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WA Lege Day 11: Abortion bill a ‘level field’ or ‘infringement to liberty’?

OLYMPIA – Nearly all medical insurance plans in Washington that offer maternity care would be required to cover abortions under a bill supporters described as a minor adjustment to adjust to new federal laws but opponents denounced as an infringement on religious liberties.


HB 2330 has broad support in the House, where it has 33 co-sponsors. But it's also a target of abortion opponents who held their annual rally earlier this week on the Capitol steps.
  

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Spec Sess Day 5: No budget by end of session?

OLYMPIA — A Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee expressed serious doubts Friday the Legislature would pass a new budget before time ran out on the special session. And the chairman of the committee did nothing to contradict him.

At the start of a hearing on various programs that would be eliminated under Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposed cuts of some $2 billion, Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, wondered if anyone in the room thought the Legislature “would vote the governor's budget out by the end of special session.”

“I don't think it's going to happen,” Hinkle said. “Are we really going to do that?”

Committee Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, replied that was a question “the chair is unable to answer.”

Hinkle asked for a show of hands for those who thought it would happen, but Hunter didn't allow that vote to proceed, and began taking testimony on a bill to reduce the state's payments to rural hospitals.

Tough words yesterday from House lawmakers re: the state budget mess…

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There was some blunt talk yesterday from members of a House committee, as officials from the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture tried to argue against deep budget cuts that they say will backfire by hurting local fundraising.

In this clip, Reps. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, and Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, respond that things are bad — much worse than expected — and that saying that cuts will be hard “is falling on our deaf ears,” as Darneille put it.

MAC attack turned partly back…

This one’s of interest mainly to readers in Spokane. From tomorrow’s paper:

OLYMPIA _ A controversial proposal to merge the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture with its Western Washington counterpart appears to be dead.

One of the state’s most powerful lawmakers said Thursday that the Senate will not be approving the plan, which was proposed in December as a cost-cutting move by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

“The bill is on my desk. It’s not going to be introduced in the Senate,” said Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.

So it’s dead on arrival, a reporter asked.

“It is,” responded Brown.

The bad news: torpedoing the merger won’t necessarily shield the museum and its operations from state budget cuts. Gov. Chris Gregoire in December proposed cutting the MAC budget by $524,000 over the next two years, which is about a 13 percent cut. And the state’s budget picture is now believed to be much bleaker.

Stopping the merger, however, would keep the MAC as a distinct organization, separate from the Tacoma-based Washington State Historical Society.

Brown’s comments came on the same day that MAC officials were in Olympia, urging skeptical House lawmakers not to allow the merger or deep budget cuts.

“Simply saying that it’s going to be hard or that it would be impossible is falling on our deaf ears,” state Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, warned CEO Dennis Hession and development officer Lorna Walsh Thursday. “…We’re looking at just the most dire of budget circumstances.”

When Gregoire called for the $524,000 cut, state budget writers thought they faced a shortfall of

Budget fight preview: told-you-so versus “nobody foresaw this”…

A Spokane business group, Greater Spokane Inc., hosted a legislative forum last week to preview the coming session and the massive budget shortfall the state now faces. It wasn’t exactly a display of sleeves-rolled-up bipartisanship. The Republicans on the panel were quick to point out that the Democrat-dominated legislature has ramped up spending faster than revenues in recent years. “We knew this was coming,” Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, said, suggesting that Democrats should apologize. “Lord have mercy, at some point we have to own up to what we’ve done.” The last budget, he said, started out with a $1.8 billion state surplus. Democrats, he said, simply spent too much when they should have been saving more. “For years, we’ve governed by group interest,” said Hinkle. “People show up to Olympia, and everybody’s got something that they want.” Democrats’ response: Nobody foresaw this kind of economic meltdown. “No one can with a straight face tell you that they would have written a budget that would have prepared us for the situation we’re facing now,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. It’s a waste of time, she suggested, for the two sides to “play the blame game” over the financial woes of the state and nation. And it’s not like Republican lawmakers have much of a moral high ground on the budget, added Marty Brown, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s legislative liaison. “Maybe I could count on one hand the number of legislators who didn’t ask for something in that budget.” Hinkle wasn’t among those few, he added. Sen. Brown and other Democrats argue that the crisis gives lawmakers an opportunity to revisit ideas from both sides – and to work together. Senate Democrats, for example, adopted an idea that Republicans had been championing for years: setting up a state “rainy day fund” for tough budget years. Both sides teamed up with the governor to pressure reluctant House lawmakers to agree. Those hundreds of millions of surplus dollars are now a key lifeline for the budget. “It was just a good-government idea,” said Sen. Brown.