Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in February 2010

Who lobbies

Idaho law says that lobbying generally means trying to influence the crafting of law or some other official action in the legislative or executive branch, and that in general, anyone who does is a lobbyist - even you or I, if we write a letter to a legislator expressing a point of view on an issue.

Not a big deal, though - nothing to worry about if you've not registered with the state as a lobbyist. The state has a number of exemptions from registration, and one of them is this: "Persons who do not receive any compensation for lobbying and persons whose compensation for lobbying does not exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250) in the aggregate during any calendar quarter, including persons who lobby on behalf of their employer or employers, and the lobbying activity represents less than the equivalent of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) of the employee’s time per calendar year quarter, based on an hourly proration of said employee’s compensation." Simplified, that means if you're not paid more than $250 to lobby, you don't have to register. (Sometimes you don't even if you are paid more.)

If you scan through the monthly reports of Keith Allred's lobbyist filings (like this one), then, you have to wonder: Why did he file at all? He was busy in the last few years at the legislature, trying to influence legislation (on behalf of his group the Common Interest), but he wasn't getting paid for it. He didn't have to file. Presumably, he filed because he felt like it; he remarked today, "I chose to do so in the interest of full disclosure."

He didn't, as it happens, file an annual report for 2009, as must-lobbyists have to do. That led to a press release from the Idaho Republican Party today: "Democratic Candidate for Governor Keith Allred missed the deadline to file his 2009 annual lobbyist report with the Secretary of State. Allred registered with the Secretary of State as a lobbyist in 2009 for The Common Interest.
According to Idaho Code, any lobbyist registered under Section 67-6617 is required to file an annual report with the Secretary of State’s Office. Failure to file a report could result in a penalty of up to fifty dollars a day, at this point according to statute Allred could be subject to hundreds of dollars in fines. The Secretary of State office’s confirmed earlier today that Allred missed the filing deadline."

Since he's never had to file at all, any fines would seem problematic. Allred, as the presumptive Democratic nominee for Idaho governor, is a logical target for shots from the Republican, but this particular blast seems ill-aimed.

Allred filed a report, post-deadline, on Friday, and "expressed regret" for the late filing. But why express even regret for filing late a report he didn't have to file at all?

A simple revision

Quite the knockdown drag-out in Washington Senate Ways and Means today: initiative organizer Tim Eyman and Senator Adam Kline, D-Seattle, blasting off at each other. And it wasn't personal: It was policy.

Eyman: "citizens are watching arrogant Democrats decide rules don't apply to them ... The taxpayers have to follow the law but this bill exempts you from it."

Kline: "I'd like you to talk about the other side ... the necessary expenditures that deal with people's lives that we don't have enough money to pay for."

Maybe most pertinent: "We have to deal with both sides of the equal sign."

(You can see the action via the TVW blog. Eyman comes on at about the 27-minute mark.)

Both, in fact, had a fact-based point to make. The object of the bill in question, Senate Bill 6843, calls for "Preserving essential public services by temporarily suspending the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases and permanently modifying provisions of Initiative Measure No. 960 for improved efficiency and consistency with state budgeting." It modifies 960 all right - pretty heavily, by eliminating the requirement of a two-thirds legislative approval for a tax increase (which would be effectively nearly impossible in the current climate) through 2011, returning to simple majority, and some other changes as well.

Eyman seems to be convinced enough it will pass to propose a new measure, I-1053, to counter the bill that hasn't even passed yet: "The 2/3's requirement is the only thing saving struggling taxpayers and our fragile economy from recession-extending, job-killing tax hikes from Gregoire and the Democrats who control Olympia. It has saved taxpayers BILLIONS OF DOLLARS over the past two years and we need to keep its protections in place. Their arrogant effort to take away Initiative 960's policies - which have been approved by the voters 3 times and which have survived 2 court challenges - is the reason the 14 of us are sponsoring I-1053, the "Save The 2/3's Vote For Tax Increases Initiative."

Kline's point seems worthwhile too, though, and to the extent that the public is going to become involved in directly setting fiscal policy for the state, maybe this ought to be a rule to adopt:

If you're going to call for changes in the tax laws, then you have to account - in the initiative - for the spending on the other end. If you're calling for a tax cut, and that tax cut will have the effect of lowering revenue by (whatever amount - say $200 million), then you have to say specifically what cuts will be made on the other end.

If you're going to ask the public to make legislative decisions, then they should have to behave like legislators - balancing both sides of the books.

Wonder what Eyman would think about that?

Not the speed, but the prep

New Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is getting some blowback for his batch out of out-of-the-chute decisions, coming in the days after he took office. He told the Seattle Times on Monday, "I think we came out probably — we did come out pushing a little bit too hard, too fast."

Those have to do with his intent to end or downgrade about 200 city jobs, a bond issue for a Puget Sound seawall (without a heads-up to the city council), and things.

A thought: The rightness or wrongness has nothing to do with an accelerated schedule. The complaints McGinn is getting how are on the substance, not the speed.

What's needed in terms of time is just enough to do your homework first. That may be what McGinn didn't do - a rookie's failure to recognize that there may be factors or layers to a situation that weren't initially appreciated. He may be getting some of that education now.

Oregon school direction

Maurer

Ron Maurer

All three northwest states elect a superintendent of public instruction; Idaho's is partisan, Oregon's and Washington's nonpartisan. But that's often just a formality; often, voters have a pretty good idea of what they're getting on the partisan scale.

Oregon's superintendent, Susan Castillo, was appointed and later elected to the state Senate as a Democrat, and was an assistant Democratic floor leader in 1999 and 2001. She won election as superintendent in 2002 - defeating incumbent Stan Bunn, who had been a Republican state legislator - and 2006, with about two-thirds of the vote.

Today she appears to have a substantial challenger, state Representative Ron Maurer of Grants Pass - a Republican.

He has substantial education background in education (including a doctorate),but that doesn't seem to have been a top focus on his legislative work. His 2008 voter guide description contained these issue headings: "Southern Oregon Roots, Southern Oregon Values," "Oregon's Conservative Voice for Healthcare Reform," "Public Safety is a Top Priority," "Advocate for Seniors and the Disabled," "Defender of Property and Second Amendment Rights" - nothing related to schools.

But we should be hearing more before long.

Oregon answer, Idaho answer

Rocky Barker at the Idaho Statesman has posed a question at his blog:

"So Oregon's vote [passing two tax measures at the polls], coupled with Idaho's deep cuts in education, social services and all state government services, gives people on both sides of the issue a real chance to prove who is right. Will the state that raises taxes to protect schools and services do better economically than the state that keeps taxes low? Will Idaho place billboards on Oregon's Interstate 5 saying 'Come to the state of low taxes on the rich and corporations?' I heard some lobbyists say this might be a real opportunity."

Good question! The contrast is apt to be stark (it could be between Idaho and Washington too, depending on what happens the next few weeks in Olympia), so the comparison will have some legitimacy.

So far, the Oregonian has run a piece on how there's no indication of a business migration north of the Columbia to Vancouver. The guess here is that there's no significant business migration at all. But let's keep watch and see how that works out.