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Spin Control

Archive for February 2012

A dam good bill with some teeth in it

OLYMPIA — Beavers making a nuisance of themselves in Western Washington could be relocated to Eastern Washington areas that need their help in damming streams, but the furry critters from Eastern Washington couldn't be shipped west under a bill approved Wednesday by the Senate.

Seems there's already too many of the tree-chomping mammals west of the Cascades.

The proposal, described by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, as a “cute, furry little bill,” allows the Department of Fish and Wildlife to set up a system in which a landowner who wants to improve groundwater or downstream flows can request beavers being captured elsewhere and removed from land where they are creating a nuisance. It also provided several legislators some much-needed work on their joke delivery.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Precinct caucuses: The where, what and how

Eastern Washington Republicans might know the “who” for their precinct caucuses this weekend. Three of the four presidential hopefuls have stopped in Spokane over the last three weeks, and all of them have been debating and campaigning for months.
Caucus goers might also know the when, but it’s worth repeating: 10 a.m. Saturday.
They may be wondering about the where, which is a bit more complicated, considering there are more than 90 locations in Spokane County alone. Before getting to that list, a brief primer on the what and how of precinct caucuses:
Caucuses are essentially meetings of like-minded individuals. There are Democratic and Republican caucuses in Congress and the Legislature, as well as caucuses formed around geographic proximity or causes ranging from military families to farm products. A precinct caucus is a chance for people in a small geographic area, who consider themselves party  members, to gather every two years to discuss issues. Every four years, they also discuss presidential candidates.
Washington voters don’t register by party. To attend a GOP caucus this weekend, you’ll have to declare yourself a Republican and promise not to attend Democratic caucuses in April. Upon arriving, you’ll get a straw poll ballot to mark a preference for one of the four GOP presidential candidates. The straw poll won’t decide presidential delegates, it’s just a snapshot of where caucus-goers are, and results for the state will be released that evening.
During the caucus, the group may discuss the merits of one or all candidates before asking for a show of support for each one. You can change your mind, and decide to support a different candidate than you marked on the ballot.
Based on the strength of the candidates, delegates from each precinct will be awarded for the county convention in April. The delegates at county conventions pick delegates to the state convention, who pick delegates to the national convention. That final group of delegates are pledged to presidential nominees, and changes in support can occur along the way. The caucuses are the beginning, not a conclusion, of determining the state’s support for presidential candidates.
The caucuses also deal with issues that may be part of the GOP county platform, or statement of principles. Depending on attendance for your particular precinct, the process can be over in less than a half hour, or it could go the full two hours. Party rules say the caucuses must end by noon.

To see the list of Spokane County precinct caucus locations, click here to go inside the blog.

Dem freshmen leap into tax reform

OLYMPIA — Democratic freshmen in the House called this morning for tax reforms ranging from a state capital gains tax to an end to sales tax exemptions for out-of-state shoppers.

At a press conference, a dozen first-term Democratic reps also said they'd like the Office of Financial Management to do a detailed study of the state's revenue picture and the tax burdens its citizens have. They'd also like to swap the Business and Occupation tax for a 1 percent income tax.

Spokane Rep. Andy Billig, one of the 12, said they wanted a tax system that's “fair and stable and adequate.”

It's Leap Day, as well as Day 52 of the 60-day session, so a reasonable question might be what's the prospect that any of this will pass before the gavel comes down on the session on March 8?

They're going to try to get proposals out of committees and onto the House floor for a vote, Billig said. But if not, they'll work over the interim to push these ideas. When they pushed for closing a tax exemption the state gives large banks on mortgages last year, they didn't get much support; this year members of both parties in both houses support it, Billig said.

The House is scheduled to vote sometime today on its version of a revised 2011-13 General Fund budget. Are they withholding their votes on their leadership's budget unless they get action on their package?

“We don't leverage votes,” Rep. Chris Reykdahl of Tumwater said. “We will vote on our budget today.”

Problems with the state's “structural problems” on taxes were a big topic of the House Ways and Means Committee hearing later in the morning, where Rep. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma, another one of the 12, got a hearing on her proposal for a state capital gains tax. Chairman Ross Hunter of Medina tried to corral testimony by reminding witnesses that the panel consider fiscal issues, not policy matters. That wasn't too successful, so he warned the crowd that anyone who questioned the motives an any legislator, on any side, would have their testimony cut off.

Paul and Santorum coming to Inland Northwest (again)

Two GOP presidential candidates who already held events in the Inland Northwest this month are headed back, Spokane County GOP Chairman Matthew Pederson announced today.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum will hold a rally at noon Thursday at New Life Assembly Church, 10920 E. Sprague Ave.

Ron Paul will make his second appearance this campaign season at the Spokane Convention Center. He'll hold a rally there at noon Friday.

Santorum spoke earlier this month in Coeur d'Alene but has since mostly focused on Michigan where he hopes to pull off an upset in that state's primary today.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke in Spokane last week. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hasn't visited the area, though his son spoke to supporters in Spokane Valley last week.

Washington holds its GOP caucuses on Saturday. Idaho holds its caucuses on March 6, Super Tuesday.

Korean War vets’ day: July 27

OLYMPIA — The Legislature has approved setting aside July 27 as Korean War Veterans' Armistice Day.

Today the Senate voted 48-0 on HB 2138, a bill which earlier passed the House 95-0.

Why July 27? That's the day in 1953 the armistice was signed after about three years of war on the Korean Peninsula. A demarcation line was drawn, a demilitarized zone set up. And that's pretty much the way things have stood for the last 58 1/2 years.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, makes the day a “specially recognized day”. That's not a holiday but a day set aside for a special legislative “shout out”, like Juneteenth, Pearl Harbor Day or Marcus Whitman Day. It's also a day when the POW/MIA flag is to be displayed along with the U.S. and state flags. (Although on many government buildings, the black and white POW/MIA flag flies every day, just below the Stars and Stripes.)

For veterans of one of our “forgotten wars”, it seems the least the state can do, especially as we approach the 60th anniversary of the armistice.

McMorris Rodgers gets another veep mention

No. 6 in line? McMorris Rodgers at a recent press conference.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is ranked No. 6 on a list of 10 possible Republican vice presidential candidates by a GOP leaning election blog, Race 4 2012.

It describes her as “the biggest potential dark horse candidate” and plunks her down between Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.  It also commends her “gravitas.”

As nice as it is to have a Washington congresswoman on someone's short list, it should be noted that this blog doesn't even seem to know that the state's precinct caucuses are being held this weekend. So we'll take their Veep list with a grain of salt.

Sunday Spin: Reaching a deal on ORVs

OLYMPIA – With all the examples of disharmony in the Legislature, it’s nice to tell a tale of folks with different agendas finding common ground and working together.

Although it doesn’t involve such high-profile issues as taxes or budgets or gay marriage or abortion, there is such a tale with two sides as diametrically opposed as Puget Sound liberals and Eastern Washington conservatives or the state Labor Council and the Building Industry Association of Washington.

The issue involves off-road vehicles, also known as four-wheel all-terrain vehicles or off-highway vehicles. In one corner, we have the people who love to ride them, wherever they can; in the other, we have the people who want them ridden less, in fewer places, with more controls.

Put another way, we have on one side people who believe in their God-given right to enjoy the outdoors and regard their opponents as tree-hugging, whiny busy-bodies. On the other, we have people who believe it’s their life’s mission to protect the environment against loud louts and their fume-spewing machines.

One might expect them to reach a meeting of the minds about as often as Planned Parenthood and the Catholic bishops. . .

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

Gingrich: WA going right route on gay marriage, but people should vote it down

Gingrich answers questions at an Olympia press conference.

OLYMPIA — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he thinks allowing same-sex couples to marry is wrong, but the path Washington is taking to change its law is right.

Voters should have a chance to decide the issue, rather than the courts, Gingrich said. The Legislature passed, and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed, a bill to allow same-sex marriage but opponents have filed a referendum that would delay the law and block it if they gather enough signatures by June 6.

“I don't agree with it. If I were voting, I'd vote no,” Gingrich said during a break in meetings with Republican legislators this morning. “But at least they're doing it the right way.”

During a later news conference with local reporters, the Republican presidential candidate said he's changed his mind on medical marijuana and no longer supports efforts to have the federal government reclassify the drug so it could be prescribed for certain conditions.

He did support such reclassification in the 1980s, he said, but changed his position: “I was convinced by parents who didn't want any suggestion made to their children that drugs were appropriate.”

States don't have the right to pass medical marijuana laws and then allow some sort of distribution system to be set up, he added. “I think the federal government has been very clear… that federal law trumps state law.”

WA Lege Day 46: Will they finish on time

OLYMPIA — With two weeks left in the 2012 session, and the Senate's budget proposal still about four days away from being released, some legislators are expressing doubt that they will leave town on time.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said Thursday, however, she thought finishing work without the need of a special session was doable. . “That's the plan. . .

House Democrats and House Republicans have each released budgets, which have no visible support from members of the opposing parties.

Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has been working with Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, the ranking Republican on that panel, on a different operating budget that might garner bipartisan support.

“I can't speak to the number of (Republican) votes,” Brown, a Spokane Democrat, said.

The Senate operating budget will be released Tuesday, leaving just 10 days to wrap up everything.

Along with the changes to the beleaguered operating budget, the Legislature must also pass a Capital construction budget (sometimes known as the Jobs package), and a revised transportation budget. There's legislation on medical insurance exchanges to meet federal health care reforms which Gov. Chris Gregoire wants but Republicans insist aren't necessary. 

There are some proposals for government reforms, a proposal for a constitutional amendment on balanced budgets.  And there's a question of a tax increase. Gregoire proposed a temporary sales tax increase, which Republicans in both chambers oppose. The House Democrats' budget doesn't have a state tax increase in it, but offers plenty of chances for local taxes to go up, though. The Senate budget will balance without a tax increase, but there may be a proposal to ask voters to approve some sort of increase.

“We have not completely ruled that out,” Brown said.

So with all that on the table, can the Legislature really finish on time? Yes it could, Brown said: “There will still be controversies before we're done. Everybody's talking. When you need to get worried is when they're not talking.”

McMorris Rodgers: Romney should emphasize fiscal issues

OLYMPIA – In this year’s volatile Republican presidential campaign, Mitt Romney’s success in the March 3 Washington caucuses may depend on how well he does in the two contests earlier in the week, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chairwoman of his state campaign, said Wednesday.
“It’s up and down,” McMorris Rodgers said in an interview with reporters. “Some of it depends on how things turn out in Michigan and Arizona.”
Those states have primaries on Tuesday; the Washington precinct caucuses are next Saturday…

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

Gay marriage foes challenge ballot language

OLYMPIA — Opponents of same-sex marriage don't like the ballot language that Attorney General Rob McKenna has written for the referendum to overturn the law signed last week.

In a motion filed this week in Thurston County Superior Court, Preserve Marriage Washington argues that the ballot language leaves out a key element of the effect of the law, which will take effect on June 7 if opponents don't gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot by June 6. That element: the law would render the terms “husband” and “wife” gender neutral.

Voters who read the ballot title are not fully apprised of the legal effects of the law, PMW argues in its request to have the court change the ballot language to something closer to the language proposed when the referendum petition was filed with the state.

Last week, McKenna was criticized by Democrats for using the term “redefine marriage” in the ballot language when that phrase does not appear in the bill. Democrats say that's a term tested by groups opposed to same-sex marriage to influence voters.

To compare the language the sponsors of Ref. 74 submitted with the language McKenna's office proposed, go inside the blog.

Romney’s son defends dad’s health care record

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Josh Romney campaign for dad in Spokane Valley

Josh Romney, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s son, spoke to about 75 people at CenterPlace in Spokane Valley on Tuesday.

Romney, 36, is the third of Romney’s five sons. He’s a real estate investor who lives in Salt Lake City.

He said his dad will campaign on March 1 in Bellevue and a location that hasn’t been finalized in Eastern Washington. He downplayed the recent surge in polls experienced by Santorum.

“We feel really good about how things are going. There’s no primary process that is easy or predictable,” he said. “We’re just making sure that people understand our message, our vision for this country and where my dad would take us.”

Josh Romney addressed concerns about his dad’s health care plan in Massachusetts, which he called “a state solution to a state problem.” He also stressed that his dad is “firmly pro-life,” and painted him as an outsider with important business experience.

“My dad’s the one guy who has never worked one day in Washington D.C.”

House Dem budget has no state sales tax increase

OLYMPIA — House Democrats offered a budget plan that doesn't call for a state tax increase and doesn't make some of the cuts to public schools and state services that Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed in November.

The school year wouldn't be shorter. The money the state sends to school districts to help make up for the differences in property values between rich areas and poor areas, known as levy equalization, wouldn't be cut. Inmates wouldn't be released early from state prisons.

But House Democrats did propose pulling back some state money currently going to counties and cities, then giving local governments the authority to raise local taxes to cover the difference. They do delay payments to school districts, in what some Republicans call an accounting gimmick. They reduce state employment by more than 1,500 full-time workers. They would leave less money in the treasury at the end of the fiscal period than either Gregoire or the House Republicans. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go  inside the blog.

Gingrich coming to Spokane

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will hold a campaign rally downtown Spokane on Thursday afternoon.

His Washington campaign coordinator said Gingrich will be at The Bing Theater at 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. It was earlier described by Spokane County GOP officials as a town hall style meeting, but state campaign officials later called it a rally.

Gingrich is the third GOP presidential hopeful to make a stop in the Inland Northwest. Rick Santorum spoke in Coeur d'Alene last week and Ron Paul held a rally at the Spokane Convention Center on Friday.

Mitt Romney's son visited the Spokane Valley this afternoon.

Gingrich, despite being from Georgia, has noteworthy ties to Inland Northwest politics that he may or may not dwell on in his visit.

He engineered the 1994 Republican sweep that — among other things — took leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives away from Spokane when Republican George Nethercutt beat sitting House Speaker Tom Foley, a Democrat. Republicans, after capturing control of the House that year, chose Gingrich to replace Foley.

Washington holds its precinct caucuses on March 3. Idaho's caucuses are March 6.

People dying without health insurance, panel told

Jaydra Cope at the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee hearing.

OLYMPIA – Jaydra Cope of Spokane sat patiently through a legislative hearing Monday on federal health care reform as Republicans and Democrats sparred over sections of the law and insurance companies differed over whether a bill should be changed.

The Eastern Washington University social work student hoped to deliver much simpler message to the committee than the intricacies of health care exchanges or the differences between bronze, silver or gold plans. If there was time.

“People are dying,” Cope said outside hearing room. Her brother was one of them. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Fancy meeting you here

OLYMPIA — You never know who will show up in the “wings” of the Senate or House chambers.

That's the area behind the curtains, off the main floor, where members come and go, chat, discuss legislation.

On Monday, two former legislators who have now gone on to bigger things bumped into each other as Sen. Maria Cantwell was leaving the Senate Democratic Caucus room, and Sen. Patty Murray was going in.

Both are in the state during the Presidents' Day recess in Congress.

Note to Sen. Murray: About that ‘50s reference. . .

Sen. Patty Murray, in the state Senate wings on Monday.

Sen. Patty Murray is getting some mileage out of a recent e-mail she sent out as head of the group that raises money to elect or re-elect Democrats to the Senate.

In it, Murray denounces both a comment by a prominent Rick Santorum supporter on “old-style”  birth control and an all-male panel discussing contraception in a House Committee.

I feel like I woke up this morning on the set of “Mad Men.” Republicans have set their time machine for the 1950s – back when, according to one prominent Republican, women could just “put aspirin between their knees” to avoid getting pregnant.

According to a follow -up from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Aspirin Agenda appeal  was a big hit on the money-raising circuit. Murray got mentioned on Meet the Press in a discussion of the controversy which is sometimes framed as being over contraception and other times being about  religious freedom.

Talking heads can argue that point on TV through the election if they want. It's your typically breathless, the sky is falling, “please give us your money before some deadline passes” appeal for campaing cash.

But Spin Control wants to point out one slight flaw in Murray's e-mail.

“Mad Men” is not set in the 1950s. It is set in the 1960s.

True, the '50s is probably considered a more Republican decade, with Ike in the White House, Joe McCarthy in the Senate and men in gray flannel suits. The '60s is probably viewed as the more Democratic decade, with JFK and LBJ, Civil Rights and anti-war protests, flower children, hippies and yippies.

But the adventures of Don Draper, et al, start in 1960, when the ad firm is hired to work on the presidential campaign of a young candidate, a World War II vet that many people see as his party's next generation of leaders. Richard Nixon.

Just sayin.

The full e-mail is inside the blog, for those who aren't on the DSCC list.

Presidents’ Day Trivia

Although Wednesday is technically (although not actually*) Washington's Birthday, today is President's Day.

It's a day we give a holiday to most government workers, banks, some parking meters and mail delivery. Congress gets the day off, despite the Separation of Powers.

The Washington Legislature does not take Presidents Day off. It has a full day of hearings on the schedule, and several groups are taking advantage of the three-day weekend to mount protests in and around the Capitol.

But the juxtaposition of a day on for the Legislature and a day off for much of the country for President's Day brings up this trivia question, courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislatures:

How many presidents were former legislators?

Answer to question, and explanation of the *, inside the blog.

Sunday Spin: Does familiarity breed endorsement?

With presidential candidates making their quadrennial stops in the Inland Northwest ahead of the caucuses, Republican voters might be wondering how to pick among the four remaining candidates.

After all, none of the four has very strong connections to the region, or has spent much time in the area when not on the campaign trail. And some haven’t even made so much a pit stop here yet.

Spin Control decided to get some insight from one fairly well-known Republican who served with at least three of the four would-be nominees. Former Rep. George Nethercutt was elected to the House in the historic GOP takeover engineered by Newt Gingrich, and served with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul during his six years there.

So who’s he backing? . . .

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

A Romney coming Tuesday (not Mitt)

Mitt Romney doesn’t have a campaign stop in the Inland Northwest yet, but one of his sons, Josh, is attending a campaign meet and greet, plus caucus training, at 12:15 Tuesday at Center Place in the Spokane Valley.

Hear Paul on gay marriage, pot, Maine’s caucus, McMorris Rodgers and more

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Ron Paul takes questions from the press

After his rally Friday night, Paul took questions from the media, which was almost entirely from local outlets. (The NBC cameraman told me that he's the last member of the national press who still is following Paul regularly.)

Paul rally shows his support still strong in Spokane County

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Ron Paul takes questions from the press

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul may not have won a state primary yet, but he remains a favorite to win Spokane County.

A standing-room-only crowd of about 2,300 shouted their support for Paul during his 45-minute speech Friday evening at the Spokane Convention Center.

Paul is the second Republican presidential candidate to visit the Inland Northwest this week as Washington and Idaho prepare for their presidential caucuses early next month. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum spoke to about 600 supporters in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday.

Paul, who was introduced by state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, started his speech pointing to his strong base of support. In 2008, Paul finished first in the caucuses in Spokane County, capturing 46 percent of the vote.

“Four years ago I was told that there was a brush fire started here for the cause of liberty,” he said. “It looks like it’s much bigger than a brush fire right now.”

Paul, a Texas congressman who ran for the GOP nomination four years ago and was the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee in 1988, criticized the Iraq War and recent government bailouts of economic institutions.

“The people who should have had the depression got the bailout,” he said. “The American people ended up owning this debt.”

He called for less foreign intervention, halting the war on drugs, the repeal of the Patriot Act, an end to federal income taxes and a return to the gold standard.

WA Lege Day40: House GOP budget; honoring internees

OLYMPIA — It's Day 40 of the Legislative session, which means the regular session is two-thirds over at day's end. House Republicans will be releasing their budget proposal at noon, which might best be described as an alt-budget to the spending plan that will move through the House Ways and Means Committee in the coming weeks.

Except that the majority budget isn't written yet, so there's no easy way to compare it to its main competition. This will, however, be the first full scale budget to compare to Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal from last November.

This morning, the House had a resolution honoring Japanese-Americans interned by order of President Franklin Roosevelt, which was signed 70 years ago today. While resolutions are nice, the Legislature booted an opportunity to provide the internees with a more concrete honor, by making them eligible for the state's POW plate, or giving them a special plate of their own.

There was such a bill, SB 6467, which got a hearing in the Senate Transportation Commission, then died a quiet death. The Senate did, however, approve specialty plates for the state flower and the National Rifle Association.

Where Condon and GOP-leaning city leaders stand on race for president

With the race for the Republican nomination for president heating up and candidate Ron Paul headed to Spokane, Spokane Mayor David Condon said he doesn't plan to endorse a candidate.

“I'm not going to get involved in national politics,” he said.

Condon said he hasn't decided if he will participate in the March 3 Washington caucus.

Meanwhile, other Republican-leaning elected Spokane officials haven't solidified their presidential picks.

Council members Nancy McLaughlin and Mike Fagan said this week that they are trying to decide between Paul and Rick Santorum.

Councilman Mike Allen said he's leaning toward Mitt Romney, and Councilman Steve Salvatori said he's undecided.

The other ballot measure against gay marriage

OLYMPIA — A Thurston County judge has settled on ballot language for Initiative 1192, which would prohibit same-sex marriage by defining marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman.

This is not to be confused with Referendum 74, which would prohibit same-sex marriage by blocking the bill signed earlier this week by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

It's likely that petitions for both ballot measures will be in circulation at the same time in fairly short order.

I-1192 was filed earlier this year by Stephen Pidgeon, before the debate over the legislative bill took place, and is proactive. It would bans same-sex marriage, period.

Ref. 74 was filed a few hours after Gregoire signed SB 6239, and in that sense is reactive. It would keep that particular law from taking effect.

They could both be on the November ballot if supporters get enough signatures. For Ref. 74, that's about 120,500 valid signatures by June 6. For I-1192, that's about 241,000 signatures by July 6.

Huh? It's a difference in state law between the rules for initiatives and referenda, which have different threshholds and signature gathering periods. Chances are, people who sign one will sign the other, so whether one reaches the ballot but not the other may come down to whether one side has better organization or more money to pay signature gatherers.

If you want to read the official ballot language and summary for I-1192, click on the document.


State revenue forecast: Almost flat

OLYMPIA — Washington might collect about $96 million more in taxes over the next 17 months than previously projected, which isn't much in a $30 billion budget. Relatively speaking, the revenue forecast is flat.

That was good news for Democratic legislators trying to fix a budget problem that for several years has grown every few months with a new economic forecast.

“Flat is the new awesome,” Rep, Ross Hunter, D-Medina, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said this morning as figures were released.

More important than the relatively tiny uptick in revenues — this quarter's projected rise is less than last quarter's projected drop of $143 million, state Budget Director Marty Brown noted — is a drop in the demand for state services, which helps on the other side of the General Fund budget's balance sheet. That's about $330 million less than Gov. Chris Gregoire assumed in November when preparing a new budget for the fiscal period that lasts through June 2013 and called for cuts and a temporary tax increase to fill the growing gap in the budget.

“The draconian cuts seem to shrink somewhat,” Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said.

It's too soon to tell how much, Murray and Hunter said. Legislators need to factor both figures, the lower demand for some state services and the slightly higher state revenue, into budgets they've been working on since before the session started. “It's a cascade of numbers…You change one, all of the others change as well,” Hunter said.

Also unknown, in light of the change in projected revenue and expenses, is whether the Legislature will agree with Gregoire's request to put the sales tax increase on the ballot. Adding the $330 million in projected caseload demands and the extra $96 million in projected revenue creates an amount close to what the sales tax increase would have generated for the rest of the biennium.

“It's a question,” Murray said. “A week ago, I would have said it's not a question.”

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, chairman of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, disagreed. A tax increase “never should have been a question in the first place,” he said.

House Republicans are scheduled to announce their budget proposal Friday. House Democrats will announce theirs early next week and a Senate budget proposal, which could have support from members of both parties, will be announced the week after. The session is scheduled to end March 7.

Rev forecast may be positive for a change

OLYMPIA – Washington might get the most optimistic budget outlook in years Thursday when state economists deliver the latest revenue forecast.
The demand for state services may be lower and the amount of expected revenue may be higher than last November, signaling a shift of more than $500 million to the good.
Things may be so good, in fact, that on Wednesday Republicans were already worrying the forecast could take the pressure off majority Democrats to agree to some long-term reforms the GOP has been pushing. . .

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

City Council hits the road

The Spokane City Council will hit the road Thursday in a new monthly event meant to spark dialogue on city issues.

City Council President Ben Stuckart promised in his campaign for the office last year to hold regular forums outside Monday City Council meetings so council members could answer constituents’ questions more fully.

The forum, called “Talk About Town” will start at 7 p.m. at Browne Elementary School, 5102 N. Driscoll Blvd.

Stuckart said the new forums will allow for “two-way dialogue” that will be more conducive to topics that aren’t on the regular City Council agenda. For example, he noted that several childcare providers came to Monday’s meeting to discuss concern about state regulations, but council members didn’t have time to provide much feedback.

“We can have more of dialogue rather than just me giving a few statements after seven of them speak,” Stuckart said.

The forum will be held just before the start of the Northwest Neighborhood Council meeting.

Ron Paul picking up endorsements, headed for Spokane

GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. rally Friday evening at the Spokane Convention Center, and is picking up endorsements in and around Spokane.

State Rep. Matt Shea, Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase, and Republican Central Committeemembers John Christina of Spokane and Karen Skoog of Elk all endorsed Paul, the campaign announced today.

Many of those endorsements come as  no surprise. Chase, like Paul, was once a Libertarian candidate; he became active in the Paul campaign in 2008 and was part of the Texas congressman's delegation that helped shape the Spokane County GOP platform.

Shea, R-Spokane Valley, shares many of Paul's views on state's rights, limited government and less spending. He was among legislators who met with GOP contender Rick Santorum on Monday, when the former Pennsylvania senator was in Olympia. Shea was complimentary of Santorum but said he wasn't endorsing him, adding he thought the Spokane Valley's 4th Legislative District would probably split between Santorum and Paul.

Christina was an alternate delegate to the 2008 convention for Paul.

Paul's visit is the latest sign of the increasing interest Washington and Idaho are drawing this year, as the GOP nomination contest continues with four candidates. Santorum was in Washington on Monday and Idaho on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney is scheduled for a fundraiser in Seattle on March 1, and either Romney or one of his family members may be in Spokane before the March 3 caucuses.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has no campaign events scheduled in the region at this time. “Stay tuned,” campaign spokesman Lew Moore said. Gingrich does expect to make a stop in Washington, and the campaign would like to have him visit both sides of the state, Moore added.

Question for legislators? You might be able to phone it in

OLYMPIA – With the legislative session a little more than halfway through, many Washington residents might have a question or two for their state senator or representatives.

Some might have lots of questions.

Although many legislators are ensconced in Olympia for the duration, some plan to come back for town hall meetings this weekend. Others will be asking their constituents to phone it in – take part in a teleconference version of those meetings, sometimes known as a tele-town hall.

“It’ll be interesting,” state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said of his first tele-town hall, scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight. Although he served some 15 years in the House, the technology didn’t exist to do call-in meetings with large groups when he left the Legislature in 1995.

Participants call a toll-free number and enter an access code to participate. Some just dial in to listen; others want to ask questions.

In a session that involves fixing a major gap in the state’s general fund, cutting programs, possibly raising taxes, and approving a bill to allow same-sex marriage, there’s probably plenty to talk about.

For a list of teleconferences and actual town hall meetings for Spokane-area legislators in the coming weeks, click here to go inside the blog

Santorum brings the 2012 race to the Inland Northwest


Rick Santorum became the first presidential candidate to visit the Inland Northwest, just as national polls shows him emerging as the Republican favorite.


In response to questions from the press, Santorum downplayed the polls, noting that he had de-emphasized the same polls in recent weeks when they showed him behind.


“We just have to earn it one state at a time,” he said, adding, however, that the boost “has helped us in fundraising.”


Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, spoke for about 35 minutes and answered audience questions for an hour more at the Hagadone Events Center in Coeur d'Alene. About 600 packed the room, and police turned away dozens of cars at the gate.


Addressing the crowd in jeans and his signature campaign sweater vest, Santorum focused on what he described as attacks on freedoms by big government and President Barack Obama's “hostility” toward religion. He compared the American revolution to the French revolution and said that the American war for independence proved lasting because it was rooted in a higher power, while the French revolution was more focused on “fraternity.”


The Constitution exists to “protect one thing and that's to protect the rights given to you by God,” he said. 


Santorum didn't focus on the economy and jobs until nearly 20 minutes into his appearance.


This election is about the economy and jobs, “but, ultimately, it is about the role of government in your lives,” he said.


He said he is the best Republican to take on Obama in the November election because of his position on health care. 


“If we don't win this election, Obamacare will be implemented,” he said. “If Obamacare is implemented, the America as I describe it to you will be no more.”

Referendum number is up, by 1

OLYMPIA — The proposed ballot measure asking voters whether they support or oppose the same-sex marriage bill is Referendum 74, the Secretary of State's office said today.

The proposal had been given the number 73 yesterday, when opponents of the law filed for a referendum a few hours after Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the bill. Turns out, however, that 73 was given last year to a proposed challenge of the medical marijuana law. That effort didn't make it to the ballot, but the Secretary of State's office doesn't recycle numbers from unsuccessful petition drives.

Processing the referendum proposal now requires the Attorney General's office to write the ballot title, description and summary. Under the law, that can't take more than five days. The title, description or summary can be challenged, which would result in an expedited hearing in Thurston County Superior Court.

The printing of petitions and signature gathering would likely begin in early March, state elections officials said. Opponents of the law have until June 6 to gather 120,577 valid signatures from registered voters. If they don't, the law takes effect June 7.

If they do, the law is on hold until the November election, and only takes effect in early December if it passes. If it fails, it never takes effect.

WA Lege Day 37: Motion picture exemption passes

OLYMPIA – Motion Picture State Tax Exemption, take 2. And, action.

The Senate again approved the extension of a tax break for movies and television shows shot in Washington. The exemption, first offered in 2002, expired last year because the House failed to act on it last session, after it was approved in the Senate. On Tuesday, the Senate sent it back to the House on a vote of 40-8.

Supporters said the exemption is needed by the state's film industry, which includes production companies like North by Northwest in Spokane, as well as cameramen, actors and makeup artists. It’s difficult for them to compete for work when 44 other states offer some sort of incentive.

It also helps tourism by showing Washington locales, Sen. Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline said, at a time when the state's tourism budget for advertising has been cut.

Opponents like Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, said some tax breaks have to go because of the state's budget problems, and the return on investment is far less than many other exemptions.

But Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, who wrote the original legislation to offer tax breaks to the film industry a decade ago, said the bill involves a tax credit the state carefully scrutinizes to ensure accountability for jobs.

“We are sustaining jobs,” Brown said. “It adds to the diversity of our economy to help the arts.”

The bill now returns to the House. Last year it got caught in “end game dynamics” which supporters hope it will avoid this year, she said.

Obama to visit Boeing on Friday

President Obama has added a stop at the Boeing factory in Everett as part of his Wasington state visit on Friday.

Word from the Obama re-election campaign says it's part of the campaign theme of “an economy built to last based on American manufacturing and the importance of promoting American exports.”

But may also be an effort to answer the criticism that Obama tends to use Washington state as an ATM, stopping in for expensive fund-raisers with high rollers, jetting in and out on Air Force One and not seeing any ordinary folks as he's whisked up and down I-5. AF1 is landing at Paine Field in Everett, so Seattle to Everett commuters on Friday be warned.

He still has two big-ticket fund-raisers after the Boeing speech: a $17,900 per ticket brunch at the Medina home of a co-founder of Costco, and a $1,000 per ticket lunch at a Bellevue hotel (which also has a $5,000 option for a photo reception for those who want a pic with the prez.)

You read that right, brunch is almost 18 times more expensive than lunch. We're thinking brunch must be the all-you-can eat buffet spread, like they used to put on at the old Patsy Clark's restaurant on Sundays. Lunch must be more modest fare.

Of course in these instances, it's not so much about the bread you break, but with whom you break it.

Send your questions for Condon and Stuckart to KSPS

Spokane Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart will appear on a live call-in show on KSPS on Wednesday.

KSPS is accepting questions for the duo at The show starts at 8 p.m.

I'll be on the panel for the show, Talk to City Hall, so feel free to post suggested topics here, as well. 

Be careful where you point that snow blower

The next time it snows, think twice before tossing snow from a driveway into the street.

The Spokane City Council on Monday voted 5-1 to outlaw the dumping of snow into public streets or other public property with the exception of planting strips or snow berms created by city plows. Private plow companies caught breaking the law could face a $513 fine. Businesses could be fined $257 and homeowners $52.

Street officials say the law was needed because some plow companies have disregarded requests to stop moving snow into the street.

City Councilman Mike Fagan cast the lone vote against the law. He argued that it is hypocritical for the city to impose fines on people for moving snow into the street when city plows often push snow berms onto private property and sidewalks.

The council nixed a plan to lower the fine for not shoveling sidewalks from $103 to $53. City officials said the proposal to lower the fine was a mistake and requested to maintain the same penalty.

Councilman Mike Allen was absent at Monday's meeting.

Santorum looking for caucus support

Under the watchful eye of Ronald Reagan's portrait, Rick Santorum holds a press conference in the House Republican Caucus Room

OLYMPIA – Looking for a chance to “plant a flag” in Washington for the March 3 precinct caucuses, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum stopped by the state Capitol Monday to chat with GOP legislators.

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

A historic day, in many ways, for same-sex marriage issue

Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the same-sex marriage bill.

OLYMPIA — Within hours of Gov. Chris Gregoire signing a historic bill to allow same-sex couples to marry in Washington, opponents filed a referendum that would give voters a chance to endorse or reject it in November.

A Republican presidential candidate visiting the Capitol said the nation should move forward with a constitutional amendment that would ban same sex marriage.

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

WA Lege Day 36: Gay marriage bill signing today

OLYMPIA — The same-sex marriage legislation will be signed at 11:30 a.m. today in a ceremony in the State Reception Room.

Gov. Chris Gregoire usually signs bills in her conference room, which has a long table, lots of chairs, and is the site for most gubernatorial press conferences. It usually plenty big for even the most famous or notorious legislation.

The Reception Room, which is one floor up in the Capitol Building, is significantly bigger. It is also more ornate, with Tiffany chandeliers, historic flags, piano, marble walls and columns in which the tour guides love to point out images in the stone. 

They booked the Reception Room because they are expecting an even bigger crowd than the one that filled the conference room for Gregoire's announcement that she would support a same-sex marriage bill this session.

The Secretary of State's office said that it will take a few hours after the signing to complete the paperwork required to have the bill scanned and given a Revised Code of Washington citation, which is necessary to be on any referendum the opponents would file in an effort to get the law on the November ballot. The office has not yet been contacted by a potential sponsor, who must bring in the referendum petition and pay the $5 filing fee.

The would be Referendum 73. If opponents can gather just under 121,000 valid signatures of state voters by June 6 — that's half what you need for an initiative — the law is put on hold and same-sex marriage goes on the November ballot. It would only become law if voters approve, and the timeline for election results to be certified means that would be early December

If they don't file enough signature, the law takes effect June 7.

Sunday Spin: Did gay marriage debate hurt budget progress? Probably not…

OLYMPIA – Republican leaders in the Legislature have been uniformly critical of the same-sex marriage bills as the proposals worked their way through the two chambers on what can only be described as the fast track.

An issue like this generates lots of buzz, both for and against, captures attention inside and outside the state, and – in a phrase that risks becoming overused – “sucks up all the oxygen.”

In floor debates, few opponents of the bill who objected to the change for religious reasons failed to mention that the Legislature should be doing the important work of fixing the budget rather than tinkering with a social construct that went back at least to time immemorial . . .

To read the rest of this column, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Condon presents goals for first 100 days

Spokane Mayor David Condon unveiled his 100-day action plan on Friday with only 58 days left to complete his list.

Among his promises for within his first 100 days in office:

- Providing training to police and firefighters for working with “vulnerable” populations.

- Form a committee to advise the mayor on small business issues.

- Work with Spokane County to create committee to analyze possible government consolidation opportunities.

- Analyze the city’s 1,600 pieces of real estate and consider selling some of it.

- Assign police officers to attend neighborhood council meetings.

- Improve the city's permit system.

Some items of the initiative are carry-overs from Mayor Mary Verner’s administration, such as improving the permitting system. Some ideas have been around for decades, like government consolidation. Some are new, such as the small business group.

A full list of Condon’s 100-day plan is here.

Same sex marriage signing, ref filing on Monday

OLYMPIA — The same-sex marriage legislation will be signed at 11:30 a.m. Monday in a ceremony in the State Reception Room.

Gov. Chris Gregoire usually signs bills in her conference room, which has a long table, lots of chairs, and is the site for most gubernatorial press conferences. It usually plenty big for even the most famous or notorious legislation.

The Reception Room, which is one floor up in the Capitol Building, is significantly bigger. It is also more ornate, with Tiffany chandeliers, historic flags, piano, marble walls and columns in which the tour guides love to point out images in the stone. There's also a wooden dance floor under the carpet. (Not that there's any suggestion of dancing on Monday. Just a bit of random information for those not so familiar with the Capitol.)

They booked the Reception Room because they are expecting an even bigger crowd than the one that filled the conference room for Gregoire's announcement that she would support a same-sex marriage bill this session.

The Secretary of State's office is also prepared for the filing of a referendum by opponents of the legislation on Monday, almost as soon as the bill is signed. Under state law, the referendum petition can't be filed until the bill is signed.

It would be Referendum 73. If opponents can gather just under 121,000 valid signatures of state voters by June 6 — that's half what you need for an initiative — same-sex marriage goes on the November ballot.

WA Lege working on eyeglass problem

OLYMPIA – Groups like the Union Gospel Mission could go back to dispensing donated eyeglasses to the poor this summer if legislation to protect charities with such programs comes into a little sharper focus in the Legislature.
The House and Senate both passed separate bills Thursday that protect charities by giving them immunity from lawsuits when they distribute free eye glasses after the recipient is examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
The Union Gospel Mission had such a program…

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Legislature unlikely to consider pot initiative

OLYMPIA – Voters will have to decide this fall whether to legalize marijuana for personal use. The Legislature appears unlikely to vote on, or even debate, the marijuana initiative sent to them.
The House and Senate government committees held a joint work session (that's not a pun, that's what they call it ) Thursday to listen to supporters and opponents of Initiative 502, which would make personal use and possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for people over 21. . .

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, go inside the blog

Redistricting plan challenged

OLYMPIA — A Vancouver man is challenging the state redistricting plans approved to a special commission and adopted recently by the Legislature.

John Milem, who attended almost every meeting of the Washington Redistricting Commission and prepared his own maps for new legislative and congressional boundaries, filed a petition with the state Supreme Court this morning that contends the plans split too many counties and cities, that some districts are too spread out, and are weighted to favor the metropolitan Puget Sound region.

The five counties of metropolitan Puget Sound have about 60 percent of the state's population, yet they make up the bulk of 7 of the 10 congressional district, Milem's petition says. The other 34 counties have about 40 percent of the state population yet they are the majority in only three districts.

The petition asks the court to redraw the boundaries.

House passes gay marriage bill

OLYMPIA — By a vote of 55-43, the House passed and sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire Wednesday a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in Washington. Gregoire, who called for such legislation late last year, will sign it sometime within the next week.

After nearly two and a half hours of debate, the House passed SB 6239 without amendments, setting Washington up to be the seventh state in the nation to legalize same sex marriage.

In a debate both impassioned and respectful, supporters describing struggles and discrimination they or their children have had as homosexuals or likening the current laws to statutes that kept interracial couples from marrying….

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

House same-sex marriage debate underway

OLYMPIA — The debate in the House on the same-sex marriage bill begins around 1 p.m. and goes until…

…no one's quite sure. But the House has nothing else on the schedule as far as committee hearings this afternoon, and has scheduled a 6 p.m. session this evening, in case they need time for other things they don't get to in the afternoon because of the debate on SB 6239.

Last week, the Senate debate played to full but respectful galleries. But even with votes on a string of amendments, the whole session only lasted about an hour and 20 minutes. Debate could last longer in the House, even though there may be more vote pass the final bill.

Spin Control will be live blogging — or technically live-tweeting — the debate from the House floor with a special widget here on the web site that will be picking up comments and tweets from others. TVW will be carrying the debate live on cable (check local listings for the channel in your area) and on its website.

Dist 81 seeking to charge for public records requests

OLYMPIA – Faced with a rapidly growing number of requests for public records, the Spokane School District wants to charge the public for the cost of locating and preparing those records.

Mark Anderson, associate superintendent, said District 81 wants to pass on the “reasonable costs” of complying with public records requests, which have tripled over the last three years and now cost the district an estimated $70,000 a year.

A bill that would allow districts all over the state to do that received a brief hearing this week in the Senate budget committee, but in a fashion that has some government watchdogs criticizing the process. Senate Bill 6576 is probably dead; the issue, however, is still alive. . .

To read the rest of t his item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog

House to debate gay marriage bill Wednesday

OLYMPIA — The House of Representatives scheduled a debate on the same-sex marriage bill to begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Representatives will be debating SB 6239, the version that passed the Senate last week, rather than a House version of the bill.

The two bills started out identical, but the Senate agreed to some — although not all — amendments last week proposed by critics who said the original bills didn't go far enough to protect the rights of people or organizations with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is only between one man and one woman. Clergy would not be required to perform same-sex weddings if it goes against their faith and church groups couldn't be sued for refusing to allow such ceremonies in their facilities. For a story on the Senate debate, click here.

If the House passes the Senate bill without any further amendments, it would go to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has said she would sign it. If the House adopts any amendments, the bill would have to return to the Senate for another vote.

The bill would not become law until early June, and then only if it isn't headed for the November ballot. As it now stands, the bill does not have a referendum clause, but opponents have said they will mount a signature drive to gather the 120,000-plus signatures needed to put it before voters. If their signature drive is successful, the law is put on hold and doesn't take effect unless it receives majority support in the general election.

Who’s buying whom in Congress?



A Washington, D.C., group that researches money in politics has created lists of what organizations spend what on whom, congressionally speaking.

MapLight also has put its research on a map that allows you go see that information with a few clicks of your mouse or computer pad.

The top 5 contributors for Washington are EMILY's List, Microsoft, Boeing, University of Washington and Weyerhaeuser Company.

Top 5 for Idaho are Amgen, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, American Crystal Sugar, National Automobile Dealers Association, and JP Morgan Chase.

Click on the map above to find more fun facts.

Police Guild promises to negotiate in good faith for reform

Spokane Police Guild officials announced in a news release Monday that the union “embraces” a police reform resolution that the Spokane City Council is likely to approve tonight.

“The Guild wants to thank the Council members for recognizing that many of the steps presented in the resolution may affect the working conditions of represented employees and would need to be negotiated with the affected unions,” the news release said. “The City Council can expect the Guild to negotiate in good faith.”

The guild agreed to the city's first rules that created the police ombudsman but successfully challenged an update to the job's powers last year. The resolution in front of City Council tonight calls not only for the reinstatement of the ombudsman's independent oversight powers, but for the police chief to be able to use ombudsman reports when considering discipline.

Interim Police Chief Scott Stephens has said he would support the upgraded ombudsman rules.

“I believe the officers actually developed kind of a favorable opinion of that (the stronger police ombudsman ordinance that was repealed). The guild of course is taking a look at this and just saying, 'We don't have objections to that in principle. Again we just want to make sure that if you're going to do this we want to be at the table.' They felt like things were being done to them without their input and I think that's why they threw the roadblock up there.”

A call to Guild President Erinie Wuthrich was not immediately returned.

McMorris Rodgers names district director

Spokane attorney Dick Leland is the new district director for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

The congresswoman's office made the announcement today that Leland, who worked for the Farm Credit System before becoming a lawyer, is her pick to replace the former director of  her Eastern Washington offices, David Condon.

Condon stepped down last May to run for mayor of Spokane. That worked out so well for  him that he is now otherwise occupied.

Fun video 2: SNL’s Moon President sketch

Saturday Night Live's opening sketch, as usual, was political.

Not the funniest ever, but a few good moments.

Today’s fun video: Who is this ad really for?

If  you weren't up getting another beer  or more chips for the quacamole during half time Sunday, you might've seen this commercial featuring Clint Eastwood, who declared it was “half time in America.”

The ad is, on its face, a push for the cars made in Detroit.

But the imagery, and the closeness to the 1984 Ronald Reagan message of “morning in America”, suggests it has legs in the political arena.

When Barack Obama's campaign saw it, they probably said, “Make my day.”

Sunday Spin: McMorris Rodgers for Veep?

A political blog in the other Washington, The Daily Caller,  suggests a certain congresswoman from this Washington could have a shot at the No. 2 spot on the GOP presidential ticket this fall.

The blog quotes a Republican strategist, Kellyanne Conway, as saying Cathy McMorris Rodgers would fit the bill as a vice presidential selection that “needs to be a surprise, but not a shocker.”

The blog goes on to recount the parts of McMorris Rodgers bio that would make her a good pick on paper: daughter of fruit farmers, first in her family to attend college, married to a retired naval pilot, only woman to have two kids while in Congress, founder of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus after her first child, Cole, was born with that condition, leadership post in the House Republican Caucus, from a Western state…

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Council may ask WSU to save historic warehouse

A historic building slated for the wrecking ball could get a friend in the Spokane City Council.

Late last year, Washington State University-Spokane announced it would sell a 102-year-old warehouse called the Jensen-Byrd building so a development company could tear down the brick building and erect student housing.

Last month, the city-county Historic Landmarks Commission determined the building is eligible to be placed on historic registries. That will create procedural hurdles for tearing it down, but doesn’t prohibit demolition as long as a new building takes its place.

On Monday, the Spokane City Council will consider a non-binding resolution requesting that WSU reconsider the decision.

Councilman Steve Salvatori, co-sponsor of the resolution, said the structure is sound. 

“It could be an iconic, signature part of the campus,” Salvatori said. “It could be the most iconic, signature landmark on that campus.”

Fund ed first, House Republicans say

OLYMPIA – House Republicans, who say they are fed up with the slow pace of budgeting process in a session where that was supposed to be the main thing the Legislature tackled, argued Thursday for a new approach.

The state should set aside what it wants to spend on K-12 education first, then figure out what’s left for other state programs. They call it “Fund Education First” and say it’s in line with both the state Constitution’s declaration that education in the state's public schools is the state’s “paramount duty” and a recent state Supreme Court ruling that the Legislature must do more to meet that duty.

“This is not a gimmick. It’s a workable solution,” said Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would make that change in budgeting.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Oil barrel fee not likely, key Democrats say

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to place a $1.50 per barrel fee on oil refined in Washington state appears close to dead. Two key Senate Democrats said as much today in separate settings.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee which would decide how to spend the money the proposed fee would raise, told a breakfast gathering of the state Good Roads and Transportation Association she believes, like most Republicans, that it's really a tax, not a fee. The difference is more than just semantics. A fee can be passed by the Legislature on a majority vote, which Democrats have in both  houses; a tax needs a two-thirds majority, which they don't have.

The final decision on fee v. tax would rest with Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who presides over the Senate, but Haugen said she thinks he'd rule it a tax, too.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said this afternoon the proposal is “not getting any momentum” in the Senate Democratic Caucus. Translation: don't bother putting a mirror under its nostrils, this idea isn't breathing.

WA Lege Day 25: House GOP to release Education 1st budget

OLYMPIA — House Republicans, who say they've been essentially shut out of the budgeting process in a session when the budget was supposed to be the main thing the Legislature tackled, will be releasing their plans for K-12 programs today.

They call it “Fund Education First”, something that various Republicans of both chambers have suggested over the years in pointing out that basic education in the state's public schools is the “paramount duty” under the state Constitution.

This effort, however, would be more than a slogan because it would put down on paper what education programs they think the state should pay for. It's not a full budget — other spending priorities will be released later — but it would provide voters with a view of how their education priorities would differ from the supplemental budget Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed in November. At this point, that's the only other budget that exists in a form to which comparisons can be made.

Senate passes gay marriage bill 28-21

OLYMPIA – With votes to spare, the state Senate passed a bill to allow same-sex couples to marry in Washington, sending it to the House of Representatives where it also has enough votes to pass.

A full gallery erupted after senators passionately but respectfully debated what Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle called “as contentious as any this body has considered, then passed it on a 28-21 vote.

Those who oppose it should not be accused of bigotry, Murray said. Those who support it should not be accused of religious intolerance.

“This is a difficult personal issue because it is about what is closest to us…family. Marriage is how society says you are a family.”

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, go inside the blog

Senate passes same sex marriage bill: The live blog


7:58 p.m.

Same-sex marriage bill passes the Senate 28-21. 24 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted yes; 3 Democrats and 18 Republicans voted no.

Gallery erupts.

7:56 p.m.

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, commends other senators for the quality of the debate. Tomorrow, people who disagree on this bill will work together on other issues.

“Regardless of how you vote on this bill, an invitation will be in the mail” from him and his partner, Michael Shiosaki, Murray said. Earlier in the day, Murray said it's their plan to get married when the law changes.

Roll call vote underway.


7:53 p.m.

Sen. Margarita Prentice D-Renton,: “I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready to vote… We've all had our say. But I think we've just about wrapped it up”

7:49 p.m.

Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, said Americans have the ability to look at themselves and ask “do we need to do better.” There was a time when women were chattel and some people were slaves. “The way it's always been is comfortable. It's kind to the majority but not kind to the minority.”

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D- Lake STevens, said he's voting for the bill even though “it's not a winner in my district.” But after serving first in the Army and now in the National Guard, he serves with some soldiers who are gay and are willing to “take a bullet for me.”

How could I look them in the eye if I voted no? How could I stand next to them if I voted no?” Hobbs said. “I will never leave a comrade behind.”

7:40 p.m.

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, said he grew up with a father who was gay and whose abilities to be a parent were questioned by society.

“We stand ready to take a historic step,” Ranker said. “By continuing to differentiate between loving couples, we separate and isolate. I'm proud to stand on the right side of history. And I'm proud of my father.”

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said he doesn't judge anyone and respects everyone, but will vote against the bill because of his religious belief. He said he wasn't judging anyone: “I am no better than anyone else and I need the forgiveness of my savior every day. But I have to do what is right. .And for me doing the right thing is voting against the bill.”

7:30 p.m.

Debate on SB 6239 begins.

The issue is “as contentious as any issue this body has considered,” Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said.

Those who oppose it should not be accused of bigotry.. Those who support it should not be accused of religous intolerance, he said.

“This is a difficult personal issue because it is about what is closest to us…family.” Murray said.

“Marriage is how society says you are a family…that a couple is committed to care for each other in health and in sickness.”

“We share the same short moments of life,” Murray said. “That is why we ask you to support this bill.

Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, says the bill will lead to silencing the people who believe in the traditional view of marriage.

“A bill that purports to be about ending discrimination leaves the door open for discrimination going the other way,” Swecker said. The protections aren't strong enough for people with religous objections, he said, and people who don't want to serve same sex couples because of their beliefs will be discriminated against.

Opponents say marriage is about procreation, but there are no restrictions against heterosexual couples who are too old to have children or aren't physically able to have children, Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, said.

7:25 p.m.

Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, offers an amendment with a referendum clause, to place the bill on the November ballot.

“I think we'd be saving a lot of time and saying we do trust the voters,” Hatfield said.

“The voters do have the ultimate say. They have the ultimate say when they elect us and send us here to make these decisions,” Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said. “Any bill we pass here…the voters can come forward, they can collect signatures and they can submit it for a vote.”

Brown said this would be asking people to vote on the rights of the minorities and subject them to the will of the majority. “We're going to reject the concept that separate is equal,” Brown said. “We have a nation of laws, and rights.”

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said there's always a tension between what you send to the public and what the voters send legislators to Olympia to do: “If ever there was an issue of what you send to the voters, this is it… It's more basic than our constitution, it's a basic unit of society.”

In all likelihood, the bill is going to be put on the ballot anyway, Padden added.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said changing laws on marriage is like trying to change the law of gravity. If one steps out the window, gravity is still there.

“I think this rises to the level of significant change,” Benton said. “One that should be left to the great citizens of the state to decide . The founding fathers realized there were some issues that were too important for just the Legislature to decide.”

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, no one thought of putting a referendum clause on it. To opponents who say the same-sex marriage law effects only one-half of 1 percent, protecting the rights of the minority “Is what we are all about.”

Roll call vote requested: Amendment fails 23-26.

That's the last amendment. Vote on the bill itself to follow.


7:10 p.m.

Sen. Don Benton has an amendment that makes “perfectly clear rather than generally” that religously affiliated foster care services are exempt from the law.

Supporters argue the amendment is “duplicative” with amendments already passed.

“It's important we have our agreements with ourselves and the governor in the law,” Benton said.

Roll call vote requested. Amendment fails 23-26.

7:03 p.m.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, offers an amendment that provides protections for religious-based organizations that provide foster care.

Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, said courts place children in “the best interest of the child,” and the bill won't change that, but supporters don't object.

It passes by a voice vote.


Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, calls for a vote on an amendment that would offer

Protects clergy collars, but what about the blue collar worker?

“The amendment reaches into our civil rights statutes,” Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said. If opponents want to amend the civil rights statutes which ban discrimination for sexual orientation, they should do that.

“It's a problem in search of a solution,” Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said. “This amendment is not necessary.”

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said when the sexual orientation language was added to the state's civil rights protections, “the proponents assured us it was never about marriage.”

Amendment fails 22-27.

To read earlier posts in this string, go inside the blog

Senate debates gay marriage: A slow start

OLYMPIA — The Senate convened to consider the same-sex marriage bill right at 6 p.m., then promptly went into caucus to discuss amendments.

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who presides over the Senate, welcomed the people in the full gallery…and asked them to conform to accepted rules of behavior.

We'll be back when they are.

Ed Murray: ‘No doubt’ same-sex bill will go to ballot

Sen. Ed Murray, left, and his partner Michael Shiosaki discuss the same-sex marriage bill.

OLYMPIA — The state Senate will be debating the same-sex marriage bill in front of a full gallery and possibly late into the evening.

But it has the 25 votes needed to pass SB 6239, its prime sponsor, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said.

The galleries have been filling since late afternoon, and at least a half dozen amendments will be considered before the final vote. One of those amendments will be to put the measure to a vote, but Murray said he was confident that amendment will fail.

The bill could pass the House and be on Gov. Gregoire's desk by the middle of next week, he said.

Despite the fact that supporters can defeat any attempt at a referendum clause, Murray said he had “no doubt” opponents will gather the signatures to suspend the law until it goes to the voters in November.

Appearing before the debate at a press conference with his partner Michael Shiosaki, Murray said Wednesday is “a historic day for gay and lesbian couples in Washington state.”

When they met some 21 years ago, Shiosaki said they “never would've imagined this day would be here.

Although Washington has a domestic partnership law that gives same-sex couples many of the legal rights as a married couple, marriage is special, he added.

“This is the way society says you're a family,” Murray said.

New district lines approved

OLYMPIA — The Senate gave the final OK today to the new boundaries for Washington's legislative and congressional district lines.

The boundaries, drawn up by the state Redistricting Commission and approved by that panel on Jan. 1, rearrange state legislative districts and add a 10th congressional district to Washington, awarded last year because of population growth.

Under state law, the Legislature  has the authority to tweak the boundaries slightly — no more than 2 percent — but can't make wholesale changes. The House made minor changes by moving Census Blocks around among many of the congressional and legislative districts before passing the boundaries 95-0 last Friday. The Senate approved those changes on a 44-4 vote today.

The maps as approved by the Redistricting Commission can be found here. We'll be posting updated maps as soon as they are available.

Same-sex marriage debate tonight in Senate

OLYMPIA — Debate over the same-sex marriage bill is scheduled for 6 p.m. this evening in the Senate.

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the bill's prime sponsor, estimates a couple hours for debate, although it could go longer.

Will probably depend on the number of amendments, and the stamina of the two sides.

We'll be live blogging the debate here at Spin Control, and providing full coverage in Thursday's print edition and the web page.

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About this blog

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

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

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

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

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