Politics & Government

Under the Dome for Feb. 13

Good morning. Today is Saturday, Feb. 13, the 34th day of the 60-day legislative session.

TODAY

The Senate and the House both are in floor sessions today, with the Senate getting under way at 9:30 a.m. and holding a series of votes all day. The House will come in about noon and could work later – including action on education issues such as a bill allowing some districts to collect levies higher than the ongoing limit.

The big show of the day might be in the House Finance Committee, which meets from 9 a.m. to noon in Hearing Room A of the O’Brien Building to hear two Senate bills that suspend a portion or all of Initiative 960. The committee hearing is scheduled to run three hours, and Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, also plans to hear House Bill 3176.

HB 3176 is Hunter’s proposal to raise $205 million in the next fiscal year by closing numerous tax exemptions, including extending excise taxes to owners of private airplanes and subjecting out-of-state businesses to taxation if their business activity reaches a certain threshold in Washington.

House Republicans are putting up a fight to halt the bills that would change I-960, and they staged a floor fight over which committee to refer the bill to.

Republican Leader Richard DeBolt said the bill should go to the House committees that deal with economic development or state government. In a series of motions and speeches, DeBolt and others argued that as the minority party, their voice was being rebuffed on where to send the bill, just as voters’ views will be rebuffed if I-960 is suspended.

House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, said the bill clearly deals with revenue issues and belongs in the Finance Committee.

COMING UP

A major set of rallies is planned Monday on the Capitol steps – sort of a battle of the bands, one after the other.

 • Anti-tax activists spurred by the right-of-center Evergreen Freedom Foundation plan a rally at 10 a.m. Speakers include KIRO radio personality Dori Monson, Kirby Wilbur of Americans for Prosperity, and EFF chief executive Lynn Harsh. Co-sponsors include EFF, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Washington Farm Bureau. EFF’s tax rally a year ago drew more than 4,000 people, including tea party activists.

 • At noon, a convergence of pro-tax activists will take over the steps, led by the Rebuilding Our Economic Future Coalition, which features Washington State Labor Council leader Rick Bender and others. The organizers, who say they represent 130 organizations, predict at least 4,000 to 5,000 people could attend. Those listed include labor, the Children’s Alliance and school groups such as students from Washington State University’s Vancouver Campus.

Evergreen Freedom Foundation and the rival coalition each have reported giving postcards or petition signatures from 20,000 voters advocating their side of the tax or no-tax argument. The anti-tax movement contends that increases could hinder economic recovery.

Those in support of still unspecified tax increases say revenue is needed to preserve some of the health care, public education, college financial aid and social programs that face cuts.

TRUSTEES CONFIRMED

Two trustees for The Evergreen State College won confirmation this week in the Senate: Dixon McReynolds and Irene Gonzales.

McReynolds is a graduate of The Evergreen State College who served 20 years in the Air Force, Senate Democrats said in an announcement.

The Senate confirmed other gubernatorial appointments Friday including Betty Hyde, director of the Department of Early Learning, and Mary Jean Ryan to the state Board of Education.

STATE GETS $11.3 MILLION GRANT

The state Health Care Authority reported Friday that it won an $11.3 million grant for health-technology improvements as part of the federal stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The authority said the money is from the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act provisions in the act. The money lets the state develop the sharing of “secure health information throughout the state health care system.”

Compiled by Brad Shannon

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