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Naming of two state buildings awaits action by lawmakers

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Naming of two state buildings awaits action by lawmakers

Dec 11, 2023 | 7:00 am ET
By Jerry Cornfield
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Naming of two state buildings awaits action by lawmakers
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Demolition of the Irving Newhouse Building on the campus of the Washington state Capitol in 2023. A new building is going up on the site and an effort is underway to ensure the new building has the same name. (Washington State Archives)

Washington lawmakers will be asked to affix a familiar name on a new building on the Capitol campus in Olympia and to endow an existing structure with the identity of a former state government leader for the first time.

The State Capitol Committee recommended last Thursday that the future home of Senate Republicans bear the same name as the building it is replacing, Irving R. Newhouse. A Republican, Newhouse served in the Legislature for 34 years before retiring in 1998. He died in 2001.

Also Thursday, in a separate decision, the panel backed renaming the state Natural Resources Building for Jennifer Belcher, a former legislator and the first woman to serve as Washington public lands commissioner, who died last year.

The recommendations will be shared with lawmakers who are empowered to name new or existing buildings on the state Capitol grounds. Lawmakers rely on recommendations from the State Capitol Committee and the director of the Department of Enterprise Services, and the advice of the Capitol Campus Design Advisory Committee.

Work crews tore down the old Irving Newhouse Building on the Capitol Campus earlier this year.  Construction on its replacement is underway and due to be finished by the end of next year.

Republican senators told the committee in June they wanted to retain the name. And this past week Republican Reps. Bryan Sandlin of Zillah and Bruce Chandler of Granger, filed a resolution to name the new building for Newhouse who won a seat in the state House in 1964 and later served in the Senate. It will be up for action in the next session.

“I knew Irv Newhouse. I served with Irv Newhouse. Irv Newhouse was a friend of mine,” said Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, a committee member, before the vote. “He richly deserves the naming of this second building.”

Sen. Sam Hunt and Rep. Beth Doglio, both Olympia Democrats, are among those who have pushed for naming the Natural Resources Building for Belcher, who served as commissioner from 1993-2001.

Some members of the public oppose the move and one woman spoke against it during the public comment period of Thursday’s meeting. She cited Belcher’s efforts to evict those living aboard their boats in some marinas.

Hunt and Doglio also spoke to the committee. Belcher could ruffle feathers when she took on the status quo, they said. But, they added, you don’t do great things if you don’t stir things up.

A resolution to put her name on the building had not been pre-filed in the House or Senate as of Friday.

The session begins Jan. 8 and is scheduled to last 60 days.