnitude comparable to our country’s transformation from an agrarian economy to an industrial society at the turn of the 19th Century…

WA Lege Day 24 update: Law enforcement resolution passes

OLYMPIA — Senate just passed unanimously the resolution honoring fallen law enforcement officers.

Action moves to the House, which is considering a similar resolution.

WA Lege Day 24: Honoring law enforcement officers

OLYMPIA — The Senate is voting this morning on a resolution to honor the law enforcement officers killed last year in the Puget Sound area. Look for it to pass unanimously as soon as speeches are done.

Later in the morning they’ll be voting on other bills.

Meanwhile, it is Career College Education Day and Burke Museum Day. Boy Scouts are in the Capitol Rotunda this morning to give their annual report

And the afternoon hearing schedule is full. It can be found inside the blog by clicking here.

Should Legislature step into Spokane hospital fight?

OLYMPIA – The dispute between Spokane’s two biggest hospitals spilled over into the legislative session Tuesday as a Senate panel considered changing a law that would determine how a judge could settle any impasse.

The dispute involves Inland Northwest Health Services, a non-profit jointly operated by the companies that own Sacred Heart and Deaconess medical centers. INHS operates an electronic medical records system, an air ambulance service and other systems shared by the two hospitals as well as other hospitals, clinics and doctors in Spokane and around the region.

Each has a vote on the INHS board, but can’t agree, which presents the region with a dilemma, State Rep. John Driscoll, D-Spokane. said. Under state law, if a non-profit board is deadlocked and takes the dispute to Superior Court, a judge has few options other than dissolving the corporation.

To read the rest of the story, go inside the blog

Maybe they should try Wack-A-Mole?

OLYMPIA – A state agency has used illegal traps to kill moles around the Capitol and the governor’s mansion for about a decade, ever since voters banned them with an initiative.

That surprised another state agency, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which enforces the law against “body-gripping” traps. On Tuesday, it issued a warning to the General Administration Department, the same thing it would do to a homeowner found using the traps.

General Administration has used the spring-loaded steel traps for years in the late winter to kill moles, which do significant damage on the Capitol grounds, Steve Valandra, a department spokesman said: “We want to get to the moles before they start breeding.”

The department thought the traps had been exempted from the law, Valandra said. It has seven of the traps, and typically kills a couple dozen moles as the traps are moved around the grounds, based on some sign of the critters.

That stopped Tuesday, after Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, got a call from a constituent who spotted a trap near a walking trail by the old state Conservatory. He checked out the traps on Monday, and was convinced they were banned by the 2000 initiative, which isn’t popular in his northeastern Washington district.
“A private citizen would be in trouble for using these traps,” Kretz said, adding there was a safety concern. “I was worried about a kid coming along and putting their hand in there.”

To read the rest of the story, Click here to go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 23: Cutoff

OLYMPIA — Today is the day that policy bills in the House have to get out of their committees, or else.

Or else what? Well, in most cases, if they involve policy rather than money, they’re dead. Thanks to amendments, complicated rules, and some members’s abilities to work them, there is a saying that nothing is, in the words of the Coroner of the Munchkins “really most sincerely dead” until the legislators go home. But in for most House policy bills, they bite the dust, take a dirt nap, end up on the ash heap of history…at least until next session.

In the mean time, it is Arts Day in the Capitol, as well as a day when members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union and the Refugee Women’s Alliance will be lobbying legislators.

Hearing schedule is inside the blog. Click here to read it. 

Gregoire on Medicaid money: Book it

An update on story posted earlier

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire said she’s confident the federal government will come up with some $435 million in money for Medicaid reimbursements over the next 18 months, easing somewhat the cuts the state would have to make on health care spending to fill a projected hole in its budget
At a morning press conference to announce the number of jobs generated by federal stimulus money, Gregoire said she now expects both houses of Congress will extend the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages – commonly called FMAP – in a way that sends higher reimbursement for Medicaid patients to Washington. The state has traditionally has lower reimbursement rates than many other places.
Higher FMAP funding would reduce the amount of revenue the state would have to produce — through taxes or fees or federal grants — to “buy back” some state programs she proposed cutting in her December budget.
The FMAP proposal was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, and has yet to pass the Senate, but is in President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget proposal.
“I’m going to book it,” Gregoire said, noting that other states including California have already factored into their budgets.
To read more, Click Here to go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 22: Gregoire confident Medicaid money coming

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire said she’s confident the federal government will come up with some $435 million in money for Medicaid reimbursements over the next 18 months, easing somewhat the cuts the state would have to make on health care spending.

At a morning press conference to announce the number of jobs generated by federal stimulus money, Gregoire said she now expects both houses of Congress will extend a Medicaid matching program known as FMAP in the 2011 fiscal year. That would reduce the amount of revenue the state would have to produce — through taxes or fees or federal grants — to “buy back” some programs from proposed cuts in her December budget.

The proposal has yet to pass the Senate, but is in President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget proposal. “I’m going to book it,” Gregoire said.

But it would still leave about $345 million out of the amount she said the state needed to save essential programs. Some of those funds might also be in a federal jobs bill, but that is stalled in the Senate. She declined to discuss tax options for the remainder, saying the totals could change later this month when the revenue forecast is released.

More on the press conference later.

In the Legislature, the clock is ticking and tomorrow is the first cutoff when “policy” bills — ones that change something the state does or doesn’t do, not legislation that spends money — must get out of their House committees.

The state Public Ports Association will be celebrating port districts, the State Elks will be in the Rotunda and Planned Parenthood of Washington will be lobbying for reproductive rights.

And there’s a full schedule of hearings, which can be seen by clicking here and going inside the blog.

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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.

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