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Sunday Spin: Where the Lege could look for some new money

Sept. 20, 2014 6:18 p.m.

OLYMPIA – Washington’s projected take on legal marijuana is a shade over $200 million, state economists guesstimated last week.

That’s not nothing, as non-economists who don’t mind a double negative will agree. But it clearly won’t be enough to stave off the upcoming legislative fighst between those who want to find more revenue – read raise taxes – and those who would make government more efficient – read cut programs – to balance the budget.

While it would be hard to argue that a $33 billion budget doesn’t have some things that could be cut, there are few things that have so little support that they can be drastically reduced or completely axed without a vocal constituency putting up a fight. Similarly, while the belief that some taxes could be raised enjoys support in some quarters, agreement on which ones should be raised often proves elusive. The working theory seems to be get the most taxes out of the fewest people to avoid a nasty referendum defeat.

This is where marijuana taxes offer a lesson in fiscal policy the Legislature should heed. The combination of sales, excise and business taxes and registration fees are high – maybe one should say exorbitant to avoid giggles – yet they seemed to generate no serious challenges from the usual anti-tax crowd. That may be because most of that crowd doesn’t indulge in marijuana, and thus doesn’t care that people who do will pay them. The people who are paying them really want marijuana, but don’t want to break the law to get it, and thus are willing to fork over some extra cash for the privilege.

Using that as a guidepost, the Legislature could find revenue from a new area with limited constituencies who would generate little sympathy from the general public – politicians and their campaign supporters. Continue inside the blog for some options…


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Nov election turnout prediction: 62 percent

Sept. 19, 2014 12:36 p.m. - Updated: 1:05 p.m.

OLYMPIA — Slightly less than two out of three Washington voters are likely to cast ballots in the November general election, Secretary of State Kim Wyman estimated today.

The 62 percent she's predicting is about twice the turnout of the August primary, but less than the last two previous mid-term elections. Wyman believes it will drop from the 71 percent in 2010 and 65 percent in 2006 because there's no major statewide office up for election. But the gun initiatives and the class size initiative, coupled with the fact that this is an all-mail election, should produce better turnout than 2002, the last time Washington had a midterm without a U.S. Senate seat on the ballot.

Overseas and military ballots have just gone out, so technically the election is underway. Ballots go out to the rest of us starting Oct. 17.

It's possible to register to vote online through Oct. 6. Click here for details.


Spin Control Files: When Spokane was bipartisan Ground Zero

Sept. 18, 2014 6:32 p.m.

If ever there was a metaphor for bipartisanship in national politics over the last quarter century, it would be the American elm tree planted 25 years ago this Friday in Riverfront Park.

 The elm from the White House was planted by a Republican president and a Democratic speaker of the House. They didn’t just smile and shake hands stiffly for the cameras but went out to dinner, shared a couple bottles of wine, got up the next morning and planted a tree in a show of bipartisanship.

The concept may seem as quaint today as eight-track tape players and phone booths, but there was a sunny day in 1989 when Spokane was kind of Ground Zero for national bipartisanship. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

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Pot may bring state $25 million by next July

Sept. 18, 2014 2:54 p.m. - Updated: 6:11 p.m.

OLYMPIAWashington tax coffers could get a $25 million boost by next July and nearly $200 million by mid 2017 from legal marijuana, state economists estimate. But much of that money is spoken for and won't help the general fund.

The estimates for taxes and fees the state can expect from recreational marijuana, the first such available, are contained in overall economic and revenue forecasts released Thursday afternoon. In general, the state's budget outlook is changed slightly for the better from the June forecast, economist Steve Lerch said. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

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Harvard poll:Most millennials could skip election

Sept. 18, 2014 12:37 p.m.

The youngest segment of American citizens are none too excited about the upcoming mid-term elections, a new survey from Harvard University says.

HeadCount, a group concerned about civic engagement, or the lack of it, by that segment — dubbed Millennials by whoever is tasked with naming generations — plans to do fight that by encouraging them to register and vote. Are they going to explain the responsibilities that come with citizenship and show the connection between political involvement and daily life? Well, probably, but mainly HeadCount plans to have celebrities and musicians stage concerts and use social media to send out pictures of themselves holding Register to Vote clipboards and links to websites that will sign people up. 

Because apparently nothing will drive young voters to fulfilling their civic duty like a tweet from a celeb.

Some numbers: When the Harvard Institute of Politics surveyed 3,058 millennials recently, only about one in four said they definitely planned to vote in the mid-terms. That's down from about one in three in a poll last year and 31 percent from a poll at this time before the 2010 elections. The news was worse for Democrats than Republicans. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.


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Spokane skywalk staircase comes down

Sept. 17, 2014 4:13 p.m. - Updated: 4:33 p.m.

If a skywalk staircase comes down and no one's around to see it, does it make a sound? Okay, there were plenty of people to see it slowly get dismantled at the corner of Main Avenue and Howard Street, but we were a little disappointed that nobody chained themselves to it, like you see in those history preservation movies.

Anyway, here's the a scene of the missing staircase:

And another:

For a bit of background, read our earlier coverage on why the staircase came down. Not to spoil it or anything, but the staircase was kind of in the way.


Federal judge rejects Coe request for release

Sept. 17, 2014 3:36 p.m. - Updated: 5:54 p.m.

OLYMPIA — A federal judge in Tacoma turned down the latest request from convicted rapist Kevin Coe to be released from McNeill Island, where he is incarcerated as a sexually violent predator. He has exhausted one avenue of appeals, but still faces annual reviews by the state of the civil commitment that could keep him behind bars for life.

U.S. District Judge J. Richard Creatura rejected Coe's argument that he had ineffective lawyers when fighting the civil commitment trial. He had already served his sentence for the criminal conviction of a sexual assault that was part of a string of attacks in the late 1970s and early 1980s attributed to the South Hill rapist.

Coe’s also argued he is entitled to a new civil trial because he wasn’t able to cross-examine or depose some of the rape victims whose testimony formed the basis of a psychologist’s diagnosis that he suffers from a series of personality disorders and mental abnormalities. It might warrant a new trial if this was a criminal conviction, Creatura said, but the Sexually Violent Predator program is a civil commitment, so the standard is different. Coe had the right to cross-examine the psychologist about her diagnosis or offer a rebuttal the jury could consider, the judge noted.

“The court has found that no error was committed in either of (Coe's) claims,” he wrote in a decision released late last week. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.



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Cantwell to NFL: Give up ‘Skins or tax break

Sept. 16, 2014 3:36 p.m. - Updated: 5:27 p.m.

The NFL would lose its not-for-profit status, and millions of dollars, if the Washington Redskins don't change their names under a bill being introduced soon by Sen. Maria Cantwell.

The Washington state Democrat joined the National Congress of American Indians in calling for the name change. But if it doesn't happen,  Cantwell said, she's prepared to hit the league where it would  hurt most — in the wallet.

The NFL currently is registered as a 501 c (6) not for profit organization. A bill she expects to introduce by the end of the month would deny that status to any professional sports league that has a team named “Redskins” . . . 


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City Hall Scoop: Domestic Violence and a New Councilwoman

Sept. 16, 2014 12:46 p.m. - Updated: 4:12 p.m.

Another Monday, another Spokane City Council meeting at which Councilman Mike Fagan speaks eloquently on the injustice of domestic violence.

Okay, so not every council meeting has Fagan on the dais, detailing the horrors of “Spokane's ugly, dirty little secret,” telling attendees and viewers that domestic violence is not simply violent, but also “a crime of control, of coercion.” He doesn't always read a list of crimes associated with domestic violence, or educate people that it can happen between more than man and wife, but between lovers, or friends, or inflicted by a parent or grandparent.

But it happened last night, as council members discussed amending city law as proposed by Council President Ben Stuckart and Councilwoman Amber Waldref to protect victims of domestic violence against discrimination, while also creating a fund to help prevent such violence and prosecute offenders. We covered the issue when it first arose.

True to his word, Fagan was “more than happy to vote in the affirm” and the ordinances passed 7-0, despite conservative gadabout George McGrath admonishing the council for letting government overreach to continue. McGrath did agree that domestic violence should be “contained (and) curtailed” but warned against overreaction, such as when a man flicks a toothpick at his wife. Councilman Mike Allen seemed to have had enough at that remark, tearing off his reading glasses and shooting an exasperated look to the council. Regardless, McGrath's three minutes soon were spent, he returned to his seat and the council carried on, as usual.

Continue reading, and see Fagan talk about domestic violence, after the jump.



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Mager endorses Johnson in County Commission race

Sept. 16, 2014 9:07 a.m. - Updated: 9:11 a.m.

In an unsurprising move, former County Commissioner Bonnie Mager endorsed Democrat Mary Lou Johnson on Tuesday in her bid to unseat GOP incumbent Al French in the November election.

Mager, who finished third in the August primary as an independent, served as a Democrat on the commission from 2006 to 2010. She was unseated by French, a former Spokane City Council member, in the 2010 general election.

Johnson's campaign announced the endorsement in an email Tuesday morning. The campaign said Mager had encouraged her supporters to back Johnson in the November general election.

The incumbent defeated his Democratic challenger by just 222 votes in the primary, but Mager carried an additional 8,000 ballots and the general election is open to voters countywide while the primary included only ballots cast in the county's third district. In the primary, fewer than 30,000 votes were cast; that number will likely quintuple in the general election.

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

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