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WA Lege Day 1: And, they’re off…

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, listens to floor debate on the opening day of the 2012 Legislative session. (Jim Camden)
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, listens to floor debate on the opening day of the 2012 Legislative session. (Jim Camden)

House Speaker Frank Chopp listens to floor speeches on the opening day of the 2012 session.

OLYMPIA -- The Legislature started it's 60-day session with the usual pomp and circumstance, and a preview of the debates ahead over the next 59 days.

As soon as the honor guard of State Troopers planted the flag, the pledge was said and an invocation offered, House Speaker Frank Chopp set down five goals of creating jobs, funding basic education, saving the safety net, ensuring equality and providing opportunity. Let's work together on those points, he told the full House chamber, like legislators did a few years ago in making changes designed to help Boeing and the machinists expand.

While those broad goals got general agreement and regular applause, minority Republicans were noticeably not clapping on certain points, such as Chopp's call for "marriage equality", which would mean passing a law to allow same-sex marriage. They also refrained at Chopp's mention that government does create jobs, contrary to what conservatives often argue.

Just look at the hydropower projects in Eastern Washington, the Seattle Democrat  said, and argue that government doesn't create jobs.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt countered that Republicans were glad to hear the calls for more jobs and funding of basic education. But if Chopp and the Democrats are serious, he said, they'd write a budget that pays for education first and spend what's left on other programs.

And since Chopp mentioned hydropower, the Chehalis Republican said, how about a proposal the GOP has been pushing for years, that would declare power from the dams as "green" allowing it to be considered in a mix of options that would lower the cost of electricity.

The Legislature should also avoid filling out its budget with money from federal programs, which leaves the state "holding the bag" when Congress cancels a program.

"We've got to break the addiction to the federal government," DeBolt said. As for that package to help Boeing a few years back: after it passed, the company moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago, he added.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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