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Early ideas on guns, abortion, unions for the 2017 Legislature

OLYMPIA – Anyone who believes all of Washington’s part-time lawmakers let their inclinations to tinker with the state take the summer and fall off need only gaze at the list of bills being filed fully a month before they return to the Capitol.

These proposals, known as “prefiled” bills because the session hasn’t started, show the thoughts of some eager legislative beavers who just can’t wait to put an idea or two – or 10 – into the hopper.

State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, currently is the eagerest of beavers. He sponsored bills that include requiring parents be notified before abortions are performed on their minor children; allowing people with religious objections to unions to opt out of joining; making Washington a “right to work” state; and streamlining the state environmental protection laws. He’s also proposing a law that would allow anyone with a concealed pistol license to carry said firearm in a public stadium, and a stand-your-ground provision to state law that would keep the governor or any other government official from restricting gun possession or sales during a state of emergency.

Shea is also joined with fellow Freedom Agenda proponents David Taylor and Bob McCaslin, along with about a dozen other Republicans, on a bill that would deny state money to women who get an abortion unless it’s needed to save the woman’s life. Those three are also the first names on a bill that would allow businesses and schools to require transgender people to use public bathrooms and public showers based on their genitalia, not gender identity.

Some of those sound like they have little to no chance of passing a House controlled by Democrats, which may be why Shea, McCaslin and Taylor also sponsored a proposal to have the Legislature ask Congress to split Washington so that everything east of the Cascade Crest is a separate state. As The Spokesman-Review reported last week, this idea has popped up for more than 100 years, without much success.

But the self-styled freedom fighters aren’t the only ones itching to legislate. The House and the Senate both have proposals to make it easier to bring charges against law enforcement officers who use deadly force. Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, has a bill that would make the Legislature decide how much it will spend on public schools, then divide what’s left in the budget among other programs. The idea is a favorite with minority Republicans in the House who generally get short shrift in the budgeting process.

Another group of Republicans, which includes Shea, McCaslin and Taylor, have a different plan to revise the Legislature’s budgeting process. It would break up the budget into separate spending bills, to be settled in an order that puts the payment of debts first, public schools second, and figuring out any change in taxes and fees third. After that would come, in order, public safety, public health, public assistance and “all other state purposes.” Budgets for the elected officials would bring up the rear – possibly leaving them to fight over the scraps, or at least learn to economize.

Faithless elector prosecutions

Members of the Electoral College will meet a week from Monday, and while Washington state’s 12 votes are slated to go to Democrat Hillary Clinton, at least two of those electors have signaled that might not happen. Robert Satiacum has said he won’t vote for Clinton. Bret Chiafolo has said he might not, if some Republican electors in other states will agree not to cast their votes for Trump.

Washington has what’s known as a “faithless elector” statute, which calls for a civil fine of as much as $1,000 for an elector who doesn’t cast his or her ballot for the person winning the state’s popular vote. But would the state actually pursue the claim?

The attorney general’s office is noncommittal at this point. A spokesman for Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the Democratic Party could always replace an elector who won’t vote for the party’s nominee before the meeting Dec. 19.

“If some electors violate state law on the 19th as they have suggested, we will consider our legal options at that point,” said Peter Lavallee, a spokesman for the office.

Spin Control, a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items and reader comments at www.spokesman.com/blogs/spincontrol.


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