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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control: Lawmakers’ wisdom passeth all understanding

Legislators talk a lot. Sometimes, they come up with things that make one wonder if there should be a new television reality series, “$#@! Our Lawmakers Say.”

They make interesting analogies, like Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, did last week while waxing effusive over the Senate’s version of the 2011-’13 general operating budget. It was so bipartisan as to be historic, he proclaimed.

“This is a really big deal. When the first man landed on the moon … that was a big deal and the press reports it all over the place,” Hargrove said, apparently worried about a lack of coverage.

Sorry, but I watched the first moon landing, and trust me – the crafting of this budget wasn’t quite as amazing. Considering the Legislature as a whole hasn’t yet agreed to that budget, the proper analogy might be to the splashdown of a Gemini capsule rather than the landing of Apollo 11.

Another source of “Say what?” comments was a recent news conference by a dozen Senate Democrats to announce new bills designed to roll back some tax exemptions. When asked whether this might fly in the face of the voters’ will, as expressed by a pretty strong vote on Initiative 1053 to reinstate a two-thirds majority for any tax increase, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, of Seattle, insisted it did not.

First, she challenged the description of the voters’ will: “It was not the will of the people in my district and many, many districts around the state.”

Well, yes and no. Voters in Kohl-Wells’ 36th District voted no on I-1053 by nearly 2-to-1. Four other districts also turned thumbs down to the initiative; but that’s five of 49 districts, which usually doesn’t qualify as “many, many”; and they were all in urban King County, which some might not consider “around the state.”

Then she and other Democrats at the press conference suggested voters didn’t know what they were voting for when passing 1053. That seems an extremely dangerous comment for someone who holds their current job as a result of votes. One must postulate that voters were smart enough to pick him or her but were hoodwinked about the finer points of an initiative. In the case of Kohl-Wells, who was elected with more than 83 percent of the vote, about 10,000 constituents who voted for her voted against the initiative.

Debates over medical marijuana probably rank second only to taxes for prompting the folks at home watching TV to sit up and ask: “Did they really say that?”

At one point in the recent House debate, a Republican legislator suggested the state be put in charge of growing and selling medical marijuana, at the very time most Republicans, and many others, are trying to get the state out of the liquor business. Democrats, who are generally more friendly to government expansion, said selling pot out of state stores wasn’t a direction we want to go.

Sen. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, argued against allowing medical marijuana patients to grow their own weed. “Just because you have a Tylenol 3 prescription doesn’t mean you should grow coca plants in your backyard, either.”

It’s possible Shea was trying to establish the opposite of street cred on drugs. But Tylenol 3 contains codeine, an opiate, which comes from poppies; coca plants are the basis for cocaine. It is, by the way, legal to grow poppies in your backyard; it would be illegal, and extremely difficult, to grow coca plants in Spokane.

Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane, tried to amend the medical marijuana bill to change all the references to cannabis to “marijuana.”

“Cannabis is one of those terms, you might say, is fashionable,” Ahern said. “I want to change it back to what it really is, marijuana.”

He said that some kids might even be fooled into smoking pot by the name, and acted out a scenario where he supplied a would-be conversation between two youths.

10-year-old: “What’s that horrible smell coming out of your mouth?”

12-year-old: “It’s cannabis.”

10-year-old: “What’s cannabis?”

12-year-old: “Gosh, I don’t know but it sure makes me feel darned good.”

10-year-old: “Oh, I’ll be darned.”

Apparently, all the young people Ahern knows talk like characters in Archie comics.

If you missed all these, take heart. A special session starts Tuesday, giving us more opportunities for “$#@! Our Lawmakers Say.”

Spin Control, a weekly column by Olympia Bureau Chief Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items, reader comments and videos at blogs/spincontrol.
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