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Spin Control

Archive for October 2013

Yo ho Halloween at governor’s mansion

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee and wife Trudi will be hitting the pirate theme tonight for trick or treaters at the Governor's Mansion.

Technically, there are only treaters. The security system at the governor's mansion discourages tricksters. But the mansion is a stop on may Olympia kid's route. It's off by itself and out of the way, and there's often a wait because the line is long. But the candy is usually far better than the standard fare at most houses.

In the Capitol Building during the day, staff at the Secretary of State's office is donning costumes as well. Secretary of State Kim Wyman is dressed as an '80s rocker.

Congress talks budget

Sen. Patty Murray hands the gavel signifying chairmanship of the Budget Conference Committee to Rep. Paul Ryan.

Key members of the Senate and House sit down today to try to find a compromise on the 2014 budget. Rep. Paul Ryan, the former GOP vice presidential candidate and House numbers guy, is the chairman of the conference committee. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, is the conference vice chairwoman.

We're “live tweeting” the hearing.

 

In praise of compromise and civility

President Obama speaks at the memorial service for Tom Foley.

WASHINGTON – In a service that contrasted the state of today’s Congress with the House Tom Foley left nearly two decades ago, past and current leaders extolled the former Spokane speaker’s ability to see another person’s point of view, compromise and get things done.

Republicans as well as Democrats praised the late congressman and ambassador, repeating stories he shared or advice he gave about honoring public service. And one leader who acknowledged he didn’t know Foley personally but admired his reputation said it was time to emulate him.

“Now, more than ever, America needs public servants who are willing to place problem-solving ahead of politics,” President Barack Obama said.

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

Fire District safe from Ahern

In the KSPS debate that aired earlier this month on KSPS City Council candidate John Ahern spoke in confusing terms about the area served by the city's Fire Station No. 9 on the South Hill. So confusing, apparently, that Spokane County Fire District No. 9 has issued a clarification:

Here's a portion of the district's press release sent today from Fire Chief Jack Cates:

In his rebuttal, John Ahern stated that “another area I think we really need to shore up is Fire District 9.” Furthermore he felt that that area was only half-staffed at this time and indicated he had been knocking on doors talking to taxpayers in that area. The context of Mr. Ahern’s rebuttal appears to indicate that he was actually referring to the area around the old Fire Station 9 on the south hill area in the City of Spokane. He even referred to the Eagle Ridge neighborhood near Highway 195.

Capitol service remembers Spokane speaker

Live coverage of the Foley memorial service at the U.S. Capitol

 

 

Obama orders flags at half-staff for Foley

Flags are flying at half staff outside the U.S. Capitol and at federal buildings around the nation today in honor of former Rep. Tom Foley of Spokane.

President Barack Obama ordered the flags lowered Monday for Foley, who served in the House of Representatives for 30 years — five of them as speaker — and as ambassador to Japan.

Obama and former President Bill Clinton are scheduled to attend a memorial service today in the Capitol's Statuary Hall for Foley.

Last call to register to vote

Today is the last day for Washington residents who aren't registered to vote to do something to fix that if they want to cast a ballot in next week's general election.

The easy way to register, online or by mail, closed weeks ago. But Washington law allows a backup for the true procrastinators. You can go to your local county elections office in person and sign up. Don't know where your county elections office is? Check the map here. Be sure you don't show up after they close, because some counties have cut back the hours that their offices stay open as a result of budget cuts.

The normal restrictions apply: You must be at least 18 by next Tuesday. An American citizen and a resident of Washington state. You can't have had your voting rights revoked and not restored for some misdeed. More details can be found here.

If you're not registered, you'll miss the opportunity to vote in one of those hot Spokane City Council races, or all the Valley contests, or that special state Senate election in the 7th Legislative District, or to weigh in on the state wide ballot “food fight” over the labeling of genetically modified foods.

And you wouldn't want to do that, would you?

Obama to attend Foley service at Capitol

President Barack Obama will be among current and former leaders attending a memorial service for the late Tom Foley, former House speaker and U.S. ambassador, Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol.

The White House announced this morning that Obama will attend the service in Statuary Hall. Former President Bill Clinton, whose first two years in the White House coincided with Foley's last two as speaker, is also scheduled to attend.

Foley, 84, died last Friday of complications from a stroke. He served for 30 years as the representative from Eastern Washington's 5th Congressional District, the last five as speaker of the House.

The Capitol service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday. A Spokane memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. next Friday at St. Aloysius Church on Gonzaga University campus.

 

GMO labeling measure losing steam?

The onslaught of commercials castigating Initiative 522, the genetically engineered food labeling measure on the November ballot, may be taking their toll.

A new survey by The Elway Poll shows support for I-522 has dropped precipitously in the last month. In September, about two-thirds of voters surveyed said they supported the measure, which requires many foods bought at the store to carry labels if they have genetically modified ingredients. Only about one voter in five opposed it.

In the latest poll, that support is down to 46 percent, and opposition up to 42 percent. With the poll's margin of error at 5 percent, that's a statistical tie. More concerning for supporters could be that it has dipped below 50 percent support, because undecided voters tend to vote No if they remain undecided at the point they must cast their ballots.

The Seattle Times broke down the Elway Poll numbers this week. King TV had similar results from a separate poll.

The latest Public Disclosure Commission reports show the No campaign, funded in large part by Monsanto, DuPont and large food and beverage companies contributing to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have spent about $13.5 million. The Yes campaign, which has collected large amounts from some natural food and cosmetic product companies, but also has hundreds of small donations from Washington and around the country, has spent about $5.4 million.

  
  

Foley Spokane memorial set for Nov. 1

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A memorial for Tom Foley, former speaker of the House and U.S. ambassador to Japan, will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 1 at St. Aloysius Church on the Gonzaga University campus.

Foley, a Spokane native who served 30 years in the House, died last Friday in Washington, D.C., of complications of a stroke.

The Spokane service will be the second memorial next week for Foley. A service in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol is planned for Tuesday afternoon.

Foley resolution introduced by McMorris Rodgers

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers introduced a resolution Tuesday honoring former Speaker Tom Foley as “one of our country's most remarkable leaders.”

Not surprising, because McMorris Rodgers occupies the Eastern Washington seat Foley held for 30 years. Interesting, because McMorris Rodgers is the chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, which is the No. 4 position in House Republican Leadership. As speaker, Foley, a Democrat, held the No. 1 position in his party's caucus.

Full text of the resolution can be found inside the blog.

 

Crouse to resign at end of year

Republican Larry Crouse will retire after 19 years in the Legislature, likely setting off a rush of GOP hopefuls in the Spokane Valley district.

Crouse announced Tuesday he plans to retire as of Dec. 31, halfway through his current term, because of health problems that kept him away from the Legislature for much of the 2013 sessions. . .

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

 

Today’s fun video: Skewering the Obamacare website

 

The Daily Show asks the question of the week, which is how can the federal health care web site be so messed up?

State recommends taxes, limits on medical pot

OLYMPIA –  A proposal by state agencies to overhaul Washington’s medical marijuana system, restricting access and toughening requirements for patients, was immediately criticized by some advocates for the drug.

Staff from the state Health and Revenue departments, along with the Liquor Control Board which will run the state's new recreational marijuana industry, Monday released four pages of recommendations that would essentially rewrite a 15-year-old law that allows patients to use and grow the drug if they have with certain medical conditions.

For details on the proposals, go inside the blog.

The federal shutdown of 1990

Some readers have taken issue with Sunday's column and whether a federal government shutdown ke the one we just experienced would have happened if Tom Foley were speaker.

There was a shutdown, after all, in October 1990, when Foley was speaker, several pointed out in the comments section. So clearly, to some weighing in on the main website, Sunday's column is either deliberately wrong or so misinformed as to be totally discounted for further consideration.

Some take issue mainly with the headline, which does say “never”. Reporters don't write headlines, but it would have been hard to fit a “shutdown like we just saw” in the space alloted. The blog column uses “showdown” which would have been a better noun. The column wasn't designed as a historical look at shutdowns and a point-by-point comparison, but here are a few things to consider:

At the end of September 1990,  Congress and President George H.W. Bush were debating spending cuts and tax increases. They'd been negotiating for several months but hadn't reached a compromise. On Sept. 30, a Sunday, the last day of the fiscal year, the Bush Administration and congressional leadership agreed on a package that would have cut $500 billion over 5 years, raised gasoline and beer taxes, reduced Medicare and farm subsidies. It had detractors from both parties, although Bush publicly suported it and Foley said it was a good compromise even though no one was going to be thrilled with it. Both tried to convince members of their party to vote yes over the next two days, although the more the public learned about the proposal, the more opposition it generated. During this time, the federal government continued to operate.

On Thursday of that week, the House rejected the compromise package on a bipartisan vote. On Friday, Bush said he would shutdown the government over the weekend. Monday of the following week was the Columbus Day holiday, so most federal offices were going to be closed for three days, and the main effects were felt at national parks and monuments.

Negotiators from Congress and the White House worked through the weekend to come up with a new package, which was approved by the House in a bipartisan vote sometime after midnight (Foley said he'd keep the House in session until they voted on the budget compromise and a plan to reopen the government) and passed later that day by the Senate. Federal employees reported for work on Tuesday morning.

So Congressional leadership and the White House agreed to a budget  compromise, it couldn't pass the House, so they worked out another compromise, and it passed. There was no discussion of not raising the debt limit during that dispute.

Whether this sounds remotely like 2013 shutdown is up to you. As the column said, in quoting members of Congress who served with Foley, he and Bush would've gotten together and worked something out. The accounts of 1990 suggests that's what happened back then, a testament not just to Foley but Bush senior, or put another way, a knock against both House Republican leadership and President Barack Obama.

Feel free to weigh in by clicking on Comments.

Sunday Spin: A Foley debt showdown hard to imagine

It's probably just a coincidence that Tom Foley passed away slightly more than a day after the Congress he loved and served so well managed to end the partial government shutdown and spare the nation the ignominy of default.

He'd been sick for months and on hospice care, and his remaining time was being measured in days not months, his wife Heather had said the previous week. Still, the not so practical part of my brain likes to think the former speaker held on just long enough to make sure the House passed a bipartisan bill to do what most folks thought they needed to do all along.

One of Foley's great maxims was that in Congress, the perfect is often the enemy of the good. . .

Foley memorials

Spin Control blogging is admittedly light today as we produce an obituary for Tom Foley for the web page and Saturday's paper.

We recommend the S-R's slide show, which has many Foley pictures from the newspaper's extensive photo archives.

For those who want to read even more, there's Joel Connelly's obit of Foley for SeattlePI.com, the New York Times obituary, and the Associated Press report .

For those who want to read and compare, we'll leave it to you to decide which is best. But beyond a doubt, the S-R's photos are head and shoulders above the rest. And that's the way it should be.

McMorris Rodgers learned lessons, could face strong challenge from shutdown

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is under fire from both Democrats and Tea Party conservatives for her votes in recent weeks, said there were valuable lessons learned or relearned from the government shutdown.

Chief among them, the Eastern Washington Republican said Thursday, is that politics is the “art of the possible” but things are possible only if people keep talking…

 

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

Ending the shutdown: How they voted

Washington state has one distinction in yesterday's vote to end the partial government shutdown and extend the federal debt limit: It is the largest state in which the entire delegation voted yes.

Across the border in Idaho, the delegation was split, 3-1, on the no side.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Eastern Washington was one of the point-persons for the House Republican leadership in defending its tactics on the shutdown, appearing at press conferences and on 24-hour cable news programs. Like many other GOP leaders, she voted to end it Wednesday night, contending “House Republicans have done everything possible to protect the American people from the arbitrary regulations and unnecessary costs of the President's health care law… We did not accomplish everything we hoped. But in the end, the Senate agreed to come to the table and start to talk.”

She said House Republicans are united and will work on fixing “an out-of-control government.”

As a breakdown of the vote in the Washington Post shows, however, they were pretty sharply divided on the vote to end the shutdown. Americans for Limited Government, a group opposed to the Affordable Care Act, is also blasting House Republicans who voted to end the shutdown, saying they “now own Obamacare just as much as if they voted to adopt it in the first place.”

Majority of Washington lawmakers back Columbia River bridge

While touring Spokane on Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said his withdrawal of plans to seek $450 million in state money for a controversial span over the Columbia River should eliminate the last roadblock to passing a comprehensive transportation package for the state before year's end.

A majority of Washington lawmakers want Oregon to know that doesn't mean they've turned their backs on the project.

A letter to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber sent Wednesday was signed by 75 Washington legislators, including many members of the Senate Democratic caucus that were denied a vote on the bridge project during the Legislature's regular and two special 2013 sessions.

“I’m disappointed our two states aren’t sharing leadership of this project, as we once were,” said Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver. The project would replace existing spans over the Columbia River that have been in operation for more than half a century and are badly in need of repair to alleviate congestion, according to engineers.

Inslee said in an interview with The Spokesman-Review on Wednesday that Kitzhaber is pondering calling a special session of his own to attain authorization for his state to move forward on the project without Washington's assistance. Inslee said the state attorney general has reviewed that option and there is no legal barrier to Oregon connecting its bridge to Washington roads.

The project recently received the go-ahead from the U.S. Coast Guard. The leader of the Oregon Senate indicated Wednesday plans to push a vote on the project to February, according to the Oregonian.

Click here to read the entire letter sent by Washington lawmakers to Kitzhaber.

McMorris Rodgers digs at Obamacare, strikes hopeful tone following shutdown vote

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, joined 86 of her GOP colleagues in the House of Representatives on Wednesday night voting to end a partial government shutdown that lasted 16 days.

In a statement following the vote, the congresswoman and chair of the House Republican Conference continued attacks on the Affordable Care Act, the nation's health care overhaul that launched its online marketplaces the same day the federal government shuttered most of its doors.

“House Republicans have done everything possible to protect the American people from the arbitrary regulations and unnecessary costs of the President’s health care law,” McMorris Rodgers said in her prepared remarks.

In the early days of the shutdown, House Republicans were calling for a year delay of the requirement for individuals to sign up for the exchanges after President Barack Obama said employers would be granted such a reprieve while the kinks were worked out in the marketplaces. That demand was one of many that Republicans - facing growing opposition among the American people, according to polls cited in a Slate report - were forced to drop as the shutdown dragged on.

“We did not accomplish everything we hoped,” McMorris Rodgers said in her statement. She continued, however, with a tone of hope that some of the concessions sought by Republicans on spending might yet be attained. 

“In the end, the Senate agreed to come to the table and start to talk,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Those talks will take the form of a budget conference - requested multiple times throughout the summer by Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. - that must reconcile by Dec. 13 massive differences between budget resolutions passed by each chamber earlier this year. That timeframe was included in the bill passed Wednesday night.

To read McMorris Rodgers' entire statement, click here to go inside the blog.

AP: Ferguson suing anti GMO labeling donor

Attorney General Bob Ferguson held a press conference this morning to announce a lawsuit against a group that has given some $7 million to the campaign against Initiative 522. Here's an updated report from Mike Baker of the Associated Press:

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington’s attorney general accused a food industry group Wednesday of violating state campaign finance laws for how it collected and spent more than $7 million to oppose a food labeling initiative…

 

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

State pot rules get board OK

OLYMPIA — Potential growers, processors and vendors of marijuana will be able to apply for state licenses in one month. The agency in charge of setting up the state's recreational marijuana system this morning approved the rules they'll have to follow to get the industry off the ground.

“Today we are making history,” Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said. “It's going to be a bumpy road for a while, folks.”

The 43 typed pages of rules cover everything from how far a marijuana store must be from schools, parks and other places frequented by children (1,000 feet, in a straight line from property boundaries) to the size of a sign a store may have (1,600 square inches) to the hours it may be open (8 a.m. to midnight)

They describe the system to track a marijuana plant and its useable materials it produces from the field to the processor to the store, as well as the warning labels that must accompany marijuana or products infused with the drug when they are sold.

Board member Chris Marr, a former state senator from Spokane, called the rules a balance between public access and public safety, and should allay the fears of cities and counties that have passed moratoria on marijuana businesses being located within their borders. “We might not have it exactly right,” Marr added, and some adjustments will likely need to be made in the coming years.

The board will hold a series of licensing “seminars” around the state to help potential applicants understand the rules and answer their questions. A pair of seminars is scheduled for the Spokane Convention Center on Oct. 23. Applications for the licenses will be available beginning Nov. 18.

Inslee in Spokane Wednesday

Gov. Jay Inslee comes east for a full day today:

  * Press conference at 9:30 a.m

  * Roundtable discussion on transportation at 10:30 a.m. at the downtown library.

  * Shows off the Washington Healthplanfinder’s Mobile Enrollment Tour at 2:45 p.m

  * Speech at the Greater Spokane Inc.’s 5th Annual State of the Green Economy conference at 3:15 p.m.

  * Holds a public hearing for a climate workgroup at 5 p.m. at the Spokane Falls Community College auditorium.

 

He may be trying to make up for the fact that he didn't make it to Hoopfest, as he promised on his inauguration day, because the Legislature was still in session.

Medicaid expansion adds adults to dental care

OLYMPIA – A quarter-million adults in Washington will gain dental coverage over the next two years as the state expands its Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act and re-establishes programs dropped in budget cutbacks.

Starting Jan. 1, current Medicaid recipients who lost coverage after successive rounds of budget cuts in 2009 and 2011 will have it restored and those who being added to the health care program under an agreement between the state and federal government will also be eligible for dental coverage, state officials said.

“Obviously, it’s a relief,” Dr. Ashley Ulmer, a Spokane dentist who has a North side private practice and serves as director of the Inland Dental Expanded Access, or IDEA, Clinic. “Some people have put off care for a long time.” . .

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

WA No. 6 for good biz tax structure

Washington state has the sixth best structure for business taxes in the country, the Tax Foundation said.

In its annual report on state tax “climates”, the foundation gave Washington high marks…as it usually does. 

This may surprise people who have heard the business community complain about the state’s tax structure or notice that pro-business groups often give campaign money to candidates who vow to change it. . . 

Shutdown protest

OLYMPIA — Members of the public employees' unions gathered on the arched walkway over Capitol Boulevard at lunchtime today with signs calling for an end to the federal government's partial shutdown.

Parking meter holiday in Spokane

Columbus Day may not be as big of a holiday as it once was: Fewer people have the day off with pay. There aren't any local parades. The weather's a bit nippy for picnics.

And then there's that whole legacy question about whether we should be celebrating an event that precipitated the decimation of many of the hemisphere's indigenous people.

But there's one reason to celebrate the whole “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” thing.

It's a parking meter  holiday in downtown Spokane. This is no doubt to celebrate the day when the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria arrived off that island in the Bahamas and the inhabitants allowed him to park the boats there for free as a way to encourage tourism and shopping, and because the automated meters couldn't read Columbus' debit card.

Or something like that. Anyway, park downtown for free if you can find a space on the street that isn't occupied by some downtown office worker who usually parks in Browne's Addition to avoid the meters.

Ballots in the mail this week

Nearly 4 million Washington voters will be mailed ballots this week as county elections offices begin sending them to the post office on Wednesday. Voter information pamphlets should also be arriving, if they haven’t already.

Unlike the primary, which was kind of hit or miss depending on the local ballot, all registered voters get a general election ballot because of the statewide issues.

It is possible people who to register if they are over 18, American citizens, Washington residents and not felons. You have to do that in person, at the county elections office, before Oct. 28.

Sunday spin2: Tourism folks, take note

A look at the Official Records most days shows some same-sex couples from other states come to Spokane to get married, and some gay rights advocates have suggested there’s a chance to capitalize on Washington’s status as one of a handful of states that allow such unions.

A recent item in the Chicago Tribune, however, suggests what could be a particularly good tact for promotion, Chicago Alderman James Cappleman told a reporter that he and his longtime partner had a civil union, but the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act convinced them it was time to get married. They wanted to get married in Illinois, but were travelling to Washington next month because the same-sex marriage bill had stalled in the Illinois Legislature.

So here’s the strategy: Watch for states where same-sex marriage legislation gets introduced and gets some peoples’ hopes up, then fails and dashes them. Then run a campaign based on “Tired of waiting? Come to Washington!”

Sunday spin: I-517 seeking attention

OLYMPIA – Supporters of Initiative 517, which may be struggling as the other initiative on the November ballot, tried to get some traction last week with what they said is a “shocking trend” in Washington politics.

This fight for attention is a tough one … .

Nearing an end to the landline phone era?

OLYMPIA – If you want the surest sign that telephone that hanging on your wall or resting on your desk is on the way out, this may be it:

Washington regulators may soon allow CenturyLink, the state’s biggest provider of home phone service, to charge whatever it wants for residential landlines. And the rates aren’t likely to change substantially.

They didn’t jump dramatically when the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission granted similar authority to Frontier, the state’s second largest provider of landlines, this summer. Frontier home rates went up $1 a month at the beginning of October. . .

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

Today’s fun video: Daily Show looks at shutdown rhetoric

 

Jon Stewart jabs President Obama and Republicans for their pronouncements and theatrics on the shutdown.

McMorris Rodgers part of negotiating team on shutdown

Time Magazine is reporting Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, has been selected by House Speaker John Boehner to negotiate Thursday with President Barack Obama on the partial federal government shutdown.

Obama originally invited all members of the House of Representatives to 1600 W. Pennsylvania Ave. to discuss funding the federal government. Boehner elected to send 18 representatives, including members of House leadership and committee chairs, instead.

A spokeswoman for McMorris Rodgers confirmed on Wednesday afternoon her planned attendance at the meeting.

The full Time listing of attendees:

Boehner (Ohio)
Rep. Eric Cantor (Virginia) 
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (California)
McMorris Rodgers (Washington)
Rep. Greg Walden (Oregon)
Rep. James Lankford (Oklahoma)
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (Kansas)
Rep. Virginia Foxx (North Carolina)
Rep. Steve Southerland (Florida)
Rep. Ann Wagner (Missouri)
Rep. Peter Roskam (Illinois)
Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas)
Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisconsin)
Rep. Dave Camp (Michigan)
Rep. Fred Upton (Michigan)
Rep. Hal Rogers (Kentucky)
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas)
Rep. Buck McKeon (California)

House Democrats are meeting with Obama today. Boehner said Tuesday a phone call with the president yielded “a crack” in the frigid impasse that has kept portions of the federal government on shutdown since Oct. 1, but it wasn't enough to stoke his optimism.

I-594 sponsors turn in 250K signatures

Carol Holt, Robert Martin and Barbara King count petitions whild Kate Ayers shuttles stacks of I-594 to a storage box.

OLYMPIA — Sponsors of a proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases turned in 250,000 signatures Wednesday to qualify it as an initiative to the Legislature.

If they were all valid, that would be enough to have Initiative 594 considered in the 2014 session. But initiative campaigns typically have rejection rate of 10 percent to 15 percent, sponsors plan to turn in as many as 75,000 more in December.

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

Gun control supporters to turn in some petitions Wednesday

Sponsors of an initiative to require background checks for more gun sales will turn in some of the signatures Wednesday that they need to send the measure to the Legislature next year.

Members of the Initiative 594 campaign said Tuesday they plan to turn in about 225,000 signatures. or about 70 percent of their goal, as a way of “demonstrating tremendous support” for the proposal. It would require background checks for most private gun sales or transfers, beyond the current requirement of background checks for sales by dealers.

To be certified as an initiative to the Legislature, a proposal needs a minimum of about 250,000 signatures, although most campaigns try to get a substantial cushion of extra signatures to cover names that aren't registered or are duplicates. Most campaigns wait until they have reached their targets, or the deadline in late December, before submitting signatures.

Also gathering signatures this year is I-591, a separate initiative to the Legislature that would forbid gun confiscation without due process and require a national standard for expanded background checks. 

The Legislature can pass an initiative without changes and make it law, or it can ignore or reject it, which puts it on the ballot next November. It can also pass an alternative, which would put both the original initiative and the alternative on the November ballot.

Parker hosting human trafficking meeting

A legislator, a member of a youth volunteer organization and a major league pitcher will host a town hall meeting on human trafficking Wednesday evening in North Spokane.

Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, said the meeting is designed to discuss what the state is doing to address human trafficking: “It is difficult to conceive that people are still being sold into slavery in our day and age, and in our country. However, human trafficking is very real and, unfortunately, prolific in our country.”

Joining Parker will be Jeremy Affeldt, a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, and Darrin Duty of Generation Alive, a volunteer organization for young people that Affeldt and his wife helped start.

The meeting is starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Service Station, 9315 N. Nevada.

Health benefits website running smoother

OLYMPIA – More than 165,000 people have visited Washington’s website designed to help them find medical insurance, and about 9,400 individuals or families have enrolled in some type of plan.

After some computer problems in the opening days that resulted in long delays for both the website and at call centers, state officials say the system is improved and has run smoothly since Saturday morning…

A bloc against Obamacare

One reason the shutdown remains so intractable is a core of House Republicans who signalled in August they wanted to eliminate the federal health care reforms.

In a letter to Speaker John Boehner, 80 House Republicans said they supported using the “power of the purse” to end the law. It didn't get much attention at the time, but in the last week, as the shutdown loomed and then occured, national political commentators have pointed to the letter, and its author Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, as a key to they deadlock.

Several readers have asked if Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers or  any of Washington's GOP House members signed onto the letter.They did not. But Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho did.

For a map of the districts of those who signed on to the letter, click here.

Today’s fun video: SNL’s winners & losers from shutdown

 

 

This was a pretty accurate, although not comprehensive, list. It was much better than the over-the-top music video segment on the shutdown featuring Miley Cyrus as Michelle Bachmann.

(Note: This clip comes from the NBC website, so it contains a very long commercial at the beginning. Sorry, but the network apparently has to pay for its videos somehow…)

McMorris Rodgers: Obamacare ‘making life harder’ in E. Washington

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers hears lots of angst about Obamacare in Eastern Washington.

At least, that's what she says in a USA Today guest column defending the House Republicans in their move to link continued funding of the federal government to some changes in the Affordable Care Act.

“No matter where I go when I'm home in Eastern Washington — the grocery store, the local coffee shop, the county fair — the concern is the same: Obamacare is making life harder for everyday Americans. At the doctor's office, the dinner table and in the job market. “ ” she wrote in a counterpoint to the newspaper, which criticized House Republicans.

A skeptic would probably point out that McMorris Rodgers most recent visit to the home district was pretty much designed so she would mostly hear criticisms of the new law. A playbook for House Republicans returning home for the August recess (they prefer “work period”) advised members to hold an Obamacare Media Tour “to emphasize the need to repeal Obamacare to protect employees, small businesses and jobs.” Such events were to be peopled with like-minded folks, so the opportunity to hear something other than a discouraging word about the new law at those gatherings was pretty limited.

The forward to this “Planning Kit” was written by McMorris Rodgers herself, so it's a good bet she followed it closely.

The congresswoman did hold a “y'all come” town hall meeting in Spokane during that recess, but by most accounts the reaction to the Affodable Care Act was mixed, with some people unhappy with it, and others unhappy with McMorris Rodgers and her fellow Republicans for repeatedly trying to repeal it.

Yesterday she sent out a tweet noting problems on the opening day for Washington state's health care exchange, where people without insurance can sign up for plans, “#ObamaCare exchanges open today and #WA State's website isn't even working. Precursor to the complications to come,” she wrote.

 

The tweet was time stamped at 7 a.m., which was before state officials said the website was supposed to open. The exchange did have problems later in the day, but for reasons that somewhat undercut her statement about people being so concerned about the program. The system was slow or crashed at times because so many people were trying to go online to sign up.

Figures released Wednesday from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange showed that the web site had 170,487 page views and the call center fielded 6,199 calls. It established 6,385 accounts.

The system is still having problems — it's being taken down from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday for maintenance — and it would be a fair criticism that one might've expected better from the nearly $55 million contract Deloitte received to build it. But it seems fair to say that at least some people think the new law is going to make their lives easier.

Inslee asks feds to let banks serve pot businesses

OLYMPIA — Governors of the two states that legalized marijuana last year are asking federal regulators to find a way that businesses licensed to raise and sell the drug can use banks.

Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington and John Hickenlooper of Colorado sent a letter to the heads of the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board, the Comptroller of the Currency and other key banking regulators, asking them to come up with guidance to allow the fledgling businesses to establish accounts.

Federal banking regulations currently forbid banks from accepting money from illegal drug transactions, and the federal law classifies marijuana as an illegal drug, even though voters in the two states have passed laws making it legal for recreational use by adults.

Without bank accounts, businesses that are licensed by the state to grow, process or sell recreational marijuana will have to deal in cash, which creates “an unnecessary inviting target for criminal activity,” the governors say in their letter. It also makes it more difficult to track the flow of money and prevent diversion of some proceeds into illegal activities, they added.

Washington voters last November approved Initiative 502, which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana by adults in private, but the state Liquor Control Board is still developing rules for the businesses to operate. The board is expected to begin accepting applications for recreational marijuana businesses in November, with licenses awarded early next year and stores open by June.

Shutdown cancels WA Guard weekend training

Washington National Guard units canceled monthly training this weekend because of the federal government shutdown.

A Guard spokeswoman said some 8,000 members of Army and Air Guard units across Washington will forego their drill weekend  — and the paycheck from the federal government that goes with that.

Karina Shagren said the training sessions will have to be made up at some future point, and guard members will be paid for that.

Spokane Congressional offices become sounding board for shutdown ire

Spokane activists upset about the federal government shutdown that began Tuesday are taking a page from Martin Luther.

Fliers from the left-leaning organization MoveOn.org were plastered on the walls outside the Congressional offices of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., earlier this week, seen in images posted on Twitter by a user who gave her name as “Erica.” The sign on Murray's office, offering congratulations for a job well done, remained posted on her office door Wednesday morning, near a sign indicating the office would be closed for the duration of the shutdown.

The signs blame the right-wing tea party group for causing the first federal government shutdown since the mid-1990s, threatening services from unemployment check processing to low-income nutritional assistance as well as shutting down thousands of National Park sites throughout the country. House Republicans pushed a measure Tuesday evening that would reopen the parks and ensure veterans receive benefits during the shutdown, but the measure - sponsored by Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson - failed to receive the 2/3 majority needed for passage.

 

Murray took to the Senate floor Tuesday night to condemn House Republicans for “holding our economy hostage” by refusing to pass a funding resolution without concessions to delay the Affordable Care Act.

 

“To be clear, this shutdown would be over immediately if Speaker Boehner would simply allow both Democrats and Republicans in the House to vote on the bill the Senate has passed multiple times to continue funding the government. But to this point, Republican leaders have chosen shutdown over sanity and politics over the many people who will be impacted by shuttering the government,” Murray said in a statement.

But House Republican leadership, including McMorris Rodgers, have accused the Senate of refusing to come to conference on their funding bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Obama have stated they have no intention of entertaining any proposals that affect health care in any way.

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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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