1. State Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill) passed historic gay marriage legislation last night 28-21 with four Republican votes. The Democrats have a 27-22 advantage in the senate. Three Democrats voted against Murray's bill, which allows gay couples to obtain civil marriage, with an exemption allowing religious institutions to refuse to perform gay marriage ceremonies. (The exemption also protects religious institutions from lawsuits.)
Though it was a notably cordial debate (and even humorous, thanks to Sen. Margarita Prentice's crack-up closing line thanking opponents for their "sincerity, ... but I think we've just about wrapped it up"), there were a couple of unfriendly amendments, including two Republican amendments that would have broadened the exemptions to include businesses that don't want to serve gay wedding couples and one that would have allowed religious adoption agencies to discriminate against gay married couples. Both amendments failed.[pullquote]Anti-gay rights groups have pledged to collect signatures to repeal the law.[/pullquote]
Democratic Sen. Brian Hatfield (D-19) also proposed a "referendum" amendment that would have sent the legislation to a public vote. It also failed. Sen. Hatfield ended up voting for the final bill without the referendum clause. The legislation is likely to end up on the ballot, though, because anti-gay rights groups have pledged to collect signatures to repeal the law.
The house is expected to take up the legislation next week where it is likely to pass easily. Gov. Chris Gregoire has five days to sign it, but it wouldn't take effect for 90 days---by which time opponents are likely to have filed their referendum, putting the law on hold until it's decided at the ballot in November.
2. In the empty senate chamber about a half hour after the vote, Murray's desk was adorned with a couple of victory mementos. Next to his copy of the red senate rules book (which kind of looks like a bible), Murray had left a copy of the official roll call from the vote behind along with a gift- wrapped package from Republican Sen. Cheryl Pflug (R-5, Maple Valley), one of the four Republicans who gave Murray's bill the decisive edge.
Looking much like a wedding present, Pflug got Murray some fancy French tea—"equali-tea" she jokes—from a company called Mariage Freres (the Marriage Brothers).
Pflug, along with Sen. Steve Litzow (D-41, Mercer Island)—one of the four Republicans who voted for Murray's bill—showed up at the packed house party a few blocks away from the capitol building after the vote, where they got raucous applause and, along with everybody else, plastic cups filled with champagne.
3. Environmental and pro-transit groups went down to Olympia earlier this week for Transportation Advocacy Day, a day when alternative-transportation advocates lobby legislators for smart transportation choices.
In general, TCC field director Andrew Austin says, the lobbying day was pretty uneventful, with about 200 folks heading down to lobby for bills that would include public health in the state's transportation goals, make it easier for cities to lower speed limits, allow people to share cars outside of large car sharing companies, and allow car insurance companies to base premiums on the number of miles a person actually drives.
4. Seattle finance director Glen Lee met with representatives from the state's Department of Revenue earlier this week, but said he was "not prepared to say" anything on the record about the progress of discussions between the city and state on a controversial business and occupation (B&O) tax "streamlining" proposal, under which the state would take over all responsibility for collecting B&O taxes imposed by cities.
Lee has estimated that the proposal could cost the city up to $43 million from lost audit fees, penalties from businesses that have failed to pay their taxes, and a 1 percent administration fee that would go directly to the state. The state has argued that the city is overestimating the negative impact of the change, and underestimated the positive impacts, including the fact that companies that are headquartered outside a city but do business inside the city would have to pay city B&O taxes under the proposal.
5. A pair of education reform bills—one that would define teacher evaluations (tying them to student growth) and another that would have established charter schools—died in committee yesterday (this week is policy cutoff). But watch for Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-37, S. Seattle) to continue to push a limited version of his charter bill, perhaps with a pilot project in his own south Seattle district.