The Governor disavows her budget, opposition has nothing, and the bureaucracy?

Now is the time for the opportunistic opposition to pounce on how badly the governor has managed the state's economy.

We have never in our lifetimes been in such a desperate economic community circumstance.

Where are the great Republican voices in our state? Why are they not pointing out how they, their party and their political philosophy had nothing at all to do with this catastrophe?

Where are their supposedly wise and more valid suggestions or alternatives to how the governor and legislature are dealing with this stuff?

What about the conservative religion itself. Isn't this the time for business to step forward, de-emphasize profit maximization and jointly find ways to help all of us care for each other?

(2 comments, 562 words in story) Full Story

Reform for Judicial Elections

Goldy argues for retention elections in Lack of leadership obstructs judicial reform. This is Missouri's system for selecting judges. It has effectively stopped big money from buying their courts, a serious threat in Washington state.

Why stop there? All judicial election campaigns should also be publicly financed.

When judges can't even ask for campaign contributions, judges with big money backing are even more likely to get elected.

I posted a comment to haseattle.org about what I learned from watching judges campaigning, included here (below the fold).

(391 words in story) Full Story

Baird Gets Death Threats, GOP Slams Baird

Per The Olympian, US Rep Brian Baird receives a death threat, mentions it, and the local Republicans criticize Baird for having the gall to mention it.

Bringing a gun to a presidential visit is okay, but wearing a protest t-shirt is akin to terrorism and gets you arrested.

Bush was AWOL for much of his term, Obama takes a few days off, and now he's a slacker.

I don't even have the words to comment. Seriously. What is wrong with these people? It's not just that they're bullies, cowards, and ignorant. It's not they have this weird reality-denying double standard. This psychosis is way beyond that.

What are we witnessing? Are these people just sociopaths? I really want to know what we're up against. There's got to be an explanation.

(4 comments) Comments >>

Lawsuit to Protect Secret Ballot in WA Filed Today in Supreme Court

A lawsuit filed today in the state Supreme Court against Washington Secretary of State, White v Reed, claims that one million voters in Washington are deprived of the Constitutional right to a secret ballot.  See below the fold for the press release.

Timothy White and Alan Rosato, the speakers in this video (which I created in 2007), are also the petitioners in the case. The video takes about 6 seconds to begin after you click on it.

(9 comments, 687 words in story) Full Story

(Former) 3-Striker Stevan Dozier released under clemency

Yesterday afternoon Stevan Dozier, whose story was featured here on Washblog in December 2007, was released from a 3-Strikes sentence of Life Without Parole after Governor Gregoire approved the unanimous recommendation of Washington's Clemency and Pardons Board. He has served under that sentence since 1994, the year 3-Strikes went into effect. He is the first Washington 3-Striker to be released under clemency. Washington State is the first 3-Strikes state in the nation.

Stevan Dozier's clemency was recommended by King County's Prosecuting Attorney, Dan Satterberg; the judge who sentenced him in 1994; King County Councilmember Larry Gossett; John Carlson, the conservative talk show host who championed the 3-Strikes ballot initiative in 1993; and others.  Here's a Seattle Times article with more background.  Al-Kareem Shadeed, whose story appeared on Washblog in January, 2008, has a clemency hearing scheduled for June 11, 2009.  Supporters are encouraged to attend.  

If you agree with 24 faith, civil rights, legal, and other organizations that Washington's 3-Strikes law should be reformed -- at minimum to comply with the 2001 recommendations of the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to remove lower seriousness crimes from the list triggering life imprisonment, you are needed.  Please consider joining joining this email list to receive 1-3 emails per month on key times to contact legislators and take part in other opportunities to advance reform.

(4 comments) Comments >>

50-year search for son finds him serving 3-strikes life sentence

The story that appears below the fold  is authored by Gerald J. White, Jr., father of 3-Striker Gerald White III.  Gerald was sentenced under 3-Strikes in 1996 for three robberies, one of them a Robbery 2, a crime that the state Sentencing Guidelines Commission recommended removing from the 3-Strikes list in 2001.  None of Gerald's crimes qualify as a "Serious Violent Offense" under Washington criminal law.  

Patterns of prosecution have changed under 3-Strikes. From 1994-2000, approximately 100 defendants with no conviction for a serious violent offense were sentenced under the law.  That dropped to about 40 defendants during the next seven years.  Tom McBride, testifying on behalf of Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (WAPA) in opposition to Senate Bill 5292, acknowledged that prosecutors are now approaching the law differently than in past years.

Twenty-four organizations have signed onto a a statement supporting 3-Strikes reform or repeal.   This year Senate Bill 5292 would have implemented the 2001 recommendation of the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to remove Robbery 2 from the 3-Strikes list, a step that would save an estimated $2 million yearly. It is believed that it was blocked by Democratic leadership in the House. This grassroots campaign needs your help.  Join the Rapid Response.

Image above: L-R, Gerald White III, Shirley White, and Gerald J. White, Jr.

(3 comments, 991 words in story) Full Story

Restoration of Voting Rights bill passes

Yesterday, House Bill 1517, or the voting rights restoration bill, passed.  It's a major victory.

The new law will allow for every person in the state who is otherwise qualified to vote -- and is not "Under the authority of the Department of Corrections" --  to have the right to vote.  This means that the tens of thousands of people in Washington state who have exited the criminal justice system will be able to exercise their right of citizenship just like everyone else.

Till now, anyone who had served a sentence for a felony was denied the right to vote until he or she paid legal financial obligations.  These obligations, which accrue interest during incarceration, are often many thousands of dollars.  The law leaves the payment obligation intact.  In fact, it allows for the revocation of a person's right to vote if it is shown that he or she willfully fail to pay the obligation three times in a 12-month period.  The only thing that has changes is that the financial barrier to voting has been removed.

The new law also greatly simplifies procedures, eliminating the need for the state to administer an extremely complicated process and simplifying the process for the voter. Previously, many people who had paid their legal financial obligations still did not vote because the restoration process was so complicated. The bill had support of the Secretary of State and the state Auditor's office.

(6 comments) Comments >>

1 Percent Income Tax Proposed for Washington Millionaires: SB 6147

According to Joe Turner, in a 2/12/09 entry on the Tacoma News Tribune blog, Senator Rosa Franklin introduces an income tax bill every year.  She's always the only sponsor, Turner writes, and her bill is always a "non-starter".   This year, though, Turner noted that a lot of work went into the fiscal note for the bill (SB 5104) and wondered if it might be "for real".   Franklin's bill is a tiered income tax.

Well, now there's something else new.  As Rachel La Corte points out in a Seattle PI article today, Senate Democrats have introduced another bill.   This one is SB 6147.  It's sponsored by Kohl-Welles, Regala, McDermott, Murray, Kline, and Fraser.  Ways and Means Chair, Senator Prentice, has indicated openness to holding a public hearing.  It would institute a 1% tax on single people making $500,000 or more annually or couples making $1 million or more.  And the proceeds would be applied to education.


(5 comments) Comments >>

Wealth vs Democracy

I've recently read The Quiet Coup and There Was a Class War. The Rich Won. I'm reminded of Kevin Phillips' book Wealth and Democracy. Among other things, I learned:

  • war (profiteering), deficit spending, and deregulation make select people very rich
  • the middle class was explicitly created, as social policy to boost democracy, and not the result of capitalism
  • the United States has had a populist revolt every 60 years

In 2006, Phillips was in town on a book tour. During the Q & A, I noted that we are overdue for our scheduled populist revolt, and asked if he thought it was eminent. Phillips' shocking answer:

Not any time soon. It won't happen so long as the money people are in charge.

Sure, we're all disappointed by the Obama Administration's impotence against Wall Street. Sure, the budget coming out of Olympia is hard to accept.

But I gotta say, I'm not mad. I heard Phillips' warning. I expected this.

The problem isn't Obama, or any other person. The problem is the structure of our political system. And it's our job to fix it.

Alas, I don't have any advice for others. For my part, I'm focusing on election reform and election integrity issues.

(6 comments) Comments >>

The WS Labor Council's campaign threat and political reality.

I recently posted a response over at Publicola in connection with the dust up over the WSLC's email linking future political contributions with legislation under consideration in the Senate and House. Many writers who I respect have IMO flat missed the point on this issue.
Yes, the legislation is valuable and important.
Yes, the WSLC are the good guys.
Yes, it would be nice if politics never got in the way.
I agree, gee wiz, political contributions have always been linked to legislators voting records, so this email did not penetrate my thick skin.
Still, the Democratic leadership in both houses and the Governor did the responsible thing, given the text of the email.
Below the fold, is my reasoning as expressed to Josh at Publicola:

(16 comments, 531 words in story) Full Story

Washblog's Recent Technical Problems

This site went down on Friday due to technical problems.  We're back up -- but still have some "tweaks".   For example, the diaries aren't showing up yet on the right-hand side of the page.  You can, however, search for individual diaries by clicking on the "Go to search page" button.  
Update [2009-3-16 18:52:43 by hillct]: The diaries issue has been resolved.

(2 comments) Comments >>

Key Deadlines to End WA's Poll Tax and Life Sentences for Low-Seriousness Crimes

Please call the LEGISLATIVE HOTLINE at  1-800-562-6000 or visit http://leg.wa.gov/ (click on "Find Your District) to reach your legislators.
Two key justice measures -- both of which have been in the legislature for 10 years or more -- got good traction this legislative session. Both now sit in Rules facing a critical deadline next week.  They need your calls and emails.  

Ending Washington's Poll Tax
SB 5534, Restoration of the right to vote for people convicted of felonies, is endorsed by Washington's Secretary of State and State Auditor and has a good chance of success this session.  It's no sure thing, though -- and needs your calls and emails.  167,000 Washingtonians cannot vote only because they owe money due to prior felonies for which they have served their time. Here are two quick action links from ACLU.  The House version has been watered down to a study bill, so the Senate version is the preference: Senate Bill 5534 and  House Bill 1517.   Also see GET THE VOTE BACK.

Ending Life Sentences for Lower Seriousness Crimes
Senate Bill 5292 would implement the 2001 Sentencing Guidelines Commission recommendation to remove Robbery 2, a lower-seriousness crime, from the 3-Strikes list resulting in Life Without Parole.  It passed in committee but remains a long-shot for this session. Your calls and emails may help this session -- are a key for a strong start on this legislation next session.  See the list of organizations supporting 3-Strikes reform at FIX 3-STRIKES.

Democratic leadership has blocked this measure for years.  These leaders need to know they have political backing for this common-sense measure.  As a recent Seattle Times Editorial notes:

"Legislators should buck up and support a bill that would remove second-degree robbery from the list of "strikes" under the "three strikes, you're out" law. Lifetime imprisonment is not proportional to the crime. It is not necessary for the protection of the public. It is not justice."

(1 comment) Comments >>

Time to Rethink the Deficit Reduction Act

The DRA literally wastes state government TANF funds every working day hour by hour.

Administering TANF benefits and trying to enforce WorkFirst priorities driven by the Reflublican DRA mandates has proven to be a sad waste of time that robs bureaucrats like me who have better things to do.

... you know, working more efficiently to impact the lives of families thrown into a circumstance of too much need with too little resources.

The state version of our Federal Welfare bureaucracy is trying to do its job with both hands tied behind its back.

(659 words in story) Full Story

Initiative Seeks to Discriminate against Atheists

Posted on behalf of Dave Miller, President of the Eastside Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Ms. Kimberlie Struiksma has filed a ballot measure (Initiative Measure No. 1040) that would, among other things, "prohibit state use of public money or lands for anything that denies or attempts to refute the existence of a supreme ruler of the universe, including textbooks, instruction or research."

(2 comments, 413 words in story) Full Story

Transit Oriented Development Bill Misses the Boat as Written

HB 1490/SB 5687 - Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through land use and transportation requirements.

I'm very concerned that we don't be entranced by arguments that use the 'idea' of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and confabulate it with the need to have more low income housing with access to transit that are being used to promote these amendments to the Growth Management Act. The actual content of this legislation will tear apart the fabric of consensus developed in regions and communities around the state for the creation and preservation of sustainable communities.

I believe that this ham-fisted amendment will have damaging consequences that could seriously undermine the Growth Management Act itself. I think it will allow increased sprawl, while not creating equity in housing.

The short prescription:

  • First, create a GREAT piece of legislation that defines Transit Station/Center and mandates that communities apply well accepted Transit Oriented Development principles to Land Use planning around them. Do not include any specific densities.
  • Second, create a separate piece of legislation that sets out a process of establishing housing equity PERFORMANCE for local jurisdictions, OR create legislation that funds low income housing production in station areas with protections for existing residents.
  • Finally, do it right or don't do it until next year.

Legislators: bring all any and groups to provide their views, but do not include them at the table. Study the issue broadly, listen to nationally recognized experts who know what is going on around the country regarding growth management, housing, economic development and transit oriented development, and make up your minds based on your conscience and in the interests of the whole of the State of Washington.

The house has held three public hearings by the Local Government and Housing Committee and they are having an executive session on Monday so this is time critical, as they could revise this bill on Monday. I hope it is revised appropriately and I hope at least some folks will look at the modifications through the lens of what is reasonable. The first Public Hearing is currently scheduled for the Senate Committee on Government Operations & Elections on Thursday, February 19 at 3:30 pm, Senate Hearing Room 2, J.A. Cherberg Building

Community meetings, blogs and listserves in Seattle are blowing up over this bill and very tangible, longstanding issues are coming to the forefront. This bill will affect places in the state with any current or future form of transit that may be considered `mass', so I hope you think it's worth paying attention to. It's deemed a legislative priority by many groups who have signed on to the progressive ideas that we should do transit oriented development and that we should be providing housing to all our citizens, but who I believe have not read the bill. I'll promise to try not to be too technical. I realize that the words land and use cause blank stares.....

(7 comments, 3984 words in story) Full Story

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