Public Health

The state indoor-smoking ban that took effect Dec. 8, which includes a 25-foot smoke-free zone around outdoor entrances and air intakes, is being


Bus-Stop Smoking Ban

Plus: Another congressional scandal to be ignored by "Ethics Committee Chairman" Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco.

Public Health

The state indoor-smoking ban that took effect Dec. 8, which includes a 25-foot smoke-free zone around outdoor entrances and air intakes, is being taken to the street. King County confirmed on Monday, Jan. 30, that Public Health—Seattle & King County is sharpening legal arguments to enforce no smoking in and around Metro bus shelters. The department sought a legal opinion from the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, according to Sandeep Kaushik, spokesperson for County Executive Ron Sims. The prosecutor's office advised that bus shelters fall within the scope of the smoking ban, and, says Kaushik, the county is a couple of weeks from announcing that smokers will have to stay 25 feet away from bus shelters. Given how complicated enforcement of the smoking ban has proved to date, why would the county so rapidly expand the law to apply to open-air structures on a public sidewalk? Kaushik says the public-health department "got some complaints" about smoking around the shelters. Who complained? The county won't say. To date, it continues to insist that complainants' identities will not be released and that people can even file complaints anonymously, complaints that the county will use as a basis for enforcement and seeking legal opinions. PHILIP DAWDY

National Politics

Yet another Republican congressional scandal? U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, claims that House and Senate staffers–mostly GOP—are slipping "political intelligence" (an oxymoron?) to Wall Street investors, including wisdom on the likelihood of legislation passing or failing. "That sounds pretty darn close to insider trading," says Baird. He's appeared on Air America radio, CNBC, and MSNBC to push for a House ethics probe. Baird also says he alerted a BusinessWeek writer, who later reported that investors profited in advance of an asbestos liability speech by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Baird has so far failed to get fellow state congress member and House ethics chair Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, to act. The ethics office has been mostly stuck in neutral since Hastings' appointment last year, idled in part by his links to embattled Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and corrupt former Preston Gates Ellis superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. (Hastings was finally planning an ethics briefing this week for House members and staffers on gifts, travel, jobs, and campaigning.) Baird says he'll introduce legislation to regulate political intelligence giving. RICK ANDERSON

Gay Rights

Friday elation was followed by Monday despair. On Jan. 27, after 30 years, the gay civil rights bill, giving basic legal rights to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people, finally was passed by the Legislature. By Jan. 30, the state's initiative king, Tim Eyman, had filed two ballot measures aimed at overturning it. While some expressed surprise that Eyman would promote an antigay agenda, they clearly don't know the man. He started his political career with 1998's Initiative 200, which outlawed affirmative action—in other words, he promoted race- and gender-based bigotry. In addition, Eyman is a Republican activist, and the GOP has been using ballot-measure bigotry against sexual minorities quite effectively around the country. While gay-rights leaders expressed confidence that Washingtonians' sense of fairness will prevail, bigotry won 60 percent of the vote in 1997, when Initiative 677 lost in an earlier ballot effort to give gays equal rights. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

State Politics

On Saturday, Jan. 28, the state Republican and Democratic parties elected new leaders. On the surface, the Republicans' Diane Tebelius and the Democrats' Dwight Pelz have a lot in common. Both are smart, ambitious, sharp-tongued partisan brawlers. Tebelius, a former federal prosecutor and failed congressional candidate, however, inherits a bigger party debt—the GOP owes $715,509 to the Democrats' $540,128—most of it for the legal battle that the Republicans lost trying to overturn the 2004 election of Gov. Christine Gregoire. To make matters worse for the GOP, the Democrats are quite united behind Pelz, while Republicans are very split on Tebelius. The GOP's prime candidates and office holders, including state Attorney General Rob McKenna, 8th District U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, and probable 2008 gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, worked to elect Tebelius' opponent, Fredi Simpson. But the grassroots activists who control the election process rejected their advice. That split will make Tebelius' crucial fund-raising even more difficult. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

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