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Spokane legalizes pot possession

Following the lead of state voters, the Spokane City Council on Monday legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by anyone 21 and up.

Councilman Jon Snyder, who has led the effort on the City Council to consider the impacts to the city from marijuana legalization, said that Monday’s unanimous vote was a routine matter to keep city law consistent with state law. But bigger decisions are ahead as officials consider if they should regulate pot more strictly than what was approved in Initiative 502, the law that legalized marijuana, he said.

News flash: Obama wins Washington

Rick Lloyd of Spokane Valley, center, and other members of Washington's Electoral College sign paperwork to cast the state's electoral votes for Barack Obama.

OLYMPIA – Forget what the news media told you six weeks ago. Barack Obama was elected to his second term as president Monday in a process that the Founding Fathers dreamed up in 1787 and has confounded Americans pretty regularly since.

The Electoral College – which doesn’t have a mascot, a fight song or even a campus – met at noon Monday in state capitals around the nation and awarded votes to Obama or Mitt Romney based on the general election results.

Each state gets one elector for each member of the U.S. House of Representatives and senator, so in Idaho, the four votes were cast for Republican Mitt Romney, even though the former Massachusetts governor has no chance of moving into the White House.

In Washington, where a majority of votes were cast for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, 12 men and women selected by Democratic activists gathered in the Capitol’s marble-walled Reception Room to do the official work of casting the Evergreen State’s ballots, which mostly involved signing their names to multiple sheets of paper with official writing and seals.

A bit tedious to watch, maybe, but exciting to be part of, electors said. . . 

It’s presidential election day. No, really. It is

OLYMPIA — The next president of the United States will be elected today.

Barring some real skullduggery so remote it can't be mapped out here, that will be Barack Obama.

What? You thought Obama was re-elected more than a month ago? It was in all the papers, and on all the cable news networks — even Fox News after Karl Rove calmed down?

Not exactly. That was the general election, but the president, as you will recall from junior high civics, is elected by the Electoral College.

The EC, as its closest friends call it, meets today. Not in one place, but in state capitals all over the nation. In Washington, they will meet in the State Reception Room at noon, where they are expected to cast the state's 12 votes for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Gov race most expensive in WA history

OLYMPIA — Even without the final spending tallied, this year's governor's race was the most expensive in state history and outside independent groups spent a record amounts trying to convince residents to vote against Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna.

Post-election reports filed this week with the state Public Disclosure Commission show the Inslee and McKenna campaigns spent a combined $25.7 million in the race to be Washingon's next governor. With other candidates eliminated in the primary, and by incumbent Chris Gregoire before she opted out of the race, spending hit nearly $26.2 million, passing the record set in 2008 by nearly $1 million.

Inslee and McKenna still could list more spending in the next month or so because neither filed a final report.

Republican McKenna, a two-term state attorney general, spent more, about $13.66 million, in his losing effort. Democrat Inslee, who resigned his congressional seat before his term ended, spent about $12.1 million.

Also up this campaign season was spending by independent groups both for and against the two candidates. Most of it went for television commercials that blanketed the airwaves in the fall.

Led by the Republican Governor's Association, independent groups spent $9.3 million against Inslee. They also contributed heavily to some $1.2 million spent for independent ads supporting McKenna.

On the other side, a group calling itself Our Washington, which collected large sums from the Democratic Governors Association and organized labor, spent almost $9 million against McKenna. Washington Conservation Voters and the Service Employees International Union led groups that spent more than $825,000 supporting Inslee.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Gallup poll: Feds should back off in pot states

The federal government should back off enforcement of federal marijuana laws in stateslike Washington that have legalized the drug, a solid majority of people told a recent Gallup poll.

Nearly two-third — 64 percent of all adults surveyed in late November — told pollsters they do not believe the federal government should enforce its laws if they conflict with state law. 

In the same survey, respondents were almost evenly split — 50 percent for, 48 percent against — on whether they thought marijuana should be legal. That's a big jump from 1969, when Gallup first started asking the question and 12 percent said the drug should be legal

23 same-sex couples get licenses in Spokane

Spokane County officials issued 23 marriage licenses to same-sex couples Thursday on the first day that became legal in Washington state.

That was, not surprisingly, the most of any Eastern Washington county, but fairly low compared to the urban counties along the Puget Sound.

King County, which opened at 12:01 a.m. and planned to keep open until 8 p.m.,had  issued 456 licenses as of 4:30 p.m., but it wasn't breaking them out by same-sex or opposite sex applications.

Thurston County, which also opened at 12:01 a.m. to issue licenses to 10 couples chosen by lot, had issued 34 to same-sex couples throughout the day. Pierce County issued 42, Island 25, Kitsap 23, Whatcom 22 and Snohomish 20.

Except for Spokane, no East Side County broke out of single digits and some — Adams, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield and Stevens — didn't have any requests.

State election results, including same-sex marriage law, made official

Gov. Gregoire signs election results with Secretary of State Reed.

OLYMPIA — Washington state took the last step Wednesday in changing its laws to allow same-sex couples to marry.

With about two dozen supporters looking on, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed signed documents certifying  vote results certifying that Referendum 74 passedin the Nov. 6 election. 

Certifying results one month after the election is usually a pro forma event. The results for the other statewide elections and ballot measures — including those that  reiterate supermajorities to raise state taxes, allow for charter schools and legalize marijuana use for adults — were signed earlier in Gregoire's office.

But the governor invited supporters of Ref. 74 to her conference room to mark the occasion, and to brag that Washington will be the first of the three states that approved same-sex marriage in the election to issue marriage licenses.

“This is our last step for marriage equality in the great state of Washington,” said Gregoire, who used a different pen for each letter of her name, and distributed the pens among the same-sex couples who gathered for the ceremony.

Reed commended supporters and opponents of the referendum  for a civil campaign over a tough issue.

The law takes effect on Thursday. King and Thurston counties are opening their auditors offices just after midnight to issue marriage licenses, and Pierce County will open at 6:30 a.m.

Spokane County will open its auditor's office at the regular time, 8:30 a.m. It will stay open late on Friday, until 4 p.m.

Bragging rights on same-sex marriage go to WA

Supporters of same-sex marriage in Washington state apparently have something to hold over those other states that approved a similar law change at the ballot box last month.

Not only did Washington have a bigger margin of victory than Maine and Maryland, says Andy Grow of Washington United for Marriage, it also gets the jump on having the law take effect and couples saying “I do.”

The Nov. 6 election results will be certified this afternoon, and they will show the Ref. 74 winning with 53.7 percent of the vote. It was 52.6 percent in Maine and 52.4 percent in Maryland.

The law will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. King and Thurston counties seem to be competing for the attention of accepting applications at that time. Spokane County's auditor's office is opening at the usual 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning… although it is staying open until 4 p.m. on Friday to handle any extra traffic for folks wanting to get married early next week. Apparently 12/12/12 is a popular date for weddings, possibly for men who forget things like birthdays and anniversaries.

Anyone who gets a license on Thursday in Washington can get married as early as Sunday. Maine's law becomes effective Dec. 29, and licenses can be issued that day. Applications in Maryland could be filed last week, and can be issued Thursday, but weddings can't take place until Jan. 1.

More signatures needed for initiatives

OLYMPIA — The turnout was down slightly in Washington state compared to the 2008 presidential election, but the number of ballots cast was up.

That means the number of signatures needed for initiatives and referenda goes up next year.

Huh? We explain inside the blog. Click here to read more, or to comment.

Mapping the vote: Final count on I-502

A funny thing happened on the way to Spokane County supporting Initiative 502, which legalizes marijuana for private use by adults.

Some precincts, particularly those in the city of Spokane, really liked it. And by that we mean by big margins. Other precincts, as the map shows, really did not.

There's one precinct on the map that's particularly interesting. It's Precinct 6500, but is more commonly known as “Fairchild Air Force Base”. That precinct went about 70 percent for Republicans Mitt Romney and Rob McKenna, about 74 percent for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and 66.3 percent for Republican Senate candidate Mike Baumgartner. It went 80 percent for the tax limiting I-1183 and 56 percent against Ref. 74, to allow same sex marriage.

So it's a pretty conservative, Republican precinct, no?

On I-502, it turned down legalized marijuana by just 3 votes.

For a more detailed look at the map, click on the Document file below.


Documents:

FAQs on changes to WA marijuana law

When the clock ticks past midnight Wednesday, Washington state will have the most permissive law in the nation regarding marijuana, thanks to voters who approved Initiative 502.

But the new law isn’t a blanket license for anyone to smoke marijuana anywhere, any time. There are restrictions within the law, and some items that must still be settled, either by state agencies or the courts. Here are some answers to common questions about what changes in state marijuana laws tomorrow.

So I can I legally have marijuana, right?

If you are under 21, no, just like alcohol. Over 21, yes, with some qualifications. If you live in university housing, for example you can’t have it in your residence because of school policies. Your employer may ban it from the workplace. Some jobs may have a zero-tolerance policy for drug use. The law doesn’t change those restrictions.

For more questions and answers, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog

Idaho Lorax speaks for the trees, says ‘write me in please’

The Lorax, the “shortish and oldish and brownish and mossy” character with a “voice that was sharpish and bossy,” was created by Dr. Seuss in his 1971 environmentally themed children’s book by the same name, in which the Lorax “speaks for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” And it was the title of a quirky 2012 feature film starring the voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron and Taylor Swift.

But did you know that the Lorax was a write-in candidate for public office in Idaho, and garnered three votes in the Nov. 6 election?

“Idaho Lorax,” with a home address of “General Delivery” in Pocatello, submitted the necessary paperwork to the Idaho secretary of state’s office to be an independent write-in candidate for the Idaho Legislature in Idaho House District 29, Seat A. It – or he? – was the only write-in candidate to file for the Idaho Legislature this year. You can read my full Sunday column here at spokesman.com, which also notes that in Idaho's final election results, of the 34 people who had filed as write-ins for president on the Idaho ballot, Roseanne Barr was by far the most popular.
  

Inslee names chief of staff

Mary Alice Heuschel, the Renton Schools superintendent, will be Governor-elect Jay Inslee's chief of staff.

Inslee made the announcement this morning that Heuschel, who was among a trio picked to head his transition team, will go with him to Olympia next year.

Education will be one of the major issues facing the state in 2013. State government is under orders from the Supreme Court to improve public education so that it can meet its constitutional mandate that the education of its children is the state's paramount duty. According to some estimates, that could mean spending more than $1 billion more on schools in the 2013-15 budget, and even more in budget periods after that.

The state must also develop a system for establishing charter schools with in its public school system under an initiative approved this month by voters.

Mapping the vote: Where the votes were

Turnout is an important statistic in any election, but it's not always the key statistic because precincts with small registration can have a high turnout but not produce many votes.

Elections turn on ballots, and the precincts with the most ballots are the most important. This map shows where the votes were in the 2012 election.

Scroll down to see maps of the turnout and the presidential breakdown of votes in Spokane County.


Documents:

Mapping the vote: Spokane County turnout

Spokane County had a turnout of 80.5 percent in the general election, but as the map shows, turnout varied from precinct to precinct. 


Documents:

Mapping the vote: Final presidential count

 

Editor's note: when this story appeared in Wednesday's paper, one of the first comments was, where are the maps? Here's the first.)

A voting district southeast of the Spokane Valley city limits can bask in the bright red glow of being the county’s most conservative Republican precinct.

Part of Browne’s Addition, just west of downtown Spokane, can claim bragging rights as the county’s most liberal Democratic precinct.

When Spokane County elections officials finalized the results of the Nov. 6 election Tuesday, there were no big surprises. Republicans Mitt Romney, Rob McKenna and Mike Baumgartner won the county even though Barack Obama captured the state and the presidency and Jay Inslee the governor’s office. Maria Cantwell was re-elected to the U.S. Senate. County voters overall turned thumbs down to a ballot measure on same-sex marriage although it passed statewide; like the state as a whole, they approved supermajorities for passing taxes and charter schools. . . 

For a closer look at the map, click on the document link below


Documents:

Sen. Nuxoll: Let’s drop it

Idaho Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, whose touting of a tea party plan to upset the presidential election results through an electoral college boycott got national attention after I wrote about it in my Sunday column, now says she's ready to drop the idea, which experts said was based on a misreading of the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I floated an idea out there on November 19 about the electoral college,” Nuxoll wrote today in a message posted on Twitter. “Our country is a country of opportunity to discuss ideas and effect progress and change. I believe in less government, more opportunity and I will fight for that motto because of my love for this state and country and our exceptionalism. But there is no upside to division in our country now since we are all in this together. Some have rejected the idea, so lets drop it and continue on. To villify me because you don't like the idea is unnecessary.”

Senate Democrats propose leadership changes

OLYMPIA — Facing one of the narrowest majorities in years, Senate Democrats proposed a new committee one one of the state's thorniest problems with shared leadership responsibilities and a veteran with a record of interparty skills for the budget-writing panel.

They also suggested the “president pro tem” job — which is sometimes ceremonial but other times decisive — to go to a conservative “road kill” Democrat who was calling for coalition leadershlip in the chamber.

At their pre-session meeting, Democrats proposed a new Select Committee on Education Finance and Results, which would look for ways the state could meet the demand from the state Supreme Court that it do a better job living up to its constitutional requirements to make public education its top priority. It proposed Sen. David Froct of Seattle to be the Democratic co-chairman, and invited the Republicans to name their own co-chairman.

They also named Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, to fill the slot left empty when former Chairman Ed Murray of Seattle was named Majority Leader. A 20-year veteran of the Senate, Hargrove is “known for his ability to work across party lines,” Democrats said.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, was proposed for president pro tem, a job that involves presiding over the chamber whenever Lt. Gov. Brad Owen is absent.

Sheldon and Sen. Rodney Tom of Bellevue, who broke with Democrats earlier this year during budget discussions and backed an alternative spending plan by minority Republicans, this month proposed the Senate be run through a power-sharing arrangement between the two parties. Their two votes could be crucial because Democrats could hold a 26-23 majority in the chamber, and their defection on organizational matters would give Republicans the majority if that caucus votes as a block.

The partisan split will be determined by the close race in Vancouver's 17th District, where incumbent Republican Don Benton holds an 82-vote lead over Democratic state Rep. Tim Probst. Counties report their final vote counts today, and that race is on track for an automatic recount.

Tom is being proposed for chairmanship of the Higher Education Committee.  

Spokane's newly elected Democratic Sen. Andy Billig is being proposed for majority whip and vice chairman of the Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee.

Sen. Nuxoll touts tea party scheme to flout presidential election results

A state senator from north-central Idaho is touting a scheme that's been circulating on tea party blogs, calling for states that supported Mitt Romney to refuse to participate in the electoral college, in a move backers believe would change the election result. Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, sent an article out on Twitter headed, “A 'last chance' to have Mitt Romney as President in January (it's still not too late).”

Constitutional scholar David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, said the plan is not “totally constitutional,” as touted in the article, but is instead “a radical, revolutionary proposal that has no basis in federal law or the architecture of the Constitution.” Adler dubbed it “really a strange and bizarre fantasy.”

Said Nuxoll, “Well I guess that's one lawyer.” You can read my full Sunday column here at spokesman.com.

State Ed Board repeals online graduation requirement on 7-1 vote

It was Idaho Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna himself who made the motion at the state Board of Education this morning to repeal the rule requiring that every Idaho high school student take at least two online classes to graduate from high school. “Proposition 3 was overturned by the voters,” Luna said. “Overturning Proposition 3 in and of itself did not remove the two.” But, he said, “Because of the actions of the voters on Nov. 6th … the perception in the public definitely was that the language on the ballot itself made a reference to the online graduation requirement, and so I think it's proper that we remove that as part of the pending rule.”

His motion to repeal the rule passed on a 7-1 vote, with just board member Emma Atchley objecting.

“My biggest concern is that if we do not go forward with the online requirement, and we spend a year deciding whether we're going to have it or how we're going to have it, and we all end up wanting it in the end anyway, we've just lost another year,” she said. “I understand the political reality, but I think it's very important that we do not in the end say that we shouldn't have at least some online learning.”

Board member Rod Lewis said, “I hope that we do have the opportunity to talk further about this issue. If you really look at what's happening in post-secondary institutions and the change that is occurring there, I think it is going to be increasingly important that we have students at the end of the day know how to take classes online effectively. That will be an increasing component of their post-secondary education and our goal is to prepare students for that time.”

Board member Richard Westerberg said, “All that being said, and I agree with all of that, the vote was not equivocal. It was a pretty strong vote from the populace, and it was very specific the way it was listed on the ballot. … I think … we need to reaffirm what the voters told us.”

Board member Don Soltman agreed; he chaired the board's subcommittee that set the two-courses rule. “The committee of the board that looked at this looked solely at coming up with a number of online requirements,” he said. “Without exception, every hearing that we had across the state, the issue always came up of … opposition to the law itself. And as we addressed those publics when we met, we explained to them that the law was in place, that the charge of the committee was only to identify the number of courses required under the law. But I can say without hesitation, at every hearing there was opposition to the law expressed.”

Luna said a “different process” is needed on the issue. “I do believe we made the right decision today,” he said.


  

Sunday spin: Who is hurt by the late ballot counting?

A post-election refrain, as predictable as swallows returning to Capistrano or Cougar fans pinning their Apple Cup hopes on bad weather in Pullman, sounded last week.

The amount of time Washington takes to count its ballots and settle elections predictably irked several politicians.  State Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, said she’d introduce legislation to require all ballots to be in the hands of elections officials on Election Day.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly state Secretary of State-elect Kim Wyman's position on this point. Wyman supports faster tabulation without requiring all ballots be in hand by Election Day.) 

“We’re now more than a week past Election Day and in some areas of the state, people still don’t know who their elected officials are going to be,” Becker complained in a press release. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

State board prez: Online grad requirement was ‘one size fits all approach’

Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls, president of the Idaho State Board of Education, said what the voters said last week “matters a great deal.” He said, “If people aren't satisfied with what we're doing, they're not going to support further change.”

The board will hold a special meeting Monday to vote on a series of rule changes, including possibly repealing the requirement that Idaho high school students take two online courses to graduate from high school; doing away with a funding scheme that automatically diverts school districts funds to online course providers if students opt to take courses online, with or without their school district's permission; and considering whether to reconsider rules regarding teacher and principal evaluations. Those follow voters' overwhelming rejection last week of Propositions 1, 2, and 3, repealing the “Students Come First” school reform laws that lawmakers enacted in 2011.

During the campaign, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, the author of the “Students Come First” laws, said repeatedly that the online graduation requirement wouldn't go away even if voters rejected Proposition 3, because it was in a state board rule.

Edmunds said, “I still believe that online education is part of the future. I am not certain that the two credits is necessarily the answer. It creates a one size fits all approach.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

‘Fractional ADA’ funding scheme diverting school funds to online providers also up for repeal Monday

There also are two other rule changes on the State Board of Education's agenda for Monday's special meeting that are a result of the rejection of the “Students Come First” laws by voters: One regarding “fractional ADA,” and another regarding teacher and principal evaluations. The agenda calls for fractional ADA to be repealed, while the evaluation issue may wait for input from stakeholders.

“Fractional ADA” refers to Average Daily Attendance, which is the basis on which school districts receive their state funding, as it's tied through a complex formula to the number of students. Under “fractional ADA,” which was repealed in Proposition 3 by voters last week, a portion of Idaho school districts' state funding is automatically diverted to an online course provider, if students or parents choose to take some of their courses online. The “Students Come First” laws allowed students to make that choice for up to half their high school course load, with or without the permission of their school district.

State Board spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney said that rule is legally required to be repealed, now that the state law authorizing the payments scheme has been repealed by voters. State Board Chairman Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls said, “That actually was the subject of discussion many times with superintendents and administrators and even with teachers, trying to understand what impact that had on them. It has a much deeper impact that I originally thought.” Said Edmunds, “The funding issues are very significant.”

The original “Students Come First” laws passed in 2011 allowed students to choose to take their entire high school course load online at state expenses under the fractional ADA formula; a 2012 revision cut that back to half their course load.

Gregoire: Moving ahead on marijuana

OLYMPIA – Washington will be “following the will of the voters and moving ahead” with setting up ways that adults can legally obtain marijuana for recreational use, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday after meeting with federal law enforcement officials.

 

To read the rest of this post, go inside the blog.

 

Ryan snubs McMorris Rodgers, but she may still have edge

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has missed a key endorsement in her quest to win the fourth-most powerful position in the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the recent Republican vice presidential nominee, has backed Tom Price, R-Ga., in the race between Price and McMorris Rodgers for the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference.

McMorris Rodgers may still be the favorite, especially after last week's elections showed a wide gap in enthusiasm for the GOP among women, but it does show that a McMorris Rodgers' win isn't a guarantee.

Here is the Washington Post's story about Ryan's decision.

Today’s weird video: Really upset Obama won

 

An Arizona woman got so angry that President Obama won another term that she ran down her husband, who neglected to vote.

Either she really took to heart the old saying that “Every Vote Counts” but skipped the class in Civics that explained the Electoral College, or she was just close to the edge and this tipped her over it.

AG’s opinion: Teachers to get bonuses for last year as scheduled

Idaho school teachers who earned $38.8 million in merit-pay bonuses last year under the now-repealed “Students Come First” school reform laws still must be paid those bonuses for their work last school year, according to an Idaho Attorney General's opinion released today by state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna. “This is very good news,” Luna said. “I've been trying to do pay for performance since I was elected in '06.”

But Luna had raised questions about whether the repeal of the laws on Nov. 6 might stop the state's ability to make the payments for last year, which were scheduled to go out to school districts on Nov. 15. The legal opinion, signed by Deputy Attorney General Andrew J. Snook, found that the effective date of the repeal of the law is Nov. 21, when Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa will convene the board of canvassers to certify the election results, after which Gov. Butch Otter will issue a formal proclamation.   “Furthermore, the operative events that gave rise to teachers or administrators qualifying for Pay for Performance bonuses all occurred during the 2011-2012 school year,” the opinion said. Therefore, the law's provision that school districts can make the payments to teachers up to Dec. 15, 2012, still stands, as it's “merely  ministerial” acts that occur between last school year and that date to get the payments made.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected all three referenda on the Nov. 6 ballot regarding the “Students Come First” laws, repealing all three laws. Proposition 2 was the merit-pay bonus plan.

McKenna concedes; Inslee next governor

A Democrat will occupy the governor's office for another four years.

Less than 24 hours after his campaign insisted that their data showed he would eventually win the governor's race, Republican Rob McKenna conceded defeat Friday evening as Washington's ongoing ballot count showed he couldn't close the gap with Democrat Jay Inslee.

“We just realized there wasn't going to be enough of an offset,” Randy Pepple, McKenna's campaign manager and longtime friend, said.

Inslee scheduled a press conference for 6:45 p.m. regarding the concession.

Ballot counts continue: Inslee still ahead, McKenna not conceding

OLYMPIA – Republican Rob McKenna’s campaign insisted he would overtake Democrat Jay Inslee “next week or the week after” as ballot counting continued in Washington’s close gubernatorial race.

But while the percentages improved slightly for Attorney General McKenna, the gap in their vote totals remained about the same – 50,000 more votes for Inslee, the former congressman.

 To read more about this and other close races, or to comment, go inside the blog