Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. This item has been corrected to note that the parental notification requirement would only apply to women under the age of 18. 

State Sen. Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver), who won by a margin of just 74 votes, has proposed a bill that would require minors to receive permission from a parent or legal guardian before obtaining an abortion.

Benton's bill, SB 5156, would stipulate that "A person must not perform an abortion upon a pregnant woman—defined as a minor or someone whom a judge has deemed "incompetent"—"unless that person has given at least forty-eight hours actual notice to one parent or the legal guardian of the pregnant woman of his or her intention to perform the abortion." 

The bill would also redefine abortion as constituting "the death ... of an unborn child," and refers to a woman seeking an abortion as "a female."

Arch-conservative Benton, perhaps over-excited about the Republican takeover, has come out of the gate on a tear this session proposing bills to kill light rail, track immigrants, and undermine the Growth Management Act by tying GMA regulations to anti-U.N. conspiracy theories.

Benton's flurry of hyperconservative proposals undermine the new "Majority Coalition Caucus"' supposed bipartisan approach; the caucus' leader, Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina), had promised no rollback on social issues. His coup colleague, Republican leader Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-9, Ritzville), has noted that any legislator can propose any legislation they want and Sen. Tom has added that there's a check: "It's up to the chairs," he told PubliCola.

While liberal voters are pushing the state legislature to take up gun control this session, the liberal ACLU says one of the main proposals coming out of the Democratic house is "disturbing."

But just as we noted that Benton's quirky 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), Benton's anti-abortion bill, also co-sponsored by Padden, has been referred to Padden's committee as well.

2. While liberal voters are pushing the state legislature to take up gun control this session, the liberal ACLU says one of the main proposals coming out of the Democratic house, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Seattle), is "disturbing" because it takes away due process for the mentally ill.

Rep. Pedersen's bill would change the civil commitment process so that people who were acquitted in criminal trials due to incompetence could be automatically put into a state hospital for evaluation, taking their fate out of the legal system. Currently, the person is first released to their family and there's a process to have them committed. 

The ACLU also complains that the bill's language "demonizes" the mentally ill, this "small class of individuals who commit repeated violent acts" and place the public "at grave risk."

Pedersen says there are too many examples of offenders who have been acquitted due to incompetence, are not put into a mental institution for evaluation, and then commit violent crimes.

3. As Niki reported in her weekly legislative preview yesterday, the state Office of Financial Management was presenting a report to the house Financial Committee yesterday on income, wealth and tax distribution throughout Washington. (The study found that in 2009, the most recent year for which there is data, nearly 55 percent of income in Washington went to the top 20 percent, while 1.6 percent of income went to the bottom 20 percent.)

A poetic highlight from yesterday's hearing:

Legislators were perplexed during OFM analyst Lorrie Brown's presentation when she displayed a slide showing that the lowest quintile of Washingtonians had "negative wealth."

She explained: "I don't have a pie chart because I couldn't figure out how to show a negative piece of pie."

4. And re: the giant news about the Sonics, check out yesterday morning's Fizz for our conflicted reaction