Political Buzz

Talking WA politics.

NOTICE: Political Buzz has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Political Buzz.
Visit the new section.

Archives: May 2009


Pierce County’s most common illegal signs

On Thursday and Friday I posted information on Pierce County’s worst intersections for illegal signs. The numbers came from an analysis of nearly 8,800 illegal signs the county’s public works department collected during a 2007-08 crackdown.

The database I analyzed also includes information on the contents of the signs collected. But because of inconsistencies in the way county workers entered the information, it’s tough to come up with a definitive list of the worst offenders. For example, they entered the exact phrase "John L Scott" in the data on 184 signs. But that number doesn’t take into account

Read more »


Enhanced driver license will come in handy at Canadian border

I’m one of those people who paid the extra $15 to get an “enhanced” Washington driver’s license ($40 instead of $25 for a 5-year license) so that one day it would be easier for me to cross the border at Blaine. That day is Monday.

New rules for border-crossing documentation take effect on Monday, as the news release from the Washington Ferry System reminds us.

Avoiding travel delays: WSDOT reminds international travelers of changing border-crossing requirements

Date: Friday, May 29, 2009

Contact: Susan Harris-Huether, WSDOT Ferries Division, Senior Programs Manager, 206-515-3460
Dustin Terpening, WSDOT Communications, 360-757-5997

SEATTLE – The Washington State Department of Transportation is reminding citizens traveling to Canada to ensure they have the proper documentation and to be prepared for delays at border, whether traveling by road or via the Anacortes/Sidney, B.C. ferry.

Read more »


Puyallup judge now an elected position

For the first time in Puyallup history, the city will have a publicly elected municipal court judge.

Citizens can file with the Pierce County Auditor’s office next week — June 1 through June 5.

For years, Puyallup’s judge position has been part-time and appointed by the mayor.

But citing an ever-increasing municipal court caseload, the Puyallup City Council voted in June 2008 to create a full-time judge position that is elected by voters.

Council members appointed Stephen Shelton, the city’s longtime judge, to fill the position temporarily until it could be filled by an election

Read more »


Opponents of domestic partner law drop challenge to ballot title, gives them more time to collect signatures

Backers of Referendum 71, the measure that forces a vote on expansion of gay rights recently approved by the Legislature, dropped their appeal of the ballot title.

Given how little time they have to collect signatures, they probably figured a challenge and appeal would eat up their precious days.

Here’s the word from Secretary of State Sam Reed‘s office:

FYI, the Attorney General’s Office was informed this afternoon by the judicial assistant for Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee that Larry Stickney has voluntarily dismissed his ballot title challenge to Referendum 71. Because the challenge has

Read more »


Washington gets $2.2 billion more in federal stimulus funds; this batch is mostly for Hanford

Gov. Chris Gregoire‘s office sent out this news release. It’s noteworthy because the total amount of money that Washington is getting from President Obama and Congress for economic stimulus will end up being somewhere between $8 billion and $10 billion.

We got about $2 billion in Medicaid. Another $1 billion for education. About $500 million for transportation projects. And this $2.2 billion for Hanford and energy stuff. Those are just the big pieces.

I think the Bonneville Power Administration is in line for about $3 billion more (I think that’s borrowing, not a straight appropriation) and most of the BPA money also could be put in Washington’s column. And there’s a smattering of other moneys all over the place. Some of it is going to local governments.

U.S. Department of Energy Awards Washington State $2.2 billion in recovery funds

Recovery funding will increase energy efficiency and technology and reduce consumption

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced that the U. S. Department of Energy has awarded more than $2.2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for Washington State energy recovery. Most of the investment will accelerate clean up efforts at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Richland.

Read more »


House, Senate staff get hours and jobs cut; lawmakers get less money for expenses and newsletters

Some of this might be too “inside baseball” for general consumption, but I’m putting it here anyway.

Among the job cuts in the state House of Representatives are those of Sharon Hayward, who is retiring next month, and Mary Fleckenstein, a long-time policy analyst for House Democrats, who was laid off.

Hayward, now director of facilities and human resources, is leaving despite my protestations. (She’s PERS 1, so I can’t persuade her to stay.) Sharon has been here all 20 years that I’ve covered the Legislature and has been invaluable. (Her husband, Alan, is PERS 2, so he’s stuck with me for a few more years — assuming I’m still here.)

Fleckenstein is one of those staffers who is bilingual. That is, she speaks bureaucratic jargon AND layman’s English. That’s invaluable to me, whose job is to translate legislative policy into a language that regular folks will understand. Fleckenstein made it easy for me.

Regular readers of this blog have benefited from Fleckenstein’s insights into transportation and environmental policy items, particularly over this past session. Some lawmakers periodically would forward to me her common-sense explanations of some really complicated stuff, memos she would sent to House Democratic Caucus members.

Here’s the story I wrote for the print edition. It will run sometime over the weekend. I’ll upload a couple attachments, too. Here’s the Barbara Baker memo with details. The rest of her e-mail will appear below my story.

UPDATE: I left out one key point in my stories. Legislative employees are exempt workers. Not represented by unions, or anyone else for that matter. So, they can be ordered to take time off. It’s not so clear-cut for other state workers, unionized or otherwise.

BY Joseph Turner
The News Tribune

Washington legislators are getting less money for expenses and newsletters, their staff is shrinking and getting paid less and the Youth Legislature won’t get any money from the state for two years as part of the budget adopted last month by the Legislature.

Read more »


Illegal signs: Information on 50 Pierce County intersections

Yesterday I posted a list of the 10 worst intersections in unincorporated Pierce County for illegal signs. The list was based on an analysis of a database of nearly 8,800 signs collected by the county public works department during a 2007-08 crackdown on signs in public rights of way.

Now here’s a link to a Google map where you can get information about the number of illegal signs collected at 50 Pierce County intersections.

The same caveats apply to these numbers as to the top-10 list. It’s based on incomplete data (county workers collected more than

Read more »


Court hearing next Tuesday on ballot title for gay rights referendum

The folks who want a public vote on the bill to extend “everything but marriage” rights to domestic partners don’t like the ballot title that was given to Referendum 71, so they are challenging it.

The hearing on that challenge will take place in Thurston County Superior Court before Judge Thomas McPhee, according to Brian Zylstra at the Secretary of State’s office.

The hearing is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday. The case number is 09-2-01278-1.

Here’s the rest of the news from Zylstra:

On Tuesday, Larry Stickney filed a challenge in Thurston County Superior Court to

Read more »