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Sunday Spin2: Courting contempt

OLYMPIA — The state Supreme Court’s order for the Legislature to show up at the Temple of Justice on the first week of September and explain why it shouldn’t be held in contempt is prompting some interesting speculation around the Capitol Campus.

For example, the court’s order actually is for “the state” to show up, but it would be difficult to fit the 6 million-plus residents into the smallish courtroom, and it’s clear from the rest of the order that the court is really just peeved at the Legislature. All 147 legislators wouldn’t fit in the courtroom, and even if they could, there’s no way the court would want to hear from each one. . . 

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

 

Sunday Spin: What’s the infrequency, Kenneth?

OLYMPIA – The biggest challenge for this period between sessions – or at least the biggest one after convincing the state Supreme Court not to witch slap the Legislature for ignoring a fairly plain order on school funding – may be to define the word “infrequent.”

As in “legislators may accept complimentary legislative business meals on infrequent occasions”, which is what their Ethics Code says.

The problem is somewhat akin to the medieval debate of how many angels can fit on the point of a needle. . . 

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

Wildlife Commission chair interviewed by lawmakers

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Miranda Wecker of Naselle, who continues in her position as chair of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, had another confirmation hearing in Olympia with the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

She answered questions highlighting some of her stands on commercial fishing and wolf recovery.

But despite the second appearance before the committee in a year, there's been no promise that Wecker will be officially confirmed.

So she continues to lead the commission at the pleasure of the current governor as well as former Gov. Gregoire, who appointed her to the panel in 2005.  

I guess the lawmakers are just bringing her in to let her know they know she's there.

That's not all bad.

Update: Wash. OKs limited public lethal control of wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted unanimously to allow people without a special permit to shoot a wolf caught in the act of attacking a pet or livestock.

The emergency rule was enacted in an urgently called teleconference meeting that started at 1 p.m.

See story just posted by S-R Olympia Bureau reporter Jim Camden, who sat in on the teleconference.

Click “continue reading” below for all the details from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Also:

See the fact sheet the commissioners were briefed with (click on “Summary and attachment” under Agenda).

See my posts leading up to the meeting and link to today's news story from S-R Olympia Bureau reporter Jim Camden advancing the meeting.

See another story that broke today: Feds ready to delist wolves from ESA protections.

Panel OKs rule allowing livestock-attacking wolves to be shot

UPDATED 3:45 p.m. 4-26-13 with details from WDFW

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted unanimously to allow people without a special permit to shoot a wolf caught in the act of attacking a pet or livestock.

The emergency rule was enacted in an urgently called teleconference meeting that started at 1 p.m.

See story just posted by S-R Olympia Bureau reporter Jim Camden, who sat in on the teleconference.

Click “continue reading” below for all the details from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Also:

See the fact sheet the commissioners were briefed with (click on “Summary and attachment” under Agenda).

See my posts leading up to the meeting and link to today's news story from S-R Olympia Bureau reporter Jim Camden advancing the meeting.

See another story that broke today: Feds ready to delist wolves from ESA protections.
  

Lawmakers pass non-lethal wolf control bill; commission to consider lethal control option

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Lawmakers in Olympia apparently have worked out a compromise for dealing with two wolf-related bills still alive in the 2013 Washington Legislature.

Both of the measures have wide support in Northeastern Washington as well as the endorsement of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlfie biologists, but their linkage has been stalled by some groups in on the West Side.

According to reports from legislators:

Senate Bill 5193, authorizing a state wolf vehicle license plate to collect money earmarked for non-lethal wolf management programs has been maneuvered out of committee and is expected to be adopted Friday.

Senate Bill 5187, which would allow people to kill a wolf without a permit in the case of a wolf attack on pets or livestock, will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission with a recommendaton to be enacted immediately by an emergency rule.  

As reported in my blog this morning, the special commission teleconference is set for Friday at 1 p.m., but the discussion has narrrowed to just the provisions of SB5187 now that the Legislature has taken action on the non-lethal control measure. 

  • People keenly interested can listen to the meeting live via telecommunications at WDFW regional offices in Spokane, Ephrata and Yakima.

If this works, it's win-win for legislators and wildlife managers. West Side Dems can vote on the non-lethal control option which is not controversial without having to vote on a lethal control measure that would stir up pro-wolf groups like a pack in a sheep pen.

The non-elected Fish and Wildlife Commission is being asked to make the more controversial decision, which many people see as important to qwelling the anger and frustration with burgeoning wolf packs in northeastern Washington.

Wolf-related bills alive but sputtering in Olympia

ENDANGERED SPECIES – A day before the Washington Legislature’s deadline for bills to be considered by the opposite house, two wolf-related proposals are still alive.

But despite their merits and being approved by the state Senate, they’re gasping in the House — as a new crop of wolf pups is being born in dens across the East Side.

Senate Bill 5187, sponsored by Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, would allow rural dwellers to kill a gray wolf caught in the act of attacking or threatening livestock or another domestic animal, no permit required.

This bill, supported by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologists, would go a long way in reducing the public tension in northeastern Washington, where locals feel they are being unfairly saddled with the dangers and impacts of wolf recovery.

The bill has essentially died in committee, but Smith said it has a chance of being tied in with another wolf bill that could move.

SB5193, also introduced by Smith, would allow the State Wildlife Account to be used for compensating owners of livestock for damage caused by wolves. It also would create a new account to be used for livestock predation claims. 

An important part of this bill would remove the condition in existing law that a livestock owner must raise livestock for sale to qualify for wildlife damage compensation.

Washington state getting more serious about creating a one-stop business portal

Each week during the legislative session, OfficeHours will focus on a single piece of legislation, seeing how it would affect state businesses and considering the bill's chances of going forward.

This week's bill is HB 1757, introduced by a bunch of legislators including Marcus Ricelli, who represents Spokane's Third District.

The companion Senate bill is SB 5718.

It would create a one stop business portal to simplify business interactions with regulatory bodies (like revenue, L&I and Employment Security).

The language of the bill is revealing, at least about the state's foot-dragging effort in this arena.

In 2006 the state legislature adopted a bill requiring the creation of the business portal. “But it has not been developed,” the bill's analysis notes.

That same summary says: The bill outlines “high-level technology architecture and implementation steps to achieve a single online place for businesses to accomplish their state business in a way that is consistent and efficient for both business and government.”

The bill further requires the office of the chief information officer to provide the economic development committees of the legislature with a plan for establishing  performance  benchmarks  and measuring  the  results of implementing a one-stop integrated system for business interactions with government.

This is a goal that Washington failed to execute so far, but which  Oregon has recently completed.
Here's the Oregon summary of its portal, called Business Xpress.


  

Vancouver Democrat introduces bill to allow sales of wine growlers

Today's Olympia update. A bill submitted in the Washington House would allow beer or wine retailers in the state to sell growlers of wine.  A growler is a container or pitcher provided by the seller or the customer.

Introduced by Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, HB 1742 reads this way:

Licensees holding either a license that permits or a license with an  endorsement  that  permits  the  sale  of  beer  to  a  purchaser  in  a container supplied by the licensee or a sanitary container brought to the premises by the purchaser and filled at the tap at the time of sale  may similarly sell wine to a purchaser in such a container.

A Feb. 12 hearing has been set with the House  Committee on Government Accountability and Oversight. Wylie is the vice chair of that committee.

   
 

Discover Pass gets boost from marketers

STATE PARKS — Washington's Discover Pass, a vehicle permit required in state parks and other public lands, is getting help from a public relations firm to boost lagging sales.

The pass was created by the Washington Legislature to fund the State Parks System.

A public relations firm, Weber Shandwick, has a $157,500 state contract and a mission to promote social networking is building a new website to encourage visitors to post pictures, videos, stories and recommendations from their trips to Washington's more than 100 state parks.

The contractor's plan involves strategies on everything from Twitter use to greater visibility for Washington State Parks' mascot - tentatively known as Eager Beaver.

According to a story in the Olympian, the agency is involved in another bid process to create a mobile-device app, and is also hiring a marketing coordinator.

The parks agency originally predicted the Discover Pass would raise $32 million a year, most of it dedicated to parks. But it brought in just $11.3 million in its first 10 months which ended in April.

Ilene Frisch, assistant director for administration at the state Parks and Recreation Commission, said the pass is now meeting new, lower projections. Lawmakers are hopeful a change they made this year in response to complaints will help sales. Pass holders are now allowed to transfer their passes to a second car.

Billig running for re-election

Democratic State Rep. Andy Billig made it official Thursday that he would run for re-election in the 3rd Legislative District.

Billig, the co-owner of the Spokane Indians baseball team, was elected to an open seat in 2010 in a crowded race. With just over two weeks before candidates file for office, he has no announced opposition.

He scheduled a campaign kickoff event for May 16, saying he wants to continue “to fight for our community's values like equal rights, justice and prosperity.”

The 3rd District covers much of central Spokane, including downtown, he lower South Hill, East Central, Logan, Hillyard and West Central. It's one of the state's most reliably Democratic districts.

Although Billig is the district's least senior legislator, his two seatmates have already drawn Republican opponents. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown faces Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin and Rep. Timm Ormsby faces Dave White, who ran unsuccessfully against Billig in 2010.

 

Governor signs Discover Pass bill; two-vehicle covered starting today

PUBLIC LANDS — A Washington Discover Pass — required for parking in state parks and most other state lands — is valid for two vehicles starting today, according to legislation signed this afternoon by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The change took effect immediately. Holders of previously issued annual Discover Passes may enter a second vehicle license number on their existing pass.

The rule making the $30 annual pass valid for only one vehicle was largely criticized by consumers after the state recreation land pass was enacted in July 2011.

Pass transfer between two vehicles also applies to vehicle access passes (VAPs) issued free with purchases of annual fishing and hunting licenses for access to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recreation lands and water- access sites.

Read on for more details from Washington State Parks.

White enters 3rd District House race

Dave White, a county utilities inspector and Republican activist, will run for the state House of Representatives this fall in central Spokane’s 3rd District in an effort to rein in state spending and improve state infrastructure.
White, 59, said Thursday he’ll challenge Democratic incumbent Timm Ormsby, hoping to fare better than 2010 when he lost the race for the other House seat to Democrat Andy Billig.
“Two years ago, I was an unknown and got almost 40 percent with very little help,” he said. Since that time, he has served as a Republican precinct officer, been more involved in the political process and worked to keep the city from closing a branch library.
White criticized Democrats for wasting the public’s time by not passing a budget even though they hold majorities in both houses. “We keep spending money that we do not have,” he contended.
The solution is for Republicans to pick up enough seats in the House to get the majority there, then “put our politics aside and just do what is right.”
White is the first Republican to file for a legislative race in the 3rd, which usually is a strongly Democratic district. All three incumbents, Ormsby, Billig and state Sen. Lisa Brown, are seeking re-election.

For more about White's campaign platform, read his press release.


Documents:

Gregoire signs online impersonation law

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Governor Chris Gregoire has signed into a law a bill to help victims of online impersonation pursue lawsuits in civil court.

The bill, signed by the governor Wednesday, passed through both the Washington state House and the Senate unanimously.

Under the law, humiliating, defrauding or threatening others by maliciously impersonating them on social networks or online bulletin boards will be grounds to file a lawsuit.

The measure will not apply to police officers impersonating others online as part of a criminal investigation.

The law will go into effect in June.

2 cars per Discover Pass bill goes to governor

PUBLIC LANDS — It's a wish coming true for Washington State Parks visitors.

The Washington state Legislature has passed a bill allowing one Discover Pass to be shared among two vehicles.

House Bill 2373 passed the House this afternoon by a vote of 60-37, with most Republicans voting in opposition. Having earlier passed the Senate, it goes next to the governor.

The Discover Pass is a $30 annual state parks parking pass created by the Legislature last year to raise funds to keep parks open as well as contributing to state wildlife lands. Bill supporters say allowing two cars per pass will make it more affordable and may encourage more people to buy it.

According to the Associated Press, opponents objected to a provision in the bill expanding an optional $5 vehicle registration fee to mopeds, off-road vehicles, buses and trucks, saying the fee’s opt-out nature may fool people into contributing the money against their wishes.

Geoduck winning protection; next — state bird?

SHELLFISH — Just kidding with the headline. I know the difference between clams and waterfowl.

But for a long time, it seems, ducks have had more protection than the great goeduck of Washington's beaches.

Numbers of the largest, oldest and most bizarre-looking wild clam species in the state have been going downhill, says the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Geoduck poaching is particularly damaging because the species grows slowly over a long period,” said WDFW director Phil Anderson.

The delicacy is the largest burrow clam species in the world and has been recorded as living as long as 146 years.

WDFW and the Department of Natural Resources announced this week in a joint statement that they will undertake new efforts aimed at “preventing poaching, evaluating environmental factors that may be contributing to the decline, seeking legislative budget support for additional field enforcement and reviewing harvest regulations.”

The key may be whether they get the $500,000 they're requesting for increased enforcement.

The goeduck can grow up to two pounds by the time it is five years old.  The ones that live into their 100s can reach 10 pounds and fetch $160 per pound on the retail market.
  

Two-car Discover Pass bills working through Legislature

STATE PARKS — The Washington state House has passed HB 2373, which would allow two cars to share one Discover Pass, a $30, year-long parking pass for state parks and some other state lands. 

Unlike a similar bill that recently passed the Senate unanimously, the House bill would add a $10 registration fee on all recreational vehicles until 2015 to go toward state parks. 

Supporters said the bill would make it cheaper for families to visit state parks while replenishing park coffers.  

Opponents said it would implement a tax on recreation vehicles in the guise of a fee.   

The bill would allow families to buy a Discover Pass transferrable among any family vehicle for $50, and would exempt disabled veterans from having to buy the pass. 

The measure is headed for the Senate.
  

Legislature could raid Sno-Park funds from snowmobilers, nordic skiers

WINTER SPORTS — The Washington Legislature is toying with proposals that could divert dedicated gas-tax funds from established and popular Sno-Park programs. These are the programs, such as those at Mount Spokane, that plow parking areas and groom trails for snowmobiling, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other winter recreation.

Some recreation groups say there's nothing to fear from the proposals, but the issues should be carefully followed.

See the latest on what some contend is an attempt to raid an important winter recreation component of the state's economy in this story by Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Legislature considering hunting, fishing, wildlife bills

WILDLIFE LAWS — The Washington Legislature is considering numerous bills that relate to hunters, anglers and wildlife.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine posted this update on last week's activity.

Proposed B&O tax break for startups advances

Legislation that would exempt new Washington-based businesses from the state's B&O tax in their first year of operations has cleared a key Senate committee.

Senate Bill 6327, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, advanced with a “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Economic Development, Trade and Innovation Committee. It's now waiting for consideration by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Under the measure, news businesses with fewer than 25 employees would enjoy the exemption for two years, plus a 50 percent reduction on their B&O tax bill in their third year of operations.“This measure would make it clear to entrepreneurs inside and outside of the state that legislators want our small-business employers to succeed and that Washington is open for business,” said Padden.

Legislative analysts predict the exemption would cost the state about $2.9 million in lost tax revenue in 2013 and $10.6 million in 2014.

The state's business-and-occupation tax, often called a gross-receipts tax, is heavily criticized on both sides of the partisan aisle because it targets gross revenue rather than profits. The rate differs by industry but all companies are given an exemption on their first $250,000 in revenue each year.

Padden and other backers argue that giving new companies a break could help business startups survive those critical first years in Washington, which currently has the nation's second-highest rate of startup failure.

Washington looking at allowing craft distilleries to sell at farmers markets

This may be the year Washington legislators give a thumbs-up to the idea of craft distilleries selling booze at farmers' markets.

Until recently, Washington had just one craft distillery, Dry Fly Distilling, of Spokane. That number has grown in recent years. With the growth has come the desire by those companies to use farmers' markets to reach more customers. Wineries and beer brewers are already allowed to sell at markets.

The current bill working its way through the current legislature is SB5650.  It authorizes licensed craft distilleries to apply to the liquor control board for an endorsement to sell their own bottled spirits markets.

The spirits must be produced in the state of Washington in order to be sold at markets.

The step in the process is a public hearing on the bill on Tuesday (Jan.31) before the Senate Committee on Labor and Commerce and Consumer Protection. The hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. in Olympia in Senate Hearing Room 4 of the Cherberg Building.

For more information on the bill, here's the legislative history and summary.

AM: Spokane Med School On Wish List

Dave LaFountaine, project supervisor for Burton Construction, guides in the new Spokane Falls Community College planetarium dome on the school's campus Wednesday in Spokane. The dome, built by Burton Construction, weights 17,000 pounds and is 30 feet in diameter. Jim Camden SR story here. (SR photo: Dan Pelle)

Wolf issues targeted in Washington Legislature

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington lawmakers last week began consideration of a pair of bills that deal with wolves.

Senate Bill 6139, which was requested by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlfie, would set a cap of $50,000 per year on the compensation the agency could pay from its wildlife account for claims related to wolf attacks on livestock.

Dave Ware, WDFW Game Division manager, said the bill seeks to balance the needs of humans and wildlife. It would also add the gray wolf to the state's definition of big game.

Senate Bill 6137 would provide an affirmative defense for killing a wolf caught in the act of attacking livestock. The defense would be allowed only where wolves have been taken off the federal endangered species list — the eastern third of the state — and only if the WDFW was notified within 72 hours.

Both bills have been discussed by the Senate Committee on Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters.

See details in this story by the Capital Press.

Morton says governor’s appointee isn’t an East Sider

RECREATION — East Siders don't are having a tough time this week handling appointments to Washington panels.  

Okanogan County commissioners wrote a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire criticizing the appointment of Jay Kehne to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission because they said he didn't reflect their values, particularly about wolves.

Tuesday, Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls, asked the governor to rescind her recent appointment of Seattle resident Ted Willhite to the state Recreation and Conservation Funding Board.

“Mr. Willhite is listed on the board roster as being from Twisp and his appointment fills a spot intended to represent the interests of Eastern Washington,” Morton said. “But this is preposterous! Mr. Willhite owns a second residence near Twisp, but he lives and works in Seattle. This is not fair to our side of the state and it shuns good Eastern Washington candidates for service on this board who would eagerly and honorably promote and protect our interests.”

The mission of the board is to provide leadership and funding to help protect and enhance Washington's natural and recreational resources.

“The board has four Western Washington members and only one from our side of the state, Yakima,” Morton said. “The governor needs to set this right. I await her response.”
  

Bill would make Discover Pass valid for two vehicles

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington State Senate Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee Monday (Jan. 9) voted unanimously to refer a bill to the Ways and Means Committee that would make the Discover Pass transferable between two vehicles.

The Discover Pass was established by the 2011 Legislature as a vehicle access requirement for state parks and most other state lands in an effort to raise funding for state park management.

Under the proposed legislation, the cost would remain the same, but the pass would be transferable between two vehicles at the same address.

The Discover Pass is required on vehicles to access state parks, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, and any recreation lands or water-access sites managed by Washington State Parks, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Under current law, the Discover Pass costs $30 annually and $10 for a daily pass per vehicle.

The current fine for not displaying a Discover Pass on a vehicle while on state recreation land or a water-access site is $99.

Read on for more details from reporter Maida Suljevic of the Washington Newspaper Publishers News Bureau in Olympia.

Gregoire signs budget; tougher decisions ahead

Rep. Ross Hunter checks his hands for tan after Gov. Chris Gregoire says legislators need to show up “tan, rested and ready” in January to cut more than the budget she signed Tuesday.

OLYMPIA – With advice to the Legislature to show up “tan, rested and ready” in January to finish fixing the state’s budget problems, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the $480 million “downpayment” supplemental budget.

It is, Rep. Ross Hunter, chairman of the House budget committee, said, merely the first supplemental budget of the two-year fiscal cycle.

“Count on it,” Gregoire replied, adding the votes needed to find another $1.5 billion in savings will present legislators with “the worst votes they’re ever going to take in their lives.”

The budget signed Tuesday had bipartisan support in both chambers, but involves a number of fund transfers and accounting maneuvers to accomplish some of the savings…

To read the rest of this post, click here to go inside the blog.

Sunday Spin: It’s not over til…

OLYMPIA – In trying to come up with a pity description for late special session, I couldn’t shake the memory of a particularly annoying greeting that adults seemed to enjoy during my teenage years: Working hard, or hardly working?

Ask the handful of legislators involved in budget negotiations, they’d say the former. Ask many others in or around the Capitol, the judgment would likely be the latter.

By outward appearances, the workload for this emergency session was disappointingly light.

Even protesters from Occupy Olympia, who had to be escorted out of budget hearings and forcibly removed from the Capitol rotunda at the start of the first week, gave up any pretense of interest by the second week. They showed an amazing lack of staying power.

By the time the session wound down on the final day, Jen Estroff, the government relations director for the Children’s Alliance, had coined a phrase summing things up nicely. . .

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

Shall we hold our breath?

During the special session, both chambers approved a Joint Resolution asking Congress to pass the Main Street Fairness Act, which would require Internet retailers to collect sales tax from their customers, just like brick-and-mortar stores do, and remit those taxes to the appropriate states.

Could be worth hundreds of millions a year for Washington, so it’s nothing to scoff at. But isn’t there something odd about a Legislature, itself divided on taxes, asking a paralyzed Congress to do something about them?
  

Worth a look: Initiatives that are paid for

Although the Legislature is on break, new legislation continues to pop up. Among ideas is a proposed constitutional amendment from Sen. Dan Swecker of Rochester and other Republicans like Mark Schoesler of Ritzville and Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla.

It requires any initiative that starts a new program or expands an existing one to identify a way to pay for it.

In the past, voters have approved initiatives to give public school teachers regular raises or shrink classroom sizes or, just last month, require more training for home care providers. But the initiatives didn’t come up with new sources of money to cover those changes. Legislators often suspend those directives in tough budget times.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said last week she hadn’t read the proposal, but might support it. The Legislature has to identify a money source when it comes up with a new program, she said. When voters pass legislation at the ballot box, maybe they should, too.