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Over, and some things done

Washington statehouseThose critics of the legislature in Idaho, which adjourned late last month, who blasted it as do-nothing, missed a point: A legislature is there to make decisions, not necessarily to pass scads of bills. Its decisions on passing or rejecting proposals may be variously right or wrong, but turndowns aren’t necessarily bad. It depends on what they are, and where you sit.

A legislature can be judged by its overall approach, and in the cases of Idaho and Washington, that was not hard to read. The Idaho Legislature was what you might reasonably expect when dominated by Republicans; the Washington Legislature this year, similarly, was generally what you’d expect of chambers dominated by Democrats.

Among the major outcomes of the Washington Legislature this year, which sine die’d Sunday evening, were at least two major rejections, of financing for sports facilities, the NASCAR raceway in Kitsap County and a proposed new arena (sought by the Seattle Sonics basketball management) at Renton. And there were scale-backs or hold-offs (notably some of the WASL testing, which has become so contentious). Stronger regulation of payday lenders, and stronger legal protection for homeowners, both failed.

But if this was a less spectacular session than 2005, there were important items passed.

A state rainy day find was set up. Key Puget Sound cleanup measures, in development for some time, were passed. (It was a big session for environmental interests.) Tens of thousands of children are slated for health insurance they don’t now have, and a paid family leave program created. Mental health was given parity for insurance purposes. Domestic partnership and anti-discrimination laws for gays were passed. Several identity-theft bills (increasingly important these days) passed.

They’ll be back again next year, of course, before the next round of elections. But as in Idaho, the operating majority in Washington probably did not endanger its majority status by what it passed and turned down this time.

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