Our Voice: Thumbs up for Hastings' pursuit of bladderpod documents

April 14, 2014 

Our Voice: Thumbs up and down

Apply pressure

Thumbs up to U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings for pushing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provided answers on the federal government's recent decision to list the White Bluffs bladderpod as a threatened species.

Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, recently issued a subpoena to the agency after it failed to respond to his request for additional information on the decision.

Hastings told the Tri-City Herald that Americans have a right to know what science and data went into a listing decision that could have serious economic impacts.

The inquiry is particularly pressing because a group of Columbia Basin farmers fear losing the right to farm some of their land because of the listing. They banded together to have the plant studied after federal officials said they did not have the money for genetic testing to determine if the plant is truly a different species from all the other bladderpods.

A DNA researcher from the University of Idaho took samples of plants and his examination showed that the plant was not distinct. Fish and Wildlife said the study was not broad enough to change a peer review group's decision.

Regardless, government decisions with the potential to cause economic damage to American families ought to be transparent. It shouldn't take a congressional subpoena to do it.

Sober but belated decision

Thumbs up to the U.S. Justice Department for finally giving Washington access to an FBI database so the state can conduct nationwide background checks on people who apply to run legal marijuana businesses.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the department said allowing the checks is consistent with its priorities in letting legal marijuana experiments in Washington and Colorado move forward.

The Obama administration has said it wants the states to make sure pot revenue doesn't go to organized crime and that state marijuana industries don't become a cover for the trafficking of other illegal drugs.

Worthy goals. Access to the FBI database will help the state meet them.

Washington officials started asking a year ago for permission to run the checks. The feds declined to respond until last week.

Salary outlier

Thumbs down to Garfield County commissioners for raising their own salaries in 2012 -- using a technique that the Washington State Auditor's Office described as unconstitutional.

Commissioners voted to automatically raise their own salaries in 2012 to adjust for cost of living, with the exact amount to be determined by the Consumer Price Index. The salary for commissioners increased by $1,342 to $22,819 in 2012.

The state constitution prohibits elected officials from raising their own salaries. They're limited to raising the salaries for whoever next fills their seats.

If the official is re-elected after the salary increase was approved, it's OK to take the new pay. But Garfield County commissioners apparently want to broaden the definition of what's appropriate.

The restriction on pay raises includes "automatic cost-of-living increases when the exact amount of the increase cannot be known in advance," according to state auditors.

Garfield County is apparently the only one of Washington's 39 counties to disagree. Commissioners there ought to get on board with all other elected officials in the state.

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