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Spin Control

Archive for January 2013

Today’s handy App: What’s the local sales tax rate?

OLYMPIA — How many times have you wondered “Gee, what's the sales tax rate around here?”

OK, we haven't wondered that very often, either, because it usually becomes clear when one goes through the checkout lane and looks at the receipt.

But for those of you who do wonder that as you wander around the state, the Department of Revenue is there to help…if you have a smart phone, any way.

They just unveiled a new Android app, to go with their iPhone app, that will tell you the sales tax rate for any place in Washington you and your phone  happen to be.

Want to download it? Click here.

WA Lege Day 18: Helmet law bashed, defended

Not your usual attire for lobbyists at a bill hearing, motorcyclists lobby for a bill to let them ride helmet free.

OLYMPIA – Motorcyclists made their annual plea to the Legislature to let them ride without helmets in Washington state, citing everything from accident statistics to the Constitution in an effort to overturn what they view as an infringement on their personal liberty.

If the NFL can’t design a helmet to protect their players from traumatic brain injury, asked Rich Bright of Yakima, how can anyone believe a motorcycle helmet built to decades-old standards protects a rider.

Insurance, health and law enforcement officials made what has become the annual rebuttal, that helmets save lives or lessen injuries and save overall medical costs.

But the argument for helmets is really about compassion, said Susan Tracy of the state Medical Association, for saving some motorcycle riders and their families from more serious injuries, or death.  . . 

 

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

Today’s fun video: Kimmel on pot expert search

 

Jimmy Kimmel mentioned that Washington state is looking for marijuana experts to help with its new legalization law. Heres today's story from Page 1 on the paper.

It's nice to get a little state recognition, but seriously, this is the best they can do? A line of people and a reference to Twinkies?

No digs like

“…And they're paying bonuses in Fiddle Faddle.”

“…They're being interviewed by Cheech and Chong.”

“…Everybody who's qualified doesn't  have enough motivation to show up.”

We're sure you can do better. So go ahead, add your own Washington needs a pot expert joke in the comments.

WA Lege 18: Abortion debate in the a.m., motorcycle helmets in the p.m.

OLYMPIA — Some hot button issues for legislative committees today, with a hearing on a bill that involves abortion in the morning.

The House Health Care Committee had a full room for a hearing on the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require insurance plans in Washington that offer coverage for live births to also offer coverage for abortions. Such big crowds were espected that tents are set up on the Capitol Campus as gathering spots.

The Senate Transportation Committee will likely have a crowd this afternoon for a proposal to let anyone over 18 ride a motorcycle without a helmet. It's one of the big priorities of groups like ABATE, which stands for A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments, and will likely result in more witnesses wearing leather or biker colors than suits and ties.

Elsewhere around the Capitol, there are lobbying groups from the Physical Therapy Association and the service employees union.

A complete list of hearings is inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 17: Extending the time to prosecute child rape

OLYMPIA – Washington may extend the statute of limitations on cases of child rape, making it possible to convict some predators after their victims grow up.

But victims of sexual abuse and their families told a Senate panel that doesn’t go far enough. There should be no statute of limitations on child sexual assault, just as there is no such limit on murder and some other homicide crimes.

A woman who told the Senate Law and Justice Committee she was sexually abused starting around age 12 said many young victims need time to process what has happened to them. They may not be able to do that until they are adults.

 “Everybody deserves a chance to be heard,” the woman who identified herself as Shelly said. . .

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

Talk by phone to your legislators

OLYMPIA — Two groups of Spokane-area legislators will hold telephone conferences this week in an effort to let the folks back home ask questions or raise concerns about issues.

Constituents can call in just to listen, or to ask a question that could get them a live answer.

Tonight Central Spokane's 3rd District delegation — Sen. Andy Billig and Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli — have a “telephonic town hall” from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. To take part, call 1-877-229-8493, and enter the ID code of 18646 when asked. To ask a question, you'll have to press *3.

On Thursday, Northeastern Washington's 7th District delegation — Sen. John Smith and Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short — have a similar set up from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The toll-free call-in number is the same, 1-877-229-8493, but the ID number is different: 15429. 

Library campaign promises to fix reporting violations

Yes for Spokane Libraries, a group working on behalf of Proposition 3, a tax levy for the Spokane Public Library, has had signs supporting the tax displayed throughout the city for weeks, but hasn’t reported any contributions or expenses to the state Public Disclosure Commission. The group likely should have been filing reports weekly since the end of last month, according to state rules.

Nathan Smith, campaign manager of the group, said Wednesday that the group erred in interpreting the rules and would work quickly to file contribution and expenditure reports by the end of the week.

“It was our mistake,” Smith said. “We are diligently trying to get it done as soon as humanly possible.”

WA Lege Day 17: Whole lotta lobbying going on

OLYMPIA — A variety of groups are descending on the Capitol today, trying to convince, cajole or coerce legislators to vote their way on their favorite bills.

It is Have a Heart for Kids Day, which is not to be confused with American Heart Association Lobby Day, which shares the calendar with Dairy Day and NFIB Small Business Day.

The Children's Alliance, which is behind the first of those named days, is having a rally on the Capitol steps around lunchtime, at which Gov. Jay Inslee will speak. Size of the crowd he addresses may be determined by the weather. Rain is in the forecast.

Business groups supporting the last of those listed above will hold a press conference at 3:30 p.m. to talk about their most important issues, at which Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom and Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry will speak.

Legislators, meanwhile, have a relatively busy day of committee hearings, with a wide range of  bills, including ideas on election reform, changes to the statute of limitations on sexual assault and whether a person's credit score can be considered when setting the price of a homeowner's insurance policy.

A full list of committee hearings can be found inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 16: How should the state ‘manage’ wolves?

OLYMPIA – Farmers, ranchers and county officials from Eastern Washington said a plan to manage wolves as they are re-established in the state has good ideas but doesn't go far enough to cover their potential losses or protect their property.

But wildlife advocates warned that proposals to loosen the restrictions for shooting predators go too far and could encourage “an open season” on wolves.

Wolves are making a remarkable comeback in Washington, Dave Ware of the state Fish and Wildlife Department told the Senate Natural Resources Committee Tuesday. A year ago, there were five confirmed wolf packs in the state; now there are eight confirmed packs and three more suspected packs.

“We’re anticipating a fairly rapid growth rate,” Ware said. . .

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

WA Lege Day 16: Possible changes to elections

OLYMPIA – Legislators have a wide array of changes they think would make the state’s elections run smoother.

At hearings Tuesday, they suggested paying for the postage for voters to return their mail-in ballots, requiring most ballots be in the hands of county elections officials by 8 p.m. election night may be the prime beneficiaries of the state’s current election laws, requiring counties to have more drop-boxes and publishing a voter guide for primary elections. . . 

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

WA Lege Day 16: Electoral College change pushed

OLYMPIA — Changing the way the state casts its Electoral College votes for president would be fairer to Eastern Washington voters, a Spokane Valley legislator said Tuesday.

It’s a way Republicans could win the White House through gerrymandered districts without a majority of the popular vote, said the Democratic chairman of the House committee considering the proposal.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, said a bill he’s sponsoring would award most of the state’s Electoral College votes based on the outcome of the presidential race in each of the Washington’s 10 congressional districts. Two of the Electoral College votes, which are given each state for its two U.S. senators, would go to the state’s overall winner. . .

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

WA Lege Day 16: Stamping out the vote?

OLYMPIA — College students want to vote, student lobbyists told legislators today, they really do.But some don't because they just don't have a stamp to put on their mail-in envelope.

And at least one University of Washington student said he didn't even know where to get a stamp

“I don't know where the local post office is,” Lucas Barash-David told the House Government Operations Committee, which was discussing a bill that would require state and local governments to pay the costs of postage for returning mail-in ballots.

David was among lobbyists for student organizations supporting prepaid envelopes for returning ballots. Requiring them to come up with a stamp was a barrier akin to a poll tax, Gabriel Bowman of University of Washington-Tacoma, said. Well, maybe a smaller barrier than a poll tax, Bowman added, but “we don't think there should be any barriers.”

David, who lobbies for the UW students' association, went even further. “We don't use stamps.” They don't send letters, they call, text or send e-mails.

All counties have drop boxes, where ballots can be deposited without stamps, but not all of them are on or near campuses, student representatives said. They' might not know where they are; they might be too busy to make the detour to the drop box on their commute to or from campus.

Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden, said he found it hard to believe college students couldn't quickly find the location of the nearest drop box. “Students do research on other things out there,” Buys said, going on the Internet and using Google maps to find the location of the closest coffee house or bar.

The Washington Secretary of State's office does have a page that lists all the drop boxes in the state, and a partnership with Google maps  and Microsoft to make those boxes easy to find.

City Council debates right to debate gun laws

To take a stand or not to take a stand.

That was the question hotly debated by the Spokane City Council Monday night on two nonbinding resolutions related to gun laws and gun rights.

The results were a curious lesson in the unpredictability of a sharply divided council.

WA Lege Day 15: Saving emergency clauses for real emergencies

OLYMPIA – For most people, an emergency is something that usually requires flashing lights and sirens. For legislators, an emergency is something that requires a law take effect right away, rather than waiting the standard 90 days during which citizens might overturn it.

Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, thinks her fellow legislators have been too quick to call something an emergency, tacking a section onto nearly 1,000 bills that became law since 1997.

“Emergency” legislation has become routine, she told the Senate Government Operations Committee. “Over the years, it’s been misused.”

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

Sunday spin: Lobbying for Spokane, en masse

OLYMPIA – There may be things for which the Spokane area reasonably envies other communities around the state, but lobbying the Legislature for a list of collective hopes and dreams is not one of them.

For more than 20 years, a contingent from Spokane and surrounding communities has made an annual pilgrimage to the state’s Mecca of politics and policy. Members of the Greater Spokane Inc. Fly-in arrive, list of priorities in hand, and generally present a united front as they remind those controlling the spigots of state funding “Hey, we’re still over there.”

They get briefings from high-ranking legislators and state department heads on everything from education to roads to the budget. Almost all of those briefings start with an acknowledgement that when it comes to lobbying state government, folks from Spokane do it right.

This year, the session started later than usual, and a group of about 90, which may be a record, showed up a bit earlier than usual. Inslee’s administration is only partially assembled, so there was more of an unsettled air about Olympia than they usually see.

Still, they got a taste of the partisan divide over issues…

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

WA Lege Day 12: Murray floats capital gains tax

OLYMPIA — The Senate's top Democrat will propose asking Washington voters to approve a capital gains tax on the wealthy to help pay for better schools and more affordable college.Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray of Seattle said this morning he will introduce a bill next week for a 5 percent excise tax on capital gains that would hit an estimated 3 percent of the state's population. It's an attempt to get what he called a “grand bargain” on education that would join reforms to the schools and provide the money to pay for it.

But the Republican-dominated coalition that controls the Senate has already denounced Democrats for the range of tax proposals they've introduced, including an income tax, which has been rejected repeatedly by voters.
“There's a steady flow of tax ideas coming out,” Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said.
This despite the fact that Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has said he would veto new taxes if they come to him, Schoesler added.. .
 
To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Could abortion bill split Senate coalition?

OLYMPIA — A bill that would require parental notification when a woman under 18 seeks an abortion in Washington could divide the Senate's “majority coalition” intent on passing bills on jobs, budget and education.

The notification bill, with strong support from Senate Republicans opposed to abortion, is likely to get a hearing in the next few weeks in the Law and Justice Committee, whose chairman Mike Padden of the Spokane Valley is a strong supporter. It would be the first bill dealing with parental notification on abortions to receive a Senate hearing in years, and support on the committee makes it likely to clear the panel.

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who serves as the leader of the coalition of all 23 Republicans and two Democrats, wants to doesn't support bringing such a divisive issue before the full Senate. Although the coalition will have to discuss whether to bring an abortion bill to the floor, he believes they should focus on three things: increasing jobs, getting a balanced and sustainable budget, and improving education.

“We will not divide our caucus on issues that are going to be divisive,” Tom said as a press conference Thursday. At a later meeting with a delegation of local business and civic leaders from Spokane, Tom described himself as “100 percent pro-choice.”

Sen. Mark Schoesler, the leader of the 23 Republicans in the caucus, said there's a wide range of issues addressed in bills being proposed because “members are free to introduce anything they want.” Whether to bring the parental notification bill to the floor, if it gets out of committee, “is yet to be determined,” he said.

Firearms Freedom law prospects dim

OLYMPIA — A bill to exempt firearms made and sold in Washington from federal gun laws was introduced by 10 House Republicans today, but their leader said it's unlikely the bill will come to a vote, let alone become law.

A bill titled the Firearms Freedom Act would exempt “personal firearms,” as well as ammunition and accessories. that are made in Washington and stay within the state's borders from current or future federal restrictions and registration.

Any federal ban on semi-automatic weapons couldn't be enforced, under House Bill 1371. Local officials wouldn't be able to enforce federal laws, and federal officials who tried could face penalties up to five years in jail or a $10,000 fine. During a declared state of emergency, a governor couldn't restrict the possession, sale or transfer of personal firearms.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Spokane-area legislators Matt Shea and Larry Crouse of Spokane Valley, Joe Schmick of Colfax and Shelly Short of Addy.

House Republican Leader Richard Debolt of Chehalis said Thursday that while most members of the GOP caucus support firearms freedom, there's no official position on HB 1371. The bill has little prospect for passage because it “wouldn't do very well” in Democratic-controlled House.

There may be some legislation regarding gun control House Republicans will support this session, DeBolt said, but it's likely to be stiffer penalties for juveniles who use firearms during a crime.

Inslee: We can stop ‘leakage’ on legal pot

Inslee shows off the decorating changes in the governor's office, which include a portrait of Abraham Lincoln given to him by his father-in-law, a Republican.

OLYMPIA — State officials are trying to convince the federal government they can keep legally grown pot from making its way over the border to Oregon, Idaho or other states at they try to avoid a legal fight over the new marijuana law.

“It is our responsiblilty to show the federal government we will be a responsible entity,” Gov. Jay Inslee said today/

One of the key issues the state is trying to get more information to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is “leakage”, or the movement of some legally grown and licensed marijuana from being diverted into the black market. It is compiling information about the state patrol's highway interdiction program to send to Washington, D.C.

“They've been very successful,” Inslee said at a press conference. 
 
It is also talking to representatives of the bio-technology industry, which currently tracks prescription drugs, to find a way to track legally grown marijuana from the farm to the store, he said. 
 
The federal government probably won't be too concerned about marijuana sold in stores making its way across the borders, he said. With a limit of one ounce per person in the new law,  that's likely too small of an amount for the feds to worry about.
 
Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson met with Holder this week, but the U.S. attorney general didn't give any indication on what the federal government might do after Washington establishes a system for regulating, licensing and taxing marijuana, Inslee said. But Holder “appears to be willing to listen to our proposals.”
 
Initiative 502, which voters passed last year, says that system must be running by Dec. 1, and “I intend to meet that goal,” neither speeding up the process nor slowing it down, Inslee said. The Washington State Liquor Control Board is in the process of developing rules to cover the production and sale of marijuana.
 
Republican leaders in the Legislature said they respect the will of the voters in passing the initiative but it was up to Inslee to 'weave his way through the federal issues.” The state needs to make sure it doesn't jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid by setting up a system to regulate an illegal substance, and protect state workers involved in the regulation from federal arrest.
 
Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, the Senate majority leader, said he doesn't want some state having to explain to an employee's children that their mother is in jail “because she did her job.” 

WA Lege Day 11: Spokane folks making the rounds

OLYMPIA — More than 80 people from the Spokane area — business leaders, public officials, health care professionals — are getting face time with state officials today.

It's part of the Greater Spokane Inc. annual “flyover”, a lobbying blitz for local issues. In some recent years, they've been looking for support on big projects, like the new med school at Riverpoint. This year, there's no huge “get”, although they do need about $5 million in operating funds for the new school.

They're getting briefings on health care reform, transportation projects and education. This afternoon they meet with what's being called the “six corners” — Gov. Jay Inslee, a leader from House Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom.

In the days before the Senate was run by a coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats, a standard leadership meeting was known as five corners. In other words, leadership in Olympia is now a hexagon, rather than a pentagon.

Inslee has a press conference at 11:30 a.m., which will be carried live on TVW. Republican leaders and Tom have a press conference at 12:30 p.m., at which they will likely be asked to respond to things Inslee says.

The Spokane delegation caps off their day with an evening reception at the Governor's Mansion, and apparently with nightcaps at their hotel, if yesterday's Q and A session with Inslee's policy director Ted Sturdevant is any indication.

There's also a full day of committee hearings, covering everything from wholesale liquor sales to subversive activities to ballot design. A complete list of  hearings is inside the blog. 

Murray to Dems: Don’t give up on more “revenue”

The Washington Post has posted a 12-page memo from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray outlining her positions on writing a budget for 2014.

Murray, D-Wash., argues that deficit reduction has so far focused almost entirely on cuts and not enough on “revenue” — tax increases.

“We need to make sure any budget deal we make is balanced, fair for the middle class, and calls on the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share,” Murray wrote in her letter introcuding the memo.

Murray, who was in Spokane last week highlighting job programs, is the new chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee.

The memo and Ezra Klein's analysis is worth a glance and is a good outline for the Democrats' position and interal battles in the upcoming budget showdown brewing in Congress.

Listen in on legalized marijuana forum

The Washington State Liquor Control Board held its first public forum last night in Olympia on efforts to get ready for legalized marijuana under the new voter-approved law.

It got an earful, for more than 2  hours. Expect more of the same as they travel around the state, including a stop in Spokane on Feb. 12 at Spokane City Hall. 

If you want to listen to last night's testimony, they have a recording online. Just click here to be connected.

Initiative on initiatives clears signature hurdle

OLYMPIA — An initiative designed to make changes in the state's initiative law has enough signatures to be sent to the Legislature.

As expected, the Secretary of State's office cleared Initiative 517 for the next step, which is a decision by the Legislature whether to pass it or let it go to the voters in November, either by itself or with an alternative.

I-517 comes from Tim Eyman and his allies, and would set up penalties for harassing signature gatherers, require that all ballot measures that have enough signatures appear on the ballot, and extend the time for gathering signatures from six months to a year.

Under current law, initiatives to the people are filed no earlier than January of the year in which they will appear on the ballot, giving supporters until the end of June, or about six months, to gather signatures. I-517 would allow proposed initiatives to be filed in June of the year prior to the election, and give them through June of the election  year to gather signatures.  

Today’s fun fact: Union membership

About one worker out of nine is represented by a union nationwide

In Washington, that number is  close to one worker out of five.

In Idaho, it's closer to one worker out of 20.

This from the latest figures on union membership from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Today’s fun video: Slate presents Greatest Hits, apology version

 

For those who've about had it with Lance Armstrong, a look at mea culpas past courtesy of  Slate Magazine.

WA Lege Day 10: Judges in the House

OLYMPIA — Senators and representatives will spend a bit of time with each other again this morning as the Legislature meets in joint session to hear a report on the state of the state's judiciary.

That means relatively few hearings in the morning, but a full schedule in the afternoon. Among the more interesting are a Senate proposal to add children 14 and under to the list of victims that would qualify someone for an aggravated first-degree murder charge and a House proposal that would require anyone filing a public records request to identify themselves. The latter is aimed at screening requests for public records from prison inmates, who might use information from the records for intimidation or other nefarious purposes.

The House Transportation Committee gets a briefing on big mega-projects for roads and bridges, which includes the North Spokane Corridor. A House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government gets a briefing on several state agencies, including Parks and Recreation an whether the new Discover Pass is generating the amount of money projected (probably not).

Several dozen folks from the Spokane area arrive in Olympia today for their annual lobbying trip to the capital. They get a briefing from Ted Sturdevant, Gov. Jay Inslee's budget and policy director at noon, and bipartisan, bicameral briefings on education and health care issues in the afternoon. 

Today’s fun video: Sen. Pam Roach set to music

OLYMPIA — Last week, Sen. Pam Roach defended herself against allegations that she continues to abuse staff, despite previous warnings and sanctions that for a while kept her out of the GOP caucus.

This week, Undead Olympia, a web site that loves to poke fun at folks in the Legislature, set it to music. (well, sort of.)

Padden will hold hearing on abortion notice bill

Sen. Padden address the March for Life demonstration on the steps of the Capitol.

OLYMPIA — A proposed law requiring parents to be notified of an abortion for any woman under 18 will get a hearing in a Senate committee this year, and possibly a full debate and floor vote. 

State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, told a crowd of  more than 2,000 anti-abortion activists Tuesday that the first parental notification bill in many years will definitely get a Senate hearing in the next few weeks.

“You have to keep up the fight,” he told demonstrators at the annual March for Life, who filled the steps of the Capitol and the steps of the Temple of Justice across the flag plaza. . . 

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

State to feds: We’ll be ready if you sue over legalized pot

OLYMPIA — State officials appear to be hoping for the best while preparing for the worst as Washington and the federal government try to determine how the state will license and regulate marijuana.

After a meeting in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said the nation's chief legal officer was open to learning more about the law voters passed and the state's plans to make it work. There were no firm conclusions from their first meeting, Inslee said.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said they also made it clear to Holder the state has a team of lawyers preparing for any federal lawsuit, should one come.
 
“We want to avoid a legal fight,” Ferguson said. “If it comes to it, we will be prepared.”
 
Inslee characterized their first meeting over the state's voter-approved marijuana law as cordial, with Holder asking questions about some aspects of the law and state officials providing him with a three-page memo on the duties state employees would  have to license and regulate the growth, processing, distribution and sale of marijuana. They will provide more information on how the state plans to contain the sale of legal marijuana within its borders.
 
“It was a good meeting,” Inslee said. “I do feel good that the attorney general will look at this in great detail.”
 
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, which under Initiative 502 is in charge of coming up with regulations for licensing producers and sellers, can continue with that process, he said. Under the law, that process must be up and running by Dec. 1, and some of the licenses would be available by August.
 
“We're moving forward,” Ferguson said. “There are some deadlines coming up soon.”
 
There was no indication from Holder whether the federal government will take legal action against the state to prevent the regulation and sale of marijuana, which currently is illegal for all uses under federal law.
 
Ferguson said his office has already assigned a team that is “mapping out a legal strategy” to pursue if the federal government does go to court to try to block the law. “The legal issues are complex,” he added. 

WA Lege Day 9: Another protest plus a full menu of hearings

OLYMPIA — Anti-abortion activists will be at the Capitol today to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The annual protest is usually one of the largest of any session.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, is likely to get cheers from the crowd for his announcement that he will hold a hearing on a bill to require parental notification for any woman under 18 seeking an abortion. There's a similar bill in the House, sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea, also R-Spokane Valley; that chamber also has a proposal that would make “the right to life begins at the moment the individual comes into being.”

None of those bills are scheduled for a hearing today, but a wide range of other ideas get an airing on a full day of hearings: labeling seafood; standards for science being used by state agencies; sampling wine and beer in stores and allowing some wine stores to stock craft distillery products; public votes for annexations… and that's just a partial list. For a full list of committee hearings, go inside the blog.

Plus Gov. Jay Inslee and State Attorney General Bob Ferguson are scheduled to report on their talk with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on efforts to avoid a war between the state and the feds on Washington's legalization of marijuana.

WA Lege Day 8: More questions, some answers, on legalized pot

OLYMPIA – In legalizing marijuana last fall, voters created more questions for the Legislature, not fewer.

Some, including how the federal government is going to react, can’t be answered yet, officials from the State Liquor Control Board told the Senate committee Monday.

Law and Justice Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said he’s heard concerns that any revenue the state collects from taxes on growing, processing or selling marijuana could be seized by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, statutes. Is that possible, he asked. . .

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

WA Lege Day 8: Making a chilling protest statement

Taylor Malone of Spokane removed her shirt during a protest to symbolize that with cuts to programs, some people have to make the choice between feeding their familes and buying them clothes

OLYMPIA — Some 300 people, including about 75 from Spokane, marched through downtown to the steps of the Capitol Monday, demanding the Legislature fullfill Martin Luther King's dream by doing more to help the poor.

Some made statements with chants like “The people united will never be defeated.”

Others made statements with cards that held a legislator's name, and a letter grade for how the Washington Community Action Network thinks they voted in the last session issues of race and economic justice.

Taylor Malone of Spokane made a statement by taking off her shirt and standing through the half-hour rally on the steps in a bra and jeans. In recent years, she said, the Legislature has cut social service programs, forcing some people to choose between buying adequate food or adequate clothing for their families.

Instead of more cuts, the Legislature should close some tax breaks for businesses, she said.

Malone said she  has been active in Spokane protests to support gay rights and to  help victims of sexual assault, and against the Westboro Baptist Church. But it was her first protest in Olympia, were temperatures were in the mid-30s under fog-shrouded skies. The obvious question was whether she was cold.

“Truthfully? I am,” she admitted. After the rally, she put on shirt and coat before joining a group visiting 3rd District legislators.

Also coming from Spokane was Wendla Fryar, an Eastern Washington University graduate student working on her masters in social work, who hoped to talk to legislators from Spokane's 6th District about preserving or restoring social programs.

Fryar suffers from lupus, and needs to take 13 different prescription drugs every day to manage her symptom, but was dropped from the Medicaid program that helped cover her drug costs. She receives a grant to help with college costs and food stamps, and is worried about cuts to those programs, too.

“I can't survive without those programs,” she said.

WA Lege Day 8: Marches and rallies

OLYMPIA — Activists will march on the Capitol today, asking for several things.

The Community Action Network will be highlighting racial equality, or the lack of it, as they march from downtown Olympia to the Capitol steps. 

The state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has a rally to go with its “Muslim lobby day” .

Planned Parenthood has “teen lobby day.”

The Washington Education Associaition has a “sing-along” on the Capitol steps in the mid afternoon — probably not to sing “Kumbaya.”

The Legislature, meanwhile, has a full day of committee hearings scheduled to discuss everything from the operating and capital budgets to genetically engieered foods to the implementation of the new legalized marijuana law.

It may be a holiday elsewhere, which explains how so many people can be available for those demonstrations, but around here, it's a work day.

Sunday Spin: Rhetoric can only get better

OLYMPIA – The start of a new Legislature with a new administration is much given over to pomp and ceremony, so it wasn’t too surprising that most of the players aren’t yet bringing their A game when it comes to rhetoric.

Still, there were troubling signs that we’re all in for a long, hard slog if the level of debate doesn’t improve at some point soon.

For example, Gov. Jay Inslee showed clearly in his inaugural address where he’s willing to lock horns with Republicans in the Legislature. Abortion. Climate change. Medicaid expansion.

Republicans assembled in the joint legislative session sat in stony silence when he called for them to pass the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require any insurance company that covers live births to also cover abortions. Some shook their heads when he said the science is settled on climate change and when he said they should take the federal government up on its offer to pay the costs of expanding Medicaid.

Abortion is too divisive an issue, GOP leaders said in a post-speech press conference. . . 

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

WA Lege Day 5: Fighting campus drinking

OLYMPIAWashington State University uses many tools to combat binge drinking by students, from mandatory information programs to counseling to notifying parents, a school official told a legislative panel Friday. But the rate of binge drinking is still about the national average, roughly two out of five students.

The Legislature might give WSU and other colleges around the state one more tool to reduce on-campus drinking – special DUI courts on campus similar to courts in Spokane and some other cities that specialize in driving under the influence cases.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee, which is considering a bill to authorize college DUI courts, got some sobering facts on binge drinking from Robert King of The Century Council, a national group trying to curb alcohol abuse. . . 

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

WA Lege Day 5: Kretz would share the wolves

OLYMPIA — Rep. Joel Kretz made good today on his promise to help Western Washington enjoy one of the “advantages” Eastern Washington has — wolves.

Kretz, R-Wauconda, introduced a bill that would allow the Department of Fish and Wildlife to “translocate” wolves that are captured in Eastern Washington to the other side of the state. Wolves are a protected species under state law, and seven or eight of the state's nine recognized packs are in his northeastern Washington district.

“If wolves are so wonderful, I don't think we should be hoarding them in my district,” Kretz said.

Under his proposal, captured wolves could be sent to anywhere that has at least 50 square miles of territory, the amount needed for an adult wolf to roam. That would include some islands in the Puget Sound, and the Olympic Peninsula.  That would allow the entire state to “enjoy the re-establishment of this majestic species.”

The department does not currently relocate captured wolves out of their territory, although it does tag or put radio collars on some before releasing them.

He said he asked for co-sponsors from some Western Washington legislators but didn't get any takers.

The bill may never get a hearing, and is a facetious attempt to make a point for another bill Kretz expects to introduce in the next week. That bill would allow the state to take wolves off its endangered species list in Eastern Washington, a step the federal government has already taken, he said. That would allow ranchers to kill wolves attacking livestock or pets, and possibly lay the groundwork for regulated hunting.  

Inslee: Coal port study must include routes through state

Jay Inslee takes questions during his first press conference as governor.

OLYMPIA — State and federal agencies studying potential impacts of a new coal terminals near Bellingham must consider the effects of increased train traffic on Spokane and other cities around the state, Gov. Jay Inslee said today.

At his first press conference after being sworn in as governor, Inslee also said he supports restrictions on high-capacity magazines as part of comprehensive package to address gun violence and would consider extending temporary taxes set to expire this year as part of a plan to close the state's projected budget shortfall and increase money for public schools.

On coal ports and the trains that will feed them, Inslee said he was “absolutely clear” on one point: “We've got to have a complete, consistent, reliable evaluation of all of the impacts directly in the state of Washington, which certainly includes transportation impacts.”

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

WA Lege Day 4: Getting down to work

OLYMPIA — After three days of pomp and ceremony, the Legislature gets down to work in earnest today with a full schedule of committee hearings through the afternoon.

Gov. Jay Inslee has a noon press conference.

Some people are wandering around the Capitol in purple, because the Service Employees Union has its lobbying day today, which they call “purple presence.”

Motorcycle rights advocates have a motorcycle rally in the afternoon in support of HB1007, which has stricter rules for covered loads on trucks.

To see the committee hearings schedule, click here to go inside the blog.

Inauguration Day: The full speeches

Inslee delivers his speech to a joint session of the Legislature.

If you can't get enough of Inauguration Day rhetoric, wonder what else was in the Gov. Jay Inslee's speech or the GOP response, we can help.

Click here to go inside the blog to read the transcript of Inslee's speech.

Click here to read the transcript of the GOP response given by Rep. Kevin Parker of Spokane.

Click here for a link to the TVW broadcast of the six GOP leaders comments and press conference after the speeches. 

At the Inaugural Ball: Iced geoduck, anyone?

OLYMPIA — One of the more unusual ice sculptures at the Inaugural Ball: a giant geoduck.

At the Inaugural: Keeping things on ice

OLYMPIA — At a table adorned with an ice sculpture of a salmon, State Rep. Ross Hunter gets advice on an appetizer selection from Kyla Applegate of Skagit Valley College.

The salmon sliders are popular, she said.

Also at the Inaugural

OLYMPIA — Members of South Puget Sound tribes wait in the wings of the state Senate for their time to perform at the Inaugural Ball celebrations

At the Inaugural Ball

 

OLYMPIA – There were two inaugural balls in Olympia Wednesday.

One was attended by about Gov. and Mrs. Inslee, other state officials and an estimated 3,000 other folks, men mostly in formal coat and tie and a few kilts, and women mostly in long dresses and a few furs.

The other was bounced around on the driveway outside the governor’s mansion garage and tossed through the basketball hoop on the garage by Inslee and a couple dozen folks, definitely not in evening attire, during a break in Inaugural Day festivities.

The Inaugural Ball, upper case, is as formal and as fancy as official Olympia gets. Tents are set up around the north and south entrances to the Capitol, and heaters kept the well-dressed warm as they left the domed building with its marbled floors and walls for a food and beverage court. Stretch limos, likely imported from Seattle or other points north, dropped people in the normally quiet streets of the Capitol Campus and at one point the line to enter festivities was two blocks long on a night with freezing fog starting to coat the grass.

To keep the celebrants fed, the Inaugural Ball Committee set up some 20 tables piled high with food from local restaurants and culinary schools. They had more than 350 chefs and students prepare more than 40,000 appetizers.

They had 30 bartenders, in case anyone got thirsty – which some did. And ice sculptures to decorate the tables, including a salmon, a Chinese dragon and a fairly phallic looking geoduck.

Inside the Capitol, the rotunda became a stage where the Chitra South Indian Twins, Karishma and Aishwarya Mandyan, performed traditional Indian dances, sometimes to nontraditional Indian songs like “God Bless America”, and the Nisqually, Squaxin and Chehalis tribes performed dances from completely different Indian tradition.

The other inaugural ball was the pickup variety, invitees of Inslee, a self-proclaimed “hoop-aholic.” He said he hoped the game would become an annual event, and encourage Washington residents to be more active, and thus more healthy.

Inslee and the others played series of half-court, 3-on-3 games. During a break in the action, he said he planned to bring a team to Spokane this summer for Hoopfest, with the goal of winning twice as many games as the 2012 campaign team. Put another way: he’d like to win two games this year. 

Inslee: I’ll be there for Hoopfest

Inslee goes up for a rebound in an Inaugural Day game at the governor's mansion.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee is a self-proclaimed hoopaholic who likes basketball so much his staff organized a pick-up game to provide a break in Inauguration Day.

He likes it so much he wants to turn that game into an annual event. 

He likes it so much the staff is looking for a place to set up a full court (and reportedly eyeing the parking lot between the Capitol press buildings.)

He likes it so much he said Wednesday he'll bring a team to Spokane for Hoopfest again this year, with plans to double the number of wins from his 2012 team… which would mean they'd win two games.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli of Spokane, who played on Inslee's Hoopfest team last summer, said that technically they did win two games in 2012. But only because one of the teams they were supposed to play didn't show up, so they won by forfeit.

Inslee said the Inaugural Day basketball game was, in part, an effort to encourage people to exercise more and make Washington the healthiest state in the nation.

GOP response: Inslee’s right on jobs, vague on other things

OLYMPIA — Republican legislators said they agreed with Gov. Jay Inslee the state has to focus on getting more jobs, but disagreed with some of his plans to do that.

They also disagreed with his contention that the science on global warming is settled and said his call to pass the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require all insurance plans that cover live births also cover abortion was a potentially divisive issue that they don't support.

“Social issues right now are not as important as getting people back to work,” Rep. Richard DeBolt of Chehalis, the House Republican leader said.

As their gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna did during the campaign, GOP legislators accused Inslee of trying to “pick winners and losers” in his call to provide tax credits for research and development on key industries. Instead, DeBolt said, the state should “allow the market to work.”

While Inslee called for more clean energy, Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, the Senate Republican leader, said the real key to more jobs is affordable energy.

“We have very clean energy. It's called hydropower,” Schoesler said.

Inslee's speech was short on details, he and other GOP leaders said. “The details are what will drive this process through the next 103 days.”

The legislative session, which began on Monday, is limited by law to 105 days.

Inslee wants to make the state a cleaner in jobs and products connected to clean energy, and in describing that goal, he said the science on climate change was settled. That brought loud cheers from the Democratic side of the floor, but many Republicans sat quietly in their chairs.

There are different theories on climate change and its causes, DeBolt said. “If you want to say it's an opinion, that's fine,” he said, but saying the debate is over is a problem.

If Inslee wants to do something about carbon emissions, however, he should look at doing something to prevent forest fires and cut more trees for lumber, DeBolt suggested. Trees that burn in fires create carbon emissions, while processed-wood products “lock the emissions into the wood.”

Republicans have three main goals in the session, said Rep. Kevin Parker of Spokane, who was chosen to give the televised GOP response to Inslee's address. Creating jobs, making education the first priority, and protecting public safety.

They support Inslee when he says he won't raise taxes to balance the coming budget, Parker added.

“We need to return to the principle that a strong economy makes a strong government, not the other way around,” he said.

Inslee: We can lead the clean energy economy

We are the right state, at the right time, with the right people.

Nine of 10 of the hottest years on record happened in the last decade.

Pacific waters are becoming too acidic. In Eastern Washington, our long tradition in agriculture could be threatened if the snow pack declines. Water stored as snow is money in the bank for Washington's rural economies, but the bank could fail if we don't act. 

All of us in Washington will have to square up to both our responsibility and our opportunity on climate change.

On climate change, we have settled the scientific controversy. That's resolved. What remains is how we respond to the challenge. We must embrace our role as first responders…as pioneers…and as entrepreneurs.

We will not hand over our destiny to lead the world in clean energy to any other state or any other nation.

We don't deny science in Washington, we embrace it. We do not follow technological innovation. We lead it. We will not pass up a golden opportunity to create jobs.

These jobs won't just fall into our laps…the clean energy race is highly competitive. 

I look forward to having a real dialogue with the Legislature in the coming weeks.

Let's remember who we are as a state. Washington embraces all people for who they are, allows all to love who they will, is never content with today.

Now let's get to work.

Inslee: States need real innovation

Across our state, we need real innovation, real reform using proven models and real accountabilty.

Science, technology, engineering and math are just as important to the next generation that the 3 Rs were to my generation.

We cannot allow funding debates to mask deeper problems in our schools that demand reform and innovation.

We can no longer accept the misalignment between what our schools teach and what our employers need.

Inslee: Address gun violence

The tragedy of Sandy Hook was unimaginable, but unfortunately not unfamiliar.

Any issue to address the issue of violence in our communities and our schools will be intolerable and in the coming weeks I will work with the Legislature to address this crisis responsibly. I don't have all the answers, but I know that the sooner we reject the extremes and embrace common sense, the sooner we'll be able to get a public health solution to this public health problem. Common sense tells us that this solution will involve mental health and keeping guns out of the wrong hands while respecting the right of my son to hunt and my uncle to defend his home.

Inslee: Health care reform

“The road to a balanced budget and a fully funded education system runs directly through health care reform.

Effectively implementing the Affordable Care Act will save us money.

This session, we must make sure Washington gets this right, first.

We must also protect the quality and choice from a health care system that works. Washington women need the freedom and privacy to make the health care decision that are best for themselves and their families. That's why I look forward to the Legislature sending the Reproductive Parity Act to my desk, which I will sign.”

This led to large cheers from Democrats, silence from Republicans.

Inslee: Disruptive change starts today

The people of Washington are tired of a state government that doesn't change with the times… Starting today we begin a multi-year effort to bring disruptive change to Olympia.

We need to fix what's broken, cut what we don't need and replace rhetoric with quantifiable results. 

We will measure success by the results we produce, not the money we put in. We will know our customers and what they value. Every agency will adopt a unique process for continual improvement.

I'm serious about reform. 

Inslee: We take risks

Inslee inaugural speech:

“No matter when you and your family arrived here, in our souls, all of us in Washington are pioneers. We push the world forward. We take risks.”

He named all the leaders of both chambers, adding, “I want us to collaborate early and often on a legislative agenda that benefits all of Washington.”

He said he'd called all members of both houses, adding, “If you received a message from me, that wasn't a robocall.”

Inslee: state brought low by Wall Street

Inslee inaugural address:

“A once vibrant and growing state economy was brought low by the gross irresponsibility of those on Wall Street. As a result, we have suffered four years of recession…but we remain an optimistic state, a visionary state and an innovative state.”

Innovation is in our genes. We create. We invent. We build.

Make no mistake. Our top priority today, tomorrow and every day for the next four years is jobs.

My plan focuses on job growth in seven industry clusters. These clusters represent both the present and the future key drivers of economic growth. We must support innovaters in these areas to take risks.

I have proposed a tradeable research and development tax credit…It's something we can do this season.

I will work with the legislatlure to make it more desirable for small and medium sized busiensses to hire more people.”

Inslee: Washington stood up for equality

“People all across Washington stood up for fairness and family in approving equality last November. The vote on Referendum 74 represents the best of who we are as a state.”

This got a standing ovation from the Democratic side of the chamber, and a few Republicans. But much of the GOP delegation sat quiet.

Inslee Inaugural Speech: We can lead, but world won’t wait

OLYMPIA — Washington has the values and talent to lead the world's next wave of innovations, new Gov. Jay Inslee said today. But the state will have to fight for the jobs of tomorrow in a world that won't wait.

“We must move, swiftly and boldly, to put this recession behind us and bring forward a unique economic strategy that brings the best of Washinton state to the world,” he said.

Recalling a family history that includes teachers, miners, fishermen and Boeing workers, a record of representing both sides of the state in Congress and a campaign that took him all over the state, Inslee asked legislators to work together regardless of party or geographic district “to deliver the change” voters requested in November.

“We truly live in extraordinary times. We also live in an extraordinary state, filled with extraordinary people. We have a spirit of innovation here in Washington that has changed the world…and you know what? We are not done.”

Inslee: we must move swiftly

Inslee: We must move swiftly and boldly to put this recession behind us and bring forth the economic strategy that brings the best of Washington state to the world.

We've all got to work together… to answer the challenges of our age.

I am truly humbled to represent all of Washington and to deliver the change in Olympia you asked for last November

Inslee sworn in

New governor waves to crowd after receiving the oath of office from Chief Justice Barbara Madsen.

OLYMPIA — Jay Inslee became Washington's 23rd governor this morning, taking the oath of office in the Capitol Rotunda as hundreds looked on from the marble steps and balconies.

Other statewide elected officials will be sworn in in the House chambers before noon, when Inslee is scheduled to give his inaugural address.

Before all that happens, there will be a repeat of yestereday's legislative calisthenics, with people rising, applauding and sitting down as members of the state Supreme Court, state officials and other dignitaries enter the chamber or get mentioned sitting in the gallery. 

Gregoire not ruling out a federal post

Gregoire's last press conference, an impromptu one, as she stopped at one of the Capitol press houses to say goodbye to reporters.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire pointedly refused to rule out the job of U.S. Interior Secretary, or any other spot in the Obama Administration, as she prepared to turn over the keys to the governor's office to Jay Inslee this morning.

She said she's been too focused on a deal struck with the federal government over continuing cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to entertain thoughts about her next job. When asked if she'd be interested in taking over at Interior for Ken Salazar, who announced he's retiring, she replied:

“When you're called to serve, you respond to the call,” she said, but wouldn't sSkay if she'd been asked to consider that or any other post. “I'll wait. I'll see… I've had offers heare and around the country.”

Her immediate plans? Skiiing in Idaho with college friends who have an annual trip she's had to skip for the last eight years, because it always comes when the Legislature is in session.

She turns over the keys to the office to Inslee at noon. Her flight to Boise leaves at 2:20 p.m.

WA Lege Day 3: Inauguration Day

OLYMPIA — Third and final day of pomp and ceremony at the state capital, as Jay Inslee and all other statewide elected officials from November get sworn in this morning.

After his late morning ceremony in the rotunda, Inslee addresses a joint session of the Legislature at noon, moves into the governor's office in the afternoon, plays a bit of hoops at the mansion before the Inaugural Ball which begins at 7 p.m.

It's as formally fancy as Olympia ever gets. Expect updates throughout the day.

Gregoire to Lege: Don’t rest on your laurels

AP Photo

Editor's note: For those who found today's Live Blog of the Governor's state-of-the-state address a bit unorthodox or disjointed, here's the more standard approach to reporting the speech, which will appear in Wednesday's print edition of The Spokesman-Review:

OLYMPIA — In her last speech to a Legislature with which she sometimes fought, Gov. Chris Gregoire said they accomplished much over the last eight years, but still have much left to do.

Don’t rest on your laurels, she said on her last full day in office, give the state better schools and roads. And, in a message that may have little traction with her replacement or the Republican-dominated coalition that runs the Senate, she suggested they may have to raise taxes to get the important things done.

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

Murray backs Obama’s plan not to negotiate

The new leader of the U.S. Senate’s Budget Committee said Tuesday that Republican threats to shutdown the government are irresponsible.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said there will be opportunities to negotiate budget cuts without crafting a deal around increasing the county’s borrowing limit.

 

“The budget ceiling debate just puts our country in a very precarious position where we’re defaulting on our loans,” said Murray, who held a forum about job programs in Spokane on Tuesday. “That puts every business and person in our country in jeopardy. And it’s not a good place to be debating.”

 

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

Parker giving GOP response to Inslee’s first speech

OLYMPIA — Spokane Rep. Kevin Parker will give the Republican response to Jay Inslee's inaugural address Wednesday.

Inslee will give his speech after he and other statewide elected officials take the oath of office Wednesday morning in the Capitol Rotunda. The ceremony starts at 10:30 a.m., and the inaugural speech is set for about 11:30 a.m.

Parker will give the GOP response after Inslee's speech, and Senate and House Republican leaders will hold a press conference right after that in the House wings to talk about their priorities for the session.

Legalized marijuana hearing set for Spokane

OLYMPIA — One of the state's six hearings on how things are going with the legalization of marijuana in Washington is set for Spokane next month.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board, which is working on ways to set up legal production of marijuana, will hold the fourth of its forums in the Spokane City Council Chambers on Feb. 12. Other forums will be in Olympia, Seattle, Vancouver, Mount Vernon and Yakima during January and February.

The forums will start with an open house at 6 p.m., then a welcome and overview from the board at 7 p.m. The board will stay until 10 p.m. to hear comments and suggestions from the public.

The board is also putting together a list of questions and answers, as well as the tentative timeline to get all its work done as required by law on Dec. 1. Information on that can be found here. 

Gregoire State of the State: Live Blog

AP Photo

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire, in her last speech to the Legislature and the state, said Washington has accomplished much over the last eight years and has much more to do.

“We won't rest on our laurels,” she said.

Here are some  highlights of her speech:

Give our students good schools and good teachers.

Education is the heart of our future, transportation is the backbone.

Remember our competition: China isn't waiting. India isn't waiting. We can't wait either.

Supreme court told us we are failing in our paramount duty of providing for basic education. There is no free lunch. We cannot cut our way out of this. We cannot save our way out of this.

Today is the day. Now is the time. We must invest in our children and their future. 

Transportation projects around the state demand funding. Companies move nearly 40 million on our roads every single hour. We must maintain our system.

Invest the $450 million on the Columbia River Crossing. Now is the time to build the future of Washington state.

You've met tougher challenges in the last eight years. You'll deliver again. You always do…

To read more of Gregoire's speech, click to go inside the blog

McMorris Rodgers not backing away from shutdown threat

WASHINGTON — More tough talk from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers today.

The House Republican Conference chairwoman disputed any suggestion the GOP was engaging in irresponsible threats by acknowledging its willingness to shut down the government over federal spending policies. Instead, she said it’s President Barack Obama’s position that should be seen as troubling.

“He said it would be irresponsible and absurd to shut down,” McMorris Rodgers said in a phone interview. “I would say that it’s irresponsible and absurd for the president to want another blank check.”

McMorris Rodgers hinted over the weekend a shutdown might be needed to force Obama to consider cuts to federal programs. She said Tuesday no one in Washington wants to see that happen, but “we need to get serious about cutting spending, and the president says we don't have a spending problem.”

The congresswoman said she hadn't seen the president's news conference Monday, in which he said he would not permit House Republicans to charge a “ransom” in refusing to raise debt ceiling in an attempt to address spending cuts.

But McMorris Rodgers, who represents Spokane and much of Eastern Washington, said the time has come to address America's mounting debt.

“What got us to this point is too much spending by both parties,” McMorris Rodgers said. “But especially in recent years we've seen record deficits, and we need to be rolling back Obama's spending increases.”

The Treasury Department reported a federal deficit of $1.1 trillion in fiscal 2012, the fourth straight year with a deficit higher than $1 trillion. However, the deficit shrunk $207 billion, or roughly 16 percent, from the year prior, thanks in part to higher corporate tax receipts and decreased spending as a share of GDP.

WA Lege Day 2: Senate in the House

OLYMPIA — State senators enterred the House of Representatives to cheers from the assembled reps, plus handshakes and hugs as they made their way to the temporary chairs set up near the desks on the floor.

It raises the question: Is this the most congenial the two chambers will be all session?

After calling both rolls, they got down to some routine but constitutional business, like declaring the winners of the statewide elections in November. 

Then they sent special delegations to escort Gov. Chris Gregoire and other statewide elected officials to the House chamber. As each group arrives, the chamber stands and applauds, sits down, then stands and applauds again as they are introduced individually.

These are the outgoing statewide electeds, so outgoing Attorney General Rob McKenna may have received the biggest hand at his introduction, but that may also be because Spin Control is ensconced on the GOP side of the House chamber.

Consuls general from other countries are in the gallery and introduced by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, prompting more standing ovations. When the consul from Croatia is introduced, House Speaker Frank Chopp, a proud Croatian American, let's out a more raucous than normal cheer, prompting a  friendly admonsiment from Owen.

Gregoire arrived in the chamber with her husband, two daughters and new granddaughter Audrey Christine, aged slightly over two months, in tow. Morestanding ovations. It  may be the legislators aerobic exercise for the day.

McKenna, Auditor Brian Sonntag and Secretary of State Sam Reed, who also are closing out years of service, also get a few minutes at the microphone.  All the pomp and circumstance means the governor isn't likely to get down to actually speaking until 11:20  a.m. or later.

Spin Control will have a report on the speech later.

WA Lege Day 2: Gregoire’s final speech

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire gives her final state of the state address this morning to a joint session of Congress in what might be regarded as “speech week.”

There were speeches yesterday for the opening day of the Legislative session, and there will be an inaugural address tomorrow after Jay Inslee is sworn in as the new governor.

Today's speech will have all the usually trappings of a state-of-the-state, with a ceremonial entrance of senators into the House chamber and dignitaries in the gallery.

Later today, the House Government Accountability and Operations Committee gets an update on liquor privatization and, as Dr. Phil would say “how's that working for you?”

WA Lege Day 1: GOP dominated coalition wins control of Senate

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, makes a point during today's debate over new Senate rules.

OLYMPIA — With a Republican-dominated coalition in control of the Senate, bills involving abortion rights, environmental protection and gun control may have little chance of coming to votes in that chamber, minority Democrats said Monday.

As expected, a coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats seized control of the Senate during Monday’s opening session, passing their rules for shared governance over a rival plan by the chamber's 24 other Democrats.

“We will concentrate more on policy than politics,” Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, said.

The new rules mean unprecedented level of power was being offered to share power in the chamber, coalition members said. Minority Democrats countered the new lineup means some legislation they think a majority of state voters would support won’t even get hearings. . .

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

WA Lege Day 1: Swearing them in

Sen. Andy Billig takes the oath of office Monday.

OLYMPIA — Each Legislative session begins with the swearing in of newly elected members.

In the House, they do it all at once. In the Senate, each re-elected senator is sworn in, followed by each newly elected senator. 

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who presides over the ceremony, called each one forward with a different adjective in front of his or her name, and Supreme Court JusticeCharles Johnson administered the oath. 

WA Lege Day 1:Underway on time

Members of the WSP honor guard prepare in the wings of the state Senate before opening ceremonies.

OLYMPIA — With the sides flipped between Republicans and Democrats on the floor of the Senate, the Legislature got underway at noon today with the usual pomp and circumstances:

Washington State Patrol honor guard to bring in the flag.

An acapella group to sing the National Anthem.

Greetings from the Lake Fair Queen.

There was more activity than normal on that floor before noon, as Republicans moved to the left side of the floor and Democrats to the right (that is, as one looks in from the doorway or down from the gallery). By tradition, the majority sits on the left,( or president's right) just outside the offices of the Majority Leader, and the minority sits on the other side.That required the changing of name plates and cleaning of desks by maintenance staff, who finished their tasks with just minutes to spare.

The chambers now go about the procedural task of swearing in new members.

WA Lege Day 1: More than just routine

OLYMPIA — The Legislature opens at noon today with more than the usual amount of interest in a small thing, the approval of rules.

This is expected to be when we find out if the “Coalition Caucus,” a grouping of the chamber's 23 Republicans and two disaffected Democrats, hold together to become the majority and control things like rules and committee appointments.

Over in the House, things will almost certainly be less dramatic. Also starting at noon, House members will be sworn in and cast their votes for leadership. Democrat Frank Chopp of Seattle is a shoo-in to be re-elected speaker and he's scheduled to address the chamber about 12:30 p.m.

Don't expect a long speech. the House Finance Committee meets at 1:30 p.m. to get an update on the revenue forecast and tax ideas in Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget proposal. The House Appropriations Committee has a 3:30 p.m. meeting to hear about the spending portion of Gregoire's budget.   

Sunday Spin: A seniority gap for Spokane?

OLYMPIA – When the Legislature opens Monday, Spokane will be in a demonstrably different position than recent years.

The years of experience among the area’s delegation will be almost half what it was four years ago, and it will have no one in a top leadership spot in either chamber.

That difference might be most noticeable in the Senate, where a Spokane member has been either the majority leader or minority leader – and sometimes both – since the start of this century. It’s hard to overstate the clout a majority leader has, as gatekeeper and court of last resort, on matters large and small.

Gregoire official portrait unveiled

OLYMPIA — The walls of the lobby of the governor's office are decorated with portraits the former occupants of that position. So with Chris Gregoire about to assume the title of “former Gov.” her portrait was unveiled Friday afternoon in the Capitol.

Seattle artist Michele Rushworth, who also did Gary Locke's portrati produced the 44-inch by 30-inch oil on canvas portrait, andput the Temple of Justice in the background to remind folks that Gregoire was attorney general before she was governor.

Gregoire is the 22nd governor, and there's not room for 22 portraits on the walls of the main lobby. So what happens to the overflow? Turns out that the portraits are moved to make room for the most recent ex-governor, and everyone else moves clockwise around the room and down the hall. Except for the first territorial governor and the first state governor, who stay in their places of honor.

Honor is a relative thing, as anyone who has ever been in the lobby when grade school class tours come through and listen to youngsters talk about the funny looking folks with their strange clothes hanging on the wall. 

Inslee: No panacea for gun violence

Govenor-elect Inslee addresses a legislative preview session.

OLYMPIA – The Legislature should consider a wide range of options in a search to increase gun safety and reduce the threat of violence, Governor-elect Jay Inslee said Thursday.

“There is no panacea, no one solution,” Inslee said at a press conference during a preview of the upcoming legislative session sponsored by the Associated Press. “But that’s not a reason for inaction.”

On other topics, Inslee – who takes the oath of office Wednesday – repeated campaign promises to try closing the state’s budget gap through government efficiencies and an improved economy but without new taxes. He called for a thorough review of plans to increase coal train traffic in the state, and said immediate changes to the new state law on legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use were unlikely.

As a congressman, Inslee voted for a ban . . . 

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

I-1185 limits universities’ power to raise tuition

OLYMPIA — If state universities want to raise tuition, the Legislature will have to approve it, a letter from a state attorney to a state senator says.

The presidents of the state's six public universities recently told legislative leaders they could freeze tuition for two years if the Legislature would add $225 to the higher education budget. Implicit in that is the prospect of the schools raising tuition if the money isn't forthcoming.

The Legislature has reduced the state's share of funding for higher education in recent years, and tuition has gone up steadily, by double digits in the last two budget cycles.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Chris Gregoire in her final budget proposed no tuition increases and no additional money for the public universities.  Legislators aren't bound by Gregoire's budget, but whether they provide something less than the $225 million the presidents are requesting, or no increases at all, they are in the driver's seat on tuition increases, a letter to Sen. Pam Roach from Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Even says.

A majority of the Legislature must approve any tuition increase because of Initiative 1185, which passed in November, Even wrote. That law says a simple majority of both houses must pass any state fee, and tuition is a fee, he said. That matches up with previous attorney general opinions on earlier initiatives that placed restrictions on the ability to raise taxes and fees, he added.

The Legislature could approve specific tuition increases itself, or it could delegate the authority to increase tuition to another agency, Even wrote. But it would have to take some action regarding tuition for it to go up. 

Former County Commissioner Mark Richard lands new job

Former Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard will lead downtown Spokane main business group.

The Downtown Spokane Partnership announced today that Richard started this week as the organization’s new president.

In September, the partnership’s board fired then-president Mike Tedesco, who earned $95,000 a year in the position.

The Downtown Spokane Partnership contracts with the city to manage about $1 million the city collects in special taxes on downtown merchants and business owners in the city's Parking and Business Improvement Area. The group uses the money to boost security, employ cleaning crews, market downtown and make other improvements.

Inslee names budget chief

OLYMPIA — Governor-elect Jay Inslee selected the leader of the state Senate's Budget Committee staff as his new budget director.

Inslee told his transition team today that he would appoint David Schumacher as the director of the Office of Financial Management, making him the incoming governor's chief budget adviser.

Schumacher spent the last two years, and from 2003-2008 as the head of the nonpartisan staff for the Senate Ways and Means Committee, that chamber's panel in charge of budgets. He spent the two years away from the committee as director of northwest government affairs for Boeing.

Inslee called him a creative thinker with “unparalleled” experience in fiscal matters.

Fairchild on short list for new tankers

Fairchild Air Force Base is one of several bases on a short list for receiving the nation's newest air refueling tanker.

Senate sources confirmed the West Plains base is on a list of possible locations for the first KC-46A refueling jets when they roll off the Boeing assembly lines later this decade. Air Force officials briefed members of Congress this afternoon on this and other plans for their bases.
 
Fairchild, along with Air Force bases in Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma are on a list to be “main operating base 1” which would be the first new home for replacements to the KC-135 tanker, which has been a mainstay of the Air Force refueling fleet since the 1950s. That would mean as many as 36 KC-46As would be assigned to the base, and the older tankers would be reassigned or retired.
 
The preferred location and “reasonable alternatives” for base 1 is scheduled to be announced this spring and the final decision is expected in spring 2014.
 
The listing of Fairchild brought cheers from members of the Washington delegation heavily involved in pushing for the base.  
Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, along with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, jointly announced Fairchild's inclusion on the list, noting they  had sent letters in 2011 and 2012 to U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, highlighting the benefits to basing the tankers in Spokane… 
 
To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog

Drug czar: We’re having ‘conversation’ on state’s pot laws

It's a small step, perhaps, but the nation's drug czar is reiterating President Obama's comments on having conversations between the federal government and states that have legalized marijuana like Washington has.

Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was responding to petitions to the White House to legalize marijuana. The Obama White House has a place on its web site for people to file petitions, and, if they get at least 25,000 signatures, it promises a response.

There are three petitions regarding some form of legalization of marijuana, including two that would involve ways the federal government would not interfere with states that legalize the drug. (The third just calls for federal legalization). All have more than the 25,000 minimum.

In response, Kerlikowske says the nation in the middle of a serious conversation about marijuana and the Justice Department is “reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington.”

He then inserts part of the transcript from an interview Obama gave Barbara Walters that bolsters that point, noting the federal government isn't going after individual users. For the complete response from Kerlikowske, go inside the blog.

Congress rates lower than . . .

Congress is not popular. That's not news. But when Public Policy Polling decided to test just how unpopular it is, the firm may have found a way to make news at Congress's expense.

It surveyed 830 Americans, asking them  “Do you have a more favorable opinion of Congress or … ” and filling in the blank with 25 different unpleasant people or things. Congress ranked lower in the following:

Root canals
NFL replacement refs
Lice
Nickelback
Colonoscopies
DC political pundits
Carnies
Traffic jams
Cockroaches
Donald Trump
France
Ghengis Khan
Used Car salesmen

So what was less popular than Congress? Go inside the blog to find out.

State Sen. Roach facing more sanctions, AP says

Sen. Pam Roach was named a committee chairwoman last month by the new “coalition majority” but it would seem she stil has some 'splaining to do for the way she treats staff, The Associated Press is reporting. Here's Rachel La Corte's account just filed this morning:

 

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A Republican state senator who is set to lead a committee under a new legislative coalition violated a Senate policy on treatment of staff shortly after she was allowed back into the GOP caucus last year, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

A new report says Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn violated the policy in March by verbally attacking a Senate Republican staffer charged with upholding sanctions against Roach that prevented her from having direct contact with staff. The report was compiled by a subcommittee created last summer solely to investigate incidents involving Roach, who was kicked out of her caucus three years ago because of accusations of mistreating staff. . .

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

New Spokane official will rule on building plans, dangerous dogs

The Spokane City Council on Monday selected attorney Brian T. McGinn as the city’s new hearing examiner.

He will replace Greg Smith who is retiring and has worked for the city since 1977. He has been the hearing examiner for more than 20 years, said City Council President Ben Stuckart.

McGinn, 44, is a Spokane native who graduated from Gonzaga Prep and has a law degree from Gonzaga University. Since 1994 he has worked at the Winston and Cashatt law firm, the same firm where City Attorney Nancy Isserlis practiced before she went to work for the city. He specializes in real estate and land-use law.

Plenty of ideas on how to regulate marijuana growers

OLYMPIA – Washington residents have suggestions for how the state should write new rules to grow legal marijuana. Hundreds of them.

Some want the state Liquor Control Board, which is trying to come up with those rules, to keep out the large corporations. Others want the board to limit the kinds of chemicals that could be used to fight of weeds, bugs or mold. Still other fear the taxes will be too high or regulations too restrictive and stub out a budding industry.

And a few are still unhappy that Initiative 502 passed last fall, removing state penalties for personal use of marijuana by adults. . .

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

To send a comment or suggestion to the Washington State Liquor Control Board on regulations to govern the production of legal marijuana, click here.

Sunday Spin: Leftover from the I-502 campaign

OLYMPIA – Elections are designed to place a punctuation mark on political disputes. Sometimes it’s a full-stop period; other times, more of comma, pausing to allow one to take a breath before the argument continues.

That seems the case with Initiative 502, which as most of the world knows opens the door for adults to smoke marijuana in private. (Who among us hasn’t had a reprobate relative, old high school buddy or college roommate call to suggest they were planning a visit to, wink-wink, take in the air of democracy in the Evergreen State, or something equally prosaic?)

Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to I-502 knew that passing the ballot measure was just the start of a long process for state officials to wrestle with regulating what has so far been unregulatable: the growing, processing and selling of something the feds consider a dangerous drug of the highest order. There’s a full year of wrangling ahead on that.

Also leftover from the campaign is a complaint stemming from an October rally in the Capitol Rotunda which featured television travel guru Rick Steves and state Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia. Planned to generate support for I-502, the rally also drew opponents.. . 

We’re No. 36…on one tax list

OLYMPIA — Washington state are about two-thirds of the way down the list when one considers how much of their income they pay for state and local taxes.

This according to the folks in charge of collecting the taxes, so they should know, right.

The state Department of Revenue said Washington residents paid $96.08 in state and local taxes on every $1,000 of income. That puts them at No. 36 on a list of taxes to income.

That puts them ahead of Idaho, which is ranked 45th with $89.98 per $1,000, and just behind No. 35, Oregon, which is at $96.88.

No. 1 is New York, where residents pay $204.12 per $1,000; No. 50 is South Dakota at $83.72.

Want more tax facts and figures? Click here to read the full report.

Smith to replace Morton state Senate

John Smith, a Colville-area farmer and businessman, was appointed by Northeastern Washington county commissioners to replace Bob Morton, who retired at the beginning of the year from his post as 7th District state Senator.

Click here to read colleague Mike Prager's coverage on the appointment.  

He'll be sworn in Jan. 9 in advance of the session, which starts Jan. 14. 

Latest Eyman initiative topic: Initiatives

OLYMPIA – Almost every year for more than a decade, Washington’s premier proponent of initiatives, Tim Eyman, has had a ballot measure to promote, and 2013 is no exception. This year’s initiative topic: initiatives.

Eyman and other supporters of Initiative 517 filed petitions with more than 345,000 signatures Thursday for a proposal that would make changes to the state’s initiative law. It would set penalties for anyone harassing a signature gatherer, allow signatures to be gathered at the entrance to any store or inside or outside any public building, and add an extra six months to the signature-gathering process.

Initiatives to the people can now be as early as January for a general election in November, but the petitions must be turned in by early July for signatures to be checked and counted for validation. Processing the proposal before it’s ready to print petitions so signatures can be gathered can take weeks, so the practical time for gathering signatures is often five months or less. I-517 would allow initiatives to be filed as early as July of the year before the election, essentially giving a campaign up to a year to gather signatures.

I-517 has about 100,000 more signatures than the minimum requirement, which makes it all but certain of being validated. It would go first to the Legislature, where it could be passed into law. The Legislature could also reject it, which would put it on the general election ballot, or pass an alternative, which would put both proposals before voters in November. 

GMO food labeling initiative likely headed to ballot

Supporters of I-522 wheel signed petitions into the Secretary of State's offfice on Thursday.

OLYMPIA — The state's voters are likely to be asked next ffice.all whether food that contains genetically modified organisms must say so on its label to be sold in Washington.

Supporters of a ballot measure to require such labels filed petitions with an estimated 350,000 signatures Thursday, more than 100,000 more than required to qualify an initiative to the Legislature. If the signatures pass inspection, it will be sent to the Legislature during the upcoming session.

Supporters like Chris McManus of University Place, who managed the signature drive, said the proposal is simply about informing the public. . .

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

Inslee names three top spots

OLYMPIA — Governor-elect Jay Inslee began filling out his executive office staff today, naming a director of his legislative office, his press office and a “senior advisor.”

Ted Sturdevant, currently the director of the state Department of Eclology, was named Inslee's executive director for legislative affairs and policy. Sturdevant also worked for Gov. Gary Locke, as a staffer in the Oregon Legislature and on several national campaigns in the two states.

David Postman, a former reporter for the Seattle Times, was named Inslee's executive director for Communictions. Until recently, Postman was director of  communications and medial for Vulcan, Inc., in Seattle.

Joby Shimomura, Inslee's former chief of staff for his congressional office for six years and a top member of his campaign staff in last year's successful gubernatorial race, was named a senior advisor.

Inslee said he will reorganize and combine some current offices, and expects to reduce the overall staff of the governor's office by four to eight people.

Tax-cut vote splits House delegations

This week’s votes to keep income tax rates from rising for most Americans split the House delegations in Washington and Idaho, but unified the two state’s senators behind the last-minute deal.

Two Washington Democrats in the House voted against the tax changes, while the state’s three other Democrats and all four Republicans voted yes.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said Wednesday her vote was a close call that came down on the side of tax cuts: “My vote last night was to reduce taxes for as many Americans as possible.”

To read more reaction to the vote on tax cuts or to comment, click here to go 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.

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

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