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Spin Control

Archive for January 2014

Today’s fun video: Stewart weighs in on Richard Sherman

And the host of the Daily Show hits it dead on, in this comparison with other people “in the news”: 


WA Lege Day 19: College aid bills pass

OLYMPIA — In a display of almost blinding speed, the Senate could vote today on a bill to expand some college aid to students who are longtime residents but not citizens.

Generally known as the Dream Act, it was a hot topic last year, passing in the House but languishing in the Senate. Yesterday, the predominantly Republican majority that runs the Senate announced it had a new bill on the topic, which expanded the financial aid programs AND promised an extra $5 million, making it more than just a promise. The Associated Press story with full details can be found inside the blog.

Sen. Barbara Bailey, chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said that bill, and another guaranteeing veterans in-state tuition rates at Washington public colleges, could come to a vote as early as today.

UPDATE: The Senate passed both bills. Giving in-state tuition to vets passed unanimously. Expanding the state need grants to students who have lived in the state at least three years and would qualify except for their immigration status passed 35-10.

Elsewhere, there are lots of military uniforms on display because it is National Guard Day. And lots of Seahawks attire because of something happening Sunday.


Legislators join football betting craze

OLYMPIA — Washington legislators, in a rare bit of bipartisanship, have banned together to make a bet with their Colorado counterparts on the Seahawks-Broncos game.

Among the booty at stake if the Broncos win: Cougar Gold Cheese (courtesy of Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville), Arbor Crest wine, (Sen. Mike Padden, Spokane Valley), Smoed Salmon, Almond Roca, Aplets and Cotlets, Bainbridge Island gin, Tulip Bulbs, a Costco gift card.

Coming west if the Seahawks win: Microbrewery stout and ale, a John Denver's Greatest Hits CD, lift tickets to a Vail Ski Resort, Rocky Mountain Chocolates, Celestial Seasonings tea, Stranahan's whiskey and La Casita Tamales.

Carrot or stick to fight pot business bans?

OLYMPIA – Legislators are trying to decide whether to offer a carrot or use a stick against local governments that don’t want to let recreational marijuana businesses set up shop inside their borders.

The carrot: Offering up some of the taxes those businesses will be required to pay the state as the drug moves from harvest to sale.

The stick: A flat out ban on interfering with pot businesses that get state licenses.

Not surprisingly, cities and counties would rather have the cash. But they’re reluctant to promise they'd issue licenses even then. . .

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


Cantwell stepping down as chair of Indian Affairs

Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, is stepping down as chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee.

Cantwell said during a meeting Wednesday that Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., will take over the committee in the coming months.

No explanation was given, but a Washington Post report earlier this month from January hinted that Cantwell could be in line to chair the Senate Small Business Commitee soon due to other senators leaving or changing committees.

The committee’s highest ranking Republican Sen. John Barrasso and Tester praised Cantwell’s tenure as chair.

“I appreciate your leadership and vision of this committee,” said Tester. “The poor soul that has to follow you has to live up to your legacy.”

A spokesman from Cantwell’s office said nothing official has been decided yet as to which committee Cantwell will be moving to and declined to comment on speculation.

Cantwell is currently the third highest ranking Democrat on the Small Business committee behind chairwoman Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La, who’s rumored to be leaving to chair the Senate Energy Committee and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, who is not running for reelection.

Palouse Falls pitched for state recognition

Washtucna Elementary students ask House Government Operations Committee to name a state waterfall.

OLYMPIAWashington has a state bird, a state flower, a state tree, a state fossil and state song, and a host of other official state items.

Why not a state waterfall?

That’s what students from Washtucna Elementary School are wondering. They would like the Legislature to designate Palouse Falls, which is tucked away in an arid and remote part of Eastern Washington, to help out the underappreciated natural wonder practically in their backyard. . .

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

WA Lege Day 18: Local governments and recreational pot

OLYMPIA — The House Government Accountability Committee takes up several bills that have to do with local governments and recreational marijuana.

Can they rearrange where the excise taxes go to dedicate more to local governments? Can they block local governments trying to limit over where the businesses are?

Most important: Can the Legislature muster the two-thirds majorities needed to amend Initiative 502 less than two years after it passed?

Elsewhere, there are votes on prevailing wage and paid vacation leave in House Labor, a bill on industrial hemp in Senate Agriculture,  a possible state Alzheimer's plan in Senate Health Care, a work session on the cost of attending state colleges in Senate Higher Ed.

A full list of hearings is available inside the blog.


Gun initiatives get second hearing

OLYMPIA – A pair of initiatives on gun control had their second and likely last hearing Wednesday with supporters and opponents disagreeing sharply on when giving a gun to another person would require a background check.

Wednesday’s hearing by the Senate Law and Justice Committee didn’t have the same “star power” as Tuesday’s House hearing without former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and former astronaut Mark Kelly to speak in favor of Initiative 594. But it did feature more questions by legislators of the two initiatives sponsors and sparked a debate over what it means to “transfer” a firearm. . . 

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

McMorris Rodgers a VP contender (and other speech analysis)

Here's what's being said about Eastern Washington's Congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers after (and a little before) her speech responding to President Barack Obama's State of the Union:

The Washington Post says she's a vice presidential contender in 2016:

“Talk of a possible veep slot in 2016 is in the air, as is the possibility that McMorris Rodgers will rise through the House Republican ranks, should Boehner decided to step down in the coming years. Even though she has been part of the brass for a while, it’s as if Republicans are suddenly waking up to the focus-group charm of CMR.”

The Daily Kos calls baloney on McMorris Rodgers claims about “Bette in Spokane”:

Sorry, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, your story doesn't pass the smell test, and certainly doesn't withstand any level of detailed analysis.

McClatchy puts the honor of giving the opposition speech in perspective:

On Tuesday, she’ll become the 12th woman to give the opposition speech and only the second chosen from the House Republican ranks, joining the late Rep. Jennifer Dunn, also of Washington state, who got the nod in 1999. Two Washington state Democrats took the assignment, too: Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson in 1970 and then-Gov. Gary Locke in 2003.

Read more here:

WA Lege Day 17: Of ice cream, guns, oysters and Palouse Falls

OLYMPIA — This is one of the favorite days of the Legislative session for members, staff, lobbyists — and yes, even reporters — Dairy Day.

The state's dairy farmers make a show of strength to lobby their legislators, the Dairy Ambassadors (once called Dairy Princesses in less politically aware days) make a floor speech. And there's free ice cream handed out in the Capitol Building at noon. 

And no, Spin Control doesn't take any, because The Spokesman-Review has strong rules against taking freebies.

There's another full day of hearings, including the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the two gun control hearings. It might not be quite as packed as yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, because former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords isn't scheduled to attend. But any gun control proposal is likely to draw a crowd.

Also on tap this afternoon in the House Government Operations Committee is a hearing on a proposal to pass out two official “state” designations. A group of students from Washtucna will be testifying in support of naming Palouse Falls the state waterfall.

They'll have to share time with another group that wants the Legislature to declare the Olympia oyster the state oyster.

A full list of committee hearings appears inside the blog.


Giffords: ‘Be bold’, pass gun control measure

OLYMPIA – Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords urged legislators to “be bold, be courageous” and require wider background checks on gun sales. Gun rights advocates urged them to protect constitutional rights and pass a competing initiative.

But even before testimony began in the packed hearing room Tuesday, it was clear the Legislature is likely to do neither.

Initiative 594, which would subject most Washington gun sales to the kind of background checks now required when buying from a dealer, and Initiative 591, which would expand background checks in the state only if there's a new federal standard, aren’t likely to pass the Legislature. They're headed, instead, for the fall ballot, Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, indicated.

“This is the beginning of a dialogue we'll be having at least until November,” Jinkins said. “Let's keep it civil.”

And for the most part, it was… .

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

McMorris Rodgers rebuttal set

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will rush from the House Floor to a nearby studio to give the rebuttal to tonight's State of the Union address by President Obama. 

But she won't have to listen carefully to his speech, take notes and write something new on the fly. Like Obama's speech, McMorris Rodgers is already prepared. House Republicans already released excerpts, which kind of makes it a “prebuttal.” 

Congressional Democrats, by the way, have their rebuttal to McMorris Rodgers' rebuttal set, too, and have already e-mailed it out. Bottom line to their message: she might be a fresh face for the GOP, but she represents all the same old policies.

The released excerpts are inside the blog.


Live coverage: Gun control initiatives hearing

OLYMPIA — Spin Control is providing live coverage of the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Initiatives 591 and 594, two measures on gun control expected to be on the November ballot.




Live coverage coming: House gun control initiatives hearing

OLYMPIA — The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the two gun control initiatives likely to go on the ballot later this year.

Among the speakers supporting Initiative 594, which would expand background checks for most gun purchases, will be former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly. Also on the agenda is Initiative 591, which would require a federal standard for expanding background checks before any changes could take effect in Washington. 

The hearing is expected to draw an overflow crowd, with additional seating in the House gallery, something that's usually reserved for hearings on the very big, very contentious issues. 

We'll be covering it live, via Twitter, with reports being filed here on Spin Control.

Voters could decide how much baristas must wear

The brewing debate about how much clothes must be worn by baristas could be decided by voters.

Spokane resident Beth Solscheid this month filed an initiative proposing to create a law making it a misdemeanor crime to expose at least half of a female breast, or any part of female areolas or nipples or any part of male or female genitals or anus at any place the general public has a right to be or see.

The initiative has an unlikely ally in Sarah Birnel, the owner of Devil’s Brew, the local espresso stand chain that sparked calls last summer for rules forcing baristas to cover up as a result of the “topless Tuesday” promotion. That’s when baristas wore only G-strings and pasties. Birnel recently changed the name of the stands to Devil’s Brew from XXXtreme Espresso.

Birnel said she likes the idea of letting voters decide nudity standards. She also has a Devil’s Brew location in Spokane Valley, where that city’s City Council recently approved nudity restrictions that are the model for the initiative.

“I’m not too keen on seven people saying yea or nah,” Birnel said..

WA Lege Day 15: Panel OKs tougher DUI laws

OLYMPIA – A pair of proposals for tougher drunk driving laws were sent to the budget writers Monday to figure out how the state might pay for more people serving time.

One proposal would make the fourth conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, compared to current law which makes the fifth conviction a felon; A second would allow courts to consider convictions from the past 15 years rather than seven years, the current limit. Both passed the Senate Law and Justice Committee on 5-2 votes.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, said he supported the policy but wondered where the money would come from to pay for the additional jail and prison term. That could be nearly $3 million in 2015-17, Kline said, and without a new source of money the Senate Ways and Means Committee would be “robbing from other programs” for things like schools, social services and environmental programs.

“That is the duty of the Ways and Means Committee,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, sponsor of the bill that reduces the number of convictions. “What we’re doing with these bills is saving lives.”

Congressional delegation bets on Super Bowl

If it's Super Bowl week, it must be time for politicians to make bets on the outcome for the teams they represent.

In keeping with that age-old tradition, the Washington and Colorado delegations are quickly out of the box with a collection of food. sweets and booze they are willing to bet on the game. In true bipartisan spirit, the bets include  members of both parties in each state.That's 10 for Washington and seven for Colorado.

For a look at what each member is putting on the line, go inside the blog.


WA Lege Day 15: Senate majority flexes muscle

OLYMPIA — In the clearest example yet of what it means to have one more member of the Senate's ruling caucus, the Democratic chairman of a key committee was forced to share power with a newly elected Republican.

On 26-23 votes, the Majority Coalition Caucus restructured the Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee, to make Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, the co-chairwoman. She will share control of the committee with Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who was one of the few Democrats who agreed to take a committee chairmanship last year when the mostly Republican coalition took control of the chamber and offered some top spots to minority Democrats. 

Angel, a five-year veteran of the House, beat Democrat Nathan Schlicher last November, in a special election. Her victory gave Senate Republicans 24 seats, and with the two Democrats who helped form the Majority Coalition Caucus, 26 votes to the 23 for the remaining Democrats.

Hobbs, a moderate Democrat, said the change was payback for his support of several bills conservatives in the coalition oppose, including the Reproductive Parity Act, the Dream Act, and cost-of-living adjustments for teachers. Those bills have at least 25 senators who support them, but moderate members of the coalition won't buck their caucus to allow votes on them.

“It's a clear indication their caucus has moved to the right,” Hobbs said. He supported Republican efforts to reform workers compensation last year, but said he might not do that again if there was no support for some of the social legislation. Moderates in the majority coalition told him they opposed the change but wouldn't break caucus unity to vote against it, he added. 

Senate Republican Caucus Chairwoman Linda Evans Parlette, of Wenatchee, insisted the move was merely an effort to take advantage of Angel's expertise on issues before the committee. She's a former commercial banker and real estate saleswoman and owner  of commercial and residential properties who has served as a county commissioner and a member of an Economic Development District's executive board.

“The Majority Coalition Caucus is centered just where they were last year,” Parlette said, adding the committee is equally split and either Hobbs or Angel can veto a bill. 

To the suggestion that Hobbs might not join Republicans when they try again to pass changes to workers compensation system, Parlette replied: “If he chooses to vote differently, I would say 'Did you not believe in it last year?'”

To see the official statements from the two sides, or to comment, continue inside the blog.


Giffords to testify at gun initiative hearing

Gabrielle Giffords waves to reporters earlier this month at an event to mark the third anniversary of her shooting in Arizona.

OLYMPIA — Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a shooting rampage that killed six, will testify in favor of a proposed initiative to require broader background checks for gun purchases.

Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, are expected to testify in favor of Initiative 594 at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday afternoon.

The committee is holding a hearing on both I-594, which would extend the current requirements for background checks on purchases from dealers to most public sales, and I-591, which would only allow broader background checks if the federal standard changes. Both proposals gathered more than 340,000 signatures in campaigns last year. I-594 has already been certified as an initiative to the Legislature and I-591 is in the middle of the having signatures verified but is expected to be certified soon.

Under state law, the Legislature could pass either into law. But it is expected to pass on both, sending the two measures to voters on the November ballot.

Giffords was severely wounded and six people were killed when a gunman opened fire on a congressional gathering in her Tucson, Ariz., congressional district three years ago. She and Kelly formed Americans for Responsible Solutions to help reduce gun violent after the Sand Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. 

The House Judiciary Committee's hearing is at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Senate Law and Justice Committee also will hold a hearing on the two measures starting at 1:30 Wednesday. Both are expected to attract a wide range of supporters and opponents of the conflicting initiatives.

Sunday Spin: Spokane delegation makes its annual trek west

OLYMPIA – A delegation of more than 80 Spokane-area folks arrived here last week with their annual “agenda” – some might call it a wish list – of things the Legislature could do to make life better for the state in general and the center of the Inland Empire in particular.

This annual trek to the capital sponsored by Greater Spokane, Inc., herds well-briefed leaders of business, political, education and civic groups through the marbled rooms and committee rooms and is the envy of many other cities and counties around Washington. It has prompted the sincerest form of flattery, imitation, from other communities but many legislators still say Spokane’s full-court press lobbying remains the best.

At least that’s what some tell members of the Spokane throng. Others offer recollections of their last visit to the city or Spokane Valley, or some other anecdote to show they are all paisans. . . 

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

Wash. Post briefs readers on McMorris Rodgers

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' gig as the GOP responder to the State of the Union garnered a bit of attention from a Washington Post blog, which listed five things its readers probably didn't know about her.

Most Spokesman-Review readers, many of whom are her constituents, probably knew all or most of them. (Spin Control admits it didn't know, or maybe had forgotten, No. 5.)

Here's a couple other factoids connected to the response, gleaned from The American Presidency Project.

The first member of Congress from Washington to give a response was Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson in 1970. Back then, the opposition party picked a group of folks to speak, and he was one of seven.

The first member of Congress from Eastern Washington's 5th District was Tom Foley, when he was speaker, gave the Democratic response to President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and 1992.

The first woman from Washington to give a response was Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Bellevue, who gave the Republican response to President Bill Clinton in 1999.

The last person from Washington to give a response was Gov. Gary Locke, who gave the Democratic response to President George W. Bush in 2003.

The tradition of giving a televised opposition response dates to 1966, when Sen. Everett Dirksen and then-Rep. Gerald Ford gave the GOP response to President Lyndon Johnson. They did it for two years, but in 1968, Republicans put 16 people in front of the camera, including Rep. Charlotte Reid of Illinois, the first woman to take part in the nearly annual ritual, and an up and coming congressman from Texas, George H.W. Bush.

Nearly annual because some years, there's was no response as one party's president delivered the message before leaving office and the other party's president was inaugurated shortly after. In 1981, President Carter delivered a written message in January as he was leaving office and Democrats didn't offer a formal to a speech President Reagan made in February.

Sometimes it's a single person, other times it's a big lineup, although the 16 Republicans in 1968 was the largest response team.

Sometimes it's the opposition party's ranking member in one or both chambers of Congress. Other times it's up and coming politicians who later run for president. The first governor to be part of the response, in 1985, was a guy from Arkansas named Clinton.

McMorris Rodgers' selection surprised a few political “experts.” Earlier this week, the Politico website had a list of 10 possible Republican responders, with the pros and cons of each of these “usual suspects” following Obama. The Eastern Washington Republican was not on it. 

WA Lege Day 12: Higher ed votes plus talk of booze, bees and drones

OLYMPIA — The House may vote on a group of higher education bills this morning, and committee meetings will have the usual smorgasbord of topics.

House Technology & Economic Development will hear a bill on drones. Senate Commerce & Labor has several bills on booze. .House Public Safety scheduled votes on several bills including one on sexually violent predators. House Labor & Workforce Development will take up paid vacations and wage violations. House Agriculture & Natural Resources will get a briefing on declining bee populations.

Also, Native Americans, librarians and osteopaths all have their “lobbying day” today, with the appropriate gatherings or demonstrations.

A full hearing schedule can be found inside the blog.

Say what? Voice-to-text loses in translation

A colleague got the following voice-to-text message last night. See if you can figure out what it ought to say.

“Good evening spoke an(?) State Representative is Marcus with Shelly and Tim arms be along with Senator Randy Bill legs(?) are currently holding a live telephone town hall meeting but it appears that you're unavailable. If you get this message before seven fifteen pm tonight and you'd like to purchase a paid. Just call toll free 18772298493 and enter the ID code 186461 prompted. For the record the phone number placing this call is 3607867604. Thank you and have a good night.”

 Translation inside the blog.

WA Lege: Gun initiatives getting hearing Wednesday

OLYMPIA — Two initiatives dealing with gun rights and gun control will get a hearing next Wednesday in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Both are initiatives to the Legislature. I-594, which would extend the current background checks for buyers required for sales from gun dealers to almost all other sales, was certified Wednesday by the Secretary of State's office after a check of signatures submitted late last year. I-591, which would ban stricter background checks in Washington until federal standards changed, is undergoing signature checks but is expected also to easily certify.

The Legislature is unlikely to pass either into law, bypassing the ballot. But Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said a hearing will give legislators and the public a chance to get questions answered. “That helps us and it can only help to inform the voters,” he said.

The 1:30 p.m. hearing will be moved out of the committee's regular room into a larger room to accommodate the expected crowd.


Medical pot bill moves to House

OLYMPIA — A proposal to restrict medical marijuana and put it under the state Liquor Control Board was sent to the full House this morning.

After adding more flexibility on the amount of the drug or number of plants a patient might have, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee passed HB 2149 on a 12-5 vote.

Medical marijuana is largely unregulated in the state right now, while a tightly regulated recreational marijuana system is being set up by the state Liquor Control Board. The bill would put medical marijuana sales under the liquor board and cut back the amount a patient could possess.

Under the 1998 initiative, patients are allowed to have as much as 24 ounces of the drug. The bill would cut that to three ounces, but allow a doctor to recommend a higher amount, particularly for patients who use oils derived from the plant.

It would ban medical marijuana dispensaries which have sprung up around the state to service the medical marijuana market under the state's collective grow statutes. That was never the intent of the law, Committee Chairwoman Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, said.

The bill is still “a work in progress”, Ranking Republican Joe Schmick of Colfax said, and likely to change. The Senate also has two bills trying to blend the two marijuana statutes, but with different provisions. 

Panel narrowly passes Reproductive Parity Act

OLYMPIA — With a one-vote margin, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee passed a bill that would require most insurance companies to cover abortion if they cover maternity services.

HB 2148, often called the Reproductive Parity Act was denounced by opponents like Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, as limiting the choice of people who are morally opposed to abortion and don't want insurance plans that cover it for others.

But supporters like Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said the decision on whether to have an abortion should be made by a woman and the people she chooses to consult — her doctor, family or faith community: “It is not for a business to decide, it is not for an insurance company to decide, it is not for someone else's faith community to decide.”

Committee Chairwoman Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, the sponsor of the bill, said for years she's had men ask her why they should pay for insurance plans with maternity services that they'll never use. But, she added “we're not going to change anyone's mind either way on this.”

On a 9-8 vote, the bill was sent to the full House, which passed similar legislation last year. That bill stalled in the Senate when a Republican committee chairwoman refused to put it to a vote after a hearing and Democratic efforts to force it onto the floor through parliamentary maneuvers failed. 

Among Spokane-area legislators on the Health Care Committee, Short and Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, voted no and Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, voted yes.

Local legislators reaching out by phone

OLYMPIA — While Spokane-area legislators are spending most of their time for the next two months in Olympia,some are  are trying to keep in touch with constituents by shifting the standard “town hall meeting” from a place to a phone number.

Republican Reps. Kevin Parker and Jeff Holy from Spokane's 6th Legislative District, which has parts of south and northwest Spokane city and much of the West Plains, are having a one-hour conference at 6:30 p.m. tonight. conference. Constituents can call 1-800-759-5308 to listen and press the star key to ask a question.

The 7th Legislative District delegation, Sen. Brian Dansel and Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short, will have a joint teleconference on Feb. 3. Constituents can call 1-877-229-8493 and enter  112381 when prompted.

WA Lege Day 11: Full hearing day with Spokanites all around

OLYMPIA — Legislative committees are trying to move bills out at a rapid pace today as they couple executive sessions with public hearings.

The House Health Care and Wellness Committee might get an award for taking on the most controversial bills in a single session, with the Reproductive Parity Act and a plan to blend the medical and recreational marijuana laws into a system under the state Liquor Control Board.

The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee isn't letting Health Care have all the fun with marijuana laws, however. It has hearings on a proposal for a tax stamp system on recreational marijuana and another to let minors to do “compliance checks” at the new pot stores, to make sure they aren't selling to underage buyers.

Meanwhile, a large contingent of business, political and civic leaders from the Spokane area will be making the rounds in the annual Greater Spokane Inc., lobbying days. They get what's being called a “six corner” briefing from legislative leaders this afternoon — but there's only five leaders scheduled — the other corner, Gov. Jay Inslee, will catch folks at a reception at the governor's mansion this evening.

A full list of today's hearings and executive sessions for committees can be found inside the blog.

Prospects poor for highway package, GSI group told

OLYMPIA – Don't get your hopes up for new money to finish the North-South Freeway, a group of business, civic and political leaders from Spokane was told Wednesday.

The chances the Legislature will pass a package of big road projects paid by a gasoline tax are almost non-existent.

Some legislators blamed politics or the lack of support among Republican legislators from the Spokane area. Others blamed problems at the state Transportation Department. Some said a package can't make it out of the Legislature during the current abbreviated session. Others said any package that did would surely wind up on the ballot, where voters would reject it.

Together, they painted a bleak outlook for one of the top items – and by far the most expensive – on the Greater Spokane Inc. 2014 agenda as more than 80 local leaders arrived in Olympia for their annual three-day lobbying session. .  .

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

No pot sellers on Google, TIME says

One more obstacle for Washington's budding marijuana industry to confront: You won't be able to advertise on Google or Facebook.

That according to TIME, which says that even in Washington and Colorado, where recreational marijuana use is legal, Google and Facebook will not allow sellers to advertise their wares.

Washington's new regulations on recreational marijuana have strict rules for standard advertising like signage for stores but Internet advertising isn't mentioned in the regs.

Medical pot bills generating rifts among patient groups

OLYMPIA – Efforts to bring the state’s two laws on marijuana together is generating several proposals in the Legislature and rifts among the medical marijuana community.

Some patients on Tuesday described a pair of bills on medical marijuana as unconstitutional intrusions, others said they were needed to provide at least some supply of the plant that’s legal under state law but illegal under federal law.

Both proposals before the Senate Health Care Committee would give the state Liquor Control Board, which currently oversees the new recreational marijuana law, some control over medical marijuana… . 

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

Barring road art might not save much

OLYMPIA — The state Transportation Department would be barred from spending highway construction money for art or special concrete designs on walls and bridges under a Valley legislator's bill.
But that might not save much money to spend on other projects. The department said it doesn't spend any money on art for road or bridge projects, and the most elaborate concrete designs seen alongside highways around the state are funded by local communities.
In an effort to find ways to make the state's transportation dollars go farther, Rep. Matt Shea proposed HB 2092 that would bar money from designated sources like gasoline taxes from going to art or artistic designs
“There's a perception out there that we spend a lot of money on art and textured concrete,” Shea told the House Transportation Committee Tuesday.
The Art in Public Places program, established by the Legislature in 1974, requires one-half of 1 percent of the cost of a public building to be spent on art projects. But that doesn't apply to transportation projects, Alyssa Ball, a researcher for the committee said, because the state Constitution requires fuel taxes and vehicle fees to spent only for highway purposes.
Textured concrete can add 1 percent or less to the cost of the concrete on a bridge or wall, but studies show it cuts down on maintenance and is less likely to be targeted by graffiti, Pasco Bakotich, a design engineer, said.
The department's design manual does call for textured concrete “architectural finishes” but if a community wants anything beyond 10 standard designs, it pays the extra cost, Bakotich said.
What about the Transportation Department's buildings, Rep. Jason Overstreet, R-Lynden, asked. How much is spent on art for them that could be spent instead on road construction?
Mike Sweeney from the state Arts Commission, which administers the public arts program, said he'd have to research the total, but added there hasn't been anything spent since 1999 “and we don't have anything in the works.”
Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Ballard, said she was a big fan of public art projects because otherwise buildings would “look like the Soviet Union.”

Abortion foes fill Capitol mall

Rep. Matt Shea urges demonstrators for the March for LIfe to continue the fight against legalized abortion.

OLYMPIA — The annual March for Life brought several thousand demonstrators to the Capitol Tuesday, filling the north steps of the Legislative Building and the Temple of Justice.

Demonstrators cheered legislators of both parties who urged them to continue the against abortion and the Reproductive Parity Act, a proposal that would require almost any insurance policy that covers maternity benefits to also cover pregnancy termination.

State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said it was wrong to put completing a pregnancy on parity with ending a pregnancy.

The Washington State Patrol troopers on the scene estimated the crowd at between 3,000 and 4,000. A handful of abortion rights supporters gathered with signs in an area between the two steps.

The Shermanesque elevating of a spat

“Going Richard Sherman” might become the go-to phrase for someone who elevates trash-talking with a long-time adversary to a whole new — and more public — level.

Consider this posting by Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick the city of Portland's website.

Going Richard Sherman on the Oregonian

The Oregonian has spent the past couple of weeks trash-talking the city council. They've written things like: “you have to wonder sometimes whether the Portland City Council actively pursues mediocrity…” They've had a “live chat” on “Does Portland deserve a better city council?” They've repeatedly crossed the line between criticism and contempt.

And so far, the members of the City Council have kept a dignified silence. But after watching Richard Sherman's post-NFC championship game explosion the other day, I've decided, the hell with that. Let’s have some fun. If the Oregonian wants to trash-talk, let's trash-talk. Let's give the fans something to talk about. Because we can do it better than they can. We can out-trash-talk the Oregonian on the field, off the field, or in an alley.

You want to talk about mediocre? A paper that only delivers four times a week, now that's mediocre. You want to question our commitment to jobs? Seriously? The paper that specializes in firing people - good people like Ryan White and Scott Learn - wants to talk about jobs?

We're the best City Council in the league. And we're not going to be bullied by some sorry Orange County right-wing publisher. We'll be here after you're gone, Mr. N. Christian Anderson III - after the Newhouse family wakes up and realizes that it's economic idiocy to try to foist a Fox News paper on a progressive readership.

And don't think for a minute that anything you write will have any influence on us at all. Lions don't concern themselves with the opinions of sheep.


Commissioner Steve Novick

City of Portland, Oregon 

Clearly, Novick is entitled to his opinion of the Oregonian and make comparisons with their business practices vis-a-vis the city's. But he may have forgotten a basic rule for all politicians, a version of which goes like this:

Never get in a war of words with someone who buys ink by the truckload if you buy it one Bic pen at a time.

 Can't wait to see how this one plays out.

WA Lege Day 9: B&O tax bill panned even by sponsor

OLYMPIA — A bill to give all businesses in Washington the same low Business and Occupation Tax rate, cutting some $1.8 billion out of state coffers next year, is a bad idea several people told the House Finance Committee.

Including the bill's sponsor, Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland.

Haler said he proposed HB 2110 after last fall's special session to extend tax preferences to Boeing in an effort to land the production facilities for a new jetliner. “A lot of people are saying 'Why can't we have the Boeing deal?'” Haler told the committee.

Among those wondering most were farmers, who Haler said were “just scraping by” and who some members of the Legislature “are trying to get at” because they think farmers are wealthy.

Haler's bill would make almost every business's B&O tax rate .29 percent of gross receipts. The state currently has 12 different rates across 51 business classifications with many paying between .47 percent and 1.5 percent.

But Haler's bill would more than double the rate of .13 percent that farmers currently pay, Committee Chairman Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said.

Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, asked if Haler had any ideas on how the state would replace an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue in fiscal 2015 and $4.1 billion in the following two years.

No, said Haler. “I Would never advocate an income tax. There are probably other options out there.” 

The proposal also doesn't address all the tax exemptions and breaks the state has written into its tax code, Rep. Gerry Pollet, R-Seattle, said.

Haler agreed: “The state shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers.”

Such a major change in tax policy probably can't be done in a short 60-day session, he said, but the Legislature should at least consider a special study of equalizing the B&O tax rate. 

Tougher sentencing on DUI hinges on funding

OLYMPIA – Drunk drivers could face prison on their fourth conviction – one less than Washington law currently allows – if the Legislature can find a way to pay for the extra costs for that time in state prisons and county jails. One possible source of money: some of the taxes the state currently collects on alcohol, and some of what it expects to collect for legal marijuana.

With victims recounting stories of devastated families and law enforcement officials asking for tougher laws, a Senate panel was solidly behind a bill that drivers should face a felony charge for they are arrested a fourth time in 10 years for driving drunk or under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.

“Lives will be saved and hearts won’t be broken forever,” Linda Thompson of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council told the Senate Law and Justice Committee Monday.

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

WA Lege Day 8: Not a holiday in Olympia

OLYMPIA — The Legislature meets today despite the state holiday for Martin Luther King Day.

Not much floor action,but a full day of hearings on a potpourri of bills that include tougher rules for driving under the influence, changes to the state lottery, revised rules on reselling liquor, trying to make liquor theft more difficult, restricting tanning booths for minors and allowing state employees to opt out of some union dues for personal religious reasons.

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

I-522 campaign rerun on GMO salmon bill

OLYMPIA – For a while, it seemed as though someone hit the rewind button Friday in the Legislature. Last year’s ballot battle over genetically modified food was being rerun in a hearing as some fishing groups called for a ban on re-engineered salmon and others said the idea was unnecessary fear mongering.

The House Agriculture Committee considered, but did not yet vote, on HB 2143, which would also require any genetically modified salmon sold in Washington stores to be labeled.

Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, the bill’s sponsor, said it was more narrow than Initiative 522, which would have required many genetically modified foods to be labeled if it passed last year. It got about 49 percent of the vote, and failed.

Follow-up polling shows a majority of people still support labeling for genetically modified food, and the numbers increase for labeling fish, which already must say if they are farm raised, Condotta said. “We’ve spent billions of dollars to rebuild our salmon stocks,” he said.

Anne Mosness, a former fisher and director of the Go Wild Campaign that promotes wild fish over farm-raised varieties, said genetically modified salmon could escape their farm pens just as Atlantic salmon do. Because they are engineered to grow faster, they would represent a hungry new carnivorous species in Washington waters.

Representatives of companies that raise Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound “farms” said they had no plans to produce genetically modified salmon but argued the bill’s language is so vague that it could prohibit research at state universities and ban trout raised for restaurants. Farm groups said any labeling rules should be done nationally, not state-by-state.

Heather Hanson of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests said the bill wasn’t about fish so much as about stigmatizing technology and stimulating fear. Supporters are “afraid of things that sound scary, that they don’t understand.”

Seahawks day at the Lege

Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, sports Seahawks attire while leading the Senate through today's pro forma session.

OLYMPIA — It is Seahawks attire day in the Capitol, where Senators and staff were allowed — actually encouraged — to wear team attire or team colors and a motion in the House approved by Speaker Pro Tem Jim Moeller will allow such on Fridays through the Super Bowl.

The latter will presumably be moot should the 'Hawks not win on Sunday.

The sartorial splendor was somewhat short-lived in the Senate, which only had a quickie “pro forma” session to show of the blue and lime green.

Majority Floor Leader Joe Fain, R-Auburn, took advantage of the relaxation of normal rules for “business attire” to sport a combination hood and scarf which he said was a Christmas gift. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, which had relaxed the dress code earlier in the week, presided in a Seahawks tie from behind a rostrum that had a Seahawks license plate with his name on it. Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, briefly wore had a lime green hat.

This caps a week of repeated and often gratuitous exclamations of “Go 'Hawks” in everything from Gov. Jay Inslee's state of the state address to a floor speech supporting the end to differential tuition in the state's colleges and universities to a lobbyist questioning changes to the states medical marijuana law.

AG’s opinion on cities, counties banning pot businesses

OLYMPIA – Cities and counties can say no to recreational marijuana businesses even though Washington voters have said yes, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Thursday.

In a formal attorney general's opinion responding to questions from the Liquor Control Board, Ferguson and his staff said Initiative 502 doesn't pre-empt a local government's right to approve extra restrictions or outright bans to businesses that want to grow, process or sell the drug. The state Constitution gives cities and counties broad authority to control activities inside their borders unless a law specifically pre-empts that.

I-502, as written and passed by voters in, didn’t. . . 

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

To read the opinion, click on the document below.


WA Lege Day 5: A smorgasbord of issues

OLYMPIA — The Legislature has a smorgasbord of issues on its hearing schedule today.

Genetically modified fish. Old convictions for tribal fishing protests. Ski lift safety. EPI pens. Sexually violent predators. Crooks in body armor.

All those and more will be the subjects of bills in various committees.

A complete schedule of hearings can be found inside the blog. 

Bill would make trash-generated power renewable

OLYMPIA – Electricity from the West Plains garbage incinerator would be classified as a renewable energy, and be more valuable to an electric utility, under a bill proposed by Spokane Sen. Mike Baumgartner.

Spokane’s waste-to-energy plant should be designated as a renewable resource, Baumgartner told the Senate Energy Committee Thursday: “As long as people make garbage, it’s renewable.”

But does fit under Initiative 937, which voters approved in 2006 to boost the state's supply of renewable energy, Sen. Marilyn Chase, D-Shoreline, wondered. I-937 was designed to encourage new facilities and the plant opened in 1991. . . 

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

Condon asks Police Guild for contract changes

Spokane Mayor David Condon is heeding the advice of Spokane City Council members who have pushed him to reopen contract negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild.

The mayor and guild agreed to a tentative four-year labor contract last fall, but that deal was rejected by the City Council in November. It was nearly rejected a second time in December before the council opted to delay a vote until Feb. 3.

City officials confirmed this week that administrators have sent proposed changes to the proposed contract to the mediator working with the city and guild. Condon met in a private session with the City Council on Monday to talk about negotiations with the guild. City spokesman Brian Coddington said he could not provide details on the city’s most recent proposal.

Early this year, City Council President Ben Stuckart sent a letter to Condon urging him to reopen negotiations to spare the council from rejecting the deal again.

The state’s pitch for the 777X

As mentioned elsewhere on the website, Washington's official pitch for the 777X names the West Plains as an alternative site for the assembly plant and describes all the good things the state has done and will do for Boeing.

For those who want to delve deeper into the 164-page report, it can be found below, thanks to a public records request by the Associated Press. 



Medical pot proposal slammed in morning hearing

OLYMPIA — Medical marijuana patients bashed a proposal by state agencies to change current state laws on the drug as everything from unworkable to unconstitutional at a morning legislative hearing. Legislators also sharply questioned staff from the Liquor Control Board and the Department of Health on proposals to reduce the amount of marijuana patients could grow or possess, and shift them to the upcoming recreational marijuana stores to be licensed later this year.

Local officials and lobbyists for law enforcement and the medical community, however, urged the House Health Care and Wellness Committee to pass the bill and give them clear guidelines for dealing with patients who use the drug.

HB 2149 is supported the liquor board which regulates recreational marijuana and would require medical marijuana patients to register with the state after getting a recommendation from a health care provider. That's a violation to a person's constitutional right against self-incrimination and federal laws that make medical information private, Jerry Dierker, a patient, said.

“We are self-regulating. We have created a system that does work for us,” Stephanie Viskovich of the Cannabis Action Coalition said.

Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, questioned the rationale for reducing the amount of marijuana patients currently can have from 24 ounces to three ounces. Kristi Weeks of the Health Department said the current limits were developed when patients would have no other access to the drug than produce it themselves or in a cooperative garden, and needed to have enough “to get you through to your next harvest.”

“It's no longer the need with the new recreational market,” Weeks said.

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg,questioned a provision that would ban home grows after 2020, essentially creating a monopoly for stores licensed by the liquor board after that time. Weeks said, however, that a study would be done in 2019 to recommend whether the ban should be lifted.

“It is ridiculous to ask patients to wait for a five-year study,” said Ryan Agnew of C Squared Public Affairs, who added that a registry amounts to “mission creep” for state agencies..

Medical marijuana patients who filled two committee rooms told the panel they doubted the recreational market would succeed and those products will be heavily taxed. But Washington doesn't tax medicine and marijuana is a recognized botanical medicine, Kari Boiter of Health Before Happy Hour, a medical marijuana group, said.

Recreational marijuana is different from medical marijuana, patients also said. The former is rich in a chemical that produces the euphoric “high”, the latter is rich in different chemicals that reduce pain or nausea, and the recreational stores might not stock it.

Don Pierce, a lobbyist who represents sheriffs and police chiefs, said the state's separate laws on recreational and medical marijuana have to be reconciled for law enforcement. “We need to know whose rules apply to whom,” he said.


WA Lege Day 3: Lots of committee hearings

OLYMPIA — The ceremonial beginnings of the Legislature now over, the honorables get down to the more mundane work:

Committee hearings.

There will be hearings on medical marijuana legislation at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. A bill on “knockout game” assaults at 1:30 p.m. Discussions of teacher evaluations, also at 1:30 p.m. Discussions about Gov. Jay Inslee's supplemental budgets for transportation and the general fund at 3:30 p.m. 

Full committee schedule, with bill numbers, can be found inside the blog.

Inslee: Do more hard things. GOP: Be more specific.

OLYMPIAWashington should raise its minimum wage, spend more on schools and highways, raise teacher salaries and do something about climate change, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.

“We have done hard things. And we can do more,” the Democratic governor told a joint legislative session in his annual state of the state address.

Legislative Republicans and a Democrat who joined them to form the Senates ruling coalition were quick to criticize the speech as long on ideas but short on specifics. . . 

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


City Council candidate set for life with lotto win

A West Central Neighborhood leader says his life won’t be altered much by his recent lottery win that will give him $1,000 a week for the rest of his life.

Kelly Cruz, 53, was with his father on New Year’s Eve at Safeway on Northwest Boulevard to buy milk and bread when he decided to join his father in buying lottery tickets. Cruz chose a “Lucky for Life” scratch ticket because it’s a game his brother often plays.

Last year, Cruz, a carpenter, made an unsuccessful run for City Council. He lives with his father, a retired electrician, in the home his father built.

Tweets from the state of the state

We're covering Gov. Jay Inslee's state of the state address with a live Twitter feed from the House of Representatives floor:


State of state at noon

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee delivers his “state of the state” address to a joint session of the Legislature at noon.

Last month he signaled he's pushing for a “hold steady, get ready” budget for the short session. The road to “hold steady” could get a little bumpy with last week's Supreme Court ruling that the justices want a report by end of April on how the Legislature plans to meet its paramount duty of educating the state's children by upping school spending in the next two biennia.

He also deferred questions last week about some environmental initiatives, such as increasing low-carbon fuels, until the speech.

Republicans and the Democratic members of the Senate majority coalition will have a response at 1:30 p.m. 

Spin Control will tweet highlights of the speech in a special widget on the blog. 

New Spokane City Council casts first 4-3 votes

The new majority of the Spokane City Council flexed its muscles twice on Monday in the first 4-3 votes of the year.

Both votes rejected nonbinding efforts to back a state Senate bill designating energy produced at the city’s Waste-to-Energy Plant as renewable.

But council members who cast no votes say they generally support the legislation and were reacting to what they say was a rushed vote with no public notice.

The city has been pushing state officials for years to designate the energy produced at the incinerator as renewable. Energy labeled renewable can garner higher prices, and energy produced at the Waste-to-Energy Plant used to have the renewable classification. The proposal has been in the city’s official lobbying agenda the last few years, including the one that was unanimously approved by the council late last year.

The new 4-3 majority – council members Ben Stuckart, Candace Mumm, Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref – rejected a plea from Councilman Steve Salvatori to rush a vote on a nonbinding resolution supporting the Senate bill. The legislation, introduced by state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, will get a hearing in Olympia on Thursday.

Because the City Council nonbinding resolution wasn’t introduced until today, it didn’t appear on the council’s agenda and needed five votes to be considered.

Dansel sworn in, sent to gov’s office

Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, at his desk on the Senate floor.

OLYMPIA —  Brian Dansel, the Republic Republican elected to the Senate in November, was formally sworn in to the Senate with other new members Monday, then sent to the governor's office.

It's not like being sent to the principal's office. He was assigned, with Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, to notify the Gov. Jay Inslee of the official invitation to address a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday. The state of the state address has been set for a while, so the notice is just a formality.

But the Senate stayed in session until Kline and Dansel returned to report Inslee had received the message. Kline used the opportunity to add that Inslee said to tell legislators he didn't have any more tickets for next weekend's playoff game between the Seahawks and the 49ers. 

Asked if he had anything to add, Dansel wisely just said the governor received their message, then sat down.

It was one of many references to the Seahawks, which showed up in opening prayers and floor comments. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who presides over the Senate, declared Friday a blue and green day so that members could wear their Seahawks colors. By a voice vote, the Senate also approved a motion for the Seahawks to defeat the 49ers. The voice vote passed unanimously.

Christian gets committee assignments

Newly appointed Rep. Leonard Christian received his committee assignments Monday on his first day in the Legislature.

Appropriations. Capital Budget. Government Operations & Elections. Labor & Workforce Development.

He also attended his first Appropriations Committee hearing, where Chairman Ross Hunter assigned him to the front row with another newcomer “to be closer to the public.” 

If you clipped out Sunday's guide to Eastern Washington legislators, be sure to write those assignments in. They weren't available last Friday when the list was being prepared.

The Spokane-area is fairly well represented on the money-spending committee, with Rep. Timm Ormsby serving as vice chairman and Reps. Kevin Parker, Susan Fagan and Joe Schmick already assigned to it.  


WA Lege Day 1: House passes DREAM Act

House Speaker Frank Chopp presides over the opening day of the session.

OLYMPIA — The House moved swiftly to reiterate its support for expanding college aid to qualifying students who aren't legal residents, passing the so-called DREAM Act less than an hour after the session started.

Legislators rarely vote on legislation on the opening day because bills routinely must go through the hearing process first. But in a 71-23 vote, the House re-approved legislation it passed last year and sent it back to the Senate, where it died in committee last spring.

HB 1817 allows any graduate of a Washington high school who is eligible for state-sponsored college aid to receive it, regardless of whether he or she is a legal resident. . . 

To read the rest of the item, how local legislators voted on the bill, or to comment, continue inside the blog.


WA Lege Day 1:Session opens at noon

Gov. Jay Inslee talks with TVW's Anita Kissee before the session starts.

OLYMPIA — The Legislature returns to the Capitol for its 2014 session with caucuses in the morning and formal opening at noon.

Opening days are often light on substance other than opening speeches. But House Democrats say they will hold a vote this afternoon on one of the potential hot spots of the session, the so-called DREAM Act which would extend certain state college assistance programs to the children of undocumented immigrants who came to the country as youngsters, were raised here and graduated from Washington high schools.

There's also a tentatively scheduled hearing on another hot topic, the Reproductive Parity Act, in the House Healthcare and Wellness Committee at 1:30 p.m.


Sunday Spin: Keeping up with the Lege is easier with Web, TVW

OLYMPIA – Keeping tabs on the Legislature, which sometimes features dueling floor sessions or dawn-to-dusk committee hearings, can be challenging in the state capital and even more so for Spokane residents some 300 miles away.

But the Internet and other technology makes it easier than a generation ago, both for reporters in Olympia and for readers at home. Inside the blog are a few tricks of the trade the capital press corps uses:


Govs bet on Seahawks-Saints

OLYMPIA — Add one more politicians' bet to the list of wagers over today's Seahawks-Saints game.

Gov. Jay Inslee's office said today he has bet Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal that if the 'Hawks win, Jindal will donate 100 pounds of Louisiana seafood to a food bank of his choice. If the Saints win, Inslee, via Ivar's, will donate 500 cups of chowder to a Louisiana food bank.

Ivars freezes chowder and ships it around the country, in case you were wondering what shape it would be so many miles away from “Acres of Clams.”

Not much church-state separation

Newly appointed state Rep. Leonard Christian will take his oath of office Sunday during the morning service at New Life Church in the Spokane Valley.

Christian was appointed this week to fill the seat left open by the retirement of Larry Crouse. The 2014 legislative session starts at noon Monday and Christian said he wanted to be sworn in where relatives, friends and constituents could attend. He said he also wanted to make a statement on his view of the separation of church and state, which he believes does not mean God should be absent from public schools and government.

“Some people are saying you can’t have the two together,” Christian said. “I believe the go together more than some people let on.”

He’ll take the oath of office from Spokane District Judge Richard Leland during the 10:45 a.m. service at the church at 10920 E. Sprague.

What do Ryan, Murray have in common? Russell Wilson

Photo courtesy of Sen. Patty Murray's office.

Russell Wilson has been the key to the Seahawks' success this season. But he has also had a role in something a bit bigger — the agreement on the federal budget worked out by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Coming in to negotiations over the budget last fall, the two didn't share much in common except an admiration for Wilson's abilities as a quarterback — at the Seahawks for Murray, at the University of Wisconsin for Ryan. After the budget deal was announced, the two joked on Meet the Press about Wilson being a common line in their negotiations.

Today Murray presented Ryan with an autographed Seahawks No. 3  Wilson jersey. Ryan presented her with some Kringle, which is the official Wisconsin state pastry, and some cheese.

No word if they plan to both don jerseys to watch Saturday's game together and share the snacks.


Daily Show tweets about WA pot biz rush

As reported earlier this week in Spin Control:

OLYMPIA — Washington is seeing a green rush of sorts in marijuana, with far more people wanting to grow and sell the drug legally than the state will allow.

Putting things on the line for the Seahawks

If it's playoff season, that can mean only one thing in politics: Elected officials from Washington will make bets with elected officials in other locales over the outcome of Saturday's game between the Seahawks and the Saints.

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell made a bet with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu that involves Pike Place Pale Ale and oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms against charbroiled oysters and Abita Amber beer.

Reps Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer and Suzan DelBene, all West Side Democrats, made a bet with Rep. Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat, which includes a basket with Woodinville wine, smoked salmon, Almond Roca, Fisher Fair Scone mix and a bag of Skittles against a basket with Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, a Randazzo King Cake and New Orleans Pralines.

Skittles? Fans showered running back Marshawn Lynch with the candy after a score against the St. Louis Rams, so it's kind of an insider's joke.

Also, the loser or losers have to wear a pin with the winning team's logo on the House floor next week.

All of these wagers appear to be a step up from the old Washington pol's bet, which usually consisted of a basket of apples. But if the 'Hawks keep winning, we can only hope the bets get more creative and interesting.

As for Gov. Jay Inslee, staff says he hasn't made a bet with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He's been a little busy this week getting ready for the start of the Legislature and his State of the State speech next week. But he did make a bet of sorts — that he wouldn't come down with pneumonia raising the 12th Man flag in front of the Capitol in the rain this week.

Snyder on signature: I’m left-handed

Yesterday, I asked readers to guess which Spokane leader uses this signature.

It belongs to City Councilman Jon Snyder. The above example comes from this letter.

Snyder claims the signature is simply a big J.

Me: “Is it a backward J?”

Snyder: “I'm left-handed.”

He says the simplified signature is the result of laziness, not an attempt to make a statement. It's illegibility came in handy about 15 years ago, he said, when he was the target of identity thieves who forged his signature in a way that was legible.

Since it isn't likely to affixed to dollar bills any time soon, don't expect it to change.

Problems with mega projects could doom transportation package

OLYMPIA — Problems with a pair of Seattle area “mega projects” could make it harder for Washington residents to swallow tax increases for transportation, some legislators said today at a preview for the 2014 session.

Expected cost overruns for the new 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington and delays in digging the tunnel for the Alaskan Way near downtown Seattle will prompt voters around the state to ask “What are you guys doing with our money,” Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said at a forum sponsored by the Associated Press. . .

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


Guess which elected official uses this signature

Hint: It belongs to a Spokane City Council member.

(The three dots that are at the bottom of this image are not part of this official's signature.)

Midterm grades for Inland Northwest lawmakers

We're halfway through the 113th Congress, and legislative watchdog has handed down its marks for lawmakers based on multiple indicators of legislative success.

Inland Northwest legislators had their fingers in several pieces of sweeping, high-profile federal legislation enacted in 2013, including an update to the Violence Against Women Act cosponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and a bipartisan budget resolution with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., as its Democratic steward. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers also earned the rare distinction of a unanimous House of Representatives vote in favor of her bill easing licensing restrictions for dams with limited power capacities.

GovTrack, an independent bill-tracking service launched in 2004, ranked lawmakers across several categories, including number of roll call votes missed, number of bills sponsored and how many of the 20 bills the service identified as enhancing government transparency the lawmaker voted for. The rankings are comprehensive, but here are some highlights for those representing the Inland Northwest:

  • McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, are the only two Inland Northwest lawmakers who introduced bills that became law. In addition to McMorris Rodgers' dam bill, Hastings introduced legislation establishing a national helium fund for proceeds of the gas' production on federal lands. The bill passed both chambers by wide margins.
  • McMorris Rodgers, who gave birth to a baby girl in November, has missed the greatest percentage of votes in the 113th Congress among Inland Northwest delegates, failing to record a preference in 7.5% of votes tallied so far. In the Senate, which votes far less frequently, Cantwell has missed 0.3% of roll calls, the lowest share among area lawmakers.
  • Among those lawmakers tracked by GovTrack, Cantwell has the highest share of bills she's cosponsored joined by members of the competing party. More than half - or 53.3% - of Cantwell's bills have been joined by a GOP cosponsor. Cantwell's colleague in the Senate, Patty Murray, was joined by a GOP lawmaker as a cosponsor on 29% of her bills, slightly lower than the percentage of bills proposed by McMorris Rodgers (29.4%) and Hastings (35%) joined by Democrats. Unlisted in the figures provided by GovTrack were Crapo, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle).

Congress is mulling a number of major legislative initiatives in the coming months as lawmakers prep for another election cycle. On tap are major bills addressing unemployment benefits, immigration reform and an extension of agriculture legislation.

Demand high for pot licenses

Applications for marijuana stores in Spokane County

Applications for marijuana growing licenses in Spokane County

OLYMPIA — Washington is seeing a green rush of sorts in marijuana, with far more people wanting to grow and sell the drug legally than the state will allow.

State agencies will approve no more than 334 licenses for retail marijuana stores and they already more than 2,000 applicants. Would-be pot entrepreneurs also have proposed planting many times more land than the will allow for its newest cash crop. . . 

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


Today’s fun video: Does cold snap negate global warming?


Jon Stewart takes on the people who take on global warming because of this weekend's cold snap in the Midwest and East.

Not to say “told ya so,” but check out Prediction 1 in Sunday's column

No crying in baseball, Bloomer Girl tells Inslee

OLYMPIA — There is, in fact, no crying in baseball.

Or so Dorothy Roth, a real-life version of the women baseball players portrayed in the movie “A League of Their Own”, confirmed to Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday as he issued a proclamation honoring her.

Back in 1945, however, there was a bit of stigma attached to baseball for women, said Roth, 86, now  a resident of an assisted living center in Marysville .She was recruited out of high school, and was usually the youngest player on the field that summer. She doesn't save any of her old uniforms because at the time she was embarrassed to be known as a baseball player.

“Nice girls played tennis,” she said. Roth tried to hide her bat and glove as she walked past the courts. Baseball was for boys, but most of the boys had been drafted into military service for World War II and women were being recruited to play baseball to fill the void for baseball fans.

“I bet you never thought they'd make a movie about it,” Inslee said.

“No, and I never thought I'd meet a governor,” she replied.

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


Shin retires from Senate

OLYMPIA — Paull Shin, an Edmonds Democrat who served in the Senate since 1999, said today he will retire his seat immediately because of health problems.

In a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee and his Senate colleagues, Shin said he was resigning “with the deepest regret” from a job he loves.

“Unfortunately, I have determined with the assistance of my family that recent health problems and a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease make it impossible for me to represent my constituents in the manner they deserve,” he said.

Shin was an orphan in South Korea who was adopted by an American soldier during the Korean War and brought to the United States. In speeches on the Senate floor, he often explains how his background colors his stance on key social and economic issues.

Pot applications continue to pour in

Applications for marijuana stores in Spokane County

OLYMPIA — Washington has many times more people who want to sell or grow marijuana that the state will allow, and all the applications have yet to be processed.

The Washington Liquor Control Board today released the names and addresses of some 6,600 businesses that have applied for licenses to produce, process or sell recreational marijuana under the law voters passed in November 2012.

The 2,035 applications for retail marijuana stores is about six times more than the 334 retail licenses that board said will be approved for Washington. After all of the applications are examined to make sure they comply with rules for obtaining any required local permits and have locations that are at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks, playgrounds or other areas mainly for children, the board will hold a lottery in each county or city that has more applications than the number allocated.

The Spokane area has nearly eight times more requests for retail licenses than the 18 allocated. Under board rules, the city of Spokane can have eight marijuana stores, the city of Spokane Valley can have three and all other areas of the county can have seven. 

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

Stuckart relents on supermajority rule

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart will soon be handing out duties to the city’s six other council members.

The Spokane City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to give Stuckart the power to chose which members serve on what boards.

But Stuckart abandoned his proposal to require a supermajority vote to make future changes in the rules for how the council governed.

Each January, council members are assigned to sit on a variety of boards, including those that govern the city park system, the Spokane Transit Authority and the Spokane International Airport.

The change returns the rules to how they worked until the council revoked that right from former council President Joe Shogan.

Even though Stuckart will select a slate of council members to fill positions, the council still must vote on his picks. He said the process won’t change much.

City decides water department needs leader

Spokane once again has a permanent leader for its water department.

The Spokane City Council on Monday unanimously approved Mayor David Condon’s appointment of Dan Kegley as the water director.

The city was without a water director from June 2012, when previous director Frank Triplett retired, until Kegley was named the acting director in May. Kegley previously was the water service supervisor.

Utilities Director Rick Romero said he waited to fill the job because he considered merging the position with the wastewater director. But after leading the department himself, Romero said, he determined the water department needed its own leader.

Clean up your language, 2 senators told

OLYMPIA — Two senators from Southwest Washington were admonished to use “professional, business language” and the caucuses should help members deal with “interpersonal conflict,” a special Senate committee said today.

Put in plainer language, Sen. Ann Rivers should not have called Sen. Don Benton a “piece of sh-t,” and Benton should not have called Rivers “a trashy trampy-mouthed little girl,” the Facilities and Operations Committee said after investigating dueling complaints that each had about the other for violating the Senate's Respectful Workplace Policy.

Documents released by the committee detail a conflict that stretches began in April, as the Legislature was wrestling with whether a major transportation package would include the Columbia River Crossing, a proposed bridge to connect Vancouver and Portland. Both Benton and Rivers, who represent Vancouver-area districts, oppose the project, but were disagreeing on some of the tactics to block it. . .

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

For the full details, check out the original complaint and the appeal documents below 


Eyman offers workaround for 2/3rds tax requirement

OLYMPIA — For years, Tim Eyman and company proposed initiatives to require a super-majority for taxes. Voters approved them even though opponents said they were unconstitutional.

Turns out opponents were right, or so said the state Supreme Court in last year's ruling that such a change requires an amendment to the state Constitution. But Washington doesn't allow amending the Constitution by initiative; that has to start in the Legislature, get a super-majority there and then move to the ballot. A proposal along those lines last session didn't get much more than lip service.

Today Eyman proposed an initiative that attempts to goad the Legislature into approving such a constitutional amendment. It would cut the state sales tax by a penny, down to 5.5 cents per dollar in 2015 unless the Legislature approves an amendment in the 2015 session that requires a two-thirds yes vote for any tax increase. If they put that on the ballot, no sales tax cut. 

Eyman and his organization also filed initiatives to outlaw red-light cameras and re-instate $30 license tab fees, but the proposal to pass the supermajority or lose some of the sales tax proposal seems likely to be the initiative they will put their efforts, and their fund-raising machinery, behind. They filed numerous initiatives to the voters and the Legislature last year in an effort to force a 2/3rds amendment onto the ballot, but eventually abandoned them to concentrate on I-517, the initiative to change the initiative laws, which failed in November.

The proposal hasn't been issued a number yet. If history is any indicator, Eyman is likely to file several versions of the idea before settling on one to take to the printer and begin circulating.

Hill: No pay raise if budget is late

OLYMPIA — Sen. Andy Hill has some ideas to speed up the budgeting process that may not endear him to his colleagues. Everyone else who waits on the Legislature to cobble together a budget might cheer them, however.

The Redmond Republican who will repeat last year's role as head of the Senate Ways and Means Committee issued his latest “Windows on the Budget” missive that suggests legislators and their campaigns should feel it in the pocketbook if they don't pass a budget in the regular session.

They should not get any raise that is approved for them by the Citizens Salary Commission if they don't pass a biennial operating budget in the 105-day session that is supposed to adopt a two-year spending plan, Hill said. They'd get their old salary, but no pay bump.

Interesting idea, considering they needed two special sessions to come up with a budget last year and an extra 30 days in 2011.  But it wouldn't have been much of an incentive in those years, because legislators' pay has been at the same level — $42,106 — since 2008.

Another suggestion might be a bigger incentive, and is based on a lesson from last year. No campaign fund-raising for incumbents until the budget is passed. . . 

Looking forward to 2014

As  it has in some past years, Spin Control looks into the crystal ball for the first Sunday of 2014 to predict the year ahead. Regular readers might notice that some predictions seem familiar, like they’ve read them before. They have, but it doesn’t mean we are plagiarizing ourselves; we’re just contributing to Spokane’s recycling rate with things that happen all the time.
So as Bullwinkle used to say: “Eenie, meanie, chili beanie…”
Prediction 1: Last week’s major winter storm, which was somehow more catastrophic because it happened to parts of the country where national media types live, will be used by some as proof global warming doesn’t exist. They will completely ignore the difference between “weather” and “climate.”
Prediction 2: Gov. Jay Inslee will call for the Legislature to “focus like a laser beam” on transportation. The Legislature will focus on transportation like the Hubble Telescope before it was fixed.
For more predictions, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Gun initiatives headed for Lege

OLYMPIA — The Legislature almost certainly will have two chances to enact gun legislation in the upcoming session.

It will almost just as certainly ignore both, and pass the question on to voters.

Supporters of Initiative 594 turned in an estimated 95,000 additional signatures this week for their proposal the extend background checks to most private sales of firearms. Along with the 250,000 or so signatures turned in last fall, that would give them 345,000 signatures, and they only need 246,372.

Supporters of Initiative 591, which would keep the state from expanding background checks until a “uniform national standard” is developed expect to turn in about 5,000 signatures today to go with the 340,000 they submitted in late November.

There's no prize for having the most signatures, but we can expect a certain amount of bragging rights. In both cases, it seems likely the two proposals will be certified by the Secretary of State's elections office through the expedited process that ballot measures with well over the standard rejection rate have.

The initiatives would then be forwarded to the Legislature, which has several options:

— Ignore both, which would put them on the ballot in November.

— Reject both, which would also put them on the ballot in November.

— Pass one one but not the other. The passed initiative would become law, the other would go on the November ballot.

— Pass both into law. That could be a problem because in some respects they are conflicting, but legislators could leave that to the courts to sort out.

— Pass an alternative bill on gun control, which would put three proposals on the topic on the November ballot.

Based on the options, and the Legislature's track record with initiatives that are sent its way, smart money would be on “ignore both”.   

I’ll accept your challenge, Riccelli

PHOTO CAPTION: Marcus Riccelli, then a staffer for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, runs the 2009 Bloomsday with Cantwell. Picture provided by Riccelli.

I got an unusual news release yesterday from state Rep. Marcus Riccelli.

Riccelli, D-Spokane, announced that his New Year’s resolution is to run Bloomsday. He challenged me to do the same.

“Today, the first day of the new year, I am committing to running Bloomsday in 2014 and am challenging Spokesman-Review reporter Jonathan Brunt to do the same,” Riccelli said in a new release before mocking the eating and exercise habits of politicians and journalists. “I think that both of us can set a good example for our colleagues and the public by participating in Bloomsday.”

I was too busy watching my alma mater win the Rose Bowl to respond immediately.

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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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