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Posts tagged: daily briefing

WA Lege Day 88: More protests this afternoon

OLYMPIA — About 70 protesters spent the night in the Capitol, and more demonstrations are scheduled for this afternoon, with some civil disobedience threatened.

Service employees, including some health care workers, are scheduled to join the protest today, and if more demonstrators decide to camp out on the marbled floors, they'll have company for a while. The Senate is scheduled for an evening session, which means the honorables, the staffs and the lobbyists will be there, too.

Meanwhile, the Legislature continues work on a long backlog of bills that are awaiting votes before time runs out in 17 days. Both chambers are scheduled for floor action, on bills to be announced…when they get out of caucus.

WA Lege Day 87: Museums in a.m., budget in p.m.

OLYMPIA — The plan to consolidate arts and heritage programs into a single “mega-agency” gets another chance to get out of a House committee this morning, and the general operating budget gets a chance to get out of its House committee this afternoon.

The House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee is scheduled to take action on the bill that would provide money to keep Spokane's Museum of Arts and Culture open, as well as the State History Museum in Tacoma. It does that by tapping money being set aside for the Heritage Center in Olympia. The plan stalled in committee last week when Democrats didn't have enough votes to pass it out, they'll try again on that, plus a plan to add some responsibilities to the Public Disclosure Commission and streamline the Sentencing Guidelines Commission and save some money at the State Printer.

UPDATE: Apparently,  there's still some dissension among the committee's Democrats. Chairman Samn Hunt, D-Olympia, walked into the hearing room at 9 a.m., (about 15 minutes after the scheduled start time)  announced that the meeting was coming to order and immediately going into recess because they were still in caucus. “Be patient” he said as he walked off the daiis.

But for real money talk, it will be hard to beat the House Ways and Means Committee hearing this afternoon. The Democrats $32.4 billion budget proposal is up for a committee vote, and Republicans are threatening to propose an amendment that consists of a completely new budget.

Meanwhile, more demonstrators, some of them from Spokane, are expected at the Capitol to protest an “all-cuts” budget, which is, so far, the only kind of budget that has been proposed. Tuesday's demonstration was underwhelming (see below), but organizers say they plan to bring more protesters each day, leading up to a big “Working Families Day” rally on Friday. General Administration is bracing for about 5,000 people.

One organizer said people wouldn't be leaving until they get a response from legislators to their appeal for some tax hikes to balance out the cuts.

And if that response is “No”? the organizer was asked. “Then they won't leave.”

WA Lege Day 86: Capital budget hearing in a.m., protests in p.m.

OLYMPIA — The House Capital Budget, a $3.3 billion spending plan for major state construction projects, has a hearing first thing this morning where folks left out get a chance to ask for reconsideration and those who are in are scrupulous about saying “thanks.”

When one university lobbyist didn't show up to the mcrophone when his name was called, Dunshee quipped: “Guess he doesn't care that we found some money for him.” One of the other universiy's lobbyist ducked out into the hall and called the errant spokesman in.

Chris Mulick of Washington State University said the institution was particularly appreciative of the money — $35 million in the second year of the biennium — for the Biomedical and Health Sciences facility, aka the Spokane med school, in the House capital spending plan. (It's not in the governor's plan.) It would be “a facility of statewide significance as we go about training a new wave of health care professionals,” Mulick said.

Those who want reconsideration for a particular construction project are apt to stress the number of jobs said project will generate and the stimulating effects to the economy as well as the beneficial civic impacts before closing with some version of  “On to the Senate.” The other chamber is expected to release its capital and general fund budgets early next week.

Those curious about what's in the House Capital Budget proposal can get the details by clicking here.

Otherwise, the hearing schedule is light and both the House and Senate are scheduled for floor sessions most of the day.

Groups protesting budget cuts to state programs and salaries begin four days of protests today with the Olympia Coalition for a Fair Budget set to bring a few hundred local activists to the Capitol steps around noon and the rotunda later in the afternoon.

WA Lege Day 85: Budget time

OLYMPIA — After going 84 session days without either a general operating or a capital budget in the House, we will have both by about 1:01 p.m. today.

Ways and Means Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, and other House leaders are scheduled to release the 2011-13 general fund operating budget at 12:15 p.m. It'll be posted here about that time. Read fast, because there's a committee hearing at 3:30 p.m.

Capital Budget Chairman Hans Dunshee will release the 2011-13 capital budget at 1 p.m. It can be found here after that. You can take a little more time studying that. The hearing isn't until 8 a.m. tomorrow.

Why the rush? Well, for one thing there's only 20 days left in the session. Where has the time gone…

Meanwhile, teachers from around the state are coming to Olympia with their own paper, a “Resolution to Stop Crowding Our Kids' Classrooms.” They plan to be here around noon in the Senate office building, but that's not very far from the House office building where the budget releases are scheduled.

More budget hearings, votes and demonstrations planned for the rest of the week. If you don't care about budgets, this would be a good week to be on a beach somewhere warm and sunny. If you do, Olympia's the place to be, but don't expect it to be warm and sunny.

WA Lege Day 82: More on museum bill, floor action in morning

OLYMPIA — A House committee is expected to slice many parts out of a bill that would have consolidated several arts and culture offices into one mega-agency, but still offer new funding for Spokane's Northwest Museulm of Arts and Culture.

The House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee is meeting in executive session this morning to amend the bill, which Thursday drew sharp criticism from a range of people unhappy about the prospects of a large new state Department of Arts and Culture.

Most of that consolidation would be gone under an amendment being proposed this morning, but the MAC and the State History Museum in Tacoma would still be receive money from a special fund set up to build the Heritage Center in Olympia.

The committee met briefly and went into caucus so that each party could take the temperature of its members on the new proposal. Update to come.

Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to vote on bills this morning, and the respective Ways and Means Committees, which have a big backlog of money-related bills, have afternoon meetings.

A House budget proposal is now rumored to be coming Monday. Of course, this time last week, the rumor was that the House budget would be released this Monday and it wasn't. .So why should we believe it this time? No reason other than the legislators are running out of time — only 23 days left in this regular session.

WA Lege Day 81: Plan to save MAC draws heavy opposition

OLYMPIA — Hearings started early today, with the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee holding a packed-room session on the plan to save museums in Spokane and Tacoma by creating a mega-agency for arts and culture.

Elswewhere in the Legislature, the Senate has a long list of bills — mostly uncontroversial — queued up for a vote. The House Ways and Means Committees has a list of bills that it must decide whether to send to the floor, and that list has some more controversial subjects, like medical marijuana rules, a health benefit exchange and changes to the GET program.

In the early morning State Government Committee hearing, HB 2033 was heavily criticized, with opponents who included state librarians, organizations ,that represent the blind and Secretary of State Sam Reed, as the wrong solution for a recognizable problem of not enough state funding for arts and culture programs.

The bill would combine state agencies that oversee archeology, historic preservation, heritage, the historical societies, the state library and others into a single Department of Arts and Culture. Among them would be the Eastern Washington State Historical Society, which operates the Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane, and the  Washington State Historical Society, which operates the State History Museum in Tacoma. Both museums lose most of their state funding in the budget proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

To come up with money to keep the museums open, as well as other arts and culture programs also facing major cuts, the proposal would take money currently being raised by fees on documents filed at county auditors offices, and put it under the control of the new mega agency. By funding the museums, however, the state would delay, or possibly eliminate, the planned state Heritage Center in Olympia.

Rep. Jeannie Darnielle, D-Tacoma, the bill's sponsor, looked out over the packed crowd and admitted it was tough to be in front of “an audience of people who hate you.” But desperate budget times call for unusual measures, she said.

“There are such significatn cuts that there are people on this dias who don't know why we even keep the arts,” Darnielle said.

Reed, whose office would lose the state library and the planned Heritage Center in Olympia, agreed proposed budget cuts spell trouble for arts and culture programs. But Darnielle's plan shifts money around and creates a mega-agency: “It is a bad idea.”

The plan was also criticized by members of the state's blind community, who wanted to protect the state's Braille and talking book program. “With all due respect, this legislation reeks of spin,” said Mike Freeman of the state chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.

Librarians opposed folding the state library into a mega agency. Tribal representatives had concerns of putting the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, which has regulatory authority over tribal archeological sites, into the arts agency.

Some members of the arts community were supportive, as were representatives of Spokane and Tacoma, which would have major museums closed to the public under the governor's spending plan.

Al Aldrich, lobbyist for the city of Spokane, said the city supports the proposal: “it may be the perfect answer…but it is a good answer. Shutting down the MAC is not a good answer.”

The committee is scheduled to vote on whether to move the proposal to the Ways and Means panel on Friday. Even if it passes the House, however, the bill may founder in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, has already said the Senate is trying to find a way to fund the MAC and the State History Museum in Tacoma through the general operating fund budget and does not support tapping the money set aside for the Heritage Center.

WA Lege Day 80: Domestic partnerships, $$ from the feds, more on medical pot, stadium taxes

OLYMPIA — Hearings continue today on a wide range of ideas, and the Senate has a floor session this morning to move some bills.

The most controversial bill scheduled for a floor vote is probably HB 1649, which extends reciprocity on domestic partnerships to same-sex couples who move to Washington from other states where they had a partnership, civil union or a marriage.

Of note on the hearing schedule is HJM 8008, a resolution asking the federal government to give Washington state money if it gives other states some cash to  help shore up their faltering unemployment insurance programs. Washington's program isn't faltering, in fact the Legislature passed a law earlier this year to keep rates from going up because the fund is so healthy. But state officials are arguing that they shouldn't be left out of the federal largesse, just because they acted responsibly on the unemployment system while some other states didn't.

There's yet another hearing on SB 5073, a proposal to set up a system to distribute medical marijuana in Washington. This  one is in the House Ways and Means Committee, which is involved because there are some fiscal implications to the plan to regulate the growing, production and distribution of medical marijuana. The panel also has bills on taxes on rental cars, sexually violent predators, all-dayu kindergarten and employee contracts for University of Washington, so it's a pretty eclectic afternoon in House Ways and Means.

Senate Ways and Means, meanwhile, has perhaps the hottest potato of the afternoon, HB 1997, a plan to extend a “temporary” tax imposed on hotel and motel rooms in King County to  help pay for Mariners stadium (feel free to insert  your favorite quote about the permanence of temporary taxes here.) The money would be funneled into housing projections, arts and culture programs and improvements at the Washington Convention and Trade Center in Seattle.

The House Public Safety Committee has a hearing on recommendations to make the state's corrections system safer, proposals that come from the study in the wake of the murder of a guard at the Monroe Corrections Center.

And no, there is no sign of a General Operating Fund Budget from the House at this point…just in case you were wondering. But heck, we've got 25 whole days left until Easter and the end of the session.

WA Lege Day 79: Another deadline

OLYMPIA — It's another cut off day in the Legislature, in which appropriations bills  have to get out of their committees today or risk oblivion.

That doesn't count for bills in the Ways and Means or Capital committees, but the various other spending committees are under the gun to get 'er done today.

The Senate will be voting on bills sometime this morning after returning from caucuses.

Here's the list, all likely to pass:

  • 2SHB 1362 Homeowner foreclosures
  • ESHB 1716 Secondhand dealers/metal
  • HB 1016 Firearm noise suppressors
  • HB 1412 H.S. math assessments
  • HB 1229 Commercial drivers
  • HB 1069 Unclaimed remains
  • SHB 1294 Puget Sound corps

And no, there's no sign of a House General Operating Budget at this point. And yes, we all know there are only 26 days, at most left, in the regular session.

WA Lege Day 78: House budget today?

OLYMPIA — A House version of the 2011-13 general operating fund budget is rumored to be set for release today. Nothing official yet, but folks from the governor on down last week were pegging the release for today.

Gov. Chris Gregoire also observed that there would then be less than a month left in the session to work that spending plan through the process…the prospects for which she didn't seem terribly sanguine about.

It's a state furlough day, so many state employees have the day off without pay as a way of balancing out the 2009-11. Furloughs don't apply to legislators, however, so they have floor sessions and committee hearings.

WA Lege Day 75: Workers comp is 100

OLYMPIA — There's an air of TGIF around the Capitol, with light schedules in committees and some morning floor activity.

The Senate has a resolution commemorating the 100th anniversary of the state's Workers Compensation System. Democrats may be eager to wish it many happy returns but some Republicans and many in the business community would like to see it retired, if not pushing up daisies. (Speaking of flowers, spring is starting to take hold around Olympia, with daffodils up and cherry trees starting to blossom.) When that's done, they are scheduled to vote on several bills including banning phosphorus in lawn fertilizer and assessing fees for electric vehicles to make them help pay for road construction and maintenance that's covered by gasoline taxes.

The House is expected to vote on a Transportation Budget and a bill that would make vote-by-mail the standard throughout the state…which is to say, get rid of poll site voting in Pierce County.

It's a cut-off day, and any policy bill from one chamber that isn't out of the committee in the other chamber by day's end is essentially dead.

Speaking of anniversaries, it's the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which helped crystallize the modern labor movement. There's a demonstration to mark that anniversary in Spokane at 5 p.m. tonight at the corner of Ruby and North Division.

WA Lege Day 74: Earlier primary, Ed Department

OLYMPIA — Committees are trying to wrap up “policy” bills with the approach of Friday's deadline that says they must be out of the committee in the second chamber if they want to stay alive.

So the Senate Government Ops has a hearing on moving the primary up a couple weeks in August so the state can get general election ballots to overseas voters sooner (and comply with federal law). It could  also be voting on whether booking photos are open to the public as soon as the suspect is charged. Senate Early Learning has a hearing on new version of a bill to create a state Department of Education, something Gov. Chris Gregoire is pushing to improve education systems from pre-school to grad school.

House Education is scheduled to vote on whether technology should be added as a “core concept”. House Higher Ed has a hearing on changes to the GET program that supporters say are needed to keep it solvent, and may vote out a bill involving a proposed University of North Puget Sound.

It is Science Day with folks from the Pacific Science Center in the Rotunda, and Catholic Advocacy Day, with the state Catholic Conference in the conference room.

In honor of the latter, dominus vobiscum.

WA Lege Day 72: Road money, prison sentences and bottled water

OLYMPIA — The second of two plans to spend nearly $9 billion in transportation funds is set for release this afternoon. The Senate Transportation Committee will release its budget proposal today and hold a hearing on it tomorrow — somewhat better, legislative watchdogs say, than its House counterpart which announce its budget at noon and held a hearing at 3:30 p.m. Monday.

Hearing topics today include plans to change the state's worker's compensation program in the House Labor Committee, motorcycle profiling in the House Public Safety Committee, and the process for review tax breaks in House Ways and Means.

In the Senate,  the Human Services Committee has a bill that would reduce prison sentences to save money. The Government Operations Committee has a hearing on the presidential primary and the election of precinct committee officers, and the Judiciary Committee has a hearing on a bill that would provide immunity from alcohol possession charges for a minor who called to report a possible alcohol poisoning of another person. The latter led to some spirited debate before passing the House, with opponents saying it was sending the wrong message by condoning teen-age drinking.

Elsewhere around the Capitol, folks who want to cut down on the use of bottled water have a press conference to make the area a bottle-water-free zone, encouraging folks to drink tap water instead. It's also Online Learning Day and Equality Day; the latter, sponsored by Equal Rights Washington and the Religious Coaliltion for Equality, may bring some 600 to the Capitol steps.

WA Lege Day 71: Corrections officers

OLYMPIA — Corrections officers from around the state are in Olympia this morning to testify in support of a bill that would grant them collective bargaining rights for safety issues.

Meanwhile, the governor is at the Monroe Corrections Facility announcing the results of the study into the largest “safety failure” in corrections, the strangling of a guard at that facility earlier this year.

EHB 2011 is before the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee this morning, where it's sponsor Rep. Mike Sells of Everett described it as a common sense approach: “Who's going to know the moste about the safest way to do things at our  institutions?” he asked. Answer: The people who work there.

In other action, the House takes up changes in the GET program and the Senate had a resolution recognizing Turkey..

WA Lege Day 68: Slow day in Olympia

OLYMPIA — The Legislature appears to be catching its collective breath today after activity surrounding the economic forecast on Thursday.

With relatively few committee hearings and little expected floor activity, the honorables will be able to knock off by mid afternoon at the latest. Some are  heading home for more town hall meetings over the weekend, including Reps. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, and Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, who have a  joint town hall meeting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Fire District 8 Station, 6117l S. Palouse Highway. That's pretty close to the southern border of Parker's 6th District and the northern reaches of Fagan's 9th District.

Among things that are happening today, the Senate will vote on a resolution on the tragedies in Japan.

WA Lege Day 66: Higher ed, cigars, legalized pot

OLYMPIA — Hearings today include several bills on community colleges, another on cigar lounges and a “work session” on marijuana.

And no, the last one doesn't involve learning how to roll.

Senate Higher Education has an afternoon session that features a bill on need grants for college students, another on salaries for community college instructors, another on innovation at community college and another on student loans for the aerospace training program. Then there's a proposal to allow universities out of state laws requiring them to buy at least 2 percent of their supplies and equipment from Department of Corrections operations.

Senate Ways and Means will hear a proposal to set up special licenses for “cigar lounges” and tobacco shops that would let them get around state laws against smoking in public buildings.

House Ways and Means has a session on regulating the production, distribution and sale of cannabis, which will follow closely on the heels of a press conference of legislators and others who support legalizing marijuana. It's designed to support HB 1550, which got a hearing early last month in the House Public Safety Committee, which has shown no sign of voting it out. That's slightly better than the Senate companion bill, however, which didn't even get a hearing.

WA Lege Day 59: Fertilizer among the topics

OLYMPIA — Another full day of hearings today for the House and Senate, with bills that include topics such as fertilizer.

Some people may think that most of what the Legislature spends its time on is a certain type of fertilizer. But this is lawn fertilizer…the kind that has phosphorus in it.

The Senate Environment Committee has the House proposal to ban lawn fertilizers with phosphorus for residential lawn use as a way of reducing the chemical in streams after storm runoff. It's supported by environmental groups and some cities, including Spokane, but opposed by some agricultural interests, among others.

There's also a hearing in Senate Judiciary on easing restrictions on noise suppressors for firearms, a bill that passed the House  before cutoff.

Among hearings in the House is a bill that would trim a day off the max sentences on gross misdemenanors.

That last may be appropriate for the designated “Law and Justice Day” which this is, by decree of the  Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

WA Lege Day 58: Back to the committees

OLYMPIA — Having gorged on floor votes in the last few days, both chambers of the Legislature return to committee action to hear bills the other house sent them.

It's an unusual mix of bills, including a bill on embalmers and another on disposition of unclaimed remains in Senate Government Operations, several liquor related bills in Senate Labor and Commerce and gifts to the state Ag Department in Senate Agriculture.

House Environment will take up the establishment of the Puget Sound Corp and the re-establishment of the road to the upper Stehekin Valley, House Education will study ways to blend student and family support programs with local health services, including a look at Spokane Public Schools and Community Mental Health.

WA Lege Day 54: Earlier primary gets Senate OK

OLYMPIA — A proposal to move the state's August primary up by two weeks, making it easier to ensure military and overseas voters get their general election ballots delivered and returned, sailed through the Senate this morning as both chambers continue churning through bills.

SB 5171 now goes to the House, which has a companion bill to do the same thing.

The problem arises with federal law that requires states to have at least 45 days between the time absentee ballots are mailed to military voters and the election. Washington state moved its primaries back from mid-September to mid-August several years ago to accommodate military and other overseas voters, but the time it takes to count ballots, settle close elections and possibly hold recounts means many counties don't  have the results of the primary available to print up the general ballots 45 days ahead of the November election.

Last year Washington got a waiver of the law because the state doesn't stop counting ballots on election day like most states.  It continues to count properly marked ballots that come in for more than two weeks, so military voters actually had more than 45 days to cast a ballot. (This fact did not keep legislators from demagoguing about protecting the voting rights of the brave men and women fighting in forward operating bases in Afghanistan so the rest of us had the right to vote, but such statements are pretty  much a given on this topic.)

With the change in dates, the state won't need to ask for a waiver. It also allows military voters overseas to vote by fax or e-mail.

WA Lege Day 53: Bills, bills, bills

OLYMPIA — With the session now officially half over after late evening sessions on Wednesday, both chambers are scheduled Thursday for a day of votes on a wide range of topics.

Last night the Senate passed the latest version of  SB 5073, which sets up rules for the dispensing of medical marijuana, on a 29-20 vote. It allows patients to purchase medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries if they're part of a regulated patient group, or to get it from a designated provider. The Department of health would regulate growers and the Department of Health would regulate dispensaries; patients could also sign up on a voluntary registry which police could check before making arrests.

Among the bills passed last night in the House was HB 2003 which changed the eligibility levels for the Children's Health Insurance Program. Families above 200 percent of the federal poverty level would have to pay the costs of premiums to stay in CHIP. It's part of the enabling legislation that follows the supplemental budget approved last month.

Sometime this morning the Senate is expected to vote on new campaign rules that would make it easier for the public to tell who's behind some of those political committees that pop up around election time and dump boatloads of money into ads and mailers.

WA Lege Day 52: Halfway done, mathematically

OLYMPIA — The Legislature continues moving bills through both chambers, with a group of education-related bills set for debate today in the House.

Gov. Chris Gregoire also has a press conference this afternoon on education reform.

It is day 52 of the 105 day session, which means the  halfway point will be passed at some point in the afternoon. Seems like the second half will be more action packed than the first, considering it has to come up with a full two-year budget, rather than just a six-month adjustment.

First thing this morning in the Senate, Spokane's newest legislator, Sen. Jeff Baxter, made his first floor speech, which as per custom created a bit of razzing from more senior members.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said Baxter's conservative stances and opposition to taxes, as well as his recent nickname of “Old Spice” among the freshman senators dubbed the Spice Boys, means “it is as if Bob McCaslin never left.”

Not so, argued Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. “I don't believe our new senator is going to fill the shoes of Bob McCaslin. You haven't asked me to marry you yet”, a reference to McCaslin's reputation as a inveterate flirt.

Brown said their districts adjoin each other and she often bikes through the 4th on the Centennial Trail. She's talked to her appointee to the state Redistricting Commission about it, also. “I like your district so much … we've decided to redistrict you into Idaho.”

Baxter, a bit  nervous with his first speech, began reading from prepared remarks, only to be told by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who serves as president of the Senate, that he wasn't allowed to read from the floor without permission.

“May I  have permission?” Baxter asked.

“If there are no objections,” Owen replied, which prompted some Noes from the background. “Pretend like you are not,” Owen advised.

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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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