Latest from The Spokesman-Review
OLYMPIA – ‘Tis the night before Christmas, plus about 18, and all through the statehouse not a creature is stirring with complaints about how Washington is waging war on the holiday.
The Association of Washington Business Holiday Kids Tree went up in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday. Gov. Jay Inslee flipped the switch for lights on Friday and the Capitol Building is suffused with the smell of noble fir that almost obscures the aroma of bacon cooking in the basement café most mornings. Ut may be a minor Christmas miracle that no one has resurrected the complaint that if it looks like a Christmas tree and it smells like a Christmas tree, it by gosh by golly ought to be called a Christmas tree. . .
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Protesters work to prop up an elephant they are inflating on the Capitol Rotunda floor as part of a call for a state income tax.
OLYMPIA — As legislative leaders sweated the small stuff on the operating budget and other members awaited word of a deal, protesters called for something that isn't really on anyone's radar screen right now.
A progressive income tax for the state.
Members of the Backbone Campaign draped a banner for a state income tax over the fourth floor railing and chanted while others worked to inflate a large elephant on the rotunda floor. The sign on the side of the elephant, readable once it got nearly to full inflate: "Progressive Income Tax."
While a proposal for a state income tax gets introduced by someone almost every year, there was no serious discussion of such a tax this year as legislators struggled with the budget. An initiative for an income tax on the wealthy was defeated in 2010, and several times before that, reaching back to the 1930s.
"Somebody's got to have the guts to talk abour real reform," Bill Moyer, of Vashion Island, co-founder and director of the Backbone Campaign, said. Legislators should "stretch the boundaries of what the perceive is politically possible."
The Rainier bottles "graze" in front of the Capitol during a protest against the extension of the state's temporary beer surcharge.
OLYMPIA — There's never a giant opener around when I need one.
A pair of the Rainier bottles made famous in the beer's off-beat commercials, with their "wrangler" in tow, showed up at the Capitol for the protest against continuing the temporary beer surtax and extending it to microbreweries.
A couple of things you may not know about the iconic beer-creatures. In their costumes, they are blind as bats, and were not allowed to go up and down the Capitol steps in costume. The costumes don't handle the rain well — making one wonder what would happen to them in a giant ice chest.
Taylor Malone of Spokane removed her shirt during a protest to symbolize that with cuts to programs, some people have to make the choice between feeding their familes and buying them clothes
OLYMPIA — Some 300 people, including about 75 from Spokane, marched through downtown to the steps of the Capitol Monday, demanding the Legislature fullfill Martin Luther King's dream by doing more to help the poor.
Some made statements with chants like "The people united will never be defeated."
Others made statements with cards that held a legislator's name, and a letter grade for how the Washington Community Action Network thinks they voted in the last session issues of race and economic justice.
Taylor Malone of Spokane made a statement by taking off her shirt and standing through the half-hour rally on the steps in a bra and jeans. In recent years, she said, the Legislature has cut social service programs, forcing some people to choose between buying adequate food or adequate clothing for their families.
Instead of more cuts, the Legislature should close some tax breaks for businesses, she said.
Malone said she has been active in Spokane protests to support gay rights and to help victims of sexual assault, and against the Westboro Baptist Church. But it was her first protest in Olympia, were temperatures were in the mid-30s under fog-shrouded skies. The obvious question was whether she was cold.
"Truthfully? I am," she admitted. After the rally, she put on shirt and coat before joining a group visiting 3rd District legislators.
Also coming from Spokane was Wendla Fryar, an Eastern Washington University graduate student working on her masters in social work, who hoped to talk to legislators from Spokane's 6th District about preserving or restoring social programs.
Fryar suffers from lupus, and needs to take 13 different prescription drugs every day to manage her symptom, but was dropped from the Medicaid program that helped cover her drug costs. She receives a grant to help with college costs and food stamps, and is worried about cuts to those programs, too.
"I can't survive without those programs," she said.
What do you get when you combine a bad idea, a disregard for local control and a highly questionable motive? You get something like Rep. Joe Palmer’s ill-conceived legislative trifecta: his bill to disable parking meters near the Statehouse during the legislative session. Palmer, R-Meridian (pictured), has been quiet during four years in the Statehouse. But his first attempt at high-profile legislation is a not-ready-for-prime-time effort … Palmer says his idea is to provide free parking to allow Idahoans to attend hearings or talk to their lawmakers. But constituents would have to get up early in the morning to snag a free spot. The bill creates a first-come, first-served free-for-all for the coveted freebies, with Downtown workers and Statehouse lobbyists and reporters likely to avail themselves of the coveted spots/Idaho Statesman Editorial Board. More here.
Question: What would happen if the city allowed unlimited, free parking in downtown Coeur d'Alene?
Gov. Butch Otter has signed HB 404a into law, emergency legislation that bans camping on certain state land and effectively evicts the Occupy Boise encampment from state property across from the Capitol. “I will be communicating with the leadership and attorney from 'Occupy Boise' to let them know that I have received and signed the bill,” Otter said in his signing statement, “and to provide that they have a deadline of 5 PM on Monday to vacate the impacted state properties”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Are you glad Occupy Boise is finally getting boot from Capitol area?
Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, walks toward the Idaho Capitol in Boise on Monday. After another Republican representative quit smoking last year, Nonini is the lone open smoker in the Idaho Legislature. (AP photo)
Standing outside the Capitol on a brisk January afternoon, Rep. Bob Nonini cups his hand deftly to shelter a cigarette — not from the wind, but from a camera. The Coeur d'Alene Republican and House Education Committee chairman has the distinction of being the lone Idaho lawmaker who still regularly, if bashfully, steps outside for a smoke. "This is private," Nonini says, declining further comment this week. His solo status in Idaho's Statehouse underscores a decadeslong transformation in American culture. But despite a near absence of smokers in the Republican-dominated Legislature, don't hold your breath in anticipation of new anti-cigarette laws, even with about a quarter of lawmakers belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which forbids tobacco use/John Miller, AP. More here.
Question: Would you be more/less/same likely to vote for a candidate who smokes?
Creche erected on the Capitol Campus.
OLYMPIA — About a half block to the south of the atheists's sign (see below), a Nativity Scene occupies a section of the Capitol Campus to the east of the Insurance Building and the Legislative Building.
In past years, the fight over display space has reached epic proportions, with FOX News weighing in on the propriety of placing a sign questioning religion inside the Capitol. A few years ago, the state banned all holiday displays inside the Capitol with the exception of the "holiday tree", which the Association of Washington Business has sponsored for decades.
To put up a display outside, sponsors must receive a permit from the state Department of Enterprise Services, which oversees the Capitol grounds and buildings.
The Nativity Scene, which is making its second appearance on the Capitol grounds, is sponsored by attorney Hunter Abell, a former Easterm Washington resident who now lives in Bothell.
OLYMPIA — This year's version of the "war over Christmas" is pretty tame.
A Nativity Scene and a sign from an atheist organization, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, are coexisting nicely on the lawn in the park to the east of the Capitol and Insurance buildings.
A Menorrah for Hannukah is up in Sylvester Park, about four blocks north, not far from a well decorated Christmas tree.
OLYMPIA — Protesters who set up an "Occupy Olympia" encampment in a park below the Capitol Campus were evicted overnight. But a handful broke into an abandonned building a few blocks away in a brief effort to try establishing "squatters rights."
Police surrounded the building, but didn't immediately move to evict protesters, who set up a tent in the parking lot, hung signs down the side of the old Thurston County Health Building and continued to move in and out through a door in the roof.
Eventually, all protesters left the building without incident.
Leon Janssen, a commercial painter and part-time student who had spent the last two months at the encampment, said the protest would continue, just not in the park. Some protesters who have nowhere else to go may move to unoccupied or foreclosed buildings, he said.
Demonstrators will hold general assembly meetings every Sunday afternoon in the Capitol Rotunda, Janssen said.
The state Department of Enterprise Services erected temporary fences around the encampment and state workers started gathering up tents and other items left behind when protesters were evicted.
OLYMPIA – As several hundred protesters chanted about corporate greed and demanded tax increases, House budget writers gathered to decide which of two plans to cut billions from state programs they would endorse.
The state’s budgeting process, which is facing serious time constraints as the Legislature slogged through Day 87 of its 105-day session, featured competing spending plans in the House. Republicans unveiled their alternative budget Wednesday afternoon, proposing more cuts from health insurance and disability programs but spends more on public schools.
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OLYMPIA – Thanksgiving is still nearly a week away, but the annual Christmas controversy over religious displays in the Capitol has begun.
A tree will go up in the Rotunda at the end of the month, as it has for at least two decades. But a crèche won’t.
Earlier this month the Catholic League sent crèches to governors’ offices in all states asking that the Nativity scenes be displayed somewhere inside each capitol building.
But Washington bans displays by private groups inside its Capitol – an outgrowth of a controversy that erupted two years ago when atheists put up a sign to counter a Nativity scene in the Rotunda.
In honor of the inauguration of President Obama, Washington state’s Secretary of State is selling U.S. flags that are being flown at the state capitol today. (Yup, there’s some person who’s going to be busy hauling flags up and down all day. Really.)
You can buy the 3-foot by 5-foot flags for $14 if you pick them up at the Secretary of State’s front desk, or they’ll mail you one for $17.25.
“People just snatch them up,” said Dave Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed. Each comes with a certificate, state seal, and Reed’s signature. Any proceeds go to thestate capitol historical furnishings fund.
If you’re interested, call Suzette Black at (360) 902-4151.
The capitol rotunda and hallways were like a ghost town this morning, as staffers and lawmakers crowded around TVs to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
In the darkened state Senate, about a dozen lawmakers sat at their desks, peering up at a big-screen projection on the wall. Up in the public galleries overhead, dozens of visitors also watched in silence.
Below, in the Democratic caucus room, exuberant senators laughed as Chief Justice John Roberts and Obama stumbled over the oath of office. Then they cheered.
“I think we’re entering a more hopeful period,” said Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane. As he watched the nation’s first African-American president sworn in, Marr said, he thought of the racial dark days of the OJ verdict and Rodney King beating.
“To think that we would stand up this day a few short years later is pretty amazing,” he said.
Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls, watched in his office.
“I had a little lump in my throat for those who’d worked so hard otherwise,” he said of the Democratic president’s victory. “It would have been more joyful the other way.”
In the House Republican caucus room, beneath portraits of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, a few lawmakers and staffers sat in silence, watching a projection TV. Nobody spoke.
Across the chamber, people were crammed into the standing-room-only House Democratic caucus room, where a sheet cake waited on a staffer’s desk. “Go Obama!” it read.
Lawmakers, some wiping away tears of happiness, looked up at the screen. Outside, a toddler squealed with delight and wheeled a stroller around the abandoned floor of the House of Representatives.
About 300 people from anti-poverty groups and other organizations held a rally on the capitol steps Monday afternoon. They called for restrictions on payday lending, more health care, and preservation of the General Assistance to the Unemployable program, which provides health coverage and monthly stipends of $339 to people who cannot hold a job, often due to mental health problems.
Someone has made off with an atheist sign put up in the Illinois state capitol, according to the (Springfield, IL) State Journal-Register.
The same thing happened recently in Olympia early one morning, although the sign — apparently bent in half by the thief — was recovered by state troopers later that day. The signs were virtually identical, erected by Wisconsin’s Freedom from Religion Foundation.
From the Journal-Register’s story:
The sign was securely taped to an easel.
“It had to take an effort (to remove it),” (Annie Laurie) Gaylor said. “Atheists never engage in vandalism. We don’t go around stealing the Baby Jesus. They don’t follow their own commandments.”
Gaylor said the group hopes to have a replacement sign in place by today. “We’ll put a ‘Thou Shall Not Steal’ sign with it,” Gaylor said.