1. In a somewhat surprising twist (and a victory for President Obama?), Washington state's four House Republicans voted on New Year's Day for a tax deal that temporarily averts the so-called "fiscal cliff," a package of automatic tax increases and spending hikes that would have gone into effect if federal lawmakers failed to reach a deal.
Ignoring their signed pledges not to raise taxes, the four Republicans voted for a small tax increase on the very richest Americans (individuals making more than $400,000 for and couples making more than $450,000), while vowing that they would not accept any further revenue increases when Congress comes back to deal with the automatic spending cuts in two months.
One, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, told the Seattle Times that she technically voted to lower taxes, because all the Bush-era tax cuts, including those on the middle class, expired December 31. (Jaime Herrera Beutler, the Republican Congresswoman from Southwest Washington, gave a similar explanation to the Columbian.)"People in the private sector don’t write business plans for one year, but for three years or five years.”
2. Meanwhile, sounding like the only grownup in the room, newly elected Rep. Suzan DelBene told the PI.com that unlike Congress, private businesses have to budget for several years at a time, forcing them to craft "coherent, long-term policy."
"People in the private sector don’t write business plans for one year, but for three years or five years,” DelBene said.
In contrast, she said, Congress tends to "do the easy thing, the quick thing," passing a one-year extension of the farm bill, a two-month stopgap bill to address the fiscal cliff, and drastically scaled-back Hurricane Sandy relief.
DelBene worked as a manager at Microsoft and founded drugstore.com before she was elected to Congress last year.
3. Two of Washington state's Democratic Congressmen, Adam Smith (D-7) and Jim McDermott (D-8), broke ranks and voted against the deal, the News Tribune reports, because it left too many Bush-era tax cuts intact and did not address the issue of looming spending cuts.
4. Washington State Wire blogger Erik Smith has a long piece laying out the issues surrounding, and the coming political battle over, I-522, which would require food companies to label genetically modified products.
Labeling proponents argue that consumers have the right to know what they're eating, and that monoculture GMO crops like "Roundup Ready" corn could lead to massive crop failure (and have already tainted non-GMO crops); GMO fans like Smith focus on studies showing that GMOs are no less nutritious than other crops—which, GMO opponents might argue, isn't really the point.
5. Nearly 10,000 Washington state couples in domestic partnerships face a tough decision in June 2014: Get married or call it quits? That, the Everett Herald reports, is because all domestic partnerships will automatically convert to marriages once the new gay-marriage law goes into effect, unless the couple takes active steps to dissolve their partnership. So far, 624 couples have ended their domestic partnerships, the Herald reports.
6. And our favorite brand-new blog: No Spandex Required, a blog about biking and living in Seattle by an Orthodox Jewish woman who commutes from the Rainier Valley to the Central District.