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Rousso takes ban on online gambling to court

OLYMPIA – Lee Rousso dropped his bid for governor, but his quest continues. He wants you to be able to go to your computer and legally play poker online against other players. With real bets.

The Renton lawyer is challenging Washington’s 2006 ban on Internet gambling. Rousso estimates that hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians are online poker players, and he says it’s absurd to criminalize a harmless hobby.

State lawmakers have grown increasingly leery of expanding gambling, and they said in 2006 that they were particularly worried about underage players and problem gamblers getting hooked on online poker.

This morning in a courtroom in Kent, Wash., Rousso will ask a superior court judge to declare Washington’s law unconstitutional. Banning Internet poker, he says, wrongly intrudes on the right of the federal government – and only the feds – to regulate interstate commerce.

Stay tuned.

Thousands of new state scholarships available

The idea behind the state’s new College Bound Scholarship program is pretty simple: Seventh- or eighth-graders who are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches or are foster kids sign a pledge to stay in school until graduation and “demonstrate good citizenship.”

If they follow through and their family’s income is about the same when they graduate, the students get a scholarship for the cost of tuition, fees and books at public-college rates. But the scholarship can be used at many two- and four-year schools, including many private colleges.

It’s a great deal, and as many as 50,000 students qualify, according to Washington’s Higher Education Coordinating Board. Thousands have already signed up. But the deadline for signing up is approaching. Signups stop when school gets out in June. And eighth-graders must sign up by the end of the school year.

To apply, students can get an application from their school principal’s office or online through the HEC Board Web site. Go to and click on College Bound Scholarship. You can also call (888) 535-0747 for more information.

Spokane Public Schools is one of many districts holding a signup event. It will include information on financial aid, the scholarship and representatives from local colleges – plus a free dinner. The event is May 21 at Rogers High School, 1622 E. Wellesley Ave., at 6 p.m. Volunteers will be available to help students sign up online.

State Patrol trying to stem graffiti on Capitol

It’s been a hard year for the state Capitol, for reasons that have nothing to do with legislative wrangling.

In April, someone spray painted an anarchist symbol and anti-war messages on one of the building’s sandstone columns. And earlier this month, a crowd of youths that paused downtown to lob rocks through a bank’s windows moved on to the Capitol, where they scrawled anarchist symbols on the marble walls, a thick wooden door, and outside the building. Among the messages: “Burn the capitol” and “Resist heirarchial tryany (sic).”

State work crews have spent thousands of dollars trying to erase this and other grafitti from the Capitol. And six people from the crowd – two Evergreen State College students, one from nearby South Puget Sound Community College, and three youths from California – were charged with felonies.

On Tuesday, the State Patrol said it’s boosting foot patrols and a random patrol schedule in an attempt to curtail the graffiti.

Barlow recovering from heart surgery

State Rep. Don Barlow, D-Spokane, said he’s doing well after recent heart surgery at Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane.

“I’m feeling much better than I or anyone else expected at this stage,” he said recently. Barlow’s district – the 6th – is a crescent-shaped region hugging west Spokane.

Barlow had the surgery to repair a congenital defect in a heart valve. He said he’s known about the condition since he was a boy “and it was finally time for a tune-up.”

Barlow, elected two years ago, is running for re-election this year. He said he’ll take things easy for the rest of this month, but will be back in action in June. He’s staying in touch with his legislative duties by phone and e-mail, and said he’s eager to hear from folks while he’s on the mend.

He’s at

Also back in the saddle: Rep. Hailey

Steve Hailey, a Republican who represents the Palouse region’s 9th legislative district, is a first-term freshman state representative and rancher from the Franklin County city of Mesa. On the eve of the legislative session’s start in January, he learned he had colon cancer.

Chemotherapy kept him home for virtually the entire legislative session, although he tried to keep up with phone calls and e-mails.

Five months later, the cancer’s apparently in remission. And Hailey says he’s ready to get back to work in Olympia. He’s back at work on the ranch, back on the road at community events in the half a dozen counties and running for re-election.

Top on his to-do list: changing the state’s “use it or lose it” water law that threatens the water rights of people who temporarily stop using it.