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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Legislature tries remote testimony

OLYMPIA – A Pasco-based government watchdog made a pitch Friday for district elections to the Supreme Court and two Spokane Valley law enforcement officers told legislators about rising arrest numbers for driving under the influence of marijuana. That would be fairly normal fare for a Senate Law and Justice Committee hearing except for one thing: The legislators were in Olympia and the researcher and the cops were in Spokane, testifying live over the Internet.

Gag order limits hearing on Insurance Commission

OLYMPIA – A legislative session billed as a chance to air charges of undue influence in the insurance commissioner’s office was something less than advertised Monday. Patricia Peterson, the agency’s chief hearings officer who filed a whistleblower complaint and was later placed on leave, said she was under a gag order not to speak about aspects of the case. Sen. Adam Kline, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said legislators knew things about the case that they also couldn’t discuss.

Plan to shrink Washington Supreme Court size to be heard by Senate

OLYMPIA – A plan to shrink the state Supreme Court by two justices was praised Monday by some as a money-saver and criticized by others as payback for decisions some legislators don’t like. The proposal, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, would cut the nine-member court to seven. It moved out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Monday on a voice vote, giving it a chance for a vote by the full Senate in the coming weeks.

Tougher DUI penalties proposed in Washington Legislature

OLYMPIA – Drunken drivers could face prison on their fourth conviction if the Legislature can find a way to pay for the extra burden on state prisons and county jails. One possible source of money: taxes the state currently collects on alcohol, and some of what it expects to collect for legal marijuana.

Washington Senate hearing considers crime bills

OLYMPIA – The state could have new ways to crack down on some of Spokane’s biggest crime problems like car theft and repeat burglars, as well as take early aim at the “knockout” assault fad through a trio of bills considered by a Senate panel Wednesday. At times, the Senate Law and Justice Committee hearing seemed to come straight from the Spokane police blotter, with bills sponsored by Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, and endorsed by Spokane law enforcement officials to fight local problems.

Alcohol laws don’t mix well at Capitol

OLYMPIA – As a Senate committee approved tougher laws against impaired drivers Tuesday, some senators wondered aloud if the Legislature isn’t at least partially responsible for putting more drunks on the road by expanding the places where alcohol is consumed. Less than an hour after the Senate Law and Justice Committee gave unanimous approval to a proposal that would require more and quicker jail time for drivers convicted of alcohol or drug impairment, Gov. Jay Inslee signed four bills the Legislature recently passed that add new places from which a person might be driving after legally consuming alcohol.

Lawmakers get responses to questions on marijuana

OLYMPIA – In legalizing marijuana last fall, voters created more questions for the Legislature, not fewer. Some, including how the federal government is going to react, can’t be answered yet, officials from the State Liquor Control Board told a Senate committee Monday.

Self-defense laws in Washington, Idaho differ from Florida’s

OLYMPIA – In Washington and Idaho, there is no statute that gives anyone the right to “stand your ground” and use deadly force in public when faced with a perceived threat. Both states have fairly standard laws covering justifiable homicide or self-defense, particularly when a person is in his or her own home.

Latest marijuana bill would create patient registry, co-ops

OLYMPIA – The latest incarnation of a bill to add structure to Washington’s medical marijuana laws has supporters who don’t like parts of it and opponents who do. People who operate clinics and dispensaries questioned the need for a voluntary registry of medical marijuana patients the bill would create. Law enforcement officials like the registry, although they don’t care for a provision that would allow patients to set up nonprofit co-ops to grow their supplies. Some cities like flexibility for co-ops and collective gardens; others want to be able to ban them.

Group unveils child trafficking bills

OLYMPIA – A bipartisan group of legislators is pushing a dozen bills to combat human trafficking, particularly among teenage runaways they say are lured into prostitution. Among the targets of the legislation are ads for “escort services” that appear in the back of some newspapers and on the Internet, and foot massagers.

Washington Senate considers fines for dog owners who keep canines chained up

OLYMPIA – Keeping a dog chained up in unsafe conditions could get the owner fined under a proposal being considered by the Washington state Senate. Supporters told the Senate Judiciary committee that chained or tethered dogs are more likely to turn mean and sometimes are deliberately mistreated so they’ll be angry watchdogs at drug or gang houses.

Coroners say inquests offer transparency

In Montana, coroner’s inquests are conducted for every fatal police shooting in that state and whenever someone dies in law enforcement custody. The same requirement exists in Nevada, with Las Vegas authorities taking the extra step of televising their inquests. And elsewhere, communities are embracing inquests to help ensure public accountability as the number of officer-involved shootings escalates.