January 19, 2014 in City

Spin Control: It was a partisan week at the Legislature – everyone for the Seahawks

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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OLYMPIA – By this evening, we will know the most important fact for navigating the next two weeks in the Legislature. That is, are the Seattle Seahawks going to the Super Bowl.

The opening week of the Legislature was little short of a love fest for the blue and green, with a reference to the team an apparent requirement in most settings.

Gov. Jay Inslee made two Seahawks references in his state of the state address. He mentioned their success coincided with the first year of his administration, adding a self-deprecating acknowledgement, “it’s possible that’s just a coincidence.” The line generated the most support from assembled Republicans.

He also went off-script to close the speech with “Go Hawks,” an admonition that showed up in unusual places throughout the week, from Wednesday’s hearing on changes to the state’s medical marijuana law to Friday’s House floor discussion of a bill over differential tuition at the state universities.

The normally staid Senate closed the week by amending its dress code to allow Seahawks paraphernalia to be worn on the floor. For conservative dressers like Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, that meant wearing a tie emblazoned with team emblems and mounting a Hawks license plate on the rostrum. For Majority Floor Leader Joe Fain, R-Auburn, the person in charge of moving the body through its paces, it meant showing up in a combination hood and scarf with the team name and logo down the left leg of the scarf.

Fortunately, Friday was a day when the Senate session was “pro forma,” which is Latin for “we aren’t doing anything important,” so the whole affair was over quickly. Not to be outdone by the sartorial display in the Senate, Speaker Pro Tem Jim Moeller agreed to ease the House dress code for the next two Fridays so that Seahawks apparel will fit the rules for “business casual.” If they win today, that is.

If they lose, both chambers may change the rules to allow members to wear sackcloth and ashes.

Separating the powers

Not that they likely care, but the state Supreme Court did not endear itself to the Legislature by issuing a new order on improving public schools just days before the session started. Having chastised them on the eve of the 2012 session for perennially shorting the state’s paramount duty of educating its children, the court looked at the $1 billion added to various education programs last year and said, essentially, that’s a good start but there’s a long way to go. You’ve got until the end of April to lay out the rest of the journey.

Or at least eight of them did. Justice Jim Johnson, in a fairly blistering dissent, decried the “unwarranted extension of judicial authority (that) violates both the constitutional separation of powers and the explicit delegation of definitions and funding for education to the Legislature.” It wasn’t surprising, then, that when the nine honorable justices were introduced to the joint legislative session prior to Inslee’s state of the state speech, Johnson got the most applause, especially from the Republican side of the aisle. That forced Democrats who agree with the decision to pick up their game a bit and applaud louder for members of the majority.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, also introduced, mostly but not entirely tongue in cheek, a bill to reduce the size of the court from nine to seven through attrition. SB 6088 is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday in the Law and Justice Committee, which could give all sides a chance to vent a bit.

Other Republicans have suggested they’d be happy to amend the bill and reduce the court to one – providing the one was Johnson.

Blast from the past

Spokane’s Waste-to-Energy Plant generated plenty of controversy – along with fodder for newspaper stories and city political campaigns – when it was being considered in the 1980s. There were concerns that it would increase fog at the airport, spew dioxins into the air or embed them in the ash, and hurt recycling efforts.

By comparison, at least, the trash burner’s operating life has been less controversial. That could all change, however, with a legislative proposal to designate the plant’s electricity as renewable. City leaders would like the designation, which would make the energy more valuable to potential customers. Environmental groups at a hearing Thursday were ready with familiar well-honed arguments against trash-generated power.

Whether burning trash wholesale in an incinerator is bad for curbside recycling is up for debate. Seems it’s good for recycling political arguments, though.

Spin Control, a weekly column by Olympia reporter Jim Camden, also appears as a blog with daily items, photos and reader comments at www.spokesman.com/ spincontrol.


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