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Midday Scan: Mini-mart liquor rears its head in Washington

Washington's new liquor scene sees the entre of mini-marts and gas stations. Meanwhile Rob McKenna flip-flops like a dying fish on women's reproductive rights, but lobbyists still put their money on him.

Rob McKenna

Rob McKenna Office of Attorney General

The state's highest-grossing liquor store, at 7th Avenue and Bell Street in downtown Seattle.

The state's highest-grossing liquor store, at 7th Avenue and Bell Street in downtown Seattle. Ronald Holden

Last fall the doomsayer opponents of Initiative 1183, Washington's liquor-privatization proposal, groused that the new law would make way for mini-marts and gas stations handling hooch (many small stores have a documented pattern of selling alchohol to minors). Nay, said the privatization boosters, there is a 10,000-square-foot minimum for new liquor stores. In fact, the alarmist kvetching may have had merit after all. (Doomsayers are killjoys, but they also grasp human nature.) 

Austin Jenkins writes in the Washington Ledge, "The liquor privatization measure passed last November with nearly 59 percent of the vote. Now it appears mini-mart and gas station operators have — in fact — found a way to get a piece of the liquor privatization action." Jenkins reviews some of the online auction winners and notes a number of gas station and mini-mart owners.

Are these simply scofflaw owners in the making? "A spokesman for the Liquor Control Board says it's perfectly legal for auction winners to remake the inside of a store. Until now, the general thought has been that former state stores would compete with larger stores by focusing on hard-to-get and specialty liquors. But clearly the convenience store model is also in play," Jenkins writes. 

Abortion is the third rail in Northwest politics. Parse your words and emphasize privacy and choice. Or else. Washington Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna is walking a rhetorical tightrope, underlining his support for women's health while also expressing concern regarding Washington's still-unpassed Reproductive Parity Act. Will voters absorb McKenna's legal niceties or glom to the broader, visceral question of reproductive rights? 

"Enactment of a first-in-the-nation Reproductive Parity Act by Washington would jeopardize health care money coming to the state from the 'other' Washington, according to Attorney General Rob McKenna," the Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly writes. "'I support existing Washington law which guarantees a woman’s access to health care insurance coverage,' the Republican gubernatorial candidate said in a statement. 'I will not support a change to that law which could put federal funding of women’s health care at risk,' McKenna added."

What's the hang-up? "The law would have required that all insurance plans in the state that cover maternity care also pay for abortions," Connelly writes. Conceivably that provision might contravene the federal Hyde-Weldon amendment which prohibits federal funding of abortions.  

If you're a lobbyist, chances are you're wagering that Rob McKenna will win in November. As Publicola's Erica Barnett writes, "In another Elway poll of lobbyists today (check out their grim assessment of the 2012 legislative session here) [sic], a strong majority — 58 percent — said they believed Republican Rob McKenna would win the gubernatorial election in November. Just 23 percent said they believed Democrat Jay Inslee would win."

Will the amiable Jay Inslee ever catch a break? (Lobbyists are deep-pocketed contributors, but they won't determine the election.) Inslee might consider purchasing a "Dewey Defeats Truman" poster for inspiration. Washington is a very blue state, and there are still months to go before election day.

The idea of tearing down the four lower Snake River dams to save endangered salmon runs is almost a political relic. Dam removal reached its apogee in August of 2000 when the Seattle City Council passed a high-handed resolution recommending as much. The fierce pushback from rural Washington counties underscored the council's arrogance — what were they thinking?

Now a recently retired U.S. District Judge is breathing new life into the issue, expressing his support for dam removal. EarthFix reports that Judge James Redden, "whose courtroom is in Portland, still speaks with a uniquely powerful voice on the issue; Redden is the one person charged with listening to hundreds of hours of testimony, poring over thousands of pages of legal briefs and scientific research, and then rendering his independent judgment on how to make sure the mandates of the Endangered Species Act are upheld." Unfortunately, sound judgment doesn't necessarily translate into political leverage.  

Lastly, on Wednesday, Midday Scan's author made a supercilious reference to Ernest Callenbach, author of the seminar 1975 novel Ecotopia. In what is hopefully just a sad coincidence, Callenbach died in Berkeley at the age of 83. The Los Angeles Times has the obituary of a life in full. 

 

Link Summary

The Washington Ledge, "Mini-Mart, gas station owners win piece of Wash. liquor base" 

Seattlepi.com, "Risk in proposed abortion mandate: McKenna"

Publicola, "Less than a quarter of lobbyists think Inslee will win"

EarthFix, "Judge Redden on saving salmon: Tear down those dams"

Los Angeles Times, "Ernest Callenbach dies at 83"

Peter Jackson is the former editorial page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on twitter at @phardinjackson


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