Crackdown on impaired driving?
An advisory group is urging the state Legislature to sharply increase penalties for impaired driving, including setting tougher minimum sentences and making repeat offenses felonies sooner, according to The Seattle Times. The panel, which was established by the Legislature, found that Washington is the most lax state when it comes to classifying repeat offenders as felons. It takes five DUI offenses before a conviction becomes a felony. In half the states, a conviction becomes a felony after the third offense. The group also advocated one idea that is likely a non-starter: establishing sobriety checkpoints. The practice is allowed in most states, but is considered a violation of Washington State's constitution.
Oil spill alert
A Candian panel has warned that the country is dramatically unprepared for an oil spill off British Columbia, where there are proposals to export large amounts of fuel to Asia. The national government is eager to expand exports through the construction of two new pipelines to the coast. In a well-documented analysis of the problems around the export proposals, Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com points out that a spill in Haro Straits would head right toward Washington waters and the San Juan Islands. And we can't build a wall along that border.
Moving medical pot to front of line?
Updated at 4:35 p.m. City Attorney Pete Holmes is asking the state to issue more pot store licenses for Seattle, ease rules on their locations and give existing medical marijuana retailers priority for recreational pot licenses. He says the state has to be more aggressive about creating a strong, regulated pot market than it had expected. He points to the federal willingness to take a hands-off attitude but only as long as the market is well-regulated and not creating such problems as an increased supply of pot in neighboring states or more availability of pot for young people. Without more legal stores, he says, the illegal market will remain strong, putting at risk the shift to a legal system that voter-approved Initiative 502 was meant to achieve. He suggests 50 licenses for pot stores here instead of the 21 currently planned.
Can loggers and enviros be friends?
First-term congressional Rep. Derek Kilmer plans to tackle an old problem: the divisions between the forestry industry and environmentalists. The Peninsula Daily News reports that he has set up a 16-member group — drawn from both camps — whose aim will be to increase logging in the Olympic National Forest while restoring natural forest ecosystems. The report notes that Kilmer still hasn't taken a position on his predecessor Norm Dicks' proposal to expand wilderness areas on the peninsula.
Let's not talk security just yet
A City Council committee was supposed to consider an ordinance today that would let the Seattle Police Department take new Department of Homeland Security money for an "urban areas security initiative." After the Council's agenda was published, however, committee chair Bruce Harrell decided that the police needed to talk more with the American Civil Liberties Union before the City Council considers the measure. The SLOG discovered that part of the money in question would be used for facial recognition capability. As SLOG writer Brendan Kiley suggests, checking the facial images of unknown suspects against a database could well be conducted without raising privacy issues, but it's worth a little careful discussion first.
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