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

Back in the saddle again…

Oh, it's good to be back. The Fred Russell trial in Cowlitz County, my base of operations for the past 3 1/2 weeks, is over. (Russell, the WSU student who drove drunk and killed three other students in 2001, before fleeing to Ireland for several years, was convicted on all counts. He'll be sentenced in Whitman County, probably next month.)

But alas, while I've been basking in the pale fluorescent lights of Courtroom 2 and frantically filing copy over the wireless at Kelso's Sunrise Bagels (good bagels, too), much has happened:

-Rep. Jim Dunn, R-Vancouver, was publicly slapped by his own caucus over "inappropriate" comments he allegedly made to a woman after a recent legislative meeting. (Postman was on it, and has the full story -- or the full obtainable story -- here.)

(Also: David Goldstein, at, gave this incident the memorable headline "BREAKING… Republican legislator outed as heterosexual.")

-Gov. Chris Gregoire became a cover, um, governor. Governing magazine named her -- the only governor on the list -- one of nine "Public Officials of the Year." From the article:

Opinion polls early on ranked her as one of the three least popular governors in the nation. Yet she hung tough during the recounts, the lawsuit, the shouts of protest and the bad poll numbers. "I said whether I'm governor for four months or four years, we're going to get going here," says Gregoire. And that's just what she did.

With each passing year, Gregoire's approval rating has increased, and her standing as a deft and inclusive deal-maker has grown more solid. The list of her accomplishments would be the envy of any governor, ranging from budget surpluses to ambitious education and economic development initiatives to the resolution of some of the state's longest running legislative battles.

(GOP chairman Luke Esser's version: "38 Years in Gov't Earns Gregoire Bureaucrat Stardom.")

-State Rep. Don Barlow, D-Spokane, was the first state lawmaker to "shadow" a nursing home worker for the day, as part of a push by the Service Employees International Union to show legislators what rank-and-file health-care workers' jobs are really like.

-And, oh, yes, there was an election. As things stand now:

-Rainy Day fund, Tim Eyman's I-960 and Referendum 67: all passing.
-Allowing school levies to pass with a simple majority of votes, instead of the current 60 percent "supermajority": failing.
-multi-billion-dollar tax increases for roads and transit in central Puget Sound: failing.
-Spokane Mayor: Likely Mary Verner. Incumbent Dennis Hession (who's election night party briefly banned reporters) looks like he'll join the very long line of one-term Spokane mayors.
-and in east King County, perennial candidate Richard Pope lost to Republican King County Councilwoman Jane Hague, "despite her pending drunken-driving charge and her admission that she once padded her résumé," as the Times put it.

And thanks, readers, for sticking with me. Check back early and often.

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.