McGinn ignored leading gun control group in buyback effort
Gun buybacks like the one promoted and hosted by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn are little more than a distraction, often “backfire,” and are red meat for anti-gun-control zealots. That’s the advice Washington CeaseFire would have given McGinn, had anyone from the Mayor’s Office bothered to contact the state’s leading gun safety group before announcing the January buyback, according to email correspondence provided to seattlepi.com. City emails show the Mayor’s Office failed to contact CeaseFire – a 30-year-old nonprofit that is arguably the state’s most active proponent of gun control – before announcing the buyback. McGinn was the keynote speaker at CeaseFire’s annual luncheon the year before. Seattle P-I, 6-27-13.
Ron Sims endorses Ed Murray for Seattle mayor
In what has to be the most significant endorsement to date in the mayoral contest, former King County Executive Ron Sims Thursday offered his Good Housekeeping Stamp of Approval to the candidacy of state Sen. Ed Murray. “Seattle has lost its flash,” said Sims. “There’s too much bickering … you can’t be a successful mayor without forming strong coalitions, and Ed is someone who builds coalitions.” Sims, who chose not to enter the race, despite encouraging polls back in March that showed him in front of all contenders (including Mayor Mike McGinn) save undecided voters, said he met with “other candidates – though he wouldn’t name them. But after a lengthy breakfast with Murray earlier this month, Sims said he came away convinced Murray was the best candidate in the field. Seattle Weekly, 6-27-13.
County Council OKs collecting cash for expenses
King County Council members and other elected county officials will soon be able to collect money from anyone, any time — even when contributors have business pending before the county. Officials will be able to set up an office fund to pay for travel, dining, office supplies, hosting foreign visitors, parking, professional memberships, and other things related to their jobs, but not covered by county tax dollars. Office funds are common in local governments. Supporters of allowing the new fund, which passed with a 5-3 vote, said the rules are no different from campaign contributions, which often come from people doing business with the county. Council member Joe McDermott, who voted for the legislation, said the public had plenty of opportunity to weigh in on the funds. There was nothing sneaky about the legislation, he said. Seattle Times, 6-27-13.
Mental-health program shuts down operations in Normandy Park
A controversial for-profit mental-health-treatment program is shutting down its operation in a suburb south of Seattle after struggling financially and failing to be licensed by the state. Hanbleceya informed its clients several weeks ago that they had until Sunday to find new living arrangements. The Seattle Times reported last July that the company had opened a clinic in Normandy Park Towne Center, bought three homes and rented two others in Normandy Park, then secretly placed mentally ill and drug-addicted clients in the homes with no state oversight. The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) found it was operating the homes illegally. The company, based in La Mesa, Calif., came under attack last year by Normandy Park residents who were outraged that there was no government regulation of the program. Stacia Jenkins, a Normandy Park council member who has been a critic of Hanbleceya, said Thursday: “There’s been a lot of quiet high-fives” in the small, tight-knit community. She and others said they were not against the mentally ill living there, rather they wanted the homes to have some regulation. Seattle Times, 6-27-13.
Budget deal in Olympia averts government shutdown
Gov. Jay Inslee held a brief press conference Thursday morning to announce a budget deal has been reached, and a state government shutdown is averted on Monday. Inslee said he hopes the Senate and House send him the agreement for signing by 5 p.m. Friday, and he said government operations will continue Monday as normal. Inslee refused to take questions during the brief press conference,at which he was joined by Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (“D”-48), Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler (R-9), House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43), ranking House Republican budget writer Gary Alexander (R-2), and others. Olympian, 6-27-13. Budget writers agreed to prohibit higher-education tuition increases for one year, with some flexibility for increases in the second year. And they agreed to end a tax break for residential phone service that’s projected to net about $85 million over the next two years. House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter (D-48) called it “a very delicate agreement” that could still fall apart, but that the disagreements that remain are separate pieces of legislation and not part of the budget. He would not get into details. Seattle Times, 6-27-13.
House passes transportation package with gas tax boost, local-option MVET; fate in Senate uncertain
A plan to increase gas taxes 10.5 cents over the next year passed the Washington state House of Representatives Thursday in a 51-41 vote, a day after the same bill failed. The increase, along with boosts in car and truck weight fees, would support most of a 10-year, $10.04 billion package of highway expansions, ferry funding, maintenance, and bicycle-pedestrian projects. HB 1954 would also allow King County to send to the ballot a car-tab tax increase of up to $150 per $10,000 of vehicle value, to be split 60 percent for Metro Transit, and 40 percent for city and county roads. However, the bill will face turbulence in the Senate, where several Republicans either oppose the taxes, or oppose a $433 million payment toward the $3.5 billion I-5 Columbia River Crossing, between Vancouver and Portland. The CRC bridge plan includes light rail, leading some southwest Washington officials to warn about their constituents being yoked to future operating taxes for Portland-based Tri-Met. The leading argument Thursday was that highway improvements are needed to sustain trade in Washington state. The largest single item is a $1.45 billion payment toward the “Puget Sound Gateway,” which would build extensions of Highway 167 to the Port of Tacoma, and Highway 509 passing through SeaTac between Seattle and south King County. Seattle Times, 6-27-13.
Boeing and Olympia both to blame for legislative inaction
If you are of a mind to deliver a one-finger salute at the mention of lawmakers in a torturous special session, imagine what those in the hallowed suites of the Boeing Co. are thinking as they keep watch on the endless proceedings. Its posse of corporate lobbyists arrived in Olympia in January with a short but challenging wish list for legislators to fulfill. They’re waiting to see what got done. The list reads something like this: Invest in training workers and educating greater numbers of engineers; improve the state’s transportation network including in and around its Everett factory; continue reforming workers compensation; and don’t change a state standard on fish consumption in a way that forces them to spend major bucks on improvements at its facilities. As of Wednesday morning, Boeing had lost one for certain and couldn’t yet claim successes on any of the others. Jerry Cornfield, Everett Herald, 6-27-13.
Port of Vancouver weighs testimony from backers, opponents of planned oil facility
The Port of Vancouver got an earful Thursday from backers and opponents of a proposed crude-oil transfer terminal who packed the Board of Commissioners’ hearing room to trumpet their arguments. Executives with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies, who want to build the terminal to handle up to 380,000 barrels of oil per day, told commissioners the project capitalizes on rising U.S. oil production, boosts the local economy, and will operate in ways that minimize harm to the environment. Critics told commissioners the project, which would haul oil by rail and move it over water, conflicts with the port’s own sustainability goals, increases the risk of oil spills in the Columbia River, and further fuels global warming. Vancouver Columbian, 6-27-13.
Nooksack tribal voters approve tightening of membership rule
Nooksack Indian Tribe voters have approved a change in their constitution that will make it more difficult for people to enroll – or re-enroll – as members of the 2,000-member tribe. Re-enrollment is the key issue because tribal leaders are threatening to strip 306 people of their tribal membership due to alleged inadequacies in their Nooksack ancestry. The vote on the constitutional change was conducted by mail and supervised by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which announced a final result of 377 in favor and 239 against. The constitutional change endorsed by Chairman Bob Kelly and his five supporters on the tribal council repeals a constitutional provision that makes tribal membership available to anyone who has at least one-fourth Indian blood, plus Nooksack ancestry “to any degree.” With that provision stricken, tribal membership is restricted to descendants of those who got original allotments of tribal land, and those whose names appear on a 1942 tribal census. Bellingham Herald, 6-26-13.
Conservatives threaten to oust Boehner if he breaks Hastert Rule
With the Senate poised to wrap up passage of comprehensive immigration reform, House conservatives are firing a warning shot to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH): Don’t you dare bring up a bill without the support of a majority of House Republicans or we’ll depose you. “There gets to be a point in time where there is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) said Wednesday, arguing that if Boehner violates the Hastert Rule again on the issue, “I think that a lot of members in the conference would probably be frustrated to the point of looking for new leaders.” Speaking at a Capitol Hill panel organized by the Heritage Foundation, Salmon said there’s “great unrest” among Republicans about the violations of the majority-of-the-majority principle this year. GOP leaders have this year brought up four bills without the support of most House Republicans — including legislation to avert the fiscal cliff, provide aid to Hurricane Sandy victims, and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Talking Points Memo, 6-27-13.
Gay lawmaker to fight Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban
The first openly gay lawmaker in Alabama history said Wednesday she is ecstatic about U.S. Supreme Court rulings in favor of gay marriage and plans to challenge Alabama’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. “The reality is, unfortunately in Alabama, the only way we ever progress any civil rights in this state is through a court decision,” said Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham). “This is no different. We will have to use that process and move forward.” Todd, who plans to marry her partner Sept. 14 in Massachusetts, said she expects a number of lawsuits in states where there is a ban on gay marriage. “The court really did open it up for us to have legal standing to challenge these,” she said. Todd said she did not know how she would proceed legally at this point, said their attorney is reviewing the court decisions, and they will meet with their attorney and discuss possible options for a course of action. Montgomery Advertiser, 6-27-13.
Virginia Gov. candidate Cuccinelli asks Supreme Court to revive ban on oral, anal sex
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP’s nominee for governor, filed an appeal Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to revive the state’s law banning oral and anal sex. In a statement, Cuccinelli claimed that the law, which the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled unconstitutional earlier this year, is “an important tool that prosecutors use to put child molesters in jail.” Cuccinelli warned that the appeals court’s decision to strike down the statute “threatens to undo convictions of child predators that were obtained under this law” since 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that laws criminalizing oral and anal sex—sometimes referred to as sodomy bans—are unconstitutional. As Mother Jones noted, some 90 percent of Americans would be felons if the Virginia law were to be applied nationally. Cuccinelli has remained mute as to whether he’s one of them. Mother Jones, 6-27-13.
Op-ed: Start the border fence in Norfolk
The immigration reform bill likely to pass the Senate this week will pick up a few more votes because it commits the government to building a longer fence. Thanks to a Republican amendment, workers will erect an additional 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. But if we’re going to build a fence, is that really where it should go? If we have apprehensions about our neighbors to the south, are those the neighbors — and is that the south — that really present the United States with its most difficult problems? By now, even the economics profession concedes that our openness to the developing world — call it the Global South — has played a role in depressing the incomes of U.S. workers. But how much of this problem originates in the Global South and how much in the American South? The United States has long had two distinct, sectional labor systems. Each has mutated multiple times, but throughout U.S. history one has been Northern and the other Southern, and their differences have, until recently, remained clear. In the northern system, workers have more rights and higher incomes. In Dixie, they have fewer rights and lower incomes. Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, 6-25-13.
And if you think Meyerson is stretching it a little . . . North Carolina to eliminate unemployment benefits
Effective Monday, July 1, nearly 70,454 people receiving long-term unemployment benefits will see their checks end. North Carolina is the only state changing its unemployment benefit rules and regulations, six months early. The federal unemployment benefit programs are set to expire across the country at the end of the year. The 70,000-plus people claiming emergency unemployment compensation are not the only ones seeing a reduction. North Carolina lawmakers also changed the number of weeks someone can claim the benefits. After Monday, the number of weeks a person can claim will be reduced to a sliding scale of 12 to 20 weeks of benefits. WFMY, 6-24-13.
To Think About
What the GOP can learn from DOMA and the Roberts Court
On a day when gay-rights activists have been cheering from the steps of the Supreme Court to Greenwich Village to the West Coast, an interesting question arises: Just how conservative is the Roberts Court? In June, 2012, in perhaps the most momentous ruling of Roberts’ eight-year tenure as Chief Justice, the Court infuriated many Republicans by ruling that Obamacare was constitutional. And now it has outraged social conservatives by striking down DOMA and letting a lower court strike down California’s Proposition 8. Few doubt that these decisions will have the impact of helping to make gay marriage legal in many places where it currently isn’t. If you read some of Justice Scalia’s blistering dissent in the DOMA case, or his equally scathing dissent in the Obamacare case, you can sense some of the frustration of the radical right. But Roberts and Kennedy are basically on board with the long-term project of rolling back the Great Society and its offshoots. They are just more careful, strategic, and willing to face contemporary reality than “movement” conservatives, such as Scalia and Thomas. John Cassidy, New Yorker, 6-26-13.