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Eye On Olympia

Check…mate. Last-minute procedural move foils latest attempt to revamp Fish and Wildlife Commission…

For weeks now, Sen. Ken Jacobsen has been trying to revamp the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The backstory, from an earlier blog post I wrote:

Commercial fisherman say the board is tilted too far in favor of sport/recreational anglers. The latter say that the board is simply making the hard decisions necessary to preserve the region’s fish runs, and that rod-and-reel anglers are inherently more selective than folks who scoop up fish with nets.

Jacobsen wants to reduce the number of commissioners, shorten their terms, assign them by geographic region and -- this is the most important one -- remove their ability to hire and fire the director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. As he put it in a moment of candor before a House committee last month, Jacobsen's bill would "neuter 'em."

Jacobsen's proposal sailed through the state Senate, where Majority Leader Lisa Brown said that she felt there were legitimate questions over how the commission was doing. Rep. Brian Blake tried to tone it down a bit while still preserving the intent of Jacobsen's bill. But Blake's amended version collapsed at the last minute when Rep. John McCoy proposed taking away the commission's authority over many fish and all hunting. (The department and, ultimately, the governor would have taken over that role directly.)

Then Jacobsen managed to quietly graft his plan onto another bill, House Bill 1778, that was moving swiftly toward passage.

That's the bill that came up in the Senate today. On the Senate floor, Jacobsen was cueing up his arguments for final passage of the bill when Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield stood up and objected.

In the legislature, bills must contain basically what is described in the bill title. (This rule is what prevents lawmakers from trying to camouflage controversial legislation with motherhood-and-apple-pie titles, although there are still an awful lot of very vague bill titles out there.)

Zarelli protested, saying that an overhaul of the commission didn't remain in a bill that was supposed to be about things like allowing anglers who pay extra to fish with two poles. Jacobsen's amendment, he said, "goes far beyond dealing with enforcement and licensing issues."

The bill was tabled. The attorneys huddled. And Senate President eventually agreed with Zarelli. The provisions to change the commission, Owen said, "go well beyond the original" subject of the bill.

Zarelli's challenge was "not a surprise," Jacobsen said in an email afterward. But it looks like the death of the proposal, at least for this year.

"I am not aware of any vehicle that I can use" to revive the proposal, he said.

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