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Posts published in “Day: January 13, 2008”

No subject too small

All of society, the little as well as the large, parades before a legislature. If you don't believe that, if you don't think there's anything too prosaic to merit legislative attention, consider Washington House Bill 2424, introduced by Representative Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, and scheduled for public hearing on Wednesday. From the bill:

(1) Grocery stores may only provide checkout bags that are made of either recyclable paper, compostable plastic, reusable machine-washable textile materials, or reusable plastic that is at least 2.25 mils thick and is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse.
(2) Grocery stores operating in violation of this section are subject to a class 1 civil infraction under chapter 7.80 RCW. Each calendar day of operation in violation of this section comprises a new violation.
(3) The department shall develop guidelines identifying the specifications of checkout bags allowed under this section. Grocery stores providing checkout bags consistent with the guidelines are deemed to be in compliance with this section.

Lotsa material

Washington statehouse

Washington statehouse

They might not be especially ambitious, but they sure do look busy, as the Olympians get set to crank up this week.

On the prefile list today, we count 222 House bills, four House resolutions, 120 Senate bills and two Senate resolutions - rising fast to 400 pieces of legislation before the first session is gaveled into order. (Compare that with the paltry - and unusual - number of filings in Idaho after a week in session.)

So far, the intro king seems to be Seattle Democratic Senator Ken Jacobsen, proponent of 16 measures covering topics mainly environmental but also ranging to school tests, adulterated pet food and the rights of airline passengers. (That last, Senate Bill 6269, by the way, "finds and declares that the number of passenger complaints about the airline industry has increased significantly. . . . The office of the airline consumer advocate is created in the attorney general's office. The attorney general shall designate one or more employees to serve in the office.")

Could be some doings of interest, even if not always on the front burner, at Olympia.

Name your party

The new Idaho party registration bill, Senate Bill 1258, probably is not destined to go far; though endorsed by the leadership of the state Republican Party, it may have peaked at introduction level, odds not favoring its delivery to the Senate floor. Some of the committee votes for introduction - as, if nothing else, a courtesy to state Chair Kirk Sullivan - may not be there when time comes for actual endorsement. Its odds on the Senate floor, if it did get there, would not be good, and its odds in the House probably would be worse.

If in spite of all that it did pass, the result would be an Idaho election system much closer to Oregon's, where party registration has been in place, undisturbed and not especially controversial, for decades. There are some differences. The new bill would refer to non-party members as "independent," while in Oregon they're "non-affiliated. There's also an Oregon Independent Party, which there could eventually be in Idaho too, so legislators might want to consider that.

There's also a difference in the procedure relating to registration and party declaration, which leads to a question that for procedural reasons couldn't come up in Oregon.


No great expectations

The three legislative sessions kicking in this season - Idaho's last week, Washington's this week and Oregon's next month - have their differences. Idaho's a regular, ordinary session; Washington's a regular but abbreviated session intended only to last 60 days; Oregon's likewise short, but also experimental, an attempt at establishing annual sessions in one of the few states that hasn't had them. Partisan control varies too: Strongly Democratic in Washington, even more strongly Republican in Idaho, and close-margined (in the House) Democratic control in Oregon.

But all three seem to be headed toward keeping expectations down, avoiding any thought of any big breakthroughs in this season. In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) described it, "This isn't a year of launching new initiatives." Seems so, and may be smart, in all three cases.

Not, that is, no initiatives or achievements. The phrase "do nothing" is never good medicine for legislators, and agendas have lined up. In Washington, some budget restructuring and sex offender regulation ideas probably will kick through. In Oregon, it's rebuilding the state patrol force, some public accountability measures that seem to have picked up some steam, and maybe some limited land use followup. In Idaho, transportation (including local option) and a few tax measures seem to have more push, along with a small scattering of other items (dog fighting bans, for instance).

But election year sessions are usually limited affairs anyway, and all three states have reason not to push things too far this time. Oregon's legislators, generally supportive of annual sessions, want one that succeeds on its own level, meaning that it at least meets expectations; the best way to accomplish that is to keep expectations low, and reasonably so after a quite productive 2007 session. Washington's legislators have been more than usually productive in a couple of the most recent sessions; with an election year coming, and time limited, why push it? Idaho's legislators are in cramped spaces, and the operating majority doesn't seem to have big ambitions for this session anyway.

We'll be watching. But we're not expecting statehouse explosions.