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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Legislative cutoff: Some that are still living, and some that aren’t

OLYMPIA – Some animals fared well this week as the Legislature rushed to pass bills before a critical deadline. Folks hoping to sip local liquor at the farmers market, buy pot at a state liquor store or require proof of citizenship before the state gives out a driver’s license, didn’t do as well.

As is the case in most legislative sessions, many bills are all but dead after failing to pass at least one chamber before Monday’s cut off. There are a few parliamentary maneuvers that can shock a bill back to life, but they are far less frequent than a patient recovering when someone grabs defibrillator paddles and yells “Clear” in a TV doctor drama.

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Among those that got a needed floor vote and made the cut: Mazama pocket gophers could get an extended study to see if their numbers are dwindling. Sharks could get some extra protection for their fins. Dogs could get to hunt cougars for another five years.
Bills on all three topics passed the Senate, and even provided a few minutes of levity as legislation churned through the process.
Senators wondered aloud about the possibly endangered gopher – does it have pockets or does it fit into pockets, is it moving into or out of Mazama, and what makes it different from a run-of-the-mill gopher? No answers to the first two sets of questions, and the answer to the last was self-censored by a senator who worried about school children in the gallery. (Mazama pocket guys, it turns out, have larger guy parts than their gopher cousins.)
Another bill would expand penalties for catching sharks, cutting off their dorsal fins and throwing the rest of the fish back in the water to die. It passed after an appeal for senators to recall the movie “Finding Nemo,” which apparently had nicer sharks than any of the “Jaws” franchise.
A bill to allow hunters in northern counties to use dogs to hunt cougars for another five years, despite a previous ban imposed by an initiative, also passed the Senate. It’s not clear if it picked up a few extra no votes when Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, couldn’t resist a UW-WSU dig: “The last two games, it’s been the Cougars hunting the Dawgs.”
But dog owners won't face penalties for keeping their pooches on chains or tethers for long periods of time. A bill to require adequate food, water and shelter for tethered dogs passed the Senate Judiciary Committee but never made it to a floor vote.
The Blue Heron isn't going to replace the goldfinch as the state bird. The large water bird didn’t even get a hearing in either the Senate or the House government committees, despite having a bill in each chamber. A bill to name Tenino quarry sandstone the state rock made it out of the Senate government committee, but got no floor vote.
A proposal to let craft distilleries sell liquor at farmer's markets didn’t get a floor vote. But market patrons looking for a little pick-me while sorting through the organic veggies and hand-made crafts might soon be able to buy local wine or beer. A separate proposal on the sale of the less potent booze options passed the House and was sent to the Senate.
Marijuana is highly unlikely to be legalized, taxed and sold in state liquor stores after a bill to do all three drew passionate testimony but didn’t get out of a House committee. But new rules for licensing and regulating medical marijuana were sent to the House after passing the Senate on a 29-20 bipartisan vote.
The cost to file a ballot initiative or referendum with the state will likely remain $5. One proposal to raise it to $50 never got out of a House committee; another to up the fee to $500 and impose new rules for people paid to gather signatures passed a Senate committee but didn’t get a floor vote.
Also not getting floor votes were a bill to impose criminal penalties for lying in voters’ pamphlets and another to require driver’s license applicants to show proof of citizenship or get a license not valid for ID purposes.
It may be possible to get a license plate that designates the car owner as a volunteer firefighter or someone to whom “Music Matters”. Both options got survived the cut off, although a separate proposal for plates that say “In God We Trust” never got a committee hearing.


Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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