SOMETHING ABOUT MOMMY
What: This year welfare moms will have to start working outside the home when their babies are 3 months old. They have previously been allowed to stay home until their child's first birthday. SB 5163 will give mother and child a full year together until 2001.
Who: Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane
Chances: It's passed the Senate, but, as of press time, faced an uncertain fate in the House.
I say: You know the tune—middle- and upper-class mothers should stay home with babies to help their minds develop, but welfare moms should go to work regardless of their kids' age. Sen. Brown originally wanted to make the one- year provision permanent, but the GOP couldn't handle it. Republicans, when will you stop being hypocrites?
What: Known as the "Family Forestry" bill, SB 1281 helps small landowners (owning 15,000 acres or fewer) conserve habitat on their property by establishing the following: an office to help with technical assistance (planting trees, securing stream banks), tax credits if a property owner agrees not to allow development around streams, and a task force to help each landowner craft his own conservation plan.
Who: Rep. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma
Chances: Small landowners are nervous about it, and its chances of making it into the budget look slim.
I say: The concern is small landowners will make as much money as they can off their property before the feds step in to save the salmon. This bill would give such property owners the chance to make money off their land without destroying all of it. If they don't want this legislation, then give me a few thousand acres and I'll use it.
A STARTLING PROPOSAL
What: Sen. James Hargrove wants to amend the state constitution to make it harder to put initiatives on the ballot. SJR 8025 would amend the state constitution so that no more than a sixth of the total signatures on an initiative could come from any one of the state's nine congressional districts.
Who: Sen. James Hargrove, D-Hoquiam
I say: This is a sneaky way of trying to limit city dwellers' rights to sign initiatives. Hargrove admits he doesn't want petitioners to just "stand in front of the Kingdome" to get signatures. I would be livid if I went to sign an initiative and was told I couldn't because my neighbors had already done so. There are exactly 1,012,962 of us registered voters in King County. Each one of our 1,012,962 voices counts.
ABATE AND SWITCH
What: An uproar erupted over SB 5158, which would have enabled the police to shut down any house or business where a gang member might hang out, where people who look like gang members might hang out, or where people who look like they might be doing something gang members would do might hang out. A substitute bill replaced "gang activity" with "criminal activity" and defined the latter as "felonies and misdemeanors."
Who: Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, and, to the horror of his constituents, Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle
Chances: Kline finally killed it, substitute and all. He insists he only signed onto it because, as a sponsor, he thought it would be easier for him to kill it. At any rate, the issue is dead for now.
I say: I shouldn't have to say anything. It's silly and wrong to single out an individual for punishment because he associates with someone who might belong to a gang, or because he spends his time where someone else once committed a crime, or for any reason that does not pertain to a specific act of wrongdoing.
WINNER TAKES ALL
What: Under current law, if you challenge a bad land use decision and it goes all the way to the Court of Appeals (the third and final resort for these cases) and you lose, then you have to pay the city's or county's attorney fees. SB 5444 would change the law so that each party is responsible for its own attorney fees.
Who: Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle
Chances: So far, so good.
I say: Fronting the government's legal expenses is too high a price to pay for the right to challenge its authority.
Now that the number of right-wing wackos in the Legislature has diminished considerably, those who are left, who used to tie up the Legislature proposing mean-spirited laws, now can be accused of little more than misplaced hysteria. Their latest concerns:
Flopsy says: In a hearing for a bill to make it easier for women to breast-feed in public (Legis-Ledger, 2/4), Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, warned that women would be "flopping out on street corners."
Mopsy says: Commenting on a bill to require insurance companies to cover oral contraceptives (Legis-Ledger, 2/4), Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, predicted that we'd all start getting nasty diseases if this measure passed.
Cottontail says: Sen. Harold Hochstatter, RMoses Lake, informed us at a hearing on Rep. Ed Murray's Safe Schools bill (Legis-Ledger, 2/11) that he once took offense when he was propositioned by another man while hitchhiking. Presumably we're supposed to infer that it's OK to beat up gay kids because a truck driver once wanted in the senator's pants. I don't see the connection.
Want to gripe? Not to me, silly, but to the Legislature! Call legislators on their dime (which is actually yours) at 1-800-562-6000.