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Bait and Switch 

The Spokane City Council is consumed by abortion and driveways; plus, Baumgartner's rules in Olympia

click to enlarge Spokane Falls Community College
  • Spokane Falls Community College

ETHICS AND ABORTION

People packed Spokane City Hall on Monday to testify about an ordinance that Council President Ben Stuckart insisted was about DRIVEWAYS. Those who spoke during the council's public comment period, however, insisted the ordinance was about abortion and free speech.

The ordinance amends an existing city law, making it illegal to obstruct a driveway in the public right-of-way. Although the ordinance affects driveways throughout Spokane, it was specifically crafted for the Planned Parenthood on East Indiana Avenue. The clinic has been the target of anti-abortion protesters, who have been known to approach cars coming into the driveway.

The new ordinance passed 6-1, with Councilman Mike Fagan casting the lone vote against it.

The council also passed an update to the city's ethics code, which lays out conflicts of interests, what gifts employees and officials can take and how to seek redress. Notably, the update to the code makes it easier to recall an elected official. Previously, it required a majority plus two on the council to trigger a recall election for an elected official. Under the updated ordinance, it now requires only a simple majority. (JAKE THOMAS)

Full Ride?

Last Friday, President Barack Obama launched another big policy proposal: He wants to make two years of COMMUNITY COLLEGE free. If students "attend at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA while in college and make steady progress toward completing their program," they would have their first two years of tuition completely paid for by the state and federal government.

"We think it'd be a huge boost for students and for Washington's economy," says Marty Brown, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. During the recession, community college tuition increased and support services were slashed, as the system struggled to handle an influx of students. He hopes Obama's plan would counter that trend.

But Janet Gullickson, president at Spokane Falls Community College, says cost usually isn't the largest hurdle for students.

"To me, the biggest obstacle is: Are you prepared for the rigors of college level learning?" says Gullickson. Community colleges have very high non-completion rates and very high student-loan default rates. Getting students to enroll isn't nearly as hard as getting them to graduate. To that point, she hopes if Obama's plan is implemented, it might push both students and colleges to better performances.

"If we tell students in seventh grade, 'You don't have to worry about paying for [community college],' perhaps students will be more motivated," she says. "It might make us in higher ed say, 'We have no excuses.'"

Ultimately, all the speculation may be academic. A Congress controlled by Republicans, already unhappy about entitlements, is unlikely to leap at a free-community-college proposal recommended by Obama. (DANIEL WALTERS)

PROCEDURAL RULES

A new procedural rule change passed by Republican state Senators on the first day of Washington's 2015 legislative session will make it harder for lawmakers to enact new taxes.

Last week, Sens. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, and Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, proposed a sweeping rule change that would require a TWO-THIRDS VOTE of the legislature's upper chamber for any measure that raises taxes. On Monday, the Senate approved a modified version of the rule change, requiring a two-thirds procedural vote to advance only bills that create new taxes for a final vote. Every Senate Democrat, with the exception of Sen. Tim Sheldon, D- Potlatch, who caucuses with Republicans, opposed the change.

Under the new rule, 33 of 49 members in the Senate would have to vote to advance Gov. Jay Inlsee's new revenue proposals, such as his cap-and-trade program and a capital gains tax, for debate on the Senate floor.

In 2013, the state Supreme Court ruled that a voter-approved initiative requiring a supermajority to pass tax increases was unconstitutional. The state constitution, however, allows each chamber to make its own procedural rules. (DEANNA PAN)

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