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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

A reason for aphrodisiac antler poachers to think twice

OLYMPIA – Going onto private property to collect antlers prized in some places for boosting sex drive or other valuable qualities will carry extra sanctions from now on.

A bill signed Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee means people who trespass to collect antler "sheds" and other animal parts will get more than a citation for going on someone else's private property. Law enforcement officials will also confiscate the ill-gotten gains.

Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, sponsored the bill after a constituent along the Grande Ronde River reported problems with people using their dogs to chase elk back and forth from state property onto private land until the elk lost their antlers in contact with trees or brush. The dogs’ owners would then trespass onto the landowner's property to retrieve the antlers.

A good pair of antlers can fetch up to $3,000 in some Asian countries, where they sometimes are sought as an aphrodisiac, Schick said. They can also bring a good price for use in decorating and furniture making.

Current trespassing laws aren’t enough to deter poachers, Schmick said. If caught on private property, they will pay the trespassing ticket as a small cost of doing business because they can keep the antlers and sell them later.

Under the new law, they'll lose all the antlers, too.

WALeg Day 9: ‘Ag-gag’ bill called unneeded, unconstitutional

OLYMPIA — An 'ag-gag' bill similar to one passed last year in Idaho to protect farm operations from unapproved video and audio recordings would hurt whistleblowers and interfere with free speech rights, legislators were told this morning.

Critics ranging from the Humane Society of the United States to the American Civil Liberties Union said language in the bill is so broad that it could become a crime to cause economic harm or hardship to any business. That would include a strike, work stoppage or boycott.

Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, sponsor of a bill that would create a new crime of Interference with Agricultural Production, said the proposal only provides protection for businesses from unapproved recordings of in legal activities.

"It offers a lot of the same protections you'd have in your home," Schmick said. "It doesn't protect (businesses) against illegal activity."

He said he was concerned about people who would record legal activity, then edit it to make it look illegal and inflame the public.

Republicans on the House Public Safety Committee agreed, with Rep. Dan Griffey of Allyn calling it a "no brainer." Rep. Brad Klippert of Kennewick said the Constitution "protects your home as your castle" and that should be extended to farms.

But Democrats questioned whether much of the activity mentioned in the bill isn't already against the law under trespass or vandalism statutes. Opponents said the bill is patterned after a law passed in Idaho last year that stemmed from an undercover investigation into a large dairy operation that produced a video tape showing physical and sexual abuse of cows. Rather than address the activity, the Idaho Legislature made it illegal to make such recordings without permission.

Opponent Sandy Smith of Kirkland said the bill was trying to criminalize "whistleblowing" by employees, and said even in a home, a family employee like a housekeeper who witnesses criminal activity such as child abuse would have a responsibility to report it.

"This is the opposite of public safety," Teresa Mosquedo of the state Labor Council said. "We must not criminalize those who bring these abuses to light."

Schmick said he was willing to work with committee members to correct problems they saw in the bill. Representatives of the agricultural industry didn't show up to testify in support because "they're scared of repercussions of just expressing an opinion."

But House Republican leaders said they haven't even polled members on the bill because they doubt majority Democrats will send it to the floor for a full vote. "The reception was not favorable in committee," Republican Floor Leader J.T. Wilcox, of Yelm, said later.

Sunday Spin: Adventures in redistricting

OLYMPIA – Tuesday is Election Day 2011 – or what passes for one in a state that mailed out its ballots two weeks ago and will spend more than two weeks counting the returns – but it could be a key day for Election Days 2012-21.
That morning is the next meeting of the state Redistricting Commission, which is weighing two proposals to redraw congressional and legislative lines in Washington…

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

Legislative pay cut: Some say yes, some say no

OLYMPIA – About half of the 15 members of the Spokane-area legislative delegation have volunteered for the same level of pay cuts the imposed on state workers. That’s a level slightly better than legislators statewide.

Many who have done it, like Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, say it’s a personal decision.

“As a businessman, the buck starts and stops with me,” said Parker, who owns a chain of coffee shops. “It’s the same with us as legislators.”

Parker’s seatmate in Spokane’s 6th District, Republican John Ahern, said he doesn’t plan to ask for a pay cut, but he is donating 3 percent or more to charities, ranging from his church and the Boy Scouts to organizations that oppose abortion like Teen-Aid.

“This way I know exactly where the money is going,” Ahern said. If he took a pay cut, the money would stay in the state’s general fund, and go to state programs or agencies he doesn’t support….

To read the rest of this item, or for a list of the Spokane-area delegation's decisions on a voluntary pay cut, click here to go inside the blog

WA Lege Day 50: The green grass of home

OLYMPIA – Washington homeowners would be restricted from putting fertilizer with phosphorus on healthy lawns under a bill that passed the House Monday.

Despite complaints from Republicans that homeowners are able to decide what fertilizer to put on their grass or that restrictions will send grass-growers across the border into Idaho for bootleg lawn spreads, Democrats passed a bill sought by Spokane and other cities seeking to cut down phosphorus in nearby lakes and streams.

Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, the bill’s sponsor, said similar restrictions in other states have been successful in lowering phosphorus levels that boost algae growth. The bill allows phosphorus fertilizers for new lawns, restoring dead lawns, for golf courses and for agricultural uses; it requires stores to sell non-phosphorus fertilizer for healthy lawns.

“Phosphorus is necessary in some uses but it is not necessary for a healthy lawn,” Billig said.
Representatives from Eastern Washington dominated much of the debate…

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

Gregoire pushes ahead with anti-global-warming proposal; rural lawmakers call it “fanatical”

Interesting exchange this morning between rural Republican lawmakers and state Department of Ecology head Jay Manning, who was describing Washington’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative, which targets global warming.

Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, is one of several rural lawmakers who are extremely leery of the proposal. He doesn’t want Democrats’ big focus on “green jobs,” he said, to come at the cost of blue-collar jobs.

Manning suggested that the risk of global warming to the region’s forests — increased insect damage is widely believed to be due to warmer winters — will hurt Kretz’s constituents more than anyone.

“The fire risk we will be facing is very different and very much greater than anything we’ve faced before,” said Manning.

And he suggested…

Roundup: Lisa Brown for governor? and bleak news about two state reps and a hardworking blog…

-In a discussion of the significance of an anti-Building-Industry-Association-of-Washington-button at a Democratic fundraiser, horsesass.org writer Josh Feit offhandedly mentions Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Congressman Jay Inslee as gubernatorial candidates in 2012. Writes Feit: “I was talking to a Democratic state Senator about the 2012 governor’s race. We were handicapping state Senator Lisa Brown’s (D-3, Spokane) chances vs. U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee’s chances, in what’s likely to be a bruising primary between the two anticipated candidates. And could either one beat GOP media darling, AG Rob McKenna?” -Rep. Steve Hailey, R-Mesa, is stepping down in January, citing weakness from cancer treatments. Elected in 2006, Hailey was just starting his second session this year when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He spent most of the session at home, trying to keep up with legislative work in between chemotherapy. Hailey. 63, last week wrote to Gov. Chris Gregoire, saying “My health is such that I cannot represent the interests of my constituents in the fashion they deserve.” It’s increasingly difficult, the third-generation farmer and rancher said, to summon the physical strength to keep up with the demands of being a lawmaker. He said the treatment has been “tough but tolerable” and said he’s determined to beat the disease. “He leaves office with the same class and dignity in which he served,” said Rep. Joe Schmick, who also represents the mostly-Palouse 9th district. “I would ask that people keep Steve and his family in their thoughts and prayers.” -Politicker.wa has stopped updating its posts since last week and is apparently shutting down after a promising run as a one-stop, all-politics website. Olympian political editor Brad Shannon wrote: “Blogger Bryan Bissell at politickerwa.com just posted an item today, titled Goodbye, and Good Luck, saying he has lost his job. The Tacoma native said parent company politicker.com pulled the plug. The online news service was serving 20 states but is down to five, and the cuts came as a surprise, Bissell told me.” That farewell post has since disappeared from Politickerwa’s website. -Longtime Eastern Washington state Rep. Bill Grant, D-Walla Walla, has been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. In an announcement to fellow lawmakers, Grant said that a lung biopsy in Seattle revealed the cancer and that he’d returned home to discuss treatment options. Note: We’re still working some of the kinks out of this new blogging platform, which is why the links in the above post aren’t showing up properly. Working on this…Also, I have no idea why Brown’s name is lower-cased in the tags. No slight intended. RR