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Over-the-top protests prompt legislation

SUNDAY, FEB. 5, 2006

Trying to restrict the bizarre antics of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., state Rep. Dan Roach has proposed House Bill 3293, banning protesters from demonstrating within 500 feet of a funeral. Violations would constitute disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.

“I just want to make sure that families are able to mourn in peace,” said Roach, R-Bonney Lake. “They’ve been through enough by losing a loved one.”

The gay-and-lesbian-hating Westboro Baptist Church has made a headline-grabbing habit of picketing funerals of U.S. troops, the miners who died recently in West Virgina, and soon, of civil rights leader Coretta Scott King. The church’s tiny group of followers (judging by the handful of grinning people in the protest photos online) maintain that Hurricane Katrina, the mine disaster, Iraqi explosive devices and similar events are evidence of God’s wrath toward America. Among their picket signs: “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Thank God for IEDs.”

Church members plan demonstrations over the next week at the Wisconsin, Kentucky and Kansas statehouses, as well as at military funerals in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, California and Kentucky.

Roach said that lawmakers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma are considering similar measures and that Kansas has already passed such a law.

“Imagine attending a funeral, putting your son or daughter to rest who has fought and died for our country, only to have people essentially spit on the grave,” he said.

A toast to bureaucracy

It would be a bit unexpected to settle in for a lengthy legislative hearing, then hear this:

“… the wine may not be offered until the massage is completed.”


The bill in question turned out to be Senate Bill 6703, “Allowing Spas to Serve Wine to Their Customers.”

The author of this interesting bill is none other than Sen. Mark Schoesler, a Republican wheat and legume farmer from Ritzville.

As lawmakers chortled, Schoesler said that the bill was proposed by residents in his district unhappy at state restrictions on serving alcohol.

“It became apparent that some spas were giving out a glass of wine or champagne to their customers illegally,” Schoesler said. “Apparently it’s very popular with the patrons.”

Indeed. The massage provision apparently stems from concern that combining wine with a massage could have untoward results. (But not what you’re thinking.)

“The blood pressure goes up,” said Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma. “You can really have some reaction, headaches and such.”

Franklin – who is a nurse – thought it would also be a good idea if the spa patrons are offered snacks.

Schoesler said that the Liquor Control Board could probably require that if needed.

One way to cut costs

Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, has proposed Senate Bill 6871, “Removing Members of the Legislature from State Health Care Coverage.”

None of the other 146 lawmakers has signed on as a co-sponsor. A hearing is slated for Thursday.

Noteworthy bills

SB 6528 (Sen. Joyce Mulliken, R-Ephrata): “Permitting roadside tire-chain businesses.” Requested by the state Department of Transportation and backed by the State Patrol, this would allow people to – for a fee – connect and disconnect people”s tire chains on the roadside. California allows this now.

SCR 8415 (Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver): Establishing a “Select Committee on Securing a Second Major League Baseball Team for the Pacific Northwest.” Meaning, if you actually read the bill, in Portland.

SB 6499: (Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn): “Putting all voters on inactive status until proof of citizenship and photo identification are provided.”


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