With nationwide and international news dominating the headlines , it's easy to get stuck on issues outside our own back yard.
One of the hottest issues we're going to see debated is the issue of same-sex marriage. This is a messy issue, where those differing on the issue are more polarized from those on the other side than nearly any other political issue.
Already, 2007 will see a host of new bills relating to this hot-button issue. Rep. Ed Murray, along with four other lawmakers, plan to introduce legislation calling for what gay-rights activists really desire: full extension of marriage to homosexual couples.
I give kudos to Murray for attempting to legalize gay marriage through the democratic process. One of the biggest complaints made by conservatives has been a trend toward forcing gay marriage on the population by getting it passed through activist judges.
The Boston Herald, in a recent editorial, said that the voters have "no such right" to decide for themselves whether the definition of marriage should be rewritten.
Gay marriage is not simply an issue that should be decided by a judge. The redefining of a millennium-old institution would affect our society as a whole and would change the way we view the role of family.
For those reasons, the people living in our society should be allowed to vote, directly or through their elected representatives, on whether they want marriage redefined.
DEDICATED BUDGET SURPLUS
In fiscal news, Gov. Chris Gre-goire is wasting no time taking advantage of our state's budget surplus. Declaring that it is time for us to invest in the future (or the time to not let the money burn a hole in our pocket), she has pushed for a $4 billion increase in the state spending for this year.
While most of that spending is going to government programs, there's also going to be an increase in money flowing into our elected officials' coffers.
Recently, a citizen panel created to determine the pay our elected officials receive approved of initiating a huge pay raise for those in office. With this new pay raise, Gre-goire would have her pay hiked from $150,995, which went into effect last year, to $167,000.
Many other elected officials in Washington will see their pay raised 10 to 12 percent. This would be the highest increase in pay in the 20-year history of the panel that approved the raises.
While I'm not quite sure what to make of this, I don't think it's insignificant that we're choosing to use our budget surplus to push up the pay of our elected officials.
ALASKAN WAY VIADUCT
Another hot issue - and by far the closest to home - is the issue of what will happen to the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The debate has resulted in tension between Mayor Greg Nickels, who believes that voters should choose what replaces the viaduct, and Gregoire, who had dismissed the idea of having a tunnel replace the viaduct.
In a Seattle Times report from Jan. 18, Nickels was cited as being "defiant" after meeting with the governor.
Nickels said to the Times, "I'm very disappointed by the statement from the governor, after asking us to put the issue to voters, that she's not interested in the opinion of Seattle citizens. I find it hard to believe any other city in the state would be treated in this manner."
Even with huge national issues like war, immigration and the 2008 elections calling for our attention, there's plenty to debate in our own back yard.
Michael Powell can be reached at email@example.com. He also has a web log at deschamps.townhall.com.