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June 20, 2006

Gambling Commission director responds

Posted by David Postman at 4:21 PM

Rick Day, director of the Washington State Gambling Commission, has responded in the comments about the post below about the crackdown on Internet gambling. His comments include these on how the state views online players, as opposed to operators of the casinos:

"As for players, gambling on the Internet, whether playing poker, slots or another gambling game, runs a risk of a felony conviction. However, there is not going to be an active campaign against regular players. If players' names appear in an operator's seized records, the Gambling Commission would likely send the player a warning letter, notifying them that betting online is a felony. If a player's name reappears again, charges may be filed."

Day's comments have spurred more discussion and I wanted to draw attention to it.

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Regional FEMA director gets Snohomish job

Posted by David Postman at 4:13 PM

Remember John Pennington? He's the regional FEMA director who got caught up in Brownie-gate following Hurricane Katrina with a story here about his thin resume for the job, which helped propel him to the No. 2 spot in The New Republic's list of the Bush Hackocracy (subscription required).

Frankly I'm not sure he deserved that dishonor, having carried out the job without crisis, even if he did get the gig on his bona fides of running a mom and pop coffee company and being a Republican state legislator. But he was in the wrong job at the wrong time to have a diploma from a questionable college and no experience in the field.

But a year later it hasn't hurt his ability to get a job. He's been appointed director of Snohomish County's Department of Emergency Management. He's still at FEMA until July 10 and has to be confirmed by the county council for the new job.

County officials told the Herald they were well aware of Pennington's background, including his degree from a diploma mill, and county executive Aaron Reardon says Pennington's "references from state disaster officials are impeccable."

Pennington took some shots because he was a former Republican lawmaker hired by a Republican president with a series of questionable appointments. Now, though, Pennington has that experience and Reardon's hiring decision can't be seen through the same political lens given that the county executive is a Democrat.

(I removed a link here, and comments related to it, because in consultation with my editor it was decided it didn't meet our standards.)

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Even ruled unconstitutional, Eyman initiative has power

Posted by David Postman at 8:57 AM

Gov. Christine Gregoire's announcement that she'll back property tax relief if Tim Eyman's Initiative 747 is ruled unconstitutional is yet further proof of something smart Eyman once said: His initiatives can carry political power even if they are stripped of any legal power.

And I'm sure he takes comfort in that, given how many court fights he has lost.

The best example of this Eyman rule is Initiative 695. The 1999 initiative that eliminated the state car registration tax was opposed by Democrats as a devastating blow to transportation funding. But the day the initiative was ruled unconstitutional by a King County Superior Court judge, Democrats were in a tizzy as they rushed to protect the tax-cutting measure. Then-Gov. Gary Locke demanded "the Legislature act in special session to remove any doubt in voters' minds that the cheap, flat-tax car tabs are here to stay."

Eyman had some heartburn with seeing Locke become the champion of the lower car taxes, but in the end he said he didn't care how it happened.

"There are a thousand different ways to skin this cat, whether it's the court approving of 695, or the legislators getting off their duffs, or us running another initiative in the future."

Opponents of I-747 said the 1 percent cap on property tax increases was a threat to "basic local services," including fire protection and hospitals. They argued that taxes were not overly burdensome and "lower than many similar states."

Gregoire's comment Monday that "We need to make sure that people can afford to pay their property taxes" is a mild version of Eyman's voter's pamphlet statement that the initiative was needed "so working class families and senior citizens, and not just rich people, can afford to buy and own homes."

There are no details on what Gregoire or Democratic lawmakers will offer for property tax relief. But one wonders what the firefighters, nurses, librarians and others who fought against I-747 think about their friends in the Democratic party joining Eyman's cause. I'll ask them and see.

UPDATE: The Washington State Council of Firefighters, the most visible piece of the anti-I 747 campaign, has a note of caution for politicians rushing to replace unconstitutional property tax limits. The union's legislative liaison, Bud Sizemore told me:

"Our organization would hope that the Legislature does not just react to 747 and slap another 1 percent on there when local governments have already been hurting over the last several years trying to deal within that 1 percent."

And union president Kelly Fox said he hopes that the governor will include firefighters and other 747 opponents in any discussions about new property tax limits.

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