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WALeg Day 101: Campaign finance bill likely dead

OLYMPIA – A campaign finance reform that supporters said would shine light on “dark money” in politics appears dead after a procedural fight that showcased growing acrimony between the two caucuses in the Senate Wednesday.

The bill would have required certain non-profit organizations that use some of their dues or other donations for campaigns to list their top 10 donors of more than $10,000 and all donors above $100,000. Much stricter limits are set on donors if the organization forms a political action committee, but don’t apply if it makes a direct contribution to a campaign.

Sen. Andy Billig, the bill’s prime sponsor, said Senate Republicans were responding to complaints from potential donors. The original version of the bill passed the Senate 49-0 on March 11, and had six members of the majority caucus as co-sponsors. The bill passed the House 65-32 on April 10 after some changes were made to the reporting requirements for the non-profit organizations.

“The same forces that spend dark money found a way to kill the bill,” the Spokane Democrat said.

But Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the action was a response Democratic “theatrics” that tried to force a quick vote on a bill that needed more scrutiny.

“Campaign finance is complicated,” Schoesler said. “They got impatient.”

It was the second time in two days that Democrats tried to bring up a bill that they believed would die before coming to a vote in the closing days of the regular session. On Tuesday they tried but failed to pass a bill outlawing certain therapies to change the sexual orientation of homosexual youths.

The campaign finance bill involves organizations set up under the federal tax code as non-profits – either section 501 (c)4 or 501 (c)6 – that aren’t primarily designed as political, but make “incidental” contributions to campaigns. They can include business, trade and ideological organizations that get involved in political campaigns when key issues arise, using dues or other contributions to their overall fund. Large contributions funneled through such organizations are hard to track because they are undisclosed and mingled with other funds the group receives.

The organizations could set up a separate PAC, in which all of their donors and the amount they give, would be listed with the Public Disclosure Commission. Billig said some groups had told him they didn’t want to do that because their members don’t want to be associated with political spending, even though they are making contributions. When they began to realize how much the bill would affect them, they began lobbying against it, he said.

Voting for the bill was voting for transparency, Billig said in his brief floor speech. “A no vote is a vote for more dark money in politics.”

That prompted Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, to object that Billig was impugning the motives of “the entire body.” Schoesler called it a procedural vote against skipping the set schedule for considering legislation in the time left in the session. Padden and other Republicans who had signed on as co-sponsors to the original bill voted against the motion to bring it up, which failed 21-26.

Billig said he made the motion because he was told the bill would not come up before the regular session ended, which is expected to be sometime before Sunday. Schoesler said Republicans remain open to working on the bill but couldn’t say if a new version would be ready by the end of session.

If not, Billig said he’d bring it up again next year.

Levy swap for school pay: Revenue neutral or big tax hike?

OLYMPIA – A proposed change in the way school districts levy property taxes and help pay their teachers was described by Republican supporters as “revenue neutral” when introduced this week.

But Democratic opponents counter it’s really a massive property tax on some residents, and a tax break for others. In 2019, property owners in school districts that hold more than 60 percent of the state's residents – about 4 million people – would pay higher property taxes in a “swap” between state and local property taxes.

“This would be the biggest property tax increase in state history,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, adding that the latest estimates show residents facing the biggest jump in their property taxes would be in the Puget Sound region, while some getting the biggest break would be in Eastern Washington and other rural parts of the state.

Most property owners in Spokane-area school districts would see a drop in their local property taxes over the four years needed to phase in the changes, although the amounts vary because of significant differences in current school district levies and the complicated laws that govern them.

Property taxes in Spokane School District, for example,  would go down most years between 2018 and 2021 – as much as $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2021 – but up by .01 per $1,000 in 2019.

Ranker and other Senate Democrats have a competing plan designed to address the same problem of a system the state Supreme Court says is unconstitutional: using local tax money to pay for a basic part of public education, the salary of classroom teachers. Their solution is a tax increase, plain and simple: a capital gains tax on any resident who collects more than $250,000 a year on investment earnings. Money raised by that tax would be used to replace the money local districts now contribute to teacher salaries. That amount varies from district to district, but the amount a district receives from the state’s capital gains tax they would lower the amount they could collect from local taxpayers, so everyone would get a property tax reduction and only about 7,500 residents would pay the capital gains tax.

Sen. Bruce Dammeier, of Puyallup, some other Senate Republicans argue the state doesn’t need a new tax because there’s enough tax money being collected right now. The problem, they say, is some of it is being collected illegally by local districts because the state hasn’t given them enough money.

“This has been happening for 30 years, complicitly,” Dammeier said Friday at a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing to compare the two proposals.

As part of its 2012 ruling that the state must do more to meet its constitutional mandate to provide adequate education for Washington students, the state Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to come up with a plan this year to replace the portion of teacher salaries covered local school district money. It doesn’t have to happen all at once, but the court wants the Legislature to agree to a road map out of that unconstitutional arrangement.

Dammeier describes his proposal as “revenue neutral, on the macro level” – that is, the total amount collected in property taxes statewide wouldn’t change. But he acknowledged the amount collected from district to district would change, so some taxpayers would pay more and others less, and rates would change from year to year as the existing percentage cap on the amount a district can raise their levy expires and local district levies are ratcheted down to a new limit of $1.25 per $1,000. It is, he said, “very complex interplay.”

A look at how the plan would affect some of the state’s 295 school districts shows how complex:

Central Valley School District residents would get a 44 cents per $1,000 reduction in 2019 and a $1.39 per 1,000 reduction in 2021.
East Valley School District residents would get a 34 cents increase in 2019 and a $1.53 reduction in 2021
Mead School District residents would get a 4 cent increase in 2019 and a $1.76 reduction in 2021
West Valley School District would get an 11 cent decrease in 2019 and a $2.04 decrease in 2021
Orchard Prairie School District would get a $1.38 increase in 2019 and a $1.15 increase in 2021

Multiplying a levy rate by the value of the property produces the tax, so a 50 cent per $1,000 levy on a house worth $250,00 means the tax is $125.

Ranker’s point about the change hitting Puget Sound communities hardest was borne out in part by figures released by nonpartisan budget staff.

Seattle School District residents’ levy rates would go up $1.37 in 2019 and $1.13 in 2021 as a result of the swap
Bellevue School District residents’ rates would go up $1.43 in 2019 and $1.19 in 2021
Bellingham School District residents rates would go up 39 cents in 2019 and 13 cents in 2021
Tacoma School District residents’ rates, however, would go down 65 cents in 2019 and down $1.92 in 2021.

A spread sheet with the changes for all 295 school districts can be found below.

The goal of any kind of swap between state and local levy authority should be revenue neutral for the individual taxpayers, said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane: “That’s the Holy Grail of revenue neutral.”

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, who has legislation on teacher pay that is tied to the capital gains tax proposal, agreed. “I’ve been trying for months to get to the Holy Grail. This is not the Holy Grail.”

It’s also not the last word, Dammeier said. Another bill is expected on the topic on Monday.

 


Documents:

WaLeg Day 59: Senate votes to tighten campaign disclosure law

OLYMPIA – Many nonprofit organizations that give $25,000 or more to political campaigns in Washington would have to make public their largest donors, under a bill that passed the Senate unanimously.

Saying the change amounted to “bringing dark money into the light,” Sen. Andy Billig, the prime sponsor, urged the Senate to close a loophole in state campaign laws that political groups all along the political spectrum exploit.

The change would place disclosure rules on so-called incidental committees, non-profit organizations that were set up for other purposes but contribute large amounts to candidates or to support or oppose a ballot measure.

“Transparency in campaigns leads to a healthier democracy,” Billig, D-Spokane, said.

Most nonprofit organizations that contribute at least $25,000 to a campaign would be required to file a statement of organization with the Public Disclosure Commission, followed by monthly reports. They would have to report their top 10 donors over $10,000, and any donor who has given more than $100,000. There would be an exception for national 527 organizations, sometimes known as SuperPacs, if they file with the Federal Election Commission. For them, the Public Disclosure Commission would provide a computer link to their federal filings.

Non-profit organizations that were not required to disclose donors have been involved in several high-profile campaigns in recent years, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which pumped $11 million into the campaign against an initiative that would have required products in Washington to be labeled if they contained genetically modified organization, and Working Washington, which contributed some $250,000 to a campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 in the city of Seatac. 

The law could also affect some local nonprofit organizations like Greater Spokane Inc., if they contribute $25,000 or more to a campaign for or against a local ballot measure.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

3rd District gathering Monday

The Third Legislative District's delegation will hold a gathering something between a town hall and a coffee klatch Monday afternoon.

Dubbed a "mobile office" meeting, Sen. Andy Billig and Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli will be at Indaba Coffee, 1425 W. Broadway to give constituents a chance to comment or ask questions about legislation that affects the region. The three Democrats will be there from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

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.