jbOLYMPIA – To much of the public, the Legislature is either a place of high-minded policy debates or a refuge for political hacks doing the bidding of their donors.
Few people think of it as a place of light-hearted humor, although last week some legislators did their best to brighten the mood at various points.
Friday’s debate over the need for better audits of state agencies featured the usual clash between those who thought the Legislature needs to do a better job of holding agencies accountable and those who thought the Legislature should hold itself accountable on things like the Supreme Court contempt order over adequate money for public schools. Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, tried to shrug off that $100,000 a day fine for contempt by citing that eminent source of legal scholarship, the 1978 movie “Animal House.”
“We’re putting ourselves on double secret probation,” Dansel said. “We’re fining ourselves and putting it back in an account where we’ll spend it at a later time.d.”
That’s not exactly what Dean Wormer had in mind for the Delta House. But in any case, Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, wasn’t going to let that pass unchallenged: “Let’s stop acting like we’re a frat house and get it together and get our work done.”
Presiding at the rostrum, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen said he wanted to “make it crystal clear to Sen. Rolfes and Sen. Dansel that there will be no food fights on the floor or in the cafeteria.”
Attempts at humor can break out at unpredictable moments, like when the House considered a bill defining the authority of county coroners to issue arrest warrants. Coroners, it seems, are a good target for jokes. Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, the bill’s sponsor, couldn’t stop the puns.
“I’ve been dying for it to get here. I’m glad it wasn’t buried under amendments. I’m glad it wasn’t dead on arrival in Rules,” Klippert said, adding he hoped members could “revive the spirit within you to vote yes.”
Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said she had to vote for something supported by the Washington Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, whose acronym WACME is pronounced whack-me. “It’s hard not to endorse something from whack-me,” she said.
Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, closed off debate with “our coroners are the last ones to let us down.”
Ba-dum, dum. Clearly, legislators should not to quit their part-time day jobs to go out on the stand-up circuit.