Writings and observations

intertior, Washington statehouse Yeah, it’s problematic, trying to do a whole lot of complex stuff in the space of one day, which is what the Washington Legislature is trying to do today. The good news is that it tips their hands – we get to see what’s coming next, in the regular session starting January 14, when they can stretch out and roll.

Today’s one-day (that’s the theory; we’ll know in a few hours if they make it) special session was called for an unusual purpose, to reverse a decision by the state supreme court. In reviewing Initiative 747, passed in 2002 and imposing 1% property tax limitations, the court essentially held that the voters didn’t know what they were doing, and the measure was therefore void. It was one of the least well thought-out rulings by that court in recent times (we can’t think offhand of one in years more poorly reasoned), and it sent the state’s property tax crowd into a spin. And got local governments, some of them considering immediate tax increases, interested too.

Since this is the stuff tax revolts are made of, Governor Chris Gregoire called a special session to install the content of I-747 into state code by legislative action, and also pass a bill intended to help hardship cases in property tax payments. You should recall here that neither Gregoire nor most other Democrats were in favor of I-747 in the first place.

This morning, public radio reporter Austin Jenkins asked the Democratic leadership a sound question, one implicitly referenced in a number of columns and editorials: “Do you see the 1 percent cap as good and sensible public policy, or do you see that you’re here today to enact the will of the voter?”

This square could have been circled, and the day’s task simplified: “We’re here to say that the initiative is a valid legal instrument, and shouldn’t be short-circuited because someone does mind-reads the voters and thereby decides they were confused. Most initiatives would be subject to such attacks, and they shouldn’t be. That’s why we’re here.”

Of course, they didn’t do that. The issue of property tax limitations and burdens came directly to the fore. Led by initiative master Tim Eyman, who wanted not only restitution of I-747 but also additions to enhance it (mainly related to “banking” of funds). Followed up by Democrats who had their own ideas about what to do with property tax limits.

A good deal of this played out in the Senate Ways & Means Committee, where amendments were delivered like gunshots. There were four: two from Democrats, two from Republicans.

Senator Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, offered a plan to sunset I-747 subject to a vote of the people. Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, proposed revising – increasing – allowable property tax changes. On the other side, an amendment from Senator Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, had a banking-related proposal aimed at enhancing I-747. And Senator Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, had another, albeit relatively modest measure, aimed at studying “banked” and other financial capacity. All four were rejected.

But Oemig’s was rejected only narrowly. And in amendments on the property tax deferral bill, one substantive amendment to strike the whole bill and just study the subject instead initially passed, and with some Republican support.

Part of the reason a number of these measures failed was that legislative leadership wanted to confine the topics under discussion very narrowly, as would befit a one-day session. But their arrival also shows how fertile this topic is likely to be when the regular session come around.

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This blog gets quoted elsewhere with some regularity, but we’ve not seen much specific analysis of who gets quoted where. (Other than more general tools like BlogNetNews, where we happen to rank Number 1 on this week’s Idaho influence survey.)

What follows is partly a bit of horn-blowing but also commentary on the regional blogosphere.

The Idaho Statesman at Boise runs a feature called Other Voices, edited by Editorial Page Editor Kevin Richert, which sometimes includes comments from emails sent to the paper but usually comments from the area’s blogosphere. Boise conservative blogger Adam Graham decided to count the numbers of recent quotes in Other Voices, and came up with this list:

1) Randy Stapilus-15 [Ridenbaugh Press]
2) Adam Graham-9
3) Betsy Russell-8 [Spokesman-Review]
3) Bryan Fischer-8
5) Red State Rebels-7
5) Mountain Goat Report-7
7) Idablue-5
[8] Huckleberries Online 4
[8] Fort Boise-4
[8] Dennis Mansfield-4
11) Joel Kennedy-2
11) Clayton Cramer-2

His speculation on why the numbers ran as they did: “My theory is that it comes down to a basic lack of conservative voices. To have an interesting round up of other opinion, conservative voices are needed, or otherwise it’s just one side and no real debate. Thus, while I’ve been quoted more often, Richert has keep things pretty much even by quoting quite a few liberal bloggers.”

Richert’s view is similar: “He has it pretty much right. My goal with Other Voices is to serve up a diverse discussion on the issues, in real time. I’m trying to present a good mix. Especially since both Graham and Fischer frequently criticize Statesman editorials or my ID Quicktakes posts; my top priority is to give our critics prominent play, in print and online. And there’s another reason you see a lot of Graham and Fischer in the Other Voices feature. Frankly, there aren’t many conservative bloggers around these parts. I can pick and choose from a larger pool of liberal/Democrat bloggers, so I do.”

Our sense is that the situation is similar in Washington and Oregon: Liberal blogs simply outnumber conservative blogs, and we find ourselves revisiting the conservative blogs probably a little more often in consequence.

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