Good morning. Today is Thursday, Jan. 14, the fourth day of the 60-day legislative session.
“I didn’t look at this as a supplemental budget. I see it as a three-year budget.”
– Gov. Chris Gregoire, testifying on her revised budget proposal Wednesday before the House Ways and Means Committee. Gregoire said savings from closing parts of 10 state institutions would grow in the second and third years, just as revenue from tax-exemption closures also would grow in the 2011-13 budget cycle.
The Washington State Labor Council brought its lobbying team to the Capitol and talked to reporters about its jobs agenda Wednesday.
The council backs three major Democratic proposals:
• An $850 million bond measure that would retrofit schools, while putting an estimated 38,000 people to work.
• A $1.50 per barrel oil tax that would pay for local-government storm-water projects all over the state, while creating up to 3,000 jobs.
• Expanding the state convention center in Seattle.
The council also is aiming to block changes to the worker compensation system that pays for medical care for injured workers. Business groups complain the state-run system’s costs are higher than other states, but council spokeswoman Kathy Cummings said an Oregon study shows otherwise.
The council also wants lawmakers to extend a temporary $45 per week boost in unemployment insurance benefits for workers that lapsed this month. Lawmakers approved the temporary increase to coincide with $25 in extra federal benefits, putting extra funds into circulation.
After Democrats and labor squabbled last year, the council formed a special political committee, DimePAC, to support its legislative “champions” during elections. “We’re not just looking at specific votes. We’re looking at how they are championing the cause of working families. Are they speaking up in caucus for our issues and on the floor?” Cummings said.
Tea Party activists plan a “Sovereignty Winter Fest” gathering at noon today on the Capitol steps, including speeches by conservative Republican lawmakers. They want the state to push back against the federal government’s power on policing, finances, gun laws and health care.
Among their measures: House Joint Memorial 4010, which seeks to get rid of paper money and return to gold and silver coins, and HJR 4009, which asks President Barack Obama and the federal government to back off from mandates.
Republican Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane Valley is among lawmakers expected to speak at the rally in favor of a broader interpretation of the federal 10th Amendment, which deals with states rights. Citizens for HJM 4009 are sponsors of the event.
Shea sponsored bills this year to exempt Washington-made firearms from federal regulation, exempt the state from federal greenhouse-gas regulations, and require written permission from a county sheriff before federal officials not designated by the state as “peace officers” could arrest a suspect.
House Republican leaders told reporters Tuesday the sheriff bill does not reflect a caucus position that federal anti-terror agents need permission to arrest suspects. But Republicans supportive of Shea’s other goals made a pair of procedural moves Wednesday morning to force floor votes on two bills – House Bill 2669, declaring federal health reform null and void in Washington, and HB 2708, on greenhouse gases.
The measures both failed on 58-36 roll call votes, most of them along party lines.
• A bill slapping another $1 tax per pack of cigarettes goes to a hearing at 8 a.m. before a joint meeting of the House Finance and the House Health Care and Wellness committees. Advocates have lined up doctors and a heart-attack survivor to argue for the tax – which could help raise more than $90 million – to speak in House Hearing Room-A of the O’Brien Building.
• Attorney General Rob McKenna is joining the Institute for Justice, conservative lawmakers and owners of land that was condemned by government in a 10 a.m. press conference dealing with eminent domain; it’s in the Senate Rules Room. McKenna is backing legislation making it harder for governments to use blight to take land then turn it over to private development.
• Owners of manufactured homes hope to bring more than 200 people to the Capitol’s Columbia Room to support bills giving two years’ notice for homeowners if a community is being closed and to amend the landlord tenant act for manufactured housing.
• Liquor privatization gets a hearing at 3:30 p.m. before the Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, sponsor of SB 6204.
Compiled by Brad Shannon, The Olympian