Sen. Ed Murray elected the new Senate majority leader

By | November 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sen. Ed Murray

Seattle Democrat Sen. Ed Murray will be the new Senate majority leader. He replaces Sen. Lisa Brown, who decided not to run for re-election after holding the leadership post for the last eight years.

Murray is fresh off the victory of Referendum 74, which grants same-sex couples the right to marry in Washington state.

Murray is a longtime advocate of gay and lesbian rights, and he was the prime sponsor of the same-sex marriage bill that voters approved last week. He’ll be the first openly gay majority leader in the state’s history.

Murray was first elected to the state House in 1995. He’s served in the state Senate since 2006, where he chairs the budget-writing committee. In an uncontested election, Senate Democrats chose Murray to serve as majority leader at a private caucus meeting today.

Here is Murray’s statement about the position:

“We have work to do in Olympia – prioritizing education, creating jobs for the middle class, and ensuring Washingtonians have the health care they need. And one of our challenges in a closely divided chamber is to ensure that the Senate is able to fulfill its obligation to govern the state, in tandem with Gov.-elect Jay Inslee and the House. These are not simple challenges, but they are solvable. We can find solutions that work for all of Washington.”

Sen. Lisa Brown released a statement congratulating Murray. “Under Sen. Murray’s leadership, the Democratic Caucus is well-positioned to continue to provide support for the people of Washington,” she said.

Judge tosses phrase from same-sex marriage referendum

By | March 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

A Thurston County judge ruled Tuesday that a referendum to repeal the same-sex marriage law cannot include the phrase “redefine marriage” on the ballot in the fall election. The ruling frees backers of the referendum to begin collecting the 120,577 signatures they need by June 6th to put the issue to voters.

Gov. Gregoire signed a bill passed by the Legislature last month that allows same-sex couples to marry. Opponents of same-sex marriage are seeking to overturn the law with Referendum 74, which asks voters to approve or reject the legislation.

The Attorney General’s original language for the ballot summary of Referendum 74 said it would “redefine marriage” to allow same-sex couples to marry. The League of Women Voters of Washington and PFLAG sued to challenge the wording, arguing that it was politically charged.

Under Judge Thomas McPhee’s ruling, the following language will be used to summarize the ballot measure if it reaches voters:

“This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnerships are converted to marriages, except for seniors.  It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies.  The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster care or child placement.”

Week 6: Let’s Review

By | February 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

Monday: Gov. Chris Gregoire signed landmark legislation that makes Washington the seventh state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. Hundreds of people came to the Capitol to watch her sign the bill into law — you can get a glimpse of the day’s events on our photo gallery.

Watch Monday’s Legislative Review.

Tuesday: The House and Senate spent most of the day on the floor, with Tuesday marking a key cutoff deadline for moving bills onto the final weeks of session. We interviewed a number of lawmakers on issues of the day for the show.

Watch Tuesday’s Legislative Review.

Wednesday: The House Judiciary Committee considered a bill to help crack down on Medicaid fraud by rewarding whistleblowers. Later in the day, the House Public Safety committee heard eight bills aimed at combating the sex trade in Washington. The package of bills was first introduced in January by a bipartisan group of Senators, who say Washington state is a hub for sex trafficking.

Watch Wednesday’s Legislative Review.

Thursday: The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released the quarterly forecast — and there’s some good news for legislative budget writers. The forecast change is an increase in $96 million. Following the forecast, House transportation leaders released a $9.8 billion transportation budget. It sets aside $55 million for about ten “immediate” transportation needs, such as a second 144-car ferry, highway maintenance, transit, and improving conditions for children who walk or bike to school. And teacher evaluation legislation was heard in the House Education committee Thursday, with a mixed response from advocates in the education field.

Watch Thursday’s Legislative Review.

Friday: House Republicans released their version of a supplemental budget, saying it includes $89 million more than Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal that was released prior to session. And a bill heard in the House Labor and Workforce Development committee on Friday would give smaller farms in Washington the opportunity to offer internships.

Watch the weekly edition of Legislative Review on Friday at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Same-sex marriage bill signing: A photo gallery

By | February 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Rep. Maureen Walsh and Sen. Cheryl Pflug, two Republican supporters of same-sex marriage, smile as supporters cheer.

Click through to see more photos of the bill signing

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Governor signs same-sex marriage bill

By | February 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Flanked by more than 40 lawmakers, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill into law this morning legalizing same-sex marriage. Hundreds of people waited outside the state reception room where she signed the bill, and they chanted “Gregoire! Gregoire!” as she walked in.

Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, who sponsored the House’s version of the bill, said he’s proud of Washington for taking a first step toward equal rights.

“With the signing of this bill, Washington is the first state to repeal the first so-called Defense of Marriage Act and make marriage available to gay and lesbian families,” Pedersen said. He thanked his partner and “future husband” Eric, who was at the signing with their four young children.

Regardless of what happens in the months ahead, Sen. Ed Murray said “nothing will take this moment in history away from us.” He was referring to an effort by opponents to put a referendum on the November ballot that would repeal the same-sex marriage law.

Murray thanked several lawmakers for their support, including Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. “You’ve heard it said you need a woman in the house. Well, the skills of Rep. Laurie Jinkins proves that you need a lesbian in the house,” Murray joked.

In her remarks before signing the bill, Gov. Gregoire said today “is a proud day that historians will mark as a milestone for equal rights.”

She talked about a 16-year-old girl who had considered suicide because of her sexual orientation, but changed her mind after hearing the discussion surrounding same-sex marriage, which “allowed her to live.” Gregoire teared up when thanking the younger generation — especially her daughters — for speaking up in support of equal rights.

Just before signing the bill, Gregoire said its purpose is “simple and clear.” It allows same-sex couples the same right to a marriage license as a heterosexual couple, Gregoire said, while still protecting the rights of religious organizations and churches.

Same-sex marriage bill signing ceremony today

By | February 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

At 11:30 a.m., Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign a bill into law that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington state. We’ll be live with the event on TVW, and we’ll also have coverage on the blog.

Opponents have promised to put a referendum on the ballot that would overturn the law. After she’s signed the bill, they are allowed to begin collecting the 120,577 signatures they’ll need to send the issue to the ballot in November. If they collect enough signatures by June 6th, then the law will be suspended until the results of the November election are certified. Otherwise, same-sex couples could wed as early as June 7th.

Week 5: Let’s Review

By | February 10, 2012 | 0 Comments

Here’s a look at what we covered this week on the blog and on our daily show, Legislative Review. It airs nightly at 6:30 & 11 p.m. on TVW.

Monday: The House Judiciary committee voted 7-5 to pass the Senate’s version of the same-sex marriage bill. It was the final public hearing on the issue, and more than a dozen supporters and opponents testified. And on the show, we took a look at budget-writing committees that were racing to get bills done before cutoff.

Watch Monday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Tuesday: Senators Derek Kilmer and Jim Kastama held a press conference to give an update on their legislative priorities, citing a number of bills that survived Tuesday’s cutoff deadline. And the House heard a bill that would add certification and taxing requirements to roll-your-own cigarettes machines.

Watch Tuesday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Wednesday: Following more than two hours of debate, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, 55-43. Check out our photo gallery of the event, and more details of the debate on Wednesday’s show.

Watch Wednesday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Thursday: A joint House and Senate committee held a work session Thursday on Initiative 502, which would license, regulate and tax marijuana sales in Washington state. Following the hearing, the Yes on I-502 campaign held a press conference discussing their approach to the November election. The Senate passed a bill Thursday evening that allows families to stop an autopsy if they have a religious objection to the procedure. And House passed a bill  that extends advertising disclosure requirements to ballot measure campaigns.

Watch Thursday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Friday: Gov. Chris Gregoire and British Columbia’s premier announced an action plan that includes collaboration between the two governments to develop a regional jobs strategy in the green economy, coordinate transportation and energy efficiency. We have a wrap-up of the week’s headlines on Friday’s half-hour edition of Legislative Review at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

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Same-sex marriage vote in the House: A photo gallery

By | February 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

A supporter cheers after the House vote on same-sex marriage

Click through to see more photos

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s statement on House vote to legalize same-sex marriage

By | February 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire just released this statement:

“This is truly a historic day in Washington state, and one where I couldn’t be more proud. With today’s vote, we tell the nation that Washington state will no longer deny our citizens the opportunity to marry the person they love. We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state. And we take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“I commend our House members and thank Rep. Jamie Pedersen for sponsoring this bill. Our legislators showed courage, respect, and professionalism. I look forward to signing this piece of legislation, and putting into law an end to an era of discrimination.”

Updated: House passes same-sex marriage bill, 55-43

By | February 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House voted to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage 55-43, following more than two hours of debate.

Rep. Jamie Pedersen opened up debate by saying that he and his partner Eric are grateful for the protections that their domestic partnership provides, but it is a “pale and inadequate substitute” for marriage.

“Marriage is the word our society uses to describe a committed, lifelong relationship,” Pedersen said. “Teachers, doctors, neighbors — and as we discovered this weekend — TurboTax understands the word marriage immediately. They do not understand domestic partnership.”

Rep. Jay Rodne said there is a “natural order” to human existence, and children adopted by same-sex couples will lose a connection with one of their biological parents. “For the first time in Washington history, the state will sever a relationship with one of the child’s biological parents,” Rodne said.

Rep. Norma Smith also urged a “no” vote, saying that the bill is a part of a broader issue being played across the country with implications for religious freedom. “Individuals are left out of this bill,” Smith said. “Small business owners who have a heartfelt view – born out of their love of God – have the potential to be silenced.”

Rep. Maureen Walsh was the first Republican to speak in support of the bill. She told a story about how her daughter stood up for a kid who was being bullied in school because it was the right thing to do. As an adult, her daughter came out of the closet. “Nothing is different. She’s still a fabulous human being and met a person she loves, and someday I want to throw a wedding for that kid,” Walsh said. “I hope I can do that. I hope she will not feel like a second-class citizen. Domestic partnership sounds like a Merry Maids franchise.”

Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney said she has two sons who are gay. “Both have been subjected to harassment and rejection. This hurt cannot be erased, and some will last with them forever,” she said.

House runs through amendments to same-sex marriage bill

By | February 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House has just begun its debate on legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state.

At least eight amendments are on the table; the first one, introduced by Rep. Matt Shea, would protect private businesses — such as florists and bakers — who refuse to provide services for gay and lesbian couples. Shea also introduced an amendment that would require that couples have a one-month waiting period before getting married. Neither amendment passed.

Rep. Jay Rodne asked for a referendum clause that would send the issue to voters in November, saying that same-sex marriage is “one of the most important issues the body will consider this session.” Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Deborah Eddy compared the issue to interracial marriage and said that it is the legislature’s duty to stand up for civil rights.

None of the amendments passed. They are now moving on to the vote.


Coming up today: TVW will be live at 12:45 with coverage of same-sex marriage vote

By | February 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House is scheduled to vote on the bill to legalize same-sex marriage today, and TVW will be have live coverage. 

First, at 12:45 p.m., I’ll be interviewing Sen. Ed Murray live in the wings of the Senate. Then, at 1 p.m., we’ll go straight to the House floor to catch the debate. Throughout the afternoon, TVW’s Christina Salerno will be live-blogging the debate right here on our blog.

And to those of you who had trouble watching last week’s Senate debate on same-sex marriage online: We are very sorry — and we’ve fixed the issue. The thousands of viewers from all over the world last week overwhelmed our site and server capacity. That should not be an issue today.

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House plans to vote on same-sex marriage tomorrow afternoon

By | February 7, 2012 | 0 Comments

We just received word from the House Democratic caucus that they plan to begin voting on the bill to allow same-sex marriage in Washington at around 1 o’clock tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

Same-sex marriage bill clears House committee

By | February 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Washington state is moving quickly toward final passage of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. Less than a week after the state Senate approved the measure, the House Judiciary committee voted this morning 7-5 to pass the Senate’s version of the same-sex marriage bill.

It was the final public hearing on the issue, and more than a dozen supporters and opponents testified. Among them was Charlene Strong, whose partner Kate Fleming died in 2006 when the basement of their Seattle home flooded. Because they were not married, “I was left like a stranger trying to find someone’s in Kate’s family who could give me permission to be by my dying wife’s side,” she said.

Republicans introduced several amendments, but none passed. Previous debates have focused on the rights of private businesses – such as florists and bakers – who refuse to provide services to gay couples. That was again a point of contention at Monday’s vote.

“What we are doing is creating a confrontation where individuals will have to choose between their religious beliefs and their livelihood,” said Rep. Matt Shea, who called it a “horrible, horrible choice.”

The full House could vote on the issue as early as this week. It would then go to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.

Week 4: Let’s Review

By | February 3, 2012 | 0 Comments

Monday: The House Judiciary committee voted the same-sex marriage legislation out of committee. A Senate committee heard a bill that would tighten up ethical rules for public employees, prompted by a case last year of an ethics claim against a Department of Corrections administrator who worked on behalf of nonprofit groups on state time. And a bipartisan group of 42 Washington state lawmakers sent a letter to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration asking for marijuana to be reclassified so it can be prescribed as a medicine by doctors and filled in pharmacies..

Watch Monday’s Legislative Review.

Tuesday: The House Labor committee on heard five bills related to the minimum wage, including one that would lower the base wage of tipped employees and another that would pay a lower “training wage.” The Senate Higher Education committee considered a bill that would prohibit state money from going to college athletics. And a bipartisan group of lawmakers asked that the state fund K-12 education separately from the rest of the budget.

Watch Tuesday’s Legislative Review.

Wednesday: In a late night floor session, the state Senate voted 28-21 to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. We have full video and a photo gallery from the event. On the show, we covered the redistricting plan as it took a first big step forward, and legislation that would allow schools to have classes separated by gender.

Watch Wednesday’s Legislative Review.

Thursday: House Republicans offered details on a plan that would create a separate K-12 education budget. Also, lawmakers considered stricter rules for spraying pesticides on farmland.

Watch Thursday’s Legislative Review.

Friday: Today is the cutoff day for non-budget policy bills to be considered in committee. Catch tonight’s half-hour edition of Legislative Review recapping the week’s events at 6:30 and 11 p.m. on TVW.

Fund Education First budget proposal is “more symbolism than substance,” according to Senate Majority Leader

By | February 2, 2012 | 0 Comments

Less than hour after the House Republicans unveiled their stand-alone education budget proposal, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown dismissed it as “more symbolism than substance.” Brown was responding to a reporter’s question at her weekly media availability. She said the state has a responsibility to fund not only basic education, but also a “broad spectrum” of programs from early learning to natural resources. The House Republican education budget would shave $46 million from education, leaving most of the $1.5 billion in likely cuts to come from other programs. Brown said “if you fund education first and pretend there aren’t tradeoffs, I think that’s a bait-and-switch.”

On transportation funding, Brown said the governor’s proposal to charge $1.50 per barrel of oil has “rolled away” and indicated transportation leaders are working on a smaller funding package through a number of fees.  On a question about possible threats from Wednesday night’s same-sex marriage vote, she said lawmakers get harassed over all sorts of issues.  She wasn’t aware of any threats that required police involvement.

Senate runs through amendments on same-sex marriage bill

By | February 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

Here’s a look at the Senate, where they’re currently working through the amendments to the same-sex marriage bill.

Several amendments have been adopted that are aimed at providing stronger protections for churches and religious organizations.

Sen. Swecker asked for an amendment that would have extended those protections to what he described as “blue collar workers,” such as florists or photographers who opposes gay marriage. The amendment was not adopted.

Sen. Hatfield, a previously undecided Democrat who announced shortly before the session that he would be voting yes on the bill, asked for a referendum clause that would send the issue to voters in the fall. Noting that opponents will likely collect enough signatures anyway, Hatfield said he wants to “trust the people of the state and let voters have the ultimate say.”

Sen. Lisa Brown said she doesn’t believe that’s fair. She said she opposes it for several reasons, including a personal one: Her sister has been in a relationship with a woman for 20 years, and she doesn’t think it’s fair to ask voters whether her sister should have the same rights that she has.

Brown said there were “sad times” in history where if people had voted, they would have been “tragically wrong.”

But Sen. Mike Padden said this is a critical issue to send to voters. Marriage is “a basic unit of society,” he said. “One of the reasons we have marriage laws is because of children and the idea that it’s a pretty neat thing for them to have a mom and dad,” he said.

The amendment failed, 26 to 23.

That was the final amendment — now, they’re on to debating final passage of the bill. We’ll write about that in a separate post, so please refresh your browser.

Senate introduces gay marriage bill — with 23 sponsors

By | January 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Senate has introduced the gay marriage bill requested by Gov. Chris Gregoire — it’s not yet online, but will be soon right here. So far, they have 23 sponsors, just two votes short of passing.

The AP reported earlier this week that the Senate was close to having the votes. Since that article was published, Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe announced her support, bringing the total to 23.

On The Impact tonight: Rep. Marko Liias on Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to legalize same-sex marriage

By | January 4, 2012 | 0 Comments
Tonight on The Impact, host Jessica Gao talks with Rep. Marko Liias about Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. In the interview, Liias, a gay Democrat from District 1, said he was thrilled to hear the governor announce her support.
Liias said it’s possible to balance the state budget and push forward gay marriage rights. He argued that in tough economic times, keeping families together should be a major focus of the government, adding that the legalization of gay marriage would support families in Washington.
The legislation would not override religion in any way, Liias said, leaving individual churches to decide whether or not they would perform marriages of gay couples.
Watch The Impact tonight at 7 and 10 p.m. on TVW

Updated: Gregoire announces legislation for same-sex marriage in Washington

By | January 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire just announced that she’s introducing legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington. 

Watch the full video of the press conference here.

“As a wife, a mother, a student of the law and a lifelong Washingtonian committed to equality and justice … it is time, it is the right thing to do and I will introduce the bill to make it happen,” she said.

After the governor spoke, she took questions from the press as supporters in the room clapped and cheered. Sen. Ed Murray was asked whether the Senate has the votes to pass the bill. He said the Senate is a few votes short. Gregoire interrupted: “We got a very important vote today. We’ll get the rest we need to get it to my desk.”

Asked about the political reality of getting the bill through in a short session, she said everyone is capable of multitasking. “This is about our values. This is extremely important in the history of our state,” she said. “They’re going to get the job done.”

Gregoire was asked what the title change will mean — from domestic partnerships, which are currently legal, to marriage. She said when she thinks of her marriage, she doesn’t consider it a contract. “It’s love, it’s responsibility,” she said, not just a contract. “To deny that equality is just wrong.”

She said this has nothing to do with elections, politics — or her decision not to run for re-election. She said in the past, she’s questioned same-sex marriage because of her religion. But she’s come to understand that individual religions can decide whether to recognize each marriage, but the state shouldn’t discriminate.

With that, she ended the Q&A period as supporters clapped. Then, several legislators, including Sen. Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, took the podium to answer additional questions.

First: There isn’t going to be an emergency clause in the bill — that means that it can go to referendum. “I think we need to be prepared” with the idea that supporters will need to fight it at the ballot, Pedersen said.

“This bill will not pass unless there is a bipartisan vote for this bill,” Murray said. He said he’s having conversations with legislators in every district, “but again, it’s about where people are personally.” He said he’s optimistic that the bill will pass this session and he knows of “a few” Republicans in the Senate who support for the bill.

As for the timing: “The time is just right,” said Rep. Marko Liias.

When asked what would happen with existing domestic partnerships, Murray and Pedersen said they haven’t ironed out all the language just yet. “We’re still in some discussion with the governor’s office,” Pedersen said, but the goal is ending the inequality in the existing law.

There were a lot of questions about how this legislation would politically affect the effort to balance the budget, which may involve an effort to raise taxes. The legislators repeatedly said in different ways that this is an issue of equality and shouldn’t have anything to do with budget talks.

“Suddenly, gay marriage has become easier than raising taxes,” Murray said, to laughs.