February 26, 2004
Message from the Governor
For almost 70 years, Washington state voters enjoyed a unique system for conducting primary elections-the blanket primary. Under this system, voters were able to protect their privacy, maintain their independence, and exercise greater choice.
But last year the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Washington's blanket primary is unconstitutional. We asked the United States Supreme Court to review the case. I was disappointed to learn Monday that the Supreme Court declined to hear our appeal.
This means that we must now enact a new primary election system that complies with federal law. I will work with legislative leaders and others to implement such a system.
| Quote of the Week
“Selecting our replacement primary system is a challenge, but also a good opportunity to make sure Washington voters have the best possible way of participating in primary elections-and ultimately, in democratic government.”
-Governor Locke, February 26, 2004
When I met with House and Senate leaders before this year's session, we agreed we would not act on specific primary bills until the state exhausted its remedies in court. That time has come. We're now weighing options with legislative leaders, party officials, the Grange, and other stakeholders. We're comparing the strengths and weaknesses of alternatives, and assessing their constitutionality and practicality.
To reach the best solution, the replacement primary we develop must meet four tests:
- First, the replacement must avoid legal and constitutional uncertainty. The court has stated that political parties have certain First Amendment rights. We must respect those rights. We do not want to enact a new system only to find that it runs afoul of the law, results in endless litigation, or puts our election results in question.
- Second, the replacement must protect voters' independence. Our primary needs to give voters the flexibility to choose the best candidates from among the parties.
- Third, we must protect voters' privacy. No voter should be forced to declare a party affiliation or disclose private information as the price of admission to our democratic process.
- And finally, the replacement primary must be easy for county auditors to understand and administer.
Washington voters deserve a replacement primary system that will meet the four tests and serve our state's best interests. This is a challenging task, but we will succeed. I look forward to working with the Legislature to reach the best solution-and reach it before the end of the regular session.
Funding State Priorities
Governor Locke discussed the recent budget proposals
submitted by the state House and Senate at a news conference February 25. The Governor emphasized the need for increased enrollment slots at the state's colleges and universities. The Governor requested $30 million in his budget plan last December to expand college enrollments by as many as 5,200 fulltime students-more than half of them in high-demand fields such as nursing, computer science and engineering. Governor Locke also focused on other areas of concern in the legislative budgets, including the need to fund social services for our state's most vulnerable citizens. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to pass a budget that addresses the key priorities of our state,” the Governor said.
Nation's Governors Compare Notes
The National Governor Association
(NGA) held their annual meeting February 21 through 24 in Washington, D.C. Governor Locke participated in important discussions regarding highway funding, welfare reform, Medicaid, and education. The governors also met with President Bush and members of the cabinet, as well as leaders from both the House and Senate. Seattle will serve as host for the 2004 NGA summer meeting this July. “We are looking forward to sharing the tremendous natural beauty of our state with governors and NGA annual meeting attendees this summer,” the Governor said. The NGA meeting typically includes governors of all 50 states, as well as the President and about 1,200 others representing business, industry, cabinet officials, federal and local governments.
Leadership in Revenue and Ecology
Governor Locke appointed
Will Rice as director of the Department of Revenue and Linda Hoffman as director of the Department of Ecology on February 24. Rice has been acting director of the Department of Revenue since December 2001. He has worked in the department for almost 20 years, including tenures as deputy director, property tax division director, and assistant director for operations. “Will has been a tremendous asset to the Department of Revenue,” the Governor said. “He has helped maximize the efficiency and simplicity of our state tax system, and I am pleased he will be continuing his successful efforts.”
Hoffman has been interim director of the Department of Ecology since October 2003. She previously served as deputy director of the department. She has 26 years of experience working in local government, mostly in land-use and environmental management. “I am pleased to appoint Linda as director of the Department of Ecology,” Governor Locke said. “Under her leadership, I am confident the department will continue to improve permit processes while maintaining environmental standards.”
Mobility for Special Needs Individuals
Governor Locke accepted the “United We Ride” Leadership Award
on behalf of Washington State's Agency Council on Coordinated Transportation in Washington, D.C. on February 23. The Federal Transit Administration selected Washington for the national award for significant improvements in transportation options for its 1.5 million citizens with special needs. Special needs individuals include people with disabilities, older adults, lower income families, and people who depend on transit. “On behalf of the state of Washington, thank you for this award,” the Governor said. “Let's continue to unite in this worthwhile and humane cause and refuse to let the world pass any American by.”
Success Story: Wasting No Time to Report Dangerous Waste
Washington businesses have a new online tool
to make it quicker to submit required information about the dangerous wastes they generate. The Department of Ecology's new TurboWaste.net
site allows some 7,000 facilities to provide information about the type and quantity of hazardous waste they generate, check for errors and submit their reports with the quick click of a mouse. If printed on paper, the reports range from one page to up to several feet thick. TurboWaste.net will improve accuracy and save time and money for the state and businesses.
3/2: Magic Johnson Technology Foundation, Seattle
3/3: Weekly News Conference, Olympia
3/4: Washington Machinists Council, Olympia
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