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OLYMPIA – When the Legislature opens Monday, Spokane will be in a demonstrably different position than recent years.
The years of experience among the area’s delegation will be almost half what it was four years ago, and it will have no one in a top leadership spot in either chamber.
That difference might be most noticeable in the Senate, where a Spokane member has been either the majority leader or minority leader – and sometimes both – since the start of this century. It’s hard to overstate the clout a majority leader has, as gatekeeper and court of last resort, on matters large and small.
OLYMPIA — Spokane social service agencies, facing budget cuts like anyone who gets some money from the state, hosted lunch for the Spokane-area legislators today and used an old Saturday Night Fever song to make their point:
Groups that work with street kids, substance abuse patients, juvenile offenders and a host of other social programs held their annual Homesick for Spokane luncheon, featuring Longhorn Barbecue and table decorations that had the Our Kids Our Business pinwheel theme.
They've cut pay, expenses and staff, and they know more bad budget news is on the horizon with the state revenue forecast due to be released Thursday at noon. Just don't forget about us when you get down to the nitty gritty of building the expense side of the ledger line-by-line, they said.
When legislators got a chance to talk, most offered as many assurances as possible, which is to say, not much. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said legislative efforts so far have been to scale back many state social programs rather than eliminate some of the key ones like Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed earlier. They won't know until the revenue forecast comes out if that strategy will hold up.
Republican Rep. John Ahern used some of his time to try to goad Brown into supporting his bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex offenders. It passed 98-0 in the House but can't get a committee hearing in the Senate, he said. Anyone who would vote yes is voting for kids and anyone voting no is voting for pedaphiles, he suggested.
Ahern needs to deal with Sen. Jim Hargrove, the chairman of the Human Services and Corrections Committee which was assigned the bill, Brown said. A hearing is up to him.
When Ahern suggested Brown should apply pressure, Brown was emphatic. She wouldn't override her committee chairman. Deal with Hargrove, she said.