With the Legislature gone for the year, the volume of email has shrunk from a tidal wave to a mere raging torrent. Most of it goes from the inbox to the delete folder without a second look, but there are a few interesting nuggets among the piles of gravel.
Among them was the reminder that April has different meanings to different people. Blossoms on the trees, crocuses popping up from the ground, springtime showers.
Tickets for distracted driving.
That’s because April is also Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The Washington State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies currently have patrols to crack down on distracted driving. As alert readers may recall, the Legislature toughened the laws for driving under the influence of electronic devices, so it’s not just driving around gabbing into the cellphone held up to your ear – although that’s certainly happening enough to keep a battalion of troopers busy.
It’s also texting, Facebooking, Snapchatting on your cellphone, watching a video, sending a selfie or just about anything else it takes more than a single finger stroke to accomplish.
The necessity of an update
The debate over a necessity defense has necessitated a delay in the case of the Rev. George Taylor, who took part in a protest against coal and oil trains by blocking trains back in September 2016.
As explained in a column last October, Taylor wants to argue to a jury that the harm he was seeking to prevent was greater than the harm of the trespass from the protest. Spokane County District Judge Debra Hayes has agreed to allow that defense, and the trial was set for April 23.
The prosecuting attorney’s office is appealing Hayes’ order, so it may be a while before that trial gets underway.
Does the gecko know about this?
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler hit the Geico Insurance Co. with a $30,000 fine last month for raising insurance premiums after a customer placed a freeze on his or her credit score.
State law allows insurers to consider credit information when setting premiums, Kreidler said in an email, but they have to notify consumers and give them a reason for the increase when they raise premiums based on credit information.
The company sent an adverse action notice to the consumer but didn’t give the reason for the premium increase. An inquiry showed GEICO sent adverse action notices without citing a reason to 293 customers in the past two years.
After the inquiry, GEICO contacted the affected customers to explain what happened and give them a chance to lift the credit freeze.
Talking about bipartisanship
A new group calling itself People for Effective Government is holding a forum on April 16 at the Spokane County Moran Prairie Library.
It sounds like a worthwhile effort, considering there are plenty of people who do a great job of making government ineffective.
The group’s first forum will feature Dale Soden, a Whitworth University professor, who will be talking about how partisanship and bipartisanship have shaped the country, and how bipartisanship has worked in the past. It’s tempting to suggest his specialty is ancient history, but that would be too easy of a dig.
Starts at 7 p.m. at the library.
Another 200, and we’ll be at a half mil
The official estimate of the Spokane County population, as of April 2017, was 499,800, the Spokane Community E-Newsletter advises us. That’s up 10 percent from 2007, which is decent growth anywhere outside of Amazonville, er, Seattle. The Office of Financial Management does estimates on five-year increments, years ending in 2s and 7s. It’s a way to whet your appetite for the Big Kahuna of population counts, the decennial census coming your way in 2020.
Time is not on their side
Speaking of OFM, last week also brought a notice that the proposed gun safety legislation, Senate Bill 6620, which had some school safety measures as well as some new restrictions on the sale of semi-automatic rifles, had an estimated price tag of $180,000 over 10 years.
Which is mildly interesting, in a better-late-than-never context. The notice mentions the bill had passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee. What it doesn’t mention is the bill never got a vote in the full Senate, and died when the Legislature adjourned.
The notice is necessary because of a provision of Initiative 960, requiring OFM to send out a public notice whenever a bill that raises taxes or fees moves through a major stage in either chamber. But the volume of bills moving through the process creates a backlog for the beleaguered analysts in the state budget office.
Maybe it’s time to review the law, and let OFM off the hook for bills that are dead, or after the Legislature has left the building.
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