We’ve waited and waited for this announcement. I mean, here we are half way through the current legislative session, but the Washington state Supreme Court has finally ruled on the 2/3 majority laws, brought to you by our state’s top Initiative Whore, Tim “Biggest Lie of My Life” Eyman.
The ruling: by a 6-3 majority, the court upheld a lower court’s finding that 2/3s laws are unconstitutional.
I’ve not read the ruling yet, but I strongly suspect it will highlight the major argument put forth by Goldy and other bloggers here: ENGLISH. If you read the state Constitution and understand the English language, it’s kind of a no-brainer.
Once again, an Eyman initiative–in this case, several similar versions of the same basic initiative–is found to be unconstitutional.
SEATTLE – The Washington Supreme Court plans to issue a ruling Thursday on a lawsuit challenging the two-thirds majority required for the Legislature to pass a tax increase.
The Supreme Court agreed to expedite its consideration of the two-thirds majority rule, which came about because of a series of citizen initiatives. Voters most recently approved the supermajority rule last November.
The Washington Constitution requires a simple majority of the Legislature to approve most laws, but the supermajority, or two-thirds vote, has been the law for tax increases thanks mostly to measures successfully pushed by initiative activist Tim Eyman.
I’m no lawyer, but it seems pretty unconstitutional on its face. You can’t bind future legislatures with the initiative process (except up to 3 years for laws that are constitutional). That takes an amendment to the state constitution. Cut and dried.
Still, our state supreme court has heard these sorts of cases in the past and figured out ways to punt. Hopefully they’ve run out of ways to kick the can down the road, and can actually rule on the case. I don’t know how much practical difference it makes with one house of the legislature in the GOP’s hands and Inslee opposing most tax increases in the campaign.
I’ll be at work when the ruling comes down, so I thought I’d put something up now.
Sometimes The Seattle Times has great, important, relevant stories that put a new light on something in the Northwest that otherwise wouldn’t be covered. And I’m going to miss some of those when I don’t read their website behind its paywall. But sometimes they just do hack pieces that they claim are important stories. More and more it’s looking like the Rob Holland piece falls on the hack side.
Except that’s not what happened and that’s not what the report found. Martin did not use Holland’s credit card to purchase anything, and the report Heffter cites actually found this particular allegation to be “unsubstantiated” (PDF, page 25). Martin has repeatedly asked Heffter and Kreamer to issue a correction, and they have repeatedly refused.
“At the end of the day, all you have is your reputation,” Martin told me. And he desperately wants his reputation cleared. The Seattle Times has yet to respond to a request for comment.
But also, reading their emails to Martin, both Heffter and Kreamer just come off as incredibly confused. “There is a receipt and additional official documentation showing you as the purchaser of camera equipment for the Port, with Commissioner Holland’s Port credit card being used,” Kreamer writes to Martin in a February 25 email, totally ignoring the fact that this so-called “receipt” proves nothing of the kind. “The Port report you cite says the third-party use of the card (by you) was not found to be unauthorized, but we never wrote that it was,” Kreamer continues. “The items purchased were indeed for Port use, the audit found.”
When the Seattle Times goes out of their way to point out stories like this one are vital to the region, so we need to support them, well, you’d think they would at least work harder to get the story right.
In Saturday’s post on the recent DUI updates, I wrote:
And assurances from the police that they’ll only go after impaired folks requires a lot of skepticism given the history of DUI enforcement.
I wanted to elaborate on this a bit, but didn’t want to go off on any other tangents in that post. So I’ll go off on that tangent here. And a recent case from Kent is a good starting point:
Mike Simmons, 31, said Tuesday he was put in jail for 13 hours. Now with towing and lawyer fees, he said he’s out $5,000 and he’s not allowed to drive while he’s out on bail.
All for something he said he didn’t do.
“As soon as the officer came to the vehicle, he asked me to stick out my tongue,” said Simmons.
Simmons thought it was an unusual request but he soon found out he was pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence.
Simmons said the officer told him there was a green film on his tongue. The unidentified police officer apparently felt that is a telltale sign that someone has been smoking marijuana.
Simmons admitted he had smoked pot three days earlier, but says when he was pulled over he was on a lunch break from work and was stone-cold sober.
We’ll find out more about this specific case as it unfolds, but if Simmons’ recounting of the arrest is accurate, it wouldn’t be the first time an officer has used something ridiculous or imaginary to imply impairment. In this case from Ocean Shores in November, an officer claimed an elderly medical marijuana patient was impaired because – among other things – she was unable to stand on one leg.
To clarify a point that should be obvious to most people, your tongue doesn’t turn green when you smoke pot. So if that’s the evidence that this officer used to demonstrate impairment, and Simmons doesn’t win a lawsuit against the city of Kent as a result of that, then the folks who say that impairment is required to end up in his situation aren’t correct. Because if there are no repercussions for when a police officer does something wrong, it doesn’t matter what the law actually says.
We’ve continually heard from members of law enforcement and others that impairment is required in order to end up in Simmons’ situation. But it’s not hard for an officer to just say, “your eyes are bloodshot!” and use that as a justification to demand a blood draw. These reassurances go beyond being wishful thinking that their fellow police officers won’t abuse their power. They’re close to being outright lies.
The Seattle Times is a private entity, and they have a right to run their business however they want. But The Seattle Times also wants, and gets, special treatment because of their value to the community. Sure, they didn’t always live up to their ideals, but who does? Maybe it was excusable when it was just the nepotism of having an editor who maybe can’t write a decent sentence in English because he was the Publisher’s son. Maybe it was excusable when The Seattle Times went after Darcy Burner with lies. Maybe even when they ran their free ad for their preferred candidates and ballot positions, they deserved a pass because they were providing news that you couldn’t get anywhere else.
But when The Seattle Times makes a decision that they’ll deny access to their website to most potential readers it seems like they’ve abandoned the idea of keeping the public informed generally. When they reduce access to their web page, well they’re providing less of a public good, so it may be time to reconsider their B & O tax exemption.
Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t think newspapers should have that 40% exemption in the first place. But as more and more papers move to the paywall model, I’d like the legislature to strip the exemption from papers that hide their content behind a paywall. It’s probably too late to do that in this session (unless there’s a special session) but it’s one more place for our cash strapped state to look once newspapers stop providing a public good.
As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
A few weeks back, the state legislature heard some testimony regarding the new DUI provisions enacted into law with the passage of I-502. These provisions were the most controversial aspect of the initiative among traditional drug law reformers, but throughout the entire campaign, there were very few actual numbers around to convey what the actual risk was.
For instance, how easy is it to be at the 5ng/ml limit? How long do people usually stay there? Is it an accurate measure of impairment? There have been a few studies on this, but far from any kind of consensus.
Also, how many people get marijuana DUI’s already? How many more are likely to get them now that prosecutions could be easier to obtain under I-502?
There has been no jump in “green DUIs,” said the Washington State Patrol’s toxicologist, Dr. Fiona Couper, at the hearing in Olympia Wednesday of the House Public Safety Committee. Seattle DUI attorney Patricia Fulton reported “absolutely no effect” in her defense practice.
This runs contrary to what other DUI attorneys have been saying.
A Seattle attorney whose practice consists solely of medical marijuana cases said more people are coming to him for help fighting charges of driving under the influence of marijuana, even before the new limit took effect.
“I’m seeing one to two a month and have been for a year,” attorney Aaron Pelley said. “Prior to that, I didn’t see really any.”
Pelley believes state patrol officers had been ramping up their enforcement of “green DUIs” in anticipation of the passage of I-502, the law making possession of up to an ounce of marijuana legal. And, now that it’s on the books, he suspects there’s been a “huge spike of number of people being tested.”
What’s the truth here? My guess is that Pelley, who’s been outspoken publicly about the DUI provisions, is generating more business for himself as a result, not that there are more people getting nailed.
Blood testing is not new and not done casually. It’s done at a medical center, and takes money and time. Couper said 1,000 to 1,100 drivers were tested last year statewide, with the median result slightly below 5 nanograms. About one-third also tested positive for alcohol.
If those numbers stay constant in 2013, it would mean that about 500 people tested for marijuana will have a much harder time defending themselves in court against a DUI charge than before I-502 became law. It’s possible that many of these are egregious cases where the DUI is deserved. But it’s also possible that many of them involve innocent medical marijuana patients being harassed. At this point, without more specific numbers, it’s not clear how much of each case we’re dealing with. And assurances from the police that they’ll only go after impaired folks requires a lot of skepticism given the history of DUI enforcement. What’s promising is that this issue has been generating a lot of media attention and that we’ll hopefully be able to highlight any cases where people get trapped in a truly unfair prosecution.
Going back to the first set of questions above, how much is 5ng/ml, and what level of impairment does that really imply? Kiro7 recently aired an investigative report where they took 3 volunteers, had them smoke a popular and potent strain of marijuana, and let them drive around on a closed course. The video is here:
There are a couple of takeaways from this, but the main one is that even at 4, 5, and 7 times the new 5ng/ml legal limit, these volunteers drove fine. This was after consuming .3g. Of course, once they started smoking more than what people normally smoke in a sitting, their abilities tailed off.
Another key point is that even after these volunteers smoked themselves silly on nearly a gram of high quality marijuana and were driving like complete idiots, they all knew full well they were too stoned to drive (even the medical marijuana patient who was a heavy user). This is one of the main differences between alcohol and pot. People who drink too much alcohol become uninhibited along with their impairment, while marijuana users often become timid and cautious (although it was interesting to see that the medical marijuana user was a bit of an exception once they let her get behind the wheel). This is why alcohol-related reckless driving deaths are a frequent occurrence while it’s difficult to find too many instances of them with stoned drivers, even though impairment can occur from the over-consumption of each drug. People who are too stoned to drive often become reluctant to do it, and even if they do, they tend to drive really slow. People who are too drunk to drive often disregard the risks and drive very aggressively.
I’ve written in the past (sadly, the old Reload site is retired) about my own history with marijuana and driving, but didn’t discuss it much during the DUI debates of the I-502 campaign. My main reluctance has always been that it’s a difficult subject that generates mostly gut-level responses that don’t get us anywhere. This exercise provides enough data and visual evidence to at least begin discussing it rationally.
To recap, in my mid-20s for about 2 years, I smoked a small amount of pot at the beginning of nearly every drive I took (except for morning commutes, of course). There were two reasons for this. One, I was doing the hellish 520 commute from Seattle to my job at Microsoft and basically inched home at 2mph every day. And two, I’m a naturally fast driver and I found that pot would make me calmer and more relaxed as I drove. By that point, I’d already gotten somewhere around 7 or 8 speeding tickets in my life and was sick and tired of getting pulled over. Taking a hit off of a one-hitter made it far easier for me to obey the speed limits. In those two years, I was never pulled over for speeding – or for anything else – while stoned.
A one-hitter is a small smoking pipe, often made to look like a cigarette. Compared to what the volunteers in the Kiro7 experiment initially consumed, it probably only held about 1/3 of that, maybe .1g. I’d been wondering if the small amounts I was consuming in those days would even put me over the 5ng/ml limit. Looking at the data shown in the video, it probably was, but maybe not by a lot and probably for not very long.
From a safety standpoint, how safe this was is a matter of perspective and an interesting paradox. I always recognized two drawbacks to this. One, my navigational skills declined somewhat, so in the rare case where I was going somewhere new and was concerned I might get lost, I wouldn’t smoke. Two, my ability to react quickly and intelligently in the face of an emergency was also lessened. Thankfully, this never happened.
But to the outside observer, I was clearly a safer driver when I was stoned. Instead of being the guy weaving through traffic at 80 on I-5, I became the guy driving 55-60 in the right lane listening to some Percy Hill with a big fucking smile on my face. In my normal sober driving mode, I know I can drive safely at those high speeds, but to other drivers, I probably scare the shit out of some of them. And I draw the attention of the police, who like to give me very expensive speeding tickets.
After two years of this, I finally said “fuck it”, sold my car, and started taking public transportation for a little over 7 years. In 2010, after moving out to the suburbs, I once again have a car, but no longer smoke pot, so I have a radar detector in my Prius as I once again weave through rush hour traffic on I-5.
The rationale behind the inclusion of DUI language in I-502 was always clear, even if the result in Colorado showed that it probably wasn’t necessary to win at the ballot box. But the political implications of having drug law reformers concede too much on this point continue to worry me. Other states are considering and even implementing proposals far worse than what we ended up with here. And when there’s an unchallenged notion that stoned driving and drunk driving are the same, it’s difficult to avoid any of these outcomes.
The point of my story wasn’t to argue that stoned driving is good or bad, but to recognize that the issue is a lot more complicated than many people initially assume. From a regulatory standpoint, doing things that have worked or been accepted for drunk driving may not be the correct approach at all for stoned driving.
I’m not thrilled with Publicola’s “Isn’t It Weird That…” segment as a segment. I’d prefer they do straight reporting rather than shoehorn some (often supposed) hypocrisy into a post that doesn’t need it. But the actual reporting in this piece is worthwhile.
No statewide tax measure can pass without Seattle’s support, yet the proposal state house transportation director Judy Clibborn announced yesterday included zero dollars for the new 520 bridge (whose west side remains unfunded) and zero dollars for the new Alaskan Way tunnel (whose estimated revenue from tolls has been slashed from $400 million to just $165 million)?
It’s disgraceful that we’re having this conversation while even the barest discussion of raising revenue for education or social services is verboten, but it is the conversation we’re having. And I want to support this, I do. A car tab would probably be the most progressive piece of taxation in the state, the backlog is real, and the need to invest in our infrastructure is real.
But the need is real in Seattle too. At a certain point, Seattle isn’t going to be a piggy bank for the rest of the state unless they throw us a bone every once in a while.
Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan, in a fundraising letter for his anti-tax efforts, called Washington Gov. Jay Inslee “a lying whore.”
Fagan, and his co-lying whores, accused Gov. Jay Inslee (D) of lying about vetoing “any tax increase”:
“Candidate Inslee repeatedly promised to veto any tax increase. He said no way to higher transportation taxes in 2013….What a lying whore he turned out to be. In recent weeks, he’s made it clear he’ll sign any tax increase the Legislature unilaterally imposes.”
Holy shit…there are a couple of lies in this brief excerpt alone!
Prior to accusing someone of lying about some action (like not vetoing a tax increase) one really ought to wait until they take the action that contradicts their words. Inslee has not signed any tax increases into law. It is possible that Fagan is a victim of childhood lead consumption and, therefore, doesn’t have the IQ to really understand this distinction (if so, I’d blame his father). However given that two other people signed the letter—his father, Jack Fagan, and admitted liar and initiative whore, Tim “Biggest Lie of My Life” Eyman, it seems more likely at least one of them was aware that Inslee has taken no such contrary action.
Secondly, Inslee did not promise to veto “any tax increase.” This is so easily debunked, that even The Seattle Times gets a piece of the action of making liars out of the Fagans and Eyman:
While running against GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna last year, Inslee said, “I would veto anything that heads the wrong direction and the wrong direction is new taxes in the state of Washington.”
However, Inslee never ruled out increasing taxes for transportation and did say he supports sending a tax measure to the ballot to raise money for transportation.
As expected, Washington State’s House Committee on Public Safety voted this morning to approve House Bill 1661, moving it towards a full House vote. The bill would allow those convicted of a cannabis possession misdemeanor – up to 40 grams for those 18 and older – to have it removed from their record. The committee voted 6-5 in favor of the bill.
The primary sponsor of the measure, Rep. Fitzgibbon, says the chances are “really good” that it will pass the House. Newly elected Governor Jay Inslee hasn’t stated his position on the bill, but it would be unlikely for him to veto such legislation. Its fate in the Republican-controlled Senate is less than certain, but its passage isn’t an impossibility, especially considering that the measure has several Republican sponsors.
Sounds like a good idea in the wake of our passing I-502. It was illegal then, but it was also unjust. Since the people of Washington recognized that, it’s time to fix the problem for people who got caught up in the system before it got fixed.
So if you’d like to contact your legislators, you can find them here. If you want to ask the members of the Senate Law and Justice Committee to pass this, you can find them here. Something tells me that Pam Roach* will be tough to get but you can at least try with her and the rest of the GOP members.
If Inslee isn’t sure you can contact his office here. Or, I guess you could just ask him to pardon those people. It’s probably better for the bill to pass because it sets up a system, but if it doesn’t pass, that would be better than nothing.
- Taking lefty radio off the air in Seattle and replacing it with sports talk in an already saturated sports talk market isn’t working. Switch back to lefty talk. Although this time, maybe get some local people.
“It’s good enough for God. He gave us a commandment that said, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness.’”
-Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, arguing for her bill that calls for discipline against state employees deemed to have lied.
I, for one, can’t wait for the no coveting by state employees law next. And for that matter why only apply it to state employees if you think you’re doing God’s work? Why not have a Deuteronomy 23:19 law and outlaw interest?
“You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest.
I mean that might be kind of tough for Pam Roach who just today voted (with I think all the R’s and several D’s, but that’s just a quick tally in my head since the website doesn’t break it down by party) to make it easier for payday lenders. As Senator Nelson explains in a press release:
In 2009, we passed payday lending reform. It put safeguards on a predatory lending product, allowing borrowers to make reasonable payments and not end up buried in high-interest loans.
But the payday industry is back, marketing this new consumer installment loan as having a ‘36 percent interest rate.’ In reality these loans include massive fees and penalties that take the rate as high as 220 percent. As a former banker, I’m confident that if a money lender can’t make a profit at 45 percent interest, as allowed in existing law, they have a failed business model.
As a legislator, I am shocked that a majority of my colleagues in the Senate voted to sidestep effective protections for Washington families and instead put high-interest lenders back in charge of people’s lives.
You know, like God intended.
Look, I don’t think the Bible, or any other holy text, is a particularly good guide for legislating. We’re a secular democracy. To say nothing of what version to use, or what interpretation? But if Pam Roach thinks her lashing out at state workers is God’s work instead of the business of a diverse group of people who swore an oath to two inherently secular documents (the US and state constitutions) then we can judge her by her own standards on the rest of her actions in the legislature.
The proposal, from House Transportation Committee Chairman Judy Clibborn, will divide the money between new projects and maintenance and eventually raise the state’s gas tax by a total of 10 cents.
Gov. Jay Inslee, who has said he wants a transportation package that would both build new projects and fix some of its crumbling infrastructure, refused to endorse it Tuesday, saying only that it is “a good start on that discussion.”
The gas tax should be raised from time to time. And dedicating a portion of the increase to maintenance makes sense. Still, we refuse even to close the loopholes on taxes on private jets owners or out of state banks to help the most vulnerable in society, let alone real tax reform. I find it difficult in that situation to get behind a tax to serve only people who can afford a car.