The Good, The Bad, and The Weird -- that sums up two months of our legislators doing their thing in Olympia as they accomplished their goals of looking good to their voter bases.
The Good: No matter which side you're on, your side stopped a lot of bills you'd hate. The Bad: No matter which side you're on, most of your favorite bills died.
But when it comes to the weird, you hit the jackpot with the bizarre and surreal. None of it earth shaking, but it was fun to watch. Here's a look at what a long, strange trip it's been.
- The House came to grips with the revelation that professional wrestling could be fake. House members approved 82-12 a Democratic bill to study whether professional wrestling should be regulated as a theatrical performance instead of more seriously as a for-real mixed martial arts tournament. The bill did a flying leap through a Senate committee with bipartisan support, but a leadership hammerlock kept from going to a full floor vote in the Senate. That raises questions such as: Do Majority Coalition Caucus leaders believe pro wrestling is real, or did Stone Cold Steve Austin do some effective behind-the-scenes lobbying?
Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, ended up in the limelight a lot despite being a rookie senator in charge of one of the more boring committees in the upper chamber. Almost three weeks into the session, the Majority Coalition Caucus decided to tick off one of the few minority Democrats friendly with it. The coalition demoted Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, from chairman to co-chairman of the financial institutions committee to make Angel co-chair. A few weeks later, Angel used her co-chair powers to singlehandedly and abruptly kill a bill to keep sending money for help with private and public housing for the poor and homeless -- all over bipartisan opposition. The majority coalition leaders backed her move until the last day of the session. But Angel and coalition leaders were not prepared for the subsequent public demonizing.
Majority coalition leaders allowed her to save face — and end their own embarrassment — by having Angel take credit for a revived altered version of the bill a few hours before the session adjourned. The Senate overwhelmingly passed it and the homeless housing money was saved.
- Weed jokes ran amok in the marbled halls of Olympia. Buttoned-down, red and blue middle-age and old people in conservative suits channeled their inner Tony Montanas to map out how Washington will grow, sell and buy their pot. The state's lead economist had to calculate how big of a haul that the state will get in its first year of pot taxation. Uber-liberal Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Seattle and uber-conservative Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center came up with almost identical bills on how to smush together the state's medical marijuana and recreational marijuana worlds into one regulatory cartel. However, House Republicans stopped that effort by demanding that towns and counties get their splits of the take of the state's pot cash. Meanwhile, medical marijuana users echoed Second Amendment absolutists in saying evil government agents will use registries for nefarious anti-American purposes.
- Despite the fact that no one alive actually remembers this happening, Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R- Spokane and Wazzu alumni, found out that the 1915 Washington State Cougars won a national championship. In football. In the 1916 Rose Bowl. (That revelation shocked Crosscut. Baumgartner convinced the Senate to unanimously honor that Coug team more than 98 years later.) The Senate resolution also honored the Cougars coach "the legendary 'Lone Star' Dietz" — who was convicted in 1919 in Spokane of faking his supposed Sioux Indian ancestry to avoid the draft in World War I. Stories on Dietz's disputed Indian ancestry have been in the news recently because he's been cited by the NFL Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder as having been "honored" by his team's racist nickname. Oh, yeah, Baumgartner also introduced a bill in the session's last week to make an annual Gonzaga-University of Washington basketball game the law.
- For an hour or two, the millionaires of Medina — as well as the city's really rich residents — faced potential financial responsibility for cost overruns on the Lake Washington State Route 520 bridge replacement. Baumgartner popped an amendment into an otherwise boring transportation bill to make Seattle residents responsible for cost overruns on the Emerald City's downtown tunnel. Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, retaliated in a tongue-in-cheek way with an amendment to make Medina residents — including Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina — responsible for 520 bridge cost overruns. Against all logic and probably because the coalition's super-conservatives think Tom is too moderate, a majority of Senate passed Pedersen's amendment. Baumgartner struck back with another amendment to make Seattle residents responsible for the same overruns.
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