Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. State Republican Party chair Kirby Wilbur wasted no time capitalizing on the Republicans' effective state senate majority—where two nominal Democrats joined with the Republican minority to form the "Majority Coalition Caucus"—sending out a fundraising appeal yesterday celebrating the Republicans' "victory" in the senate.  

"With Republicans now chairing the vital Ways and Means and K-12 committees, we can rest assured that there will be a no-new-taxes budget and vital education reforms coming in the very near future," Wilbur wrote. "However, keeping the majority won't come easy and it will certainly be one of the most expensive campaigns our state GOP has ever seen. ... We know the liberal machine will out raise us with money from angry special interests looking to return to the status quo, but you can help fight back!"

"We know the liberal machine will out raise us with money from angry special interests looking to return to the status quo, but you can help fight back!"The fundraising appeal asks for contributions from $10 to $100. 

2. A bill introduced by senate Republicans would require Washington state residents to prove they were in the country legally to get a driver's license or other state-issued ID.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver), who was reelected by a margin of just 74 votes in November, would also require the state to report all residents' immigration status to the secretary of state as well as state and local criminal justice agencies, raising the possibility that immigrants' ability to vote might be restricted.

In a statement, Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, W. Seattle) said, "The bills this majority has introduced would put Washington in a league with deeply conservative states like Alabama. On campaign restrictions, they open the floodgates for misuse of public office."

Rich Stolz, executive director of the immigrants' rights group OneAmerica, told Fizz, "Our state’s demographics are changing and a clear message was sent by Latino, [Asian/Pacific Islander], and immigrant voters last November: Democrats and Republicans need to work together to support policies that strengthen Washington’s growing immigrant communities, not divide us. This bill is not only divisive, but provides another pointless bureaucratic hassle, leading to longer lines at the DMV for everyone while making our roads less safe.”

3. Benton's bill was one of two that Nelson's Democratic colleague, Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-40, Orcas Island) noted in his floor speech yesterday against the Republican-powered coup. Ranker noted that despite new senate majority leader Sen. Rodney Tom's (D-48, Medina) pledge not to push a conservative social agenda, Tom's coalition was "rolling back environmental rules and disenfranchising voters."

On the environmental front, Ranker was referring to another Benton bill that says: "Washington ... may not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, or receive funds contracting services or giving financial aid to or from the nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations defined in Agenda 21."

"Washington ... may not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, or receive funds contracting services or giving financial aid to or from the nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations defined in Agenda 21."

Agenda 21 is a measure passed by the U.N. at the (prescient) landmark Rio conference in 1992 that called for a global effort to promote sustainability. It has become a centerpiece of anti-U.N. Tea Party conspiracy theories.

At a press conference after the senate floor action yesterday, Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-9, Ritzville), the Republican leader of the new Majority Coalition Caucus, said members could propose any bills they wanted. And Tom cautioned that it was "up to the chairs" to decide what bills would get heard.

Benton's U.N. bill has been referred to the Law and Justice Committee, which is being chaired by Benton's co-sponsor on the bill, Sen. Mike Padden (R-4, Spokane Valley).

The driver's license bill, though, has been referred to the Transportation Committee, which a Democrat, Sen. Tracey Eide (D-30, Federal Way), is co-chairing with Sen. Curtis King (R-14, Yakima). Eide has the power to prevent any bill from being heard.

4. Speaking of Sen. Schoesler and Sen. Ranker:

Ranker also used his floor speech to denounce the morning's invocation, which was given by Olympia pastor Jon Sanne—who had been selected by Schoesler.

Sanne's controversial speech asked God to "strengthen marriage as you ordained it for our good and your glory," which many Democrats interpreted as a condemnation of the gay marriage legislation they passed last year (and which voters subsequently approved at the polls.) In his speech criticizing the MCC's social agenda, Ranker said: "Even this morning's prayer invoked polarizing language."

The Majority Coalition Caucus leader, Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina) and Sen. Joe Fain (R-47, Auburn), both moderates, made a point of personally apologizing to gay rights leader and Democratic minority leader Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle) after Sanne's prayer.

In his closing remarks on the senate floor after the day's action, Murray acknowledged their apologies (though not by name) and assured all the senators that they were still invited to his wedding.