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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Olympia

Is it censorship or is it just civility?

House Republicans are steamed that Democrats, citing House civility rules, have ordered them not to use certain phrases in press releases about the Democrat-written budget.

Among the banned phrases, according to Rep. John Serben: "shell game", "lack of honesty with taxpayers" and "disingenuous."

"This is crap," said Serben, R-Spokane, who in protest modified his press release to say "***** **** (censored)" in place of the offending "shell game."

The ban only applies to taxpayer-financed messages, like press releases, the House web site, etc., as well as to statements made on the House floor.

Chief Clerk Rich Nafziger said the policy -- which he said was created under Republican House control in the mid-1990s -- was designed to keep debate from devolving in to mudslinging. "You can say the specifics of the argument, but you can't call names," he said.

But lawmakers still have their first amendment rights, Nafziger said. On their own dime, in interviews or press conferences, legislators are free to say anything they want.

Republicans don't see it that way. They rely on press releases and other messages, they said, to get their messages back to voters and smaller papers back home.

"It's a wholesale scrubbing of views that are opposite of theirs," said Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda -- in a press release. "...We're quibbling over small words when there's a lot at stake for taxpayers. All I have to say is this -- the House Democrats' budget is a mind-boggling puzzle of shifting funds, money spent twice or reserved and spent, or both. We need to have an open debate of all ideas and opinions, not just the censored ideas they approve."

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