FREE BIRD, NOT JAIL BIRD
What: The Children's Alliance is still trying to reduce the amount of kids who get sent to the slammer over minor incidents such as a onetime schoolyard brawl or a fistfight at the mall. In doing so, it's also trying to save the taxpayers money. HB 1745, if it passes, will increase the number of juvenile offenders who would get community service or some other alternative punishment to jail. And if they mess up again, they're headed straight for the kiddie pen.
Who: Rep. Kathy Lambert, R-Redmond. (A now-defunct companion bill in the Senate was sponsored by Jeri Costa, D-Everett.)
Chances: Technically, the bill is dead. But it could save the state about $1 million, so when budget-wrangling time comes it may get resurrected.
I say: Don't get me wrong, spoiled bullies are like zits on the face of humanity and should be punished before they reach adulthood. But the object is to turn them into human beings, not monsters, and for isolated acts of childish behavior, jail time is not the answer.
ALWAYS COVER YOUR @$&
What: A little bit of right-wing paranoia returned to Olympia this session when some Republicans wanted to put everyone convicted of "indecent exposure" in jail for a year. The culprit bill is SB 5351. Under current law, the crime is a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of 90 days behind bars unless the victim is under 14, in which case the one-year incarceration is already the punishment.
Who: Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Kelso, with support from Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, and a few maverick Democrats.
Chances: It was a hot topic several weeks ago, but the subject has cooled now, and the bill probably won't see more action this year.
I say: Presumably the authors of this bill didn't mean for it to encompass amusing pranks like displaying one's buttocks in a windowsill, but as it's worded you could potentially serve time for that. Interestingly, one of the justifications for it is the unproven assertion that "indecent exposure is often a precursor to more serious sex crimes," according to a Senate bill report. If that were the case, I think half the people I went to college with must by now be depraved, oversexed lunatics.
What: Sometimes, when the Department of Health reviews hospitals' performances to renew their licenses, it comes across violations and scary mistakes the institutions have made. You and me, my friends, never get to know about these. If SB 5540 had passed, the public would have had a right to know what the DOH finds out.
Who: Sen. Alex Deccio, R-Yakima.
Chances: Comatose in the Rules Committee.
I say: I'm the type of person who won't get on an airplane because they won't let me see the pilot's report cards all the way back to first grade. When you put your life in someone else's hands, surely, surely, you should be able to get a little information about what that person has done.
YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BRYDON (AND YOU TOO, MIKE!)
When Charlie Brydon, an openly gay man, was recently confirmed to an appointment on the Liquor Control Board, it should have been unanimous. Interestingly, seven Republicans voted no, and the seven happened to include Val Stevens, R-Arlington; Don Benton, R-Vancouver; and Joseph Zarelli, R-Kelso. All three have at one time or another put their names on vitriolic bills attacking gays and lesbians, sex offenders, teenagers who are getting laid, and other citizens who Pat Robertson would probably say are bound for hell. It disgusted our own Sen. Mike Heavey, who pointed out that these lawmakers are living proof discrimination is "alive and well in Washington state." I probably would have applauded had I been there, but Sen. Alex Deccio, R-Yakima, didn't. Though he made it clear that he helped confirm Brydon, he censured Heavey for jumping to conclusions about the others' reasons for opposing the appointment. Sen. Heavey, I exonerate you!
OUR GAL VAL
Val Stevens, R-Arlington, a holdover from the Republican Revolution years, always provides us with food for thought. She's not interested in joining the proposed "Women's Caucus" because she believes that women's issues like access to oral contraceptives, the right to breast-feed in public, and increased protection against domestic violence aren't of any more interest to women than they are to men.
Is she a man in disguise?