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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Children's Health or Cosmetic Surgery 

You know people who buy a lottery ticket "to support education"? All I can say is that I hope nobody gets a nose job "for children's health." In all seriousness, taxing cosmetic surgery seems like a good way to pay for an expansion of children's health.



Mental Health Parity 

Sounds good to me. Now lets move to the senate.



I'm so Proud I Voted For Her 

My old state senator Darlene Fairley is sponsoring 7 bills to help curb payday loans.

If passed, the bills would put restrictions on payday lending to military personnel; lower the maximum allowable size for payday loans and the amount of interest charged; limit borrowers to one outstanding payday loan every 60 days; and give borrowers the option to skip a payday when repaying a loan.

The other bills would allow for prosecution of extortionate extension of credit by payday lenders; require payday lenders to report more information on borrowing habits to the state Department of Financial Institutions (DFI); and apply Washington law to payday loans offered over the Internet.



Another Spill 

Wonderful. This one doesn't look as bad as the last one. And they got all that info the last time, so they'll be able to address things sooner. Hopefully.



Friday, January 28, 2005

Thank Goodness 

The Leg is going to address the Shawnna Hughes problem:

More important than media coverage, however, is the fact that the story ticked off Seattle-area state house legislator Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Ballard). "Judges cannot deny divorces simply on the pregnancy of the woman," Dickerson says. "This isn't the 1950s." And Dickerson, who chairs the Juvenile Justice and Family Law Committee in Olympia, is doing something about it.

...

If Representative Dickerson's amendment is adopted, Hughes' predicament would no longer be a precedent for denying divorce to pregnant women who want out of a relationship. (In Hughes' case, her husband had a record of domestic violence against her.) When Hughes found out what Dickerson was proposing, she was thrilled. "It's fabulous. I want to thank her for giving financially struggling women back our rights." Hughes' pregnancy tripped up her divorce in part because she was on state assistance.

"I think the judge misinterpreted the law," Dickerson says, "and we're going to make it crystal clear that pregnant woman can get divorced."



43rd District Dems Opposes Social Security Privatization 

Click "At the January membership meeting the membership passed a resolution in opposition to privatizing social security."



Dear Luke Esser, 

I saw in this week's Stranger that you are attacking the idea of repairing the Viaduct. Now reasonable people can disagree about the best method, or who should pay for it, I guess. But the Stranger quoted you thusly:

"We are not going to raise the gas tax 30, 40, or 50 cents to meet the transportation needs of the Puget Sound region," Esser says. "The concern for some of us outside Seattle is that our friends in Seattle want to do the viaduct first and nothing else, and that then their appetite for other major highway projects might be gone."
Are you a moron? I mean really you seem to be saying that saving lives in Seattle isn't worth the rest of the state's money. Because make no mistake in an earthquake or a terrorist attack, the Viaduct is coming down. And if Al Queda does attack the Viaduct and people die, the excuse terror coddling ninnies like you will give is that there wasn't the money in the capitol Budget for a bridge in Squim?

But even if saving lives of Seattleites isn't important to you, your district is in Bellevue. It's quite possible that your members of constituency uses the viaduct from time to time, including during the possible terrorist attack or earthquake that you seem not to give a damn about. Are you really willing to sacrifice your own constituency for a bridge in the Spokane Valley? And you pretend that Seattle is a huge money pit for the state, when in fact it gives more money to the state than it gets back. As a senator from a relatively urban district in King County, you should be fighting to get more state money to the urban areas instead of letting folks out East use the Puget Sound region as an ATM that they don't ever put money back into.

Kiss kiss,

Carl Ballard

...Sent



Thursday, January 27, 2005

Senator Cantwell Responds Again 

I'm glad she actually talked about torture, I haven't been following every nook and cranney of the story, but I guess some Senators were complaining about non-torture problems. That's not as important to me.

Dear Mr. Ballard:

Thank you for previously contacting me regarding the nomination
of Justice Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of
the United States. After carefully listening to Judge Gonzales
during his Senate confirmation hearings and reading his responses
to questions, I have decided to oppose his confirmation.

The Attorney General, as the chief law enforcement officer in the
country, holds a special independent place in the government.
While the President selects the nominee, the Constitution requires
the Senate to provide "advice and consent," a responsibility I take
very seriously.

I am unconvinced that Judge Gonzales has the independence to be
the nation's leading law enforcement officer. As White House
Counsel, his office generated a legal opinion on whether the
President is bound by domestic and international law on torture,
which the government recently repudiated as legally faulty. Such
repudiation calls Judge Gonzales' judgment into question,
judgment that is important for our country's top attorney.

Further, Judge Gonzales's changed position on the torture memos
in the weeks before his confirmation hearings appears to
demonstrate political convenience, not a truly self-reflective
change in his thinking on these matters. Had Judge Gonzales
recognized the serious problems with the judgments he made on
these issues and given convincing assurances that he understands
that his new role will require a different approach and a new
allegiance to the law, I might have been convinced to defer to the
President on this nomination.

Additionally, Judge Gonzales had substantial ties to Enron while
he was an attorney in private practice and then a candidate for the
Texas Supreme Court, including receiving many thousands of
dollars from Enron and its PAC both in campaign contributions
and legal fees. These ties could effect the ongoing criminal
investigations of Enron officials. Given the significance of this
case former Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself
because of similar political ties. Judge Gonzales should also have
made clear his intention to recuse himself.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this
matter. Finally, you may be interested in signing up for my weekly
update for Washington State residents. Every Monday, I provide a
brief outline about my work in the Senate and issues of importance
to Washington State. If you are interested in subscribing to this
update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov.
Please do hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further
assistance.

Sincerely,

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator
...Of course if you want to know more than you ever could about Gonzales, here's a compendium of blog posts on the topic.



Open Thread 

Possible topics:

When is it appropriate to take down the aid stuff on the side bar?
Chris Vance: Roid rage, ideological insanity, or something else?
The fact that there will probably be somewhat light posting until Sunday.



Well of Course Vance is a Liar 

Oly Scoop has the goods on the latest Republican lie. This time it concerns the "illegal ballots" that the Republicans found. The majority of them (437) are from the provisional ballots that were cast at the polling places instead of being set aside. As we know, we don't know if these were illegal voters or not, and if they are held up at the same rate as provisional ballots in the state, more than 80% are in fact legal.



Girls' State 

Evergreen Politics links me to this article in Newsweek on why women do so well in Washington State politics as compared to the rest of the country.



Bob Oke's Seat 

Of course we all wish that Bob Oke has a speedy recovery and we recognize that it's pretty ghoulish to talk about how to replace him while he's still in office. But he does have cancer and is undergoing chemo. So if he retires or worse at the end of the session the Republicans would replace him. And Progressive Majority Washington doesn't like the leading candidate.

Speculation is that he will retire after this session. If he retires, the Republican PCOs in the 26th LD will have the opportunity to pick a replacement -- and one of the leading candidates is former State Rep. Lois McMahan.

Longtime readers (ok, pre-election readers) of this space will recall that defeating McMahan was one of Progressive Majority's top priorities here. She became internationally famous for walking out on a Muslim cleric who was giving a prayer before the legislature -- and, in fact, she stood in the back of the room and told a reporter she was protesting her belief that Muslims had not adequately rejected the motivations for the events of 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The God of Islam was not her God so she would not respect prayers to other than her own God.



BPA Transmission Rates up 12.5% 

Link

The Bonneville Power Administration has settled with more than 120 utilities on a 12.5 percent transmission rate increase for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The federal agency supplies wholesale power to several Northwest utilities, as well as individual large companies.



Wednesday, January 26, 2005

DNC Chair 

The state party wants your input on who should be the next chair of the national party. I'm not as interested in this as most Democratic bloggers seem to be. I mean I care about plenty of national issues that I don't touch, but I just don't feel particularly strongly about who's the chair of the national party. My local Democrats endorsed Dean and that's fine by me. Shaun (look an a) supports Rosenberg and that's fine with me too.



Permanent Defense on I-900 

The whole thing is wonderful, read it all, but I'll crib from the conclusion.

It's clear that auditing every single government agency in the state - including local government - is a ridiculous idea. It's a waste of money. The cost will simply outweigh any savings we get from doing it.

Eyman's failure to come up with a reasonable proposal is not a surprise. Tim has never been in favor of a serious and honest discussion about taxation and budgeting - he prefers lies and myths that will spur people to believe in his ideas, which brings him more money and attention.

But fortunately, there are already reasonable proposals out there, advocated by House Speaker Frank Chopp and a number of other Democrats.

While Tim sputters in his attempt to keep his initiative factory running, Olympia has the chance to pass performance audit legislation that has the potential to secure our state some modest savings.

State Auditor Brian Sonntag has long championed performance audit legislation, and it's time to move forward and work out a proposal that will serve the citizens of the state of Washington.



Good for Them, now be Consistent 

Columbian Watch praises the Columbian for a series on police brutality before pointing out that this was more the exception than the rule at the Worst Little Newspaper West of the Mississippi.

And it’s hard to praise something, and then delve into a criticism. But The Columbian has had a free ride for many, many years in this community. Their monopoly status requires that we consider the totality of their actions.

The Columbian has to achieve another important goal: editorial balance. The current make up of the editorial board is far too conservative, even if a couple of the conservatives are realistic, and printing the insane harpy rants of Michelle Malkin is an offense to reason.

Those who have lived in Clark County a long time know that The Columbian lurches around, accommodating the theocratic right during the Linda Smith era, and then bouncing back. As the winds, change, so do they.

Democrats and progressives are not asking for a lot. A realistic person will not expect a newspaper owned by a fortunate son to discard his birthright. But we do expect that the worst abuses of power be reported, and in this case they are being reported.



Wasatch Super-Block 

I'm pretty much in favor of this sort of thing, although the scale is pretty amazing.

When fully developed, the $1 billion project, spread over the equivalent of nine regular-sized city blocks, would include an office tower, an athletic club, an outdoor plaza with a fountain and perhaps even a grocery store.

The Utah developers who purchased most of the superblock a little more than two years ago showed new plans for the 10-acre site at a breakfast gathering held by the Bellevue Downtown Association.

...

The superblock is bordered by Northeast Eighth Street on the south, Northeast 10th Street on the north, 106th Avenue Northeast on the west and 108th Avenue Northeast on the east.

Most of the existing buildings on the superblock are aging single-story structures, with the exception of the two-story building along Northeast Eighth that houses several retail businesses, including the Thai Grill restaurant and International Maternity Factore.

Other businesses on the block include a Vietnamese restaurant, a check-cashing service and a nail salon.

Hansen said his company has no plans at this time to redevelop the portion of the superblock along Northeast Eighth Street, adding that any redevelopment of that property likely would be at least five years off.



Senator Cantwell Responds 

With what I assume is a form letter:

Dear Mr. Ballard:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the nomination of Justice Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States. I appreciate hearing your views on this issue.

As you may know, the President nominates individuals to serve in his cabinet and it is the responsibility of the Senate to advise and consent on the suitability of those individuals to serve in the particular cabinet position for which they have been nominated. I intend to carefully observe and review the confirmation hearings and study the Judge Gonzales' record before arriving at my judgment. Primarily, I will seek to assess whether the nominee will enforce the laws of our nation in a balanced and fair manner.

I take my Constitutional responsibility as a Senator to advise and consent on executive nominations extremely seriously. While I recognize the privilege of the President to select his nominees, I believe it is critical that we conduct a comprehensive evaluation of each nominee's qualifications. Be assured that I am committed to making carefully considered and independent judgments on every nominee based on a thorough review of his or her records. I will also continue to fight to protect reproductive rights and ensure that our nation=s civil rights and environmental laws are fully and adequately enforced.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. Finally, you may be interested in signing up for my weekly update for Washington State residents. Every Monday, I provide a brief outline about my work in the Senate and issues of importance to Washington State. If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at . Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator
... According to this comment on Kos (burred in a discussion about the topic) Cantwell's office is now saying that she's a no.



It's not Nothing 

But it's also not what Enron, and the other energy companies stole.

Snohomish County PUD will receive $1.6 million to give back to businesses that bought power during that time. Checks totaling more than $10 million are being sent to utilities across the state this week, the state Attorney General's Office said Tuesday.

The refunds are part of a $40 million settlement the state signed with three energy marketers. The companies agreed to refund profits that were unjustly gained during the energy crisis, when they contributed to an unprecedented run-up in electricity prices.

The PUD's residential customers, who saw their rates go up by about 50 percent in 2001, won't be getting any cash back.

A $3 million refund coming back to Snohomish County in the name of its homeowners and renters will go instead to help low- and moderate-income customers pay their bills. It also will pay for programs that help make customers' homes more energy efficient.

Instead of every residential customer getting $5 to $7, the refunds will go instead to people who are struggling just to heat their homes, said Bill Beuscher, supervisor of the county's Energy Assistance Program.



Remember 

When Dino Rossi quit the legislature because raising money was more important than serving his constituency? And remember how Chris Gregoire, as an elected state official couldn't raise money when the legislature was in session? Well if there is a new election, the same sorts of things might apply. But the PDC doesn't know the specifics of an election in make believe land.

...Edited grammar



Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Lying Sack of Crap or Lutheran Minister 

Hmm



Tent City 4 

May be coming to South Bellevue.

Members of Aldersgate United Methodist Church will vote Sunday on allowing Tent City 4 to locate on its five-acre property starting Feb. 20, when it is due to depart their current site on Finn Hill near Kirkland.

Aldersgate is located at 14230 S.E. Newport Way, in the Eastgate area, an unincorporated island of King County that's mostly surrounded by the city of Bellevue.



Dear Senators Cantwell and Murray 

I'm writing to urge you to vote no on Gonzales' appointment. The Geneva Conventions are not quaint, they are vital. Americans should fight torture, not condone it, but how can we do that when we promote people who do condone torture? How can we do that when the man who is among the most responsible for turning Americans into an instrument of torture is ready to become the nations top lawyer?

Sincerely,

Carl Ballard

...Sent to Cantwell, but I couldn't find an email address for Patty, so I just left a message on her Seattle office answering machine.



Bridge Railings? 

Druggies are very strange people.

"We think they take it to a recycling facility, disguising it by running over it with heavy machinery or something, and then they receive a per-pound rate," Deckman said. "We suspect it's related to drugs."



Dear Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights, 

I'm writing because I think you guys are wonderful, but I don't think you go far enough to protect rural land owners. For example, you think that if I contaminate the ground water (and believe you me, I would except for them damn government bureaucrats) on my property and it somehow effects my neighbors' wells that it isn't any concern of the county. If our rural areas turn into suburban sprawl, mores the better. But what I don't understand is why you haven't come out for allowing me to shoot out people's windows if I hold the gun on my property. Or claim any farm life that wanders on to my property.

I mean there I am with my .22 (yes it's kind of a womanly gun, but what are you going to do?) shooting out windows. I mean I got the house and a car in the driveway. But what do I get for my troubles, some time in county lock up. Where were you?

Also one other time, one of my neighbor's roosters came on to my property. So I killed it cooked it and hucked the bones back on their yard (from my property of course). Again people want to say that I can't do whatever I want with the roosters on my property. And who from Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights was there for me then? Nobody that's who.

Loads of Love,

Carl Ballard

...Sent



Caucuses 

If you're a partisan Democrat, two of the best resources to find out what's going on in the legislature are the Senate and House Democratic Caucus websites. Plenty of unbridled partisanship without having to hear the Republican side. I've already been cribbing from them a bit. The senate caucuses' website (unlike the actual institution) is more freewheeling and frequently updated, and the house is better than it was last year (they recognize what year it is) but still not as frequently updated or well written.



Monday, January 24, 2005

The Agenda 

The Daily O has an article on what the Democrats are doing this year. We can finally push our agenda without being the minority in at least one house. At the end it has a rundown of many of the bills being proposed. I hope I'm not quoting too much when I lay it out here:

Government

- House Bill 1064 authorizes performance audits by the state auditor. These would examine state programs for efficiency and results.

- HB 1069 authorizes audits to examine tax breaks for businesses and other interest groups. The House passed a similar bill before but it died in the Republican Senate.

Education

- HB 1066 makes more changes to learning-assistance programs that supply extra money to school districts with disadvantaged children.

- An unnumbered bill enhances scholarships and mentoring possibilities for higher education students.

- HB 1050 creates a scholarship endowment for foster children.

Health care

- HB 1219 creates a prescription drugs buying consortium that lets small businesses benefit from better prices the state gains (requested by Gov. Christine Gregoire).

- HB 1316, HB 1194 and HB 1168 provide access to imports of cheaper Canadian prescription drugs. This concept passed the House last year.

- HB 1154 requires health insurers to cover mental illnesses the same way they cover physical diseases. Dubbed mental health parity, this passed the House last year.

- Expansion of children's health insurance eventually to insure all children. Gregoire supports getting all kids covered by private or public-paid insurance by year 2010.

Jobs

- HB 1221 lets businesses buy into health care insurance plans the state gets for state employees or offers via the Basic Health Plan. A catastrophic insurance plan also would be offered.

- HB 1028 affects apprenticeship opportunities.

- HB 1049 affects the Public Works Trust Fund, which fuels capital projects around the state.



Auburn School Construction Bond 

The vote is set for Feb. 8. It would be a bond of $32.65 million to build a couple of elementary schools.

The reason to build is to ease overcrowding and accommodate growth. District enrollment has increased by 26 percent since Ilalko Elementary opened in 1992 – from 10,879 to 13,672 students. If approved, the two schools would be constructed in the fast-growing areas of Lea Hill and Lakeland Hills, where 2,300 homes are expected to be built in the next three to five years. The school in Lakeland Hills would be the Auburn School District’s first in Pierce County.

“We felt like we really couldn’t delay it and we had to go forward,” said Janice Nelson, Auburn School Board president.
There's also a technology levy, and the article doesn't specify the specific costs of one measure or the other, but if both pass it would mean an increase of between .5% and .6% on property taxes.



Harold Clarke 

A new prison director for the state, the first African American in that position:

Gov. Christine Gregoire today appointed Nebraska's prison chief, Harold Clarke, to head the Washington Department of Corrections.



A Non-Existent Unit 

Wowza. In her continuing quest to show that lefty bloggers have more legitimacy than the Republican party, Carla at Preemptive Karma lays yet another smack down on the Republican list of disenfranchised military voters. This time pointing out that some of them are from a brigade that doesn't exist.

Most of my conversation with Hanzeli had to do with a list of 260 complaints from military/overseas voters who said they didn't receive their absentee ballots. Hanzeli didn't know where the whole list was, but he was in charge of "60-65" complaints from that list. Hanzelli told me specifically about "3-4" people from the 81st Striker Brigade serving in Iraq who were the only ones in their group not to get their state's absentee ballot.

This morning I spoke again with Lt. Col. Steve Boylan of the Coalition Press Information Center in Baghdad. Lt. Col Boyland had never heard of the 81st Striker Brigade and to his knowledge, no such animal exists.

It's possible that Hanzelli meant the 81st Infantry Brigade. But what's odd is that he was alledgedly reading to me over the phone from his list. How exactly is Hanzelli supposed to assist these people when he doesn't know the correct name of their unit? Or was he really reading to me from a list at all?
...Also, doing research from my computer, and thinking a bit more, google doesn't recognize that brigade either (obviously the google bugs will come across mine and PK's posts before too long). Also why wouldn't you be able to know how many people you had if the numbers were that small? I mean I can understand if it was a few dozen, but really how tough is it to count to 4?



Biker Bill 

I'm with Herb Larson on this one.

The few times Bremerton biker Herb Larson has been pulled over, it wasn't because of his motorcycle or his clothing, he says -- it was because he was speeding. Larson, who has been riding for more than 32 years and now teaches motorcycle-safety classes on the weekends, says the law "sounds OK."

"But I would hope we wouldn't have to have anything like that," he said. "I don't think motorcyclists should be treated any different than anyone else."



Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sex Ed 

I was listening to the best of Unfiltered so I guess Dan Savage was on sometime this week. But he made a point that he's been making since at least the time he had his own radio show. And that's the state of sex ed. in America. He said basically that if we taught drivers' ed. the way we teach sex ed. that teens would have a wonderful knowledge of the internal combustion engine but no idea how to work the pedals, steering wheels, or gear shift. And that sex ed. is basically just a biology class.

But I think the biology is critically important. Certainly it isn't the whole thing. But you can't teach about STDs without some understanding of the biology. Knowledge of biology certainly adds to the discussion of contraception.

So I'm fine with the biology as a component of the maybe new sex ed. curriculum, because it's a key step to informing the next generation about contraception.



Bellingham Jail 

The city council will be discussing it tomorrow, if you want to attend and you're up there.



Open Thread 




Brame Case Tops $1 Million 

Maybe another one million before the trial even starts.



Hastings and Committee Assignments 

He might get chair of Ethics or Rules.



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