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Archives: Feb. 2009


Death penalty bill died; so did dogs in bars, gay marriage, etc.

Majority Senate Democrats put out a list of bills that technically died on Ash Wednesday because they were not approved by the committee to which there were assigned.

But if they were among your favorites, don’t go into mourning just yet.

Easter is April 12. And yes, some of these could rise from the dead by then or a couple weeks thereafter.

But just for the record, here are a few bills from the “Dead Bill List.”

Sen. Ed Murray‘s proposal to get rid of the death penalty in Washington did die. So is his proposal to allow same-sex marriages. So too did Sen. Ken Jacobsen‘s perennial proposal to let him bring his dog into a bar when he goes drinking. (Just for the record, I’ve never seen Jake with a drink OR a dog. But I live in Tacoma.)

And Jake’s bill to try to revive the Western Washington University football Vikings is dead, too.

Sen. Jim Honeyford‘s proposal for a 4-day school week is dead, but I think the House version is still alive.

SB 5444 and HB 1410 are dead, which should please the 82,000-strong Washington Education Association. Those are the bills that would implement some of the recommendation of the Basic Education Finance Task Force, like merit pay for teachers. (I guess their deaths clear the way for the WEA to become decidedly more active in the pursuit of a tax package for the ballot, or so I’m told. Then again, parts of these bills could come back three days after Good Friday.)

Also dead is Sen. Mike Carrell‘s proposal to make people prove they are U.S. citizens before they can register to vote. (I guess he figured he margin of victory over Debi Srail would have been greater is all of her supporters had to be legal immigrants.)

Here is the rest of the Senate list:

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‘This is where politicians go before they die.’ –Darlene Fairley

This is my nomination for “best quote of the session,” so far.

It was Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, commenting earlier this week on her own proposal, Senate Bill 6065. This is the one that would abolish the three $75,000-a-year jobs on the state Liquor Control Board and replace them with an executive director who would be appointed by the governor.

The bill was being heard before Fairley’s own Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee.

Fairley, of course, was alluding to how the Liquor Board jobs are given to retired legislators for a couple years, just

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Coming soon: E-mail alerts when sex offenders move next door

I wrote about this program back in July 2008, but it’s taking longer than expected. And wouldn’t you know it: Pierce and King counties, the big boys, are the ones that are delaying the advent of the e-mail alerts.

I’ve heard that Gov. Chris Gregoire is going to announce the rollout of the program at a news conference on March 9.

Here is the story I wrote last year:

E-mail will alert residents of felons
The state is beefing up its monitoring of sex offenders. An online system will send e-mail to people who sign up to learn when a felon moves nearby.

By Joseph Turner

Monday,July 14, 2008
Edition: SOUTH SOUND, Section: Front Page, Page A01
Washington residents will soon be notified by e-mail if they want to know when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

As part of an overhaul of the statewide sex offender registry, the state is setting up a system that features real-time updates for newly registered offenders and lets residents sign up to be notified if an offender moves nearby.

Meanwhile, Pierce County will be getting $437,000 of the $5 million the Legislature is giving to local authorities to verify that sex offenders really are living where they say they are when they register with local sheriff’s departments.

The changes to the registry and the address verification program were among recommendations made late last year by Gov. Chris Gregoire’s task force on sex offenders. The task force was created after the kidnapping and killing of 12-year-old Zina Linnik in Tacoma last July by a sex offender.

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Hurting auto dealers want Legislature to let them charge their customers a $150 fee on vehicle sales

BY Joseph Turner

Auto dealers, who have seen their sales go into the tank for more than a year, are asking the Legislature to allow them to triple the fee they now can charge customers to process car-purchase paperwork.

The new "documentary service fee" would be $150, up from $50 today. Overall, such an increase could let auto dealers statewide pocket as much as $100 million to $150 million, money that goes straight to their bottom line. Those figures assumes dealers will sell 1 million cars and trucks and that all dealers would charge the maximum fee allowed, as most do.

Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, said she sponsored Senate Bill 5816 at the request of the Washington State Auto Dealers Association and its 328 dealerships, and one of her former constituents, Mary Byrne, former owner of Nissan of Fife. Byrne now is a partner in Advantage Nissan in Bremerton.

"They told me that Washington state sales are down by at least 30 percent and that they just want to be able to compete with Idaho and Oregon on our borders, which have lower sales taxes," Eide said. "They came to me asking for help. Our local dealers are our livelihood in our communities and they are going extinct. If they think this is going to be their lifeline, I’ll be there."

Bruce Reeves, spokesman for the Senior Citizen Lobby, testified against Eide’s bill and against a similar measure, House Bill 1939, which was sponsored by Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview.

"The bill has no benefit to the public," Reeves said. "It’s clearly a windfall for the dealers. And it’s ill-timed. This is no time to tack on $100 to the cost. It will just hurt owners."

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Attorney questions Pierce County executive’s reorganization

A new opinion by a Pierce County Council attorney suggests County Executive Pat McCarthy overstepped her authority in reorganizing her office.

Council attorney Jeff Cox sent the opinion to council members last week. The document is sure to stoke opposition on a council that already has questioned the wisdom of beefing up the executive’s staff at a time of tight budgets.

McCarthy has hired three "executive directors" to oversee various county departments. She says the move won’t require an increase in county spending because she wants to transfer money from unfilled positions in other departments.

Cox’s memo says McCarthy’s plan may be illegal. Under the county charter, department heads are subject to council confirmation. But the executive directors on her staff apparently are not.

Cox’s memo says "placing three new managers as unconfirmed (by the council) intermediaries between the executive and department executives frustrates remedial purposes served by the charter’s confirmation protocols … and it may require the adoption of a new salary schedule through ordinance."

Among other things, Cox also says McCarthy needs council approval for her plan to pay for the new positions – approval that the council so far has withheld.

UPDATE: After reading this item, McCarthy issued a statement defending the reorganization and her right to reorganize. “The County Charter clearly gives me broad authority to manage the government,” she said. “I am required under the Charter to operate within the budget, and codified department heads in my administration are required to be confirmed. I have complied with all of those requirements.”

She added: “In light of the significant issues facing Pierce County, I am disappointed that the Council has expended energy focusing on this when we should be working together.”

You can read the complete memo and McCarthy’s statement below.

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Not so fast on $45 weekly boost to unemployment benefits

Gov. Chris Gregoire already has signed the bill (House Bill 1906) that would boost the minimum weekly unemployment check payment to $200 and add $45 to everyone’s weekly check, starting May 3. But there’s a bill in the state Senate that might cut that increase to only $31 a week.

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, has sponsored a bill to use unemployment insurance trust fund money to pay for more worker retraining. It’s Senate Bill 5809. Quite frankly, I can’t tell whether Hargrove is marching to his own drummer or doing something the whole Senate Democratic caucus wants. I suspect

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More about that 4-day school week (only for small schools)

State Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, soon to become state agriculture secretary under Gov. Chris Gregoire, is the prime sponsor of House Bill 1292, the measure to allow a few schools to cut back to a shorter week.

The bill is before the House Education Appropriations Committee today. It would let as many as five school districts, with fewer than 500 students, get waivers from the State Board of Education on the requirement for 180 days in the school year. Students still would have to receive at least 1,000 hours of instruction.

Proponents say a four-day week would easier

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Washington has 30,000 military ‘brats'; 7th largest in nation

And I don’t mean “brats” in a pejorative sense. I’ve met too many former military dependents who wear that label as a merit badge.

Just an interesting factoid I picked up today while perusing bills that are up for hearing before the House fiscal committees. House Bill 1075, sponsored by Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, would make some changes to the interaction between schools of other states and the students that come to Washington because their military parents have been transferred.

And with Fort Lewis, McChord Air Force Base and other military installations, there’s a good chance those

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