When one little word carries hefty baggage
Earlier this year, Republican Rep. Mike Hope of Lake Stevens wondered what else the state could do to keep track of those convicted of certain felony firearm offenses or found not guilty by reason of insanity of any felony firearm offense.
Turns out it can make them register with local law enforcement, as is done with convicted sex offenders. What it can't do -- for political reasons -- is call this new catalogue of information a registry.
Hope did use that word when he wrote House Bill 1612 and it nearly killed the only significant gun safety-related measure to pass the Legislature this year.
As introduced, the bill established a "central registry of firearm offenders" to be maintained by the Washington State Patrol.
It passed the House on an 85-10 vote then stalled in the Senate, where Hope encountered conservative Republicans who objected strongly to the notion of a state-created registry of any sort involving owners or users of guns.
Once Hope agreed to replace "central registry" with "conviction database" in sections 1 and 6 of the bill, opposition melted and it glided through the Senate on a 41-7 vote.
"It doesn't affect the bill in any form," he said. "We will be doing the same gathering and disseminating of information. We needed to change the word so it would move."
Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law Wednesday afternoon.
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Republican Sen. Kirk Pearson of Monroe is generally regarded as one of the nice guys in the Legislature.
He's easygoing and you have to push him pretty hard before he'll publicly express frustration with a fellow lawmaker.
Five Democratic senators in Snohomish County pushed his buttons last month when they pressed him to sign onto a letter pledging to vote to raise billions of dollars in new revenue for transportation improvements if $824 million is earmarked for specific projects in the county.
They drafted the letter to the Democratic and Republican co-chairs of the Senate Transportation Committee who could hold a hearing in the special session on a proposal that now includes a 10-cent gas tax hike and higher vehicle registration fees.
Democratic Sens. Steve Hobbs, of Lake Stevens, Nick Harper, of Everett, Paull Shin, of Edmonds, Rosemary McAuliffe, of Bothell, and Maralyn Chase, of Shoreline, signed. With Pearson, they hoped to present a united front from Snohomish County.
When Pearson did not sign, the quintet rewrote the letter and erased $119 million in projects in his district from the list. These included requests for funds for a Highway 2 bypass in Monroe and more safety work on the highway.
That irked Pearson.
He said he considered it "inappropriate" to write such a letter and wanted to talk with GOP leaders first. And he said he isn't ready to commit his vote on any revenue package.
"Just because I don't like the tone (of the letter) doesn't mean I don't support projects in my district," he said. "I just feel they are maybe being a little pushy."
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield's blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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