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Sen. Brown considers run for governor

OLYMPIA – The state’s last governor to make the jump from Eastern Washington to governor’s mansion was a Democrat who, in tough times, argued for public spending to help stabilize the economy.

That was Clarence Martin, in the 1930s. But Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown may be hoping that history repeats itself.

Brown, a Democrat from Spokane, recently told the Seattle Times that although she hadn’t made a decision yet, she’s considering running for governor in 2012.

A spokesman for Brown subsequently said she wouldn’t elaborate on the comment. And Gov. Chris Gregoire, just starting her second term, has given no public indication of her plans.

If Brown does run, though, it wouldn’t be a big surprise. She’s been in the Statehouse for more than 16 years, rising from local activist to become the Senate’s chief budget writer and majority leader.

Eastern Washington candidates have to work harder to win over West Side voters, certainly. But fellow Democrat Peter Goldmark just proved it’s not impossible. Goldmark blended his rancher roots with an alliance of Puget Sound environmentalists and political donors to oust Republican Doug Sutherland as the state’s commissioner of public lands.

Brown’s also built some Puget Sound credibility, particularly on high-profile issues like transportation.

“Now I can debate the merits of viaduct proposals, 520 alignments, Sound Transit and RTID merits and demerits from a West Seattle, Belltown or Bellevue perspective,” she said in a recent post on her Senate blog.

“She’s smart, she has academic credentials, political experience and she’s a woman,” said Sen. Bob McCaslin, ticking off Brown’s strengths in Washington’s political climate. “She’s got as good a chance as anyone.”

Brown would be a strong candidate and formidable fundraiser, said state GOP chairman and former Senate colleague Luke Esser. But he said he thinks Brown is too liberal to win.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to name me one major issue where she’s right of center by even one degree,” said Esser. While her record plays well in Brown’s central Spokane legislative district, he said, “I’m not sure it plays very well statewide.”

Stay tuned.

New state schools chief opens with a salvo

Like the ads used to say: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. And in his first appearance this week before a Senate education committee, newly elected state schools Superintendent Randy Dorn decided to throw down the gauntlet.

Money for schools must come first, he told the senators. No matter what. The state constitution says so.

“I will be reminding the legislators that the number one, primary, paramount duty you have is to fund education,” Dorn said. “That doesn’t mean kinda number one, close to the top. It means beyond the top and out in front of everything else that you look at.”

A former state lawmaker, he acknowledged that legislators face a broad chorus of pleas for money. In the face of competing needs, he said, it will be hard to place education above all else.

“But you don’t have that choice,” Dorn told them. “Your constitution says and you take an oath of office that you will follow that…That’s where the funding has to be.”

Committee chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe suggested that with the state facing a roughly $6 billion budget shortfall, Dorn might want to offer some input on the cuts and other changes that lawmakers are considering.

“I know you said it’s the number one priority,” she said. “But we’ll take some share. You know that.”

She said that budget writers would, however, protect basic education.

“That,” McAuliffe said, “is the paramount duty.”

The bill that will not die

One of Democrats’ greatest gifts to Republican lawmakers in recent years was Senate Bill 6900, a 2008 proposal for an engine displacement tax. It went nowhere didn’t even get a hearing but continues to live on on the Internet, where you can still find breathless calls to action to defeat this already-dead bill.

The specter of paying $325 a year displacement tax for that 350 under the hood has been a sure-fire torches-and-pitchforks line for rural Republicans, some of whom delighted in touting the (dead) bill in recent town meetings and newsletters.

“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” one said.

Shades of ‘Escape from New York’

State Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace, wants to see if the state can track sex offenders by implanting chips into their bodies. The bill is House Bill 1142. No hearing has been scheduled.

What else is in the hopper

There’s some interesting if short-lived stuff going on in the margins:

Wary Christmas: Just weeks after Olympia made national news with its battle-of-the-holiday-placards, Rep. Jim McCune, R-Graham, wants to declare any evergreen erected in the capitol during December to be “the official Christmas tree of the state of Washington.”

Airline passengers’ bill of rights: Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, wants to require airlines to provide food, water and clean bathrooms to people stuck on the ground in planes. He also wants to create a new state “airline consumer advocate” to investigate complains and seek refunds of up to $1,000 per person. (SE 5068)

Moles beware: In the latest round of a long dispute between coyote-plagued ranchers and lawn-loving suburbanites, Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, wants to create an exception to the state’s anti-trapping law. Under Senate Bill 5123, traps used to kill moles would be OK.

•Driving in a cloud: Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, wants to make it illegal to smoke in a car containing children. (HB 1151)

•Hold the bags: Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, wants to ban free shopping bags unless they’re compostable, recyclable or thick and reuseable. (HB 1189)

•But paper bags are OK: Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview, and other timber-area lawmakers want to ban cities and counties from trying to charge shoppers for a bag so long as it’s made of paper. (HB 1154)

•Hiking brightly: Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, wants to require all hikers in recreation areas to wear bright orange clothing during hunting season. Hikers in regular clothes would be subject to a fine. (HB 1116)

Richard Roesler can be reached at (360) 664-2598 or by e-mail at