Archive for February 2011
OLYMPIA – Washington homeowners would be restricted from putting fertilizer with phosphorus on healthy lawns under a bill that passed the House Monday.
Despite complaints from Republicans that homeowners are able to decide what fertilizer to put on their grass or that restrictions will send grass-growers across the border into Idaho for bootleg lawn spreads, Democrats passed a bill sought by Spokane and other cities seeking to cut down phosphorus in nearby lakes and streams.
Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, the bill’s sponsor, said similar restrictions in other states have been successful in lowering phosphorus levels that boost algae growth. The bill allows phosphorus fertilizers for new lawns, restoring dead lawns, for golf courses and for agricultural uses; it requires stores to sell non-phosphorus fertilizer for healthy lawns.
“Phosphorus is necessary in some uses but it is not necessary for a healthy lawn,” Billig said.
Representatives from Eastern Washington dominated much of the debate…
Spokane-area legislative boundaries could change significantly by next year to make up for population shifts from the city’s urban core to the suburbs.
While much of the attention so far on the 2010 U.S. Census figures has centered on Washington gaining its tenth congressional district, the state’s Redistricting Commission may have even more work to do on redrawing legislative districts. The state isn’t adding to the 49 legislative districts it has had since 1933.
“Ten is easier than 49. There’s more areas to quibble over,” Dean Foster, a member of this year’s commission and the 2000 panel that redrew lines after the previous census…
OLYMPIA — Both chambers will be voting today on legislation that managed to make it through committees.
The House started powering though relatively non-controversial bills shortly after 10 a.m., and the Senate followed soon afterward with a resolution recognizing the YMCA. (Random side comment: How hard can it be to recognize? It's usually a big building with a Y on it, you can't miss it…the Village People have a song about it.)
In any case, we'll be monitoring floor action throughout the day.
Elsewhere around the Capitol, it is Reproductive Rights Lobby Day, with a rally planned on the north steps of the building. The state's school administrators and school directors are lobbying their legislators.
With all the celebrating that has taken place since Boeing was declared the winner in the Air Force’s New Tanker Sweepstakes, it may be wise not to start adding all those jobs and money into the state’s moribund economy just yet. After all, the new tanker has the qualities of a reverse vampire – it is very hard to bring to life, and easy to kill.
The smart money, if there is such a thing in this long-running saga to replace the venerable KC-135, was actually on European Aerospace Defence and Space Inc. prior to the Pentagon’s announcement Thursday.
So worried were members of the Washington congressional delegation that at least one prepared a scathing response to an Airbus victory. A press release from Rep. Jay Inslee, whose district includes many once and future Boeing workers, hit e-mail inboxes just minutes after the announcement with a subject line of “Decision Will Not Stand”.
Whether Inslee was channeling Desert Storm-era George H.W. Bush or the Big Liebowski isn’t clear, for the text was appropriately celebratory of Boeing as “the best choice for the next gen tanker.” His staff apparently learned the dangers of something news outlets around the region were doing, preparing a story for each eventuality, and put the wrong headline on the right story.
But it brings to mind the fact that in 2008, the “smart money” was on Boeing winning the previous contract. When Washington’s favorite aerospace giant who has its headquarters elsewhere did not win, it appealed and won. EADS Airbus could do the same in the next week or so, and then where will we be?
About the same place we’ve been since the fall of 2001. . .
OLYMPIA — Spokane-area freshmen senators continue to get razzed even when they aren't making their first floor speeches.
More senior members were joking around the Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, during the vote on his first bill, when they observed it was hard to tell all these young faces apart. Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, suggested that they be regarded as the Spice Boys, with Hill as Baby Spice and Mike Baumgartner of Spokane as Sexy Spice in honor of his appearance in a list in The Inlander.
And what about the guy sitting at Sen. Bob McCaslin's desk, he was asked. That's Old Spice,” Hobbs said of recently appointed 4th District Sen.Jeff Baxter.
OLYMPIA —Much of the South Puget Sound is closed or moving slow today, scared back to bed apparently by Seattle television weather persons proclaiming a snow-pocalypse. It's actually a rare day in Olympia, with snow on the ground and blue skies.
The Legislature has floor action in both houses this morning and bill hearings in Ways and Means committees through the afternoon.
The Senate will be debating bills on foreign trade zones, partnership zones and shoreline management, among others, with some breaks for levity because several bills represent the first time freshmen will be sponsoring a bill on the floor. The House bills include topics like unclaimed remains, child fatality reviews, veteran's preferences and the landlord tenant act.
Senate Ways and Means started at 8 a.m. and members are ordered to report a half hour after the floor debates end. House Ways and Means starts at 1:30 p.m. with a long list of bills that include eligibility for the state's Basic Health Plan and what to do about precinct committee officer elections if there is no presidential primary next year.
The rush is spurred by another one of those pesky “cut off days.” Any bill that doesn't get out of its first Ways and Means or Transportation committee today is dead, or at least so close to death that they need parliamentary maneuvering to come back to life.
It is Hunger Action Day. There's a rally for “Off-highway Vehicle Awareness”
OLYMPIA — The Senate passed Spokane Republican Mike Baumgartner's first bill easily Thursday, but not before the traditional hazing of a freshman member.
As sponsor of SB 5500, Baumgartner got to move for its passage late Thursday morning, and decided to address head-on a source of notoriety in the early weeks of his freshman year: being named one of the Inland Northwest's Sexiest People by the Pacific Northwest Inlander.
He set himself up for the razzing that was coming by describing the bill — which requires agencies consider the economic impact of their rules on small businesses, seek business input on those rules and actually listen to that input — as a handsome and debonaire proposal to cure an unsightly problems. “Bold is beautiful,” he concluded.
Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, didn't take issue with the bill. Instead, she took the floor to play a few seconds of “I'm Too Sexy” from her cell phone into the microphone. Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, said took issue with her selection, saying it should have been the version by Alvin and the Chipmunks.
“I'm glad you're bringing sexy back to the Senate,” Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, said. “I hope you can give me some of your tips.”
Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, serving as the body's President Pro Tem, later expressed some false surprise: “The president was not aware that there was a shortage of sexy men.”
As is traditional, Baumgartner had gifts delivered to all senators' offices to mark his first speech. He actually sent two, a bottle of Latah Creek's “Spokane Blush” wine, with a quote from G.K. Chesterton about working together, and a lump of coal. His wife is pregnant with their first child and due in June, he said.
“If we don't get out of here in time to see my baby born, I'm taking the wine back and you can keep the coal.”
The session is due to end April 24, but a special session will be called if legislators can't settle on a way to cut an estimated $4.6 billion from the 2011-13 budget. Some legislative staff have been told to be prepared to work through June.
OLYMPIA — Most of the heavy lifting today will either be done in the Ways and Means Committees or Transportation Committees, or by people trying to shovel snow off their driveways.
Snow is falling at a good clip around Olympia and in the South Sound, so some folks will be slow getting to the Capitol this morning. But the House has no floor activity scheduled and the Senate's spent most of the morning in caucus. They started to move some bills around 11:30 a.m., including some adjustments to the injured workers compensation system and a bill that would require agencies to consider the economic impacts of their policies. The latter is sponsored by freshman Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, and would be his first bill brought to the floor…which means he could be subjected to some good-natured hazing.
House Ways and Means planned to start its hearings at 9 a.m. and Chairman Ross Hunter is threatening to go late into the evening if necessary to clear bills off its calendar. At some point today they'll deal with bills ranging from state employees going back on the payroll after they started collecting their pension to lower pay for school employees to electing precinct committee officers in the presidential primary.
Senate Ways and Means doesn't start until 1:30 p.m. but it too has a potpourri of issues such as the management of water resources to setting up a non-profit online university to Medicaid fraud.
Why the crush? Friday is the deadline for getting bills out of the original chamber's money committee. Those that don't are dead without some parliamentary maneuvering.
So it's a bit unusual that one bill was just introduced that would allow certain areas to set up a “Public Speedway Authority” and build a track where they could hold NASCAR races. One could say the bill will have to be put on a fast track to have a chance of making the finish line, but then one could be accused of not working very hard to come up with a joke.
It was supposed to be Massage Awareness Day in the Capitol, but that's been cancelled…rubbed out, so to speak. There will probably be a few more folks wearing purple to signify they are health care workers with the SEIU in town to lobby their legislators.
Some quick hits on the 2010 Census data as we work furiously to answer the Flakey Foont question “What does it all mean?”
Spokane remains the Avis of Washington cities, with Tacoma dropping into a more distant third. Spokane is at 208,916, Tacoma is at 198,397. (Seattle, not that anyone in Eastern Washington much cares, is at 608,660.)
Spokane County is the fourth largest county in the state, after King, Pierce and Snohomish. It has 471,221 residents, about 46,000 more than Clark County, although Clark grew nearly twice as fast over the last 10 years.
When the boundaries are redrawn, the average congressional district in Washington will have 672,454 residents. And we'll have 10 instead of the current nine.
All the state's congressional districts have too many people right now. Eastern Washington's 5th District has 723,609 people, which is 51,155 too many. (All those fives seem to be working together.)
Central Washington is clearly growing much faster than Eastern Washington. The 4th Congressional District has 774,409 people, which is 101,955 too many. Only suburban King and Pierce counties, and southwest Washington's 3rd District grew faster.
OLYMPIA — The House and Senate are both moving relatively uncontroversial bills before heading for long hearings in their respective Ways and Means committees this afternoon.
The Senate has bills on teaching the history of Civil Rights, one on a Puget Sound corps, and receiverships. The House has bills on street gang program, innovation schools and ballot envelopes. A vote on a bill on mortgage lending fraud was briefly delayed for some good-natured hazing of its sponsor Joe Fain of Auburn, because it was his first bill.
Legislative leaders as well as the governor should get information on the 2010 Census count around noon.
It is also Home Educator's Day and Civic Education Day at the Capitol.
Spokane Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin's landslide reelection victory in 2009 has made her name pop up as a possible candidate for just about any local office.
Last year, she was courted by Republicans to run for state Legislature. She declined.
She had left open the possibility of running for mayor against Mayor Verner. But McLaughlin said this week that she has decided not to run for mayor or city council president.
Republicans see her as a candidate who appeals to the conservative and moderate wings of the party. Not only that, she's easily carried a Democratic-leaning council district that voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
“I believe I would make a very good mayor or council president but my passion is for Spokane and other cities to be financially sustainable,” McLaughlin wrote in an e-mail. “For this to happen there needs to be strong advocacy at the state level to help slow down/eliminate unfunded mandates and to continue work on cost containment strategies for our general fund.”
Translation: The city needs help from state government to keep its expenses down.
McLaughlin is active in the leadership of the Association of Washington Cities and is in line to become the group's next president. This year, helped lobby the legislature on behalf of the association and Spokane.
OLYMPIA – The U.S. Supreme Court answered once and for all Tuesday whether a conservative group can hide the names of donors to a campaign against an assisted suicide initiative.
The court refused to hear an appeal of lower courts’ rulings against Human Life of Washington, which sought an injunction against the state’s Public Disclosure Commission for a planned 2008 campaign against assisted suicide. (Note: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the group refused to report donors and the PDC found it in violation of disclosure laws.)
It was the second time in eight months the nation’s highest court upheld state disclosure laws being challenged by faith-based groups. In both cases the groups were defended by an attorney who challenges election laws around the country.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Crisis in Dairyland - Revenge of the Curds|
Is anyone else irked by some television news accounts that try to find parallels to popular uprisings in the Middle East? If so, you'll enjoy Jon Stewart's opening monologue from Monday nights “The Daily Show” which takes up that issue at about 5:30 in. (The rest of it is worth watching, though.)
It's possible that folks at The Spokesman-Review are a bit sensitive about such lame comparisons because photographer Holly Pickett, a former colleague, has been on the scene in Tunisia, Egypt and now Morocco, and we wouldn't worry quite so much if she were shooting photos in Madison, Wisc.
OLYMPIA — The House and Senate both have actual floor sessions today, considering some bills that have come out of committees.
Among the first to move is SJR 8205, a possible constitutional amendment that would be on the fall ballot, a technical or “housekeeping” change that, when you think about it, is either amusing or bizarre. It seems the state Constitution has two conflicting residency requirements for voting. Article 6 Section 1 says a voter must live in the state, county and precinct for 30 days before an election to to be allowed to vote. But Section 1A says that in a presidential year, a citizen must reside in the state at least 60 days before the election to vote for president.
It's a problem that stems from changing Section 1 in 1974 to allow for the 18-year-old vote, and not addressing 1A, which had been added in 1966.
Hearings continue this afternoon, with the Senate Ways and Means Committee taking up bills ranging from a limit to the state's debt to new rules for gathering signatures on initiatives to setting up a commission to restructure the state's government.
It is United Food and Commercial Workers Lobbying Day and Have a Heart for Kids Day.
Today's trivia: Who was the greatest president since World War II? Zogby Poll results inside has one answer…see what you think.
OLYMPIA — Fourteen year-olds can probably forget about voting in this year's school board races.
English may be the language everyone in the state uses for official events and documents but it’s unlikely to be declared the state’s “official language.”
The death penalty will likely remain viable for another year.
Washington probably won’t ask the federal government to say the gray wolf isn’t endangered.
Proposed laws addressing these and dozens of other ideas died quiet deaths Monday as the first legislative “cut off” day passed. It’s one of the dates set to the cull the herd of ideas that attempt to become laws each year.
To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.
In honor of Presidents Day, here is some Oval Office worthy trivia.
Before President's Day, the U.S. used to have Washington's Birthday as a federal holiday. What's Washington's real birthday?
The faces of what four presidents are carved onto Mount Rushmore?
What four state capitals are named for presidents?
What political party elected the fewest presidents, and how many was that?
Two presidents were elected unopposed. George Washington was one of them. Who was the other?
What four presidents lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College vote?
What president had the most children?
Who was the last president not to attend college?
Former City Councilman Mike Allen announced last week that he is entering the race to challenge Richard Rush in hopes of once again representing south Spokane.
Allen, a former Eastern Washington University administrator, was named to the council to replace Mary Verner after she was elected mayor in 2007. He lost the seat to Jon Snyder in 2009.
Allen and Rush had worked closely on some issues and were quite friendly when they both served on the council — often carpooling together to council meetings. But Rush endorsed Snyder late in the 2009 campaign, a decision Rush said wasn't personal and that Allen said at the time didn't bother him.
Still, it makes for an interesting race.
Allen, 43, was considered a moderate when he served on the council and was unsuccessful at earning party backing for his 2009 race. He said after he lost that it may not be possible to win a City Council race without the help of Republicans or Democrats. Last year, Allen was elected a Republican Party precinct committee officer.
Happy Presidents Day, which should take on extra special meaning considering the wishes come from the only state named for a president.
Most government offices are closed, which seems a bit odd concerning the day honors the 44 people who have been at the top of the nation's government. And the banks are closed, also odd because they handle those green rectangular strips of paper that have so many presidents engraved on them.
But more curious is that Congress, which is a completely separate branch of government, takes time off.
And not just one day, like so many of the rest of us, but a whole week.
Although state offices are closed, the Legislature is in session today. Committees are feeling the pressure to get bills passed along to keep them from dying.
Random trivia question: What's the only U.S. city that carries the full name of a president?
Former Rep. Mike Padden is running for the 4th District Senate seat that he was shut out of in the recent appointment process.
Padden announced today that he'll run this fall for the seat formerly held for 30 years by Bob McCaslin, and to which Jeff Baxter was recently appointed by Spokane County Commissioners. His announcement came with endorsements from some Valley GOP heavyweights like McCaslin and former state Rep. Lynn Schindler.
A 14-year legislator and 12-year Spokane County District Court judge, Padden was among more than a half dozen Republicans interested in the appointment when McCaslin resigned on Jan. 5 because of health problems. But when Republican precinct committee officers met later that month to nominate three potential replacements, supporters of state Rep. Matt Shea elected a slate that kept Padden off the list.
4th District Republican Leader Jeff Baxter, a Valley businessman, was appointed to the seat until a special election this fall. He was sworn in last week, but said he wants to wait a few week before deciding whether he'll run for the position in the upcoming special election.
Although Padden can begin campaigning and raising money now, state law prohibits Baxter, Shea, or any sitting legislator from raising money for an election campaign while the Legislature is in session.
He said Monday he left the Legislature in 1995 because he had young children at home, and the district court appointsment was “a great opportunity and allowed me to return here fulltime.
“I always missed the Legislature.”
He currently serves as judicial outreach liaison to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission.
Now that most dust has settled from filling the Spokane Valley’s 4th District Senate seat, it may be safe to answer the question of who was guilty of committing politics to fill that spot.
While it’s generally true if everyone’s guilty, no one can claim the moral high ground, the problem seems to be that some people don’t like to be thought of as resorting to politics to get what they want. They believe there’s something inherently evil or icky about it. For them, here are two words of advice:
Grow up… .
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire signed most of the supplemental budget designed to keep Washington from slipping into red ink by June 30, using her veto pen for several sections that added back $6.4 million of spending.
She said she liked the Legislative spending plan better than the budget she proposed in December, because it saves several social programs she would have eliminated and cuts less from education. But those may be temporary reprieves, she warned.
“I don't want to suggest it will necessarily last for the next biennium,” Gregoire said. (For details on the budget, click here._
Among the sections vetoed were a provision to impose a 3 percent pay cut starting April 1 on state employees who aren't represented by organized labor. Union state employees face a similar reduction starting July 1, although it's not a straight pay cut but an agreement to work about 5 hours less per month, with corresponding drop in pay. The union agreement also spares those who make less than $30,000 a year from the cut, something the Legislature didn't do for non-union employees,.
“As the state's CEO, I have to treat my employees equally,” she said.
Gregoire also vetoed a provision to reduce the communications staffs in the executive branch by about $1 million, noting that a similar cut was not being ordered for legislative communication staffs, and a $1.7 million reduction proposed for the Department of Social and Health Services management, that she said would cost the state matching federal money and the department had already had a 27 percent cut in centralized administrative staff.
OLYMPIA — The House passed the state's “middle action” supplemental budget, shrinking the state's projected deficit with some $242 million in cuts.
In a 55-41 vote along partisan lines, the House gave final approval to the bill, which now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.
Democrats argued it was an imperfect bill. “There's certainly something in this budget for everyone to hate,” House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said.
Republicans contended it took money from education, which is the state's paramount duty under the state Constitution, and gave it to social programs that aren't working well. “This budget is living in the past. It lacks the substantive reform needed to move into the future,” Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, said.
OLYMPIA — The House of Representative is debating the supplemental budget, which was passed earlier by the Senate and can't be amended. Democrats appear to have the votes to pass it but Republicans plan to argue as much as possible against it.
It's being described as a “very unpleasant budget” by supporters, and of questionable morality by detractors.
Details on the budget, from this morning's newspaper story, can be found by clicking here.
OLYMPIA — The state Senate passed a supplemental budget this morning that cuts about $242 million from planned state spending through the end of June.
With little debate, the Senate gave 37-10 approval to the spending plan, which helps ease but doesn't completely solve the estimated deficit in the state's General Fund Operating Budget. For more details on the budget deal, click here.
After bipartisan support in the Senate, the budget bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where the Republican caucus is solidly opposed and may try to slow its progress.
OLYMPIA— With a resolution that read like a sports page account of their come-from-behind Division I football championship win, the Senate honored the Eastern Washington University Eagles during this morning's session.
Members of the team held the NCAA trophy high and stood with EWU President Rodolfo Arevalo in the Senate and later the House galleries as both chambers applauded.
The Eagles' Jan. 7 victory even gave state Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, whose district includes the Cheney campus, a chance for a political dig. Arevalo was so calm during the game compared to the most noticeable fan for the University of Delaware, Vice President Joe Biden, who was cheering wildly for the Fightin' Blue Hens, Schoesler said.
At the end of the game, Arevalo was able to do “what everly conservative political pundit would like to do, quiet the vice president,” Schoesler said.
With the Blue Hens up 19-0 late in the third quarter, many Eagle fans probably turned their televisions off. The number who will admit that in the future will probably be small, he added.
Over in the House, players and university officials shared the gallery with members of the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a World War II unit made up of Japanese Americans, and survivors of the Japanese internments who were honored on “Remembrance Day.”
OLYMPIA — Proposed changes to the state's initiative laws were blasted as unconstitutional, arrogant and un-American by a Republican senator who tried to block them Thursday.
No, they're an attempt to bring modernize the system and protect it, said the Democrat who sponsored the changes.
In a series of 4-3 votes, the Senate Government Operations Committee rejected most attempts by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, to change the proposal and sent it to the next step of the legislative process. Senate Bill 5297 would raise the fee for filing an initiative from the current $5 to $500, require businesses that pay people to gather signatures to register with the state and require paid signature gatherers to present photo identification whenever asked.
“Last time I checked, we live in America,” said Benton in explaining an amendment to strip out provisions for paid-signature collectors to have identification. “We don't have to carry papers. You shouldn't have to provide a photo ID to anybody other than law enforcement.”
OLYMPIA — The Legislature may find a way to keep the Museum of Arts and Culture and the state museum in Tacoma open, despite Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to close them because of budget problems.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said today a coalition of Spokane and Tacoma legislators is working on a strategy to reduce state support over time, but provide a “bridge” of state money while the museums look for financial support elsewhere.
For the MAC, Brown said, a possible source of funding would be the region's tribes because the museum has an extensive collection of Native American artifacts.
The Washington State Historical Society operates the museum in Tacoma and the separate Eastern Washington State Historical Society operates the MAC. In 2008, Gregoire tried unsuccessfully to merge the two societies; the proposal wasn't introduced in the Senate.
Brown said Thursday she didn't see a merger as part of conditions for the Legislature keeping money in the budget.
The two societies serve different areas and seem to work better as separate entities, she said.
OLYMPIA — A supplemental budget agreement between the House and Senate, which cuts an estimated $242 million in projected state spending between now and June 30, was approved by a special conference committee this morning
That means it will go to the chambers for an up or down vote, without amendments, in the next few days. Senate Democrats and Republicans and House Democrats signed off on the deal; House Republicans were noticeably absent. Rep. Gary Alexander of Olympia, lead Republican budget writer, said Wednesday it had things they wouldn't agree to.
The 4-page breakdown explains the differences with previous budget plans by Gov. Chris Gregoire, the House and the Senate. Here are some highlights:
It cuts $58.6 million from K-12 education. The largest cuts come from programs that shrunk class sizes in grades K-4 and money given to “safety net adjustment” programs.
Colleges get a $26 million cut, the largest in a plan to shift responsibility for student financial aid.
Health Care gets a $47 million cut. The Basic Health Plan, which Gregoire had proposed eliminating, survives with lower eligibility levels, but all state funding for Part D Medicare co payments are eliminated. The Child Health Program also remains, but only for families at 200 percent of poverty level or below. Those between 200 percent and 300 percent of poverty level (the current cut off) can stay in the program if they pay the premiums. The Disability Lifeline continues, but with lower cash grants and housing vouchers. The average Lifeline cash grant would go from $235 to $173.
Long-term Care, Developmental Disability and Mental Health programs would be cut $70.5 million, with a $19 million cut in payments for personal care and a $12.6 million cut in payments that cover services not covered by Medicaid.
Other Human Services face cuts totalling $43.5 million on a wide range of programs ranging from Food assistance to alcohol and drug addiction to refugee employment..
Combined with some $125 million in transfers into the General fund from other accounts, the spending plan would erase $367.4 million in projected red ink. But the projected shortfall is about $600 million, so another supplemental budget — technically a supplemental-supplemental-supplemental considering a Special Legislative session passed one supplemental in December and this would be the second in three months — will be necessary at some point.
“Baby steps,” Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, a member of the conference committee, said.
Washington state has to change its popular prepaid college tuition program or risk financial problems down the road, a legislative panel was told Wednesday.
The Guaranteed Educational Tuition Program, known to most parents simply as GET, could face insolvency in the long-run because the fund’s return on investments isn’t keeping pace with rising tuition costs.
“I don’t think we have a serious problem at this time,” Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said. “We are trying to avoid creating some kind of unfunded liability problem in the future.”
Since 1998, nearly 120,000 families have opened GET accounts, buying future tuition for Washington colleges at current prices. Under the program, participants buy a GET unit with a price calculated on the current cost of tuition, so that 100 units equals one year of tuition at the University of Washington. They can “cash” the units at some future date and the state guarantees they will be worth the comparable value at that point. In other words, the state guarantees that 100 units bought in 2011 for $11,700 will be worth a year’s tuition at UW in 2021 or 2041, regardless of how much tuition rises or what school the student attends.
Money used to purchase GET credits go into a fund managed by the state investment board, which averages a return of about 8 percent. But some years, college tuition has gone up faster than that.
A state actuarial report released earlier this year says that under the some scenarios, that fund could run short of money, and the state would be on the hook for the difference. . .
OLYMPIA — A few months ago, Mike Baumgartner and Chris Marr were locked in a generally contentious and historically expensive state Senate campaign in Spokane's 6th District.
Today, Baumgartner was openly supporting Marr — for a spot on the state Liquor Control Board.
Gov. Chris Gregoire's nomination of Marr to the board, which has to be approved by the Senate, came up for a vote in the morning session. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane, a fellow Democrat and longtime Marr ally, moved for his confirmation by reciting a long list of positions on Marr's resume.
That would have been enough to get the vote, which was pretty much a foregone conclusion. But Baumgartner, who beat Marr in the November election, rose for his first official floor comments.
“I've known Chris Marr from the campaign trail and I think he'll be an excellent servant to people in his new role,” Baumgartner said. Appointment passed 43-3.
Baumgartner was spared the hazing that usually accompanies a member's first speech for those comments. That will come later, he acknowledged.
OLYMPIA — Legislative negotiators have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to cut hundreds of millions from the state's budget through the end of June. It could get a vote in the Senate on Friday morning.
The bill reportedly has the support of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and House Democrats. House Republicans are likely to vote no because it doesn't cut enough from Basic Health and the Disability Lifeline programs.
Republican leaders of both chambers acknowledged the budget agreement at a noon press conference. Although a copy of the bill is not yet available, Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, the top Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said it would tighten up on qualifications for the Basic Health plan which provides state-supported health care to low income residents, reduce the income limits for families enrolling kids into the Children's Health Program, and reduce cash grants while still providing housing vouchers and some health care to participants in the Disability Lifeline.
Zarelli described it as “not enough and too late, but it's something.”
It has some retroactive cuts to K-12 school funding, which will cost it GOP support in the House, Rep. Gary Alexander of Olympia, top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee: “We can't go there.”
House Republicans also wanted lower income limits on the Basic Health program and the end of all cash grants on Disability Lifeline participants.
But unless they can pull in a significant number of House Democrats, the proposal seems likely to pass, through a non-amendable conference committee report, that will hit the Senate floor Friday.
OLYMPIA — The Legislature has a joint session this morning to hold a memorial for former members who have died in the last two years.
They also have a full day of hearings as the clock runs out for the first “cut-off” day in which bills must either be out of their assigned committee in the chamber where they were introduced, or be consigned to the scrapheap of legislative history.
The House State Government Committee had an early morning hearing on cancelling the 2012 presidential primary to save the state about $10 million. Problem for the political parties is that would knock out the one partisan vehicle they would have to elect precinct committee officers now that a judge has ruled they can't do that in a Top Two primary any more.
The Senate Higher Education Committee has an afternoon hearing on changes to the Guaranteed Education Tuition program, which would put some restrictions on how those pre-paid tuition credits can be used.
The House Local Government Committee looks at a bill to allow legal or official notices to be poste online, rather than printed in a local newspaper.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing on a bill to regulate police surveillance of political groups.
It is also Tri-Cities Energy Day, Energy Independence Day and Native American Lobby Day, which includes a drumming circle on the North Steps of the Capitol at some point during the day.
A battle may be shaping up to take over for City Council President Joe Shogan.
Ben Stuckart, executive director for Communities in Schools of Spokane County, said Wednesday that he is “strongly considering” a run for Spokane City Council president.
City Councilman Steve Corker announced last year that he is a candidate to replace Shogan, who is not running again.
Last year, Stuckart was the spokesman for the unsuccessful campaign for the Children's Investment Fund, a proposed property tax for youth programs aimed at lowering the dropout rate.
Stuckart, 39, said he will make a decision about running by March 1. He is the former regional manager for TicketsWest and was hired in 2007 to start the Communities in Schools' Spokane office. Stuckart lives in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood on the South Hill.
(Photo information: Ben Stuckart, director of Communities in Schools, stands in his small office in Spokane Thursday, Mar. 4, 2010. By Jesse Tinsley.)
OLYMPIA – Keeping a dog chained up in unsafe conditions could get the owner fined under a proposed state law being considered by the state Senate.
Good senators, said supporters who told the Senate Judiciary that chained or tethered dogs are more likely to turn mean and sometimes deliberately mistreated so they’ll be angry watchdogs at drug or gang houses.
Bad senators, said opponents who argued existing law already protects dogs from unsafe conditions whether they are chained or running free. Most dog bites, and all recent deaths caused by dog attacks, occurred with dogs that weren’t chained, they said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee isn’t quite ready to roll over on the issue…
OLYMPIA — Mid-January storms caused enough damage in Western Washington counties to rate a state of emergency declaration from Gov. Chris Gregoire today.
Gregoire said preliminary estimates put the damage to homes, businesses, highways and public faciilties from storms between Jan. 9 and Jan. 26 at more than $1.1 million and growing.
The disaster area includes parts of Chelan, Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grant, Grays Harbor, King, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Wahkiakum and Whatcom counties. The declaration allows locals to use state resources to cover emergency needs.
In other Western Washington nasty weather news, the Gregoire asked for a federal disaster area to be declared in seven counties hard hit by the winter storms between last Dec. 8 and Dec. 18. If the feds approve, federal money can be used to cover 75 percent of elibible damages and costs from the storms in Clallam, Cowlitz, Kitsap, Mason, Skagit, Skamania and Snohomish.
A new poll of 400 likely Republican primary voters suggests President Barack Obama should cue up a Bruce Springsteen song as his campaign anthem. Only about one in four believes he was born in the USA.
The poll was designed to test the relative strength of various GOP presidential aspirants. Mike Huckabee was first, followed by Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. But as polls often do, the folks at PPP asked some other questions. Among them:
Do you think President Obama was born in the United States?
No said 51 percent
Yes said 28 percent
Not sure said 21 percent.
In other words, nearly three-fourths are either convinced he wasn't or aren't sure he was.
Monday is Presidents Day. In honor of that, you can avoid putting those little round metal things with portraits of George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt or Thomas Jefferson in city parking meters.
In other words, it's a parking meter holiday.
OLYMPIA — A long day of hearings as the Legislature approaches its first deadline for getting bills out of their first committee.
Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing on a bill that lrequires chained or tethered dogs be treated in a humane manner, and another bill that sets rules for newspapers correcting defamatory statements.restrict the chaining or tethering of dogs.
House Ways and Means Committee has a hearing on a proposal to charge $10 for a day visit to a state park, or $30 for a yearly “Discover Pass.”
House Agriculture Committee has a hearing on a bill covering the illegal hunting of big game.
Senate Higher Education Committee has one on a bill to create a new state university, the University of North Puget Sound, in Everett.
There were supposed to be competing media events on the TransAlta coal-fired generating station in Centralia, but the Sierra Club's anti-coal burning press conference was cancelled. The TransAlta pro-generator rally apparently will take place.
It's also Dealership Day, which is the day auto dealers make a pilgrimage to Olympia (presumably in the latest models) to talk with their legislators.
Diane Baxter adjusts the flag pin on her husband Jeff Baxter's lapel before he is sworn in Monday.
OLYMPIA – As he paused from unpacking books Monday onto mostly empty shelves above a mostly empty desk in his mostly empty office, the Spokane-area’s newest senator reflected on the last month: “It’s been a whirlwind.”
In 30 days, Jeff Baxter went from being a Valley businessman active in local GOP politics, to a nominee for an open seat, to taking the oath of office in the Senate chamber. He got his assignments – Judiciary, Human Services and the budget-writing Ways and Means committees – met with Gov. Chris Gregoire and began getting acclimated with the Capitol.
He’s hardly had time to catch his breath since Friday afternoon, when he almost missed the Spokane County commissioners’ appoint him to replace 30-year-veteran Bob McCaslin. It took so long to find a parking space near the courthouse that he and his wife Diane were just walking in the hearing room when he heard one commissioner make a motion to appoint him, another second it and the third vote yes.
“By the time I got to my seat, I was a senator,” he said. “I was shocked. I’m honored. I’m thrilled.”
John Waite, the owner of Merlyn's in downtown Spokane, is making a third run for Spokane City Council.
He announced his run today in a news release.
Waite ran unsuccessfully for council in 2007 and 2009 in the city's northwest district. This time, however, Waite will vie for a seat representing northeast Spokane.
OLYMPIA — In what may be a nod to Valentine's Day, two legislators announced they are introducing bills to legalize gay marriage in Washington state.
State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, introduced SB 5793 in the Senate. Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancover, said he'll drop the companion legislation in the House on Tuesday. It would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed over then-Gov. Gary Locke's veto in 1998.
“We've made tremendous progress since 1998,” Murray said. “Gay and lesbian families in Washington now enjoy the same state spousal rights that their married straight friends enjoy – except for the name ‘marriage’. The recognition that their loving, lifelong commitment is no different from the loving, lifelong commitment of straight couples is the final step to achieving full equality. I believe the Legislature and the public are both ready to take that final step.”
The bill covers civil marriage laws; religious institutions would be free to determine whether they would perform services for same-sex couples.
It also keeps the option of domestic partnerships, which are currently in the law.
The bills may be more symbolic than realistic. This late in the session, they have just one week to get out of committee or be killed by the first cut-off date, Feb. 21.
OLYMPIA — Wasting no time after being named to the open 4th District Senate seat Friday evening, Jeff Baxter was sworn in Monday morning in a brief ceremony before the day's session got underway.
With his wife Diane holding the family Bible, Baxter took the oath of office administered by State Supreme Court Justice Jim Johnson while other senators from the Spokane delegation as well as State Rep. Matt Shea looked on.
Baxter was given some heavy lifting, drawing assignments to the Ways and Means, Judiciary and Human Services and Corrections committees.
OLYMPIA – As they do most years, legislators are considering possible changes to the state’s initiative system. That generates the usual shouts of alarm from populists who believe the process is a great bulwark of the citizenry, either against the Legislature’s inaction or its tyranny.
Rules that would require more registration and better identification of people paid to stand outside Home Depot and cajole you into signing are debatable. But one change being proposed is pretty hard to argue.
The Secretary of State suggests raising the filing fee from $5 to $50. Before fiscal conservatives go apoplectic at a 1,000 percent increase, it seems fair to note the filing fee has been five bucks for a long time.
For 118 years the state has charged people a five spot to file whatever brilliant idea comes into their head…
Changes to the state’s unemployment insurance system that will stop tax increases for businesses and temporarily increase benefits for jobless workers were signed Friday as the first completed legislation of this session.
With all sides applauding each other for bipartisan and bicameral cooperation, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed one bill that will stop a scheduled tax rate increase that would have cost businesses an estimated $300 million this year. That bill got its final approval in the House of Representatives Wednesday, in time to notify businesses of the lower rates that effect payments they will make in April.
Another bill passed the Senate Friday morning that permanently readjusts rates and temporarily provides an extra $25 a week in unemployment benefits to those out of work. It also increases training programs available for unemployed workers to help move them into jobs that have more likelihood of continuing in a changing economy…
To read more, go inside the blog
Bulletin: Republican District Leader and small businessman Jeff Baxter was named to replace state Sen. Bob McCaslin this afternoon by Spokane County Commissioners.
My colleague John Craig has full details here, but not everyone who reads Spin Control checks The Spokesman-Review's Web page, so we thought we'd give him a plug.
Sen. Mike Baumgartner talks with Sen. Randi Becker Friday on the Senate floor.
OLYMPIA — Spokane Sen. Mike Baumgartner is taking a fair amount of ribbing from colleagues today, not for a vote he took but for one that was taken on him, naming him among the Inland Northwest's Sexiest People.
This week's edition of The Inlander lists Baumgartner among 11 people the weekly believes deserving of the honor. Arguably, he is The sexiest, considering he's listed first. (And it's not an alphabetized arrangement, like the way the Senate votes that puts him first.) Photocopies of the spread were in good supply in the Republican wings before the floor session started.
The spread also lists his appropriately Republican Turn ons, the Federalist Papers, and Turn offs, Reckless government spending.
Baumgartner was handling it with good humor, calling the accolade “bemusing” and said it was fun to go with his wife for the photo shoot. (She had to help him come up with the appropriate romantic song.)
“It's a great opportunity to get a rare mention of the Federalist Papers in The Inlander,” he said. “It is, by far, the best coverage I've ever got from them.”
Having snagged the honor once, some might feel the pressure to repeat next year. He doesn't. “Next year, I'll be nominating my wife,” he said.
OLYMPIA — The State Senate overwhelmingly approved changes to the state's unemployment insurance system today, increasing benefits temporarily by $25 a week and expanding training programs for jobless workers.
The bill, which follows approval earlier this week of a temporary halt of a planned rate increase for most businesses, now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire and could be signed as early as this afternoon.
Supporters described it in glowing terms as a bipartisan, bicameral solution worked out in conjunction with Gregoire that would help businesses and unemployed workers. So a win-win-win-win-win.
It passed 41-4. Among Spokane-area senators, Mike Baumgartner and Lisa Brown of Spokane and Bob Morton of Kettle Falls voted yes, Mark Schoesler of Ritzville voted no
OLYMPIA — The state Senate will take up the unemployment insurance changes once again this morning.
The temporary halt to the tax increase got wrapped up Wednesday in the House, but the Senate still needs to approve HB 1091, a separate proposal that gives an extra $25 a week in benefits to unemployed workers, increases training programs, and revises the rate structure long-term. It passed 98-0 in the House, could have fairly easy sailing in the Senate.
University of Washington students are planning a rally on the Capitol steps around lunchtime to protest cuts to higher education.
Otherwise it's a light Friday at the Capitol with only a few hearings in the early afternoon. Senate Judiciary has a hearing on human trafficking and Senate Higher Education will be looking at the practice of retired college employees who are collecting pensions going back on the payroll at their old institutions.
Before he became a honcho in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ron Sims was King County executive for three terms and was on the county council before that. So it's sometimes easy for folks to forget that he has Spokane roots.
Sims, however, does not. As the White House blog marks Black History Month with stories of African Americans “contributing to President Obama's goals for winning the future,” his is one of the biographies posted.
And it starts with Sims saying that all people are shaped by where they grew up and “I grew up in Spokane, Washington, which is in the eastern part of the state, and had the opportunity to attend what is now known as Central Washington University. My parents were engaged in the community, and in the weight of things, I am James and Lydia Sims’ son through and through.”
OLYMPIA – Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin was among victims of child sexual abuse urging the Legislature Wednesday to drop the statute of limitations that they say shields pedophiles from justice.
“It took me years to be able to call what happened to me between age 10 and 18 rape,” said McLaughlin, who told members of the House Public Safety Committee about years of sexual abuse by her father. “You shouldn’t lose the ability to bring about justice just because some years have elapsed.”
Michael Ross of Spokane, the founder of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said some victims of child sexual abuse don’t come to grips with what happened to them until they are in their 40s or 50s. Current law that requires a victim of a child rape to report before turning 29 protects pedophiles, said Ross who told the committee he was abused by a Catholic priest in his teens but repressed that memory until he was 47.
McLaughlin and Ross were among supporters of House Bill 1657, a proposal by Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane, to lift the statute of limitations for any rape of a minor by an adult. In a sometimes emotional hearing, they and other victims recounted their histories of sexual abuse that they acknowledge the bill can’t help because the law can’t be made retroactive.
It would, however, tell pedophiles from that point on “they could never escape justice”, said Virginia Graham of Spokane, who said she was sexually abused starting at age 10 and her father threatened to kill her if she reported him.
But Lonnie Johns-Brown of the Washington Coalition on Sexual Assault said she was ambivalent about the proposal because it might not have much effect. Rape convictions are difficult even when cases are prosecuted quickly and have hard evidence, she said.
McLaughlin said after the hearing it was the first time she had talked about being sexually abused in such a public setting. She sometimes speaks at victim support groups or other small gatherings. She agreed to testify for the bill because “I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Her faith has allowed her to move on, she said, but the fact that her father was never held accountable still weighs heavily on her family.
OLYMPIA — After some serious negotiating and head-counts on different options, the House unanimously passed a new version of changes to the unemployment insurance system.
It provides businesses with rate relief, cancelling a planned increase in taxes. It's not really a tax cut, Republican leaders were quick to note after the proposal passed, because it merely uses some of the surplus the system has built up over the years. They like to call it a rate smoothing.
In any case, it would save businesses about $300 million in lower rates.
A separate bill allows for a temporary increase in benefits to unemployed workers, using up to $68 million of federal money being made available to the state. It sets aside another $30 million for new training programs for unemployed workers.
The bill with the one-year rate smoothing now goes to the governor. The other changes go back to the Senate, which could vote on that bill by the end of the week.
OLYMPIA — Hearings today run the gamut from rules covering collecting signatures on initiatives to abolishing the death penalty to eliminating the statute of limitations for child sexual assault.
A morning hearing at the State Government Committee generated familiar testimony for and against a plan to requires signature gathering businesses to register with the state, paid signature gatherers to sign the back of their petitions and provide other information. The bill also would raise the filing fee from $5 to $50.
An afternoon hearing in Senate Judiciary would abolish the death penalty in Washington, substituting life in prison without parole for cases that currently carry capital punishment.
Also in the afternoon, the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee has a bill that would allow prosecution for first or second-degree rape of a minor. Rape of an adult could be prosecuted within 10 years if the crime is reported to police within a year of the attack, but would have to be prosecuted within the current three-year limit if the attack is not reported within a year of the attack.
No word yet on when the Legislature will revisit proposals to block tax increases for unemployment insurance or the supplemental budget.
It's Immigrants Day and Employment Day for All at the Capitol.
OLYMPIA – Locally distilled liquor could be bought at farmer’s markets along with organic tomatoes and hand-made candles under a plan being considered by the Legislature.
And customers in state liquor stores would be able to taste test some pricy or exotic brands before buying under another proposal.
The state’s growing number of craft distilleries could sell their gins, vodkas and whiskeys at farmers markets that obtain the proper permits under Senate Bill 5650. Some farmers markets already can offer local wine or beer.
Ryan Hembree of Skip Rock distillers in Snohomish County said it would be away of keeping money local by selling liquor made from local grains. “There’s a community pride in the product,” he said.
OLYMPIA – Washington state could collect about $200 million a year by legalizing marijuana, then regulating, taxing and selling it in state liquor stores, a legislative panel was told Tuesday.
But the state could also wind up with no money and any liquor store employee who rang up a marijuana sale facing five years in federal prison, the chairman of the House Public Safety Committee warned.
The committee spent about two hours Tuesday morning considering House Bill 1550, a version of the perennial push for the state to legalize marijuana, or cannabis as the sponsors prefer to call the plant. Under the plan, any adult could smoke marijuana, grow their own in a plot no bigger than 50 square feet, and the state would regulate and sell the drug at liquor stores. Farmers could also grow hemp, which comes from the plant.
If passed, this would put the state in the forefront efforts to legalize marijuana, which remains an illegal and controlled substance under federal law. That would be a good thing as other states follow suit, said Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, the prime sponsor.
“Why shouldn’t Washington reap the benefits of legalization,” asked Dickerson, who estimated the state could collect $400 million per biennium from taxes and sales. She likened home-grown marijuana to home-brewing of beer and wine making.
OLYMPIA — A heavy hearing day — in more ways than one — with no real floor action scheduled in either chamber.
The House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee has a hearing on a bill to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. Don't expect any new arguments for or against, but a Legislative session isn't really a session without at least one propoal to legalize pot.
The Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee has a hearing on a bill to allow craft distillers — the hard liquor equivalent to boutique wineries — to sell their wares at farmer's markets. The same committee has a hearing on former state Sen. Chris Marr's appointment to the State Liquor Control Board.
The process to fill an empty Senate seat in the Spokane Valley’s 4th Legislative District has resulted in “vicious personal attacks” aimed at himself, his family and “our constitutional foundations and Christian principles,” state Rep. Matt Shea, one of the candidates for the opening, said.
In a written statement to supporters over the weekend, Shea and his wife Viktoriya attempted to answer a claim that he’d gone back on an agreement to allow former legislator Mike Padden to be among the nominees sent to Spokane County commissioners. Former state Sen. Bob McCaslin, who resigned from the seat he’d held for 30 years because of health problems, said Shea couldn’t be trusted because he’d broken that agreement.
Padden and state Rep. Larry Crouse, Shea’s seatmate in the 4th, said they believed after a conversation with him that there was such an agreement, although they couldn’t say for sure that Shea believed that as well.
Shea said in the statement he “steadfastly refused to acquiesce to a backroom deal” to appoint someone to the seat.
“In our Republic, a self-appointed aristocracy who ‘know better than the voters’ has always been shunned,” he wrote in the statement obtained by The Spokesman-Review.
Shea’s office confirmed that he had sent the statement to supporters, but he did not return a request for further comment. (To read the full statement, click here to go inside the blog.)
County Commissioner Todd Mielke said he also received a copy of the statement, and the board is trying to determine how to handle it. The deadline for submitting comments ended Friday, so some people could say it’s unfair to the other candidates to add something to the record but others could argue it’s unfair to Shea to leave it out.
Mielke denied the board was being, in Shea’s words “anti-Christian and anti-veteran” in questioning his qualifications. The board has tried since last week to schedule an interview with Shea for Friday. “He still has not returned our phone calls,” Mielke said.
Republican precinct committee officers in the 4th District nominated Shea, Jeff Baxter and Roy Murry for the open seat on Jan. 15. County commissioners, who under the state Constitution must pick from those three, asked for resumes and statements from the nominees by Feb. 5 and began examining their qualifications before interviews and a possible decision scheduled for this Friday.
As part of that process, documents from Shea’s divorce from his first wife became part of the record, including a restraining order and sworn statements from his first wife that he has problems controlling his temper. At one point, she said, he was relieved of his weapon during a deployment with the National Guard in Iraq.
Shea contended in the statement the allegations were made in an attempt to gain leverage in the divorce negotiations and “I will not dignify those untrue allegations with a response, as I believe they dishonor Viktoriya” his current wife.
They surfaced in his first legislative campaign in 2008, and voters found them to be “without merit and a non-issue,” he added in the statement to supporters. “With regards to my military service, my numerous medals, decorations, commendations, and citations speak for themselves,” he wrote. “This includes a Bronze Star for service that I was awarded on the final day of my tour of duty in Iraq by my Battalion Commander.”
Mielke said that still doesn’t answer whether what his first wife said did happen, and commissioners are merely trying to determine the truth of a sworn statement filed in court. Murry and Baxter are scheduled for interviews on Friday morning and the board is scheduled to begin deliberations at 3 p.m.
Commissioners have until March 5 to fill the seat, or the appointment to replace a Republican senator in the strongly Republican district would go to Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat.
“I don’t see any scenario where that will happen,” Mielke said. “We want to finish this process up and move on.”
OLYMPIA — The state Department of Health has a message for you for flu season: WashYourHandsington.
The agency's campaign to get you to get wash up, cover your cough and get your flu shot is summed up in a slogan that puts “Your Hands” between the Wash- and the -ington in the state's name. It comes complete with posters reminiscent of a 1950s tourism campaign, radio jingles and Internet videos.
Cheesy? A bit silly? Easy to make fun of? Yes to all, says Department spokesman Tim Church. Talk show hosts have smacked it around, and comedian George Lopez did a take off.
But it gets the point across, Church says. When people call to say they don't like this campaign about washing your hands and getting a flu shot, he contends “they may not like it but they're getting the message.”
The internet video, which uses the campy radio jingle as background with images of sudsy hands clapping and smiling people at recognizable Washington locales, has had 35,000 hits since it went up in late December, which is more than most of the staid videos other departments post on the YouTube channel for Washington state government.
Funding for the campaign came from a portion of the $300,000 the federal government gave the state for flu prevention. The ad campaign didn't eat up the entire amount, he said, department also did research, conducted focus groups to determine why people don't get their flu shots and how to increase the rates of vaccination.
They could've done a boring public service announcement with someone saying “Hi, I'm doctor. Get your flu shot,” Church said. But then who'd be talking about it?
They printed about 10,000 copies of the “WashYourHandsingtonposters distributed to local health districts, clinics and doctors' offices, as well as post cards and stickers. “I've heard some people are framing them and putting them up. They'll last longer that way than just pinned up on some bulletin board.”
Which was the worse pre-Super Bowl omission:
Christina Aguilera leaving out a line from the Star Spangled Banner?
Or the network leaving out whole sections of the Declaration of Independence?
By now everyone knows Aguilera botched the national anthem, leaving out “O'er the ramparts we watched…” It raises several questions: Was she just nervous? Has she never arrived on time for the start of any sporting event to hear the thing sung correctly? Did she think she was in the studio and could do multiple retakes? Should she only lip sync in the future?
OK, so let's cut the woman some slack, because by now everyone know she messed up, and they'll be reminding her about it for a long time. It's not like she can pull a Robert Goulet and claim she's a Canadian who didn't grow up hearing the song all the time.
But how many people realized that when Fox showed NFL stars in various locales reading the Declaration, they read the familiar beginning parts with the “inalienable rights” and “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”…then skipped to the ending where the Founding Fathers wrapped things up and pledged their lives and sacred honor.
They skipped the long part in the middle, where the Continental Congress listed their grievances against King George III and explained why they were cutting ties to England. It's true Fox and the NFL picked the most recognizable parts. But the list of grievances is what drove the Revolution. And with so many modern day patriots calling for a new watering of the Tree of Liberty because of alleged tyranny they feel they are experiencing, maybe it would be good for 5he folks at home to hear what really drives a move to overthrow a government.
True, it might have eaten up a significant chunk of expensive television time. But it might at least have been nice if someone mentioned they were doing the Reader's Digest version. Want the entire text? Go inside the blog.
Whom do you hold responsible for the problems Washington schools have graduating kids who can read, write, calculate and be intellectually flexible enough to have a dozen careers before they retire?
Put another way, whom do you blame for the fact that nearly one kid in three doesn’t graduate from high school, and among those who do, some go to college thinking a hypotenuse is one of animals in tutus in “Fantasia” or a dependent clause is a dead-beat relative?
To read more, go inside the blog…
Although much legislative attention is being paid to solving the state’s budget problems, there is still time in Olympia for other weighty tasks. Such as what should be the state’s official rock?
If you said Heavy Metal or grunge or indie, put your iPod earphones back in. If you said “classic rock” put your earphones in and go look up the word “oxymoron” in Webster’s.
Not that kind of rock. Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, wants to designate Tenino quarry sandstone as the state’s official rock, primarily because it was used in a few buildings, like the Capitol and the Washington Monument. It probably has nothing to do with the fact that Tenino is in Swecker’s district.
Surely no right-thinking legislator from Eastern Washington, home of the world’s best volcano-formed basalt columns, would dare to vote for a sedimentary substance like sandstone.
Eight members of the House, meanwhile, want to designate coffee as the official state beverage. The same bill would recognize Washington as “the espresso capital of the country,” so apparently they include lattes, cappuccinos, and half-caff, triple-pump hazelnut skinny with a dollop of whip cream mocha-chinos as well as a standard cup of joe.
Could test whether the coffee lobby has the clout of some other beverages, like beer and soda. But when you come right down to it, all of those are just add-ins to the state’s most common beverage. Water.
OLYMPIA — The next debate over the state's supplemental budget won't be between Republicans and Democrats as much as between the Senate and the House.
House leaders said Friday afternoon they will make changes to the spending plan the Senate sent them a few hours earlier. Among the changes they foresee: keeping cash grants for disabled residents on the Disablity Lifeline program and covering more low-income children through the Children's Health Plan.
Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, the House majorityi leader, said the two chambers are fairly close on some other issues, including finding a way to keep some state residents in the Basic Health Plan. But the House wants to do just one more supplemental budget that covers the entire shortfall, estimated at about $600 million by June 30. (Note: Due to a reporter's error, the blog originally misidentified Sullivan as head of the budget committee.)
The Senate called the budget it approved Friday an installment — it leaves for later about $200 million much of which could be covered by the Legislature agreeing to delay state payments to schools from the last day of this biennium to the first day of the next biennium.
OLYMPIA — House Democrats will not vote on the plan to block the unemployment insurance tax rate hike that passed the Senate Friday morning with a large bipartisan margin.
Instead, they will likely vote Monday on a different plan, House Speaker Frank Chopp said Friday afternoon.
The House version will keep most businesses from receiving an increase in their unemployment insurance tax rates this year. It will also allow workers who've been off the job for a long time to receive extended benefits from federal money approved by Congress late last year.
That's essentially where Friday's Senate version stops; it left until sometime later a decision on whether to use $98 million in available federal money expand certain worker training programs or to raise benefits for unemployed workers. The House version does both.
That had been described as an either-or option, but Chopp said House research indicates that the state could be eligible for the $98 million if it makes some changes to existing training programs and eliminates some funding caps and limitations on workers getting the training. That would then free up the $98 million to be used for a temporary across-the-board bump in benefits of between $10 and $20 per week. (Final amount still under discussion.)
The Senate and Gov. Chris Gregoire support leaving the debate over training and higher benefits for later with a separate bill. “We're saying let's do this one thing that's comprehensive,” Chopp said.
That proposal is expected to go to the House floor on Monday, and Chopp believes it will get bipartisan support there. But that means it would go to the Senate no sooner than Tuesday, which has been described as the deadline for getting the scheduled unemployment insurance rates changed.
If the bipartisan support that was on display in the Senate Friday were to disappear and stall the bill, Chopp suggested there might be more time. Tuesday is an administrative deadline, not one set in statute; it's designed to get word of the rate change to businesses, who don't pay their first quarter unemployment taxes until April.
OLYMPIA — A budget plan referred to as a $254 million installment in the state's fiscal crisis passed the state Senate this morning on a bipartisan vote.
The plan achieves some of its savings by retroactively cutting support of smaller classes for kindergarten through 4th Grade across the state, reductions in the state's Basic Health Care, Children's Health Program and Disability Lifeline. It now goes to the House, which has passed a spending plan with about $30 million less in cuts. Along with the quarter-billion dollars in cuts, the plan moves another $122 million from other state funds into the General Fund Operating Budget, which pays for the widest array of state programs and services.
The budget proposal, which was negotiated by the two parties budget leaders, passed on a 38-9 bipartisan vote. But it wasn't without its critics.
Among those voting no was freshman Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, who said the proposal doesn't go far enough.
“It didn't solve the entire problem. This budget crisis should have been solved long ago,” Baumgartner said.
Leaders of the budget committee acknowledged they had more cuts to make to keep the state from ending its biennium on June 30 in the red.
“It's not a solution to the crisis we're in, it's an installment on the way to that solution,” Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said. “This fiscal crisis is not subsiding any time soon.”
Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said policy discussions on the long-term future of many state programs will occur when the Legislature tackles a two-year spending plan for a budget period that begins July 1: “Today we're just talking about how do we balance the books at the end of the year.”
Even if the proposed cuts worth $254 million pass the House and are signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, the state will still need to find another $200 million or so in savings. That could mean more cuts, or some accounting procedures that move money between different funds or delaying a large payment due on June 30 for one day.
OLYMPIA — The Senate approve a plan to block increases in the state's Unemployment Insurance rates for businesses, attempting to “beat the clock” on those rate hikes.
With a 46-1 vote, the Senate approved the latest version of the unemployment insurance bill which would keep rate increases averaging 36 percent from taking effect next week. It also would extend unemployment paymentes temporarily for workers who are in danger of exhausting their benefits.
The House must still pass the bill, and the governor sign it, by Tuesday to block the statutorily required rate increase.
OLYMPIA — The state Senate will likely vote today on a plan to block increases in the state's unemployment insurance taxes and a supplemental budget to carry the state through June 30.
It will be a second try on the unemployment insurance issue; a bill designed to do that on Wednesday ran into a problem when six Democrats joined with Republicans to keep it portions involving changes in the benefit program from being split out of the bill. Other Democrats wanted to pass the portion that blocked the rate hike and deal later with questions about benefits or more training.
Apparently a new version is in the works.
The Senate is also expected to vote on a supplemental budget that would cut some $254 million out of the current spending plan.
Both chambers are also honoring the state's National Guard and Air National Guard.
Later this afternoon, a House committee has a hearing on a bill that would restrict the use of phosphorous fertilizers on lawns.
OLYMPIA – A legislative hearing over a proposal to make drivers license applicants give the state a Social Security Number and a verifiable residence was abruptly halted Thursday after some members of the audience called the plan racist and anti-immigrant.
Senate Transportation Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, ended the hearing when several people in the audience tried to shout her down over the purpose of SB 5407…
OLYMPIA – Welfare recipients wouldn’t be able to use their benefits cards at strip clubs, tattoo parlors or taverns, if the Legislature passes bills like those considered Thursday by a Senate panel.
The cards, known as EBTs for Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, couldn’t be used for guns or body piercings, booze or cigarettes, lottery tickets or casino ATMs.
Recipients would be barred buying things clearly not for children when spending money from the state’s biggest welfare program – formally known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF – under proposals considered Thursday by the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee.
The panel got no objections about blocking such payments from Susan Dreyfus, head of the state’s giant welfare agency the Department of Social and Health Services. The state already bars their use for gambling and lottery tickets. The real question was the best way to prevent such use with the cards, and to crack down on fraud and abuse.
OLYMPIA — Another full day of hearings today, with discusions of eligibility for public assistance, limits to using state benefit “voucher cards” at places like casinos, and a resolution to make English the language of “all official proceedings.”
(Editor's note: English is the official language of this blog, because the author can't speak any other language.)
Other topics of hearings include Medicaid fraud, health benefit exchanges, teaching the history of civil righs, eliminating the state printing office, and cancelling next year's presidential primary because the state's short on cash.
No word yet on when the Senate might take up the unemployment insurance rate hike again after Wednesday's problems getting an amended version of the House bill onto the floor.
OLYMPIA — State Senate budget writers have what's being described as a $254 million bipartisan budget agreement that could get a vote yet this week.
Just hours before a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing, Chairman Ed Murray released a plan to cut more than either the House or Gov. Chris Gregoire previously proposed, but still keep some pieces of the Basic Health Care, the Children’s Health Program and the Disability Lifeline.
“This is another installment in a huge budget crisis in a huge economic crisis, ” Murray, D-Seattle, told reporters. “In a crisis this big, everybody gets cut.”
The plan reduces General Fund spending by some $254 million through June 30. It does that in part by reducing Basic Health Care through an enrollment freeze and new eligibility tests that include a valid Social Security Number; freezing enrollment in Children’s Health and dropping eligibility to families at 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less, down from 250 percent; eliminating cash payments for those in the Disability Lifeline program but retaining their medical coverage.
It also transfers some $25 million the colleges receive in tuition from students into financial aid. It makes smaller cuts to the public school budget by keeping some money for smaller classes in kindergarten through 4th grade but cuts some $23.5 million in “safety net” programs from schools.
It has a 3 percent salary reduction for non-union state employees that would start in April, three months earlier than the governor's plan. It also moves $6 million in profits from liquor sales into training for corrections officers in the wake of the murder of an officer at the Monroe facility last weekend.
The proposal was worked out with Republican Sens. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield and Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, Murray said. They must still sell it to their caucus just as he must sell it to the Democrats. He would expect the proposal to pass with support from both parties.
“If we don't have a good count out of both caucuses, the agreement will shift,” Murray said. The full Senate could vote on it before the end of the week, and the Ways and Means Committee will be asked to vote on it Thursday.
The state’s General Fund budget was estimated in November to be about $1.1 billion out of balance through the end of June, and the state can’t run a deficit. In a special one-day session in December, the Legislature cut about $600 million, leaving another $500 million to be cut for the remaining six months of this biennium.
The latest Senate proposal cuts about $254 million, compared to $242 million in Gregoire’s proposal and $222 million in a plan approved by the Democratic majority in the House without Republican support.
OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats had to delay a vote on a plan to save businesses from paying millions more in higher unemployment insurance taxes after Republicans said the plan didn't to help the workers who have been off the job so long they are running out of benefits.
Yes. You read that right. Democrats wanted to cut taxes for businesses and Republicans blocked it because it didn't do enough for benefits for unemployed. Although that seems like a Bizarro World scenario from DC Comics, it was really a bit of political maneuvering as the Legislature tries to “beat the clock” on changes to Unemployment Insurance.
The House recently passed a bill that cancels a scheduled increase businesses are facing this year for unemployment taxes and uses some new federal money to add $15 per week per dependent for jobless workers with families. Gov. Chris Gregoire has called for the Legislature to block the rate hike but wants the federal money to be used to expand training programs for unemployed workers, to move them into jobs that have a better chance of keeping them employed in the coming years.
But some social action groups and organized labor back the boost in payments for benefits, so Democrats are understandably verklempt and still debating that section. That creates a problem because the rate hike has to be cancelled by a law that is passed and signed by Feb. 8, or it goes into effect for the entire year.
This morning Senate Democrats tried to de-couple the two parts of the bill, with an amendment that cancelled the rate hike but took out the benefits provisions, leaving them to be handled later in the session. That meant a portion of the benefits section which extended unemployment insurance was also removed.
Before they could debate the amendment, however, Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, used a parliamentary maneuver to try to block it. “Without this change in law, 70,000 workers will exhaust their unemployment benefits,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, objected, saying there's time to extend the unemployment benefits but the rate hike needs to be stopped sooner: “The clock is ticking for thousands of businesses in Washington state. Their taxes will go up…We should not be playing politics with cutting unemployment insurance rates to business.”
After Schoesler's motion to block the amendment passed 26-21, a bit more parliamentary maneuvering ensued. Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Des Moines, moved to defer further consideration. Schoesler moved to act immediately on the original bill. Eide moved to adjourn for the day. Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, D-Moses Lake, objected. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, presiding over the Senate, said there's no debating a motion to adjourn. Schoesler called for a roll call vote on Eide's motion to adjourn. (Motions to adjourn are usually done by voice vote with some of the senators on their way out of the chamber.)
Motion to adjourn passed 25-22. They'll be back tomorrow, when presumably they will try again.
When Gov. Chris Gregoire made the trip to Spokane last Friday, the main purpose was a briefing on the MLK Day parade bomb. But the secondary goal was for Gregoire and the small contingent from Olympia to visit former State Sen. Bob McCaslin, who is in rehabilitation after having a leg amputated.
McCaslin, a Republican, and Gregoire, a Democrat, didn't agree on much legislatively over the years. But that didn't matter Friday.
“I was so proud of her coming to visit a retired state senator,” McCaslin said today. “I gave her a hug and a kiss and she gave me a hug and a kiss.”
Gregoire made the trip over for the bomb briefing with Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane and Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla. She also brought along longtime McCaslin legislative assistant Mike McCliment, a particularly nice gesture, McCaslin said.
McCaslin won't be around for the legislative headaches over the short-term and two-year budget, but that doesn't mean he didn't offer some advice.
“I told them two words: 'Work together.' That's the only way you're going to get out of this.” McCaslin was the last legislator around to work through the state's recession of the early 1980s.
OLYMPIA — The State Senate is scheduled to vote — probably late this morning — on proposed changes in the unemployment insurance system that will keep rates from going up as scheduled.
There is a bit of urgency in all this, considering it must be passed and signed by the governor by Feb. 8 or the rate hike takes effect. We'll follow that as it develops.
Elsewhere around the Capitol, it is Washington Fire Chiefs and Fire Commissioners Legislative Day, State Dietetic Association Legislative Day, and it is also Burke Museum Day, which means the museum located on the U-Dub campus has events in the Rotunda through mid afternoon.
Donna McKereghan, former chairwoman of the Logan Neighborhood Council, is making a second run for Spokane City Council.
McKereghan, 57, filed papers announcing her candidacy last month with the state Public Disclosure Commission.
McKereghan lost to Councilman Bob Apple in the 2007 general election. She came in second that year in the five-candidate primary for Apple's seat representing Northeast Spokane.
Apple can't run again because of term limits. McKereghan is the first person to declare his or her intention to run for the position.
McKereghan owns Rave Web Designs and recently completed seven years on the State Legislative Ethics Board.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire made the pitch to unify the state's school systems from preschool to gradulate degrees under her office, even if it means getting rid of the state's elected school chief.
“This is not about one governor…This is about having one system,” Gregoire said in supporting a bill that would allow her to appoint a cabinet-level secretary of Education and create a department that encompasses all learning prorgrams in state schools and colleges.
The current Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, made the pitch to keep an elected education leader. “We need to do more. But I won't sit here and say the system is broke.”
The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee is considering several bills that would make major changes in school systems, including Gregoire's plan to consolidate all education under a gubernatorial appointee, and a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the office of SPI.
Some members of the Senate panel seemed critical of Gregoire's plan, wondering if it would create another mega agency like the Department of Social and Health Services. Not so, the governor said; DSHS has about 18,000 people, the education department she's proposing would have about 700.
Other members were critical of the current system. People complain the SPI's office “is like a dinosaur that can't be moved,” Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Des Moines said, while the dropout rates get worse and the achievement gap broadens.
Things need to be fixed, Dorn conceded, but the Legislature needs to accept some of the responsibility for the current problems. “We are cutting education,” he said.
But it's not solely about money, Chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, countered. The state has spent more on various programs over the years, but “there are many pieces that are still broken.”
Most speakers told the panel that some reform was necessary. But they disagreed sharply whether putting all education systems in one office, led by a governor's appointee, was the right reform.
The state needs the independent voice that a separately elected education official provides, Marie Sullivan of the state's association of school directors said. A member of the governor's cabinet can't speak against the governor's budget if he or she doesn't think it's adequate for education, Sullivan said.
But Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who sponsored the proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate the office, said the governor is recognizable in a way the education superintendent is not; putting the governor in charge of education would create a tool needed to improve it.
Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center said the governor needs the authority to make changes and by appointing the person in charge of all the state's education systems, voters “can better hold her accountable for improving education.”
OLYMPIA – Cities that want to install cameras to catch motorists who run red lights or speed through school zones would have to get voter approval under bills before the Legislature.
They might also have to make the yellow light last a bit longer at intersections with cameras or set the lights so they are red in all directions for at least a second. They wouldn’t be able to promise a share of the ticket revenue to the company that sells them the cameras.
Traffic ticket cameras started as a pilot project several years ago and “turned into a big problem in Washington state,” Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, told the House Transportation Committee Tuesday. He proposed two different bills, using different standards for setting up the system; but both would require voter approval whenever a city starts or expands a red light camera program.
The Daily Beast, a national news Web site, has a state-by-state list of financial woes of the nation's 50 states.
Not sure how serious to take this, though. The listing for Washington seems to have some basic figures correct, but its political news is a bit out of date when it mentions “the state implemented a tax on gum, bottled water, beer and candy” and puts the projected revenue at $122 million over the next year.
First, it wasn't a single tax, but a series of taxes. OK, that's a niggling point. But the taxes on three of those four were repealed by voters, so they aren't projected to bring in any revenue over the next year.
KFC's ad for a chicken sandwich in China seems to have an endorsement of the highest order…
OLYMPIA — Another full day of hearings with subjects ranging from turning wood waste into airplane fuel to turning high schoolers into graduates.
House Public Safety will take up the issue motorcycle “profiling”, which is not deciding how your Harley looks from the side. Some motorcyclists contend they are routinely singled out for stops by law enforcement, just because they are on motorcycles. Police generally deny this. It's a perennial fight which legislators often weigh into, albeit with little success of getting something through both chambers.
House Technology will consider authorizing a demonstration project to turn wood waste into aviation fuel.
House Education has a series of bills involving high schoolers, including those on math and science requirements and another on statewide assessments for graduation.
Most crowded hearing of the day could be House Transportation's consideration of three bills seeking to regulate the use of traffic cameras by local governments. Traffic cams have generated several initiatives from Tim Eyman, and he's holding press conferences around the state this week on them.
Senate Higher Ed has hearings on setting up an on-line university and another on creating a four-year college in Snohomish County.