Archives for June 2010
– Senator Robert Byrd has passed away at age 92.
– Dave Weigel’s ouster last week was incredibly disheartening. He’d become one of my regular reads in recent months and I hope he finds a new home.
– Arizona’s Governor is even too crazy for McCain.
– State Democrats endorsed I-1068, but not without some consternation:
There was a small political skirmish here in Vancouver this afternoon—delegates made motions to consider 1068 separately, to extend debate, and to officially endorse the initiative. [State Vice Chair Sharon] Smith said that, “we expected this to come to a floor discussion. There are some things that are clearly Democratic party values, and then there are things like this that aren’t so clear.”
I’m not really sure what the heck Smith is referring to with that comment, so I went to the Washington State Democrats homepage to see if my previous notions of what Democrats stood for have changed radically in the past week. Here’s what they have listed on their “What We Stand For” page:
– Maintaining safety and security while seeking peace and cooperation
This is pretty obvious. I-1068 will greatly reduce crime by taking the production, sales, and massive profits out of the hands of criminal organizations. Crime decreased significantly after the end of alcohol prohibition, and it will do the same after the end of marijuana prohibition for exactly the same reason.
– Sustainable stewardship of our environment
The establishment of above-ground marijuana production and distribution will allow for environmentally responsible growing, rather than the environmentally destructive ways that it’s grown today.
– Fairness and economic opportunity, access to quality education and health care for all
I-1068 will finally allow for doctors and patients to openly discuss the benefits and risks of marijuana without fear of arrest or retribution. It will also provide for a large number of new above-ground jobs, just as what occurred when alcohol prohibition ended and legal beer distribution started up again.
– Equal treatment of all before the law
Drug law enforcement is arguably the single biggest problem with respect to ensuring that all people get treated equally within our criminal justice system.
– Fiscal responsibility, integrity, openness and accountability in government
One estimate from UW put the amount of money saved by the state after marijuana legalization and regulation at $105 million per year.
– Personal freedom, security, and privacy
The Democratic party simply can’t claim that they stand for personal freedom if they also believe that marijuana needs to be kept illegal. The two beliefs are directly incompatible. You either believe in personal freedom or you believe that government exists to impose morality over private adult decisions.
I understand that for years this was a topic that voters couldn’t have rational conversations about, but those days are clearly over now. Even Fox News has been running a number of pro-legalization pieces recently. Coming out in support of ending marijuana prohibition doesn’t carry the risks that it once did, and it might even help win elections. It was good to see the delegates at the state Democratic convention take this stand. Hopefully, Sharon Smith and the other holdouts will notice that it’s not 1988 any more.
Last week’s contest was a challenge, but it was eventually solved by Don Joe. It was the FBI office in Pocatello, Idaho, which was one of a number of northwest federal buildings that received a package of white powder sent by some yahoo near Spokane. The white powder turned out to be chalk.
Here’s this week’s, good luck!
It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.
Both the U.S. and Washington state constitutions guarantee the right to due process of law. That means that every citizen has the right to an attorney and the right to equal access to the courts… except, according to state Attorney General Rob McKenna, statewide elected officers, who only enjoy such fundamental rights given the blessing of the Attorney General, and solely at his whim.
Pore through the statutes and engage in all the legal hair-splitting you like, but such a broad interpretation of the powers of the Attorney General surely defies common sense, let alone legislative intent.
(And there are dozens of other links to media from the past week in politics posted at Hominid Views.)
So I just read in the Seattle Times “Rossi’s final real estate talk canceled,” and what immediately struck me, apart from the obvious, is that the headline is written in the passive voice. Notice how the headline doesn’t employ the preferable active constuction, “Rossi cancels final real estate talk…” because, well, he didn’t. And that’s the real story here.
[Seminar organizer Steven] Marshall would not reveal how much Rossi had been paid for the seminars, citing confidentiality. But he said Rossi could have gotten out of them after declaring his Senate bid.
“If he had called me up and said ‘I want out of this,’ we would have let him out instantly,” Marshall said.
It was Marshall who canceled Rossi’s remaining talk, out of concerns that he might run afoul of campaign finance laws. Rossi apparently never asked to be let out of his contract, instead choosing to conduct seminars advising fellow real estate speculators how to profit off the foreclosure crisis, even while in the midst of a U.S. Senate campaign.
I just rode light rail into town for the first time in, I dunno, maybe two months, and at 12 noon, I’d never seen the train this full. Standing room only for much of the ride, with a helluva lot of suitcases clogging the aisle. I’d say that’s a good sign for Sound Transit, which has seen an uptick in ridership recently.
Oddly, it was also only the second time I’d seen security check riders’ tickets, and on my very full car, only two freeloaders were pulled off the train to be issued tickets. I’d say a compliance rate like that is a very good sign for ST too.
Opponents of Initiative 1107 — the beverage industry sponsored measure that would slash hundreds of millions from education and health care by repealing state taxes on soda, candy, gum and bottled water — are sponsoring a decline to sign campaign hoping to keep this well financed initiative off the ballot. You can learn more by going to Rebuilding Our Economic Future.
But what if you already signed I-1107, not realizing the measure’s impact, or snowed by the bullshit claims by many of the paid signature gatherers that it repeals a bill extending the sales tax to food? (It doesn’t.) Well it turns out that you can request the Secretary of State to remove your name from a petition if you change your mind before the deadline, and to make it easier, Rebuilding Our Economic Future is facilitating the withdrawal process online here.
Understand that the millions of dollars the beverage industry is pumping into this campaign has nothing to do with the interests of Washington state; it’s all about stopping it here before other states seek to raise taxes on calorie-laden soft drinks in the interest of public health. The beverage industry wants to make an example out of Washington state. Don’t let them.
I mean, the whole raison d’etre behind PubliCola at its onset was to help fill the huge news hole left by the sudden collapse of the Capitol press corps, yet this is exactly the kinda lazy conventional-wisdom-spouting-in-the-face-of-conventional-wisdom-changing-facts that McKenna is counting on to sneak his way into the governor’s mansion as, you know, a “different kind of Republican.”
Yeah sure, McKenna won a Supreme Court case he should’a won (thanks in no small part to the staff attorneys that actually wrote his brief), but the fact that he did his job for a change is not reason enough to ignore the times he doesn’t.
Every year at least one bill is introduced in the Washington State Legislature to cap payday lending rates somewhere short of the 391% annualized rate currently charged. And every year, due to a total lack of support by Republicans, and aggressive opposition from key, payday-industry-captive Democrats, the bill fails.
Yet Illinois — yes, famously corrupt Illinois — doesn’t seem to have the same problem reigning in legalized loansharking:
Payday loan predators have peddled consumer installment loans with interest rates which have averaged 341% in Illinois, but have also reached 1,000%. Under the new law, rates on consumer installment loans will be capped at 99% for loans $4,000 and less and 36% for loans greater than $4,000.
A few years ago, when a 99% top rate was floated here in WA as a compromise between the 391% currently charged and the 36% rate reformers had proposed, opponents screamed that it would be industry killer. Makes you wonder… if an industry can’t get by charging 99% interest, perhaps it shouldn’t exist?
Meanwhile, all reformers managed to squeeze out of the WA legislature was a law limiting customers to eight loans in a 12-month period, a measure intended to prevent borrowers from having their debt snowball indefinitely. Yet the industry quickly managed to run around even this modest reform.
You’d think Washington could do better in defense of some of our most vulnerable citizens.
A volunteer with the I-1068 campaign catches some paid gatherers in Tacoma duping people into signing another petition by telling them it’s the Marijuana Reform Act.
I’ve had several occasions throughout this signature gathering cycle where paid gatherers have expressed frustration over the difficulty for them to get signers for their initiatives. One lady outside of my local Safeway took a few of my I-1068 petitions because people kept asking her if she had it for them to sign. At Folklife, one of the paid gatherers shadowed me for a bit to try to get more signatures from the people who were signing I-1068.
But in the end, those less popular initiatives will be on the ballot while I-1068 may not be. It’s all about having the money to pay people to get the signatures, and that simple fact is something that has made me more fully appreciate the mess that our initiative system has become.
UDPATE: Obviously, if the scam described in the post above is more widespread than just this one incident, there’d be a certain number of people who think they’ve signed I-1068, but really haven’t (and therefore would decline to sign the actual I-1068 petition if offered). With yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, we may be able to have the traceability required to figure out who’s been scammed and who was doing the scamming. You’re required as a signature gatherer to sign your name to the petitions you turn in.
In defending his refusal to fulfill his statutory duty to represent Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark in court, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna has publicly worried that an appeal in the underlying eminent domain case could create “bad law,” an ironic concern considering that by forcing a constitutional showdown with Goldmark, McKenna could end up narrowly redefining the powers of his office… including his claimed power to participate in the Florida lawsuit seeking to toss out key provisions of the landmark Patient Protection and Affordability Act.
As I’ve previously explained in detail (here and here), Washington’s constitution and statutes are unambiguous. In states where the constitution requires that the attorney general “shall perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law,” courts have generally ruled that the office does not retain the traditional common law powers attributed to the position, but rather only those that, well, “may be prescribed by law.” And RCW clearly states that “It shall be the duty of the attorney general” to represent the commissioner “when requested so to do by the commissioner.”
McKenna appears to claim a broader power to protect the public interest that trumps his statutory duty to provide legal representation to state officers, a claim on which he seems unlikely to prevail given the clear language of the constitution and the statutes. And the state Supreme Court could merely leave it at that, granting Goldmark a writ of mandamus, and compelling McKenna to either bring the appeal or hire outside counsel to do so.
But the court could go further, by settling this issue once and for all. And if the court were to follow the West Virginia example and rule that office grants the attorney general no common law powers, but only those powers and duties prescribed in statute, it could prove a major blow to McKenna’s efforts to fend off a lawsuit from Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes that asks the court to compel McKenna to withdraw from the Florida suit.
Indeed, as part of a recently filed brief, Holmes makes the exact same argument in a section titled “The Attorney General has only the authority granted by statute.”
Respondent assumes that the fact he is “independently elected” somehow clothes him with extrastatutory authority. … The history and provisions regarding the role of the Attorney General in this state demonstrates otherwise.
Holmes goes on to quote State ex rel. Winston v. Seattle Gas & Electric Co. (the same case I’ve previously cited), in which the court was unambiguous about the matter:
The legislation of the state shows that the legislature has not considered that the attorney general is clothed with any other power than that conferred upon him by the constitution or by express legislative enactment. Where it has been deemed necessary for the attorney general to appear and represent the state, authority for that purpose has been give to him by express enactment.
While I admit that there is a stronger legal argument to make that the attorney general has the discretion to take affirmative actions than he does to refuse statutory duties (for example, McKenna probably could have brought the appeal on his own initiative without Goldmark’s request), a ruling in Goldmark v. McKenna that confirms Holmes argument against extrastatutory powers would breath new life into a case that few have paid much attention to thus far.
And in the event that Holmes prevails, and the state Supreme Court orders McKenna to withdraw from the Florida lawsuit, it could have a huge impact in other states that share similar statutory construction where parties are challenging their attorney general’s power to join the Florida suit.
That’s admittedly a lot of “ifs,” but if McKenna is as cognizant of creating case law as he implies, then perhaps he should have thought this thing through before stubbornly denying an equally stubborn Goldmark his right to due process.