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Posts published in January 2012

ID Bill of the Day: House Bill 370

Trail
Tom Trail

The Idaho medical marijuana bill has been introduced, by Representative Tom Trail, as he had said last year he would do. House Bill 370 does not have much chance of passage, or of clearing its first committee vote - if it gets one. (If it does, we'll be curious to see who else votes for it.)

Proposals along these lines, or further down them, have either become law in Washington and Oregon or have been strongly discussed for years. Outright state legalization (which still wouldn't mean federal legalization) is likely on the Washington ballot this year. But the subject has gotten no traction in Idaho.

How little traction? For some years, Trail has proposed (last year, along with Representative Brian Cronin, D-Boise) resolutions backing legalization of industrial hemp. Though biologically related to marijuana, it cannot be used to get high: Its uses are industrial, and many. It could be a major crop in Idaho, as Trail has noted. Many of the founding fathers, including George Washington, grew it. But last year it failed in the House Agriculture Committee.

Still, the rationale language in the new medical marijuana bill is strong: "Compassion dictates that a distinction be made between medical and nonmedical uses of marijuana. Hence, the purpose of this chapter is to protect from arrest, prosecution, property forfeiture, and criminal and other penalties those patients who use marijuana to alleviate suffering from debilitating medical conditions, as well as their physicians, primary caregivers and those who are authorized to produce marijuana for medical purposes."

We'll see how far compassion gets this bill.

WA Bill of the Day: Senate Memorial 8013

Among the more obscure enthusiasms of much of the Tea Party and some of its acolytes (including freshman Idaho Representative Raul Labrador) is the repeal of the 17th amendment: The one providing that U.S. senators be elected directly by the voters of each state, rather than by state legislatures, as had been the scandal-ridden procedure until about a century ago. Various Republican Party organizations have signed on to the idea as well.

Not a lot of attempt has been made to offer a public justification for taking away popular votes on senators. When the question was raised, the main response was along the lines of: It's not really a major priority; it'll never happen; move along, nothing to see here.

Cut to the Washington Senate today, where Senate Joint Memorial 8013 has been introduced by Senator Val Stevens, R-Arlington. The memorial proposes amending the U.S. constitution the subject of choosing and removing senators:

Section 1. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, selected by the legislature of each State. Each Senator shall serve a six-year term and may be reappointed. Each Senator shall have one vote.
Section 2. Senators are subject to removal by the State Legislature. Removal of a Senator requires a majority of each House of the State Legislature.

So there it is: A formal proposal in a state legislature asking that the people no longer be allowed to vote for their senators. By all means read through this, affording as it does a fuller explication for the change. Among the bedrock thoughts underlying it: that "peculiar care and judgment" would be given to selection of senators by state legislators, as opposed to the voters; that "A Senator's general responsibility is to represent state government and the State Legislature" as opposed to the people of the state; and that "The Legislature of the State of Washington finds and declares to be defective the current process of electing United States Senators" - in other words, the voters - the same people who selected the state legislators - are defective.

With such rationale, the measure isn't likely to go far. And Stevens is well to the right even within the Senate Republican caucus - she'd probably have trouble getting most of them to go along. (A notable line from one of her fundraising letters: “Are the homosexuals finally going to take control of our culture and push their depraved lifestyle on our children and families?”)

But is the 17th repealer just a chimera? Not any more it isn't.

This household has voted

Our household, which is located in the Oregon 1st congressional district, has voted in that race - the first general election congressional race this year in the country.

It was a fast process. The ballot area only occupied a small part of one sheet of paper, since there was only one contest on it. Ten seconds to make sure the rectangle was blacked in, and that was it.

Deadline: The 31st.

Stance, Citizens United, and other things

Thanks to John Runft, for offering in a comment the opportunity to address a few items - widely various, but still - worth noting all at once.

His comment, first, came in response to a post by blogger Barrett Rainey, "American democracy is drowning in a sea of money," critical of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and its effects on politics. Runft, who is a Boise attorney long active in Idaho politics, took issue with Rainey:

In re Barrett Rainey's "American Democracy is Drowning in a Sea of Money, let me suggest that the solution is not to blame SCOTUS's decision Citzens United and call for more repressive regulations. The decision is sound and complies with your above "Our Stance" # 7 regarding freedom. As you imply in # 7, the corollary to freedom is responsibility. The rationale of the decision is correct, as the Court explained, on grounds of individual freedom. Now, the next step which appertains to individual responsibility needs to take place to create the balance reflected in # 7. That next step could possibly be accomplished by bringing suit against one of the PACs on the ground that it cannot qualify for immunity, because of its inherent anonymity, as a “public persona” under the N.Y. Times v,. Sullivan doctrine. Subjecting the PACs and their contributors liability for their slanders will solve much of the problem (similar to Great Britain where there is no N.Y. Times v,. Sullivan doctrine – although there are other problems in the reverse in G.B). Regrets for the foregoing " 30 sec. shorthand." John L. Runft

Three points here. (more…)

WA Bill of the day: House Bill 2500

initiative

I-502 co-sponsor Salvador Mungia addresses the media while pro-502 campaign director Alison Holcomb (left) and Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (middle) listen. I-502 opponents hold signs in the background. (Photo/Washington Secretary of State)

Here's a hot procedural fight in the making: House Bill 2500, introduced by 10 House Democrats, is intended to put a leash on the initiative process. It's as in-your-face as anything likely to hit big in the session.

The rationale is laid out in section one: "The legislature recognizes and supports the constitutional right of the people to pass laws through the initiative and referendum process. However in recent years, corporations have hijacked the initiative process to advance their special interests. The total dollar amount raised for initiatives between 2001 and 2010 averaged nine million eight hundred thousand dollars per year. In 2010, the total amount of money raised for initiatives was sixty million dollars, and in 2011 that total was forty-one million dollars. A single corporation contributed over twenty-two million dollars to support Initiative Measure No. 1183. Less than one thousand dollars for that same initiative was received from individuals. Therefore, the legislature intends to return the initiative process to the people by setting a contribution limit for ballot measure committees."

And how? In section two:

"No person may make a contribution to a political committee formed to support or oppose a ballot proposition in excess of one thousand six hundred dollars in the aggregate in a calendar year. No political committee formed to support or oppose a ballot proposition may accept a contribution from any person in excess of one thousand six hundred dollars in the aggregate in a calendar year."

They must not have enough Tim Eyman down at the statehouse; they'll certainly have enough when this hits the road. But it may provide the opportunity for a useful question for him: How well would he fare getting his initiatives on ballot and passed without sugar daddy help, relying entirely on the network of supporters he does have around the state? No automatic answer to that question offered here.

ID Bill of the day: House Bill 362

Presumably a cost-saving measure, House Bill 362 is apt to be something reviewed again in a year's time, given the trajectory of the U.S. Post Office.

The bill concerns the sending of certain legal notices - "notices of deficiency determination and notices of levy and distraints" - which traditionally have been sent by certified mail; the bill would allow for use of first-class mail instead. The bill sunsets after a year, so it would have to be revisited in any case.

But especially because of what's happening to first-class mail as we have known it.

The Koch ratings

Americans for Prosperity - a group founded (inter-shell) by the hard-right Koch brothers, and highly active in support of Tea Party activities - has released its list of approval and disdain of members of Congress.

Whatever your view, it can be considered indicative: You may consider an A or an F from these guys a badge of honor, but it does give you a realistic idea of who the new hard right really likes and really doesn't, and in relative terms. There are no low-graded Republicans, or high-graded Democrats.

Here's the Northwest results (from their results page):

A+ - Representative Raul Labrador, R-Idaho (the only Northwesterner with a "lifetime" A+, though the fact that he's in his first term helps some); Senator Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

A - Senator Jim Risch, R-Idaho

B - Representative Doc Hastings, R-Washington; Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington; Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington.

C - Representative Mike Simpson, R-Idaho; Representative Greg Walden, R-Oregon; Representative Dave Reichert, R-Washington.

D - Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon; Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington; Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington; Representative Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon; Representative Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon; Representative Rick Larsen, D-Washington.

F - Representative Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Representative Norm Dicks, D-Washington; Representative Jim McDermott, D-Washington; Representative Adam Smith, D-Washington; Former Oregon Representative David Wu.

ID Bill of the Day: House Bill 359

If you're moving to Idaho, put this on your to-do list: If you're planning to buy a car pre-move, do it more than 90 days before you hit the state line. Explanation in a moment.

House Bill 359 is, in itself, not especially noteworthy. It comes from the state Tax Commission - ordinarily the source of a number of bills during the legislative session. This one, its statement of purpose says, would "allow non-resident students, temporarily residing in Idaho, an exemption from use tax for vehicles registered in their home state."

Noted here not because there's anything wrong with that, but because few such out of state students probably would have thought of owing the use tax on their car to begin with. The use tax, which most sales tax states have on their books, is an obscure cousin tax meant to levy taxes on things the sales tax doesn't get. Live in Nampa and troop over the state line to Ontario to buy a household appliance or even a magazine in hopes of avoiding the sales tax in Idaho? Sorry, you're now on the hook (legally at least) for the use tax. Not that the number of honest use tax payees in Idaho (or elsewhere) is necessarily all that large. (As former Idahoans, we'll take the 5th.)

If you bring a car into the state, though, there's another consideration. Presuming you're going to stay in the state long enough to establish residency, you have to register your car. Suppose you bought it in another state? That fact will be placed in front of registration officials as soon as you produce the title. Do you owe the state a 6% ding?

The answer is, maybe. The Tax Commission points to state law (it's in Idaho Code 63-3621) in drawing the bright line. If you bought the car more than 90 days before moving to Idaho, it's presumed to be personal property, not purchased basically for use in Idaho, and exempt from the use tax. If you bought it within 90 days before coming to Idaho, you probably owe the tax.

A point maybe specially relevant to incoming college students.

WA Bill of the Day: HB 2382

gun

In case of crisis, in case of emergency, who's in charge?

That could be the debatable question inherent in House Bill 2382, introduced by Washington Representatives Jim McCune, R-Graham, Jason Overstreet, R-Blaine, Matt Shea, R-Mead, Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, John Ahern, R-Spokane, and Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick.

The bill concerns state authority in times of emergency, and its main section amends the section of state law concerning the governor's emergency authority. Specifically, it strikes the governor's ability to prohibit "The possession of firearms or any other deadly weapon by a person (other than a law enforcement officer) in a place other than that person's place of residence or business."

And it says that "During the continuance of any state of emergency, neither the governor nor any governmental entity or political subdivision of the state shall impose any restriction on the possession, transfer, sale, transport, storage, display, or use of firearms or ammunition that is otherwise authorized or guaranteed by law."

Quite a limitation on emergency authority here (and remember, we're talking here about emergency situations). Let's say some major natural disaster has occurred, and the governor calls out the national guard to help deal with it. And the guard proceeds to the hard hit area, and encounters roving groups of armed people, all of whom have their own ideas about who and what is in charge ... And they are without authority (since the governor is) to tell them to put their weapons down ...

You craft a nifty dystopian novel out of this one.