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Spokane likely to lose influence with Brown’s departure

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Gregoire praises Brown

Even before Lisa Brown became state Senate majority leader, Spokane enjoyed influence in the state Legislature with Jim West, who served as majority leader until becoming Spokane's mayor in 2004.

Asked today if Spokane will lose power without Brown leading the Senate, Gov. Chris Gregoire was frank:

“I’d like to tell you no, but that would not be honest with you,” she said. “Lisa as majority leader has to fight for the entire state, but at no time did she ever fail to advocate not just her own district but all of Spokane — the greater Spokane. To her credit, she has brought home things that are exceedingly important.”

Gregoire called Brown's departure “a huge loss to Spokane.”

To hear more about Gregoire's thoughts about Brown, listen to the interview posted above.

Capital budget signed; Baumgartner questions project list

TACOMA – More than $1 billion in construction projects, from storm water runoff systems costing a thousand of dollars to the second half of a medical research facility in Spokane costing some $37 million, were signed into law Monday.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the capital projects budget at Tacoma Community College, where the state will spend $39 million for a new Health Career Center. She called it a package of jobs that present “a way out of the recession.”

While Gregoire and other legislators were lauding the list of projects, state Sen. Mike Baumgartner was requesting a study of whether election-year politics helped determine where money went. Districts represented by Democratic senators and Democratic senators facing re-election this year received far more than the state average per district and more than their GOP counterparts, his analysis showed. 

“I voted for the capital budget and it contains many worthwhile projects, but we need to make sure it’s not used for pork barrel projects in election years,” said Baumgartner, a first-term state senator from Spokane’s 6th District.

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


Documents:

Gregoire may veto some spending, will sign reforms

“Everybody has to give. Everybody has to get,” Gov. Chris Gregoire says of the final budget deal.

OLYMPIA — Some state spending that legislators approved shortly before dawn Wednesday as part of a package deal to end the session may not survive the veto pen.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said she would sign the major reforms which were part of a negotiated package of legislation that came together in the closing days of one special session and needed a few hours of yet another special session to pass a bleary-eyed Legislature.

That package includes changes to state employees' early retirement system for workers hired after June, an attempt to equalize health insurance plans for public school workers and state employees, and an effort to project out four years to get state spending and revenue to match up.

But legislators stuck special projects into the supplemental budget “at a fevered pitch” in the final discussions, she said, and she's having staff comb through the 280-page document.

“I didn't agree to every dotted “i” and crossed “t” in that budget,” she said. “I'm sure there are things in there that I will veto. I want more in the ending fund balance.”

In her budget proposal, Gregoire called for an ending fund balance, which serves as a cushion against further economic downturns, of about $600 million. The budget passed Wednesday morning has a balance of just over half that, about $320 million. She doesn't have an estimate of how much she might cut, but said there's no way to trim out $300 million.

The reforms that Republicans were demanding in return for a vote on the budget, however, were carefully studied, she said. Those include:

* A change to the early retirement system for new state employees. Any new employee would be able to retire before age 65 after 30 years in state service by accepting a reduction of 5 percent for each year under 65. A 2000 law allows existing workers with 30 years service a 3 percent per year reduction between 65 and 55, and a 2007 law and 2007 allows for full benefits at 62.

* A review of the public school employees' health insurance systems — which vary from district to district — and incentives for the districts to offer plans that are in line with plans available to state employees, including plans with high deductibles and health savings accounts. One of the key elements of that legislation is to encourage districts to offer plans in which family insurance premiums that are no more than three times the cost of an individual's plan.

* Requirements that the Legislature adopt a four-year budget plan, rather than the current two-year plan, for the state General Fund that projects that scheduled expenses won't exceed projected revenues, and provides an ending balance that's in the black. The law also adds the state treasurer to the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, which produces the revenue outlook that becomes key to legislative budgeting.

Those reforms were key to Republicans and some conservative Democrats voting for the budget. For weeks, Republicans demanded reforms before they'd consider any decision on taxes or vote on the budget. Democrats wanted a commitment on searching for more revenue, particularly the closure of a tax exemption for first mortgages written by large, multi-state banks. The stalemate that developed near the end of the regular session carried over into the special session. Last weekend, Gregoire and her staff put together a package that included all elements and began working with legislative leaders and budget experts on a way to make that work.

They ran out of time on Tuesday, and she called another special session, one that legislative leaders agreed would only last until they voted on the package of bills, and told them to stay until it was done.

She denied reports that one side wanted negotiations to fail, and doubted that it could have happened any faster.

In the end, Democrats got a budget very close to what they had proposed in the Senate but couldn't pass because three of their members lined up with the 22 Republicans to pass a different spending plan. The final budget had no cuts to public schools or state colleges, saved the Disability Lifeline and the Basic Health plan. Republicans got the reforms they said were needed to make the budget “sustainable.”

“They all got something critical. They all gave,” she said. Everyone was tired of cutting programs, she added.

Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, who represented GOP Senate leadership in the negotiations, agreed with Gregoire's assessments on negotiations and the final package.

“I think it was a package deal. The governor is exactly right: We're all tired of cuts,” Parlette said.

But Gregoire's comments that she'd have staff  go through the final budget for things she might veto that were added at the last minute struck one government watchdog as odd. Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center questioned why it was alright for the governor to say she didn't have enough time to review the final product when legislators had to vote on it without having time to study it, and the public never saw the final product before it was passed into law.

Special Session: Deal on budget ‘close’

OLYMPIA — A deal to break the budget stalemate is reportedly close, but the real question could be whether there's enough time left in the special session to pass it, should negotiators reach agreement.

Budget negotiators were down to the nitty gritty in the operating budget, known as provisos, in the afternoon while legislative leaders were preparing for yet another meeting with Gov. Chris Gregoire.

“We're getting close,” Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said after running the gauntlet of television cameras outside the governor's office.

A few minutes earlier in the Senate wings, Brown said Democrats and Republicans seemed close to a “tentative deal” explaining “It's a good sing we're writing budget provisos.”

Provisos are special instructions in a budget that direct spending on particular projects or programs.

But Brown acknowledged that the real problem is the clock. The special session will end at midnight tonight, and there is a question whether there is enough time to write, print and vote on the bills in both houses.

It would require agreement on all sides to waive certain rules that require waits for legislators to examine and propose amendments to bills, and wouldn't allow much time for debate.

Day 29: Lege leaders huddle with gov

OLYMPIA — Legislative leaders and budget writers of both houses began huddling with the governor about 12:30 p.m., looking for a way to wrap up business before the clock runs out on the special session at midnight tomorrow.

On the plus side, everyone was quite chipper as they passed the time in the governor's waiting room, chatting about things like their Easter weekends.

On the minus side, the math says there's less than 36 hours left to do everything that needs doing — an operating budget, a capital budget, some version of the reform bills circulating.

As Gov. Chris Gregoire came out to motion legislators in, one of the ubiquitous tours of school children filed in to look at the portraits on the wall. Gregoire took the opportunity to greet them and explain what was going on.

Later in the day, she said, legislators might go on the House or Senate floor, “and you'd be able to see something.”

That brought some derisive chuckles from the assembled press corps, which had gathered on the waiting room couches to stake out the meeting and are already bracing for another special session.

“Hey! Hey!” Gregoire admonished the reporters in her sternest teacher tone, then told the students not to pay any attention to crew on the couches.

“We need to see if maybey we can get done with out jobs by midnight tomorrow,” Gregoire told the students as she left to start the meeting.

House Ways and Means Committee's hearing on several reform bills was postponed until 3 p.m. because of the leadership meeting.

NY Times: Washington state elects women.

The New York Times recently discovered a phenomenon about Washington that most state residents take for granted. We tend to elect women to office.

Last week, “All the News that’s Fit to Print” included a story about the evolving nature of women in politics that focused on Gov. Chris Gregoire and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. That’s because Washington is the only state with women in all three of those statewide positions. That will end next year, the Times noted, because Gregoire’s not seeking re-election and the likely replacements are men.

 It also mentioned the state had a woman as chief justice of the state Supreme Court, an earlier woman governor, Dixy Lee Ray, and Seattle has a woman for mayor back in the  1920s.

Had it looked just a tad east, the Times might have discovered Eastern Washington residents are even more prone to female representation, with a woman as their U.S. Representative, and until the beginning of this year when Spokane’s chief executive left office, many city residents north of the river had a woman as mayor, a city councilwoman and a state senator.

The fact that Mary Verner lost to David Condon doesn’t suggest residents are any less likely to elect a woman. Rather, it suggests that women may have achieved something close to equality in local politics, where their gender wasn’t a major factor in their election or unelection.

Still, it’s a decent article, with a great photo.
  

Sunday Spin: The bill-signing dam breaks

OLYMPIA – In the list of threats a Washington governor can hurl at a recalcitrant Legislature, “I won’t sign your bills” has proven to be among the least menacing.
Gov. Chris Gregoire kept threatening not to sign bills if the Legislature didn’t cough up a General Fund budget that left the state in the black at the end of this fiscal biennium. If any legislators quaked in their boots, they did it from afar, where they have spent most of the special session. It did not register here on the political Richter scale.
The reason for that is basic civics. . .

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

More bills signed: Eyeglasses and Discover Passes

OLYMPIA – Charities like the Union Gospel Mission can soon resume distributing used eyeglasses to people who can’t afford to buy them, under a bill signed into law Friday.

The legislation, which protects charities like the Mission and the Lions Club International from lawsuits for distributing glasses and hearing aids, was one of more than 60 bills signed today by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Also signed were bills that allow residents to use the Discover Pass for state parks and other state lands on two vehicles, require more information on some political ads, offer more protection to victims of domestic violence and crack down on Medicaid fraud. . .

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

Gregoire: McKenna budget possible ‘monkey wrench’

How close are they to reaching a budget deal? About this close, Gov. Chris Gregoire said today.

OLYMPIA — Legislative negotiators are closer to a comprehensive agreement on the state's General Fund budget, but some of the  hardest decisions remain, Gov. Chris Gregoire said today.

Gregoire said they need to reach agreement by next Tuesday to have any chance of the Legislature working out the details, writing the budget in the proper legal language and passing it by Good Friday. Plans for Rob McKenna, the Republican attorney general running for governor, to announce his own budget proposal on Monday are not helpful, she said.

“I don't need something external…to throw a monkey wrench into it,” she said of budget talks.

The McKenna campaign announced the likely GOP gubernatorial nominee will release a “budget policy paper” Monday afternoon in Olympia.

“The failure of the Legislature to complete its most basic task of passing a budget proves that Olympia is broken and highlights the need for a new direction,” McKenna said in a prepared statement accompanying the announcement of the press conference. “My budget policy paper provides some specific ideas on how a McKenna administration will approach creating a sustainable budget.”

Sustainability has been one of the main watchwords of legislative Republicans as they pushed for changes in the spending plans of majority Democrats. But both sides argue that the other has proposed things that are one-time budget gimmicks and therefore not sustainable. Republicans criticize Democratic plans to delay a payment to the school districts by a day, shifting those costs into the next biennium. Democrats criticize Republican plans to skip a payment to the state's pension systems.

Gregoire has said both ideas are “off the table” as negotiators look for a comprehensive budget solution.

The governor said she hadn't heard of McKenna's plans but contended that a specific spending plan at this stage would not be helpful. “I don't need a sixth budget proposal. Why weren't these ideas brought up to us two months ago or one month ago?”

Budget negotiators are looking at a package of ideas that touches all aspects of the budget along with ideas for reform and added revenue. “There's something in that package for all of them not to like,” she said. Once there's an agreement among leaders, they'll have to put it to their members and see if they have the votes to pass it.

Special Session Day 18: Bill signings yes; budget deal, maybe

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire lifted her self-imposed boycott of bill signings Thursday and said legislators could be close to reaching a deal on cuts to the state’s operating budget. Or not.

“In the next 48 hours, we could have an agreement,” she said. “Then again, in the next 48 hours, it could all fall apart.”

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

Gregoire to sign boatload of bills

OLYMPIA — In the lists of possible inducements a governor can offer to legislators to break a deadlock, “I won't sign your bills” might rank pretty near the bottom.

Or so it would seem today as Gov. Chris Gregoire prepares to sign 112 of the 177 bills on her desk in a signature scribbling marathon. She'll start at 1 p.m., and finish sometime after 7 p.m.

Considering Gregoire said less than a week ago “no budget, no bills” one might infer that means there is a deal to break the logjam over the state's operating budget, which is some $1.5 billion out of whack. But one would be wrong.

Although the governor was in meetings with legislative leaders this morning, her staff said, there was no deal in the works when the signings were scheduled. Actually, the schedule was starting to be sent out before the meeting, so folks happy that one or more of these particular pieces of legislation could make plans to smile for the cameras as Gregoire attaches her John Hancock to the appropriate line.

And the other 65 bills? Staff says they aren't sure yet. If not vetoed by midnight Saturday, those bills become law without the governor's signature.

Special Session Day 16: Signature clock ticking

OLYMPIA — The Legislature's special session continues apace, which is to say there are no public meetings or hearings and nothing to tell whether there is any progress on solving the budget problems.

We have crossed into the second half of the session with nary a hearing or floor debate. Although the last possible day of activity is April 10, there is another more pressing deadline approaching this weekend.

Saturday, March 31, is the last day for Gov. Chris Gregoire to sign or veto bills from the regular session. Anything not signed or vetoed by 11:59:59 p.m. Saturday automatically becomes law,. That's probably not a bad thing if you support the prospective law, but a bummer if you wanted to stand around smiling after the governor signs it and everyone poses for the official picture. Or if you wanted one of those nifty pens she gives out.

Health exchange bill signed

Gregoire signs Health Insurance Exchange bill.

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire and other Democratic officials marked Friday’s second anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act – which Republicans prefer to call Obamacare – with a signing ceremony of their own.

Gregoire signed legislation to help set up health insurance exchanges in Washington, a system that would help individuals and small businesses shop for medical plans by 2014. . .

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

Gregoire signing bills. Is budget deal near?

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire will sign more than two dozen bills tomorrow. Considering the gov has been using not signing bills as a figurative cattle prod to get legislators to come up with a budget, could this be a sign they are close to a deal?

“I wouldn't read too much into it,” Karina Shagren, her spokeswoman, said today.

Most of the bills are connected to the transportation budget, which already passed, and Gregoire supports. She has a ceremony at a local Group Health facility to sign the health care exchange legislation, which she also supports, and coincides with the two-year anniversary of the federal health care reform act.

There has been some progress, but no budget yet, Shagren said.

As for the prod, there are still scores of bills still awaiting a signature.

Special Session Day 9: Progress but no budget

OLYMPIA — Legislative budget writers were making “good progress” on coming up with a spending plan for the next 15 months, but still don't actually  have one, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday.

“Making good progress is not the budget,” she said when questioned by reporters after signing several bills.

But clearly, Gregoire is beginning to plan for certain possibilities that involve something other than her preferred scenario of budget writers and legislative leaders coming to an agreement, bringing the rest of the Lege back for a quick passage of a compromise.

She said she warned Senate Republicans against bringing their latest budget plan up for a vote with a tactic similar to the one they used about thee weeks ago. Known as the 9th Order of Business, it allowed the 22 Republicans and three disaffected Democrats to form a majority, force their budget onto the floor and pass it over the objections of the remaining Democrats.

If they tried such a move, Gregoire said she told them “Get ready for multiple sessions. I think it would blow the place up.”

She also has at least begun to consider the prospect the logjam will not break before time runs out on this 30-day special session. Another one would be needed, she said, because the only other option is for her to implement across-th-board cuts for all state agenices and “I can't make it work.”

She'd call them back, but not necessarily right away. And she cautioned against any plan to wait for the June economic forecast, in hopes that state revenues might show some kind of uptick. They might also take a hit if gasoline prices continue to go up, she said.

Gregoire: Don’t threaten me

Tribal members gather in the Capitol Building after a bill signing.

OLYMPIA — Legislators unhappy about her refusal to sign many bills should take their concerns up with their leadership, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Monday.

“I don't take threats from legislators,” Gregoire said, responding to a press release issued late last week from a Republican legislator who accused her of “playing politics” with bills.

Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, said supporters of bills to help the developmentally disabled and bils to crack down on human trafficking should contact Gregoire and urge her to sign them. The governor said she was  holding off on signing most bills until legislative leaders break their logjam over the budget.

“They don't deserve to have these bills held hostage just because the governor hasn't gotten her way on the budget,” Delvin said in his press release.

One of the bills Delvin mentioned, which gives people with developmental disabilities help in after they enroll in an employment program, was signed Monday, but another, which involves assessing juvenile offenders for developmental disabilities when they are placed in a county detention center, remains on hold. 

Gregoire signed about a dozen bills Monday, including one she proposed to create collaboration between state colleges' education departments and struggling public schools. She also signed a bill that returns control over local courts systems from the state to Native American tribes, which brought more than 100 representatives of various tribes to the Capitol.

After the signing ceremony, many of the tribal members, some in traditional clothing, gathered outside the door of the Senate to sing.

Bills that have large numbers of supporters who must plan trips to Olympia will be scheduled and signed. But “by far and away the vast majority of bills” won't for the time being, Gregoire said: “I am not signing the majority of their bills. No budget, no bills.”

Budget leaders met Monday morning with the director of the Office of Financial Management and Gregoire made individual calls to House and Senate leaders. Both parties will have to give up a key element of the budget strategy, the Democrats their plan to delay the state's payment to schools by a few days to free up $330 million to spend in this biennium, the Republicans their plan to skip a payment to the state pension system to free up $150 million for spending. Both options have become “toxic,” Gregoire said.

If Delvin or other legislators have complaints, they are “free to go tell the leadership,” she said.

They don’t negotiate in the media, unless they do

OLYMPIA – “I’m not going to negotiate in the news media.”
Politicians at all levels of government love to utter that sentence – when it’s to their advantage.
But let’s get real. If they think it will help their cause, their legislation or their budget, they like nothing better than to negotiate in the media. If they get angry, frustrated, boxed-in or closed out, they negotiate in the media.
  

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

Gregoire signing some bills

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a  handful of bills this afternoon, refining her threat from Thursday she  hopes will get the Legislature to come up with a passable budget.

She's signing the bills that are important to her, she said, and that people had come a far distance to participate in the ceremony. So she signed bills that increase penalties for driving drunk with kids in a car, that make it easier for military spouses to get work when they are transferred to Washington, criminal ID checks for entities providing emergency shelter or transitional housing.

But bills that are important primarily to lobbyists and legislators will wait, she said. If either group inquires about when their bill might get signed, they're told to work toward getting a majority in both houses for a budget she can sign. She hasn't found any yet that she's definitely going to veto, and “I hope I don't have vetoy any of them.”

She did, however, repeat her promise to veto any legislation calling for charter schools, should it come out of the special session. That's a reform listed in the latest budget crafted by Senate Republicans and their three Democratic allies. One of those Democrats, Sen. Rodney Tom, is a big fan of charter schools; Gregoire is not, and calls them “a 20-year-old, failed idea.”

Budget discussions were on hold today because one of the key budget writers was unable to attend, she said. More talks are scheduled for Monday morning, she said.

New GOP budget: ‘Game changer’ or ‘waste of time’?

OLYMPIA – For the first three days of the special session, everything involving the state’s troubled budget was done behind the closed doors. That went by the wayside Thursday.
Senate Republicans and their three Democratic allies released a new budget proposal at a morning press conference that they said moved closer to Democratic plans to spend more on public schools and higher education. They used terms like fabulous, honest and “game-changer” to describe their new plan.
 But they hadn’t produced it in closed-door negotiations among budget writers just an hour before, and Gov. Chris Gregoire accused them of “wasting time” by unveiling a new budget proposal that has little chance of making it through the Legislature.
“This will not get us out of town,” a clearly angry Gregoire said. “The antics of today do not advance the ball.”
  

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Special Session Day 2: No budget deal in sight

OLYMPIA — With most legislators still at home, their leaders continued meeting Tuesday with Gov. Chris Gregoire in search of a solution to the state's budget problems

They reached no agreements on a key sticking point. Gregoire told them to set those disagreements aside and come up with at least $200 million that members of both parties, in both houses, might accept.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said the goal before the next meeting — as yet unscheduled — is to find that money through some source of revenue, “something that's not spending cuts.”

The hangup right now is what the two parties want to say is an available resource in the General Fund budget to spend on state programs.  Democrats want to delay a payment of some $330 million to the state's school districts by a few days, shifting it from the end of June to the beginning of July 2013 which means it happens in the state's next fiscal biennium. Because the schools would get it in their same fiscal year — the calendars are different — they argue it's merely an accounting shift with no real consequence.

Republicans, however, say that's bad budgeting, and even worse accounting that shifts the debt into the next biennium. They want to skip a payment to some state pension plans, then make several reforms to the way pensions are structured. They admit skipping a pension payment isn't a good practice, but contend the long-term savings are worth the $150 million that would leave in the budget.

Democrats say that plan isn't actuarially sound, and the savings might not be all that Republicans estimate them to be.

Once they decide on the amount to spend, budget writers will start working on how to divide that among programs. A budget written by Senate Republicans differs from one passed by House Democrats on a wide range of education, college and social programs and those will still have to be negotiated.

“It could potentially result in more cuts,” Brown said. “That's what moving to the middle's all about.”

Legislature adjourns. Must come back Monday

That's all folks…the gavel comes down in the Senate on the 2012 regular session. The Legislature returns Monday for a special session.

OLYMPIA — The Legislature adjourned at midnight Thursday without passing a new general operating budget, and Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered them back to work Monday.

“They haven't gotten the job done,” Gregoire said after issuing a proclamation for a special session, which can last up to 30 days. She added that she hoped they would finish much quicker.

“They need to go  home and get away from each other,'' the governor added. “Tensions are high. People are tired. It's hard to get them to focus.”

After legislators return for the noon Monday start, most can leave while leaders try to come up with a way around what's largely been described as a logjam over sources of revenue to make the $30 billion budget balance. (Editor's note: an early version of this story had the wrong time for the start of the special session.)

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

Gregoire: Keep the pressure on

Gregoire to Legislature: Everyone's tired. Get over it

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire again tried to avoid saying the words “special session” while acknowledging it's clear the Legislature will not finish by midnight, even with a new budget proposal available for a vote in the House.

That plan is “a good step forward”, but she's still waiting for legislative leaders to bring her a different compromise that bridges the big gap between Democrats and Republicans on key revenue questions.

“I want a conceptual agreement by the end of the day,” she said. If the Republican and Democratic leaders in both chambers can agree to that, the budget writers can spend the time needed to work out spending details.

A key disagreement between the two parties involves which payment to avoid. Democrats want to delay a $323 million payment to schools from the end of June 2013 to July 1. That shifts it into a different biennium, so on paper the state has more money to spend. Republicans want to skip a $133 million payment on state pensions if the Legislature will pass reforms to the retirement systems that they say will save money in the longrun.

Gregoire said she'd rather delay the school payment than skip the pension payment, but told legislative leaders at a morning meeting to come up with other budget options to avoid doing either.

“I'm not going to pretend it's a love fest in there. Tensions are high but nobody's dug in,” she said.

To suggestions from some legislators that they take a few days off to give members a cooling-off period before returning to budget discussions, Gregoire said she wouldn't do that without a working plan for a budget.  “I'm tired, too. Tough. Get over it.”

Scroll down to read previous posts on today's budget discussions.

Gregoire signs online impersonation law

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Governor Chris Gregoire has signed into a law a bill to help victims of online impersonation pursue lawsuits in civil court.

The bill, signed by the governor Wednesday, passed through both the Washington state House and the Senate unanimously.

Under the law, humiliating, defrauding or threatening others by maliciously impersonating them on social networks or online bulletin boards will be grounds to file a lawsuit.

The measure will not apply to police officers impersonating others online as part of a criminal investigation.

The law will go into effect in June.

Gregoire: Everybody has to give on budget

Gov. Chris Gregoire: “Not interested in a special session.”

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire said she still has hopes the Legislature can reach a budget deal by midnight Thursday, the end of the current session, but conceded there is no deal at this point.

“I will fight to the end to get out of here on time,” Gregoire told reporters Tuesday morning. “I'm not interested in a special session.”

But if there's no compromise by the end of the day, that will be difficult, she said. And while there are things that she'll push for, she doesn't know what a workable compromise is yet: “I'll know it when I see it.”

After House Democrats passed a budget solely with their members support, Senate Republicans got the support of three conservative Democrats in that chamber to use a parliamentary procedure Friday and pass a very different spending plan with more program cuts, no new taxes and fewer accounting shifts. The move caught Senate Democratic leadership by surprise.

Gregoire declined to speculate on how the majority  leadership miscounted the support for their budget, and said she, too, was surprised by some of the things that became a point of contention between the two caucuses. But Friday' night is “Over. Done. Through.” and all sides have to work out the compromise.

She's also not interersted in a solution that has been suggested by some legislators: forget about a revised budget and give her extra flexibility to cut programs or agencies. Under current law, a governor can only make across the board cuts for all agencies to avoid a deficit.

Gregoire has asked for expanded authority to handle budget problems for several years, but that's not the solution for this budget problem, she said. “They have to pass a budget.”

Chris, Barack K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire goes to kiss President Barack Obama upon his arrival at Paine Field, in Everett, Wash. ,  earlier today. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Question: Would you like to be kissed by a president?

A historic day, in many ways, for same-sex marriage issue

Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the same-sex marriage bill.

OLYMPIA — Within hours of Gov. Chris Gregoire signing a historic bill to allow same-sex couples to marry in Washington, opponents filed a referendum that would give voters a chance to endorse or reject it in November.

A Republican presidential candidate visiting the Capitol said the nation should move forward with a constitutional amendment that would ban same sex marriage.

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

Same sex marriage signing, ref filing on Monday

OLYMPIA — The same-sex marriage legislation will be signed at 11:30 a.m. Monday in a ceremony in the State Reception Room.

Gov. Chris Gregoire usually signs bills in her conference room, which has a long table, lots of chairs, and is the site for most gubernatorial press conferences. It usually plenty big for even the most famous or notorious legislation.

The Reception Room, which is one floor up in the Capitol Building, is significantly bigger. It is also more ornate, with Tiffany chandeliers, historic flags, piano, marble walls and columns in which the tour guides love to point out images in the stone. There's also a wooden dance floor under the carpet. (Not that there's any suggestion of dancing on Monday. Just a bit of random information for those not so familiar with the Capitol.)

They booked the Reception Room because they are expecting an even bigger crowd than the one that filled the conference room for Gregoire's announcement that she would support a same-sex marriage bill this session.

The Secretary of State's office is also prepared for the filing of a referendum by opponents of the legislation on Monday, almost as soon as the bill is signed. Under state law, the referendum petition can't be filed until the bill is signed.

It would be Referendum 73. If opponents can gather just under 121,000 valid signatures of state voters by June 6 — that's half what you need for an initiative — same-sex marriage goes on the November ballot.

Spokane City Council calls for legalization of medical marijuana

The Spokane City Council unanimously agreed Monday that marijuana should be able to be possessed legally by people who have a legitimate medical need for the drug.

The council approved a nonbinding resolution endorsing a letter that Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee sent to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in November requesting that marijuana be reclassified from being a “Schedule 1” drug to become a “Schedule 2” drug.

Schedule 1 drugs, such as heroin, are illegal. Schedule 2 drugs can be legal with a prescription.

Last year, dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries shut down, voluntarily or by force, in Spokane County after federal authorities warned that they were violating federal law.

State of State: GOP skeptical on oil fee

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to place a $1.50 per barrel fee on oil produced in Washington state got a cold reception from Republican leaders.

Speaking at a press conference after the State of the State address and Republican response, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis said it could create construction jobs, but it would also hurt consumer and raise the cost of doing business in Washington.

Senate GOP budget leader Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield also questioned whether it is truly a fee, as Gregoire says, or a tax. As proposed, it seems to have no constitutional protection, as the gasoline tax does, that would require it to be spent only on road projects, he said.

The question of tax or fee is an important one, because a fee can be passed with a simple majority, which Democrats have in both chambers. A tax must be passed with a two-thirds majority in both houses, which has proved unattainable in recent years.

Republicans said they would raise that question in the Senate with Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who presides over the chamber and rules on that issue.

State of WA at 10:30 a.m.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire will deliver her state of the state address to a joint session of the Legislature at 10:30 a.m.

So let's see, is it technicallly the State of the State address, the State of Washington State addres, the State of the State address for Washington or the State of the State address for Washington State?

I'm never quite sure of that.

In any event, Gregoire can be expected to repeat her admonitions that the Legislature pass a budget quickly, put a temporary half-cent sales tax on the ballot for voters to approve and make some reforms to the education system. She's also expected to flesh out plans for a program to roads and bridges and refurbish ferries.

Spin Control will blog the speech. So stay tuned