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THURSDAY, FEB. 24, 2011, 11:32 A.M.

WA Lege Day 46: Money committees @ work; Baumgartner bill faces vote

OLYMPIA -- Most of the heavy lifting today will either be done in the Ways and Means Committees or Transportation Committees, or by people trying to shovel snow off their driveways.

Snow is falling at a good clip around Olympia and in the South Sound, so some folks will be slow getting to the Capitol this morning. But the House has no floor activity scheduled and the Senate's spent most of the morning in caucus. They started to move some bills around 11:30 a.m., including some adjustments to the injured workers compensation system and a bill that would require agencies to consider the economic impacts of their policies. The latter is sponsored by freshman Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, and would be his first bill brought to the floor...which means he could be subjected to some good-natured hazing.

House Ways and Means planned to start its hearings at 9 a.m. and Chairman Ross Hunter is threatening to go late into the evening if necessary to clear bills off its calendar. At some point today they'll deal with bills ranging from state employees going back on the payroll after they started collecting their pension to lower pay for school employees to electing precinct committee officers in the presidential primary.

Senate Ways and Means doesn't start until 1:30 p.m. but it too has a potpourri of issues such as the management of water resources to  setting up a non-profit online university to Medicaid fraud.

Why the crush? Friday is the deadline for getting bills out of the original chamber's money committee. Those that don't are dead without some parliamentary maneuvering.

So it's a bit unusual that one bill was just introduced that would allow certain areas to set up a "Public Speedway Authority" and build a track where they could hold NASCAR races. One could say the bill will have to be put on a fast track to have a chance of making the finish line, but then one could be accused of not working very hard to come up with a joke.

It was supposed to be Massage Awareness Day in the Capitol, but that's been cancelled...rubbed out, so to speak. There will probably be a few more folks wearing purple to signify they are health care workers with the SEIU in town to lobby their legislators.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.