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Engaged to be Married 

Washington mulls gay marriage. Plus, Idaho goes back to the drawing board.

click to enlarge Matt Shea
  • Matt Shea

Bills allowing same-sex couples to marry received their first hearing before committees in the Washington State House and Senate on Monday. That same day, Senate Democrats announced that they expect to have the 25 votes needed for the measure to pass.

The House’s bill was expected to pass that body by a wide margin.

However, a spokesman for the House Democrats says it will likely take over a week for the bill to clear committee and make it to a floor vote.

Should the bill pass, opponents have already vowed to petition for a referendum on gay marriage to be put on the November ballot.

Support for the bill will likely break down on party lines among Eastern Washington legislators: Democrats are expected to vote for the measure, Republicans against.

On the day of the hearings, Republican Spokane Valley Rep. Matt Shea released a statement outlining his worries that same-sex marriage could lead to an explosion of lawsuits against businesses that decline work with same-sex couples.

He cited the example of a wedding photographer in New Mexico who lost $7,000 after being sued for not photographing a commitment ceremony. However, same-sex marriage is not legal in New Mexico. (Chris Stein)

The Danger of Subtraction

Eastern Washington University’s plan to eliminate its mathematics master’s program — the only one in the region — has sparked letters from concerned teachers and administrators at WSU, Whitworth, North Idaho College and Spokane Community Colleges.

In November, Academic Provost Rex Fuller proposed eliminating the program due to the low number of graduates from the program, the high failure rates of Eastern math courses classes taught by graduate students, and the cost of the program.

But it’s still a question whether eliminating the mathematics program will actually save Eastern money. Mathematics department chair Barbara Alvin says that, without graduate students to teach low-level math classes, more costly instructors will have to be hired.

“The university president refuses to try to understand the implications of removing the masters’ program,” Alvin says. Fuller was not immediately available for comment. (Daniel Walters)

Third Time's a Charm

Two of Idaho’s GOP leaders announced this week that they plan on appointing two new commissioners to the state’s embattled redistricting commission. But it’s unclear whether State Chairman Norm Semanko and Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney have the authority to fire two of the commissioners to make room.

The commission — with or without new members — will now make a third go at redrawing the state’s voting boundaries. The state Supreme Court last week tossed out the latest proposal for how to adjust political boundaries across the growing state. And the first commission was disbanded in September after failing to agree on a map.

Among the objections to the most recent plan was that it would have scooped a sliver of Kootenai County residents and thrown them onto the distant edge of a new, larger legislative district that included Benewah and Shoshone counties.

“Your representative could be a couple hundred miles away” under that plan, says Sen. James Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene. (Joe O'Sullivan)

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