Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. The Democrats in Olympia fell short on gun control last night when Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Capitol Hill) conceded he didn't have the votes to pass his universal background check legislation. (Read last night's Jolt here.)

But Democrats suffered a couple of other, lower-profile but jarring losses earlier in the day on the senate side as well.

First, the rules committee quietly killed a bill that would have prevented court reporters from selling deposition transcripts and other legal documents to insurance companies at a discount while charging full price to insurance consumers; the bill would have also disallowed insurance companies from getting a sneak peek at pre-certified transcripts, a practice that bill sponsor Sen. Adam Kline (D-37, Southeast Seattle) complains gives insurance companies an advantage by allowing them to edit transcripts in advance.

The bill, which mainly has to do with the uncontroversial businesses of certifying court reporters, easily passed out of the law and justice committee last month with full bipartisan support—the Republican committee chair, Mike Padden (R-4, Spokane Valley) was a cosponsor with Kline. But when insurance lobbyists got word of the details about leveling the playing field with insurance consumers, they reportedly had it killed. The rules committee voted the bill down along partisan lines yesterday 13-7.

"If the insurance industry wants to preserve an injustice in the courts, they ask for it, and the Republicans don't ask any questions, they just say yes."—Sen. Adam Kline

Says Kline: "If the insurance industry wants to preserve an injustice in the courts, they ask for it, and the Republicans don't ask any questions, they just say yes."

Another bill the Republicans had fully backed, freshman Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher's (D-26, Gig Harbor) bill to prevent higher tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, also ran into last-minute problems, getting held on the floor calendar after Republicans in the transportation committee, including co-chair Sen. Curtis King (R-14, Yakima), voted it out with their full blessings.

The theory is that the GOP doesn't want Schlicher, who was recently appointed by the Democrats to replace former Sen. Derek Kilmer (the new U.S. Congressman from Tacoma), to have a solid legislative victory when he has to face voters for the first time this fall.

Sen. David Frockt (D-46, N. Seattle) tried a parliamentary move yesterday afternoon to have Shclicher's bill pulled from the calendar to actual senate floor, but the Republicans blocked him.

"Senator Schlicher is a new member, and he's going to have a tough race," Frockt says.  "I don’t know what they’re doing," he added when asked about the GOP's hardball politics. As for the bill, he said "It's completely non-controversial."

Indeed, the bill passed the transportation committee late last month with Republican Sens. King, Joe Fain (R-47, Kent), Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver), Sharon Brown (R-8, Kennewick), Doug Erickson (R-42, Ferndale), Mike Carrell (R-28, Lakewood), Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island) and GOP ally Tim Sheldon (D-35, Potlatch) all in favor.

Democrats were accused of some tacky politics too, though. The Washington State Wire reports that Frockt made his parliamentary move when a Republican, Sen. Jannea Holmquist-Newbry (R-13, Moses Lake), had just left the floor to nurse her new baby. Her absence gave the Democrats a momentary advantage, but she returned in time to shut down Frockt's move.

The good news for Democrats after yesterday's shellacking is that with the gun control bill out of the way, the house can get back to other priority legislation, including Rep. Zack Hudgin's (D-11, Tukwila) DREAM Act bill which gives kids of undocumented parents the right to college financial aid, which is expected to pass the house today before the latest cutoff.

2. Yesterday, the city council's transportation committee approved a proposal to expand the "home area" for Car2Go—the one-way Smartcar-sharing service—and to expand the number of cars Car2Go can have in its fleet to 500

Car2Go business development manager Walter Rosenkranz told the committee that since the company launched in Seattle last December, more than 18,000 people have signed up and are using the service between 6,000 and 8,000 times a week—more than three times as many had signed up during the first few months in either San Diego or Portland.

The highest ratio of users is in Capitol Hill and in Belltown, but "there were overwhelming requests to expand to West Seattle and South Seattle (as we've reported, cars tend to pile up right at the southern boundary of the home area, just north of the Mount Baker light rail station)"; the new service area will include both parts of the city.

Several grains of salt: The poll was commissioned by the Space Needle, which opposes taller buildings in South Lake Union because they might block some views.

3. A new poll by EMC Research finds that about half (49 percent) of voters say they oppose taller buildings in South Lake Union, with about 37 percent in support; and that more than three-quarters (76 percent) say they'd support lowering building heights and requiring larger setbacks for development in South Lake Union if it protected "important views." 

However, several grains of salt: The poll was commissioned by the Space Needle, which opposes taller buildings in South Lake Union because they might block some views of the building from Lake Union Park. (Views of the Space Needle are protected from many parks, but not Lake Union).

And the poll doesn't specify exactly how much shorter buildings would have to be, or how much larger setbacks from the street would have to be, in order to make the Space Needle visible from the park. 

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