Man who threatened Murray, Sawant is charged with hate crimes
A Magnolia man accused of threatening Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Councilwoman Kshama Sawant was charged with a host of offenses Wednesday, including cyberstalking and hate crimes. King County prosecutors contend Mitchell Munro Taylor threatened to kill Murray, the city’s first openly gay mayor, and Sawant, an outspoken socialist, in a series of vitriolic emails sent to both shortly after they were sworn into office earlier in January. Taylor, 32, is alleged to have posted dozens of “frightening and rage-filled” messages on Murray’s Facebook page. Some of those messages referred to Sawant, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff said in court papers. Currently jailed, Taylor is alleged to have left dozens of offensive posts on Jan. 14, nine days after Murray, Sawant, and the rest of Seattle’s elected leaders were sworn in. Seattle P-I, 1-22-14.
Eastside Catholic president resigns amid uproar over firing
The president and CEO of Eastside Catholic School has resigned amid unrelenting protests over her decision to dismiss the school’s vice principal for marrying his gay partner. In December, Sister Mary Tracy fired Vice Principal Mark Zmuda, who also served as the school’s swim coach, saying his marriage to a man violated the Roman Catholic teachings he’d agreed to uphold when he began working at the school. Her resignation, submitted to the Eastside board of trustees Monday and made public Tuesday, was effective immediately. It comes just days before a planned schoolwide meeting Thursday, during which board members—who have been the target of persistent lobbying by students, alumni and parents—are expected to field parents’ questions. Seattle Times, 1-21-14.
MAP boycott leader Jesse Hagopian launches campaign for SEA presidency
Garfield High School history teacher Jesse Hagopian, a leading figure behind the MAP test boycott that captured attention around the country, announced yesterday he is running for president of the Seattle Education Association. The head of the teachers union is perhaps not the most high-profile job in the world. But it would give him a platform to voice his education “liberation” ideas, as he calls them on his blog, more loudly. The May election will not just pit Hagopian against current president Jonathan Knapp, should the SEA head choose to run for reelection. The Garfield teacher is heading a whole slate of would-be union officers and board members. Seattle Weekly, 1-22-14.
New state budget may not be needed, says Ways and Means chairman
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy Hill said he’s not sure the Legislature needs to pass a state operating budget this year. “You can get out of here without one.” Hill (R-45) said at a news conference Wednesday, adding that the GOP-led majority in the Senate would make a decision within a couple of weeks. Democrats, who control the House and governor’s office, disagree. They contend Republicans are just trying to avoid a discussion about additional funding for education this year. The Legislature approved a biennial operating budget last year that technically runs through the end of June 2015. However, the Legislature generally approves a “supplemental” budget the next session to deal with any unexpected expenses. House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter (D-48) said he didn’t see how the Legislature could avoid writing a budget this session. “There will be 50 decisions we have to make. We could do 50 bills. That would be like doing 50 budgets,” Hunter said. “If you do a bill and you call it something else—it looks like a budget, it smells like a budget, it is a budget.” Seattle Times, 1-22-14.
Hobbs survives as sole chair of banking panel, for now
Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44) has survived another day as full chairman of the state Senate’s Financial Institutions, Housing, and Insurance Committee, due to the absence of two members on the Senate floor Wednesday. But it appears that a showdown may be coming, perhaps next week, when a full Senate floor session is expected. During this early stage of the 2014 legislative session, full floor sessions are rare and “pro forma” sessions involving just a few members are the norm. Watch for a resolution next week. “I am hoping this will all be worked out,” said Hobbs, who says he hopes to retain the full chairmanship. Leaders of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus say there is significant support among their ranks to change the committee leadership to a co-chairmanship, with Hobbs as the Democratic co-chair and newly elected Sen. Jan Angel (R-26) as the Republican leader. The change would essentially give each chairman veto power over the other’s actions, a structure that already exists on the Senate Transportation Committee. Washington State Wire, 1-22-14.
Senate bill would shift control of Public Disclosure Commission to top legislators
A bill that would strip the governor of authority over the membership of the Washington Public Disclosure Commission has been introduced by a group of Senate Republicans, joined by Sen. Rodney Tom. (“D”-48). Under current law, the existing five-member commission is appointed by the governor. SB 6323 would dismiss all current commissioners on July 31, 2014, and replace them with a new commission appointed by legislative party leaders. The Democratic leaders of the State House and Senate would both name a member, as would their Republican counterparts. Then, three of those four appointees would name the fifth member. State Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34), leader of Senate Democrats, expressed doubt about the bill. “I worry that if this bill were to become law, an absolutely integral partner in our system of checks and balances would fall victim to political gridlock.,” Nelson said in a press release. Bellingham Herald, 1-21-14.
State bills aim to tackle ‘rampant’ wage theft
Every week, thousands of people in Washington are victims of a particular kind of theft. But for this theft, there are weak laws to discourage it, small penalties to punish it, and potentially serious consequences for reporting it. It is called wage theft. It’s the illegal under-payment or non-payment of wages, and several workers who have been victimized by it and their advocates testified Tuesday in support of a package of legislation intended to address this pervasive, growing problem. Four bills were heard in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee that would increase penalties for wage theft, discourage employers from retaliating against workers who report wage theft, ensure proper wage payment through electronic certified payroll, and address the misclassification of workers as independent contractors. The Stand, 1-21-14.
Discover Pass called success, but Republicans disagree
Washington’s pay-to-play system for its state recreation lands is working, officials say. “I think you’ll be happy to hear me say unequivocally, the Discover Pass is a success,” state parks commissioner Mark Brown testified to state lawmakers. But Republican budget writers don’t see a future in charging visitors the $30-a-year parking fee. Sen. Andy Hill (R-45) and others in the Senate majority have thrown their support behind a proposal to all but abolish the Discover Pass—making it voluntary—and find alternative ways to pay for parks. The Senate proposal as it exists now, however, relies on extending an expiring fee. It makes permanent a $10 fee on the recording of real-estate documents. That money now pays for housing for the homeless, but under this plan would go to recreation agencies. The proposal could be a tall order in the Democratic House. House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43) has been a champion of housing programs. Rep. Zack Hudgins, (D-11) said the state isn’t far enough out of the Great Recession to talk about abandoning the Discover Pass. Tacoma News Tribune, 1-22-14.
Initiative for gun-buyer background checks qualifies for ballot
An initiative designed to close the “gun show loophole” by requiring criminal background checks for all those purchasing firearms has qualified for a place on the November ballot. Secretary of State Kim Wyman Wednesday certified Initiative 594, whose supporters collected 346,834 signatures during a months-long campaign. The Secretary of State’s office has begun checks on a rival measure, I-591, submitted by gun-rights groups. It would prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns without due process, and block background checks unless Congress enacts a uniform national standard. With about 345,000 signatures submitted, I-591 is almost certain to qualify for the ballot. The state Senate’s Law and Justice Committee will hold a hearing next Wednesday on both of the initiatives. Seattle P-I, 1-22-14.
Another candidate jumps into 49th District race
Another candidate has stepped forward to run for the legislative seat now held by state Rep. Jim Moeller (D-49). Hazel Dell resident Lisa Ross, a Republican, announced this week that she’ll seek the second House position in the 49th Legislative District. “I was not planning on announcing my candidacy this early,” said Ross, 47. “My leadership team and I want to be fair to the voters, however, especially the Republican voters. They need to know that they have a choice. I am happy to be that choice.” Republican Carolyn Crain announced earlier this month that she’ll also seek Moeller’s seat in the 49th District this year. Crain unsuccessfully ran for the position in 2012. Moeller, 58, has been elected six consecutive times in the Democratic-leaning 49th District. He serves as House speaker pro tempore. Moeller has indicated he’ll run for re-election again this year. Columbian, 1-22-14.
Op-ed: A shifting political landscape
The Snohomish County Council’s appointment of Lillian Ortiz-Self to the state House Tuesday marks a subtle shift in the political landscape. For the first time in state history, four Hispanics—two hailing from Snohomish County—serve in the Legislature. Why has it taken this long, and what do their districts and biographies reveal about Washington’s evolving demographics? Ortiz-Self (D-21) is an impressive public servant, working as a counselor at Everett High School and serving as chair of the Washington Commission on Hispanic Affairs. Her political smarts and K-12 expertise inform her legislative priorities. She joins the dean of the state’s Latino delegation, Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-1), along with Rep. Monica Jurado Stonier (D-17), and Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (D-43). It’s a diverse quartet with a few common threads, illustrative of what’s right and what needs mending in electoral politics. Everett Herald, 1-22-14.
Alaska Senator: Bristol Bay mine would ‘harm the salmon’
Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) has come out against a proposed multibillion-dollar gold mine proposed near the headwaters of two major Bristol Bay salmon streams, a rare stand by a political leader in a state where the mining industry has rarely been questioned. The senator’s position comes after an Environmental Protection Agency assessment that the Pebble Mine could cause serious harm to a fishery valued at nearly $500 million a year that employs 14,000 people. The Begich stand comes as Seattle-area fisheries workers, conservation groups, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and celebrity chef Tom Douglas plan to rally Thursday against the proposed mine. The gathering will take place at 12:30 Thursday at Fishermen’s Terminal. “I think (Pebble) will harm the environment, harm the salmon, harm the jobs that are connected to the fishery out there,” Begich added. Seattle P-I, 1-22-14. In other Alaska/oil news: The federal government failed to adequately evaluate environmental risks and the potential size of oil spills when it approved oil drilling in Alaska’s remote Chukchi Sea, a federal appellate court ruled on Wednesday. The ruling, by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, once again throws into doubt plans by Shell Oil to begin drilling for oil in Arctic waters. Environmental and some native groups have furiously opposed the leasing. They have cited the power of storms coming from Siberia, the distance (1,000 miles) from any Coast Guard presence, and the inability to clean up any spill beneath ice-choked waters. Seattle P-I, 1-22-14.
Sympathy for McDonnell not showing up in former VA governor’s defense fund
Former governor Robert F. McDonnell has the moral support of many Republicans and Democrats in the aftermath of his indictment. Their financial support is less certain. One day after federal prosecutors charged the Republican and his wife, Maureen, in connection with more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman, some leading legislators stepped forward Wednesday to say that they think he did not break the law. But at least publicly, that support has not translated into donations to his legal defense fund. The Restoration Fund, established in July to bankroll the governor’s legal team, had less than $2,000 in contributions, according to its Web site. Some supporters said privately that the indictment had shored up their belief that Maureen McDonnell was to blame for most of the trouble. The charging document portrays her as repeatedly soliciting gifts from Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and complaining to others about the couple’s tight finances and her need for designer clothes for the inauguration, a family wedding and other events. Washington Post, 1-22-14.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter enters 2015 race for LA governor
U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) put an end to speculation about his political plans Tuesday by announcing he will run for governor next year. Vitter cautioned that an active campaign still is a year away. However, his entrance immediately kicked the idling 2015 gubernatorial race into full throttle. The fight now is on for another candidate to force a runoff against Vitter, who brushed off the ashes of a potentially career-killing scandal and coasted to re-election in the U.S. Senate. Vitter’s decision dramatically changes the dynamics in an open race. With Gov. Bobby Jindal left on the sidelines because of term limits, political experts agree that Vitter jumps to the lead position in a GOP pack of candidates that could include Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, state Treasurer John Kennedy and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle. On the Democratic side is Amite state Rep. John Bel Edwards, a U.S. Military Academy graduate and former U.S. Army officer. Baton Rouge Advocate, 1-22-14.
Michigan GOP official: ‘Herd all the Indians’ to Detroit, build a fence and throw in corn
A Republican county official in Michigan is in hot water after making racial comments about Detroit, including the idea that the city should be turned into a detention center for “all the Indians.” In a recent interview for a profile by the New Yorker titled “Drop Dead, Detroit!” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson admitted, “Anytime I talk about Detroit, it will not be positive. Therefore, I’m called a Detroit basher. The truth hurts, you know? Tough sh*t.” Patterson recalled telling his children to “get in and get out” if they needed to go to Detroit. “And, before you go to Detroit, you get your gas out here. You do not, do not, under any circumstances, stop in Detroit at a gas station! That’s just a call for a carjacking,” he said. Patterson also proposed a fix to Detroit’s financial problems: Turn the city into a reservation for Native Americans. “I made a prediction a long time ago, and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and the corn.’” After Detroit officials and activists reacted with outrage, Patterson’s office released a statement accusing the New Yorker of having an “agenda.” Raw Story, 1-21-14.
To Think About
The DeVos clan’s plan to defund the left
The DeVoses sit alongside the Kochs, the Bradleys, and the Coorses as founding families of the modern conservative movement. Since 1970, DeVos family members have invested at least $200 million in a host of right-wing causes—think tanks, media outlets, political committees, evangelical outfits, and a string of advocacy groups. They have helped fund nearly every prominent Republican running for national office and underwritten a laundry list of conservative campaigns on issues ranging from charter schools and vouchers to anti-gay-marriage and anti-tax ballot measures. Nowhere has the family made its presence felt as it has in Michigan, where it has given more than $44 million to the state party, GOP legislative committees, and Republican candidates since 1997. But their biggest feat has been getting “right-to-work”legislation passed in the state that has been the stronghold of organized labor. Mother Jones, 1-22-14.