Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. Two thoughts about the upcoming local elections: 

• The uptick in chatter that former King County Executive Ron Sims plans to jump into the mayor's race is bumming us out. Not because we don't like Sims, but because he'd be the automatic frontrunner—and we're kinda loving the race we have now, with its five pseudo-frontrunners. 

• Are we hallucinating, or has Jan Drago run for Port Commission before? (Oh wait, was that Paige Miller?)

2. In addition to the continually amusing fact that the weekly Repbulican press conference in Olympia stars the house Republican minority leader, Rep. Richard DeBolt (R-20, Chehalis); the supposed senate majority leader Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina); plus, just to make things clear, senate Republican leader Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-9, Ritzville), here are two notable moments from yesterday's Republican press conference in Olympia:

"There's no guarantee they'll go to the floor."—Sen. Mark Schoesler• Pushed by several reporters about the increasing mania of the social agenda coming from senate Republicans, which is undermining Sen. Tom's pledge that handing the reins to the GOP was about the budget and not about  turning the clock back to the 1950s—Tom would say only that leadership has been "non-directive in letting committee chairs decide [what bills to hear]."

(He's said that before, which doesn't inspire much confidence, given that co-sponsors on some of archconservative Sen. Don Benton's (R-17, Vancouver) loopy bills, such as one that would prevent the U.N. from taking over Washington state—which was referred to the Law & Justice Committee—is being co-sponsored by the chair of the Law & Justice Committee. 

However, the really noteworthy part? Sen. Schoesler stepped in and, specifically answering a question about anti-choice bills, said sternly (and repeatedly): "There's no guarantee they'll go to the floor."

• Confronted with a plan from Democratic senators this week to put a two-year freeze on higher ed tuition increases by colleges (which would save the Guaranteed Education Tuition program that Tom has said he plans to kill), Tom—asked over and over if he supported a freeze— would not say.

3. Another note from the  Republicans' press conference: Rep. DeBolt, the Republican leader, dismissed Rep. Jamie Pedersen's (D-43, Capitol Hill) new proposal to close the gun show loophole with a universal background check bill as "sound bite" politics that didn't offer a real solution.

Fizz asked Pedersen about DeBolt's dismissal. For starters, he said: "I disagree that it's merely a sound bite. It's one small, but important step. There is broad agreement that people with felonies and significant mental illness shouldn't have access [to guns]—it's not defensible to say that mentally ill people or people with criminal records ought to be having easy access." 

Pedersen also had some news for DeBolt: He has two Republican co-sponsors on the bill (Reps. Mike Hope, R-44, Lake Stevens,  and Maureen Walsh, R-16, Walla Walla), and he's talked to "several other Republicans" and "after some quiet conversations with people, we may well have the votes to get it out of the house."

Earlier in the session, Pedersen, chair of the house Judiciary Committee, told Fizz he wasn't going to introduce a universal background check bill because there wasn't support for it, but yesterday he told us "it's fair to say there's been a shift," explaining that house members have been flooded with emails that are clearly not part of an organized campaign ("it was organic") from people saying "you have to do something about guns, please do something."

Pedersen says he now sees a "clear willingness" from Republicans to take action. Pedersen says his Republican colleagues have been clear that they will not consider an assault weapons ban or a ban on high round ammunition clips, but "it has not been the usual 'hell no' on background checks." 

4. Activists from Washington Community Action Network, Washington CAN!, staged a dodgeball protest at the downtown Wells Fargo yesterday to call attention to the fact that the big bank didn't pay any federal taxes during the Great Recession

Dodging taxes

What's a dodgeball protest? Watch here. Hint: Wells Fargo security moves in. 

5. Finally, another notable moment down in Olympia  yesterday. During the public hearing on Rep. Luis Moscoso's (D-1, Bothell) Washington Voting Rights Act bill to allow local districts—such as city councils and school boards— to switch to district-based voting to help minorities get seats in local government—cranky Republican Rep. Matt Manwaller (R-13, Ellensburg) tried to zing those darn liberal do-gooder carpetbaggers by asking slyly: "Does Seattle have any Asians on its city council?"

David Perez, an attorney from Seattle who was testifying in support of the bill, answered matter-of-factly: "Yes." (In addition to Seattle city council member Bruce Harrell, who's half Japanese-American and half African-American, the Seattle city council has a history of electing Asian-Americans (Martha Choe, Cheryl Chow)—as well as electing Norm Rice, an African-American mayor). Moscoso's bill requires minority communities to prove there's a history of "polarized voting" that disenfranchises minorities and Perez told Manweller that a case against Seattle would be dismissed as "frivolous."

Manwaller also wanted to know how you could prove there was polarized voting without asking everyone how they voted or just assuming Latinos vote for Latinos.

Toby Guevin, a lobbyist for OneAmerican, who was also testifying in favor of the bill, explained that there's hardboiled basic math—bivariate ecological regression (which overlays census data on precinct vote counts)— that has long been used to find out if a minority group's candidate of choice lost an election due to at-large voting.