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Board clears Sen. Roach on foreign travel

OLYMPIA — A complaint against an Auburn legislator for taking an improper trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan last year was dismissed by the Legislative Ethics Board.

Some of the allegations were outside its authority, the board said, and the trip involved enough official and educational meetings that it wasn't an improper gift.

Republican Sen. Pam Roach was criticized by Reps. Chris Hurst and Cathy Dahlquist for joining legislators from other states on a trip to the two countries last spring while the Legislature was struggling through special sessions with its budget. They said she “abandonned her duties” to take the trip, which they contended was sponsored by groups with political views opposed to the United States, which “may have endangered citizens of her legislative district, Washington State and the United States by giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States.

But the Legislative Ethics Act does not say that travel during the session is an abandonment of legislative duties, nor does it allow for claims that accepting travel should be “conditioned on the political beliefs of the donor,” the board said.  

The law does set rules for accepting “reasonable expenses” for travel as a gift from another entity, the board said. But Roach's travel seemed to be made in her official capacity, it added, with discussions of energy policy and security, meetings with elected officials, and meetings on Turkish politics and the political system.

The Ethics Board had previously dismissed several complaints that Roach and her allies had filed against Hurst and Dahlquist, which included allegations they had made derogatory remarks against the sponsors of her trip.

Roach is running for re-election against Dahlquist, a fellow Republican, who is being supported by Hurst, a Democrat.

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.

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

Cops, chiefs clash over firings bill

 

OLYMPIA – The fight over who decides what can get a police officer fired prompted a legislative hearing that pit beat cops against their chiefs and prompted Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich to say a state senator was attacking his character.

“It was very insulting,” Knezovich said of questions from Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, about whether he’d ever used publicly funded fuel for his personal use, an allegation he denied.

Roach said she was just asking a question someone else had suggested and if he thought she was challenging his integrity, “he doth protest too loudly.”

The exchange came in a hearing over Senate Bill 5668. . .

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

WA Lege Day 26: Gun rights activists come armed

Fred Sittmann of Stanwood, Wash., listens to speakers at Friday's gun rights rally.

OLYMPIA – Second Amendment activists came well-armed to a Capitol Campus rally Friday where legislators promised to protect their freedom to have firearms and speakers denounced President Obama and gun control.

With the Legislature considering proposals to ban some firearms and high capacity clips or require background checks for all gun sales, some speakers urged the crowd to prepare for a fight over their gun rights.

But Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, predicted that even if those restrictions  pass the Democratic-controlled House “they will die in the Washington state Senate” . . . 

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

WA Lege Day 16: Possible changes to elections

OLYMPIA – Legislators have a wide array of changes they think would make the state’s elections run smoother.

At hearings Tuesday, they suggested paying for the postage for voters to return their mail-in ballots, requiring most ballots be in the hands of county elections officials by 8 p.m. election night may be the prime beneficiaries of the state’s current election laws, requiring counties to have more drop-boxes and publishing a voter guide for primary elections. . . 

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

Today’s fun video: Sen. Pam Roach set to music

OLYMPIA — Last week, Sen. Pam Roach defended herself against allegations that she continues to abuse staff, despite previous warnings and sanctions that for a while kept her out of the GOP caucus.

This week, Undead Olympia, a web site that loves to poke fun at folks in the Legislature, set it to music. (well, sort of.)

I-1185 limits universities’ power to raise tuition

OLYMPIA — If state universities want to raise tuition, the Legislature will have to approve it, a letter from a state attorney to a state senator says.

The presidents of the state's six public universities recently told legislative leaders they could freeze tuition for two years if the Legislature would add $225 to the higher education budget. Implicit in that is the prospect of the schools raising tuition if the money isn't forthcoming.

The Legislature has reduced the state's share of funding for higher education in recent years, and tuition has gone up steadily, by double digits in the last two budget cycles.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Chris Gregoire in her final budget proposed no tuition increases and no additional money for the public universities.  Legislators aren't bound by Gregoire's budget, but whether they provide something less than the $225 million the presidents are requesting, or no increases at all, they are in the driver's seat on tuition increases, a letter to Sen. Pam Roach from Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Even says.

A majority of the Legislature must approve any tuition increase because of Initiative 1185, which passed in November, Even wrote. That law says a simple majority of both houses must pass any state fee, and tuition is a fee, he said. That matches up with previous attorney general opinions on earlier initiatives that placed restrictions on the ability to raise taxes and fees, he added.

The Legislature could approve specific tuition increases itself, or it could delegate the authority to increase tuition to another agency, Even wrote. But it would have to take some action regarding tuition for it to go up. 

State Sen. Roach facing more sanctions, AP says

Sen. Pam Roach was named a committee chairwoman last month by the new “coalition majority” but it would seem she stil has some 'splaining to do for the way she treats staff, The Associated Press is reporting. Here's Rachel La Corte's account just filed this morning:

 

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A Republican state senator who is set to lead a committee under a new legislative coalition violated a Senate policy on treatment of staff shortly after she was allowed back into the GOP caucus last year, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

A new report says Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn violated the policy in March by verbally attacking a Senate Republican staffer charged with upholding sanctions against Roach that prevented her from having direct contact with staff. The report was compiled by a subcommittee created last summer solely to investigate incidents involving Roach, who was kicked out of her caucus three years ago because of accusations of mistreating staff. . .

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

WA Lege Day 8: Cracking down on the sex biz that uses minors

OLYMPIA – A bipartisan group of legislators is pushing a dozen bills to combat human trafficking, particularly among teenage runaways they say are lured into prostitution.
Among the targets of the legislation are ads for “escort services” that appear in the back of some newspapers and on the Internet, and foot massagers.




To read more about the bills, or to see a complete list of bill numbers, prime sponsors and topics, go inside the blog

I-960 hearing: Roach “look at the vote” in 2007

OLYMPIA — Sen. Pam Roach warns that repealing I-960 will result in a higher percentage of voters supporting a new initiative to reinstate the two-thirds majority needed to raise taxes.

I-960 failed in the city of Seattle, Roach said, but it passed with big margins in other parts of the state.

Eyman has no plans to run anything but initiatives

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Eyman vs. Gregoire
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Roach vs. Gregoire

Washington’s most active initiative sponsor dismissed a suggestion that he run for office rather than run initiative campaigns.

Tim Eyman also rejected Gov. Chris Gregoire’s suggestion that Washington could go the way of California and be “initiatived to death.”

“One or two initiatives a year, tops, ever qualify for the ballot,” Eyman said as he and others filed an initiative to return a requirement that the state needs a two-thirds majority to raise taxes.

The state has such a law now, enacted by voters in 2007 with another Eyman initiative, I-960. But Democrats say they will try to modify or repeal that law before any discussion of raising taxes. Anticipating such a move, Eyman and company filed to give voters a change to reinstate it in November if they can gather enough signatures.

Lawmakers blast child protective officials; DSHS defends itself…

Photo: Colleen Beimer, from Bonney Lake, cries while holding a picture of her grandchildren. Richard Roesler - The Spokesman Review

Lawmakers, parents and a local prosecutor on Thursday blasted state child-protection officials, saying the state is too quick to remove children from their families.

“The system is broken. The children are forgotten,” said Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen. He said he found “a culture of deceit and deception” among Child Protective Services workers in Colville.

The standing-room-only crowd, numbering about 100, was full of parents and grandparents, some holding photographs of children.

Thursday’s meeting was called by state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who’s been highly critical of state officials for months in a case involving grandparents’ efforts to get custody of their 3-year-old granddaughter.

“Lies are put on desks,” Roach said on the Senate floor later in the day. “Children are being hurt.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social and Health Services said officials take such allegations very seriously.

“If someone believes that any of our staff have been dishonest, falsified documents or have retaliated against families, we ask that people report this to the Children’s Administration or Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman,” said Sherry Hill.

“The first priority of the Children’s Administration is the safety of children,” she said. “Our goal is to keep children in their home as long as they are safe.”

Of the child abuse and neglect cases investigated, she said, fewer than 20 percent result in the children being placed in foster care. And when that does happen, Hill said, “we then work toward reunification with the family if that is possible.”

Roundup: Nafziger, Davis, Roach…

Ouch: Senate Democratic chief of staff Rich Nafziger, on his personal blog, blasts Gov. Chris Gregoire for continuing to favor budget cuts over a tax increase. Nafziger, tongue firmly in cheek, names Gregoire the recipient of his new weekly Herbert Hoover award. (Vast 1930s’ tent cities of the impoverished homeless, you’ll recall from your Great Depression history, were known as “Hoovervilles.”)

“It is clearly in the Hoover tradition to cut programs to the needy who spend all their money and cut jobs for public employees who join the ranks of the unemployed and curtail spending. Obviously this is better than taxing businesses or individuals who sit on their money, or oil companies who earn enormous profits…” writes Nafziger. (UPDATE: The post has disappeared from the blog.)

But wait, there’s more: Also drawing fire from Nafziger: lobbyists with bloated egos:

“Last week, lobbyists in Olympia were horrified that that the head of a major regulator(y) agency was not able to testify at a committee hearing. Despite his eminence and importance, the poor guy was forced to wait up to an hour and stomped out of the room in anger…” he wrote.

“The fact of the matter that the public hearing process in Olympia could be improved. Citizens are unable to take time off of work to come down make their opinions. Meanwhile, lobbyist earning 7 figure incomes clutter the hearing dockets and roam the halls. This is broken.”

It’s absolutely true that the hearing process favors the pros. I’ve sat in many hearings, listening to politicians, lobbyists and state agency staffers testifying at length, only to have regular-Joe citizens subsequently be told they’ll get only two minutes. (This comes complete with a humiliating little system of warning signs or red lights.) These are often citizens who have never testified before. Many have driven long distances and taken the day off from work. Some carry photos of family members or little hand-written speeches they’ve labored over. And they end up being told — always with a quick apology — to please keep it short.

-Richard Davis: Writes in the Puget Sound Business Journal that instead of keeping jobs, the churn of lawmaking in Olympia “seems designed to stimulate business departures.” Business is unhappy with a proposed ban on calling mandatory workplace meetings to oppose unionization, for example, and proposals to tap the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund to improve benefits. Writes Davis:

And with manufacturing layoffs piling up like pizza boxes after the Super Bowl party, lawmakers are considering job-threatening climate change regulations. They call this stimulus?

-Pam Roach’s advice: In the wake of economic advisor Robert Reich’s congressional testimony that the federal infrastructure dollars should not simply go to professionals or to white male construction workers, state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, has these words of warning for those workers:

The plan is the same. Pay off all debt including the house. Put away an emergency fund. Plant fruit trees. Plant a garden. Store a three month supply of food for your family. Learn to do with less.


 

State Sen. Pam Roach back under the ethics board’s spotlight…She calls it a “witchhunt” and “public lynching”….

State Sen. Pam Roach is apparently under investigation again by the state legislative ethics board.

“Yes, Dear Readers…they are on the hunt. And, they intend to find SOMETHING…ANYTHING to punish me,” she writes on her personal blog today.

Roach has been involved in a long-running battle with state social workers over the return of a young girl to her family.

“It will be a public lynching,” Roach writes about the investigation. “You will read about it here. I will not cower to this intimidation, retribution, waste of taxpayer funds, and political payback.”

I called Mike O’Connell, the ethics board’s lawyer, but he’s apparently out of the office for the afternoon.

It’s not like Roach is an unknown to the board, however. She was investigated in 2007 over a claim that she’d used her legislative clout to get one of her sons out of prison early. (He served time on a drug charge.) The board found no evidence that she’d broken any law.

She was also investigated in 2003 for allegedly wrongly releasing “confidential” emails. That case was dismissed when the board said it didn’t have jurisdiction in such matters.

Roach is no stranger to controversy. Over the years, she’s been repeatedly reprimanded for violating the Senate’s “respectful workplace policy.” The Senate offered her training on how to treat employees better, and agreed to pay $2,500 for counseling for one traumatized employee.

Funeral homes, cemeteries unenthusiastic about Jacobsen’s buried-with-your-pets proposal…

From tomorrow’s paper:

On Monday, while many people had a day off, state Sen. Ken Jacobsen was facing a state Senate committee, trying to convince his fellow lawmakers to let people be buried with their pets.

He’s absolutely serious. The idea to him a couple of years ago, when his beloved, 23-pound cat Sam died from cancer.

“I asked the kids to bury him in the back yard and I told them that when I’m ready to go, I’d like to take Sam with me,” said Jacobsen, 63. “Because he really was one of my best friends.”

The buried-with-your-pet proposal is one of 46 so far this year from Jacobsen, a Seattle Democrat who tends to be the legislature’s most prolific filer of bills. Barely a week into this year’s legislative session, Jacobsen has proposed an airline passenger’s bill of rights, allowing pet dogs in bars, designating a state oak tree, and giving tax breaks to taverns that install on-site breathalyzers.

Last year, he lobbied unsuccessfully to restore a centuries-old tradition of outfitting the state poet — yes, there is one — with a large barrel of wine. This year, he wants to hire a state bird-watching expert, and to declare the marmot Washington’s official “endemic mammal.”

Jacobsen says his proposals may be quirky, but that they’re not frivolous. If a good idea strikes him, he says, it’s his job as an elected official to throw it into the mix.

“It’s that theory of chaos,” he said. “You put things on the table and you never know what the interactions are going to be.” And he welcomes ideas, holding court regularly with constituents at a local Burgermaster.

Sometimes, Jacobsen said, what sound like wacky ideas are actually trendsetters. In the mid-80s, for example, he was mocked for championing state labeling of organic food.

“When I started the first time, I was treated like I was talking about kinky sex,” he said.

The bill that’s raised the most eyebrows this year…