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April 30, 2007

Business lobby still trying to stop family leave bill

Posted by David Postman at 11:22 AM

The Association of Washington Business wants Gov. Christine Gregoire to gut a family leave bill waiting for her signature. Don Brunell, president of the business lobby group, wrote the governor last week urging her to veto everything in the bill except the section that calls for a task force to study implementation of family leave. (This from a link on Richard Davis' AWB Olympia Business Watch blog.) Brunell quotes an author Gregoire often cites herself to make the case:

Thomas L. Friedman, author of The World is Flat, commented in a 2005 New York Times essay, "A Race to the Top," on the disparity between the countries of Europe, with stagnant economies and crumbling welfare benefit structures, and our new competitors in eastern and southern Asia — India and China, and the dynamism of their economies. Wrote Thomas, "French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day. Good luck."

I think of this quote whenever our Legislature considers — or passes — employment regulations that attempt to align us with "the rest of the civilized world," as proponents of paid family leave contend. What the Legislature has done with E2SSB 5659, by contrast, is enact a programmatic mandate that only one other state in our nation, California, has put into place, and one that is entirely foreign to our new global competitors to the east.

As you have noted many times, our state's businesses compete on this global scale. We must be mindful of the regulatory costs that our state imposes upon them that hamper their economic competitiveness. Paid family leave, as envisioned by the Legislature, will be one such cost.

Holly Armstrong, Gregoire's communications director, told me just now the governor is still reviewing the bill, but is expected to sign it and hasn't shown any inclination to strip it down to a study.

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State Democrats back Watada

Posted by David Postman at 9:10 AM

At the meeting in Bellingham this weekend where Democrats voted to ignore the results of the state's presidential primary, the party's central committee also passed a resolution in support of Ehren Watada, the Army lieutenant who refused orders to go to Iraq. The News Tribune's Sean Cockerham covered the meeting and I think alone got that news. He wrote:

The resolution supporting Watada passed easily, although it was by show of hands so there wasn't an exact vote count.

"We support and commend Lt. Ehren Watada for his courage, moral leadership, and commitment to duty demonstrated by his act of resistance to the continued costly, destructive and immoral U.S. military occupation of Iraq," the resolution said.

Mike Carnahan, a Democratic Central Committee member from Clark County, spoke against the Watada resolution. It's an all-volunteer military, he said. "I find it offensive as, a veteran, to have him doing what he's doing," Carnahan said.

But other veterans on the committee said that, particularly as an officer, Watada shouldn't just blindly follow.

Watada opponents are starting to weigh in on the party move. From the blog A Soldier's Perspective:

Slowly, the Democrats are showing their true colors and continued disrespect for our military. They support the breakdown of military discipline, defeat in military operations, and the political destruction of our Commander-in-Chief.

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April 27, 2007

Who exactly is Gregoire irked at?

Posted by David Postman at 10:22 AM

The Olympian has this headline today:

Pay raise delay irks Gregoire

Gregoire was at The Olympian to talk to the editorial board Thursday. And in a town full of state employees, she of course was asked about pay raises in the budget approved by lawmakers last week. That budget delays raises for non-union state workers for two months after unionized employees get their increase.

That saves about $15 million a year. But lawmakers also saw it as a way to give union employees a benefit for their membership.

Gregoire told the paper she opposed the delay. And she used the parlance of the Capital to describe what happened when she tried to get the Legislature to see things her way:

"I got rolled," she said.

But Gregoire proposed the delay.

It was included in the budget proposal she unveiled in December. House Democrats supported the idea, too. The Senate Democratic budget would have given raises to all workers come July 1.

What Gregoire described to The Olympian sounds like a pre-emptive surrender on her part. She said she proposed the pay raise delay this year because she lost that fight last year:

"I knew I would get run over again. I got run over last time," she said Thursday. "So this time I inquired, 'Is this what's going to happen again?' And I was told bluntly, 'Yes.' So I decided I wasn't going to get into a dogfight over this one."

So maybe the writing was on the wall this year. But can you be irked when lawmakers adopt something that was included in your own budget? And how does that constitute being rolled?

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Ken Jacobsen's chaos theory at work

Posted by David Postman at 8:56 AM

Oregon Rep. Brian Clem, a Democrat, has introduced a bill to allow well behaved dogs into bars. The Oregonian reported:

Clem's 11-year-old Weimaraner, Ooji, was upstairs snoozing in the Capitol when Clem testified Thursday before a House committee. But Clem brought along a framed picture to show the committee just what a great guy Ooji is.

"My dog goes to work with me. He sleeps next to me. He eats dinner near me," said Clem, whose wife, Carol Suzuki, is equally smitten by Ooji.

Washington state Sen. Ken Jacobsen wasn't only an early adopter of the dogs-in-bars movement, it was a riskier political move for him because he had a cat at home that thought he should have better things to do with his time in Olympia. Clem is obviously a dog person and won't face those domestic pressures.

But as the movement spreads across the country, Jacobsen can be happy that his chaos theory is at work. Here's how he explained it in The Times last month:

"I'm into the theory of chaos. And in the theory of chaos, if this particle exists and this one comes into existence and this one doesn't know that one exists? It still affects the behavior of that one," he said, moving his hands around as if they were giant particles.

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April 26, 2007

Supreme Court says radio talk not a political donation

Posted by David Postman at 8:46 AM

The state Supreme Court said in an opinion released this morning that KVI talk show hosts did not need to report their advocacy for an anti-gas tax campaign as an in-kind political contribution. And the court has reinstated a countersuit filed by the No New Gas Tax (NNGT) campaign against local governments that initially sued.

We hold that RCW 42.17.090 did not require NNGT to disclose the value of KVI's radio broadcasts supporting the initiative campaign as an in-kind contribution. The statutory media exemption, RCW 42.17.020(15)(b)(iv), excludes from the definition of "contribution" political advocacy for or against a political campaign by the hosts of a regularly scheduled talk show, broadcast by a radio station that is not controlled by a candidate or political committee. We reverse the order dismissing NNGT's counterclaims and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The opinion was unanimous. The majority opinion was written by Justice Barbara Madsen and signed by Chief Gerry Alexander and justices Tom Chambers, Charles Johnson, Susan Owens, Mary Fairhurst and Bobbe Bridge. Justices Jim Johnson wrote a concurrence, which Justice Richard Sanders also signed, saying:

Today we are confronted with an example of abusive prosecution by several local governments. San Juan County and the cities of Seattle, Auburn, and Kent (hereinafter Municipalities) determined to file a legal action ostensibly for disclosure of radio time spent discussing a proposed initiative. This litigation was actually for the purpose of restricting or silencing political opponents and was quickly dismissed after the filing deadline for the initiative.

Johnson and Sanders say the case showed a "disregard for core freedoms of speech and association."

The case began with a lawsuit filed against the campaign trying to repeal a 9.5-cent gas tax increase. The suit was filed by San Juan County and the cities of Seattle, Auburn and Kent.

In 2005 Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham ordered that KVI hosts John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur to report their on-air support as in-kind contributions from their employer, Fisher Communications, which owns KVI.

Wickham also dismissed a countersuit filed by the initiative campaign, saying the local governments were stepping on the radio hosts First Amendment rights.

More from Madsen:

The distinction between "political advertising" and "commentary" may be relevant in deciding whether a media entity is performing a legitimate press function. However, the distinction does not turn on the content of the communication. In accordance with its statutory authority,11 the PDC has further defined "political advertising" as it relates to the media exemption:

Political advertising does not include letters to the editor, news or feature articles, editorial comment or replies thereto in a regularly
published newspaper, periodical, or on a radio or television
broadcast where payment for the printed space or broadcast time is
not normally required.

...

Under the PDC's regulation, the media exemption applies to coverage of a
candidate or ballot measure that occurs during the "content" period of a broadcast, as opposed to the commercial advertising period, when payment is normally required. Hence, if a radio station makes available to a campaign broadcast time for which it ordinarily receives a fee, i.e., commercial time, an in-kind contribution would result. However, the mere fact that a broadcast has value to a campaign, or includes solicitation of funds, votes, or other support, does not convert "commentary" into "advertising" when it occurs during the content portion of a broadcast for which payment is not normally required.

Times reporter Sharon Pian Chan spoke to Carlson, who said:

"It's a great day for freedom of speech in Washington and great day for freedom of speech in America. I am stunned that it was 9-nothing. I thought we would win but rarely do you see the court come down 9-nothing.

"There was a lot at stake if this decision had been upheld. Basically radio commentary would have become de facto advertising and free speech would have been commercial speech."


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Oregon's Russian community opposes gay rights

Posted by David Postman at 8:36 AM

At Crosscut, Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett points to reports on the large number of Russian and Ukranian churches in Oregon that have been active and vocal in opposing gay rights legislation in the Legislature there.

Some other members of churches with large Russian and Eastern European memberships firmly disagree with the loose-knit group calling itself The Voice of Oregon Youth, telling reporters that the activists do not represent them and emphasizing that there is no monolithic Russian-Christian community. At this point, however, their voices are muffled by the rallying cries of those fighting against proposed civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, and trans folks. While not linked to any particular group, a threat was made on a lawmaker's voice mail that "all who vote for queers will die by November."

Marlowe Hartnett — a former Times reporter who I'm happy to be able to read regularly again — points out that in Washington we've already seen an alliance between established conservative churches and Eastern European immigrants. Ken Hutcherson, of course, has also traveled east, to protest the gay rights movement in Latvia.

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April 25, 2007

Talk show case due from high court Thursday

Posted by David Postman at 3:58 PM

The state Supreme Court is expected Thursday to release its decision in a high-profile case that could decide whether political advocacy on talk radio should be defined as a campaign contribution. The court has listed the case among those that will be released in the morning.

The case focuses on conservative KVI hosts John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur. They campaigned on the air in 2005 for a ballot measure that would have overturned the biggest gas-tax increase in state history. For background, see this 2006 story by Ralph Thomas:

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by San Juan County and the cities of Seattle, Auburn and Kent last year against Nonewgastax.com, the group backing Initiative 912, which was aimed at repealing a new 9.5-cent gasoline-tax increase.

Carlson and Wilbur promoted the initiative vigorously on KVI, asking listeners to collect signatures and donate money to the effort. Many of their on-air remarks suggested they were launching the initiative.

Last year, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham ordered that the I-912 committee had to disclose the on-air pitches as in-kind contributions from Fisher Communications, which owns KVI.

There are all sorts of strange bedfellows in this case. I'm eager to see how it comes out.

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Burner trying to be first to get grassroots endorsement

Posted by David Postman at 9:12 AM

Darcy Burner is one of three Democratic congressional challengers in a contest to see which of them will get the first endorsement of the 2008 campaign from Democracy for America, the grassroots group founded by Howard Dean.

Burner is one of the finalists in the Grassroots All-Star contest. She is up against Charlie Brown in California and Eric Massa in New York.

The endorsement may not seem like a huge deal, but for challengers already in the race for 2008 it is the sort of thing that could bring more early money from progressives across the country. Both Massa and Brown are using their campaign Web sites to encourage people to vote for them. Not Burner, though. Her Web site only asks for donations.

She is doing a little campaigning for the honor, though. The second of two low-budget campaign videos she has produced urges people to go to DFA and vote for her.

You can see the first episode here. Burner filmed and edited the spots herself. They're a far cry from the almost over-produced ads she ran in '06. I thought Burner's personality was largely lost in some of the ads.

David Goldstein says Burner's YouTube spots are a sign of further disintermediation in politics.

First the Internet enabled politicians to connect directly with voters, disintermediating the legacy press out of the equation. Now tech savvy politicians like Darcy Burner are attempting to use the Internet to connect directly with voters, disintermediating political advertising out of the equation... and the high-priced, professional media consultants who create it
.

We'll see about that. The spots are refreshing and obviously something very different and much more personal than what we see in a campaign. But at this point they're just sidelights. Burner worked closely in '06 with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and her campaign showed plenty of signs of being shaped by "high-priced, professional media consultants."

Self-produced YouTube ads in the spring before the election year are one thing. There are plenty of examples of creative use of the Internet in campaigning. But I've yet to see a major candidate commit to Goldstein's "disintermediation" once they become serious contenders.

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April 24, 2007

Minority Leader DeBolt injured, cited, in crash

Posted by David Postman at 5:01 PM

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt suffered minor injuries in a traffic accident yesterday, according to the Centralia Chronicle. (Subscription required.)

The Chronicle's Sharyn Decker reports that DeBolt, R-Chehalis, was ticketed for running a stop sign in the accident that sent his pickup truck flying and landing on its roof. None of the three drivers involved suffered serious injury. The accident happened after lunch Monday in Centralia.

The Chronicle reports:

"I really don't know what happened," DeBolt said shortly after the collision, as he stood on the sidewalk, cellular telephone in hand, looking over his truck that lay upside down in the middle of North Gold Street. A patch of apparent blood showed through the left shoulder of his blue dress shirt, near two holes in the fabric.

"I don't know. The next thing I know, I was in the air," DeBolt said. "I had my seat belt on."

DeBolt was also cited for expired tabs on his truck. He told the Chronicle he didn't recall if he stopped at the stop sign, though witnesses said he had run through the intersection without stopping.

"I can't imagine me blowing it, it's not me," DeBolt said.

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Who's paying for SnoHo Boeing party?

Posted by David Postman at 7:45 AM

If you follow Snohomish County politics, you already know Executive Aaron Reardon is doing battle with the County Council, including his fellow Democrats. It's a fight over spending, or really a fight over rumors of spending.

Council members were unhappy at reports that Reardon was going to use as much as $300,000 of county money to help fund a party and rollout celebration for a new Boeing jet. That's already led the council to pass an emergency ordinance to control the exec's spending authority.

The Herald yesterday had details of the growing level of frustration council members felt. That's most clear in exchanges between deputy county executive Mark Soine and Council Chairman Dave Gossett, a Democrat.

"Are you planning on county funding for these events?" Gossett asked Soine during that first meeting.

"Like I said: We're not in a position to disclose any events that may be taking place," Soine said.

On April 9, Gossett again asked about costs.

Soine said: "Until we finalize some discussions with Boeing, there is, you know, I'm not in a position to discuss any events publicly."

Gossett: "So perhaps $50,000 would cover it?" And later, "Could it be up to $100,000?"

He added: "You don't have to talk about the particular event, you just have to tell me a round number of what the expenditure might be. I can't imagine how that creates any breach of confidences with anyone."

Soine again said there were no numbers he could share, but he offered to meet privately with Gossett.

That happened, Gossett said, but Soine still didn't answer his questions.

On April 16, the conversation turned even more testy.

Soine told Gossett that talking about costs, without firm plans, would be speculation.

"Well, speculate," Gossett told Soine.

"I will not speculate," Soine said.

Gossett: "$300,000."

Soine: "I will not speculate, Council Chairman."

Gossett: "So, essentially we are talking about $300,000 of taxpayers' money for this event."

Soine: "You can characterize my comments however you care, Mr. Chairman, but I will not speculate on dollar amounts."

The paper posted some of the documents here. At Sound Politics, Eric Earling says they are "a slap-your-hand-against-your-forehead detailing of the seemingly poor communication from the Executive's office coupled with some robust pique from the Council." Earling says it's making them all look bad. (He actually says it's making all election officials look bad, but I'm pretty sure he means elected officials. He must have forgotten to override the Official Automated Sound Politics Election Official Blame Sentence Generator.)

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April 23, 2007

Chopp reviews the session

Posted by David Postman at 12:00 PM

House Speaker Frank Chopp promoted his and his fellow Democrats' progressive credentials this morning. He touted things such as the mental health parity bill, an increase in school construction, grants for free community college tuition for some students, family leave and expanding subsidized health insurance for children.

Chopp is well aware of criticism from some on the left that he and the big House majority he controlled were too timid. At times that criticism was loud and clear from fellow Democrats in the Senate. But he said the House has been successful in pushing progressive legislation for three years running.

"But if you do that progressive agenda and you're thoughtful about how to work with people, it'll become a mainstream agenda. The things that we've done the last three sessions are ... very progressive legislation. But people consider it commonsense, middle of the road, mainstream. Well, that's the best of all, because we're trying to figure out what the people of the state want, as well as what they need."

The Senate was particularly unhappy with the version of the family leave bill that became law. The bill that passed doesn't include a specific funding source, while Senate Democrats wanted to use a payroll tax on employees to fund the mandated leave. Chopp said today he has three ideas for funding that are "better than the proposal from the Senate."

His ideas — which he said are all still in the early stages of review — include using interest earned from the unemployment insurance fund and trying to get money from the federal government as part of a children's health-care program.

Chopp also pointed out that one of the groups that was lobbying hard for family leave was the Economic Opportunity Institute, a group he formed before his time in the Legislature.

"Some of these things that are coming to fruition are things I've been working on for 15 to 20 years."

Last night Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, mentioned a homeowner's bill of rights and a restriction on gravel mining on Maury Island as two Senate priorities that died in the House.

Chopp said he supported the Maury Island bill, but that he did not have the votes in his caucus. When pressed about that, he said that was a question for "the 19 people in caucus who told me 'No.' "

The homeowner bill, though, Chopp said needed work and consultation with people in the housing industry.

"We will bring people together ... to make sure that we do something that will actually do what it intended and make sure that we do it the right way.

...

"If you haven't ever had to get a building permit, if you've never had to get a contractor to build an apartment building or a large home complex, if you've never had to deal across the table from an permit issuer, if you never had to go to an insurance company to get construction insurance, if you've never had to go to a bank to get interim construction financing, if you've never had to deal with the egos of architects; do you want me to keep going? Then you ought to consider those points of view."

Chopp is always thinking about the next election. He said this morning he has already identified candidates for the 2008 election season.

"We already have six to pick up more seats," he said to laughs from reporters. "I'm not joking." We asked who they were, but he said, "No, I better not. I have them. You'll see them."

This morning was the first time Chopp had held a media availability since February. That was the event where he mistakenly — and he says jokingly — accused NASCAR legend Richard Petty of having a DUI on his record.

That came up this morning when Chopp was asked about the session, and what he would have done differently. He said he made mistakes, and despite his staff encouraging him not to be specific, Chopp said when pressed:

"I'll think about that. Wait a minute, the last time someone said that it was George Bush. He couldn't think of a mistake so I don't want to repeat that mistake.

"Let me say, actually I thought I made a mistake when I talked about Petty, Richard Petty. I just thought that was, well, stupid and thought it was inappropriate. And I really get down on myself when I do something wrong that might have hurt somebody. I had no right saying that. I meant it as a joke. But I agonized over that. I think it was wrong what I did."

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April 22, 2007

Legislature just about ready to adjourn

Posted by David Postman at 8:54 PM

The House is debating the operating budget. The Senate is milling. It all should be over in a matter of minutes. Gov. Chris Gregoire will appear soon with House and Senate leaders at a media availability. At least the leaders that are still here will appear. Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt isn't expected, the governor's staff said. In fact, most of the Senate Republicans appear to have already left.

The governor will soon issue a press release where she declares:

"This legislative session was marked by strategic and responsible changes that Washington familes can count on."

Among success touted by Gregoire is the proposed constitutional amendment to create a rainy day fund, an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs, a delay in the math and science WASL, and providing subsidized health care insurance for 38,500 additional children.

UPDATE: The Legislature has adjourned. At her press conference Gregoire said:

"This year we maintained a simple but important agenda."

She said that on environmental issues, this will go down as one of the most productive sessions ever.

MORE: Brown highlighted the two issues where there was the most bipartisan cooperation in the Senate, a prison reform bill and a proposed constitutional amendment for a rainy day fund.

She also touched on issues that were left undone -- saying that included everything from allowing dogs in bars to a homeowner's bill of rights. The latter was a point of serious contention among Democrats, with some blaming Chopp for killing that bill.

Chopp was brief in his comments, and praised his party's performance.

"In short, the session has been a great session for one Washington. Democrats delivered and we got done on time."

The rainy day fund and a constitutional amendment to allow school levies to pass with a simple majority will appear on the November ballot. Chopp said he would campaign for the simple majority proposal. Brown and Gregoire said they'd work for both constitutional amendments.

But none said they planned to campaign for the regional transportation package that will also appear on the ballot.


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The final minutes of the 2007 Legislative session

Posted by David Postman at 6:59 PM

The Legislature is at a stand still while the House and Senate figure out the last few details before dropping the gavel for Sine Die. So for my entertainment, I was just watching this submission to The Seattle Times digital short contest, which the House and Senate caucuses watched today:

The Speaker is played by Patrick Schaefer, the House's video intern this year, and the members are played by his pal Faraz Zarghami.

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Former House Speaker John L. O'Brien has died

Posted by David Postman at 2:19 PM

The House Clerk's office confirms that the family of O'Brien telephoned today to say that he had died.

O'Brien was one of the most powerful Speakers in state history. (The House office building is named after him.) Former Senate leader R.R. "Bob" Grieve said in an oral history done by the Secretary of State's offifce:

John O'Brien was one of the toughest and most capable people that Olympia has ever known. He was something else again, and he liked to run things with an iron hand. He was never very fond of me because I was way too independent for him. He kind of felt that the Senate should be a part of his domain, which we never were willing to accept. But, nevertheless, he was an awfully capable and bright man, and usually right.

O'Brien was appointed to the House in 1939 to fill a vacant seat. He went on to serve longer than any other legislator. He was in the House for half the time that Washington had been a state, according to a resolution passed to honor him in 1993.

O'Brien served four terms as speaker, and also was elected at times majority and minority leader. He was known as a "practiced parliamentarian." The Legislature honored him by saying:

He is the epitome of the dignified, elder statesman and is the most outstanding parliamentarian this body has ever produced.

Rep. Helen Sommers served with O'Brien after his run as speaker. When she was elected in 1972, O'Briend was Speaker Pro Tem, but no less a player in running the House. Sommers told me:

"He was very skilled and experienced at presiding. He ran a tight ship. He had the rules and procedures and he really followed them."

Sommers said that at that point in his career O'Brien was not involved in major legislation, but focused on being the House parliamentarian and strategist.

O'Brien died this morning, the beginning of the final day of the 2007 legislative session.

O'Brien was born in 1911.

Here's a 1992 Times story by Robert T. Nelson about O'Brien's defeat in that year's primary.

MORE: State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz ran against O'Brien in 1988. Pelz lost. Pelz won a Senate seat two years later and the 37th District was represented by O'Brien, Pelz and Gary Locke.

Pelz released a statement about O'Brien tonight:

"John O'Brien was always the hero of the Rainier Valley", said Pelz. "He lived through many changes in the Valley, as it grew from an Irish and Italian community, to one that successfully embraced the arrival of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, African American, Orthodox Jewish, Vietnamese, East African, and Hispanic citizens." "John welcomed everyone of these groups into the Rainier Valley."

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Republican attack on prison bill falls short

Posted by David Postman at 2:15 PM

House Republicans took their big stand of the Legislative session last night when they opposed a prison reform bill. They stood and spoke against the bill, saying it put felons before families. And that just happens to be the House GOP theme of the year. As the Republican's deputy leader, Doug Ericksen, said during debate:

"From the first day of session we said, Mr. Speaker, we need to put families in Washington State before those people who have committed crimes against our families."

But the House Republican stand against what's referred to as the offender re-entry bill came off sounding more like a prelude to a political campaign than a substantive debate about prison policy. It fell short as an attack that the measure is any sign that Democrats are soft on crime.

(Democrats have been worried about House Republicans using the bill as campaign fodder.)

Some criticisms of the by House Republicans were refuted by Ericksen himself last night. Rep. Kirk Pearson, the ranking Republican on the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee, opened the Republican attack on the bill last night by saying it would be a "tremendous shift of policy in the state of Washington." He said the bill would mean that the state would be moving from sending people to prison to "more people out in community custody."

After Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, refuted that claim, Ericksen said:

"I think is important to be clear about the underlying bill, which may not actually, totally, result in more people being released out in our communities, but it maintains status quo."

In fact, the bill does not change sentencing laws at all. It doesn't shorten any sentences or increase good time. It creates a program to give prisoners a "re-entry plan" of job training and education and in some cases assistance in finding a place to live when they do get out of prison.

Rep. Mike Armstrong, R-Wenatchee, said last night that he had gotten a call from a constituent whose 13-year-old daughter had been raped and was worried about the pending release of the rapist. Armstrong said the woman had heard about the "legislation for criminals" the Legislature was considering.

"Her daughter still has nightmares and to think that this state was going to help these people that get out early find housing, find jobs, live in our communities, and make it easier to re-offend other 13 year old girls was very troublesome to this mother."

Is there, in fact, anything in the bill that would make it easier, or more likely, someone would reoffend?

"No, it wouldn't," Ericksen told me after the vote last night.

House Republicans are particularly hurt in their attempts to paint the bill as good for criminals because nearly ever Republican in the Senate voted for it. In fact, Sen. Mike Carrell, a conservative Republican from Lakewood, led the effort to pass the bill with Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma. Some of the Republicans most known for being tough on crime, such as Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, voted for the bill.

By today, House Minority Leader Richard Debolt said that not only would the bill do no harm, he conceded "it will have an impact in the future" on reducing crime. He said that his caucus opposed the bill because they wanted to vote on legislation that would clamp down on early release programs and good-time provisions. The vote last night was a protest, he said, that Democrats were not willing to deal with those other issues.

Republicans have tired before to make crime an issue in campaigns. It clearly wasn't much of a help last year against a Democratic onslaught.

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Senate sleeps on it, agrees to House leave bill

Posted by David Postman at 12:14 PM

The Senate just voted 26-21 in favor of a paid family leave bill. It now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.

Last night, Senate Democrats said they were tired of the House dictating the outcome of legislation this year and would insist on their version of family leave -- a bill with a specific funding source. The House version creates a task force to come up with a way to pay for the mandatory leave.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, told her colleagues, "I'll admit, I'm profoundly disappointed" that the Senate version didn't prevail. She said the House bill was not as definitive, decisive or inclusive as the Senate version. But she voted for the bill and urged her colleagues to do the same.

After the vote, Brown said that she and most other Senate Democrats decided they did not want to risk adjourning today with no bill.

"In the end to say we're doing it made sense rather than walking away with nothing."

Brown was met by a small group of family leave supporters, some holding babies, who cheered her as she came out of the chambers after the vote.

Republicans tried to play on Democrats' frustrations with the House, saying the Senate was getting pushed around and the bill as written didn't go far enough.

"I am not happy about what we're allowing the other chamber to do to this piece of legislation," said Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver.

Benton had been one of the few Senate Republicans to vote for the original bill in the Senate. In the end, six Democrats joined Republicans voting against the bill.

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April 21, 2007

Final action near on major prison reform bill

Posted by David Postman at 9:15 PM

The House passed a prison reform bill tonight. Senate Bill 6157 would create training programs and housing assistance for released felons, along with other "offender re-entry" efforts. It was amended so needs to go back to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved easily.

The bill had strong bipartisan support in the Senate where it passed 43-4. It was pushed by Sens. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, and Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, who served on a task force last year that looked at prison release policies and programs.




Carrell and Regala watch the vote tallied in the House.


In the House, though, Republicans opposed the bill. It passed 64-33 on a mostly party-line vote. Regala and Carrell watched the entire debate from the House chambers. Regala said her colleague was like an expectant father. Carrell, a conservative Republican, found himself agreeing tonight mostly with Democrats as his fellow Republicans criticized the bill.

After the vote, House Speaker Frank Chopp congratulated Regala and Carrell, and thanked Carrell for "being so patient" as the House worked on the bill, a Senate priority.

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Democrats divided over family leave

Posted by David Postman at 6:40 PM

With about 30 hours to go in the legislative session, Senate Democrats have apparently had enough of the House getting its way on everything.

"There's a meltdown over family leave," Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown just told me.

In a closed door caucus, Senate Democrats told Brown they did not want to accept the family leave bill that the House passed. Senate leaders had agreed to that version, which does not specify a funding source for the mandated leave program.

Brown said that her colleagues made it clear they had grown weary of House Speaker Frank Chopp and his big Democratic majority dictating much of what has happened this session. They want the original Senate version, which would have been funded by an employee payroll tax.

Lobbyists pushing for the family leave bill said they weren't worried, and that there were still the votes in the Senate to pass it. Brown said that's not necessarily the case.

"It didn't go well in my caucus," Brown said. Should the lobbyists be worried? "I think so," Brown said.

MORE: I was just on the Senate floor talking to Democratic senators. They are ticked at the House. Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, and never one to mince words, said that many members were angered by a last-minute, must-pass, bill that Chopp wanted. The Senate passed that earlier this evening. It authorizes "community preservation and development authorities," and creates the first one covering Seattle's International District and Pioneer Square.

Sponsor Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, said the bill was ncessary, in part, to try to mitigate effects of the baseball park and football stadium in the area. The bill was a priority of hers, and Chopp included it on a list of must-do items.

Fairley called it "a stupid bill." It went through the Government Operations and Elections Committee she chairs and she said Senators tried "to fix it as much as we could." Said Fairley:

"We were jerked around and we've been jerked around on numerous things."

Fairley and Senate Caucus Chairwoman Harriet Spanel said Chopp is overly concerned about Democrats doing something that could cost a member re-election. They wondered what would happen if all 98 House seats were filled with Democrats.

"Would that be enough for him to not be afraid of losing a member," Fairley said. "We've constantly been drug hither and yon by Frank Chopp."

Family leave, though, is not one of those cases where Chopp has taken a more conservative or centrist route than the Senate is comfortable with. In fact, the opposition in the Senate Democratic caucus to the current family leave bill comes from members who say that business would prefer the earlier version that pays for the program through an employee tax.

MORE: Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, a leader in the push for paid family leave, also described the caucus as "meltdown." She is confident, though, that the bill will pass tomorrow in its current form.

She wasn't without her own criticisms of the House. "The House used to be known as the people's House," she said. But this session she said the Senate took that title away from the House. And not just on family leave, she said, but on a number of issues. She said Senate Democrats were disappointed and angry tonight.

THE VIEW FROM THE HOUSE: House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler told me that just recently the House looked carefully at how many bills each chamber passed and "it was pretty even." She said the House leadership was prompted to do that by House Democrats who, just like their Senate counterparts, were convinced they have been getting the short end.

"I think in the end it will be fairly balanced," she said.

Right now the House is beginning to debate a major prison reform bill. It is a priority of the Senate, and clearly not of the House leadership. Kessler said:

"We've gone way out of our way to do this for the Senate."

As Kesier said, "This is the time of the session where we're tired and a little overwrought."


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Fired U.S. attorneys to appear in Seattle

Posted by David Postman at 5:12 PM

The fired U.S. attorneys around the country are becoming popular figures on the lecture circuit. As I wrote earlier, John McKay, the former U.S. Attorney for western Washington will appear next month at the conference of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington.

Now comes word that McKay will appear at Seattle University School of Law - where he now teaches -- next month on a panel with two his former colleagues, New Mexico's David Iglesias and Arizona's Paul Charlton. The event is a public policy forum called U.S. Attorneys: Roles and Responsibilities. There will also be law professors, political scientists and other speakers at the conference. Among sessions listed in the agenda are:

  • The 2007 Experience -- Myths and Realities: explanation of the current incidents, with comparison of historical similarities and differences.
  • Assessment of Impact on Legal System: is this a quirk or does this indicate a long-term change? .

The event is May 9 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. You can find more information here.

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Speaker Pro Tem may be moving on

Posted by David Postman at 1:37 PM

Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, says he's considering a run for Snohomish County sheriff. Sheriff Rick Bart, a Republican, is retiring.

Lovick may be one of the best known legislators, at least among TVW watchers. He is Speaker Pro Tempore of the House and wields the gavel most of the time the House is in session.

Lovick was just being interviewed on TVW -- I'm blogging from TVW's ad hoc Capitol studio -- and was asked what his political future may hold. He said he has given "some serious thought" about running for sheriff. He hasn't made a final decision but says, "I'm almost there."

After the session he will meet with friends and advisors and make a decision. Lovick spent 31 years in the State Patrol. He's been in the Legislature since 1998, and has been House Speaker Frank Chopp's fill-in for five years.

Lovick said on TVW that he studies hard for that job. Maybe not as hard as he did when he first was elected Speaker Pro Tem. He said that during church he would draw maps of the House floor and work to memorize the name and district number of every member of the House. At Crosscut, Austin Jenkins wrote this week about Lovick's attempts to keep his fellow Democrats on the straight and narrow.

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A rare find: A very happy lobbyist

Posted by David Postman at 1:25 PM

I'm blogging from the Legislative Building and will be until the session adjourns tomorrow. There still aren't many people — by which I mean lobbyists — around outside the chamber doors.

That tells you that most of what's left to do is settled and just needs to make its way through the process. I can't think of a major issue that will attract a swarm of lobbyists to work the doors.

Clifford Traisman is here. He is the state lobbyist for the Washington Conservation Voters and the Washington Environmental Council. I ran into him in the hall between the House and Senate. You could say he was taking a victory lap of sorts. He told me:

"It was an enormously successful session."

That came with no qualification. You don't hear that often from interest groups. There are always compromise and things left behind or damage done from the other side to moderate that sort of exhortation. But environmentalists, at least through the biggest organization that represents them in Olympia, got the Legislature to do everything on their priority list.

It was a short list; four items. But that's been WCV's strategy for the past five years. This is the first time that all four can be checked off. Certainly that has to do with the big Democratic majorities. House Speaker Frank Chopp was intently focused on the four priorities. Any time he was asked about any other environmental issue, his answer would be that it wasn't on the list of four.

But what's most interesting about the environmentalists' success this year is that rather than rely solely on those Democratic majorities, they pushed for what Traisman referred to as an "environmental majority."

The four bills on the list all got bipartisan support. Traisman said the number of Republican votes on environmental bills was a record. One of the four issues was to get $100 million in the capital budget for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. There's no single legislative vote count on that. But on the others:

The bill that could lead to a ban on a chemical fire retardant passed the House 71-24 and 41-8 in the Senate. It was the third year for the bill.

The Puget Sound Partnership bill passed 41-5 in the Senate and 86-12 in the House.

A clean fuel bill passed the Senate 44-4 and passed the House 79-19.

So how do environmentalists get Republican support? In part by bringing back issues that the Legislature is familiar with. That helps build support on both sides of the aisle. But Traisman pointed out something even more important:

"None of these issues pitted the environment against the economy."

Traisman said business lobbyists did not oppose any of the four priority bills. Another important bill, but one that didn't make the top four, was a bill to restrict gravel mining on Maury Island. That had business opposition, and the environmentalists lost.

In a year when some people have questioned whether the Democratic majorities have been aggressive — or progressive enough — Traisman said environmentalists have been well served by a focused, restrained, agenda.

"This is a long-term strategy. These are not one-year, feel-good issues. We're not trying to go for that one 50-homer season. ... It may not make the far left run to their mailbox and send our group money. But people who are watching know what's been done.

"We're not here to make a political statement, as some would like us to do."

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April 20, 2007

Sommers says rainy day fund "foolish, thoughtless"

Posted by David Postman at 8:58 PM

House Appropriations Chairwoman Helen Sommers doesn't usually say much during floor debates. She saves her comments for the budget she writes, and even then she remains a woman of few words.

But tonight, in her quiet, methodical way, Sommers unleashed an unflinching attack on a proposed constitutionally-protected budget reserve fund.

She said, "I stand in strong opposition to this proposal." And that was an understatement.

"It is unbelievable to me that the Legislature ... would restrict it's own authority. ... I think it is foolish, thoughtless, highly political and a huge mistake."

That last line led House Speaker Pro Tem John Lovick to gavel Sommers down. I don't recall ever seeing that happen in my 14 years. He told her to confine her remarks to the bill "and not speculate on motive." Apparently, saying something is political speaks to motive.

Sommers responded, "Our rationale, it seems to me, is always important."

She said that legislative leaders spoke "very strongly" against her attempt to amend the proposal in committee.

"So, to me, what we have done, or what we are doing with this piece of legislation, is tying our hands and failing to look forward to the contingencies that we might face which would drive the need to use these funds for purposes that are not yet contemplated.

"I think it is is one of the worst pieces of legislation I have ever seen and I regret deeply that it appears to be ready to be passed this House tonight."

She's seen a lot of legislation. She was first elected in 1972 and today is the most senior member of the Legislature. To tell you how long ago that was, her seatmate from her Seattle district that year was Ken Eikenberry, later to be Republican attorney general, GOP gubernatorial nominee and state GOP chairman.

The measure just passed 74-23.

UPDATE: Here's the statement Gov. Christine Gregoire just released:

"Tonight the Legislature has given the people of Washington an opportunity to create a Rainy Day Fund to help stabilize our economy. ... By setting aside money when times are good, we will ensure that we are always prepared to keep our commitments to Washington families."


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Legislature grinds into final weekend

Posted by David Postman at 8:26 PM

The 2007 Legislature is set to adjourn in a little over 48 hours from now. I would have thought it'd be a little more exciting right about now. The Legislative Building is quiet. Hardly a lobbyist in sight. I'm starting to miss them.

We're not completely without news, though.

  • Liberal House Democrats remain unhappy about Gov. Chris Gregoire's demands for a constitutionally-protected budget reserve fund. There was a caucus meeting today and there were members speaking up against the measure, said Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, who opposes the proposal.

    Some senators were worried tonight that the unhappy House Dems would stop the bill. Cody says that won't happen. There is plenty of opposition, but, she said, "I don't think there is a lot of delusion."

    "We can whine but there are enough votes in the Republican caucus to pass it."

    The measure needs a two-thirds vote in the House and in the Senate to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

    The rainy day fund, as they like to call it, was proposed by Republican Sen. Joe Zarelli and Republicans have spoken often this session about the need for a protected fund. That makes it unlikely that the House Republicans would withhold the votes necessary to pass the measure.

    The House just began debate on the measure.

  • Talks continue about the WASL. This has been one of the late-breaking controversies of the session. Only in the past few days has it seemed that there were serious attempts to delay not just the agreed-upon math and science portions of the test, but reading and writing, too.

    The talk has led Gregoire to declare publicly that she would veto any attempt to delay the language portions of the test. I think it's the only time she has ever said anything close to promising a veto.

    But the chairs of the legislative education committees, Rosemary McAuliffe in the Senate and Dave Quall in the House, have kept the talk alive.

    Today, House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown met with McAuliffe, Quall, Sen. Rodney Tom and Rep. Pat Sullivan, Brown told me. She said the legislative leaders wanted to hear first-hand from lawmakers pushing for more delays.

    Brown said she does not think there will be a continued, concerted, effort for those delays. But she said that she and Chopp said they are willing to consider some additional language that the lawmakers would like added to the bill delaying the math and science WASLs. She said the changes would not interfere with Gregoire's firm stance that math and science be delayed, and only those subjects.

  • Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice says the plan is to unveil the conference committee report on the proposed 2007-2009 operating budget at noon tomorrow.

    Legislative rules say the report has to be available for 24 hours before it can be voted on.

  • Prentice also told me that she met with Gregoire yesterday to talk about the Sonics. She says the governor is "really revved up about what happens next."

    Prentice said that after the session Gregoire will be working with Renton officials and lawmakers to try to find a financing plan that could win approval.

    Gregoire's press secretary, Holly Armstrong, said she doesn't think the governor mean to signal any change in her position. But, she esaid, "I think she is interested in seeing what we can make happen."

    Armstrong said Gregoire was enthused by lawmakers talk Monday - the day the plug was pulled on the proposal - about how the Renton facility was about more than basketball. I wrote about this here and here.

    "I think it was born out of that conversation when they started talking about a world-class events center and what it could mean to attract major events."

    Armstrong said that lawmakers said that the facility could be a place to hold events like national political conventions.

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On TV this weekend

Posted by David Postman at 11:24 AM

I just taped a segment for KING 5's Up Front with Robert Mak. It focused on the performance of Speaker Frank Chopp and Gov. Christine Gregoire this session.

I was on with former GOP Chairman Chris Vance and the Stranger's Josh Feit. It was the first time Josh and I had spoken since I wrote about him and he wrote about me writing about him. (Yes, I know, bloggers writing about bloggers ...) There's no personal animosity over our disagreement about his story on Chopp. On the show, we do get a few minutes to talk about our differing views, though. The show airs Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on KING and on Northwest Cable News at 8 p.m.

On the TVW show I host, Olympia On Call, the guests this week are Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Minority Leader Mike Hewitt. It's a pretty good discussion, assisted by John Hughes, editor and publisher of the Daily World in Aberdeen, Rick Eskil, the editorial page editor of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, and Deirdre Gregg, a writer at the Puget Sound Business Journal.



TVW



It's the last show of the year for On Call, which runs only during the Legislative session. It should air at 9 tonight and repeat through the weekend, though it will no doubt be shifted about for live coverage of the last few days of the session.

On a personal note, I want to thank the crew at TVW who do a great job every week getting the show on the air, making the guests feel comfortable, and even at times making it look like I know what I'm doing in front of a camera. Thanks to audio techs Will Mader and Patrick Maxwell, camera operator Nate Shaw, director (and the voice in my head) Aaron Qualls and producer Mike Bay, who does more than anyone to make the show work. Thanks guys.

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April 19, 2007

UPDATED: Lobbyists have feelings too

Posted by David Postman at 5:02 PM

When the Sonics financing package collapsed this week there was plenty of credit and/or blame to go around. Some pointed to House Speaker Frank Chopp, others at Gov. Christine Gregoire. Some at the team. And if you read Adam Wilson's blog in The Olympian, you'll see a couple of lawmakers blaming the Sonics' lobbyists.

"They never even came to my office to lobby me," said Rep. Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup. "It hasn't even been on my radar."

And this from Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia:

"I never got anything from them," he volunteered. "I don't think they did any lobbying. I don't think they put out any information for members. I think they took the money and ran."

"Took the money and ran" was a phrase you could have heard 100 times in the Capitol today. Hunt's comments really did create a buzz. It's unusual for lawmakers to speak so bluntly about lobbyists. The lobbyists were insulted by the comments, and particularly that one which almost had the ring of alleged wrongdoing.

Linda Hull, one of the lobbyists, told my colleague Ralph Thomas:

"I was just stunned. I have a really thick skin but I was just stunned by that."

Hunt told me that Hull and the other lobbyists spoke to him today and let him know how angry they were. He said they made that pretty clear. And he said he apologized.

"It was sort of a heated comment in the heat of the moment. They weren't any happier than I was at having said it, probably."

Hunt told me that when he looked up who was lobbying the Sonics he saw the name of one consultant, who he hadn't seen in Olympia all session. But there was a team of lobbyists working for the Sonics who were hard to miss during the past few weeks.

Hull said that the four Sonics lobbyists met with 130 of 147 legislators, and tried to set up appointments with all of them. They tried to meet with Hunt but couldn't arrange a private meeting with him. Hull said that Hunt did attend one briefing they held. It was on the economic study, and lunch was served.

UPDATE: In the comments, Rep. Chris Strow says no Sonics lobbyist ever tried to reach him or his legislative assistant.

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State Senate talks about the war, but only a little

Posted by David Postman at 2:49 PM

Senate Democrats could not agree on an anti-war resolution after days of editing drafts and negotiating amongst themselves. Divisions among the 32 Democrats parallel divisions in the country, said Majority Leader Lisa Brown.

So instead of debating a non-binding resolution, Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, who had earlier pushed to get the Senate on record calling for impeaching President Bush, rose to talk about the war as a point of personal privilege.

Oemig was answered by Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, a veteran of the Vietnam War. Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, also spoke against the war, and other senators are expected to give their opinions later in the day and through the final days of the legislative session.

Here are transcripts I made of the full comments of Oemig and Swecker, which I think are worth reading.

Oemig:

Democracy is often easier to enjoy than it is to participate in and protect. We inherited a great democracy and those who shaped it were not perfect. It'd be easier to point out their mistakes than to live up to their example. Our American tradition, our inherited tradition, is to aim high. And we're bound to make mistakes. We made plenty. History's filled with them — Gulf of Tonkin, Iran-Contra. But it's with action that we fix our mistakes. And when people are honestly mistaken and they learn the truth, they either cease to be mistaken or they case to be honest. If we do not act to correct our mistakes, our children will inherit them. We cannot restore the lives lost in Iraq, or the lost limbs or the lives shattered. But we can act.

Our commander in chief can be relived of duty. The truth has surfaced. He abused our proud traditions and brought us torture while telling us we don't torture. He violated our proud traditions and spied on American citizens while telling us we don't spy. And he made claims about aluminum tubes and yellow cake that the evidence did not support.

The truth has surfaced. Do we cease to be mistaken or do we cease to be honest? I would never trust this president with the life of my son. How can I trust him with the lives of my neighbors' kids? How many more lives will this president sacrifice from Washington state? Six since we convened in January. For the soldiers who are going to die next month and next year and to avert more death and to prevent handing out more gold stars to mothers, we must end this war.

The commander in chief must be relieved of duty. The framers of our Constitution gave us the tools of impeachment and conviction. We must not be afraid to use these tools.

Swecker:

We find ourselves on the floor of the Senate today hearing speeches about war and peace and perhaps even impeaching a president. That's something new for me, and probably even new for you who have been here a long, long time.

The reason it's new is because that's not what we were elected to do. I'm not saying these issues aren't important. They are. I know that first hand. As many of you probably know, I'm a veteran of the Vietnam War. While I was there I earned the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and more than 20 air medals.

As a veteran, I can tell you that people deciding to volunteer to serve their country, they do this for a variety of reasons; patriotism, educational opportunities, family tradition, belief in a cause. But once they get into combat, that all goes away and they share one thing in common: The desire to see the war end. They don't like the isolation, the loneliness, the crummy food and especially getting shot at.

But what keeps them engaged and what makes many of them sign up to go back?
It's their deep desire for freedom on the part of people they are there to serve. The desire for freedom, to them, out weighs all else,

There's no better example of this than Valley Forge. Think about the despair, the disease, the death, that the Constitutional Army suffered during that winter of destiny for this nation. Yet it was the desire for freedom that caused them to endure and go forward.

I've been in combat and I've seen the eyes of the people that I was there to help. You can't turn away. Their faces stay with you. You see the suffering and you realize you can help them and help the people back home.

We all want peace. But peace at the price of freedom is failure. That's what I believe. And whether it's our policy as a nation, is something that we do need to decide. But the debate on this issue should not be occurring in the state Legislature. It should, Mr. President, and is, occurring in Congress.

These are issues of foreign policy. This is an area outside the jurisdiction of this body. People in our districts ... did not elect us to solve national problems. They elected us to solve the unique problems and challenges facing Washington state.

This year the Senate Republicans have been talking about a symbolic woman named Beth C. Budget, education, transportation, health care and crime — those are the issues that are important to her and those are the issue that this body should be dealing with. Solving the problems of this state and local issues is a commitment we must keep. We all understand that people feel strongly about these issues. But let's focus on the things we were elected to do and leave the matters of national security up to our colleagues in the other Washington.

One visitor's gallery was full of impeachment supporters, and after the speeches they chanted, "Impeach, impeach, impeach." They then filed out politely, one elderly protester apologizing to the security guard for those that were so loud and the guard telling the visitors, "Thanks for coming today folks."

The discussion about the war and impeachment seemed to occur with as much civility as possible. But first there was a silly bit of political gamesmanship that did nothing to add to the debate.

Republicans, knowing that the war was expected to come up on the floor today, put small American flags on each of their 17 desks this morning. When Democrats came in for the morning session, they saw the flags dotting the Republican side, and immediately sent someone to buy 32 American flags so their desks, too, could fly the miniature Stars and Stripes.

It didn't stop there. Some Democrats removed the flag from the tiny flag poles and reattached them at half-mast to honor the people killed in the Virginia massacre. And that prompted a Senate Republican staffer to point out to reporters that the president's directive on the flying the flag at half-mast covered only full-size flags, not novelty desk flags.

UPDATE: While some Democratic senators said their little flags were at half mast for the Virgina shootings, Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, said she started the move as a way to honor war dead; in her case particularly from the Vietnam war where she served as a civillian nurse.

Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, talked later in the day and explained:

So my flag is at half-staff to honor those who will never come home,
those who will come back maimed or injured physically and mentally, those whose lives will never be the same.

And also for those Iraqis who have died, whose families have been torn apart, whose country is in turmoil; for our countries and for the region which face an uncertain future due to the fiscal costs of war, the devastation of war, and the instability that has been created in so many lives.

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Chopp can't be blamed alone for failure of liberal agenda

Posted by David Postman at 11:41 AM

There's been a lot written about House Speaker Frank Chopp this year. And I've been reading it all very carefully. Chopp hasn't talked to me in months, so I'm just like any other reader trying to learn about how the speaker is using his immense power.

There's no doubt he is the most powerful speaker in recent history. But people can see that power differently. That was real clear to me reading a bit of rant by Stranger editor Dan Savage on The Slog on Wednesday.

Savage ripped up Austin Jenkins for a blog post the public radio reporter wrote for the new Crosscut. Jenkins wrote about how Chopp and Majority Leader Lynn Kessler manage the caucus, and try to protect freshmen "kittens" from having to do too much of anything controversial. Jenkins wrote:

It's difficult to find dissenters in Democratic circles who will openly criticize the Chopp approach as too safe or too middle-of-the-road.

This really set Savage off. He responded by touting a story done last week by The Stranger's Josh Feit about Chopp. He praised Feit for working hard on his story while saying Jenkins "phoned his in."

I think Savage read too much into what his guy wrote. Feit's thesis is that Chopp was stopping progressive legislation and in doing so was ticking off liberals in and out of the Legislature. Savage wrote:

Huh? Josh found plenty of "dissenters in Democratic circles" willing to go on record: folks from the Sierra Club, SEIU, and the Washington Tax Fairness Coalition. Even a Democratic State Senator and a State Rep.

But not really. When I read Feit's story I felt the claim of broad dissent was coming from something of a Potemkin village. When you look close, there is not, in fact, much on-the-record criticism of Chopp. Some of what is mistaken for that is a more general critique of the corporatist nature of Washington Democrats. That's not new, nor is it exclusive to Chopp.

But let's look at the examples of dissenters Savage points to in Feit's piece.

The Sierra Club? Yes, it appears that someone from the Sierra Club was unhappy with Chopp's position on the viaduct. Point to Feit.

The SEIU? Here's what Feit wrote:

"In the fifth or sixth year of Democratic control now," says David Rolf, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 775, "neither chamber has looked seriously at tax loopholes. We're subsidizing the Realtors and the chemical fertilizer industry, for example, with millions."

Nope, I hardly count that as criticism of Chopp. Rolf is talking about all the Democrats, even the governor, though he didn't mention her. The SEIU is not a critic of Chopp and Rolf doesn't mention the speaker in any negative fashion in Feit's piece. When the Sonics deal collapsed this week, it was Chopp alone who got praised by name in a statement from Rolf.

How about the Washington Tax Fairness Coalition? Feit wrote:

"I was really surprised to hear the Democratic leadership was even talking about codifying Tim Eyman's tax cap," says Christy Margelli, communications director of the Washington Tax Fairness Coalition, a liberal group that's been lobbying this session for a more progressive tax code. A Democratic bill to codify Eyman's tax plan died in committee, but the Democratic leadership revived it in caucus. "It seems like an odd place for a strong Democratic majority to be — busy talking about moving Tim Eyman's agenda," Margelli says. "The thinking behind that is defensive. When you have a big majority you should have an offensive posture."

Nothing was "revived" in caucus. The caucus had a discussion about the bill because its sponsor, Rep. Chris Hurst, kept pushing Chopp to let it come to a vote. Chopp told him there was no support, and it died. There were a group of moderate to conservative Democrats who did want to codify 747. But there's no evidence Chopp was ever one of them.

Then there was the claim that "Even a Democratic State Senator and a State Rep." offered criticism of Chopp's attempts to steer the House to a centrist agenda. Feit wrote:

As the Olympian first reported in early April, liberal Representative Brendan Williams (D-22, Olympia) threatened to resign after Chopp tabled a consumer-protection bill for homeowners that Williams had moved through the House Judiciary Committee.

And then the original sponsor of the bill, Democratic State Senator Brian Weinstein (D-41, Mercer Island), who passed the bill out of the Democratic Senate 30-19, told The Stranger that Chopp was acting like a dictator.

They did say those things. They both popped off when angry and showed how frustrated they were with Chopp. And then they worked very hard to make sure everyone knew that while they disagreed with the speaker on that issue, they had no questions about his leadership. Feit's quotes did not tell the full story. Here's a more recent quote in the Olympian from Williams:

"Frank has to balance this out for the statewide population with business and labor. I don't have to do that. That's not my job."

He called Chopp his friend and leader.

Feit offered a liberal critique of Chopp's leadership. He wishes Chopp were more liberal. Fair enough. A lot of people wish that. But it is not the case that there is widespread, vocal opposition to Chopp from liberals inside or outside of the House caucus. More than anything there is a frustrated acceptance of the situation.

There's a reason why it's important to look at this reporting and to really focus on who is saying what. The House speaker — as the case with any speaker — is only as powerful as his members allow him to be. To portray Chopp as a dictator excuses the 61 other members of the Democratic caucus from any responsibility. And frankly that's part of what Chopp wants to do — shield members from criticism to help them get re-elected.

Feit's headline said that Chopp is to blame for "blocking the Democratic agenda." But Chopp has never claimed to be a great liberal crusader. Some lawmakers are seen that way. Shouldn't they be held accountable for going along with Chopp? There are lots of bills that individual lawmakers want that don't get passed, or even get a hearing. But is there a "Democratic agenda" that Chopp has stopped over the protests of his members? No.

Chopp has ticked off plenty of people around Olympia. He involves himself in as many issues as he can — and sometimes even more than I imagine can really be handled at one time. He can be moody and disagreeable, particularly with the press, staff and sometimes other legislators. He doesn't like to be questioned and apparently does not feel a need to explain his position on issues.

But if there was a "Democratic agenda" he was single-handedly blocking, the Democrats would find someone else to lead them.

For months, Feit pushed hard in the columns of The Stranger to get the House majority to accept a carbon cap bill sponsored by Rep. Maralyn Chase. She is, without argument, one of the Legislature's most liberal members. And what did she tell Feit about the Radical Centrist Reign of Chopp?

He runs into the problem of competing interests," says Representative Maralyn Chase (D-32), who had a number of progressive bills, like her CO2 cap, ignored by leadership. "But he generally plays the role of King Solomon pretty well."

No doubt Chopp will continue to attract attention. In fact, I just found this which looks like a place dedicated to following the Speaker's actions.

UPDATE: Feit has posted a response to this on The Slog. I'm afraid he read my piece as rushing to defend Chopp. I don't see it that way of course. I don't care personally whether Chopp is liberal or not, or whether people are mad at him or not. I have no need to defend him. I just didn't think that Feit's reporting backed up his thesis. You can read his take and see what you think.

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Edwards picks Seattle for union meeting

Posted by David Postman at 9:26 AM

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards will be in Seattle May 1 as part of the AFL-CIO's new presidential endorsement process. The candidates will go through a two-step process: Town hall meetings where a candidate will get to meet alone with union members, and then a forum where all the candidates appear in Chicago.

The labor group let the candidates choose in which city they wanted to hold their town hall meeting. Edwards chose Seattle. Edwards will take questions from a panel of three workers at the Aerospace Machinists Hall. But the discussion will then be opened to all union members, where all comers get a chance to ask Edwards questions that will not be screened ahead of time.

The AFL-CIO will soon launch an interactive Web site for its members with endorsement information.

This AP story has the full list of which cities the candidates chose for their town halls.

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April 18, 2007

State Senate to debate Iraq war

Posted by David Postman at 5:28 PM

Sen. Eric Oemig, who earlier this year wanted the Legislature to call on Congress to impeach President Bush, says he is drafting a resolution about the Iraq war that the Senate is set to debate tomorrow.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown told me this morning she has agreed to allow a debate on the measure. It will be a floor resolution that would be a "sense of the Senate." It is not a joint resolution that would go to the House. Brown said:

"No doubt the war is the most pressing issue facing the country and people should have a chance to talk about it. If people think that's misguided, they can get up and say that."

The Senate Democratic caucus met behind closed doors this afternoon to discuss the resolution. Oemig said it was "spirited." And he said that there is still no agreement on what the resolution will say. Earlier in the day Oemig told me the resolution came out of his earlier effort to call for impeachment of the president and vice president:

"It is a very toned down vehicle for the Senate to have a debate about issues connected to war, peace and impeachment."

He said there has been some negotiating already about the language of the resolution, which he would not share with me.

"I wrote the original version and leadership took their black pen to it and we've been going back and forth."

Earlier in the session Brown had said she the Senate wouldn't debate Oemig's impeachment resolution. She said today that the new resolution would not call for impeachment and not push Congress to act, but give people a chance to air their feelings about the war.

Oemig said that he renewed his efforts to get some sort of war debate on the floor after some in the Senate began saying the Legislature could adjourn early this year.

"I thought there was something really dishonest about saying we couldn't talk about the war ... when we were talking about, 'Let's adjourn early.'"

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Real life civics: How to amendment-proof a bill

Posted by David Postman at 2:26 PM

There's a new move to get the Legislature to pass a major prison reform bill before the session adjourns Sunday. There was an earlier bill that passed the Senate with a lone no vote, but it was stopped in the House. A House committee then amended the measure so much that senators wouldn't accept it, and the move to create new prison programs to reduce recidivism appeared dead.

But now the Senate is reviving another bill for what they call an offender re-entry program. The move gives insight into two legislative practices that don't get much publicity: The use of placeholder, title-only bills, and the need to craft a bill title narrow enough that no one can amend it too much. Legislative rules say that details of a bill have to generally match the title and the subject of proposed legislation, so, as an example, you can't put a gas tax increase into a bill to regulate the use of fertilizer.

The original bill title seemed pretty specific with its references to sections of the Revised Code of Washington:

AN ACT Relating to reduction of offender recidivism; amending RCW 72.09.300, 72.09.015, 9.94A.728, 9.94A.737, 9.94A.850, 72.09.460, 72.09.480, 72.09.450, 72.09.111, 29A.04.079, 29A.08.520, 9.92.066, 9.94A.637, 9.96.050, and 10.64.140; adding new sections to chapter 4.24 RCW; adding new sections to chapter 72.09 RCW; adding a new section to chapter 82.04 RCW; adding a new section to chapter 82.16 RCW; adding a new section to chapter 59.18 RCW; adding a new section to chapter 35.82 RCW; adding new sections to chapter 43.185C RCW; adding a new chapter to Title 72 RCW; creating new sections; repealing RCW 10.64.021 and 29A.08.660; and providing expiration dates.

But it wasn't tight enough. The first thing senators did was find a bill that was empty except for a title. The entire bill read:

AN ACT Relating to human services.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:
NEW SECTION.

Sec. 1. This act shall be known as the human
services act of 2007.

--- END ---

No more is it called the "human services act of 2007." Now, in a move to keep anyone from messing too much with the bill, it will be known by what experts here say at 588 words may be the longest bill title in state history:

AN ACT Relating to reducing offender recidivism by increasing access and coordination of offender services in communities through inventories of services and community transition coordination network pilot programs; by improving local law and justice councils to focus their efforts on effective use of correctional resources and coordination between state and local law enforcement and corrections agencies; by developing and implementing individual reentry plans that describe actions and services to prepare offenders for release from jail or prison and require an offender to participate in available programming directed in their plan in order to qualify for fifty percent earned early release; by requiring an offender released to community supervision to be returned to the county of origin unless it is inappropriate due to matters of victim safety, lack of family or other supports for the offender in other locations, or negative influences on the offender in that community; by requiring the department of corrections to prepare a list of counties and rural multi-county areas for anticipated siting of work release, community justice centers and other community based correctional facilities while making substantial efforts to provide for the equitable distribution of the facilities; by studying and identifying evidence based practices for work release; by increasing the use of effective practices in residential and nonresidential transition facilities for offenders under the jurisdiction of the department of corrections; by permitting partial confinement in lieu of earned early release up to three months; by requiring, upon a finding at a third violation hearing that the offender committed a violation, the return of an offender to total confinement to serve up to the remaining portion of his or her sentence unless it is determined that returning the offender would interfere with the offender's ability to maintain community supports or participate in treatment and would increase the likelihood of re-offending; by requiring an offender arrested for a new felony while under community custody, community placement, or community supervision to be held in confinement until a hearing before the department or until a formal charge is filed, whichever is earlier; by prohibiting an offender under community custody, community placement, or community supervision who is found guilty of a new felony after the effective date of this act from qualifying for fifty percent earned early release; by creating a task force to study and review the current laws and policy regarding community custody and community supervision; by conducting a community corrections workload study; by requiring any offender under community custody, community placement, or community supervision who is sanctioned to total confinement for a violation to serve the term of the sanction in total confinement; by improving educational opportunities; by providing liability protection for landlords who rent to former offenders; by encouraging housing authorities to formulate rental policies not overly burdensome to previously incarcerated individuals; by establishing a transitional housing program for offenders in need of stable housing; by allowing funds to be disbursed from a personal inmate savings account in order to assist an offender to secure appropriate housing; by establishing expedited procedures for released offenders to obtain a driver's license or identification card; and by reviewing and recommending changes to occupational licensing laws; amending RCW 72.09.300, 72.09.015, 9.94A.728, 9.94A.737, 72.09.460, 72.09.480, 72.09.450, and 72.09.111; adding new sections to chapter 72.09 RCW; adding a new section to chapter 9.94A RCW; adding a new section to chapter 59.18 RCW; adding a new section to chapter 35.82 RCW; adding a new section to chapter 43.185C RCW; adding a new chapter to Title 72 RCW; creating new sections; and providing expiration dates.

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Senate GOP compares itself to Chinese democracy protesters

Posted by David Postman at 11:16 AM

This sign is taped up on the door of the Senate Republican Caucus Room.


I understand that the 17 Republicans at times feel dwarfed by the power of 32 Democrats in the Senate. But do they really want to compare themselves to the iconic figure of China's democracy movement?

Historical analogies are tough, and none more so when an opponent ends up being compared to a dictator's brutal regime. Several hundred people were killed by government forces in the student uprising in Beijing in 1989. I've seen the damage the tanks did to Tiananmen Square, and listened to government press minders tell me that there were no killings and that the government did not crush any uprising.

I've heard complaints from Senate Republicans about being locked out of the process. That happens every year. But it has not included the sort of anti-democracy talk we hear some times from the minority.

I'm not sure what's going on with the Senate Republican Caucus today. I just got back from taking the picture of that sign. As I walked up to the door of the caucus room, I heard from inside:

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain. Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail? A smile from a veil? Do you think you can tell?

Yes, the Republicans are in a closed caucus meeting listening to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here."

UPDATE: Why were Republicans listening to Pink Floyd? It was about Israel ,of course.

The song was a soundtrack to a presentation Sen. Joe Zarelli was giving his Republican colleagues about Convergence Northwest. That is a two-day conference in Vancouver designed to boost support for Israel in the United States and, according to a pamphlet for the event:

Provide an honest depiction of the current state of the war in Israel, the threat of terrorism, and how they both effect the United States.

The conference will bring prominent conservative Israeli politicians to the state, including former Prime Minister and current Knesset member Benjamin Netanyahu. There are three other members of the Knesset scheduled to attend, including prominent conservatives Limor Livnat and Arieh Eldad. Zarelli is also scheduled to speak. He told me got involved in the effort after making friends with an Israeli. Zarelli traveled to Israel and he said he and his wife have been deeply involved in organizing the conference.

Also on the agenda for the June meeting is Brigitte Gabriel, founder of the American Congress for Truth. Gabriel was born in Lebanon and raised as a Christian. After 9-11 she started ACT to help America "win the war against Islamofascism" and to battle the "political correctness" she thinks hurts that fight. The group's website says:

ACT members are trained to be vigilant and respond quickly to anti-American and anti-Israel media bias and social, political and religious behavior.


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More on the Sonics, semantics and threats to leave

Posted by David Postman at 8:08 AM

A leading critic of public subsidies for sports facilities says we likely have not heard the last about a state financing plan for a new Sonics arena. Neil deMause, co-author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit, wrote on his Field of Schemes blog :

I'll be surprised if there isn't at least one more last-ditch effort to extract arena funds from Washington state — or perhaps King County, a la the Minnesota Twins model — before the moving vans start backing up to KeyArena.

deMause makes no secret of his dislike of public financing for sports facilities and says all the economic studies that show great benefits to the community are bunk. He was a witness at a March hearing before the domestic-policy subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (City Councilman Nick Licata also testified.)

I wrote Monday about lawmakers' efforts to try to change the semantics of the deal, if not the substance, by focusing on the multi-purpose nature of the facility. deMause has heard that before. In his testimony in D.C. he said "new tactics are being added all the time" by stadium advocates:

Building "ballpark villages" of housing and retail development alongside stadiums muddies the economic waters, allowing boosters to counter charges that stadiums are bad investments by saying, "it's not just a stadium."

And, of course, no one should be surprised by threats that the team will now leave the state. As deMause testified:

Sports team owners almost always threaten that they will move their team out of town if their stadium demands are not met. But while teams do sometimes move, far more often owners are just crying wolf to shake a few more dollars loose from local governments. Most recently, we saw how during talks over a new Pittsburgh Penguins arena, the team's owners would jet off to Kansas City or Las Vegas every time negotiations seemed to be bogging down; in the end, the team got millions of dollars worth of concessions from the state as a result of their veiled threats.

We certainly saw that with the Mariners and the Seahawks before the Legislature approved deals for the teams. There's always a crisis point in these things. I thought maybe the sale of the team to out-of-state owners might have been that moment. But apparently not. It's too soon to know if today's news about the team's plans means the end of the debate, or an important turning point that could end up with the Legislature approving a financing plan before the year is out.

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April 17, 2007

The art of the vote count

Posted by David Postman at 3:51 PM

This year there were a number of major pieces of legislation that couldn't get a vote in the Democratically-controlled House after Speaker Frank Chopp said there wasn't enough support among his caucus to warrant a vote.

But those vote counts are closely held secrets. Only two people ever see the tally in the House, Chopp and his longtime deputy House Whip Sharon Tomiko Santos. All an advocate of a bill is told is that the votes weren't there; no tally, no peek at the numbers. Santos said that's the case no matter who asks:

"We've had caucuses where prime sponsors and committee chairs want to see the count and I won't share that. Frank can do that if he wants. That's his prerogative."

Democratic legislation stopped this session in part because the "votes weren't there" in the House include property tax restrictions, the so-called Wal-Mart bill to force companies to pay for employee health care, a funded family leave bill and a proposed restrictions on Maury Island gravel mining.

The secret vote counts are one of the many differences between how the House and Senate ruling caucuses operate.

"There are no private vote counts in the Senate," said Sen. Erik Poulsen, D-Seattle. He was the sponsor of the Maury Island bill and was told by Chopp Monday that there weren't enough votes among the House's 62 Democrats to insure it would pass. Poulsen was more optimistic and wanted Chopp to allow a vote.

"I thought we could get there and I was told we could not. I don't hold Chopp responsible for the Maury Island bill dying. But I sure wish he had brought it up because we could have gotten there."

The two men met Monday to discuss the bill, but Poulsen was not shown the vote count. In the Senate Democratic caucus, vote tallies are shared with all Democrats so they know who is with them and who needs to be pushed harder.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said that sometimes senators do their own vote count to show the caucus that there's enough support to warrant a floor vote. And those vote counts are usually seen as reliable. Sometimes lobbyists will do vote counts and the caucus whip, Sen. Debbie Regala, and others will then try to verify the count.

Brown said she hasn't found any downside to the open vote counts.

"That's the culture I came into and I've come to appreciate it."

Some of that comes from a smaller number of senators, and historically a narrower majority that has forced a more collegial process. It gives committee chairs more power than they have in the House.

In the House, a vote count of representatives is treated more like a vote at a polling place: It's secret. Santos said that allows members to tell her and her deputy whips what they really think about a piece of legislation without worrying about offending a colleague.

"Nobody sees that but me and Frank," she said. And that means that the vote tallies can be counted on as accurate. Santos said:

"It protects the integrity of our numbers and gives our Speaker numbers he can really count on."

But it also can leave a bill's sponsor wondering what the numbers really were, or what they could have been if the question had been asked differently. Poulsen told me Monday after his meeting with Chopp:

"Vote counting is an art, not a science. It depends on how you ask it and it depends on whether or not the bill is really coming up for a vote. If a legislator knows a bill's not coming up for a vote, they can say whatever they want and never be held accountable."

He says that sometimes on a close vote count it's worth forcing a vote because having to actually push a button in the House is the only true accurate count.

"There's a psychological factor that comes into play when an issue goes on the big board. I respect that Frank doesn't say yes to everyone. Unfortunately I was one of the guys who didn't win this time."

Democratic Rep. Chris Hurst has been trying for the past month or so to revive a bill that would reinstate property tax limits in Initiative 747, now under state Supreme Court review. Many Democrats oppose Hurst's move and say that if the court throws out the initiative Democrats should not be re-imposing the same restrictions in law.

The Democrats had a testy caucus and Chopp agreed to do a vote count. Chopp came up to Hurst last week to tell him there would be no vote. But Chopp didn't show Hurst the tally. "He said it wasn't even close," Hurst said.

As Santos pointed out, not even committee chairs can see the vote count. The power in the House is clearly concentrated in the speaker's office.

It's inside baseball. But that's the way it works.

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April 16, 2007

Did semantics kill the Sonics arena?

Posted by David Postman at 8:32 PM

That's what lawmakers seem to be saying after their short summit today.

Several of the lawmakers who met with Gov. Chris Gregoire this afternoon to talk about a financing plan for the Sonic said the deal was doomed this session because it focused too much on basketball. There may not be support for a basketball arena, they said, but there could be for a "multi-purpose facility" with a basketball team as the key tenant.

Rep. Fred Jarrett, R-Mercer Island told reporters basketball got too much attention:

"The point is, the event center is something that could have real value to the state. It has nothing to do with basketball, per se. It has to do with all of the things that we could have if we had such a center. What basketball, or what the Sonics do is provide us with an opportunity to have an anchor tenant who is willing to pay more than its share of what that facility is.

...

"All of this discussion to date has been overly about the Sonics and what's good for the Sonics. And we don't really care that much about what's good for the Sonics. We care what's good for the region and the state."

And House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler said there wasn't support in the House for a basketball arena, but there may be for a multi-purpose facility.

"We did a hard vote count today. There wasn't significant support for the proposal right now. But perhaps if the discussion turns to a statewide multi-purpose event center, that might change the dynamics. We don't know, because that's not what we were presented with."

The problem with all this is two-fold. First, the Sonics are the major tenant and the facility is about the Sonics and trying to keep a basketball team in the Seattle area. If it wasn't about basketball, you'd have to wonder why the first thing Gregoire was going to do after the lawmakers left her office was call Clay Bennett, the owner of the Sonics, to see what his next move would be.

And second, it seems to me the backers of the arena already tried hard to present the project as something other than a basketball arena. The spreadsheet distributed recently outlining the deal is headlined, "Proposed public financing for a world-class multi-purpose arena in King County."

Bennett wrote a letter to Gregoire in January that hit all the key words lawmakers said today were missing from the debate. Bennett wrote nearly three months ago:

From the outset, you recognized that the region needs to develop a world class multi-purpose arena to serve as a home for major sporting events, concerts, large conventions and large corporate meetings

...

We believe the potential for such a venue extends for beyond professional basketball and has the opportunity to benefit the entire region.

The bill that would have created the financing for the project doesn't even mention basketball. Instead it refers to "regional center."

I didn't hear lawmakers say much about finding a different financing plan or a need for the state and local governments to get better terms from the team owners. Instead, as Kessler said later:

"This is an attempt to remarket it and see if we can get something going for next year."

And what does the governor have to say? Nothing public. She didn't appear with lawmakers after their meeting. And her press secretary, Holly Armstrong, said:

"She doesn't have anything to add."

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No vote on Sonics proposal this legislative session

Posted by David Postman at 7:14 PM

Lawmakers just emerged from a meeting with Gov. Chris Gregoire and said there will be no action this session on a financing plan for a new Sonics arena.

"We're not going to vote on anything this session," said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler.

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, the legislature's biggest supporter of the financing plan, said Gregoire is now calling the Sonics owner to see what no action this session means to his plans.

MORE: Kessler said that there was a "hard vote count" in the House and there was not much support for the Sonics plan in its latest form.

Republican Rep. Fred Jarrett said that the discussion this session was focused too much on the Sonics and not enough on the regional benefits of a new arena. He said the enconomic impact report did not come until too late in the session.
Jarrett said the timing wasn't right for the 2007 session but that the proposal is too important to give up on completely.

Republican Sen. Jerome Delvin said that all five people in the meeting, four legislative leaders and the governor, agreed that nothing would happen this session.

Prentice said that Gregoire was going to call Sonics owner Clay Bennett as the lawmakers were leaving the governor's office. Prentice said:

"We do believe seriously in the project and what it iwll do for the entire state."

MORE: The lawmakers said the Sonics proposal was hampered because the multi-purpose uses of the arena did not get enough emphasis. Prentice said that she has been frustrated that there were not high-level talks like the one that happened this afternoon. She said Bennett is a great owner, who wants to stay in the state and was flexible about the proposal. But, she said, "We couldn't get the story out."

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John McKay to speak at moderate GOP confab

Posted by David Postman at 6:43 PM

Fired U.S. Attorney John McKay will be a featured speaker next month at the annual conference of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington. And some conservative Republicans who were unhappy with McKay as U.S. attorney and celebrated his controversial firing, are upset that Republicans — even moderate ones — would invite McKay to speak.

Bob Williams, president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, and Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, have both complained about McKay's scheduled appearance. State GOP Chairman Luke Esser, who will also speak at the mainstreamers' conference, said that's the only criticism he has heard so far. Esser said he had no beef with McKay being included, though he didn't know McKay was coming when he agreed to speak.

Williams told the mainstream group that the invitation was a slap at the Bush administration, said Alex Hays, executive director of the moderate GOP group. Hays told me:

"If you talk to McKay himself, he is very careful not to attack the president of the United States, which I think shows a great deal of loyalty. It should be possible for a Republican to admit that this administration has not handled this situation very well. ... The administration has badly handled these things and even someone who worked diligently to re-election the president, I have to be intellectually honest enough to admit that."

I called McCabe and Williams but haven't heard back yet.

McKay is scheduled to speak Sunday morning at the Cascade Conference,the group's annual event, which this year is being held in Wenatchee.

Hays hopes that McKay talks about the firings as well as "what motivates him to be a moderate Republican."

"He has a very interesting story to tell. I'm sure there are people in our organization who wish he had done more to investigate the governor's election and I'm sure there are people who believe he did a stand up job. We expect to hear a very interesting story."

McCabe and Williams were the most vocal critics of how McKay handled the 2004 governor's election. Sharing the bill with McKay will be the man who lost that election, Dino Rossi.

UPDATE: McCabe says he didn't complain, and says the Mainstreamers are just trying to get attention:

"What the Mainstream Republicans are doing in my opinion is irrelevant."

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Reichert campaign still in debt, despite massive GOP effort

Posted by David Postman at 1:32 PM

Congressman Dave Reichert raised $184,722 in the first quarter of 2007. But he has already spent $153,975 of that and his campaign account remains $58,000 in debt. That's according to reports the campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission.

You can see details of his donations here.

Democrat Darcy Burner, who ran a close race against Reichert last year and says she will challenge him again in 2008, filed reports showing she raised $19,368 in the first quarter and has spent $16,102. Details of her contributions are here.

The Swing State Project is doing a pretty thorough job of tracking congressional money.

We all know that the 8th District race between Reichert and Burner was one of the most competitive in the country. But what I didn't know — until someone pointed me today to a PowerPoint presentation given by a Karl Rove deputy — is just how much the Republican Party did to flood the district with its get-out-the-vote effort. The 8th is the top example in a chart on page 20 of the presentation given in January by Rove deputy Scott Jennings. (Click on the graphic on the right to see it in full size.)


In the 8th, a total of 585,164 GOP voter contacts were made through the campaign — 41,666 on election day alone. The total is more than 100,000 above the next closest district.

The PowerPoint was released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last month. The presentation was given to General Services Administration personnel. At a March congressional hearing, GSA Chief Lurita Doan was questioned about why the federal government's purchasing agency needed to have a political briefing. She told Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, she couldn't remember much about the event. In particular, Braley wanted to know about a slide that listed Rove's top 20 targets among House Democrats. Via NPR:

Doan: "I don't know what the explanation was that accompanied this. I truly do not remember this part of the presentation."

Braley: "Well, you're familiar with what the word 'target' means, right?"

Doan: "I think we could say that I'm one right now. "

NOTE: My headline on this doesn't make a lot of sense. The campaign debt doesn't anything to do with the national Republican GOTV effort. My point as I wrote it was that even though the race was obviously a top priority for national Republicans, Reichert remains in debt. But a big GOTV effort in the 8th did not mean a bunch of cash going into the race.

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More from the Rove speech

Posted by David Postman at 8:37 AM

At the Karl Rove event Saturday night, MC John Carlson asked the crowd of 500 or so for a quick, straw poll on the Republican candidates for president. By a show of hands one thing was clear: John McCain had very little support in the room — the least of the five names mentioned.

The loudest response — though, again, it was supposed to be by a show of hands — was for Fred Thompson, who is not in the race yet. His strong showing likely had something to do with the fact that Carlson's colleague at KVI, Kirby Wilbur, arrived with a pocket full of Thompson buttons as part of his effort to build support for the former senator and current actor.

I sort of scanned the room quickly and would say Thompson and Mitt Romney may have had the most support, with Rudy Giuliani close behind, which also is where Newt Gingrich seemed to land.

(The P-I today has a story showing that Romney leads the way in money raised so far from Washington state. )

Some other leftover news from Saturday night's King County Republican Party dinner:

  • In his speech, Rove described the war in Iraq as the inevitable result of years of weak U.S. response to terrorism. Nearly all the examples he listed came during Bill Clinton's two terms as president, including the first attack on the World Trade Center, and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.

    But he also reached back and attached some blame to Republican icon Ronald Reagan. Rove said:

    "The war was decades in coming. The enemy looked at the U.S. response when they hit the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1984. They looked at Somalia and Black Hawk down and how we ran."

    That Beirut attack was actually in 1983. That was the same year that the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was also bombed.

    I include this because I was surprised to hear Rove describe the Reagan administration as part of the problem that led terrorists to view America as "weak and confused and unable or unwilling to respond."

  • What do Secret Service agents listen to in Seattle? At least some based here tune to 570 KVI. Before the event Saturday, Kirby Wilbur was standing with a friend when a trio of Secret Service agents did one of their many walk-throughs. They stopped when they saw Wilbur, shook his hand as one told him that they are huge fans of his morning show on KVI. Wilbur also got a nice commemorative medallion from an agent.

    A Secret Service agent also stopped to talk to me. He said, "Where's your name tag? You need to keep that on." Nice to have fans.

  • Ken Schram's name came up (in vain) so many times Saturday night you'd think he was some raging liberal. He's Carlson's debating partner on KVI and plays a sort of populist/libertarian/sometimes progressive (who voted for Dino Rossi) and hands out his Schrammie's to those he thinks are deserving of the dishonor.

    Carlson joked that Schram was outside the convention center:

    "He was out there with the protesters. He was, but then he ended up on the hood of my car."

    Even Rove got in the act. He joked that King County Republican Chairman Michael Young brought him to town under false pretenses.

    "He told me if I came tonight I'd get a Schrammie."
  • Young and Rove have known each other for 30 years, since Young was chairman of the College Republicans of Oregon and Rove was running for national chairman of the group.
  • Rove is as controversial today as he has ever been, what with congressional interest in his role in the firing of U.S. attorneys. But the King County GOP dinner was a big event for the party and prominent Republicans were there in droves.

    State GOP Chairman Luke Esser got a 15 minute private meeting with Rove. I'm sure for a political junkie like Esser that more than makes up for the fact that Rove called him "Luke Iser" in his speech.

    Also there were Tim Eyman and his patron Michael Dunmire, the House Republican Organizing Committee's Kevin Carns, Attorney General Rob McKenna, Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland, Congressman Dave Reichert, former state chairwoman Diane Tebelius, Rep. Skip Priest, a very relaxed looking Bill Finkbeiner, and King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer.

UPDATE: Washblog has a report with photos on the protest. Washblog writer dinazina said she told a TV reporter at the scene:

"Karl Rove has been enabling government corruption for decades, and he's proud of it. The Washington Republicans chose to honor such a man as their keynote speaker. That's well worth protesting."

I saw the washblog link on a post by Howie in Seattle, who seems to object to my description of the protest as small.

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Gregoire says she'd veto any change to reading, writing WASL

Posted by David Postman at 7:17 AM

Gov. Christine Gregoire has made it clear she will not accept a delay in the writing and reading portions of the WASL. Last week, Gregoire was skeptical, and maybe even a little annoyed, about a late-breaking effort to delay or end using the writing and reading sections of the WASL as graduation requirements.

But over the weekend, Gregoire made it clear to lawmakers that she will veto any attempt to do that. Holly Armstrong, the governor's press secretary, told me that Gregoire delivered that message Saturday to Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe.

That should end the effort. With the Legislature in its last week it's unlikely that something Gregoire promises to veto — an unusual pledge for her by the way — could get much support.

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April 14, 2007

Rove jabs at Pelosi, tells GOP to be bold and fight

Posted by David Postman at 9:17 PM

I'm in Sea-Tac where I watched Karl Rove speak to the King County Republican Party.

A performance note: Rove was much more subdued than when I saw him here three years ago. In 2004 he gave a very personal, at times moving, speech about his longtime friendship and professional relationship with George W. Bush. It was a campaign year and that could account for the differences.

Tonight's speech was more low-key, more serious, and didn't say much about the president. (I'm waiting for some reaction from a spokesman for the Democratic Party to Rove's comments about Democratic plans for Iraq and criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.)

Here's what I'm working on for the late editions of tomorrow's paper:

SEA-TAC â€" Karl Rove, the president's closest and most influential political advisor, was here Saturday night far from the controversy that swirls around him in Washington, D.C., telling King County Republicans that the party's fortunes can rise again.

Rove could have been giving himself a pep talk when he said he sensed "Republicans are getting up off the mat and getting back into the fight."

He did not mention the firing of U.S. attorneys, his e-mails and missing e-mails that are the stuff of high-profile news stories.

But what may have been most striking about the 30 minute speech by the man whose career has been defined by the arc of George W. Bush's political fortunes, is that the president merited very little mention.

When Rove appeared before the county Republicans three years ago the speech was very much a tale of Bush with intimate behind-the-scenes moments to build a character sketch of the president.

Saturday night in an airport hotel convention center, the speech was about government spending and the war. Rove repeatedly underlined the important role Republicans can still play in Washington, D.C., even though Congress is run by Democrats.

"What it requires is boldness in advocating in what we believe," Rove said. "If we're bold, one of two things is going to happen. Either we're going to convince enough Democrats to join with us and we're going to have progress for America and pass good legislation, or we're going to have one heck of an argument.

"And guess what? Over time we'll win that argument."

There were nearly 500 people on hand for the King County Republican Party's belated Lincoln Day Dinner. The event sold out in three weeks, at a minimum of $50 paid per person.

"People want to see what the president's going to do in his last two years," said Kirby Wilbur, a conservative talk show host and party activist. "Republicans lost the Senate. They lost the House. So people want to hear what the political genius says is going to happen."

There were few details of what the final years of the Bush presidency could bring. Rove did attack Congressional Democrats for what he said was profligate spending and taxation.

"These Democrats are making a big mistake," he said. "They're forgetting the fact that there is a Republican president a mile and a half away at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who who is going to say no to their spending and taxes."

Rove's harshest words came in his attack on the Democrats' plans for Iraq. He ridiculed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her trip to Syria, said her party is "mandating failure" in Iraq.

"You know, the troops do not need General Pelosi trying to run the war from Capital Hill," he said.

Security around the Rove visit was much tighter than when he visited in 2004. This time there was a heavy police presence as well as Secret Service agents.
There was a small group of protesters outside the convention center, some wearing large papier-mâché heads of Bush, Cheney and Rove.

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Rove here to raise GOP money

Posted by David Postman at 12:45 PM

Karl Rove is in town to raise money for the King County Republican Party on a day when his name is plastered in newspapers around the country. And the news isn't good. Consider The Benton Crier in Iowa. The headline on an AP story that ran there and many other papers:

E-mail uproar gives Dems ammo vs. Rove

And the AP's Tom Raum writes:

WASHINGTON - The fight over documents has gone to red alert.

The White House acknowledges it cannot find four years' worth of e-mails from chief political strategist Karl Rove. The admission has thrust the Democrats' nemesis back into the center of attention and poses a fresh political challenge for President Bush .

For Democrats, the missing Rove e-mails is one more chance to pound away at their favorite target, the architect of Bush's 2000 and 2004 presidential victories and all-around White House political fixer.

Readers are finding similar stories in Nevada's Brocktown News, the Denver Post, Minnesota's West Central Tribune, The Westfall Weekly News of Canada and what Google leads me to believe is nearly every news outlet on the continent.

The New York Times has response from Rove's attorney.

WASHINGTON, April 13 -- Karl Rove, the chief political strategist for President Bush, did not intentionally delete e-mail messages to avoid creating a paper trail detailing his work, his lawyer said on Friday. Rather, he mistakenly thought that the messages were being preserved by the Republican National Committee.

"Karl has always understood that his R.N.C. e-mails were being archived," the lawyer, Robert Luskin, said in an interview. "He has never asked or sought any kind of special treatment to permit him to delete anything."

None of this is likely to keep the Republican faithful away from a Sea-Tac hotel this evening to hear Rove talk. It could even increase interest in President Bush's closest political advisory. The event includes a $250 per person dinner and reception that also gets you a photo with Rove or $100 per person just for dinner. Republican precinct committee officers can get dinner for half price.

I doubt Rove will address the "red alert" fight over his e-mails. He was in a Portland suburb last night. The AP has a report on that speech which I bet is similar to what I hear tonight:

TIGARD (AP) - Karl Rove defended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on a visit to Oregon Friday to rally state Republican Party members in one of the suburban Portland counties considered pivotal for the 2008 election.

During a 30-minute speech before a modest crowd of about 150 people, the chief political adviser to President Bush ripped into Democrats for "trying to run the war from Capitol Hill."

He said Democrats were sending "irresponsible" bills to the president that "handcuffed" U.S. generals in Iraq.

State Democrats are expected to protest outside the hotel. Security precautions, though, will essentially prevent reporters who want to cover Rove from covering any demonstrations. We have to be inside the ballroom at least two hours before the event begins.

The state Democratic Party has also put out press releases saying that the Rove visit shows local Republicans are disloyal to one of their own. Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz says Republicans are choosing Rove over former U.S. Attorney John McKay, part of a prominent Republican family. The e-mail controversy with Rove gew out of questions about his role in the firing of McKay and other U.S. attorneys.

King County Republicans aren't shy about the visit. They put out a press release announcing Rove's attendance. In 2004 the county party withheld Rove's name at first from a similar event, instead inviting Republicans to see an unnamed "special guest." And initially the press was told it would be excluded from the entire event. The White House later said the Rove speech could be open to the press.

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April 13, 2007

On TV

Posted by David Postman at 1:39 PM


Courtesy TVW


The show I host on TVW, Olympia On Call, is scheduled to air tonight and tomorrow at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. (That of course depends on the legislative schedule and times are subject to change.) This week's guests are Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, and Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend. The program will also be available on the TVW website.

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Political opponent watches Sonics vote closely

Posted by David Postman at 1:35 PM

Soon after Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, voted in the Ways and Means Committee this morning to keep a Sonics financing plan alive his former election opponent attacked him in an e-mail to supporters. Former Republican Rep. Toby Nixon wrote:

Some of you were present at the legislative town hall meeting in Woodinville on March 17. You will recall that I had the opportunity to ask the last question at that meeting. I asked all three legislators to tell the assembled citizens their position on public funding for professional sports facilities, specifically the Sonics arena. All three of them — Rep. Goodman, Rep. Springer, and Sen. Oemig — unequivocally stated that they would NOT support such public funding. I am aghast — aghast, I say — that Sen. Oemig would plainly and publicly commit to the voters of the 45th District that he would oppose public funding of a new Sonics arena, and when the opportunity arises to actually vote on it, he goes back on his word and supports it.

Oemig's vote had some nuance to it. He clearly doesn't like the proposed financing plan. But he wanted to support Ways and Means Chairman Margartia Prentice who has emerged as the Legislature's biggest supporter of a Sonics deal.

Here's what Oemig said in committee before the vote:

"When I look at this deal, I don't have a philosophical opposition to investing in sports teams. I like good deals. I look at it more pragmatically ... and right now I do not think this is a good deal.

"But I have trust in our chair that says this is a work in progress and we can keep working on the finances and make this pay out."

After the meeting, Oemig told me that in the Senate he would vote against the bill — and lobby others to do the same — if it does not improve before a final vote.

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Gregoire troubled by late push for big WASL changes

Posted by David Postman at 12:40 PM

Gov. Christine Gregoire met this morning with the House and Senate education committee chairs to tell them she is reluctant to go along with any new proposal for major changes in the WASL this close to the end of session.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe told me Thursday she was making a late-session push to stop the reading and writing portions of the test from being used as graduation requirements. Her move was prompted in part by a petition now signed by 42 school superintendents asking that those parts of the test be set aside just as the Legislature has agreed to do for the math and science sections.



Gregoire in the Senate wings this morning.



Gregoire sat down with McAuliffe and House Education Committee Chairman Dave Quall in the Senate majority leader's office. When she came out, Gregoire seemed a little ticked at the idea that a wholesale change like what McAuliffe is proposing would come up so late:

"I'm asking her to show me how the system has failed, because what the math WASL is about is the system failing our children, when in reading and writing we have seen dramatic improvement. So show me."

Question: "Is she able to at this point?"

Gregoire: "I don't know. She's showing me superintendents and I'm saying, 'Where were they? We're one week from Sine Die. One week from Sine Die. Why couldn't they have said this day one, day two, day three, day five, 10, 15, 20.

"One week from Sine Die let's make a dramatic shift in education policy in the state of Washington? That is troubling to me."

McAuliffe took Gregoire's request for evidence of the problem as a challenge. She said after the meeting that she still holds out hope Gregoire can be convinced to go along with at least a delay in the reading and writing portions of the WASL. She is trying to compile evidence to make the case to the governor.

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Sonics bill gets out of committee

Posted by David Postman at 10:32 AM

Senate Ways and Means Committee member Dale Brandland, R-Bellingham, just signed the Sonics bill with a "do pass" recommendation. That gives the proposal the 11 votes it needs to stay alive.

More on this morning's Ways and Means meeting below.

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Sonics need one more vote to keep arena plan alive

Posted by David Postman at 9:33 AM

The Senate Ways and Means Committee fell one vote short this morning of passing a financing plan for a new Sonics arena in Renton. That is likely to change soon, though, as supporters, including committee chairwoman Margarita Prentice, look for the signature of at least one more member to move the bill out of committee.

Bills need the signatures of a majority of the committee, 11 members, to get a "do pass" recommendation and pass the measure to the Rules Committee. Members can sign after the meeting, even if they did not attend the meeting.

Members who attended the meeting this morning and signed "do pass" included Prentice, and Democrats Karen Fraser, Craig Pridemore, Brian Hatfield, Steve Hobbs, Karen Keiser, Eric Oemig, Phil Rockefeller and Republican Pam Roach. (CORRECTION: I left Sen. Marilyn Rasmussen off the list of those who supported the bill.) Signing in opposition were Republicans Mike Carrell and Jim Honeyford and Democrats Debbie Regala and Rodney Tom.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles looked carefully at the signature sheets but left the meeting without signing either way. Sen. Joe Zarelli, the ranking Republican on the committee, also left without signing.

MORE: Prentice decided to hold the hearing and try to move the bill despite a lack of support from legislative leaders. She ran the meeting this morning like an old-school pol. She announced there'd be no public hearing, kept questions and answers short and cut off debate when she didn't like where it was going.

Tom was the most vocal opponent during committee debate. He said the deal amounted to "subsidizing player payroll.

"I cannot see how we as a Legislature can subsidize Ray Allen for $16 million a year when we cannot pay a starting wage for a teacher of $31,000."

He said economic forecasts for the arena based on a "lot of faulty premises" and "great pie in the sky" predictions. And then he wanted to talk about the Oklahoma owners of the team.

"Whenever you're in a partnership, you better know who you're playing with. Clay Bennett is the main partners. I'll talk about him a little later. But you have Aubrey McLendon. He's worth $1.6 billion."

At that point Prentice broke in:

"I really think we should avoid that kind of rhetoric. ... I really think we should not be discussing individuals. I think that is completely inappropriate."

Roach, so far the only Republican to back the bill out of committee, came up with what might be a winning argument for the Sonics arena ...quot; it's an anti-Seattle vote.

"Everything is so Seattle-centric. If you're Auburn, particularly, you just get a little tired of that -- all the benefits going to the city of Seattle all the time. And I'm going to vote for this bill out of committee -- still deciding floor action.

"But I think we should have a chance to have a little bit of all this in the south end and I just wanted to mention that. I think this is a breath of fresh air to see something that would be coming in and really putting some vitality into southeast King County, which has been the second cousin to the city of Seattle and Bellevue now for 70 years."

MORE: Ryan Blethen sort of agrees with Pam Roach on this. Blethen wrote this morning:

The SuperSonics' migration out of Seattle makes sense, not because Seattle voters passed an initiative that makes it virtually impossible to build a new arena in the city, but because the Puget Sound region has matured to a larger-functioning unit beyond the official limits of the state's largest city.

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April 12, 2007

Hutcherson won't show evidence of White House ties

Posted by David Postman at 5:14 PM

I've been waiting since March 19 for the Rev. Ken Hutcherson to share what he said was proof that the Bush Administration had made him a "special envoy" of the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, a claim the White House has said is untrue.

Hutcherson said he had a video that would prove it. But after one interview that day he has not returned calls. At The Stranger, Eli Sanders -- who first reported on the Hutcherson's claim -- has been trying, too. Today, Sanders writes that Hutcherson now says he has the proof, but wouldn't show it.

Hutcherson said he believes that if he produces the video, it will be used to embarrass the White House.

"I'm not going to give you information so you can go and attack the White House," he told me. "Either way you win."

If he doesn't show the video, he remains vulnerable to charges that it doesn't exist and that he was exaggerating or outright fabricating his "Special Envoy" status. If he does produce it, he risks further eroding his relationship with the White House.

Hutcherson also told Sanders that the White House recently put out a statement backing him up. I'm with Sanders on this:

I can find no evidence of this, and it seems unlikely that such a statement would have been missed by the reporters who are interested in this story.

I put another call into Hutcherson this afternoon.

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Real life civics lesson: How a bill might not become law

Posted by David Postman at 4:36 PM

Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, was in the House this morning working hard to build support for a prison reform bill passed 47-1unanimously by the Senate.

The bill, Senate Bill 5070, is referred to as an offender re-entry bill. It would create programs in prisons designed to reduce recidivism. Lawmakers also hope it would save money. It passed the Senate March 10 after months of work by Carrell, Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, and Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, chairman of the Senate Human Resources and Corrections Committee. Carrell and Regala were on a joint select committee that met over the interim and was key to hammering out the agreement.

Carrell is a conservative Republican, and in the Senate that near-unanimous vote included others who are known as tough-on-crime lawmakers. But the proposal is facing a much more difficult reception in the House. Republicans oppose the Senate version, saying it's not tough enough on criminals.

Hargrove and Carrell say the point of the bill is to reduce crime by reducing recidivism. The state would do that through "evidence-based" programs to prepare offenders when it is time for them to be released.

"If the House Republican caucus thinks somehow we're coddling criminals," Hargrove said, "I guess you could say we're not going to let anyone out of prison ever."

I wasn't sure why the Senate was worrying too much about House Republicans. There are only 36 of them and a near unanimous vote in the Senate should translate to at least a majority vote in the House.

But it's not the numbers that are a concern. It's the voice that House Republicans have. Democrats worry that if House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, opposes the bill he will turn the issue into political fodder. That would not be without precedence. See two examples here and here.

House Republicans and the state Republican Party have already been critical of the Democrats' response to crimes committed by released felons as well as the Department of Corrections policy of letting people out of jail who had been picked up for parole violations. House Republicans have been touting their "Families before Felons" program, suggesting -- of course -- that Democrats support the reverse.

DeBolt recently sent a taxpayer-funded mailer to residents in his district with a headline that said: "A safety alert from your state representative." It outlines recent problems with offenders and talks a little about Republican proposals to combat them.

And that flier could be a problem for Carrell. This morning he was coming to talk to House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, about his progress on the bill so far just as I was handing Kessler a copy of DeBolt's "safety alert." I wanted her comment on it.


Kessler in the House Thursday.


Kessler told Carrell that House Speaker Frank Chopp is already wary of DeBolt's "Families before Felons" campaign. An angry Kessler gestured with the DeBolt mailer in her hand and told Carrell:

"If it plays into this piece of crap we're not doing it."

Carrell said he hadn't seen the flier. He tried to assure Kessler that House Republicans had been dealing with him in good faith on the bill. Kessler had doubts:

"You don't think that'll be mailed to every district in the state? That's exactly what Frank's worried about."

DeBolt said there was nothing political about his flier.

"I worked very hard in that communication not to be partisan. I just say, 'This is our bill. This is what it will do.' I asked people for their feedback."

It doesn't mention Democrats specifically. But it does say the release of felons "is unacceptable management by the corrections agency, which operates under the governor's authority."

DeBolt concedes that he may be holding a public relations edge in the fight.

"Who likes the idea of the early-release guy getting out of prison and committing more crimes?"

He said there must be changes in the bill to win Republican support. But he says he's being reasonable about any demands.

"We're not going for the whole farm because we know we're not in charge. But we at least want a few acres."

The dustup over DeBolt's flier was just one moment in what has been a tough lobbying campaign for Carrell. He urged Kessler to at least look at the amendments Republicans are preparing. As she walked away, Kessler looked over her shoulder and said she'd do that.

Carrell says he is trying to be cooperative with all sides. He wants to find amendments that make Republicans happy enough to at least get the bill passed in the House. Then, with differences between the two versions, the final bill would be negotiated in a conference committee.

"I just want to keep this thing alive," Carrell told me.

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New push for major WASL changes

Posted by David Postman at 9:56 AM

With a little over a week to go in the legislative session there is a serious effort afoot to remove the state's standardized testing as a high school graduation requirement. Already lawmakers have already said they want to delay the math and science portions of the WASL. Now Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, is working to stop the reading and writing portions from being used as graduation requirements.

But instead of pushing for just a delay, McAuliffesaid she wants the WASL to still be administered, graded, and ranked. Rather than being a requirement for graduation, though, the test would grant an additional graduation honor, similar to Massachusetts' Certificate of Mastery and Certificate of Mastery with Distinction.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has said she doesn't support delaying the reading and writing portions. But McAuliffe said she talked to the governor yesterday and urged her to "keep her options open" as McAuliffe works to find bipartisan support for her idea.

"At this point I'm counting votes," McAuliffetold me this morning. "I think now is the time to do this."

In part, the drive comes from a petition supported by superintendents of 37 school districts asking Gregoire, lawmakers and Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson to delay using the reading and writing tests as graduation requirements. Most of the districts are from Eastern Washington communities with large percentages of Hispanic students. Westside districts on the list include Everett, Edmonds, Mount Vernon and Maple Valley. McAuliffe said that the Tacoma and North Kitsap districts will also sign on today.

The petition says:

We are aware that a group of urban superintendents gathered together and recommended to the legislagure that they delay the math WASL requirements because 35,000 students in their districts were not passing the math WASL. It is time to speak u on behalf of the 16,000 students of poverty and scome English language learners who failed the reading, writing, and/or math portions of the WASL.

Last week leaders of the Seattle teachers' union told lawmakers that they thought delaying the math and science portions, but not reading and writing, was racist.

"I wouldn't go there and say it's racism," McAuliffe said. But she said it's clear that students who are struggling with the writing and reading portions of the WASL include lower-income students, minorities, special ed students and foster children. McAuliffe said:

"Are we going to ignore them and say 'Even if you complete all your credits and your senior project you have to pass the WASL to graduate?"

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California writer says SEIU nursing home contract bad for workers

Posted by David Postman at 7:59 AM

San Francisco's SF Weekly has a story this week based on internal SEIU documents and contracts between the service employees union and nursing homes that writer Matt Smith says "illustrate the details of a sweetheart deal between the SEIU and California nursing home companies that impair, rather than empower, workers and patients, while inflating dues-paying union ranks."

The union is trying the same tactic here. Ralph Thomas wrote March 5 about a confidential agreement between SEIU Local 775 and nursing home operators. The draft agreement Thomas saw includes the union's pledge to push for more state money for nursing homes in exchange for the companies blessing the union's organizing efforts.

As the legislative session winds down here SEIU is still hoping to get more money in that budget to make good on that pledge. If you want to see the details of the agreement, SF Weekly includes a link to a Jan. 19 2006 draft agreement between SEIU Local 775 and Washington's for-profit nursing home operators. You can read the "Agreement to Advance the Future of Nursing Home Care in Washington" here. (Note: It is only a portion of the Washington agreement.)

The SF Weekly got copies of similar agreements from California as well as internal memos, lobbying agreements and other reports that detail the SEIU's unique deals with the industry that employs its members. The writer is clear about where he stands on what SEIU and international president Andy Stern call innovative organizing techniques.

Instead, it's merely a re-hash of the sort of sweetheart company-union labor deals that have marred the reputation of trade unionism throughout history. It has involved trading away workers' free-speech rights, selling out their ability to improve working conditions, and relinquishing their capability to improve pay and benefits, in order to expand the SEIU's and Stern's own power.

Part of what makes the SEIU contracts a big story in California is an insurgent SEIU local in Oakland. The SEIU United Healthcare Workers West is openly critical of the agreement with the industry. The local did an analysis of the existing contract between the workers and the nursing home alliance that shows it was a better deal for the industry than for the workers -- or for nursing home residents.

This relationship yielded substantial rate increase for employers, but only a fraction of that windfall made its way to our members and the verdict is still out as to whether the quality of residents' care has improved.

At the same time, employers benefited form the union's agreement to having limits placed on our demands at the bargaining table as well as limits placed on our ability to organize nursing home workers. In fact, many workers at Alliance nursing homes throughout California were precluded from organizing the union or improving standards resulting from the new rates due to the prohibition on organizing included in the current agreement.

These agreements are helping to accentuate divisions in the labor movement between Stern's SEIU and the more traditional unions in the AFL-CIO. The split was clear from a quote in Thomas' March story from SEIU spokesman Adam Glickman:

"We don't want to have a labor movement in this country that's primarily about protecting the forklift operator who fell asleep on the job."

And the differences seep into other issues as well. The Washington State Labor Council wants the Legislature to approve a financing plan for a new Sonics arena in Renton. SEIU opposes that, and has started an e-mail campaign that, in part, says the state should put more money into nursing homes rather than pay anything toward a new arena.

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April 11, 2007

Pelosi here Friday

Posted by David Postman at 5:01 PM

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be in Seattle Friday to talk about energy with Gov. Christine Gregoire, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive Ron Sims. Pelosi will also tour Seattle's bio-diesel plant and hold a press conference along with members of the state's Democratic Congressional delegation, said her spokesman Brendan Daly.

There is also some campaign business on the agenda. Pelosi will headline a lunch fundraiser that day for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

This will be Pelosi's first Seattle visit since she became speaker. She was here in October to raise money for Darcy Burner's race against Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn.

Pelosi flies to Seattle after a scheduled appearance tomorrow night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

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Big debate starts on sex education bill

Posted by David Postman at 4:47 PM

The House is just beginning debate on a comprehensive sex ed bill, Senate Bill 5297. This is the Democratic plan to mandate that schools teach "medically and scientifically accurate" information on sexual health.

It looks to be a long debate. By my count there are 33 pending amendments. Republicans want to amend the bill to say teachers hired before the law becomes effective can refuse to teach sex ed, which just failed. They also have amendments to require sex ed curriculum be posted on a school's Web site, to change the name from the "healthy youth act" to the "comprehensive sexual health education mandate," to require separate boys and girls classes up to the 7th grade, and to make the whole thing discretionary rather than required.

The bill passed the Senate March 7 on a largely party-line vote of 30-19. The debate is being shown on TVW, which is also streaming it on its Web site.

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Republicans push story on Dem's auto mishap

Posted by David Postman at 12:54 PM

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, had a minor accident in her 2005 Mustang the other night. She was near the Capital Campus and hit a small sign on a traffic median. The Olympian has a brief story and says Keiser didn't report the incident contacted by the paper.

How'd the paper get the story? Watching Keiser pick up the sign, and her license plate that had been knocked loose, was someone with a connection to the Washington State Republican Party. Party spokesman Josh Kahn said he heard about the incident Tuesday from a witness and he passed the tip on to The Olympian. The party also took photographs of Keiser's front bumper while her car was in a legislative parking lot. One of those photos is now posted at Sound Politics.

No one should be surprised that the tip came from a political opponent of Keiser's. That's how these things often get out. As I tell people, politicians don't usually call us and tell us what embarrassing thing they just did. They tell us what the other guy did. It doesn't necessarily make something less believable just because the tip came from an opponent. So far this story seems fairly minor and no one has come forward to dispute any part of Keiser's telling.

Keiser wasn't surprised to learn that the Republican Party was the conduit for the tip. But she didn't know who the witness was. It was a few blocks from the Capitol at about 7 p.m., so there may have been several people watching. But Keiser said that Republican efforts to publicize the story is an attempt to divert her from legislation she is trying to help pass in the final days of the session, including a family leave bill.

"It is hostile and borders on harassment at a critical time in the legislative session," Keiser said.

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Election report changed to raise questions about fraud

Posted by David Postman at 11:26 AM

A report from the federal Election Assistance Commission concluded last year that "there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud" in American elections.

But, according to this morning's New York Times, the commission didn't find much debate about fraud. The paper looked at an earlier version of the commission's report that said "there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud."

One of the commission's experts made clear that he found no evidence of the widespread fraud Republicans often claim. The Times reported:

And in this case, one of the two experts hired to do the report was Job Serebrov, a Republican elections lawyer from Arkansas, who defended his research in an e-mail message obtained by The Times that was sent last October to Margaret Sims, a commission staff member.

"Tova and I worked hard to produce a correct, accurate and truthful report," Mr. Serebrov wrote, referring to Tova Wang, a voting expert with liberal leanings from the Century Foundation and co-author of the report. "I could care less that the results are not what the more conservative members of my party wanted."


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April 10, 2007

Olympia leaders remain lukewarm on Sonics

Posted by David Postman at 12:41 PM

Renton-area lawmakers are retooling the proposed financing package for a new Sonics arena. But the plan is facing a lot more trouble than something that can be fixed with new numbers or fine-tuning.

A week after Gov. Christine Gregoire asked legislative leaders to check the level of support among members, she has no plans to step in and try to negotiate a Sonics financing deal.

"No one has asked her," press secretary Holly Armstrong told me. Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice has, and there's no stronger Sonics supporter than the 50-year Renton resident. But Armstrong said Gregoire needs to hear from Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown or House Speaker Frank Chopp before convening any sort of summit or five-corner meeting with House and Senate leaders of both parties. There also has been no request from the minority Republicans.

Brown just told me Senate Democrats are deeply divided on the Sonics issue. "The spectrum runs from 'hell yes' to 'hell no,'" she said. Brown was huddled in the Senate wings earlier today with Prentice and Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle. They were telling her about a tentative proposal that they think would ease opposition from lawmakers who don't want state money going to a professional sports facilities.

The new version would have state sales taxes originally slated for arena construction go instead to funding of local arts groups. More of the construction costs would then come from the hotel/motel tax. The total public money contribution would be a little less. And the local taxes would have to be approved by a local election.

Brown was not convinced that helps break the political stalemate.

"I'm not sure if the new proposal changes the dynamic in the caucus."

I'm trying to find out what Chopp says. But the word the other key players have is that the speaker is opposed to bringing the bill to a vote.

"It's my understanding that the House will not be bringing it to a vote," Brown said. Prentice said she's been told the same thing. Chopp has sent the message that the bill will not move, "No way, no how. Even if it's fixed," she said.

House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler told my colleague Ralph Thomas that "Frank's been very clear" that he's not interested in having the House vote on a Sonic's bill.

One of Chopp's concerns — as it is with other legislation, too — is that some of his members would be damaged politically if they had to vote on a bill that puts any public money to a professional sports team. Pettigrew says he's OK with Chopp looking out for his members.

"I trust his judgment, I really do," said Pettigrew, who credited Chopp for building the House majority to its current 62-member strong caucus. "Ultimately, whatever he decides, I'm a 110 percent behind him."

Pettigrew and Prentice make an interesting lobbying team. He's one of the legislature's tallest members. She's one of the shortest. He is very mild-mannered, and fully supportive of his leadership. Prentice can be sweet, too. But she's not always. And she's starting to lose patience with Democratic leaders, including the governor.

She didn't want to say much. But when I asked her if she was growing frustrated, Prentice nodded firmly. And she said, "I have a very long memory."

She doesn't think it's right that no serious negotiations have taken place, and that the governor is waiting for an official request from legislative leaders.

"I've been bewildered by the required protocols. I don't know why this is being handled any different from any other issue. I've said Eric and I are only legislators. We can't push everybody up above us."

Prentice said her late husband worked for Boeing on the land the Sonics want to build on.

"He would have been madder than hell at me if I wasn't pushing for this. And he would have let me know."

Prentice plans to push leadership. She said she will schedule a hearing Friday in Ways and Means on whatever Sonics proposal is available. And if legislative leaders don't want that hearing to happen, "Eric and I will be there to tell you why."

UPDATE: Labor Council President Rick Bender says he's pushing for a Sonics package. But the SEIU is making strong push to stop any public money going to a basketball arena.

The union is asking people to send e-mails to the governor and lawmakers. The union's website has an e-mail all set to go, with the subject line: "Get Your Priorities Straight: Reject Stadium Subsidies!" The form e-mail says:

600,000 Washingtonians don't have health care. Nursing homes are underfunded. We're 42nd in the nation in school funding. And affordable housing is increasingly out of reach of working families.

It's hard to believe that rather than focus on those critical issues, the Governor and Legislature are still considering giving away hundreds of millions in tax subsidies for a new sports stadium.


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Seattle teachers' union calls WASL decision racist

Posted by David Postman at 9:38 AM

The Seattle teacher's union says its members have "considerable anger" about the proposed state budget and plans to delay implementing standardized math — but not writing — tests as high school graduation requirements. A letter from union leaders to Seattle lawmakers sent April 6 says the city's lawmakers need to live up to their liberal reputation.

Seattle legislators have long held the mantle of progressives, of liberals, of men and women who care about the voiceless people. Please find your voice again and stand with the school employees, parents and students of Seattle.

The letter was signed by Seattle Education Association President Wendy Kimball and SEA executive director Steve Pulkkinen. The budget arguments are not new. It is similar to what Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, said on the Senate floor when he voted against the so-called simple majority bill.

On the WASL, Seattle union leaders say the consensus to delay math tests as graduation requirements, but not do the same for reading and writing, is a sign of racism. The union says:

This is a story of Institutional Racism and Institutional Classism.

The letter says math tests are being delayed because they are failed by 51 percent of white students. But the same benefit isn't given to minority students failing other parts of the WASL.

Between 40 and 45% of children of poverty, many of whom in Seattle are children of color, are not passing the reading and writing sections of the WASL. These sections will not be set aside; these children will be denied a diploma.

There is no concerted funding initiative to support the needs of the students not meeting reading and writing standards. There is currently no active bill to set aside using the reading and writing WASL as the graduation requirement for the 40% of the Students of Poverty and Students of Color who are not meeting the standard.

This pure and simply is the definition of Institutional Racism and Institutional Privilege. SEA and SPS are working to eliminate the horror of Institutional Racism and Privilege wherever we find it.

The union wants the entire WASL "set aside as a graduation requirement until there is both the funding and the use of multiple measures that are necessary to treat all students equitably."

Expect to hear this come up on the Senate floor when Democrats try again to pass the simple majority bill for school levies.

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April 9, 2007

Rossi on '04, '06 and '08

Posted by David Postman at 12:54 PM

At GOPProgress.com Republican Dino Rossi is described as a "self-made man and Pacific Northwest center-right political celebrity extraordinaire." A bit of hyperbole maybe. But at a site that says it's the place if you're a "moderate or a small 'l' libertarian Republican looking for a forum," Rossi gets the celebrity treatment.

GOPProgress Editor, and Virginia political consultant, Liz Mair interviews Rossi at here.

A few excerpts. Rossi on what happened to Republicans here in last year's election:

Yeah, but so, you know, what happened last year really wasn't Mike McGavick. I think we probably could have run the Virgin Mother with an "R" behind her name and would have had a hard time pulling it out, just because of the climate, and you know, it was just the wrong timing.

As for his future political plans, Rossi said:

With four children between six and sixteen, we've got to make sure it's right for the family first. There's a lot of variables there. And we have to assess whether the skills I have to offer are still necessary to turn the state around. We'll make that assessment as well. If I did do it again, and if I did win again, it looks like I'd be walking into what I walked into when we got the majority in 2003. It's a big mess that we'll have to straighten out again, but it's not like I haven't done that before. [laughs] I have experience doing that.

I'm not sure what he means by waiting to see if "the skills I have to offer are still necessary to turn the state around." That sounds a little like a concession that if things are going well in the state, it might not be his time to run for governor again. Rossi and his interviewer talk about him as a "turnaround" expert. But if most voters feel by next year the state has made that turn, that may not leave much room for a turnaround artist.

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Photo mystery solved

Posted by David Postman at 9:50 AM

Smart readers have not only confirmed that the mystery man in my estate sale photo is Cactus Jack Garner, but have also likely figured out the very day the photo was taken and who it was given to.

It's a good bet that the photo was taken on Oct. 17, 1935, according to this link provided by commenter SFS.

On that day, Garner was in Seattle as part of a delegation of 46 VIPs on the way to the Philippines for the inauguration of that country's first president. The group sailed out of Seattle, after a parade and reception with state officials. An eagle-eyed reader says the three men in the photo are even wearing the same hats they wore in the parade that day.

And the photo was inscribed to Don D. Olds. He was a former newspaper man who later worked as the chief of the tax division of the IRS in Tacoma. In 1933 he was named secretary to Bone. (Thanks to SFS, and by e-mail, Althea Cawley-Murphree.) It is great to now know the history behind the photo and the men. Thank you all for the help.

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In other news

Posted by David Postman at 8:24 AM

  • One of the people at the new Crosscut that I'm glad to be able to read regularly again is O. Casey Corr. Today he writes about economic impact studies for sports facilities, and says nobody believes them.
    A study for the Seahawks, for example, claimed that some "economic activity" could be attributed to the team by a fan at home watching a commercial.

    Despite all the impressive spreadsheets and tables, the studies are less about economics than public relations, giving supporters a patina of science to their arguments. Supporters quote top line estimates and let critics pour through the appendix to find qualifiers and assumptions. In 1995, supporters of a new stadium for the Mariners said losing the team would cost King County $115 million a year in economic activity. Turns out that number was an estimate of total economic activity attributable to the team, but only half that number was "new money" — or money that wouldn't be spent here if the team didn't exist.

  • Here's an interesting way to look at the failure of NASCAR to build in Kitsap County. Because Gov. Christine Greogire and others have said they might look more favorably on the proposal if it were in Lewis County, Terry Blount of ESPN.com writes:
    Essentially, the powers that be in Washington state have sent this message to NASCAR:

    If you want to build a track in Podunk, we're all for it. If you want to build in the big city, forget it.

    NASCAR also gave up putting a track in New York. And Blount concedes there may be more at play than just keeping racing in Podunk.

    Maybe NASCAR isn't as popular in the blue states as it thought. Or maybe it's a different kind of politics, one to do with begging for public money in major markets.
  • The AP's Dave Ammons writes a column about something I've been wondering about: Why is the Legislature approving so many studies this year?
    Examples: A Homeowners' Bill of Rights, key elements of health care reform, Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, education changes, public financing of judicial elections, prison reform, gang legislation, climate change and other tough issues will be at least partly shunted to interim studies.

    Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, tells Ammons that studies can be a face-saving move.

    "They're used to placate members whose bills died — sometimes that dog just keeps on barking," he says.
  • Crane safety legislation is waiting Gregoire's signature. It is clear from reading this by safety training consultant Ron Schaeffer that Washington's law will be the toughest in the nation, but the state is not alone in tackling the issue.
    More than a dozen states, a half-dozen cities and the federal government are working on regulations to reduce hazards for crane operators and the general public. Washington's law has all the right elements: certification, inspections and training.
  • I wrote last week about the MySpace presidential primary. That's the 2008 primary. To see what the start of the 2032 online presidential campaign looks like, go to Rep. Dave Upthegrove's MySpace page. His friends have his career all mapped out for him.

    Seriously, though, if you're interested in seeing what MySpace can be for a local politician, rather than the big corporate-looking sites by the major candidates, check out Upthegrove's stite. (Turn the volume down on your computer unless you want "C'mon and ride it," his current musical selection, to blast through your office.)


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April 6, 2007

The MySpace primary

Posted by David Postman at 4:38 PM

MySpace will hold an online presidential primary in January.

From the New York Times political blog:

"Iowa and New Hampshire may be selecting delegates, but the MySpace vote will be the first test of where candidates stand in the election year," said Tom Anderson, president of MySpace, in a release.

At buzzmachine, Jeff Jarvis says it's more than a publicity stunt.

It exposes the absurdity of geographic primaries in this connected age. MySpace members share a lot more interests and concerns with each other than they do with their neighbors; I share more with my fellow internet residents than Jersey residents. But then, the rush to get every primary moved ahead of every other primary also reveals the absurdity of the system. All these states are attempting to get more attention (visits and ad revenue) and influence in the election.

Jarvis is right of course. There is sure to be some media attention given to the event, and to the winner. And this is not just a geek primary, or teen primary. Online Media Daily reports:

How well does MySpace represent the overall U.S. adult population? Well, while MySpace's registration system is far from fail-safe, comScore Media Metrics reports the site has some 65 million monthly U.S. visitors, 85% of whom are of voting age.

It's also important for political consultants to note that MySpace users 18-and-up exhibit a high level of efficacy and are three times more likely to interact online with a public official or candidate, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.


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What Gregoire wants

Posted by David Postman at 11:23 AM

Gov. Christine Gregoire sent a letter Wednesday to the chairs and vice chairs of the House and Senate budget-writing committees, with copies to Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, outlining her concerns as the Legislature gets down to final negotiations.

The first thing she mentions is the constitutional rainy day fund. As I wrote this morning, this is a top priority for the governor and in her letter she leaves no doubt about that.

We will not go home without this legislation.

The six-page letter outlines Gregoire's preferences from among her budget proposal and those of the House and Senate. Included among items that Gregoire prefers to see as she proposed late last year are $40 million for three new "professional development days for middle and high school math and science teachers." There are also additional days for other teachers included.
She also wants more funding for DSHS caseworkers and funding for an outreach campaign to expand children's health care. The Senate budget, Gregoire wrote, "proposes expanding coverage to an even greater number of children without the necessary funding for outreach."

Gregoire uses the letter to also make pitches on behalf of other politicians. She said that Congressman Norm Dicks has requested $1.1 million for a Washington Youth Academy, "an alternative school experience for youth at risk of not finishing high school."

And she wants $400,000 to support the state's "aerospace coordinator." The money is needed, she wrote, "in order to maintain and strengthen ties with that sector of the economy." That is listed in the letter as "Priority of Speaker Chopp."

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Who is this man?

Posted by David Postman at 8:52 AM

I found this photograph at an estate sale a few weeks back. Someone who lived at the house had been an artist. There were hundreds of empty, unused picture frames, this was buried in a box of them.





I could read the name on the left, Homer T. Bone, and I knew that he was a U.S. senator from Washington in the 1940s. (Turns out it was 1932 to 1944.) And that was enough for me to buy it.

After some squinting at the photo and some Googling, I figured out that the man on the right is Lewis Schwellenbach. He was one of our senators from 1935 to 1940.

Bone and Schwellenbach signed the photo to Don D. Olds. I'm not sure who that is either.

But who's the laughing, smoking, man in the middle? I can't figure out what that signature says. I've tried all sorts of variations. I've shown it to friends. Can anyone help? He's got to be a politician. But who?

The first person to identify the mystery pol will get — along with my gratitude — a copy of Larry Sabato's soon-to-be published book, "The Sixth Year Itch: The Rise and Fall of the George W. Bush Presidency." (I am a contributor to the book and wrote a chapter on Washington's 2006 Senate race.)

Some quick history. Bone is known as the "father of public power." As HistoryLink.org wrote:

Bone was a pragmatic populist who vociferously championed public ownership of utilities while damning big business, especially the utility trusts
.

He later served on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He died in 1970.

Schwellenbach is less well known in the state. But he had a prestigious career. After serving in the Senate he was a federal judge in Eastern Washington, and in 1945 was appointed U.S. Secretary of Labor by Harry Truman. He made the cover of Time Magazine that year after replacing Frances Perkins — the first female cabinet secretary — at the Department of Labor.

Schwellenbach was also considered a likely candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court when Justice Louis Brandeis retired in 1939. There was a consensus that a westerner should be appointed to the court. William O. Douglas wanted the spot, though, and was able to play off bad blood between Bone and Schwellenbach to help pave his way to the bench. From HistoryLink::

The leading contender was Washington Senator Lewis B. Schwellenbach (1894-1948). Douglas's allies took advantage of Schwellenbach's feuds with fellow Washington Senator Homer T. Bone (1883-1970) and the fact that Attorney General Frank Murphy disliked him to eliminate the senator from contention.

UPDATE: I think someone may have figured this out already. Lance Palmer says in the comments, "John Nance Garner, FDR's vice president."

Maybe. Here's a photo of him with FDR, a painting with a striking resemblance to my mystery pol and his signature.

The signature doesn't look exactly right. But it is certainly close enough to be from the same man. What do you all think?

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There will be a state rainy day fund

Posted by David Postman at 7:01 AM

One of the biggest splits among the ruling Democrats in Olympia has been the House's refusal to back the constitutionally protected budget reserve fund supported by Gov. Christine Gregoire, Senate Democrats and the minority Republicans.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Helen Sommers doesn't like the idea and didn't include it in the House budget. But House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler told me Thursday that the House will agree to send voters a proposed constitutional amendment creating a rainy day fund — whether or not Sommers agrees. Kessler said:

"We'll get it. It isn't something the chair wanted. But we're going to do it. We want her to come along."

Kessler said she met with Gregoire about the rainy day fund Thursday morning and the governor made it clear it would have to be done or she would call lawmakers back to special session. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown told me today that it was also a "go-home" issue for Senate Democrats as well. And that means they won't go home without it.

The Senate passed Senate Joint Memorial 8206 on Feb. 21 on a 45-3 vote.

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April 5, 2007

Nature or nurture?

Posted by David Postman at 2:12 PM

Rep. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, showed on the House floor this morning he enjoys the sort of debating theatrics we've seen from his mom, Sen. Pam Roach.

Dan Roach decided to take on House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler by making an allegation about her husband, a trial attorney, and ignoring a warning to watch what he says on the House floor.

Roach was arguing against an insurance bill this morning and claiming that the only people behind it were trial attorneys. He said he asked for evidence of the insurance problems the attorneys say would be fixed by the bill, Senate Bill 5726, but never saw any.

Roach said the chairman of the committee joked to him that the bill was being "railroaded."



Rep. Dan Roach

"I know, Mr. Speaker, this is not for the consumer. It hurts consumers. ... It is a sad day because this is something that has been run through the system."

House Speaker Pro Tem John Lovick gaveled Roach down and warned him to follow House rules that do not allow impugning fellow members.

Roach continued:

"Look out guys, the train is coming through. The Keith Kessler train is coming through and you better get out of the way."

Then Roach made a blowing-the-whistle motion with his arm, pumping it up and down, and made the sound effects, too: "Whoo, whoo!"

Kessler jumped up to demand an apology. The House went at ease, and Kessler — as I watched it on TVW later — strode across the front of the chambers and confronted Roach.

"You insult my husband? What in the world is wrong with you?" she shouted. I couldn't hear what Roach said in response. But Kessler said, "I don't care. ... You insult me. Do not insult my spouse."



Rep. Lynn Kessler

Roach stood later to offer an apology of sorts.

"Obviously in this debate things have gotten very heated. I think people are very emotional on both sides of the issues, maybe me in particular having gone through the whole committee process and see how the issue was worked. However, that is no excuse to disrespect the institution and I want to stand and apologize for that because I do respect the institution and I want to make sure that anyone who I may have offended personally who I brought in, to let them know that I apologize for that as well."

It was not, though, something done in the heat of the moment. Roach told me:

"It was premeditated on my part. I actually wrote some remarks during the amendment part of the debate. I did plan on putting that out there."

He said he did it because he has grown frustrated with how little impact Republicans have had in the House this year.

"We have no voice. I have no way to communicate what is going on. If I didn't do what I did today you wouldn't be calling me right now. I want to be heard and if that's what it takes, to do theatrics on the floor, then that's what's going to happen. These are big, big issues and nobody knows what's happening down here."

Kessler said Roach's apology fell far short. She told reporters:

"I have never in my 15 years heard anyone insult, not just the member — because it was a personal insult to me — but to step over that and go to a spouse or a family member and it was outrageous.

"And his apology was a slap in the face."

She said she called her husband to tell him what happened. He told her he doesn't do insurance law. But soon after the debate ended, Republicans were pointing reporters to the Web site of the firm where Keith Kessler is a named partner, and a page about insurance work.

Rep. Doug Ericksen, the deputy minority leader, said he had collected that material a couple of years ago on another issue and only brought it to the floor after Roach spoke. Ericksen said he didn't know what Roach had planned. Roach also said he hadn't told Republican leaders.

There's no doubt trial attorneys back the bill. It was sponsored by Sen. Brian Weinstein, D-Mercer Island, a successful trial attorney.

Lynn Kessler said Roach is not fit to serve in the House.

"I find him just the epitome of who should not be in the Legislature. If you can't be an adult here then you have no business being here and the rules are set up for a reason and he should abide by them."

Roach is happy with how things worked out today because he got the attention he wanted. But I asked him if he worries about any blowback from having the majority leader ticked off, and others saying he went too far.

"I don't really care. It's bringing the issue to the public."

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Poetic justice for laureate

Posted by David Postman at 10:48 AM

A bill creating a Washington state poet laureate is on its way to the governor. The Senate voted 45-2 this morning on House Bill 1279.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Mary Skinner, R-Yakima, who has pushed the idea before. But the idea of a poet laureate has been most identified with Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, who has been sponsoring bills since at least 1993. Jacobsen, though, has obviously ticked some people off this year, and he said shortly before the poet vote that while lots of his ideas are still moving this session, there aren't many of them in bills with his name on them. His poet laureate bill never got a hearing. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/Summary.aspx?bill=8401&year=2007

"I won't have to go to too many bill signings this year. I probably won't even get a damn pen."

The poet laureate will serve a two-year term and while lawmakers face no term limits, the poet will be restricted to two terms. The only substantive difference between the Skinner and Jacobsen plans is Skinner's bill says the state Arts Commission can pay the poet what it thinks it should, and Jacobsen wanted the poet paid with one "firkin of Washington beer per year."

Jacobsen is the Legislature's most prolific bill writer this year. As Andrew Garber wrote last month:

All 99 bills he's introduced since the session opened in January — more than any other lawmaker in the state Legislature — serve a purpose, the Seattle Democrat said, even if most of them die.

"I'm into the theory of chaos. And in the theory of chaos, if this particle exists and this one comes into existence and this one doesn't know that one exists? It still affects the behavior of that one," he said, moving his hands around as if they were giant particles.

This morning Jacobsen stood in the wings of the Senate as Skinner's poet laureate bill was about to come up and said being on the front page of The Seattle Times may turn out to be like the well-known curse of a sports team that makes the cover of Sports Illustrated. But he didn't seem to mind that it wasn't his poet bill passing.

"It's my chaos theory working," he said.

It has been a long battle. I guess the anti-poetry lobby is strong in Olympia. When Jacobsen's bill died in the 1993 session, the AP writer and poet in residence Hal Spencer moved this lede on the wire:


OLYMPIA - Alas, poets of Washington.
'Tis a sad, gray day at the Legislature.
The bill to lift you From your rude garrets and dark cafes,
To give you voice In the drab bureaucracy,
The bill to create The Office of Poet Laureate
Has perished.
Is dead as Latin,
As gone as a cut in taxes.

O, were there no
Unctuous lobbyists to lean on lawmakers,
To sing the praises
Of an official poet?
Whose only pay
Other than the joy of shouting rhyme From the Capitol dome
Was to be a butt of wine
From the State Wine Commission,
At no,
O, no no no,
Cost to the taxpayer.

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