Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. Despite the big loss for gun control advocates when the Democratic state house couldn't come up with enough votes to pass the universal background checks bill last week, they did send some gun control bills to the senate.

Two were sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-45, Kirkland). One prohibits anyone under a restraining order, no-contact order, or a sexual assault restraining order from having a gun. It also makes them give up guns if they already own them. The bill passed 61-37.

A companion Goodman bill broadens the definition of stalking to make more people subject to the restraining order legislation.

Both bills are up for hearings in the Republican-controlled senate next week.

2. Though not quite as over-the-top as what Fizz thinks of as a reverse offset bill that would have amended voter-approved renewable energy standards by allowing coal to count toward renewable-energy compliance (that bill never made it to the senate floor), a companion bill sponsored by Sen. John Braun (R-20, Centralia) did. And it's getting a hearing in the house environment committee this morning.

The bill would let utilities off the hook from meeting voter-approved renewable energy goals if, while not meeting the goals, they bought coal. Braun's bill (he also sponsored the reverse offset bill) would let utilities off the hook for meeting renewable energy goals if the utility didn't increase its overall electricity load (the amount of electricity customers use) for three years, spent one percent of its revenue trying to meet the goals, and didn't buy any nonrenewable sources—except for coal from Centralia's coal-powered TransAlta plant.

The bill passed the Senate 38-11, with a crew of environmentalists such as Sens. Andy Billig (D-3, Spokane) and Nick Harper (D-38, Everett) and Seattle Sens. David Frockt (D-46), Ed Murray (D-43), Sharon Nelson (D-34), and Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36) voting 'No.'

Proponents of the bill, such as Sen. Braun, TransAlta, and Industrial Customers of NW Utilities, argued during the senate hearing last month that the legislation would provide a stable transition for Centralia's TransAlta coal-powered electricity plant, which the legislature has mandated must phase out coal by 2025.

The plant, they noted, employs 300 people with an average annual pay of $85,000 in a county with an average annual pay of $30,000. Lewis County, proponents argued, need to keep the facility operating and Braun's legislation could help it attract more buyers for its coal-fired power.

At the same hearing, renewable energy advocates pointed out that Initiative 937, the 2006 voter-approved measure, was designed to promote investments in renewable power, not coal power. The bill, they said, would allow utilities to buy coal power and still remain compliant with I-937, which is contrary to the intent of I-937.

3. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's austerity budget—including the infamous Medicare voucher system—passed the house this morning along party lines.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the Senate budget chair (and thus Ryan's opposite in the Senate), immediately condemned it:

“I am disappointed that instead of moving toward compromise and a truly balanced approach to tackling our economic and fiscal challenges, House Republicans decided to double down on the failed policies that the American people rejected just a few months ago. The pro-growth budget being debated in the Senate today offers a responsible path toward a balanced and bipartisan budget deal, and I am hopeful that Republicans will now be ready to join us at the table so we can come to an agreement that works for middle class families and the economy.”


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