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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Open Thread 

Light posting today edition.



Friday, April 15, 2005

"First of all, it’s against federal law" 

The House Dems explain election reform slowly enough that even some rightwingers might understand it. They'll still pretend they don't understand, but there isn't much House Democrats can do about that.

Q: Why can’t we purge the voter rolls and re-register all voters in the state?

A: First of all, it’s against federal law. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 permits removal of voters only at the voter’s request, for felony conviction or mental incapacity, or as part of a general effort to remove ineligible voters from the rolls. [NVRA or Motor Voter Act; 42 U.S.C. 1973gg-5(a) & (b). More information at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/nvra/activ_nvra.htm ]

But an even better reason might be this: Every legal, eligible voter in this state should not be penalized because of a statistically-tiny number of illegal votes. Yes, we want to assure that our system is as secure and as accurate as possible. But in our country, you are innocent unless proven guilty – duly registered voters should not have to prove themselves innocent.

We believe that voting is a right, not an entitlement.[...]

Q: Why shouldn’t we have a government-issued photo ID or passport requirement at the polls?

A: The problems in this past year’s election did not come from people falsely identifying themselves at the polls. The problems we saw were problems with ballots being mailed to soldiers in a timely fashion, alleged felons improperly casting ballots, inconsistent procedures, and a few people improperly casting ballots for loved ones who had passed away.

By requiring photo identification at the polls, we are creating a barrier to those who have the constitutional right to vote while ignoring the real problem. For example, more than 48,000 seniors over 65 have no driver’s license or other state photo ID. That is 7 percent of all Washington citizens over 65. Are we going to deny 7 percent of our senior citizens the right to vote?

By requiring a passport to vote we are in effect placing a poll tax on the voters of Washington State. The cost to obtain a passport is currently $97 and less than 30% of the U.S. population has one. Voting is a constitutional right, not a privilege you should have to pay for.[...]

Q: How are we going to keep felons from voting illegally?

A: The key is keeping information on felons current. The House Democrats’ reforms require and fund a statewide voter database to update and correct the voter registration list. The database will check other agency databases (such as the Department of Corrections) at least four times a year for ineligible felons, deaths, multiple registrations and other voter list problems. The reform also requires felons to sign a statement acknowledging that their right to vote has been lost and how the right to vote can be restored after they do their time and pay their fines. [Amendment to Senate Bill 5743]



Chairman Dean 

Lynn Allen from Evergreen Politics saw him in Seattle and has a little report.

He said it was time to reclaim the word "liberal" and reclaim our Democratic and Labor goals. And not only is it time to brand the Democratic Party, it is time to brand the Republican Party as well - as the party of deficits and deceit.

We will be hearing a lot more from the DNC under Dean. He said that the DNC will be paying a minimum of four staffers in each state to do grassroots organizing, a welcome move that is likely to establish the preeminence of the national party over the local party.



No Privacy with Comcast? 

A Seattle woman is suing Comcast for secretly revealing information about her online activities.



Environment 

The Senate Dems are highlighting their environmental accomplishments this session. The big ones are clean cars and green buildings.



Thursday, April 14, 2005

Young Democrats of Washington 

Looks like the convention was a hoot.



Exhausting 

The senate passed it's version of the car exhaust bill. It's somewhat different from the house version. The difference is on requiring some zero emission cars and on being able to go across borders to states that don't have the same requirements. Hopefully they can work something out.



Water Rationing 

Could happen in Eastern Washington.

"It is virtually impossible that Washington will get enough cold weather now to build up our snowpacks and bail us out of drought," said Scott Pattee of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, in a statement.

Pattee said 2005 could be "the worst water-supply season on record," and he added that state snowpack conditions are 32 percent of normal as of April 1, up from only 26 percent a month earlier.



Wednesday, April 13, 2005

What Paul Said 

On the main state Dems page, there's a note on Gregoire's first 100 days in office:

Paul Berendt, chair of the Washington Democratic Party, said, "Over the last 100 days, Dino Rossi and the Republican Party have made one outrageous claim after another – many which have already been shown to be false – about why Christine Gregoire should not be governor. While Rossi and his fellow Republicans have been sitting around, making up reasons why the election results should be overturned, Governor Gregoire has been working everyday to improve the lives of Washingtonians. It is clear that Dino Rossi is grasping at straws to benefit Dino Rossi at the expense of Washington’s taxpayers."

Last week, Republicans dropped their claims that election officials failed to mail military ballots on time and that King County used illegal methods to enhance ballots that could not be read by vote-counting machines. Last month, Rossi acknowledged that hundreds of names he released as illegal voters actually did not have their voting rights taken away since they were juveniles when they committed their offenses.

"These claims of desperation must stop," said Berendt. "And, Dino Rossi doesn’t have to listen to me. It is time for him to take the advice of several prominent Republicans, as well as his own advice."



Jay Inslee Responds 

A while back, I wrote my former Congressman who I still respect and admire, Jay Inslee and took him to task for supporting the Bankruptcy Bill in the House. He's come around (although, it will sadly still pass). Anyway, here's an email from him, and I'm a bit surprised I got it as I don't live in the district any more.

Dear Mr. Ballard:

Thank you for contacting me regarding S. 256, the Consumer Bankruptcy Reform Act. I appreciate hearing from you.

I want to let you know that I plan to vote against the bankruptcy bill. I have chosen to vote against this legislation because it does not recognize the current realities many middle class Americans face. They have been speaking out, telling me they are feeling squeezed by unforeseen health care costs, budget cuts, difficulties finding better-paying jobs, and even sudden military deployments. This legislation treats these families harshly, and the Majority party chose to push the bill straight through the House without allowing any meaningful changes in the bill that are necessary given the current realities faced by many Americans.

I support reforming our bankruptcy laws, but I cannot support a bill that does not reflect these realities.

While many families face increased challenges, this Congress continues to oppose legislation that would help them, including measures to provide access to affordable health care, raise the minimum wage, or improve labor standards. As the bankruptcy bill asks these debtors to pay impossible bills, the Republican Congress is inaugurating yet another year with its own fiscally irresponsible budget to pay for tax cuts and the war in Iraq.

After receiving many letters about these circumstances and reviewing the bankruptcy issue more closely, I decided that the legislation needed several changes. Recent estimates show that half of all bankruptcies may be the result of financial hardships caused by catastrophic health care costs. I offered an amendment to the bill that would have allowed those individuals with large health care costs to continue qualifying for bankruptcy under Chapter 7. My colleagues offered other amendments including efforts to: close safe-haven trusts where wealthy debtors can shield their assets; exempt debtors whose financial problems were caused by identity theft; protect veterans and members of the armed forces on active duty or performing homeland security activities; and even protect disabled veterans.

Unfortunately, the Majority Rules committee would not allow a floor vote on my amendment or many other important corrections to the bill, continuing the Republican leadership's long trend of refusing sensible input on legislation. It is notably troubling that the Majority would not even allow consideration of measures to help our service members currently on duty in Iraq or disabled veterans of this long conflict.

Like you, I am concerned about unfairly punishing those with extraordinary financial difficulties, and I agree that there are many legitimate reasons to seek complete debt relief under Chapter 7 for circumstances involving catastrophic medical emergencies, divorce and job loss.

I support bankruptcy reforms that make sense and do not force undue financial hardships on those who need bankruptcy relief the most. As a small-town attorney, I have seen many instances in which well-off individuals filed for bankruptcy, keeping their high earning capacity intact, while leaving struggling small businesses virtually no chance to recover their debts from the filers. Meaningful bankruptcy reform should be enacted to curb abuses such as these, but should not hurt those who do not have the ability to pay off their obligations because of sudden illness or injury, or those facing hardships resulting from military service in Iraq. I believe that those who can reasonably afford to pay at least part of their debt should do so. Bankruptcy abusers do exist, and they ultimately hurt us all.

Congress should pass legislation that truly captures these abuses, not ordinary Americans increasingly squeezed by tough times. This bankruptcy bill should be updated to reflect these current realities. Failing that, I will vote against it.


Please rest assured that should Congress consider other bankruptcy legislation in the future, I will support meaningful reform that does not hurt those who need bankruptcy relief the most.


Please continue to contact me about the issues that concern you, as I both need and welcome your thoughts and ideas. As a service to my constituents, I maintain a website which contains valuable resources and information on Congressional activities. Please feel free to visit the website at http://www.house.gov/inslee for information on recent issues and to learn more about the services my office provides. If you have not done so already, please visit http://www.house.gov/inslee/signup.htm to subscribe to my e-mail updates.


I encourage you to contact me via email, telephone, or fax, because security measures are causing House offices to experience delays in receiving postal mail. My email address is: Jay.Inslee@mail.house.gov. Please be sure to include your full name and address, including your zip code, in your message.

Very truly yours,

JAY INSLEE
Member of Congress
At Drinking Liberally last night, Goldy and I and a few others got into a bit of a discussion about Inslee. I think he's wonderful. Maybe it's having him oust White while he was my Congressman. Maybe it's that he's on the right side of a lot of issues despite being in a swing district. In any event, some persuading can go a long way (and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who wrote to him).



Here's What Republicans Don't Understand 

You can't say I'm taking my ball and going home when we're not playing with your ball in the first damn place. Hot on the heels of Republicans walking out in disgust at the fact that the election reform package that passed their committee didn't have some bad provisions (including one insane one), Sen. Dale Brandland huffed off the senate floor.



Steven R. Hill 

I don't know much about the new administrator of the state Health Care Authority. I am generally skeptical of a Weyerhaeuser exec who used to represent "employers who sponsor health-care insurance." But we'll see. Hopefully he can reduce costs without reducing care.



ID Theft 

A bill that just passed the legislature would allow consumers to freeze credit cards if they suspect they have been stolen.



Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Patty Murray and the VA 

A good amendment defeated. It really highlights why we need a Democratic majority, so we can actually fund the VA. So it doesn't have to chose what cities to close hospitals in.

Also, I missed it, but Patty apparently did a bang up job on Big Ed Shultz's Show.



Wow 

So I'm at work today, and I'm in a meeting with the tech guy and stuff is running really slowly. Someone starts humming the theme for final jeopardy! And the tech guy says "my buddy Bob was in the Jeopardy! tourneyment of champions."
"Bob Harris?" sez I.
Turns out yes. So it's a small world. I mean really, a Seattle tech guy happening to know one of my favorite writers, who lives in LA.



Ruben Oh Ruben 

Thanks to Evergreen Politics, I see that Adam Ruben of Move On is going to be in town for a while. And it talks about what the organization will be doing in the future. Although, it's odd to find the article in the business section, I'll take it.



Home Health Care 

I know, I know. Big hole, tight belt. But as our population ages, maybe home health care isn't the greatest idea to cut.



Monday, April 11, 2005

Open Thread 




Stem Cells 

Failed the senate. Although I have to say to Sen. Hewitt, what the hell?

Senate Minority Leader Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, was the lone Republican to vote in support of the bill, which was defeated on a 26-23 vote.

The measure would permit stem cell research, including the use of human embryonic stem cells. It would also prohibit reproductive cloning. Washington law currently doesn't address stem cell research.

Senate Democrats said they thought they had enough votes to pass the bill. But a handful of senators apparently changed their minds.

Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, voted against the bill Monday, after giving a floor speech Friday in which he said he was voting in favor of the bill. In his speech, he said he lost his grandfather and a close friend to Alzheimer's and that his father died from complications of diabetes.



Brightwater 

Oh I love blogger.
It lets me post at least half the time.
So here's a story about Brightwater
And this line is just to rhyme.

Brightwater got its second environmental impact study through. So yay for King County's ability to handle waste in the future.



Sunday, April 10, 2005

Election Reform 

The final details are still being worked out between the house and senate versions. I'm not thrilled by the ID requirement. I didn't have ID the first time I voted. I wasn't interested in driving and I was too young to need to get into places restricted to people of drinking age. So what it basically amounts to is a poll tax on youth voters who don't drive.

But I could live with it as part of a compromise bill. The other major bone of contention is the requirement that we check the new voters against a make believe Federal list.

I also understand that you can get a lot done in a backroom that you can't with cameras rolling, but I don't like the backroom dealmaking. Especially on election reform.



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