On coaches, state education and Inslee’s conundrum

There Ought To Be A Law: For everyone who thinks it should be illegal to use tax dollars to pay head football coaches at the University of Washington and Washington State University, you may get your wish.

A bill coursing through the state Senate would spell out that operating dollars from state coffers cannot cover any part of the coaches’ multimillion dollar salaries.

That’s already the case, yet the public is filled with doubt, the bill’s author said at a hearing this week.

“We all know the money doesn’t come from the general fund,” said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. “I think this really needs to be stated clearly.”

WSU and UW officials are embracing the legislation. They figure it’ll help convey that the earnings are covered by revenues from such things as ticket sales and television contracts.

“This is going to give us the force of law to back up our statements to constituents that we’re not using taxpayer dollars for these high-paid coaches,” Haugen said.

No Charter Schools, No Ed Bills: Washington will continue its ban on charter schools after attempts in the Senate to erase the prohibition died this week.

It wasn’t a peaceful passing.

A bipartisan majority on the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education committee wanted to vote on a bill allowing charter schools but the panel’s chairwoman, Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, said no and wouldn’t budge.

This contingent, led by Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, also wanted a vote on Tom’s bill for tougher reviews of teacher performance. No go on that one, either.

In response, the band of lawmakers led by the duo made clear its intention to prevent action on any other bill in front of the committee unless McAuliffe relented.

That’s what got Gov. Chris Gregoire involved. This political equivalent of hostage taking threatened to sink her initiative for tougher evaluations of teachers and principals. She tried to negotiate a truce.

On Friday, Gregoire dropped into the office of Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, for a short chat with Brown and McAuliffe. Tom and Litzow were not at the meeting.

The visit did not bring about an end to the impasse, leaving charter schools out in the cold and the fate of the governor’s evaluation bill up in the air.

To Resign or Not to Resign: Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee looks a bit leaner these days, pounds likely lost keeping his insane schedule of jetting back-and-forth between this Washington, where he’s running for governor, and the other Washington, where he’s serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.

But he isn’t ready to give up his seat in Congress to keep his feet in Washington every day.

When asked this week if he’s going to resign, he said, “I have not made a decision to resign. I am committed to the governor’s race and I have not made a decision. We’ll have further conversations.”

The pace may cost him more than a few pounds.

The state Republican Party is tallying Inslee’s missed votes and tracking when he’s campaigning here while the House is in session. You can bet GOP leaders will make a big deal about it as the race heats up between Inslee and Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna.

For example, Inslee was absent Jan. 18 when the Republican majority passed a resolution condemning President Barack Obama for using his authority to raise the debt limit. It was a party line vote. Inslee has missed other votes since and last Tuesday met with officials of a “clean technology” company in California that he’d like to see operate in Washington.

“Congressman Inslee is skipping out on his real job to attend campaign events and fundraisers,” Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur said in a recent press release. “He’s obviously burning the candle at both ends and can’t handle it.”

This Monday, Inslee will be in Spokane and Seattle laying out his agenda for economic development. He’s also got a fundraiser planned in Seattle before returning to Congress.

Inslee said his voting record exceeds 98 percent and brushed aside the partisans’ attacks.

“I think the union will survive,” he said.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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