Midday Scan: Wednesday's top stories around the region

In the news today: An unexpected Seattle-splitting redistricting proposal, D.C. Republicans' petty punishment of the National Labor Relations Board, and Montana's (slightly delayed) Roosevelt backlash.

Sen. Slade Gorton's proposed re-districting plan: no room in the 11th for Hasegawa

Sen. Slade Gorton's proposed re-districting plan: no room in the 11th for Hasegawa Washington State Redistricting Committee

Political junkies on Facebook began to exhibit the shakes early in the day. "C'mon Redistricting Commission, MAPS, I need online MAPS, damn you!" one friend wrote yesterday morning. Cyber commiseration, however, is a poor antidote for lines on a political map. The fix came in early afternoon and, as Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times writes, some of the recommendations of the bipartisan Washington Redistricting Commission were unexpected.

In particular, the push for a majority-minority district. "Three of the four voting members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission endorsed the concept, drawing variations of a district that would pair parts of southeast Seattle with ethnically diverse South King County cities including Renton, Kent and SeaTac," Brunner writes. The proposed majority-minority seat would cover an area with a large Asian, Latino, and African-American population. It might also have the curious effect of curtailing Seattle's power by splitting the city in two and extending Rep. Jim McDermott's seat into the more conservative-leaning suburbs. As Chris Grygiel of the Seattlepi.com reports, that could play into Republican hands, while also placating activists who labored hard for a majority-minority seat.

And what of former Sen. Slade Gorton's idea of a gargantuan rural district that would extend from the San Juans, across the Cascades, and all the way to Ferry County? Let the political musical chairs begin.   

One of the most effective ways to punish a federal watchdog is to float a bill in the U.S. Congress. (Consider as well recent efforts to neutralize the Environmental Protection Agency by simply getting rid of it). The National Labor Relations Board's actions against Boeing for allegedly breaching labor laws by opening its new 787 production line in South Carolina — a right-to-work state — has prompted Republican lawmakers to introduce a bill that would effectively neuter the NLRB.

As Sam Hananel of the AP writes, "House Republicans, angry over the government's labor dispute with Boeing Co., are taking up a bill that would prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from ordering any company to close plants or relocate workers, even if a company flouts labor laws."

The political calculus is instructive: The bill will inevitably get sandbagged in committee or, if it manages to pass the House, will be nixed in the Senate or vetoed by President Obama. So what's the end game? Even symbolic, trial-balloon bills generate notice. The Republican bill may have zero impact on the Boeing case, but it could have a chilling effect on future NLRB actions.       

The chilling-effect MO could also be the animating force behind Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg's bill to undo Teddy Roosevelt's 1906 Antiquities Act. The act, which allows the president to designate historically or environmentally sensitive federal lands as U.S. monuments, has always been controversial in libertarian-leaning parts of the West. One regional example: In 2000 at the urging of then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, President Clinton created the 194,000-acre Hanford Reach National Monument.  

As King 5's Gary Chittim reports, "Critics, particularly in Western States where public lands are used for grazing, logging, and mining, have called it an economy-killing designation that puts the interests of outside environmental groups over local communities." (This is where Midday Scan is vulnerable to proffer a Joel Connelly-esque history lesson on the GOP's once-celebrated conservation heritage). It's a federal-overreach issue that plays well in the rural West. Rehberg is running for the U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Democrat Jon Tester.  

Bill Gates is now an avatar of clean-energy innovation, just as the subject has been losing its bipartisan edge. Gates, a member of the American Energy Innovation Council, spoke on Capitol Hill yesterday, advocating more federal investment in clean-energy development and research. Ben Geman of The Hill writes that the Gates's initiative will require a herculean effort. "They're pushing for wider investment at a time when Republicans are pushing to cut spending as far as they can — and cutting the deficit is front and center."


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