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OLYMPIA — Citing health concerns, Rep. Richard DeBolt said today he is stepping down as House Republican leader.
DeBolt, a Chehalis resident first elected in 1996, suffered an unspecified health emergency on the evening of April 10 at his home, a statement from the House Republican caucus said. He has been excused from the legislative action since then, including a vote on the House operating budget last Friday.
He said he experienced similar health problems two years ago and was advised at that time by his doctor to step down from his leadership post.
"I didn't take that advice and a should have," he said in the statement. two years ago, but didn't, the statement said . "Sometimes people take their health for granted and feel invincible, but then they are confronted with reality."
DeBolt will finish out his two-year term, the statement said. Deputy Minority Leader Joel Kretz of Wauconda, is serving as leader until the Republican caucus has a formal reorganization.
Gov. Jay Inslee explains his Working Washington Agenda Wednesday.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee thinks the Legislature should leave the state's workers compensation system alone and work through the reforms approved in 2011.
House Republicans and the GOP-dominated Senate majority think the state needs to reform the reforms.
Although not terribly surprising, they managed to highlight their disagreement rather pointedly Wednesday.To read more about it or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.
OLYMPIA — A proposal to place the same limits on campaign contributions to school board candidates that apply to legislators and other city and county candidates passed the House overwhelmingly Friday.
But not before some grousing by a few Republicans who thought the Legislature has better things to do.
Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said HB 2210 puts a limit of $800 on contributions to school board candidates. While most contributions are far less, in a few instances last year they were much more. One of them was in his district, Billig added.
"These limits, they give confidence to voters, they reduce the opportunity for corruption and undue influence of large donations," said Billig, the bill's prime sponsor.
That was a reference to last year's Spokane District 81 School Board race, in which Duane Alton, a retired tire dealer and longtime Republican activist, gave unsuccessful board candidate Sally Fullmer $6,350, which was almost half of all the money she raised.
House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, accused Billig and other Democrats of proposing a "cookie cutter solution" — and even worse a Seattle solution.
"We have Seattle pushing its rules on the rest of Washington," DeBolt complained. Seattle can limit their contributions and "gum up their works."
"If Seattle thinks they need to limit their contributions or add a dollar in their electric bill to pay for things like elections, then they can do that," he added. The bill would make schools "go through more costs…when we're in a time when we can't even fully fund education, then I think that's absurd and that's exactly what's wrong with this place."
(Note: There's really nothing in the bill that calls for adding a fee to electric bills to pay for elections, or placing the cost of elections or tracking contributions on schools.)
Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, countered with a "clarification" that the district Billig was talking about was in Eastern Washington.
The bill passed 71-24. You can see the entire debate in the video above.
OLYMPIA – Some $35 million to finish the Riverpoint medical school building may flow into Spokane as the top priority for the area’s business community finds itself on a list of projects to address one of the Legislature’s top priorities.
Or the project may find itself in the middle of a debate over the role of government in creating jobs. . .
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.
"It seems like we were just here, less than a month ago. Oh wait. We were." - House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, in his floor speech on the opening of the 2012 Regular Session.
Every body was thinking it. Lots of people quoted Yogi Berra's "deja vu all over again," or made a reference to the movie "Groundhog's Day." But DeBolt's line was a bit more original, and had good timing and delivery.
House Speaker Frank Chopp listens to floor speeches on the opening day of the 2012 session.
OLYMPIA — The Legislature started it's 60-day session with the usual pomp and circumstance, and a preview of the debates ahead over the next 59 days.
As soon as the honor guard of State Troopers planted the flag, the pledge was said and an invocation offered, House Speaker Frank Chopp set down five goals of creating jobs, funding basic education, saving the safety net, ensuring equality and providing opportunity. Let's work together on those points, he told the full House chamber, like legislators did a few years ago in making changes designed to help Boeing and the machinists expand.
While those broad goals got general agreement and regular applause, minority Republicans were noticeably not clapping on certain points, such as Chopp's call for "marriage equality", which would mean passing a law to allow same-sex marriage. They also refrained at Chopp's mention that government does create jobs, contrary to what conservatives often argue.
Just look at the hydropower projects in Eastern Washington, the Seattle Democrat said, and argue that government doesn't create jobs.
House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt countered that Republicans were glad to hear the calls for more jobs and funding of basic education. But if Chopp and the Democrats are serious, he said, they'd write a budget that pays for education first and spend what's left on other programs.
And since Chopp mentioned hydropower, the Chehalis Republican said, how about a proposal the GOP has been pushing for years, that would declare power from the dams as "green" allowing it to be considered in a mix of options that would lower the cost of electricity.
The Legislature should also avoid filling out its budget with money from federal programs, which leaves the state "holding the bag" when Congress cancels a program.
"We've got to break the addiction to the federal government," DeBolt said. As for that package to help Boeing a few years back: after it passed, the company moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago, he added.
OLYMPIA — Republicans pushed back Thursday against Gov. Chris Gregoire's call for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the upcoming legislative session.
But Gregoire made clear she would stick to her guns on the issue.
One of the main candidates to replace Gregoire said the Legislature shouldn't make the decision on its own. Instead, state Attorney General Rob McKenna said, it should send any proposal it passes to the ballot and give voters the final say.
At panel discussion for the top Democratic and Republican leaders sponsored by the Associated Press Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla argued that a short, 60-day session with a major budget hole is not the place for "social reform" that could roil the legislators: We should leave social issues off the agenda," Hewitt said.
He also questioned whether one of the proponents of same-sex marriage legislation, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, will have time to devote to that bill while serving as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Murray, who is openly gay, is "vested in this personally", Hewitt said. "I really don't want his attention taken away" from the budget.
House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis questioned how Democrats could devote time to hearings on same-sex marriage legislation when they won't set aside time for hearings on GOP reform proposals: "Apparently we have time to hear certain bills but not other bills."
Democratic leaders said it's an issue the Legislature should take up this session. "This is the right time to move forward with marriage equality," Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said.
In a separate session, Gregoire agreed that fixing the budget is "priority one." But there's time to debate her proposal on same-sex marriage, too, she insisted: "What will history say when we say 'Sorry, but we had a budget to pass so we continued to discriminate.' In tough times, we stand up to the challenge."
And legislators can find time to do more than just the budget, she added. "I multi-task; they multi-task. It can be discussed thoughtfully and deliberately."
In a later interview, McKenna said that while same-sex marriage may be an important issue for some legislators and Gregoire, he didn't know if a short session with a deep budget problem is the best time to address it.
"This is an issue for the voters to decide. I hope if they do pass it, they send it to the voters," McKenna said. Such a requirement might mean the legislative maneuvering and debate over such a contentious issue will take less time, because voters would have the final say, he added.
OLYMPIA — There's no chance the Legislature will ask voters for a tax increase for anything — except maybe for highways and other transportation projects — legislative leaders said today.
Appearing at forum to preview the upcoming legislative session, the Democratic and Republican leaders of both chambers agreed the Legislature will have to cut billions from the state's general fund spending rather than trying to raise taxes to fill some of the gap between expected revenues and the cost of state programs and salaries.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said there was a chance the Legislature could put a "transportation package" on the November ballot for major road and bridge projects. "Any details would obviously have to be worked out. I'd like to see the North-South Corricer as part of the projects."
Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, was doubtful: "The state doesn't have any money. It's going to be difficult to get anything past the voters."
But Republican and Democratic leaders balked at Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to eliminate two major programs for the poor, state-funded Basic Health and the Disability Lifeline for people who are unable to work because they are disabled.
"I don't think it's in our best interest to eliminate this," House Speaker Frank Chopp said.
Hewitt agreed, saying the programs might needs some revisions, a drop in benefit payments or tighter limits on eligibility, but were still needed to "catch the people at the bottom." The state might consider making everyone reapply for the programs, as it did in 2003, which resulted in a 30 percent drop in participation because some recipients were no longer eligible.
"We're going to look for an alternative to completely eliminating them," Brown said.
OLYMPIA — There is a tradition, before the Legislature starts, to gather the leaders of the two parties and the two houses and give the news media a preview of the upcoming session.
During that session, there is also a tradition, for a member of the assembled media, to ask the assembled Lege leaders: If this session were a song, what would it be? (Hey, I don’t make traditions, I just report on them.)
At today’s preview, the obligatory song question was asked, and the four leaders — some with more gusto or forethought than others — named their tune. To wit:
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane: “The Fixer,” by Pearl Jam. It should be noted that last year she picked Bob Dylan’s “Everything’s Broke.”
Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla:”Should’ve Said No,” by Taylor Swift. (Hewitt rattled off four rejects before giving his pick, including “Take This Job and Shove It,” and “Leavin On a Jet Plane.”)
House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam: “With a Little Help fron Our Friends.”
House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis: “The Uprising” by Muse.