Features

A Fond Farewell to the Legislative Life

by Erik Smith , 17 Comments

What can you say when you’re about to leave a place where you’ve played virtually your entire adult life? Where you lived and loved and learned and basically grew up? Today I bid Washington State Wire adieu on my way to the Seattle Times editorial board. And I leave the Legislature in which I have worked as a statehouse reporter, off and on, pretty much from the day I graduated from college. It is one of the few moments in my career I think it proper to talk about myself — and what it’s been like working and living the legislative life.

Fish-Consumption Decision Being Kicked Upstairs – Governor’s Office Will Make Call on Controversial Water Quality Rule

by Erik Smith , 2 Comments

One of the biggest environmental questions in ages is being kicked upstairs to the governor’s office — how much fish does Washington eat? A silly thing for government to decide, you might think, but the question is driving an enormous debate over water quality regulation. Washington appears poised to go down the Oregon Trail, adopting a fish-consumption estimate like the Beaver State that will force new regs 25 times more stringent than current standards. Compliance costs will be in the billions, and it’s not clear what good it will do. Sometime in the next two months, all hell breaks loose.

Did You Ever Think Republicans Would Long for Christine Gregoire? – Some Say Transportation Failure Starts at Top

by Erik Smith , 2 Comments

You heard it here first: After the big breakdown on transportation in the just-finished session, Republicans are saying the failure starts in the governor’s office, and Jay Inslee is making former Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire look good. Squabbling and fingerpointing reached an extreme in the session’s final days, but a gas-tax deal might have been had if people had really wanted it. Might be years before another opportunity. Critics say the real failure was one of leadership, and that the governor’s combative attitude was the single most important factor in this year’s biggest kerthump.

After All the Fuss and Bother, an Unremarkable Session Comes to an End

by Erik Smith , 6 Comments

You can say the 2014 legislative session started with low expectations, and it lived right up to them. Washington lawmakers ended their 60-day session just before midnight Thursday after passing a do-no-harm budget and a handful of policy bills of mostly modest import. As two months of caterwauling, fingerpointing and partisan debate finally came to an end, they could point to one big achievement: They managed to wrap it all up on schedule, with seven minutes to spare. Now the big problem. How do you sum up a session in which nothing much really happened?

House Poised to Shut Down Medical-Marijuana Biz – Would Solve Complex Problem by Just Saying No

by Erik Smith , 61 Comments

On the Legislature’s final day, a stunning turnabout on a medical-marijuana bill is causing jaws to drop in the state House. It started as a bill that aimed to save the state’s medical-marijuana biz. Now it would shut the whole thing down. It is a matter of sausage-making at its best, but for the 150,000 or so patients who rely on medical marijuana, it is going to come as quite a surprise.

Medical Marijuana Bill Foundering in House Amid Taxation Dispute

by Erik Smith , 13 Comments

A bill that aims to put the medical-marijuana biz on firm ground is running into trouble in the state House as the 2014 Legislature winds to an end – snarled in a high-level dispute over whether cities and counties ought to get a share of the taxes when Washington’s legal marijuana shops finally open their doors. Meanwhile, operators of Washington’s medical-marijuana dispensaries are getting very, very nervous. If no bill passes, will the feds crack down?

Miloscia Party-Switch, Eide Exit Make 30th District Look Like a GOP Pickup

by Erik Smith , 4 Comments

The 30th District in Federal Way is suddenly in play — and there’s a good chance it might fall to the Rs in this year’s election, a pivotal race in the battle for control of the Senate. Longtime House member Mark Miloscia has switched parties and is running as an R. Longtime Dem Sen. Tracy Eide is stepping down. It’s a wild story — here’s why it happened.

As Vapers Organize, Legislature Scrambles to Impose New E-Cig Tax – ‘Compromise’ Proposal Even Higher Than the Original

by Erik Smith , 28 Comments

E-cigarettes, the come-from-nowhere issue of the year, seem to have prompted one of the strangest “compromise” proposals in state legislative history. Lawmakers eager to slap a whopping tax on the burgeoning biz started with a plan that would have doubled the cost of “vaping.” Now the solons are floating what they call a compromise plan – which would quadruple it. Maybe it’s just a big stupid goof, but it demonstrates a lack of understanding about a business lawmakers are poised to snuff, perhaps the first truly effective way to get people to stop smoking.