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Eye On Olympia

Archive for January 2003

Banning strikes by teachers…

Should teachers be allowed to strike? Some state senators say no. On Friday, the Senate Commerce and Trade Committee held a hearing on two bills dealing with the issue. Senate Bill 5155 would ban strikes by educational employees. Senate Bill 5021 would prevent teachers and other school employees from using sick days or other benefits during a walkout.
The state teachers’ union says that the bills are unnecessary.
“Strikes are a last resort. They are rare,” said Lucinda Young, with the Washington Education Association.
Backers of the proposals, including the Washington Association of School Administrators, say the state needs to send a clear message that such strikes will not be tolerated. The bill allows for up to a daily $10,000 penalty against striking employee organizations.
Both bills are long shots — only a few senators have signed on as co-sponsors, and less than three weeks ago, the WEA reminded lawmakers of its political clout by bringing more than 22,000 people to Olympia — the largest demonstration at the capitol in more than a decade.

The first one out of the gate: Performance Audits

The House of Representatives, in its first vote this year, will consider Substitute House Bill 1053 Wednesday. The bill would allow “performance audits” of state agencies, to see how well they’re doing their jobs.
“It’s something that we have not had an opportunity to do in this state, ever,” said Rep. Mike Armstrong, R-Wenatchee, one of the bill’s sponsors.
So why are the audits needed? Armstrong and fellow proponents say the audits are needed to restore state agencies’ credibility with the public — and to find out what’s not working.
Local lawmakers signing on include Reps. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville; Don Cox, R-Colfax; and Jeff Gombosky, D-Spokane.
To read a nonpartisan report on the bill, click here.

Where’d that money go?

Remember last year’s brouhaha over Gonzaga University’s $1.5 million request for a stadium, err, parking lot? State lawmakers had heartburn, and so did the university, reluctant to surrender control of the planned stadium in exchange for a relatively small percentage of state construction money. Both backed out, and the deal died.
So where’d the money go? Well, it may be headed to Bellingham. The state Senate budget committee has earmarked the cash for Western Washington University, to help pay for damage from a July fire in a computer room.

EWU’s Steve Jordan on school vouchers — for college

Eastern Washington University President Steve Jordan braved controversy and made a pitch Thursday for vouchers in public higher education, calling them “a bad idea whose time has come.” To listen to a Television Washington recording of Jordan’s presentation, along with responses from other higher education officials, click here.

West Side Snapshot

Hundreds of gambling-industry workers demonstrated in the Olympia rain Tuesday, asking state lawmakers to allow slot-style machines at non-Indian casinos, taverns, bowling alleys, charity fundraisers and fraternal lodges. Tribes, they said, have a monopoly on the popular electronic machines.
Read the full story.

Who’s paid what:

Want to know how big the governor’s paycheck is? Or the attorney general’s? Or a state Supreme Court justice’s?
You can see the salary schedule for state officials, including state lawmakers, at this site.

Removing statute of limitations on childhood sex abuse cases

As things stand now, people who commit sex offenses against children cannot be prosecuted if the crimes took place more than three years after the victim’s 18th birthday or seven years after the crime. Some lawmakers, including local Rep. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, want to remove that provision completely.
A public hearing, in which several Spokane people will testify, is slated for 1:30 p.m. today. It will be aired on Television Washington, the state’s public access channel, and can be heard over the internet: go to tvw.org, click on “LIVE” and find House Judiciary Committee or, if you’re reading this after Tuesday, go to “Archives” and find House Judiciary Committee.

Helping you wade through the bureaucratic babble

How do our state and local taxes compare to those paid by people in other states?
How many state employees are there in Washington?
How can you file a consumer complaint with state officials?
How do you get your own citizens’ initiative on the ballot?
Who donated money to your state representative?

Olympia may be 300 miles away, but finding those things out is easier than it seems. Washington’s state government, watchdog groups, advocacy organizations and thinktanks run scores of internet Web sites, many of them containing valuable information about what state government is doing.

Throughout the coming weeks, The Spokesman-Review will be building a Web site to help you use those sites to find out more about what your elected leaders and state agencies are up to. We’ll try to help you wade through spin and bureaucratic babble, and highlight reports, laws and proposals important to the Inland Northwest. We’ll include frequent updates from Olympia, with striking quotes, photographs, breaking news, and News of the Weird. The site will include e-mail forums on upcoming issues, such as whether the state should expand gambling in order to help fix a $2.4 billion shortfall.

Please keep reading, give us suggestions, and check back often. Government represents the people – it sets your taxes and makes the laws. Make sure you know what it’s up to.

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About this blog

Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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