1. Clearing the way for the legislature to raise taxes, the Democratic-controlled state House voted late yesterday 51-47 to suspend I-960, the voter-approved 2007 Tim Eyman initiative that requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. (The Senate suspended the 2007 voter-approved initiative last week).

Two Fizz footnotes on the vote:

A) Not all Democrats (they have a 61-37 advantage in the House) voted for the yay-on-taxes bill. Suburban Vancouver Rep. Deb Wallace (D-17)—who's running for U.S. Rep. Brian Baird's open seat in Southwest Washington—voted nay. (She also supported a GOP motion during the debate to postpone the vote.) On the Senate side, Vancouver Sen. Craig Pridemore (D-49), also going for Baird's seat, voted to suspend 960. Wallace has not returned a call for a comment.

Democratic Rep. Deb Wallace voted with the GOP against suspending I-960

Not surprisingly, GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera (R-18), the Republican state House member who's running for the Baird spot, voted against suspending  I-960.

Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera

B) The Democrats on the House side bucked their Senate cohorts by keeping one-part of I-960 in tact: A provision requiring public e-mail notices about tax increases proposals, including 10-year-out cost projections.

The Senate Democrats made a big point last week about getting rid of the provisions saying, for example, that 10-year-out budget analysis was unreliable info.

Governor Chris Gregoire released her budget plan yesterday including $500 million in new taxes.

2. There was a public hearing in Olympia yesterday on Seattle state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43) and Spokane Rep. Timm Ormbsy's (D-3) bill to triple the hazardous substance tax. (The voter-created tax, which is traditionally earmarked for storm water cleanup, hasn't been raised for over 20 years.)  Advocates for the tax, like Washington Conservation Voters and the Washington Environmental Council, have made the idea attractive to legislators this year by allowing the bulk of the money—the tax will raise about $225 million a year—to go to the general fund. (Over time, the money will once-again be earmarked specifically for storm water clean up.)

Oil industry lobbyist Dave Fisher says the near tripling of the tax would be devastating for the petroleum industry, (responsible for 83 percent of the tax,) as well as the agricultural sect, (due to fertilizer costs,) and motorists during what is already an incredibly lagging economy. “I think it’s important for people to understand that it is not only the petroleum industry that is impacted by the tax,” says Fisher.

Washington Environmental Council’s Policy Director Mo McBroom counters the idea that consumers will be heavily hit by the uptick in prices. Citing Department of Revenue’s data, McBroom claims an analysis of prices showed that an increase in prices due to the tax, “would not be distinguishable from the existing price fluctuations [in the market.]”

She claims the proposal would actually save taxpayers money. McBroom says the state is required to comply with federally mandated water pollution regulations, and if the money does not come from the tax increase on hazardous substances, it will have to come out of the storm water utility tax that all property owners pay. “If we don’t have a solution at the state level, and insure that the polluters are helping to pay for this, we could see up to a  75 percent increase in these taxes that everybody pays,” she says.

3. Legislation that would set limits on campaign contributions in city races made it out of the state Senate this week, beating the cutoff deadline for bills to make it out of their house of origin. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Darlene Fairley (D-32), would limit contributions in city council and mayoral races to $800. Currently, contributions to council and mayoral candidates in Seattle are limited to $700; however, in places like Bellevue, for example, there are no limits on campaign contributions.

In last year's Bellevue City Council campaigns, victorious candidates Don Davidson, an incumbent, and Kevin Wallace, a newcomer who ousted former council member Patsy Bonincontri, amassed a combined total of $34,500 in contributions  including big checks from the Eastside Business Alliance, the Bellevue Club, the Washington Association of Realtors, and light-rail opponent Kemper Freeman. The Freeman-backed slate is now pushing to move light rail away from downtown Bellevue, where Freeman owns millions of dollars' worth of property.

4. A majority of the City Council now appears inclined to choose a route for the First Hill streetcar that avoids 12th Avenue and extends north all the way to Aloha down Broadway, assuming Sound Transit can come up with the money, council sources say.

A group of Capitol Hill residents has argued that the streetcar on 12th Ave. would precipitate economic development there; however, others (including PubliCola) have argued that the Sound Transit board voted to place the streetcar on First Hill as compensation for eliminating the neighborhood’s light rail stop; that the 12th ave. route has the lowest ridership of any alternative; that First Hill has much more development potential than 12th Ave.; and that the 12th Ave. alignment would take significantly longer, and require people to walk significantly farther, than any other alignment.

5. The Seattle Human Rights Commission is calling on the city to revisit its contract with Olympic Security, which provides security at City Hall as well as in the downtown transit tunnel, where three Olympic guards stood by while a girl was brutally beaten in January. The guards pointed to a provision in their contract instructing them to refrain from physically intervening in assaults.

In a letter, the city commission noted that the security company's contract contains a similar provision. "The Commission has a responsibility to ensure that the Mayor, City Council, and the Seattle Police Department are working as hard as they can to make sure this kind of horrific attack never occurs again as uniformed security officers stand by," commission government affairs director Andrew Lewis said in a statement.

—Erica C. Barnett, Josh Feit, and Teodora Popescu

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