UPDATE: OLYMPIA — Faced with far more people wanting to grow legal marijuana than state rules would allow, the Liquor Control Board upped the amount of land that can be planted to the drug by more than five-fold. But it also put some new restrictions on would-be growers.
The board agreed Wednesday to limit applicants to one grower license per business entity, cutting down on the multiple requests some new marijuana entrepreneurs have turned in for as many as three grower licenses. It also reduced the amount of land all requests will be allowed to plant by 30 percent.
“We are going to do this right,” Board Chairwoman Sharon Foster said. “The Department of Justice is not going to have anything to complain about for the state of Washington.”
The board’s decision came as the state’s fiscal analysts made their first estimates of legal marijuana’s boost to state coffers – a possible $51 million bump in tax revenue from recreational sales – and the Legislature continued to examine ways to merge the separate existing medical marijuana system with the untried recreational system. . .
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OLYMPIA — Some large companies would have to reveal how much their tax preferences are worth under a bill the House approved Tuesday.
On a mostly partisan 52-45 vote, the House approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring publicly traded companies in 32 different tax preferences to reveal to the public how much they pay in state taxes.
Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle and chairman of the House Finance Committee, said the public can go on the internet and find out how the state spends its money but “the other side of the ledger is dark” because it doesn't know where the money comes from.
“We have the right to know the value of a tax preference,” Carlyle said.
Washington's unusual tax system, which relies heavily on the business and occupation tax on a company's gross receipts, is different from many states that tax profits. The system has some 650 different exemptions, exclusions and credits for the B&O, sales or use taxes, approved over the years by the Legislature.
“This tax code is nothing more than 100 years of random acts of kindness,” Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Olympia said.
But Republicans argued the bill could discourage new businesses from coming to the state or convince existing businesses to leave rather than reveal confidential information that could be used by their competitors.
“Sometimes information can be used as a weapon,” Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, said arguing the bill didn't have enough safeguards to protect small businesses.
OLYMPIA — Four small Eastern Washington counties could opt out of many requirements of the Growth Management Act under a bill approved unanimously by the Senate.
SB 6194 allows counties with fewer than 20,000 people that voluntarily agreed to join the GMA in the past can decide to drop out of the law, which is designed to control development and fight urban sprawl. They'd have to provide the same level of legal protection for some critical environmental areas and comply with other state land use laws.
The law would cover four counties — Pend Oreille, Ferry, Garfield and Columbia. The bill was sent to the House on a 47-0 vote.
OLYMPIA — Owners of former contract liquor stores struggling with the new law on liquor sales would get some help from fees under a bill approved Tuesday by the Senate.
After voters approved a ballot measure getting the state out of the wholesale and retail liquor business, the number of stores offering distilled spirits multiplied rapidly. Owners of stores that had a contract with the state to sell liquor in small communities were allowed to obtain licenses for their stores, but were required to pay the same fees as all other stores, 17 percent of the revenue from all sales.
Contract stores have struggled because they lost much of their market, both to restaurants and bars which once made up a significant portion of their sales, and to national retailers who can sell liquor for less. SB 6237 revises the fee structure so that any former contract store that has less than $200,000 in sales in a month will not pay the fee and those with sales between $200,000 and $350,000 a month will pay 7 percent of the receipts. Those with sales of more than $350,000 a month will still pay the 17 percent fee.
The bill was sent to the House on a 30-17 vote
OLYMPIA — The Senate gave strong support for tougher penalties for assaults stemming from the so-called knockout game, despite a warning from some Democrats state laws already are adequate to handle what's may be a criminal “fad.”
Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, sponsored SB 6011 to make random attacks of unsuspecting victims a Class 3 felony. Such assaults in which assailants try to knockout someone, often elderly or a member of a racial or ethnic minority, with a single punch, are sometimes filmed and posted on the Internet.
“It is a phenomenon that has been going on nationwide,” Padden said. “There is some indication it may have come to our state. What we're trying to do is get ahead of the curve.”
One assault last November in the Spokane Valley is being investigated as a possible knockout game attack, although no charges have been filed in that case.
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, argued a new law isn't needed because the state already has four different levels of assault on the books, and if the victim is targeted because they are members of a racial or ethnic minority, assailants can also be charged with a hate crime.
“There are fads in crime. Fads come and go, our law doesn't,” Kline said.
The bill passed on a 38-9 vote and was sent the the House.
OLYMPIA — The hopes of many interest groups, lobbyists and citizens with hopes for key pieces of legislation hang in the balance today, a major “cut-off” day for bills.
If a bill doesn't have some fiscal aspect to it, it must have passed the chamber where it was introduced by 5 p.m. today. That means the morning could be filled like the last few days, with quick votes on non-controversial bills. But the afternoon could become a chess match over controversial legislation that could generate heated, and possibly long debates and eat up the clock.
Any non-fiscal bill that doesn't pass, or at least have debate start, before 5 p.m. is all but dead and would need significant parliamentary maneuvering to be resuscitated.
As a member of Congress gains stature in Washington, D.C., opponents often have more trouble defeating them in elections back home. Eastern Washington Democrats are hoping the reverse is true this year as Joe Pakootas prepares to run against Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
He’s counting on a boost from the public’s general low opinion of Congress, its partisan wrangling and its short time in session will work against the 10-year incumbent who is part of Republican leadership. . .
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The plate with the Western hemlock would be added to the dozens of specialty plates available in the state, carrying a $40 fee when new and $30 for a renewal. An estimate by Office of Financial Management projects it would raise about $140,000 over the next five years.
Originally written to send all the money to the Washington Park Arboretum in
For anyone who had any doubts about his intentions about running for Congress, Clint Didier ended them today.
He scoffed at the prospect of setting up an “exploratory committee” and announced he was a candidate at a morning press conference in Pasco. He's got a second event at 2 p.m. at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane.
“I'm all in and up and running,” he said. The full press release can be found inside the blog.
Clint Didier, a Pasco-area rancher and former pro football player with strong ties to tea party organizations, is getting into the race to replace Doc Hastings in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Didier scheduled press conferences in Pasco and Spokane today to “make an announcement concerning the race” an early morning press release said. Doesn't say what the announcement is, but hardly anyone schedules two press conferences to say they are not running.
So we're betting he'll either say he's running, or forming an exploratory committee, which usually amounts to the same thing.
OLYMPIA — The Senate marked the quasquicentennial of the official beginning of the state of Washington today, with a resolution honoring the act of Congress that led to establishing the state in 1889.
Technically, they're five days early as the actual calendar goes. But they're on the mark as far as the official calendar goes. Here's why:
Congress passed the enabling act for the state of Washington on Feb. 22, 1889, a way of marking George Washington's birthday, which was a federal holiday back then. The Washington's Birthday holiday has been morphed into the President's Day holiday, which isn't tied to a particular day but to a Monday that forms a three-day weekend in mid February, apparently so car dealers and furniture stores can offer big sales.
So in a sense this is the appropriate day to take up the resolution, particularly since the calendar said Feb. 11 when George was born, if there was one in the colonial home at the time because they were using a different system then.
The enabling act set in motion the process for a state constitutional convention, approved by voters in October, and a proclamation of statehood on Nov. 11 of that year.Things moved much quicker in those days, Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, noted.
Look for more quasquicentennial, or 125th anniversary, mentions as they year continues.
So Washington's Birthday/President's Day isn't the state's 125th birthday. It's more like the 125th anniversary of getting a positive pregnancy test.
The resolution was a bit of early activity in what could be a long day of votes on bills that could continue into the evening as the Legislature plays beat the clock on the deadline for all bills not connected to the budget to be voted out of at least one house by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
I believe in the latter and save a particularly striking, albeit too wide, paisley necktie from the 1970s that I really like but don’t wear because of my daughter, who makes her living telling other people what not to wear and suspect she’d be all too happy to give me her expert advice for free. I keep it in the back of the tie drawer, bring it out on occasion to consider with new shirts or jackets, then put it back without knotting a full Windsor.
How skeptical? In 1982, a proposal to form a port district in
There are several reasons why the port district proposal sank like the Titanic 32 years ago. One was that when people think of a “port” they think of a place where large ocean-going ships pull in to unload, and the
Since then, a significant portion of
This year the Legislature has the latest wrinkle in making port districts acceptable with a pair of bills to change the way they are constituted. Under current law, when a community votes whether to form a port district it also elects district commissioners. In 1982, this resulted in three folks being elected to a board that didn’t exist, and possibly creating a Final Jeopardy answer for the category Spokane Political Trivia.
Under House Bill 2457 and its companion Senate Bill 6315, voters would first decide if they want a district, then elect commissioners at the next election if the proposal succeeds.
HB 2457 sailed through the House on a 95-2 vote last week; SB 6315 is awaiting a vote by the Senate. Nothing is certain in this legislative session, but the bipartisan support for these two bills makes the idea a good bet.
Then the question will be whether this small change is enough to help dress up a port district and make it fashionable for
OLYMPIA – A state agency with roots in Spokane’s 1980s push to attract more high-tech jobs to the region would be eliminated under legislation approved this week by the House.
Innovate Washington would cease to exist and its Riverpoint building, leases on other office space in the area, reports and even furniture would be turned over to Washington State University under a bill that passed Thursday evening on an 88-9 vote… .
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OLYMPIA — State Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry said she has formed a committee to explore whether to run for the congressional seat opening up in Central Washington's 4th District.
Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, said she plans to visit “with key leaders throughout the district… to assess the viability of my candidacy.”
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings announced Thursday morning that he would not seek re-election to the seat he has held for 20 years. Holmquist Newbry said shortly afterwards she had not made a decision on whether to run “at this time.”
Friday she said she has formed an exploratory committee with several key advisers, including Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley. Under federal election law, a person can receive and spend money before becoming an official candidate by forming an exploratory committee.
First elected to the House in 2000, Holmquist Newbry was elected to the Senate in 2006, where she now serves as the chairwoman of the Commerce and Labor Committee. She recently removed her name from the list of senators on the website for the Majority Coalition Caucus, telling the Seattle Times she was protesting decisions by some of the more moderate members of the caucus.
The 4th is a solidly Republican district that routinely gave Hastings at least 60 percent of the vote in his re-election campaigns. Also considering the race is rancher Clint Didier, an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senate and state lands commissioner, who may make an announcement on Monday.
OLYMPIA — Washington schools would be required to protect students against emotional bullying, keep more data on homeless students and test out whether extra days would help some students retain more from one year to the next under bills that advanced Friday. . .
OLYMPIA — Legislators are spending Valentine's Day moving as many bills as possible through their respective chambers. Eastern Washington members may not be home in time for a romantic dinner with their significant others, but may get the rest of the weekend off.
Why the hurry? A deadline looms next Tuesday which kills many of these bills if they don't get a passing vote in their originating house. So we can expect to see a lot of legislation brought to the floor with the introduction of “This is a good little bill…” Big, controversial bills, which gum up the works, will be relatively rare.
We'll provide updates as warranted.
There was a rainbow briefly over the Capitol Building this morning as the House and Senate began work. Don't know whether to ascribe anything deep to its appearance… or the fact that it didn't last long.
With all the rain the Puget Sound is having right now, it's probably not a good idea to make too much of it.
OLYMPIA — The coalition controlling the Senate released a $12 billion transportation package that would raise gasoline taxes by 11.5 cents over three years and finish several major projects, including Spokane's North-South Freeway.
They said they have support from 13 of their members — or half the ruling caucus — meaning they'd need 17 votes from minority Democrats to pass the spending package and its accompanying bonds.
At a lunchtime press conference, a group of eight senators, including Spokane Republican Mike Baumgartner, called for quick negotiations with House Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee to try to find a package that can get super majority support in both chambers. The Senate proposal differs significantly from the House plan in spending for some projects and calls for changes in the way the state plans, builds and taxes transportation projects. Among those changes, an end to sales tax on those projects, which is a financial hit to the state's general fund.
Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said removing the sales tax lowers the price of the project, and the general fund will more than make up the loss through the added economic development the projects will generate. The reforms are necessary to restore the public's faith after some high profile problems with big projects like the 520 bridge and the Alaska Way tunnel.
The package would spend $750 million to finish the North-South Freeway, which is also called the North Spokane Corridor, so it connects with Interstate 90. By building that and other large projects in phases, the state doesn't see the economic impact of a completed project, Republicans argued.
The North-South Freeway has been under construction for years, and under discussion for decades. Baumgartner said he grew up believing the road “lives in the land of fairies and flying unicorns.”
“I will not support a package that does not allow full funding for the North-South Freeway to come to I-90,” he said.
Also on the project list are $15 million for widening State Route 904 from Cheney to I-90, and $11.7 million to add a passing lane on U.S. 195 between Colfax and Spangle.
The gasoline tax would go up 4 cents next year, 4 cents in 2016 and 3.5 cents in 2017. The proposal doesn't have language that automatically sends it to the ballot, but senators said it could easily wind up there.
They challenged House Democrats and Inslee to meet with them next Wednesday morning to begin negotiations. Tom said he “absolutely” believed a transportation package could be passed in the current legislative session, which is now slightly more than half over.
House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, cast doubt on the prediction, however. She released a statement that described the package as undoing work from last year and putting “untested ideas” on the table. And the package doesn't have clear support from the coalition she added.
“We remain insistent that the Senate Majority either pass its proposal or provide a clear demonstrations that it has enough votes to pass,” she said. “We look forward to resuming negotiations once the Senate Majority has finished negotiation among itself.”
Hastings at news conference earlier this month discussing the Endangered Species Act. AP Photo
Richard “Doc” Hastings, Central Washington's veteran congressman, will call it quits this year after 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hastings, 73, announced today he will not seek re-election to the 4th Congressional District seat he has held since beating one-term incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee in the 1994 Republican wave that turned control of the House over to the GOP. Inslee had edged Hastings for the open seat in 1992, but Hastings easily won the rematch.The defeated Inslee later moved to western Washington, where he won a House seat in 1998.
Hastings won most of his re-election contests with 60 percent of the vote or more, and his 20-year tenure makes him currently the senior member of Washington's House delegation. That's twice as long as Hastings said he serve when running for election in 1994, setting a personal term limit of 10 years, which was higher than the six years some other Republicans were advocating in the so-called “Contract with America”. Washington voters had approved an initiative limiting House members to three terms, but that law was later overturned by U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
The Spokane native is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee which sets most federal land and water policies, including the Endangered Species Act, which he has tried repeatedly to revise to make it more accommodating to business and development. He's been a watchdog of federal cleanup efforts of radioactive waste from weapons production at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, which is in his district.
His Central Washington district is solidly Republican and Hasting's retirement is likely to set off a scramble in the August primary. Under the state's Top 2 primary system, two Republicans could finish first in second in that election and vie for the seat in November.
OLYMPIA — Legislative Republicans accused Gov. Jay Inslee of misusing his power by announcing a blanket moratorium on all executions during his term.
“It's the Legislature that decides whether (capital punishment) is an appropriate policy,” Sen. Steve O'Ban, R-University Place, said, while a governor has the authority to stay the execution of a particular inmate on an individual basis. “He has usurped his role.”
Inslee announced Tuesday he would not allow anyone who has been sentenced to death by the courts and exhausted all appeals to be executed while he is in office, hoping that would spark a discussion on whether equal justice is being served by capital punishment in Washington. A successor could allow the executions to go forward if he or she chooses, Inslee said.
Criticism from O'Ban and other Republicans was varied, and at times seemed contradictory. At one point, O'Ban said it could take a valuable tool out of the hands of prosecutors, who have used the possibility of not seeking the death penalty as a way to force serial killers to reveal information about victims; later he said it won't save the state any money because prosecutors will still be seeking the death penalty for cases that qualify for them.
O'Ban later said that defense attorneys will bring up the moratorium in discussions and “undercut” a prosecutor. It would also lead to “open season” on prison guards for inmates serving life without parole, because they'd have nothing to lose by killing a guard.
The threat of the death penalty didn't keep Monroe inmate Byron Scherf from strangling prison guard Jayme Biendl in 2012. But Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, said he is hearing from prison staff who want to know the Legislature is doing the best they can “to make them safe.”
The Legislature could address problems with the cost of capital punishment and the long delays from appeals without a complete suspension, O'Ban said.
A spokesman for Inslee said the governor acknowledged Tuesday that people will disagree with his decision. As to the suggestion that Inslee was usurping his power, Attorney General Rob Ferguson said Tuesday the decision was within Inslee's authority as governor, and spokesman David Postman said the public can judge who was right on that point.
OLYMPIA — A transportation package from the predominantly Republican Senate majority may be announced Thursday, although coalition leaders couldn't say Wednesday how much support it has in their caucus.
Instead, they took aim at Gov. Jay Inslee, accusing the governor of a lack of leadership in negotiating something that he and legislators have said the state needs for more than a year — a plan to build new highway projects, fix roads and bridges, reform transportation practices and generate support for the taxes needed to accomplish that. They haven't had a meeting with Inslee since the first day of the legislative session, Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville, said.
“We need to get back in that room,” Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said. “The governor's going to have to show a lot of leadership.”
A spokesman for Inslee called the criticism “utter nonsense” and a sign that those leaders are feeling the heat from constituents and business groups for their own inaction.
David Postman said staff from the governor's office has been in contact with the Curtis King, the Senate Republican working on the package, on a daily basis. The governor convened a dozen meetings on transportation with legislative leaders last year. They broke up in December with King saying it would be up to the Senate to come up with a package as a counter to the proposal House Democrats passed in that chamber, Postman said. According to some recent reports, that package might not be ready until a “lame duck” session after the November elections.
Tom and Schoesler parried questions about whether they had the votes to pass a transportation package by questioning whether House Democrats have the votes to approve the bonds needed for their proposal. Although a list of projects and taxes can pass with a simple majority, the bonds needed to build some of those projects by using the tax money require a three-fifths majority, 60 votes in the House and 30 in the Senate.
“To get to 30, the governor needs to get us in the room. Maybe then you can start meeting everybody's needs,” Tom said.
Inslee and House Democrats can't negotiate with Senate Republicans unless they have the votes to pass their package and get their members to agree to changes they sign off on. “The people who need to be locked in a room is the coalition,” Postman said.