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Frank Chopp breaks radio silence

The speaker of the Washington House sits for an interview.
Speaker of the House Frank Chopp is indeed emerging from his news blackout. I had a one-on-one interview with him late Monday, April 2. Most of the interview focused on why he's put the kibosh on Sen. Brian Weinstein's Homeowner Bill of Rights legislation. I'm working on a story about this for public radio, which will air this week. But here's a preview: Weinstein, a fellow Democrat and freshman from Mercer Island, says Chopp is "acting like a dictator" and accuses the speaker of caving to the no-holds-barred Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW). Says Weinstein of Chopp: "I think that he has his big majority in the House, he wants to enlarge the majority, he wants more and more Democrats elected, but I can't tell why because he doesn't want to do anything with that majority." Them are fighting words, but Chopp isn't taking the bait. Chopp responds: "I wish he wouldn't say that. I think he's wrong and inaccurate." The speaker maintains Weinstein's bill needs more work over the interim: "I want to make sure that whatever we do in terms of affecting home construction is the right thing to do and doesn't have unintended consequences." Chopp clearly does not relish talking about this issue. What he is eager to talk about is the Democratic agenda and how it's moving right along. In our interview, Chopp told me Democrats are fulfilling promises to phase-in all-day kindergarten, spend millions on school construction, get help for kids failing the math portion of the WASL, and provide health insurance for poor children. Chopp adds: "We're very excited about the progress in the legislative session. Our priorities are focused in on education, healthcare, and jobs. We've taken significant steps toward achieving our agenda." By the way, a correction here. I mentioned in my previous posting that Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown is averaging a press availability once every other week. Her staff tells me that, in fact, she's only cancelled two of those weekly gatherings this legislative session. One was because of illness, the other because of legislative deadlines.

Austin Jenkins is the Olympia-based political reporter for Northwest News Network, a consortium of public radio stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. He is host of "Inside Olympia" on TVW, and he blogs at WALedge.com. You can e-mail him at ajenkins@kuow.com.


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