Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. During a hearing at the city council's public safety committee yesterday about legislation that would regulate the Seattle Police Department's use of unmanned drones (11 people testified; all opposed drones), committee chair Bruce Harrell, who's sponsoring the legislation, sounded a bit like state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36, Ballard).

He wanted to know if the term "unmanned" was sexist? Noting that the state legislature is considering bills that would eliminate gender-specific language (terms like "fireman" and the use of "him" and "he" as a default), Harrell said, "There's some controversy in Olympia. ... They're trying to take out all gender references, and I wonder if we're doing exactly what they're trying to prevent."

After a staffer, smirking slightly, told Harrell the city could probably call the drones "anything you like," he suggested that "unattended aircraft" might be a more appropriate term.

2. Speaking of interesting back and forths in committee hearings: Yesterday in Olympia in state Sen. Steve Litzow's (R-41, Mercer Island) K-12 Education Committee, state Sen. Andy Billig (D-3, Spokane) accused Litzow of cutting and pasting language from a Democratic-sponsored bill (Sen. Christine Rolfes', D-23, Bainbridge Island, bill that would reform high school suspension and expulsion guidelines to help get kids back into school)—and putting it into Litzow's own bill.

Billig said it was a subterfuge to give education reform a Republican brand rather than giving credit to Democrats:

It sets a bad precedent in this committee and in this senate when we act so partisanly to not allow a bill to pass because it has a Democratic name on it. I heard early in this session from the Republican majority about the bipartisanship that they were seeking to foster, and this maneuver is the opposite of that bipartisan rhetoric. ... One way to perpetuate the myth [that Democrats aren't the party of reform] is to not allow Democratic reform and funding bills to come up for a vote.

Both bills had public hearings last week, but it was Litzow's bill that moved forward yesterday while Rolfes' went nowhere. The bills did have identical language about putting limits on suspension and expulsion with an emphasis on reintegration. Rolfes' bill, however, included a long section about data collection on absenteeism to get at underlying problems that was not in Litzow's bill.

Litzow responded to Billig's accusation—calling it a "petty reading"—and gladly admitted that he'd worked with Rolfes on the bill and that identicial language showed up in a Democratic house bill, saying there was no conspiracy to undermine Democratic input. Rolfes thanked Billig for his comments, but said she had worked with Litzow and supported his bill.

Litzow has a separate bill that deals with Rolfes' data collection issue. Depening on your POV, that either confirms or undermines Billig's theory that Litzow is ignoring Democratic input and legislation.

Watch the exchange here:

3. Isn't it weird that ... the Republicans in the legislature are getting pretty righteous this session about honoring the voters' will—in anticipation of a State Supreme Court ruling throwing out state law that mandates a two-thirds vote of the legislature to approve taxes, the Republicans are trying to establish the law in the state constitution—but they're simultaneously proposing legislation to offer a privatized option for workers' compensation?

Sen. John Braun (R-20, Centralia) called for a privatized option yesterday: “We are merely trying to give employers a choice. We keep hearing from constituents from across the political spectrum that this monopolistic system is not working."

But voters rejected that option, soundly—59.09 to 40.91—in 2010.