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WALeg Day 1: Making it official

OLYMPIA — Opening day of any legislative session starts with pomp and circumstance, including the swearing-in of new members.

In the House, where technically everyone is starting a new term, representatives get sworn in en masse. In the Senate, where only half the body was up for election last fall, they do it one at a time, starting with the veterans who were re-elected then moving on to the freshmen.

That takes a bit of time before they get to the more interesting opening-day activity, adopting the rules. 

That's often a yawner, but this year some Republicans have proposed adopting a requirement that any new tax must have a two-thirds supermajority to come to the floor for its final vote. Changing the rules on opening day takes a simple majority, which Republicans have if they all support it.

Democrats have been critical of the change. Gov. Jay Inslee, in an interview with TVW shortly before the session started, called the change "undemocratic", adding "it empowers people on the ideological fringe" of both parties. 

But Inslee and leaders of both parties say any budget solution should be bipartisan, which suggests they'll pass it with something more than a simple majority.

Stay tuned for an update on the rule vote.



WA Lege Day 1:Session opens at noon

Gov. Jay Inslee talks with TVW's Anita Kissee before the session starts.

OLYMPIA — The Legislature returns to the Capitol for its 2014 session with caucuses in the morning and formal opening at noon.

Opening days are often light on substance other than opening speeches. But House Democrats say they will hold a vote this afternoon on one of the potential hot spots of the session, the so-called DREAM Act which would extend certain state college assistance programs to the children of undocumented immigrants who came to the country as youngsters, were raised here and graduated from Washington high schools.

There's also a tentatively scheduled hearing on another hot topic, the Reproductive Parity Act, in the House Healthcare and Wellness Committee at 1:30 p.m.


CdA Expects 200 More Students

School officials in Coeur d'Alene are anticipating an influx of newly enrolled students when school starts again next week. Preliminary numbers show a district-wide spike of at least 200 children over last year's enrollment. "We're looking at a steady increase across all the elementary schools, with stronger peaks at the northern schools," said district spokeswoman Laura Rumpler. The middle schools and high schools will have more students attending as well. There will be 20 more students at Lake City High and 23 more kids at Coeur d'Alene High School this year. "We're seeing new growth that we haven't seen in the last several years," Rumpler said. The school district's enrollment declined in 2010 and 2011/Maureen Dolan, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Question: Did you send a child off to school today? Was s/he ready to begin school again?

WA Spec Session: They’re back. Sort of

OLYMPIA — The special session of the Legislature began officially at 9 a.m. with a flurry of inactivity. The House passed a few resolutions and adjourned until Tuesday morning. The Senate went at ease until the afternoon, when Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said enough members would be present to do opening day business like passing the resolutions to get things moving.

Update: At 1 p.m. they managed a quorum, a prayer, and the resolutions from the House that essentially keep all the bills that were introduced in the regular session but not passed in the chamber where they started, at the highest level they reached before sine die.

Total time elapsed: 6 minutes before they adjourned until Wednesday.

So no action on the floor this morning, but there was a floor show  of sort in the Rotunda, where the North Klackamas (Oregon) Christian School choir was performing acapella. The accoustics are quite good under the dome, and lots of musical groups stop by to sing or play instruments.

Some of the hymns they sang only confirmed the deeply held beliefs of the press corps that we are all in limbo — we can hear the music of heaven but aren't allowed to get there. Also appropriate was their rendition of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

Wimoweh, wimoweh. The lege, it sleeps right now.   

A close look at the House reader board in the above photo might cause some people to worry where it says "the first special session" — as though the Legislature is preparing for multiple special sessions, rolling on as far as the eye can see. 

Not necessarily. That's just how they officially describe things.

Mack a big treat at Loon Lake on opening day

FISHING — Chris Larson, known to some as the "Fishing Queen," caught this mackinaw, estimated at 16-17 pounds, at Loon Lake on Saturday, opening day of the lowland lake fishing season.

"It was something watching her reel to no avail as we were blown across the lake for 30 minutes," said Jeff Colliton. "Leaded line and a lure that was questionable did the trick.  I have tried to fish for Mack's a couple times but really did not know what I was doing.  My family had a couple cabins on Loon when I was growing up and I always heard the stories of these guys but this is the first I have seen up close and personal.

"By the way, I almost knocked it off with my first pass of the net. 

 Footnote on Larson: "She has already filled both her turkey tags for the spring, too."

WA Lege Day 1: GOP dominated coalition wins control of Senate

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, makes a point during today's debate over new Senate rules.

OLYMPIA — With a Republican-dominated coalition in control of the Senate, bills involving abortion rights, environmental protection and gun control may have little chance of coming to votes in that chamber, minority Democrats said Monday.

As expected, a coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats seized control of the Senate during Monday’s opening session, passing their rules for shared governance over a rival plan by the chamber's 24 other Democrats.

“We will concentrate more on policy than politics,” Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, said.

The new rules mean unprecedented level of power was being offered to share power in the chamber, coalition members said. Minority Democrats countered the new lineup means some legislation they think a majority of state voters would support won’t even get hearings. . .

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WA Lege Day 1:Underway on time

Members of the WSP honor guard prepare in the wings of the state Senate before opening ceremonies.

OLYMPIA — With the sides flipped between Republicans and Democrats on the floor of the Senate, the Legislature got underway at noon today with the usual pomp and circumstances:

Washington State Patrol honor guard to bring in the flag.

An acapella group to sing the National Anthem.

Greetings from the Lake Fair Queen.

There was more activity than normal on that floor before noon, as Republicans moved to the left side of the floor and Democrats to the right (that is, as one looks in from the doorway or down from the gallery). By tradition, the majority sits on the left,( or president's right) just outside the offices of the Majority Leader, and the minority sits on the other side.That required the changing of name plates and cleaning of desks by maintenance staff, who finished their tasks with just minutes to spare.

The chambers now go about the procedural task of swearing in new members.

WA Lege Day 1: More than just routine

OLYMPIA — The Legislature opens at noon today with more than the usual amount of interest in a small thing, the approval of rules.

This is expected to be when we find out if the "Coalition Caucus," a grouping of the chamber's 23 Republicans and two disaffected Democrats, hold together to become the majority and control things like rules and committee appointments.

Over in the House, things will almost certainly be less dramatic. Also starting at noon, House members will be sworn in and cast their votes for leadership. Democrat Frank Chopp of Seattle is a shoo-in to be re-elected speaker and he's scheduled to address the chamber about 12:30 p.m.

Don't expect a long speech. the House Finance Committee meets at 1:30 p.m. to get an update on the revenue forecast and tax ideas in Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget proposal. The House Appropriations Committee has a 3:30 p.m. meeting to hear about the spending portion of Gregoire's budget.   

Wind, rain no joke for anglers out for April 1 fishing opener

FISHING – The April 1 fishing season opener at many lakes in the Columbia Basin indicates that anglers are still paying a price for the long, cold, wet spring of 2011.

That’s not to say this year has been much better, so far.

The number of anglers out for the opener was down throughout the Basin, with NO anglers observed at the Pillar-Wideon chain of lakes near Potholes Reservoir.

March 1 was the opener for most selective fishery waters in Eastern Washington. Most Spokane area lowland trout production lakes open for fishing on April 28.

At Dry Falls Lake, a spring favorite for fly fishermen, rain followed by high winds kept all by the most dedicated opening day anglers off the water.

Those who persisisted for three-five hours caught and released an average of five fish, said Chad Jackson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife District biologist.  Trout size ranged from 10-20 inches.

Yearling trout, however, showed signs of last year’s shorter growing season, Jackson said.

”Yearlings should easily; be 12-14 inches by the opener instead of 10-12 inches,” he said.  ” Smaller yearling trout size has been observed in other lakes in the Basin this year.  Over the next couple months these trout should grow to a nicer size.”

Boatering anglers checked out by marine patrols

FISHING — The opening day of the lowland lake fishing season is a good opportunity for sheriff deputies to contact a large number of boaters to be sure their vessels are up to snuff.

Spokane County Sheriff Deputy Jay Bailey was checking boaters before they launched at West Medical Lake on Saturday.

He said about half of the boaters he checked were missing one or more of the state or county boating requirements.

High on the list of oversights was the requirement to have an onboard sounding devise — a boat horn, air horn or whistle.

Other requirements include:

  • Current registration on board.
  • Registration numbers properly shown.
  • Boat drivers 35 and under need boater education certificate.
  • Life jackets for everyone in the boat.
  • Functioning fire extinguisher.

Anglers reel in trout dinners on opening day

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FISHING — Despite a cold start, anglers warmed up to the idea of catching tons of trout on Saturday, the opening day of Washington's lowland trout fishing season.

Top producing lakes in Spokane County were Fishtrap (4.3 fish per angler) followed by Williams (despite wind and high water issues) and Badger lakes with 3.5 fish per angler.

The opening day crowd was down 40-50 percent, according the Chris Donley, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department district fisheries biologist.  Unseasonably cold spring weather may have had something to do with it, he said.

West Medical Lake offered good news and bad news. On the bright side, anglers were doing quite well at catching hefty rainbows in the 15-20 inch range.  However, they didn't seem to be catching many of the younger age class of fish.  Donley said he was disappointed with the 2.2 fish per angler average, but that could change with warmer water.

Top lakes in northeastern Washington were Starvation (3.8 fish per angler), Rocky (3.6 fish), and Cedar (3.6 fish). 

Waitts Lake also fished very well, according to Bill Baker, district fish biologist in Colville. 

Lake Ellen performed poorly, partly because of cold water and partly because of a re-infestation with green sunfish and largemouth bass. 

"Diamond Lake kind of fizzled, likely due mainly to water temperature — low 40 degree range," Baker said.

 Big Meadow Lake was mostly inaccessible due to snow and 95 percent ice coverage. "no one even attempted to fish it," Baker said. 

"It was a long winter, and it’s still winter in many higher elevation areas within this district." 

WA Lege Day 1: Baumgartner sworn in


State Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers congratulates Mike Baumgartner after swearing him in Monday.

OLYMPIA — With much less drama than Senator-elect Nick Harper's swearing in, Sen. Mike Baumgartner of Spokane's 6th District took the oath of office on the opening day of the session

WA Lege Day 1: Motion to block Harper fails

OLYMPIA — An initial effort to keep a Snohomish County senator-elect from being seated in the Senate failed Monday afternoon as a parliamentary procedure failed on a 23-18 vote.

Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, tried to keep all newly-elected senators from being sworn in while the Senate considered a motion not to seat Nick Harper, who easily bested a Republican challenger in a Democratic leaning district. The real controversy goes back to the primary, when incumbent Sen. Jean Berkey was eased out of the Top Two system by a shadow campaign waged by Moxie Media.

The Public Disclosure Commission has recommended criminal prosecution against Moxie for gathering campaign funds and deliberately hiding their source. That's not enough, Kastama said: "They will pay a fine. It will be the cost of doing business…If not now when. When is bad enough."

But Sen. Tracey Eide said while Moxie's actions were "deplorable", Harper isn't responsible. "Being blamed for something that a thrid party is done is wrong…It is like blaming your child for something the neighbor kid did."

Kastama's motion failed, and Harper was sworn in at 1:35 p.m. Any further efforts to undo the election will bump up against the fact that he's duly elected and seated.

Lege opens to an interesting tune

OLYMPIA — Washington's Legislature is staring  up its engines today with all 49 senators and 98 representatives getting sworn in.

The anticipated skirmish over Nick Harper taking his Senate seat in Snohomish County's 38th District won't come up for a while, as each newly elected or newly re-elected senator gets sworn in separately in the upper chamber, and the newbies go last

One bit of trivia: The Washington State Patrol Color Guard brought the flag into the Senate chamber to the strains of a bagpiper. On the way out, the piper played: "Garry Owen", which is a catchy tune 

It may be best know as the unofficial theme song of Custer's 7th Cavalry. Or at least it was before the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Maybe it's appropriate for the upcoming budget battles.

WA Lege Day 1: Pomp. Circumstances. Fireworks?

OLYMPIA — Washington's 105-day legislative session formally gets underway at noon, with the official and officious opening ceremonies in each chamber.

It's the time for swearing in. Simple swearing to come later.

One potential glitch in the Senate involves the swearing in of Nick Harper of Snohomish County's 38th District. There's a dispute over the primary election, in which incumbent Sen. Jean Berkey was edged out in the three-way race thanks to some surreptitious support of Republican Rod Rieger, funnelled into the campaign by Moxie Media.

Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, has a resolution not to seat Harper. Nothing personal against Harper, Kastama says; just trying to stick up for good, honest elections.

Harper, who had nothing to do with Moxie's maneuvering, calls the resolution "insulting and damaging" to the voters of the 38th, because it leaves them without a representative.

Usually, the seating of recently elected senators and representatives is pro forma, although there are a few historic case in which the Legislature has refused to seat, or at least delayed seating, someone elected in the previous election.

Not to read too much into the tea leaves, but the official Senate roster on the legislative web site, lists Harper, but the Senate Democratic Caucus website still lists Berkey…but then it also lists Spokane's Chris Marr and some of the others who lost in last year's election. It's likely the caucus web gurus have been busy with other stuff.