February 12, 2009 in Washington Voices

Eye on Olympia: Legislators propose studying selves

By The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA – On the face of it, the bill reads like a parody.

The Legislature is thinking about “creat(ing) a commission within the legislature to evaluate the legislature.”

I’m guessing that means studying whether Washington needs full-time lawmakers, but judge for yourself. Senate Concurrent Resolution 8405 says, in many more words than this, that lawmaking is more complicated and time-consuming than it used to be.

And so, the proposal calls for a 15-person committee to spend the rest of the year evaluating things like representativeness, defined as diversity, and compensation and “informedness,” which seems to mean whether lawmakers know what they’re voting on.

No hearing’s been scheduled.

Double your odds of catching that fish

Newly returned state Rep. Don Cox, R-Colfax, and a dozen other lawmakers, want to change state law so that for an additional $10 fee, anglers in some places would be allowed to use two fishing poles at once. The bill is HB1993.

Adult day health programs: Hope in the state Senate

Last week, more than 150 advocates for saving adult day health programs fanned out into the marble-lined halls of Olympia to make the case for preserving the centers.

These are places where elderly or frail adults can socialize, do activities, and often get some counseling or health screenings. They also give families and other caregivers a break. About 1,900 elderly or developmentally disabled people regularly spend time in them.

In December, Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed cutting the programs to save about $40 million over the next two years. Half of that comes from the federal government.

But adult day health has some powerful defenders in Olympia, including Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. It may be trimmed, she recently told reporters at the capitol, but lawmakers hope to find a way to avoid cutting it entirely. House Speaker Frank Chopp, who’s clearly been hearing from Brown on the topic, also seems to be leaning that way.

“Many legislators believe that is not a program that should be eliminated, and I don’t see it being eliminated,” said Brown. “You could be essentially putting people into emergency rooms and nursing homes and more costly settings. That (cut) is one that we disagree with.”

Press release of the day

From the state Parks and Recreation Commission: “State Parks Commission holds special meeting.”

The short-lived Hoover Award

Senate Democrats’ chief of staff Rich Nafziger, on his personal blog, recently blasted Gov. Chris Gregoire for continuing to favor budget cuts over a tax increase.

Nafziger, tongue firmly in cheek, named Gregoire the recipient of his “Herbert Hoover award.”

“It is clearly in the Hoover tradition to cut programs to the needy who spend all their money and cut jobs for public employees who join the ranks of the unemployed and curtail spending,” he wrote. “Obviously this is better than taxing businesses or individuals who sit on their money, or oil companies who earn enormous profits… .” The post has since been removed from the site.

Senator’s be-prepared warning

In the wake of economic advisor Robert Reich’s congressional testimony that the federal infrastructure dollars should not go solely to professionals or to white male construction workers, conservative state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, has these words of warning for those folks:

“The plan is the same. Pay off all debt including the house. Put away an emergency fund,” Roach advised. “Plant fruit trees. Plant a garden. Store a three-month supply of food for your family. Learn to do with less.”

Roach recently earned a ham radio operator’s license as part of her personal emergency preparedness plans.

Hard of hearing

Also drawing fire from Nafziger this week were the lobbyists who crowd the statehouse. He described lobbyists being aghast when a regulatory bigwig was forced to wait in a hearing for an hour before “stomp(ing) out of the room in anger.”

The whole hearing process is “broken,” Nafziger said, with citizens’ voices unheard while “lobbyists earning seven-figure incomes clutter the hearing dockets and roam the halls.”

Nafziger is absolutely right that the legislative process favors the pros. I’ve sat in many hearings, listening to politicians, lobbyists and state officials drone on at length, then seen regular-Joe citizens be told they’ll get only two minutes. (This comes complete with a humiliating little system of warning cards or red lights.)

The few citizens who actually show up at hearings in Olympia rarely complain, even those who’ve driven long distances and taken the day off work.

Many are moved to testify after grievous wrongs or personal tragedies. Some carry photos of family members or little hand-written speeches they’ve labored over. And they end up being told always with a quick apology to keep it short.

Richard Roesler can be reached at (360) 664-2598 or by e-mail at richr@spokesman.com.


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