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Spin Control

The new Goat Standard

By spending nearly a year meeting with neighborhood groups and others to develop an urban farming plan that addressed various concerns before bringing it to a final vote, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart has created an unexpected new problem.

Any plan on almost any topic that the City Council considers from now on is likely to be criticized by opponents as “rushed” and inadequately “vetted,” with critics pointing to the sweeping community efforts taken by Stuckart to win support for allowing Spokane residents to raise small livestock in their backyards if they want.

Call it the new Goat Standard for community and stakeholder involvement.

Mayor David Condon used it to drive home his concerns that the City Council rushed its anti-sprawl measure to a final vote without adequately involving the community to identify and address any legitimate concerns. Condon, who vetoed the measure, noted that the anti-sprawl didn't get the laudably expansive efforts Stuckart took to craft the urban farming plan.

Developers also picked up on it.
 
Stuckart, for his part, already is growing weary of the tactic.
 
“Just because I set a high benchmark with urban farming, doesn't mean every ordinance is going to go through a yearlong process,” he said. “We're not going to be doing that on everything.”
 
Regardless, expect to hear various renditions of the Goat Standard in the months ahead, particularly on issues that tend to divide the officially nonpartisan council along its partisan 4-3 split.

Sunday Spin2: Initiative season brings a nuke proposal

With the signing of the supplemental operating budget and some other bills Friday, lawmaking by the Legislature officially ended for 2014. But the other kind of lawmaking, by the public, is just heating up. . .

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

 

Sunday Spin: Getting a closer look at IT spending

OLYMPIA – Tucked inside the 291-page budget Gov. Jay Inslee signed last week is a paragraph that tells state agencies to ask for money for new-fangled tech gear a better way.

It’s what’s known as a proviso, sort of a marching order from the Legislature, somewhat akin to an earmark from Congress. . . 

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

Inslee signs most of ‘disappointing’ budget

OLYMPIA – The ink from his signature wasn’t even dry on the Legislature's current budget before Gov. Jay Inslee was challenging lawmakers to do more on their next one.

Inslee signed the state’s supplemental operating budget, vetoing some elements such as a section that would have ended the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

Overall, he called it a budget with “modest adjustments” in many programs and disappointing on education.

“It does not make sufficient progress on the state’s paramount duty to schools,” he said.

Legislators are also disappointed, but more with Inslee’s characterization of their final work product that passed the Senate 48-1 and the House 85-13. Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said the spending plan, as a supplement to last year’s two-year budget that added almost $1 billion to public schools, was supposed to make modest adjustments.

But it keeps the state in the black, financially, through this fiscal period and the next, Braun said.

“There were a lot of tough decisions that had to be made,” he said… .

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

Drone bill vetoed

OLYMPIA — A proposal to regulate the use of drones by law enforcement and other agencies was vetoed Friday. Gov. Jay Inslee said the bill did not do enough to protect the public's right to privacy and raised questions about public records.

In its place, Inslee said he was issuing an executive order for a moratorium for the next 15 months on purchase or use of unmanned aircraft by state agencies for anything other than emergencies, such as forest fires. He said he hoped local police chiefs and sheriffs would issue similar orders, and the Legislature would take another run at the issue next year.

The proposal had broad, bipartisan support in the Legislature, with backing of both the ACLU and the law enforcement community. Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman Mike Padden, who helped shepherd the bill through the final days of the session, said he was surprised by the veto.

“We had worked with so many different groups, getting their input,” Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said.

The bill set up standards for state and local government's use of unmanned aircraft or drones, with requirements for obtaining warrants for surveillance uses by law enforcement.

In striking down the House Bill 2789, Inslee called it “one of the most complex bills we've had to analyze”  and said the emerging technology of drones create difficult issues for government. The bill had some conflicting provisions on disclosure of personal information, he added 

“I'm very concerned about the effect of this new technology on our citizens' right to to privacy,” he said.”People have a desire not to see drones parked outside their kitchen window by any public agency.”

Sections of the bill dealing with exemptions to public record laws for some information gathered by drones could create a “major carve-out” to the state's public records laws, Inslee added. 

Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, called Inslee's veto disappointing and described the bill as “well-balanced and carefully considered.” His call for a  15-month moratorium will have little impact, she said in a prepared statement, because it still allows agencies to acquire drones and “includes no rules for their use after acquisition.”

Padden said legislators worked at balancing the rights of privacy with law enforcement's needs to gather information on criminal activity.

“We thought there were some safeguards in there with the warrants,” he said. The bill required police to obtain a warrant from a judge for using drones the same why they would need a warrant for other types of surveillance.

 

Education bill raises graduation requirements

OLYMPIA – Washington high school students will need 24 credits to earn a diploma, with an extra credit of math and science, starting in 2019.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Thursday that legislators said will help give students a “meaningful diploma” increasing both the number of credits and the overall hours of class for high school students.

The State Board of Education must adopt rules for the 24-credit graduation requirements with an eye toward the students going on to college or careers and school district must provide students with classes that allows them to complete those credits.

The state must provide the schools with enough money to help cover two laboratory science classes per student.

Senate Bill 6552 was one of a half-dozen education bills from the recent session signed into law Thursday.. . 

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

Pot store lottery at the end of April

OLYMPIAWashington will announce the winners of licenses for its first legal recreational marijuana stores at the beginning of May, after a complicated “double-blind” lottery is held at the end of this month.

The first legal sales aren’t likely until the beginning of July, after the lottery winners complete construction, pass final inspection and get their products from state-licensed marijuana farms. . . 

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

Today’s fun video: Do bags fly free to Mars?

 

For a fake newscast April Fool's joke, it's not bad.

Inslee to Energy Dept: Time’s up on Hanford delays

OLYMPIA – Northwest residents need more than vague plans and missed deadlines for the cleanup of nuclear waste at Hanford, Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday.

If the federal government doesn’t come up with a more specific plan or agree to one proposed by the state over the next two months, Washington will go back to court to try to force the U.S. Department of Energy to act. . . 

Continue inside the blog to read the rest of this item or to comment.

Today’s fun video: SNL looks at Obamacare promos

 

Saturday Night Live suggests other places President Obama could try to boost the website for the Affordable Care Act.

Sunday Spin: What the McMorris Rodgers report tells us about campaigns

Cathy McMorris Rodgers may or may not get the House of Representatives equivalent of 20 lashes with a wet noodle for improperly mixing campaign business with congressional business.

But documents released from an official investigation into a disgruntled former employee’s complaint makes one thing clear: By limiting debates with opponents in 2010 and 2012 campaigns, McMorris Rodgers wasn’t showing a lack of political courage; she was being a good steward of the public treasury.

They also show that anyone thinking a congressional debate will produce earth-shattering revelations probably thinks reality TV is reality. . .

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

Bills, bills and a plate of oysters

OLYMPIA – Children will have to have lawyers before a court can sever their parents’ rights. Juveniles will have more protection against self-incrimination in Washington.

Marijuana growers won’t get tax breaks that other farmers get. People who sign local initiative petitions more than once will get one signature counted when the others are thrown out. The state will try to buy products that are free of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls.

And the Olympic oyster is the official state oyster. . .

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

Gun surrender law could save lives, victim says

Stephanie Holten, center, talks with Rep. Laurie Jinkins and Grace Huang of the state Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

OLYMPIA – When her ex-husband pointed a gun at her and threatened to blow her head off while she knelt in her Spokane living room, there was a point when Stephanie Holten thought “I’m going to die.”

Still, Holten remained calm enough to slip out her cell phone and dial 911 when Corey Holten turned his head away for a few seconds, then slip the phone under a blanket hoping the line was open. When he ordered her upstairs and demanded she surrender custody of their son, she stayed clear headed enough to bargain with him to give her the ammunition and put the gun down in return.

 As the last round was ejected from the chamber, she heard “Spokane Police. Show us your hands” as officers arrived, guns drawn, and arrested him.

As calm as she was on that January night in 2012, Stephanie Holten had a brief panic attack Friday after watching Gov. Jay Inslee sign a bill that will make it less likely that someone under a no-contact order and prone to domestic violence, as Corey Holten was that night, will show up at another former spouse or partner’s house with a gun.

The shakes, she explained later after catching her breath, were partly adrenaline from seeing a goal accomplished and partly post-traumatic stress that lingers.

“I’m overjoyed,” she said. “I truly believe that it will save lives.”

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

Has the Dream of the ‘90s found its way to Spokane?

Spokane's latest push to expand urban farming opportunities had at least one councilman wondering if TV sketch comedians Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein might be lurking nearby.

“Sometimes when I'm reading this ordinance I feel like I've landed in an episode of “Portlandia,'” Councilman Mike Allen said during this week's debate over allowing small livestock such as goats, sheep and pigs to be raised in residential neighborhoods. “People are trying to create something that may or may not be good for an area.”

The urban farming plan was approved Monday night by the City Council and was described by supporters as a way of helping Spokane residents to embrace more sustainable lifestyles.

Allen, who raises chickens, supported plans to ease restrictions on growing and selling fruits, vegetables and produce in residential areas but opposed plans to allow backyard livestock, though he was out-voted.

Whether that means “The Dream of '90s” is now alive in Spokane remains to be seen.

 

Inslee signs suicide prevention bill, dozens of others

Gov. Jay Inslee hands the pen used to sign a suicide prevention bill to Zoe Adler, 5, of Seattle, while her brother Jake, age 9, looks on.

OLYMPIA – With strokes of a pen, Gov. Jay Inslee approved statewide suicide prevention training for medical professionals, raised some motor vehicle fees pay for a new ferry, banned most teens from tanning salons, toughened penalties for drunk drivers and required public records training for most elected officials.

Between the official signings of some four dozen bills in a marathon session Thursday morning, Inslee criticized the Legislature for exempting itself from rules it imposed on other officials and at one point broke down when describing the losses in the Oso mudslide, where he’d talked with families of victims the night before.

He agreed with a recent assessment that the Snohomish County mudslide could top the Mount St. Helens eruption and produce the largest loss of life from a natural disaster in state history, but added: “We’re looking for miracles” . . .

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

 

Inslee signing boatload of bills

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee is scheduled to sign more than four dozens of bills this morning, including:

— a bill to raise fees on vehicle tab replacements and transfers for people who do that online or at county auditors' offices to help pay for the state's next 144-ca.

— a bill to outlaw tanning for minors without a doctor's prescription 

— a bill to require suicide prevention training

— a bill to establish a license plate for breast cancer awareness

— a bill requiring training in the open meetings and records act for public officials.

In signing that last one, he took a swipe at legislators, whom he said were “disingenuous” by exempting themselves from that training while requiring it for other elected officials. The original bill, requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, included legislators and Inslee said the amendment that took them out was a “serious error.”

Today’s fun video: Strangest qualification for Congress


For her first qualification for the U.S. Senate, Joni Ernst of Iowa lists one of the most unusual ever.

If the pigs in this commercial look a little nervous, they may have good reason…

Robocall may have prompted death threat

Robocalls may be annoying, particularly during campaign season, but for Rep. Kevin Parker, one apparently prompted a death threat.

The Spokane Republican contacted the Washington State Patrol this week after someone left a message on  his office voice mail with graphic threats to him and his family. The patrol handles security for legislators, and they brought in Spokane police detectives, who tracked down the caller, interviewed then arrested him.

Here's the kicker: This wasn't a campaign robocall. According to the police affidavit it was the far more innocuous type, a simple invitation to a town hall meeting. From January. The Airway Heights man  apparently had kept it on his machine and over time he became angrier and angrier until he decided to call back.

For more information, check out Reporter Kip Hill's story by clicking here.

Parker said the incident raises questions about untreated mental health problems in the community.

“Mental illness is far more prevalent than people think,” he said today. As many as one person in four may deal with someone who has a mental health problem in their family. “I'm hoping this individual gets help while he's in custody.”

Today’s fun video: Dissing coverage of Flight 370

 

 

You can't make up how bad some of the coverage of the Malaysian Flight 370 was. At least Jon Stewart didn't have to as he reviewed some of the low lights.

Senators’ per diem pay going up 33%

OLYMPIA — State senators will be able to collect an extra $30 a day for expenses during legislative sessions under a rule approved Tuesday by a committee of their members.

The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee voted 4-3 to raise the allowance for daily expenses by 33 percent, upping the per diem to $120 from the $90 it has been since 2005.

Over objections from some senators who said the question of expenses requires a more comprehensive look, the committee agreed to match the House of Representatives, which raised per diem for its members before the 2014 session started.

“I think it's inappropriate to raise the per diem for members and staff with less than 24 hours notice,” said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “This is the wrong message at the wrong time, and possibly not even the right measure.”

The main expense for legislators living in Eastern Washington or other districts far from Olympia isn't food and rent, he said. It's the cost for trips to and from home. Raising the per diem “is going to reward the people who live closest to the capital,” he said.

Committee Chairman Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said the committee had discussed it enough, and cast the deciding vote to raise the expense allotment for senators, as well as a jump from $30 to $40 in the per diem for legislative assistants.

Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, said legislators haven't received a pay increase since 2008. “We don't need to get rich being in public office, but we sure as hell don't need to go broke.”

Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, made the motion to raise the per diem, even though she doesn't collect it during the session. It would be reasonable to consider other expenses in the coming months, she said, and those who object to the increase have an alternative: “Nobody has to take the full amount of per diem. You can take less.”

Raising the per diem in the House added about $176,000 in expenses for a 60-day session like the most recent one, and would add about $308,000 for the longer 105-day session. Estimates for the committee say the increase for the Senate would add $95,000 in a short session and $155,000 in a long session.

The $30 increase was the largest per diem raise since the Legislature started yearly sessions in 1979. The rate started at $40 in 1979, and was raised gradually, every few years, for most of that period through 2005. Ten years is the longest it has ever remained at the same rate.

 

 

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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.

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