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In brief: Storm delays rescue of climber in crater

MOUNT ST. HELENS, Wash. – High winds Monday evening forced authorities to suspend the rescue effort for a climber who fell into the crater at Mount St. Helens when a cornice of snow collapsed.

The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call about 1 p.m. Monday. A helicopter that does contract work for the U.S. Geological Survey spotted the climber on a steep slope near the bottom of the crater but was unable to pick him up because of high winds and whiteout conditions.

Undersheriff David Cox said Monday evening that dangerous downdrafts were dislodging rocks, making footing unstable for rescue personnel. He said efforts would resume this morning.

Bill to identify petition signers goes to House

OLYMPIA – The state Senate has voted to make the names and addresses of those who sign initiative and referendum petitions public records, weighing in on a case that’s currently at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Monday’s bill, which was approved 28-20, comes in response to the controversy surrounding 2009’s Referendum 71.

Domestic partnership supporters asked the state to release the 138,000 signatures that were filed to get the referendum on the ballot. But R-71’s sponsors said releasing the names would put those people at risk of retaliation.

The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the release of the signatures in October until the case has a full hearing. The bill approved by senators Monday now heads to the state House for further debate.

Crowds rally on both sides of tax issue

OLYMPIA – Thousands of people turned out at the Capitol on Monday to tell state lawmakers what they think of possible tax increases.

In dueling rallies on the Capitol steps, anti-tax demonstrators carried signs saying things such as “Deliver us from weasels” in the morning, while backers of tax-supported services said “Protect our future” in the afternoon.

The Democrat-led state Legislature is planning to close a $2.8 billion budget gap with a combination of higher taxes and spending cuts.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to detail her preferences for taxes sometime this week. Senate budget writers might unveil their spending plan early next week.

Two charged in probe of meth lab treehouse

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. – Kitsap County prosecutors have charged two people with operating a methamphetamine lab that was discovered in a treehouse in Port Orchard.

Court documents say the West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team raided a home Wednesday and found the drug and elements of a manufacturing lab in the home and treehouse.

Neil R. Vanderpol, 48, and 28-year-old Jesika M.E. Mintz were charged Thursday in Kitsap County Superior Court with meth manufacturing.