What promises to be a tumultuous year in Washington state politics — which may seem like a sideshow compared to the national spectacle — is getting started with an off-year session of the state Legislature. This is not a biennial budget year, so the last-minute maneuverings to reach agreement on a two-year spending plan will be absent.
That said, the lawmakers will be busy dealing with the usual short-session agenda: catching up and patching up from the year-earlier actions, and parsing a slew of new bills that are all of interest to someone. Most won’t get very far in the vetting process.
Gov. Jay Inslee is not seeking re-election but promises not to act like a lame duck, which perhaps gives him a bit more latitude to push his high-priority agenda items without political risk. With Democratic and Republican candidates jockeying for the opportunity to be the state’s next top executive, taking pot-shots at the outgoing governor won’t necessarily give them a campaign foothold. They will have to make their own case for election.
Inslee’s three-term legacy will nonetheless frame much of the political discussion going forward, and he seems determined to protect it, based on pre-session comments. The governor and legislators agreed that public safety, education, housing, behavioral health, the environment and transportation will be the issues that should rise to the top. That’s a lot to take on in a full-length-and-extended session, let alone a limited off-year meeting.
It’s not always easy to keep track of what’s going on at the Capitol. As we have in the past, the Methow Valley News will be providing as much legislative coverage as we can through the Olympia bureau of the Washington State Journal, a nonprofit news website funded by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation (of which I am president, full disclosure).
The Journal has two reporters — who are interns from the University of Washington — covering the session, providing stories to member newspapers of the WNPA for use around the state. The Journal’s website, wastatejournal.org, is also available to the public at no cost. You can find all of the Journal’s Olympia coverage there, along with stories from other publications (and some selections from the Methow Valley News coverage as well).
Media coverage of the Legislature has shrunk dramatically in the past several years, as news organizations cut staff and decided to forgo the expense of an Olympia presence. The WNPA Foundation’s efforts not only help fill that void, but also give aspiring young journalists an opportunity to do real work in a challenging atmosphere. It’s a great learning experience.
For Inslee’s own views on the “state of the state,” and some contrary opinions, see the article on page B4 of this week’s issue. Stay tuned for regular updates on the Legislature’s progress (or lack thereof) in the coming weeks.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month, the 20th annual call to action to recognize and respond to what the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center (SPARC, a federally funded program) describes as “criminal, traumatic and dangerous victimization.”
It’s all that and more as, according to SPARC information, nearly one in three women in the United States, and one in six men, are impacted by some form of stalking. It can take many forms, which is why education and information are so important to understanding such invasive and destructive behavior.
Stalking should not be dismissed as mere pestering, or blamed on the victim. As noted by SPARC, “Stalking is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear or emotional distress. Individual incidents in the pattern may or may not be criminal acts. As fear is highly personal, so is stalking; stalkers often engage in behaviors that seem benign to outsiders but are terrifying in context.
“Most stalkers use technology and in-person tactics to watch, contact, threaten, sabotage, and/or otherwise frighten their victims. Common stalking tactics include unwanted calls/texts/emails/messages, showing up uninvited, spreading rumors, and being followed and watched.”
Stalking occurs in every community, including our own, which must be acknowledged and understood for what it is. Awareness isn’t enough — what is clearly needed is action — but it’s a start. The anti-stalking campaign’s theme is, “Know It. Name It. Stop it.” To find out more about how you can contribute to that ongoing effort, visit www.stalkingawareness.org.