Today's winners are minorities, youth, and military personnel.  

What do minority voters, minority students, and young military personnel have in common? The Democratic house got their back in Olympia today. 

Following up its vote on the opening day of the session two weeks ago—when they passed the DREAM Act, giving children of undocumented immigrants the right to state college aid—the Democrats passed another priority bill for Latinos: The Voting Rights Act.

The VRA gives minority voters the right to switch to district-based voting in local elections if they can show that they've been frozen out of electoral politics thanks to discrimination at the polls. Example A is in Yakima, where Latino/a voters make up more than 40 percent of voting population, but don't have a single seat on the seven-member city council. 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-1, Bothell) passed this morning 53-43. (The VRA also passed last year, but stalled in the Republican-dominated senate.)

Speaking of the DREAM Act, house sponsor Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-11, Renton), taking a trump card away from the GOP, has added military personnel to the list of people who he believes should have better access to college aid.

Two groups of people—state kids who join the military and bounce all over the country (and world), and out-of-state kids who move here for the military (Ft. Lewis, for example), will no longer have to wait a year to get residency. The change will immediately qualify them for in-state tuition. (Currently, they have to wait for a year). "If someone moves here and they're stationed at Ft. Lewis and they love it here and want to stay and go to school," Hudgins says, "we want them. We want their talent."

And finally,  and we'll quote the get-out-the-youth-vote Washington Bus' Twitter feed on this one: "Woohoo!" and "Bam!"

The group was cheering Rep. Steve Bergquist's (D-11, Renton) bill which allows 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote when their getting their driver's licenses.

The bill passed the house today, 54-42. 

Today's loser: Big outdoor advertising companies. 

Technically, city law bans "off-premises" ads on the sides of buildings—ads for products or services that aren't available in the buildings where they're advertised. (If you don't offer Rolexes in your building, you aren't supposed to allow Rolex to put a billboard on your wall). On-premises signs—a McDonald's ad on the side of a McDonald's, say—are allowed.

In practice, though, such questionable "off-premises" ads are common—all a company has to do is offer a coupon for whatever it's selling (say, a Starbucks coupon on a building in SoDo adorned with a a massive Starbucks ad, or an Alaska Airlines discount in a Belltown building with a big Alaska Airlines billboard on the side) and they have been, historically, exempted from such strictures. 

No more, says city attorney Pete Holmes. He's suing a national outdoor ad company called Total Outdoor, charging that the company is "flagrantly violating" the city's sign code." The suit charges that four of Total Outdoor's signs—two downtown, one on lower Queen Anne, and one in South Lake Union—are illegal. "

“Total Outdoor and its partners have hauled in money by violating the law," city attorney Pete Holmes, who was out of town and unavailable for comment, said in a statement. "It’s long past time for them to stop.”

Council member Sally Clark, who has been pursuing illegal off-premises advertisers for several years, says the council is moving separately to adopt new regulations on off-premises ads—including higher fines and restrictions on "gift cards" that allow building owners to claim their retail tenants are somehow related to the companies that advertise on their exterior walls—with a public hearing scheduled for February 20 and a vote teed up for March 20. 

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