The Cappy Awards: 60 days of making law

The 2012 session of the Legislature officially ends at midnight.

By now, we all know the 147 lawmakers won’t finish their work and will be coming back for another extra session. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth singling out a few of the remarkable and unforgettable moments of the past 60 days.

I’ve chosen a handful, in a random and unscientific fashion, and am bestowing upon them a Cappy, which is an award I’ve created and given a meaningless name taken from the meaningful site where they occur, the Capitol.

Categories change each year to fit the circumstances. Winners, losers and anyone else mentioned should be thankful because, as politicians, you know any publicity is good publicity.

Event of the Year: “The Great Debate on Marriage”

In a historic performance, lawmakers passed, and then Gov. Chris Gregoire signed, a law making it legal for couples of the same sex to marry. Without question, this was the most talked-about accomplishment this session and will be etched into the annals of state history regardless of whether voters repeal it in November.

Best Individual Performance in a Winning Role: Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle

Runner-up: Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle

These two men steered the state to a place it’s never been before: allowing gay and lesbian couples to get hitched. Murray, who has starred in the debate on gay rights for years, unleashed a virtuoso effort, so much so it overshadowed the breakout work by Pedersen.

Best Dramedy: “The Ninth Order”

Amid the typical somnolence of the state Senate one Friday afternoon, Republicans rioted and engineered a peaceful overthrow in the chamber with a rarely used parliamentary procedure known as the Ninth Order to bring a bill to floor. Their purpose was all serious — approving a plan to rebalance the state budget in a different way than the majority Democrats. At times in the dramatic conflict one couldn’t keep from laughing during the exchanges of verbal fire.

Fancy Footwork: House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle

In the past, Chopp’s feet won him a Cappy for their ability to squish the legislative life out of bills. This year, he earns it for the lightness of step he showed the night Republicans took over the Senate. Chopp jumped onto a table in the caucus room and delivered a fiery speech, imploring Democratic lawmakers to brace against a Republican incursion from across the dome.

I Am The Twenty-fifth Vote: Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn

Runner-up: Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island

It’s become clear the state Senate had found itself locked in a 24-24 split on whether to back a Democrat or Republican budget when Roach chose her side. Not coincidentally her decision came about the same moment Republican leaders welcomed her back into the caucus gatherings from which she had been barred for awhile because of past issues.

Meanwhile, when Haugen became the 25th senator to publicly endorse legalizing same-sex marriage, it ensured passage of the law. Her decision came days after she was accused at a town hall meeting of being homophobic.

Going, going, gone: Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton

Runner-up: Democratic majority in the Senate

Prentice was the first non-Snohomish County lawmaker to sit me down and explain the ways and means of the Senate. She’s been a constant fount of insight and shining example of the best a citizen legislator can be.

Her departure isn’t the reason her party may lose control of the chamber, however. With a political pendulum swinging toward Republicans and an improving field of GOP candidates in Western Washington it may be inevitable.

Worst Sequel: “Dance of the Special Session”

Having had an extra session in December, this one arrives too soon and is certain to be panned by audiences everywhere. The big question is what happens in November when incumbent lawmakers starring in this upcoming sequel are on the ballot seeking re-election.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at Contact him at 360-352-8623 or

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