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Legislative town halls at the MAC today

The Museum of Arts and Culture will be a busy place this weekend for Spokane residents who want to ask their legislators what’s happening in Olympia.

As the 2014 session nears the two-thirds mark, legislators from the 3rd and 6th Districts have town hall meetings Saturday at the MAC, 2316 W. First Ave.

Democratic Sen. Andy Billig and Rep. Marcus Riccelli will have a meeting there from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Their district includes downtown, Browne’s Addition, the lower South Hill and neighborhoods as far north as Hillyard.

Republican Sen. Mike Baumgartner, Reps. Kevin Parker and Jeff Holy will be in the same location from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Their district includes parts of northwest and south Spokane, the West Plains, Cheney and Airway Heights

School bills move through Legislature

OLYMPIA — Washington schools would be required to protect students against emotional bullying, keep more data on homeless students and test out whether extra days would help some students retain more from one year to the next under bills that advanced Friday. . . 

To read about the bills, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

 

Local legislators reaching out by phone

OLYMPIA — While Spokane-area legislators are spending most of their time for the next two months in Olympia,some are  are trying to keep in touch with constituents by shifting the standard “town hall meeting” from a place to a phone number.

Republican Reps. Kevin Parker and Jeff Holy from Spokane's 6th Legislative District, which has parts of south and northwest Spokane city and much of the West Plains, are having a one-hour conference at 6:30 p.m. tonight. conference. Constituents can call 1-800-759-5308 to listen and press the star key to ask a question.

The 7th Legislative District delegation, Sen. Brian Dansel and Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short, will have a joint teleconference on Feb. 3. Constituents can call 1-877-229-8493 and enter  112381 when prompted.

Legislators at NE Community Center Wednesday

Legislators from Spokane's 3rd District will hold a “mobile office” session Wednesday afternoon at the Northeast Community Center.

Sen. Andy Billig, along with Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli, will be at the center, 4001 N. Cook St., from 3:30 to 5 p.m. to talk to constituents about concerns as the 2014 session approaches.

Just a guess, but some things about the special session that ended last week might come  up, too.

Spec Sess Day 16: Beyond halfway mark

OLYMPIA — The Legislature starts the second half of the special session with the pace it maintained through most of the first half… if standing still can be said to be a pace.

While much of the rest of the state returns from its three-day weekend, legislators have at least a four day weekend. There is nothing on their schedules in or around the Capitol. The Senate has a pro forma session — where a couple of members are on the floor for a brief run-through of routine business — at noon Wednesday. The House may have a session on Thursday.

It's likely there will be more politicians in Spokane today than in Olympia.

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell each have public events — Murray's is on early childhood education and Cantwell's is on an item of the farm bill that helps farmers and school nutrition programs — and state Rep. Marcus Riccelli and state Sen. Andy Billig are joining a group at the Health District Building to talk about the recent ricin investigation.

Beer and wine at the movies moves forward

Sen. Andy Billig argues in favor of allowing small theaters to serve beer and wine.

OLYMPIA — Small theaters would be able to sell beer and wine during movies under a bill that narrowly passed the Senate today.

Over objections from some senators that it represents a further “desensitization” of the dangers of alcohol, House Bill 1001 passed 27-21 and was sent back to the House to approve one change that did pass the Senate: The new rule is limited to theaters that have four or fewer screens.

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said the change in state law would provide a bit of commercial help for neighborhood movie houses like North Spokane's Garland Theater, that are struggling to compete with the large multiplexes. It allows them to sell a glass of wine or beer to adults to take into the theater, even when children are present in the room. Theaters who receive a license to serve beer and wine from the state Liquor Control Board must have plans to ensure minors aren't served and face double the fines for violations that a bar would receive.

Sen. Jeanne Darnielle, D-Tacoma, said the bill doesn't have enough accountability, and the state doesn't need to expand places where alcohol can be served: “We're just in a race to decide (alcohol) is not a health problem. We begin to think it's all right, that it doesn't have more consequences.”

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said he rarely drinks but beleives the bill represents one of the few areas where he thought the state could be more liberal. “It's a step toward moving our culture to being more comfortable with these issues.” 

The bill now goes back to the House for agreement on an amendment that limited the number of screens a theater can have to four to be eligible for the license. Multiplexes are currently able to sell beer and wine with a special license in a theater that's restricted to adults.

Senate passes ban on selling vapor cigs to minors

OLYMPIA – Minors would be barred from buying “vapor” cigarettes under a bill headed for Gov. Jay Inslee.

In a 46-1 vote, the Senate approved a bill Thursday that would make it a gross misdemeanor to sell non-combustible tobacco products to minors. The products extract nicotine from tobacco without a flame.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said it’s important to keep the products from teens because nicotine habits can be formed early in life. Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said banning their sale to minors is important but “this does not validate the use for adults.”

The bill passed the House unanimously last month.

Sunday Spin2: Detours on the budget debate

Friday’s four-hour budget debate in the Senate was mostly about programs that get cut or taxes that don’t get raised. But there were brief detours into other topics, including cigar lounges and Spokane Indians baseball. . .

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

WA Lege: Yay for the Lilac Festival

Lilac Queen Brett Rountree addresses the state Senate.

OLYMPIA — The Senate and House took a not too controversial stance this morning, passing resolutions in support of the Spokane Lilac Festival and it's 75-year anniversary.

With Lilac Queen Brett Rountree of Central Valley High School on the rostrum and the rest of the court in the gallery,  the Senate approved Resolution 8646, which recounts some of the history of the festival and explains some of the projects the groups behind it support.

“In general, it's a celebration of awesomeness,” Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane and the resolution's prime sponsor, said.

Added Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane: “It's one of those things that make Spokane better every year.”

A few minutes later, the House also voiced support for the festival. 

Legislative town hall meetings in Spokane

Spokane-area residents will have chances to ask their legislators what’s going on in Olympia this weekend at several town hall meetings scheduled for Saturday.

Sen. Andy Billig, Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli, all Democrats from central Spokane’s 3rd District, have a 10 a.m. meeting at Shadle Park High School Auditorium, 4327 N. Ash, and a 2 p.m. meeting at Emmanuel Family Life Center, 631 S. Richard Allen Ct.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, Reps. Kevin Parker and Jeff Holy, Republicans from northwest and south Spokane’s 6th District, have a 10 a.m. meeting at Lincoln Heights Elementary School, 3322 E. 22nd Ave.  

Not sure what legislative district you're in? For a detailed map of Spokane-area legislative districts, click here.

Bill would require asbestos labels for home building products

OLYMPIA – People buying supplies for a home remodeling project might not realize that they have asbestos in them. The state Senate says the product should say so, right on the label.

This week, it passed a proposal sponsored by a Spokane senator to require such labels on a 47-2 vote. If the House agrees, labels on everything from wallboard to shingles to floor tiles to caulk would have to say if there’s asbestos inside.

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

Maiden speech for Billig

Freshman Sen. Andy Billig made his first official floor speech last week, which is traditionally a time for new senators to give gifts and older senators to give grief. It was during a resolution marking service of women in the Legislature, appropriate since Billig’s 3rd District has one of the best records of sending women to Olympia. “It means a lot to me, as the father of a daughter,” he said of the state's record of electing women.

As part owner of the Spokane Indians, Billig gave out team caps and baseballs. The razzing wasn’t particularly tough. A few bad baseball references, and Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, wondered about Billig’s support for “made in America” efforts because the caps and balls were made in China. What drew the most interest in the version of the Indians’ cap that  with the team name in Salish.

Mapping the Vote: Billig leads McLaughlin

State Rep. Andy Billig leads Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLauglin in most precincts in the race to fill the 3rd Legislative District Senate seat left open by Sen. Lisa Brown's retirement.

For a more detailed version of the map, check out the PDF Document below.


Documents:

Ethics Commission quickly dismisses complaint against McLaughlin

The Spokane Ethics Commission ruled quickly on Wednesday against a complaint filed against Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin.

 

Rev. James CastroLang, who leads the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Colville, filed a complaint alleging that McLaughlin violated city ethics rules when her campaign took an image from the city’s Webpage or Facebook page and used it in a campaign mailer.

 

McLaughlin, a Republican, is running against state Rep. Andy Billig, a Democrat, for the state Senate seat now held by retiring state Sen. Lisa Brown. CastroLang, a Spokane resident who supports Billig’s campaign, said he acted independently of the Billig campaign. He argued in his complaint that McLaughlin used city resources for her personal gain.

S-R Video: Billig, McLaughlin consider the electric bus

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And the North Spokane freeway.

Watch Billig, McLaughlin make their pitch

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Today, we launch a series of videos on local election, giving candidates a chance to explain their platform and positions on several issues. We'll start with the race for state Senate in central Spokane between state Rep. Andy Billig and Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin.

Watch for videos later this week in which McLaughlin and Billig answer questions on energy, transportation and education funding.

GOP comes to McLaughlin’s aid after campaign misstep

Nancy McLaughlin's campaign for state Senate greatly exaggerated her opponent's stance on income taxes.

So much so, that she apologized to Democrat Andy Billig for the falsehoods her campaign used in literature during the primary after a complaint was filed with the state's Public Disclosure Commission.

Even so, Republicans apparently aren't taking the issue off the table for the general election.

Earlier this month, the county Republican Party issued a press release attacking Billig for declining to rule out income taxes as part of some kind of tax reform.

It's not surprising that the issue has been raised again. After apologizing for the inaccuracies, McLaughlin expressed frustration because she said her campaign didn't need to use incorrect information for the income tax issue to attract voters. What is somewhat surprising is that it was the county party that highlighted the the issue, not McLaughlin's campaign.

Here are Billig's and McLaughlin's positions on income taxes as stated in their responses to a question in the Spokesman-Review's legislative candidate questionnaire:

Sunday Spin: McLaughlin criticized for lifted words

One of the first things a candidate does these days, after announcing he or she wants to do good things for the good people of this good community, is get a website.
While any campaign website worth its salt must offer a chance to become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, on contribute via PayPal, the main purpose is to give voters something about the candidate’s background (Click here for BIO) and ideas (Click here for Issues).
But when voters read a candidates websites, or an e-mail or a campaign letter, for that matter, should they expect the candidate wrote it? Or that the candidate read and approved it? Or that the candidate is simply responsible for it?
These are the questions facing Republican state Senate candidate Nancy McLaughlin, as a Democratic group takes issue with her website’s issues page, as well as some other campaign material…

  

McLaughlin to Billig: I’m sorry

Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin publicly apologized this week to her opponent in her race for state Senate for using false information on a campaign mailer she sent before last month’s primary.

Her apology was made as the state Public Disclosure Commission began inquiring about the mailer in response to a formal complaint.

McLaughlin, a Republican, now acknowledges that state Rep. Andy Billig, McLaughlin’s Democratic opponent for the seat being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, never sponsored bills for an income tax that didn’t also include repeal of business and occupation taxes or reductions in sales taxes, as she claimed on her flier.

Stuckart: I support Billig

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said Thursday that he didn't give City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin permission to use a picture of him on a campaign mailer for state Senate.

McLaughlin, a Repbulican, is running for state Senate seat that represents central Spokane against Democratic state Rep. Andy Billig.

The mailer, which began arriving in mailboxes this week, includes a picture of McLaughlin with Stuckart, Mayor David Condon and council members Mike Allen, Mike Fagan and Steve Salvatori.

Stuckart said in an interview that the picture was taken at a bill signing earlier this year.

“I endorsed Andy Billig the day he declared for the state Senate,” Stuckart said in a written statement. “For Nancy's campaign to use my photo implies endorsement of her candidacy. I denounce this action. It is misleading and inappropriate for her to use a photo of me in a campaign mailer.”

Filing week is nearly here. Candidates take note

Everyone thinking about running for political office this year, take note: You have less than a week to make up your mind. Everyone talking about running and acting like they’re already a full-fledged candidate, take note: It’s not official until you file your paperwork and pay your fee.

Candidate filing week starts Monday morning, and ends when the office where that paperwork and fee must be deposited closes on Friday. Here’s a tricky part – because of budget cutbacks, some county elections offices close as early as noon on Fridays, others at 4 p.m., and some stay open until 5 p.m. Anyone planning to wait until the very last minute to build suspense would be wise to make a phone call to the appropriate office and check when that last minute is.

For some positions that’s the county elections office in the county seat; for others, it’s the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia. How do you know what goes where?

Go inside the blog to read more, or to comment.

Apple joins crowded field for Spokane House seat

The field to replace state Rep. Andy Billig is getting larger.

Former City Councilman Bob Apple today became the fifth person to say he will run for the Third Legislative District House seat that Billig is leaving to run for state Senate.

Apple, 56, joins Democratic candidates City Councilman Jon Snyder; downtown businessman John Waite; and Marcus Riccell, senior policy analyst to state Sen. Lisa Brown; and Republican candidate Tim Benn, a child day care center owner.

Apple left the City Council at the end of last year after finishing his second term. He was term limited from running again. He ran for the same House position in 2010 and finished third among four candidates in the primary.

A former roofer, Apple said he currently isn't employed and will be able to campaign full-time.

Apple is more conservative than many in the party. He opposed former Spokane Mayor Mary Verner's sustainability plan, for instance. He said he likely will vote against same-sex marriage in November, though he'll accept whatever the voters decide on that issue.

What happens to Lisa Brown’s $156,000 campaign fund?

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Lisa Brown speaks at ‘campaign kickoff’

State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown perhaps was too prepared for her reelection bid.

She already had ordered her campaign signs when she made the surprise announcement last week that she would not to seek a new term.

“They’re going to have to get recycled,” Brown, a Democrat, said.

Although Brown had raised more for her campaign as of Wednesday than any other state legislative candidate who represents Spokane County, most of that money has already been spent or will have to be returned. Even so, there likely will be a sizable amount left that Brown can direct to Democratic Party campaign efforts.

Into endorsements

Washington candidates are scrambling to announce endorsements this week as filing week approaches.

The gubernatorial candidates are taking turns touting nods from “first responders.” Former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, the likely Democratic nominee, is in Spokane today to pick up the endorsement of Fire Fighters Local 29. They'll have a formal laying on of the hands at 2:15 p.m. at the union hall, 911 E. Baldwin.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, the all-but-certain Republican nominee, announced Monday that he'd been endorsed by the Washington State Troopers Association.

The State Labor Council weighed in over the weekend with its endorsements, which were, depending on one's point of view, strongly pro-Democrat or anti-Republican. The council is backing Rich Cowan against U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the 5th Congressional District, and picked a D in eight of the other nine districts. For District 3 in Southwest Washington, they didn't have a good Democratic option, so they came out opposed to Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.

In Spokane Legislative races, the labor council showed an ability to shift quickly to the winds of Sen. Lisa Brown's surprise retirement last week. endorsing Andy Billig for the now open Senate seat and Marcus Riccelli for Billig's former House seat. One problem with the quick turnaround: They misspelled Riccelli's name. Also on their list: Amy Biviano in the 4th District and Dennis Dellwo in the 6th.

Speaking of that potentially crowded 3rd District House race, Democratic leaders seem eager to jump in line behind Riccelli. Brown endorsed her former aide this morning, as did former state Sen. Chris Marr, former Reps. Alex Wood, Jeff Gombosky, John Driscoll and Don Barlow, and most recent past county party chairpersons.

That's a pretty quick closing of the ranks, considering the seat became open less than a week ago, and at least two other candidates — Spokane businessman John Waite and Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder — have expressed interest in filing.

Filing week, by the way, begins Monday morning.

Republican, Tim Benn, enters field for Billig’s seat

A Republican has entered the expanding field of candidates to replace state Rep. Andy Billig.

Tim Benn, who co-owns a child day care with his wife in North Spokane, filed paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission announcing his run earlier this week, even before Billig announced he wouldn’t run for reelection so he could run for state Senate.

Democrats who have announced that they will run include Marcus Riccelli, Jon Snyder and John Waite.

Benn, 34, has been active this year in lobbying against proposed day care regulations that he says will drive small day cares out of business.

“I decided to run because I believe in small business and I believe in the people of the 3rd Legislative District,” he said. “We’re regulating small businesses out of out of business.”

Benn’s day care is called Little Precious Ones.

Critic of two-party system, John Waite, will run as Democrat

John Waite, who has run several campaigns for state Legislature and City Council as an independent, announced Friday that he will run for the House seat that will be vacated by Andy Billig.

And this time, he'll run as a Democrat.

Waite, 47, is fiscally conservative but socially liberal. He has been a outspoken critic of the two-party system.

He said Friday he's just being realistic by picking a party. He found that when he campaigned as an independent, Republicans assumed he was a Democrat and Democrats assumed he was a Republican.

“We live in a broken, two-party world,” he said. “I still bring an apolitical view to this — real world solutions, not party bickering.”

Waite, who owns two downtown buildings and Merlyn's Comics and Games, said he identifies more with the Democratic Party, which he believes is more realistic about the problems faced by the community.

Snyder hints at possible run against Riccelli for state House

Late this afternoon Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder tweeted: 

“Dear friends: Tomorrow I will be making an announcement regarding Andy Billig's vacated 3rd District House seat. Stay tuned.”

He hasn't returned calls seeking comment, which means he's either running for Billig's seat, or playing a trick on folks like me and will announce that he's endorsing Marcus Riccelli, Lisa Brown's senior policy analyst who sent out a news release Thursday announcing that he is running for the seat.

In an political environment like the one created by Brown's surprise announcement this morning, there likely will be many rumors to chase down in the next couple weeks as folks scramble to put together support for a campaign before the May 18 filing deadline.

Brown’s bombshell shakes up Democratic politics

State Rep. Andy Billig said this morning that he will be making an announcement today. Other sources are indicating that he will jump into the race for state Sen. Lisa Brown's seat.

Brown's decision, so close to the candidate filing deadline, has shocked many local Democrats.

Billig has been a rising star in local Democratic circles and was the only 3rd Legislative District legislator who hadn't attracted Republican competition. If he runs for the Senate, that opens new possibilities for his House seat.

Former state Sen. Chris Marr said today that a leading possibility for the seat is Marcus Riccelli. He had been pursuing a possible run in the 6th District until the boundaries changed and he ended up in the Third. Another possible candidate is former Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple, who unsuccessfully challenged Billig in 2010 and said recently he was pondering a run for Spokane County Commission.

Photo caption: Andy Billig, center, and his daughter Isabella, 10, right, celebrate early returns that show him leading in a 3rd state legislative race on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 at Lincoln Center in Spokane, Wash. At left is Lisa Brown, the Democrat leader in the state senate.

Billig running for re-election

Democratic State Rep. Andy Billig made it official Thursday that he would run for re-election in the 3rd Legislative District.

Billig, the co-owner of the Spokane Indians baseball team, was elected to an open seat in 2010 in a crowded race. With just over two weeks before candidates file for office, he has no announced opposition.

He scheduled a campaign kickoff event for May 16, saying he wants to continue “to fight for our community's values like equal rights, justice and prosperity.”

The 3rd District covers much of central Spokane, including downtown, he lower South Hill, East Central, Logan, Hillyard and West Central. It's one of the state's most reliably Democratic districts.

Although Billig is the district's least senior legislator, his two seatmates have already drawn Republican opponents. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown faces Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin and Rep. Timm Ormsby faces Dave White, who ran unsuccessfully against Billig in 2010.

 

Dem freshmen leap into tax reform

OLYMPIA — Democratic freshmen in the House called this morning for tax reforms ranging from a state capital gains tax to an end to sales tax exemptions for out-of-state shoppers.

At a press conference, a dozen first-term Democratic reps also said they'd like the Office of Financial Management to do a detailed study of the state's revenue picture and the tax burdens its citizens have. They'd also like to swap the Business and Occupation tax for a 1 percent income tax.

Spokane Rep. Andy Billig, one of the 12, said they wanted a tax system that's “fair and stable and adequate.”

It's Leap Day, as well as Day 52 of the 60-day session, so a reasonable question might be what's the prospect that any of this will pass before the gavel comes down on the session on March 8?

They're going to try to get proposals out of committees and onto the House floor for a vote, Billig said. But if not, they'll work over the interim to push these ideas. When they pushed for closing a tax exemption the state gives large banks on mortgages last year, they didn't get much support; this year members of both parties in both houses support it, Billig said.

The House is scheduled to vote sometime today on its version of a revised 2011-13 General Fund budget. Are they withholding their votes on their leadership's budget unless they get action on their package?

“We don't leverage votes,” Rep. Chris Reykdahl of Tumwater said. “We will vote on our budget today.”

Problems with the state's “structural problems” on taxes were a big topic of the House Ways and Means Committee hearing later in the morning, where Rep. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma, another one of the 12, got a hearing on her proposal for a state capital gains tax. Chairman Ross Hunter of Medina tried to corral testimony by reminding witnesses that the panel consider fiscal issues, not policy matters. That wasn't too successful, so he warned the crowd that anyone who questioned the motives an any legislator, on any side, would have their testimony cut off.