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Thursday, March 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  WA Government

Spin Control: Liberty State rally had no chance of moving legislation

OLYMPIA – At a rally last February in the Capitol Rotunda, Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, talks to supporters of his proposal to split Washington in half and call the eastern part the State of Liberty. The flag in the background is the proposed flag for that state, although the Legislature has repeatedly ignored Shea’s efforts to get lawmakers to ask Congress to create it. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
OLYMPIA – At a rally last February in the Capitol Rotunda, Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, talks to supporters of his proposal to split Washington in half and call the eastern part the State of Liberty. The flag in the background is the proposed flag for that state, although the Legislature has repeatedly ignored Shea’s efforts to get lawmakers to ask Congress to create it. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

Proponents of the persistent mirage that is the 51st state of Liberty scheduled, and later wisely canceled, a rally on the Capitol steps Friday.

The reason for the cancellation gave a partial understanding of the legislative schedule. The initial reason for the rally, however, was bogus – at least as it was stated by the dulcet voice of “Lady Liberty” who offers the Liberty State Radio podcast that she describes as “truth in news.”

Last Monday, Lady L urged like-minded folk to make plans to attend the rally and while they were at it schedule time with lawmakers to convince them that passing two pieces of legislation were “the most important bills they can engage in.”

Those two are a resolution asking for Congress and the president to split Washington at the Cascade Crest so that the eastern half becomes the new state of Liberty, and a bill that calls for a transition committee to be formed to set up a master plan for that new state’s government functions and various public services and concerns.

“None of them will pay attention to our bills if we don’t bring them straight to their desk,” she says.

Supporters had told the agency that oversees the Capitol grounds to expect a crowd, some of whom would be openly carrying firearms. The agency dutifully notified state workers and other denizens of the campus, who, despite the fact that this is an open-carry state, sometimes are surprised to see folks strapped or packing, or whatever term one might use for “outfitted for a stroll in Kandahar.”

When visiting Democrats, Lady L suggested, tell them cutting the state in two would be a great way to “get rid of their arch-rival Matt Shea”, who it goes without saying sponsored both pieces of legislation, as well as similar ones for years.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to strike while the iron is hot,” she said. “God willing, could you even imagine this getting passed this session? It is entirely possible for each and every one of us to be faced with the reality of finally getting rid of the West Side politics from our life. Forever.”

Except it’s not even remotely possible, no matter how hard you try to imagine it. The iron is ice-cold.

What she neglected to tell true believers is that those bills were deader than disco even before she recorded her podcast. And they’d still be dead when 51st Staters planned to hold their rally and lobby legislators. So if a legislative aide were to ask “And what would you like to speak with Rep. Snerd about?” and a person said “The 51st state of Liberty”, that person was likely to get slotted for an appointment on the 12th of Never.

Shea introduced both bills last year. They got no committee hearings last year, and none this year. They would have had to get a committee hearing, followed by a majority of that committee saying they should be sent to the full House for consideration, plus a debate and vote on the House floor by Feb. 7 to have any chance to go to the Senate, where they would go through the process again on their way to becoming law.

That’s how the Legislature works. It may be clunky and awkward and all kinds of annoying. But it’s a fact which Lady L must know because in real life she’s Rene’ Holaday, a former legislative aide to Shea.

A couple days after the rally was announced, it was canceled. The stated reason was Shea had warned that so many legislators were headed home to their districts for weekend town hall meetings that there wouldn’t be enough hanging around Olympia to make a trip over the possibly snowy passes worthwhile.

There’s some logic to that, although the same could be said about most Fridays during the session. Legislators have a strong desire to get the heck outta Dodge early enough in the day to avoid bad pre-weekend traffic on Interstate 5.

That stated reason may also give the movement cover to let supporters think “Jeez, those legislators are never around when I want them” while masking the fact that the reality of the State of Liberty is no closer today than when it was first floated by Shea in 2015. Those bills provide him with rousing rhetoric on the conservative talk circuit, but he’s had no luck getting them farther than words on paper and an assigned four-digit bill number.

Lady L can call true believers “residents of Liberty State” and they can buy ball caps, T-shirts and flags with the slogans and various emblems. That doesn’t bring it any closer to reality.

In a strange twist, Friday may have been the perfect time to buttonhole any Democratic House member a 51st Stater could find and make the argument that cutting the state in half may be their best way to get rid of Shea.

The day before, 56 Democrats had signed a letter asking for expulsion proceedings to begin against the Spokane Valley Republican. But none of his fellow Republicans signed on, so the two-thirds majority required for expulsion isn’t there, and the chances for expulsion became the same as passage of the 51st state legislation this year. Which is to say “zip.”

A few Democrats, however, might’ve been receptive to that line of thinking, if only for a bit. Breaking apart a state over antipathy toward one person is, after all, a bit like cutting off your arm to get rid of a splinter in your middle finger.

There are likely better options to consider.

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