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Hobby Lobby to fuel RPA debate next year?

OLYMPIA – Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows some companies to refuse birth control coverage for employees is likely to add fuel to both sides of the Washington legislative controversies over the Reproductive Parity Act.

It probably won’t affect two other controversial cases that involve businesses and claims of religious freedom.

A priority for Gov. Jay Inslee and most legislative Democrats for the last two years, the Reproductive Parity Act would require any insurance plan that offers maternity care to also cover abortions. It easily passed the state House of Representatives this year and last, but died in the Senate where the ruling coalition is predominantly Republicans.

“I’m hoping that what this will do is urge the Legislature to pick (the legislation) up and pass it next year,” Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, prime sponsor of the Reproductive Parity Act, said of the court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said he doubted that the court’s decision will change any minds on either side of the issue, but it could cause both sides to step up efforts for or against the proposal: “Both sides have their share of passionate people.”

The Hobby Lobby involves forms of contraception that some people consider a form of abortion. The Reproductive Parity Act covers actual abortions, Padden said. “The position against the RPA is even stronger than the argument against abortion in the Hobby Lobby case,” he said.

Opponents of abortion will definitely use Monday’s decision to fight the proposal, Hobbs predicted, and supporters should take it as a sign that a woman’s right to decide to have an abortion is not “all worked out” even though that Supreme Court case is 40 years old. “I think this is a fight that will continue on a state-by-state basis.”

Hobbs said he will likely sponsor  a new version of the Reproductive Parity Act in the next session. Padden, who would lead a committee with jurisdiction over the proposal unless Democrats regain the majority, said he can’t decide at this point whether he’d schedule a hearing. “But I’m not a big fan of mandates,” he added.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the Hobby Lobby decision should have no impact on a court case in which some pharmacists don’t want to stock the morning-after birth control pill or a separate case in which a florist refused to serve a same-sex couple’s wedding. Religious freedom is cited in both cases, but they involve state laws, not the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act involved in Monday’s ruling, he said.

The court also said the Hobby Lobby decision doesn’t create a religious exception to anti-discrimination laws, Ferguson said. The state argues the florist case involves discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is illegal under Washington law. 

For comments about the Hobby Lobby decision from Northwest politicians, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Drone bill vetoed

OLYMPIA — A proposal to regulate the use of drones by law enforcement and other agencies was vetoed Friday. Gov. Jay Inslee said the bill did not do enough to protect the public's right to privacy and raised questions about public records.

In its place, Inslee said he was issuing an executive order for a moratorium for the next 15 months on purchase or use of unmanned aircraft by state agencies for anything other than emergencies, such as forest fires. He said he hoped local police chiefs and sheriffs would issue similar orders, and the Legislature would take another run at the issue next year.

The proposal had broad, bipartisan support in the Legislature, with backing of both the ACLU and the law enforcement community. Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman Mike Padden, who helped shepherd the bill through the final days of the session, said he was surprised by the veto.

“We had worked with so many different groups, getting their input,” Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said.

The bill set up standards for state and local government's use of unmanned aircraft or drones, with requirements for obtaining warrants for surveillance uses by law enforcement.

In striking down the House Bill 2789, Inslee called it “one of the most complex bills we've had to analyze”  and said the emerging technology of drones create difficult issues for government. The bill had some conflicting provisions on disclosure of personal information, he added 

“I'm very concerned about the effect of this new technology on our citizens' right to to privacy,” he said.”People have a desire not to see drones parked outside their kitchen window by any public agency.”

Sections of the bill dealing with exemptions to public record laws for some information gathered by drones could create a “major carve-out” to the state's public records laws, Inslee added. 

Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, called Inslee's veto disappointing and described the bill as “well-balanced and carefully considered.” His call for a  15-month moratorium will have little impact, she said in a prepared statement, because it still allows agencies to acquire drones and “includes no rules for their use after acquisition.”

Padden said legislators worked at balancing the rights of privacy with law enforcement's needs to gather information on criminal activity.

“We thought there were some safeguards in there with the warrants,” he said. The bill required police to obtain a warrant from a judge for using drones the same why they would need a warrant for other types of surveillance.

 

Sunday Spin: Death penalty bill dies, but not quietly

OLYMPIA – Whether Washington state should execute some people for crimes like aggravated first-degree murder is a good debate to have.

Whether the governor or the Legislature has the constitutional authority to do certain things is a good debate to have.

Mix capital punishment with separation of powers and you get a not so-good-debate, but an excellent vehicle for diatribes. . .

 

Senate passes stronger penalties for ‘knockout game’

OLYMPIA — The Senate gave strong support for tougher penalties for assaults stemming from the so-called knockout game, despite a warning from some Democrats state laws already are adequate to handle what's may be a criminal “fad.”

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, sponsored SB 6011 to make random attacks of unsuspecting victims a Class 3 felony. Such assaults in which assailants try to knockout someone, often elderly or a member of a racial or ethnic minority, with a single punch, are sometimes filmed and posted on the Internet.

“It is a phenomenon that has been going on nationwide,” Padden said. “There is some indication it may have come to our state. What we're trying to do is get ahead of the curve.”

One assault last November in the Spokane Valley is being investigated as a possible knockout game attack, although no charges have been filed in that case.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, argued a new law isn't needed because the state already has four different levels of assault on the books, and if the victim is targeted because they are members of a racial or ethnic minority, assailants can also be charged with a hate crime.

“There are fads in crime. Fads come and go, our law doesn't,” Kline said.

The bill passed on a 38-9 vote and was sent the the House.

 

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.

 

 

Committee moves bill to cut high court down to 7

OLYMPIA – A plan to reduce the size of the state Supreme Court by two justices was praised as a money saver and criticized as payback for decisions some legislators don’t like.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, would cut the nine-member court to seven. It moved out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee Monday on a voice vote, giving it a chance for a vote by the full Senate in the coming weeks… 
  

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WA Lege Day 15: Panel OKs tougher DUI laws

OLYMPIA – A pair of proposals for tougher drunk driving laws were sent to the budget writers Monday to figure out how the state might pay for more people serving time.

One proposal would make the fourth conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, compared to current law which makes the fifth conviction a felon; A second would allow courts to consider convictions from the past 15 years rather than seven years, the current limit. Both passed the Senate Law and Justice Committee on 5-2 votes.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, said he supported the policy but wondered where the money would come from to pay for the additional jail and prison term. That could be nearly $3 million in 2015-17, Kline said, and without a new source of money the Senate Ways and Means Committee would be “robbing from other programs” for things like schools, social services and environmental programs.

“That is the duty of the Ways and Means Committee,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, sponsor of the bill that reduces the number of convictions. “What we’re doing with these bills is saving lives.”

WA Lege: Gun initiatives getting hearing Wednesday

OLYMPIA — Two initiatives dealing with gun rights and gun control will get a hearing next Wednesday in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Both are initiatives to the Legislature. I-594, which would extend the current background checks for buyers required for sales from gun dealers to almost all other sales, was certified Wednesday by the Secretary of State's office after a check of signatures submitted late last year. I-591, which would ban stricter background checks in Washington until federal standards changed, is undergoing signature checks but is expected also to easily certify.

The Legislature is unlikely to pass either into law, bypassing the ballot. But Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said a hearing will give legislators and the public a chance to get questions answered. “That helps us and it can only help to inform the voters,” he said.

The 1:30 p.m. hearing will be moved out of the committee's regular room into a larger room to accommodate the expected crowd.

 

Abortion foes fill Capitol mall

Rep. Matt Shea urges demonstrators for the March for LIfe to continue the fight against legalized abortion.

OLYMPIA — The annual March for Life brought several thousand demonstrators to the Capitol Tuesday, filling the north steps of the Legislative Building and the Temple of Justice.

Demonstrators cheered legislators of both parties who urged them to continue the against abortion and the Reproductive Parity Act, a proposal that would require almost any insurance policy that covers maternity benefits to also cover pregnancy termination.

State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said it was wrong to put completing a pregnancy on parity with ending a pregnancy.

The Washington State Patrol troopers on the scene estimated the crowd at between 3,000 and 4,000. A handful of abortion rights supporters gathered with signs in an area between the two steps.

Tougher sentencing on DUI hinges on funding

OLYMPIA – Drunk drivers could face prison on their fourth conviction – one less than Washington law currently allows – if the Legislature can find a way to pay for the extra costs for that time in state prisons and county jails. One possible source of money: some of the taxes the state currently collects on alcohol, and some of what it expects to collect for legal marijuana.

With victims recounting stories of devastated families and law enforcement officials asking for tougher laws, a Senate panel was solidly behind a bill that drivers should face a felony charge for they are arrested a fourth time in 10 years for driving drunk or under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.

“Lives will be saved and hearts won’t be broken forever,” Linda Thompson of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council told the Senate Law and Justice Committee Monday.

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Senate passes tougher DUI bill

OLYMPIA – The Senate gave unanimous approval Wednesday to tougher laws against people who drive drunk or under the influence of drugs, particularly repeat offenders.

The proposal would require an automatic arrest for a second offense, and require ignition interlock devices on their vehicles before their cases go to trial. It would require a court appearance within 48 hours and set up a test program for repeat offenders have their sobriety monitored on a daily basis with electronic  home monitoring  rather than more expensive incarceration.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the bill’s sponsor, called drunk driving a “preventable disease” that costs victims, their families and society. The bill now goes to the House, which must pass it before the second special session ends.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, argued that judges should be given greater leeway with drivers convicted of impaired driving if they have a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana. Chemicals from marijuana remain in the blood stream longer than alcohol or many other drugs, and making patients give up their medical marijuana in order to drive was “totally unjust.”

But judges routinely order drunk drivers not to drive if they drink, Padden said, and marijuana should be treated the same way if a person is convicted of impaired driving. “Impaired means impaired,” he said.

Inslee signs autopsy bill

Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Mike Padden talk before the autopsy bill is signed.

OLYMPIA – Spokane County’s medical examiners should feel free to talk about the results of investigations into deaths that involve actions by law enforcement officers.  Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Monday allowing county medical examiners and coroners to discuss the results of autopsies and post mortems of people who die in encounters with police or while in jail.

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

Drunk driving crackdown moves forward as booze bills are signed

OLYMPIA – As a Senate committee approved tougher laws against impaired drivers Tuesday, some senators wondered aloud if the Legislature isn’t at least partially responsible for putting more drunks on the road by expanding the places where alcohol is consumed.

Less than an hour after the Senate Law and Justice Committee gave unanimous approval to a proposal that would require more and quicker jail time for drivers convicted of alcohol or drug impairment, Gov. Jay Inslee signed four bills the Legislature recently passed that add new places from which a person might be driving after legally consuming alcohol. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

Spec Sess Day 2: Tougher DUI bill passes committee

OLYMPIA — A law that toughens the state's drunk driving laws, in part by increasing mandatory jail time, received unanimous approval this morning from the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Despite concerns by some senators that it didn't go far enough, or provide money to cities and counties for the higher costs of extra prosecutions for driving under the influence, all committee members gave it at least tentative support.

Just who was responsible for some of the drunks on the road was part of the debate. The Legislature must accept some responsibility, Sen. Jeanne Darnielle, D-Tacoma, said because it continues to increase the number of places where a person can consume alcohol — at movie theaters, public markets and spas —  and then drive home.

The voters should accept some of the blame, said Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn. They opened up sales of distilled spirits in supermarkets through a 2011 initiative, and legalized marijuana consumption by adults in 2012. Stores like Costco now have mountains of liquor on display in their aisles, she said.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, tried unsuccessfully to attach amendments that would pay for increased prosecutions and incarcerations by extending the temporary tax on beer that was imposed in 2010 and is due to expire on June 30.  Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said taxes to pay for the bill is something the Ways and Means Committee will address.

The bill makes a fourth conviction for driving under the influence a felony, down from five convictions under the current law. It sets up mandatory jail time or treatment programs for earlier offenses, would allow judges to order a drunk driver to abstain from alcohol and submit to mandatory daily testing.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that tougher drunk driving laws were one of the three top priorities for the special session, along with passing an operating budget for 2013-15 and a package of new transportation projects that will require some new revenue.

WA Lege Day 100: Autopsy bill passes

OLYMPIA – Spokane County’s medical examiners may soon have no legal barrier that stops them from talking about the results of investigations into deaths that involve actions by law enforcement officers.

A unanimous Senate Tuesday passed a bill allowing them to discuss the results of autopsies and post mortems of people who die in encounters with police or while in jail. A unanimous House passed the same bill last week, and it’s headed to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

To emphasize that such comments will be permissible, sponsor Mike Padden, the Spokane Valley Republican who heads the Senate Law and Justice Committee, engaged in a bit of rehearsed dialogue with the panel’s top Democrat, Adam Kline of Seattle, before the vote. . .

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

Abortion coverage bill faces deadline

OLYMPIA — As abortion-rights groups and their legislative allies try to force a vote on a bill that would expand requirements for insurance companies to cover the procedure, a Washington congresswoman is warning President Obama the proposal violates federal laws.

The Senate Health Care Committee held a two-hour hearing Monday morning on the House version of the Reproductive Parity Act, with regular supporters and foes of abortion lining up on the expected side of the bill that would require most insurance plans that offer maternity benefits to cover abortion, too.

There were dueling religious leaders. Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain argued the bill, if passed, would make insurance coverage of abortion mandatory in Washington, even for employers with religious objections to abortion. Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Olympia said the bill should be passed to provide “freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

There were dueling leaders from women's groups. Elaine Rose of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest acknowledged that nearly every insurance plan offered in Washington covers insurance, and the bill was designed to “keep it that way” as federal health care reform proceeds. Angela Connolly of tlhe Washington Women's Network called the bill “anti-woman” because it forces them to accept a health care plan that forces them to “participate in what they see as violence against women.”

Health Care Committee Chairwoman Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, sometimes had to remind speakers to stick to the bill rather than veering into some of the bigger controversies over abortion, such as when one abortion foe started discussing policies of Nazi Germany.

In the hearing room, Sen. Mike Padden released a copy of a letter, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent Monday to Obama saying the bill has “far-reaching and alarming conseqluences for the citizens of Washington state who embrace life.”

McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Eastern Washington's 5th District, said the bill does not satisfy federal restrictions on “conscience rights”, or the protection to allow people who have religions objections to abortion to opt out of insurance plans. That could  jeoparize federal funds for welfare, jobs and education, she said, adding she “looks forward to working with you as both Congress and Administration fullfill our constitutional rols to uphold and enforce…conscience protections.”

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who sponsored a Senate version of the proposal that did not get a hearing in the committee, also had a letter, one signed by 25 senators enough promising to vote for the bill it if it comes to the floor.  That would be enough to pass it and send it to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has promised to sign it.

But the easy way to a floor vote comes if the bill passes out of the Health Care Committee by Wednesday, a deadline for bills from one chamber to pass the panel holding the hearing in the other chamber. Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, wanted the committee to vote on the bill after Monday morning's hearing. But as testimony finished, with Keiser saying “Madam chairwoman, madam chairwoman,” Becker gavelled the panel to adjournament without a vote. 

The committee has a meeting on Tuesday morning, however, to consider votes on any of  the House bills it has heard over the last month.

Autopsy comment bill passes Senate

OLYMPIA — Medical examiners would have permission to discuss their conclusions from the autopsies for people killed during law enforcement actions under a bill that passed the Senate unanimously Friday.

The proposal, prompted by several high-profile cases in the Spokane area with fatalities involving local law enforcement, gives a medical examiner or coroner permission to talk about the results of their investigations, said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the bill's sponsor. Confidentiality restrictions would also be lifted when a person dies in law enforcement custody.

The formal autopsy report, which can include graphic photographs of the victim, would remain confidential.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich had pushed for the bill after complaining that he was unable to clear up “misinformation and myths” about some controversial cases.  One such case involved the Sept. 5 death of Edward Gover, who returned to the home of a woman he'd held hostage and encountered deputies who thought he had a weapon. They said they fired when he charged them, but no weapon was found and two of the bullets struck Gover in the back.

Knezovich said the deputies responded appropriately, but he couldn't discuss the autopsy findings because of orders from the county medical examiner's office.

The organization representing lthe state's county officials dropped its objection to the proposal after it was amended to ensure confidentiality of the formal report, Padden said. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

Debate over tax super-majority continues

 

OLYMPIA – A proposed constitutional amendment gave a Senate panel another chance to argue whether democracy is helped or hurt by requiring legislative super-majorities to approve tax increases.

Definitely helped, Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, the sponsor of the amendment, told the Ways and Means Committee. The requirement has been approved five times by voters through the initiative process, she noted, including last year. Spokane voters recently changed their charter to require a super-majority from their city council on taxes.

“It’s time for the people in the Legislature to match the people of the state,” Roach said, and began listing approval percentages for committee members.

Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Ed Murray, both Seattle Democrats, were quick to raise their hands to indicate their districts rejected that initative.

Definitely hurt, said Nick Federici of Our Economic Future Coalition, an umbrella group for progressive and liberal organizations. If it takes a two-thirds majority to pass a tax increase, that means a one-third minority can block one, he said.. . 

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

Sunday Spin: Tough sledding on gun bills

OLYMPIA – The massacre of first graders and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary may result in some major national gun-control legislation this year. Too soon to tell.

But it may also block some smaller gun-related legislation in Washington state. At least that’s what several Senate Democrats contended Friday afternoon after an unusual meeting of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

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

WA Lege Day 26: Parity Bill hearing canceled

OLYMPIA — A hearing on a proposal to require insurance companies to cover abortion services if they cover live births was cancelled this morning, a few days after the committee chairman said he would hear the bill even though he didn't support it.

The Reproductive Parity bill was among several proposals on the schedule for the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which earlier this week held a two-hour hearing on a bill on the other side of the abortion issue which would require parental notification for any minor seeking an abortion.

Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, announced on Monday he was scheduling the Friday morning  hearing, adding that didn't mean he supported it. Padden is a longtime opponent of abortion and a co-sponsor of the parental notification bill. At the time he said the Reproductive Parity bill had problems that would become clear in the hearing.

The committee did meet, discussing bills on boating safety, adding judges in the Tri-Cities and defining subpoena power for the state auditor.

Abortion bills have the potential for splitting the coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats who form the majority in the Senate. Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who supports abortion rights, said earlier this week that he didn't support the parental notification bill, but the hearing was the first on the oft-proposed measure in 10 years. Holding a hearing on that measure showed the coaltion was willing to debate issues that had been “bottled up” by the previous Democratic majority, he said. 

At the time, Tom also noted that the Reproductive Parity bill had been scheduled for today's hearing, and said the hearings would “get us away from demonization” of the two sides on the issue.

“Let's have that debate,” he said.

Padden said this morning he decided to cancel the Reproductive Parity bill because he believes it would jeopardize federal funding and invite lawsuits if it became law. An identical bill has been referred to the Health Care Committee 

“I never was a fan of the bill to begin with and I worked hard to defeat it last year,” Padden said of a similar measure that died when time ran out for a deadline to pass bills. 

After the bill was abruptly pulled from the Law and Justice hearing calendar, Tom reportedly told the Associated Press it was not determined when or where the bill might be heard. An identical bill is before the Senate Health Committee, but is not expected to get a hearing there, either. A similar bill has been heard in the House and is expected to pass that chamber.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, the sponsor of the Reproductive Parity bill that was pulled from Friday's hearing schedule, said he was frustrated by Padden's refusal to hear the bill.

But Hobbs said Tom has “given me his word that we're going to hear it. I'm going to give him the opportunity to get it right.” 

One Democratic source said an option could be for Senate leaders to reassign the bill to the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, because it involves a regulation for insurance companies.

The chairman of that committee is Hobbs.

WA Lege Day 19: Shedding light on officer-involved deaths

 OLYMPIA – Medical examiners would be able to discuss the results of autopsies in case involving police shootings, giving them a chance to clear up what Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich refers to as “misinformation and myths” in some controversial cases, under a bill being considered by the Senate.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, is designed to lift some confidentiality restrictions on autopsy reports when a death occurs in the custody of a law enforcement officer or during police contact.

Confidentiality restrictions, which under state law cover most autopsy and post-mortem investigation reports, also would be lifted for deaths that occur in a prison or jail.

If the proposed law were in effect, Knezovich said he’d be able to explain details of cases like the Sept. 5 death of Edward Gover . . .

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

Padden will hold hearing on abortion notice bill

Sen. Padden address the March for Life demonstration on the steps of the Capitol.

OLYMPIA — A proposed law requiring parents to be notified of an abortion for any woman under 18 will get a hearing in a Senate committee this year, and possibly a full debate and floor vote. 

State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, told a crowd of  more than 2,000 anti-abortion activists Tuesday that the first parental notification bill in many years will definitely get a Senate hearing in the next few weeks.

“You have to keep up the fight,” he told demonstrators at the annual March for Life, who filled the steps of the Capitol and the steps of the Temple of Justice across the flag plaza. . . 

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

WA Lege Day 8: More questions, some answers, on legalized pot

OLYMPIA – In legalizing marijuana last fall, voters created more questions for the Legislature, not fewer.

Some, including how the federal government is going to react, can’t be answered yet, officials from the State Liquor Control Board told the Senate committee Monday.

Law and Justice Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said he’s heard concerns that any revenue the state collects from taxes on growing, processing or selling marijuana could be seized by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, statutes. Is that possible, he asked. . .

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WA Lege Day 5: Fighting campus drinking

OLYMPIAWashington State University uses many tools to combat binge drinking by students, from mandatory information programs to counseling to notifying parents, a school official told a legislative panel Friday. But the rate of binge drinking is still about the national average, roughly two out of five students.

The Legislature might give WSU and other colleges around the state one more tool to reduce on-campus drinking – special DUI courts on campus similar to courts in Spokane and some other cities that specialize in driving under the influence cases.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee, which is considering a bill to authorize college DUI courts, got some sobering facts on binge drinking from Robert King of The Century Council, a national group trying to curb alcohol abuse. . . 

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This week’s networking event lineup: Mobius, No-Li and meet some legislators

The weekly lineup of events and morning sessions include the following:

  • Dec. 4,  a conversation with Chris Majer, hosted by Greater Spokane Inc. At the GSI offices downtown, from 7:30 to 9 a.m.  Cost of tickets: $25 for members. Majer played a key role in raising funds and building support for the new and expanded Mobius Science Center. He's listed as the founder and CEO of that nonprofit education center.
  • Dec. 5, GSI sponsors another of its regular “Meet Your Legislators” sessions. This Wednesday evening event is at the Davenport Hotel, and includes visits by Rep. Timm Ormsby (D - Spokane), Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley) and Rep. J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm). The session runs from 3 to 5 p.m, followed by 5:15 p.m. reception. Cost is $50 for members, $80 for others. Register here.
      
  • Dec. 7, Spokane MarCom Group sponsors a 7 a.m.-9 a.m. “branding your business” session at the Lincoln Center, featuring John Bryant and Mark Irvin describing their vision for Spokane's No-Li Brewhouse. To register, go to the group site, www.SpokaneMarCom.org. Advance ticket purchase is suggested. 

The event includes a breakfast, and costs $20 for members at the door, $30 for non-members, $5 for student members and $15 for student non-members.

 

Special Session Day 30: Moving toward a deal

OLYMPIA – Legislators slogged through a series of votes Tuesday night that would give the state a balanced budget, pay for nearly $1 billion in government construction projects and implement a series of reforms that could save the state money in the future.
Both chambers were poised to vote on a more than a half-dozen bills, an interconnected package of spending cuts and reforms hammered out in negotiations with Gov. Chris Gregoire as the clock ticked toward a midnight deadline.
They made plans to go into a brief special session if necessary to complete votes on the package, which would change the state’s pension system, revise health insurance programs for public school employees and require budgets that balance over four years rather than two.
  

Eyeglass bill gets final passage

OLYMPIA – The Legislature gave final approval this week to a bill that will allow charities like the Union Gospel Mission distribute used eyeglasses.
After several trips back and forth between the two chambers, the House of Representatives gave unanimous approval to HB 2261, which allows charities to provide glasses and hearing aids to poor or uninsured people without worrying about lawsuits…
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WA Lege working on eyeglass problem

OLYMPIA – Groups like the Union Gospel Mission could go back to dispensing donated eyeglasses to the poor this summer if legislation to protect charities with such programs comes into a little sharper focus in the Legislature.
The House and Senate both passed separate bills Thursday that protect charities by giving them immunity from lawsuits when they distribute free eye glasses after the recipient is examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
The Union Gospel Mission had such a program…

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