Failures to the south

Well, the state Legislature has convened and disbanded once again, as they do every winter down in Olympia.

There's already been plenty written about the new and "improved" gas tax, which will add 9.5 cents to the price of each gallon of gas motorists purchase in our state - a levy slated to be phased in gradually over the next four years.

There's also been quite a bit written about the state Senate defeat, by one vote, of House Bill 1515, which would have banned discrimination against gays and lesbians.

In the case of the gas tax, 11 Republican legislators crossed the House aisle to vote with their Democratic colleagues in raising somewhere around $8 billion to help replace large pieces of our aging transportation infrastructure - most notably for us, the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

In the case of the gay tax (there's still a price to pay for being "different"), two Democratic senators, Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam and Tim Sheldon, who represents those bastions of liberty Mason and Kitsap counties, joined Republican bigots to ensure that gays in the Evergreen State can't be guaranteed the same legal protections other minorities receive inside our state's allegedly liberal borders.

HB 1515 had passed, but the two wayward Dems joined their narrow-minded cohorts and succeeded once again in reminding homosexuals of their outsider status.

But there were other, less controversial measures that passed and failed without much public, media notice. I'm here to note a few of those items.

*The boys and girls in Olympia passed a law that allows state agencies to deny the public access to the records of their confabs with state-paid-for attorneys, citing attorney-client privileges. One more freedom down the tubes in this ever more fascist-leaning Republic. We vehemently opposed this piece of legislative self-protective garbage in this space, to no avail.

*Also failing was a bill that would have required school districts teaching abstinence in sex-education classes to include information about contraception, too. This is one of those no-brainer battles that somehow has to be fought and refought annually, as if none of these right-wing folks dares to remember how they (and their now-often-sluggish bodies) felt at 16 or 17.

*In what I think is a tragedy, a bill - proposed by several of those same Eastern Washington legislators who promote abstinence and condemn homosexuality - to divide Washington into two states, with the Cascades as a natural border, failed to win enough votes to add a star to Old Glory and give Idaho a sister state. Since almost everything positive in this state, not counting wheat and Washington State football, comes from west of our beautiful in-state mountain range, I was hoping this baby would pass.

*Happily, legislators said no to the city of Seattle and the Sonics' bid to make us, the public, pay for a $205-million expansion of Key Arena. "How many stadiums and arenas do our rich men need?" isn't a Bob Dylan song, but it could be. Let Howard and his boys figure out a way to sell hoops the way they oversold their coffee brand.

Big sports businesses locally, along with Boeing among others, seem to think their profits are our business - despite the fact that 15 percent of us have no health insurance, we should be hump-busting to make sure these already grotesquely fat cats make more money on the already bowed backs of the taxpayers.

Sell the team, Howard. We won't miss it, or you. And oh yeah, see if you can take Greg and Paul with ya when you turn out the lights.

*In the annual defeat for common sense, legislators once again decided against passing a bill, sponsored annually by a Federal Way legislator, that would have made it an infraction to talk on a handheld cellphone while driving on our allegedly soon-to-be-fixed roads. Fellow pedestrians, please remain aware.

*In the one piece of really good news that somehow escaped the legislative myopia in Olympia this year, our state's brave and true political leaders repealed a 1909 state statute that had made it a crime to falsely injure the reputation of a virtuous woman. All the fellas who can't stop talking about their ex-wives can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Say away, guys.

Dennis Wilken is a freelance writer living in Queen Anne.[[In-content Ad]]