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Spin Control

Today’s fun video: Hillary, Biden on how poor they are

 

Jon Stewart on The Daily Show makes fun of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden talking about how poor they are as they appeal to blue collar voters.

No ‘edibles’ when first pot stores open

OLYMPIA — Washington's first recreational marijuana stores are expected to open on July 8, a day after the first licenses will be announced, state officials said today. But those stores will not be carrying “edible” marijuana products because new rules are coming on labeling to discourage marketing to children. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.
  

First primary ballots mailed out

Washington's primary election began for real this weekend as all counties met Saturday's deadline to send ballots to military voters and overseas residents.

Under the state's all-mail voting system and federal voter laws, ballots that go the farthest — to troops in the field and others overseas — have to go out first so they have plenty of time to get there and get back. They get mailed out 45 days before an election, and must be back by 13 days after the primary. 

Lori Augino, state director of elections, said 64,621 ballots were mailed out.

Today’s fun video: Oliver on Dr. Oz

 

After Congress smacked around Dr. Oz, John Oliver offers some thoughts on the need to better police dietary supplements.

Sunday Spin2: Courting contempt

OLYMPIA — The state Supreme Court’s order for the Legislature to show up at the Temple of Justice on the first week of September and explain why it shouldn’t be held in contempt is prompting some interesting speculation around the Capitol Campus.

For example, the court’s order actually is for “the state” to show up, but it would be difficult to fit the 6 million-plus residents into the smallish courtroom, and it’s clear from the rest of the order that the court is really just peeved at the Legislature. All 147 legislators wouldn’t fit in the courtroom, and even if they could, there’s no way the court would want to hear from each one. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

State Dems, in Spokane, call for rise in minimum wage

The Washington State Democratic Party on Saturday approved an 18-point party platform that will help guide the party for the next two years.

The party met for its biennial convention at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in downtown Spokane.

Jaxon Ravens, the state party chairman, said delegates approved all 18 planks proposed by the party’s platform committee “with minor amendments.”

Among items in the platform is a call to raise the minimum wage. But it isn’t as specific as what was adopted by the Seattle City Council earlier this month: a phased-in rise of the minimum wage to $15.

The state party’s minimum wage position is: “We support an incremental increase in the state and federal minimum wage, with a living wage as the goal.”

Sunday Spin: What’s the infrequency, Kenneth?

OLYMPIA – The biggest challenge for this period between sessions – or at least the biggest one after convincing the state Supreme Court not to witch slap the Legislature for ignoring a fairly plain order on school funding – may be to define the word “infrequent.”

As in “legislators may accept complimentary legislative business meals on infrequent occasions”, which is what their Ethics Code says.

The problem is somewhat akin to the medieval debate of how many angels can fit on the point of a needle. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Seattle Times takes a stand… on Redskins

The Seattle Times will no longer use the name Redskins in referring to the NFL team in that other Washington.

Well, except for the headline on the column by Don Shelton, which says “Why we're banning Redskins at the Seattle Times.”

Shelton gives an extensive — some might say exhaustive — line of reasoning, quoting some Native American sources on how the turn is as offensive as “the N word” and explaining that the ban doesn't extend to all teams named Tribe or Braves or for Native American tribes or artifacts (like Totems or Tomahawks, which are used by Sammamish and Marysville-Pilchuck, respectively.)

So the ban will apply to the pro team in the nation's capital. And then Wellpinit High School team, which is, interestingly enough, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Wellpinit has looked at changing the name from time to time, but the community is split and so far they haven't reached a consensus to make the change. 

But according to the Times, they're in the wrong, so don't look for the team name in their prep coverage. 

Not that the Times does a lot of prep coverage in Eastern Washington. But if they do, no Redskins usage.

GOP group backs four in Central WA race

The group whose goal it is to elect Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives has weighed in on Central Washington's 4th Congressional District race.

But Republicans looking for some help in narrowing the field of eight GOP candidates down to one might not find it too helpful. The National Republican Congressional Committee has put four of those candidates “on the radar.”

That term apparently is the first step to getting the coveted title of “Young Gun”, which means some moneyed members of the caucus like a candidate's prospects enough to start big money flowing. Young Gun was a term coined by a group that included soon-to-be-ex Rep. Eric Cantor, so it may have lost a bit of luster. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Economic forecast: An extra $395 million coming in?

OLYMPIA – Washington's projected tax revenues look slightly better than they did four months ago, but aren't expected to add enough money to cover all of the state's expected expenses next year.

State Economist Steve Lerch delivered a forecast with both good and bad news:

— More people have jobs, nationally and statewide, but full-time jobs are decreasing while part-time jobs are increasing.
— Consumer confidence is up, but not back to pre-recession levels.
— Manufacturing levels are expanding in Washington faster than the rest of the country but oil prices are up a bit and could go much higher with increased turmoil in the Middle East.

In terms of dollars, “the good news is pretty small,” Lerch said.

When the pluses and minuses were plugged into economic models, he said the state's general fund – the pot of money that covers the most programs and salaries not connected with transportation or construction – should be about $157 million higher than previously forecast by the end of next June. It could be about $238 million higher the 2015-17 budget cycle that Lerch and his office forecast in February.

Considering the state's projected budget is about $16.5 billion for the next 12 months and about $36 billion for the two-years after that, those are relatively small bumps.

Meanwhile, the state could be looking at more students in public schools, a court order to spend an extra $4.5 billion over the next five years on education, more inmates in prisons, higher pension costs and the possibility of the first cost-of-living adjustment for state employees in years.

David Schumacher, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered state agencies to submit plans for budget reductions of up to 15 percent. Inslee isn’t expecting to cut 15 percent across the board, but looking at options as a way to determine “where the pain will be the least,” Schumacher said.

Today’s fun video: Maddow on Idaho GOP convention

 

Normally, one wouldn't expect for MSNBC's Rachel Maddow to mention the Idaho Republican convention, let alone do a whole segment on it. It would be sort of like expecting Fox's Sean Hannity to do a segment on Seattle's $15 minimum wage.

But Maddow seemed to delight in the Idaho GOP's meltdown in Moscow, possibly in part because it gave her a chance to play snippets from the Idaho gubernatorial debate which remains a favorite on the Internet.

It's probably not because she enjoys showing off The Spokesman-Review logo and headlines. But hey, it's a free plug and we'll take it.

U.S. Senate confirms Mendoza as federal judge

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Salvador Mendoza Jr. for the federal district court in Eastern Washington.

Mendoza is currently a Benton and Franklin County Superior Court judge. The son of migrant farm workers, he will be the first Latino federal judge for the Washington's Eastern District. 

The  nomination first survived a filibuster attempt when the Senate voted 55-37 to cut off debate through a cloture vote. He was then approved on a 92-4 vote, with Washington Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell voting yes after both spoke strongly in favor of his appointment. Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch provided half of the no votes against the appointment.

Union leaders worry about new fish consumption standards

OLYMPIA – Washington state is rushing toward water quality standards that will be too strict and cost jobs without being backed up by good science, leaders of unions with workers in aerospace, timber and paper industries claimed Monday.

But a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee said the union leaders are jumping the gun because no decision has been made. What many call the fish consumption standards are still under review, he said. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Coaches top state salary list

OLYMPIA – The official report of state employee salaries for 2013 is out and as usual the highest paid people on the list are athletic coaches at the major universities.

Former University of Washington football head coach Steve Sarkisian topped the list for the fourth straight year, pulling down 2.6 million in 2013 before leaving in December to return to the University of Southern California.

Second on the list is Washington State University football head coach Mike Leach at $2.3 million, followed by UW head basketball coach Lorenzo Romar at $1.9 million, WSU head basket coach Ken Bone at $870,143 and UW assistant football coach Justin Wilcox at $799,259.

Athletic salaries are paid from ticket sales and other income, not from the state's general fund.  But the state reports salaries for all state employees, regardless of the source of money.

David Woodward, UW associate vice president, is at $692,323 and WSU Elson Floyd is at $662,560.

The two universities dominate the first 100 or so names with other administrators and professors who do research and get much of their total pay through grants and other stipends. The only non-university employee in the first 50 names is Gary Bruebaker, the chief investment officer for the State Investment Board, at $452,085.

To check out a searchable database of employee salaries and agency payrolls designed by The Spokesman-Review, click here. 

According to the salary data released Monday, the state had about 6,750 employees last year who earn $100,000 or more. The highest-paid elected officials are the nine members of the state Supreme Court, who each receive $165,316 and are tied for 1,280th on the list. As for the state's chief executive officer, Jay Inslee, he has 2,370 names ahead of him and his salary of $157,646. 

The salary data includes annual pay to more than 329,500 people who have worked full- or part-time for some state agency or public college or university since 2010. A searchable database on The Spokesman-Review’s website lists the salary totals for agencies or colleges and allows readers to search for salaries for individual employees by name.

 

Sunday Spin2: Tread lightly on tragedy during campaigns

Washington residents can expect the volume to go way up on the gun control issue with dueling initiatives on the November ballot. I-591 wouldn’t allow any changes in background checks unless they are national; I-594 would extend background checks in Washington to private sales.

The recent shooting at Seattle Pacific University predictably generated discussion on the issue. But it also raised an interesting political question: Is it OK for a campaign to piggy-back on a tragic event? And if so, how far can you go?

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Sunday Spin: WA No. 1 for ‘making a living’

OLYMPIA – Workers of Washington rejoice. You’re in the best state in which to make a living.

At least that’s the view of MoneyRates.com, an online business magazine that put the Evergreen State at the top of its annual rankings for the second year in a row. We finished second the two years before that, so all you workers feeling ill-used can either start looking for a better job or rejoice that you aren’t worse off in some second-rate state.

No doubt that when Al Gore invented the Internet, it was with the goal of giving everyone the ability to find a list of the best, worst, smartest, stupidest or weirdest things on almost any topic. But such rankings are of limited news value. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Today’s fun audio: Clinton dodges Terry Gross on gay marriage

 

NPR's Terry Gross asks Hillary Clinton several times about any political calculus on her change on same-sex marriage and Clinton dodges it, several times.

Court to Legislature: Sanctions possible for lousy school plan

OLYMPIA – A recent report on how the state will spend more money on education is so inadequate the state Supreme Court threatened Thursday to hold the Legislature in contempt.

The state’s highest court said the Legislature’s latest update on how the state can meet its constitutional duty of properly paying for public schools does not follow the instructions the justices issued in January. It ordered a hearing in September and told the Legislature to send someone ready to explain why the court shouldn’t levy a fine or take over the budget process until education is properly funded.

The order, technically known as a Show Cause Order, could ignite the simmering constitutional dispute between the Legislature and the court. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Inslee pushes for speedier report on oil transport

Citing new safety and environmental risks as more crude oil moves by train through Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday directed state agencies to evaluate the safety of oil transport in the state.

The governor’s directive comes as Senate panel is preparing for a hearing in Spokane on oil transportation safety and railroad companies are filing information with the state on the amount of oil being shipped through Washington.

The directive would effectively speed up the timeline for a study already being conducted by state agencies, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said. The Department of Ecology is leading a study to analyze safety and environmental impacts of oil transport, after receiving $300,000 from the Legislature earlier this year.

The directive asks Ecology and other agencies to look at the risk of accidents along rail lines, assess the relative risk of Bakken crude oil compared to other forms of crude oil, and begin developing oil-spill response plans for affected counties. Ecology will submit budget recommendations and initial findings by Oct. 1.

The governor’s order re-emphasizes the issue, Ecology spokeswoman Lisa Copeland said. “Nothing in the directive is new for us,” she said.

The Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee will discuss possible legislation on oil transportation safety Monday morning at a hearing in the Spokane City Council Chambers. Democrats and Republicans introduced different plans for monitoring oil shipments and protecting communities in the last session but couldn’t reconcile them.

Monday’s hearing involves a Senate Republican proposal complete studies and develop emergency response plans but Democrats say it doesn’t give cities and towns enough information about the amount of shipments coming through their community.  

Last week the federal government ordered railroad companies to provide states with information about their crude oil shipments. BNSF Railway, Tacoma Rail and the Portland and Western submitted their information; Union Pacific said it’s shipments don’t meet the reporting threshold.

Information in those reports is not immediately available to the public. The railroads can go to court in an effort to block its release under the state’s Public Records Act.

PCB-conscious Spokane ends use of yellow agenda paper

Changes already are being made under Spokane City Hall's new focus on going PCB free.

Copies of the weekly advance City Council agenda, which traditionally have been printed on yellow sheets of paper to differentiate them from the current week's agenda, now are being printed on basic white paper. Council agendas for the current week are still being printed on blue sheets of paper.

The switch came after June 2 testimony about studies showing that yellow paints and dyes still contain trace PCBs, a cancer-causing compound that was banned by the United States in 1979. It still is found as a manufacturing byproduct, however, particularly in certain types of products and at higher allowable levels than what environmental regulators are mandating be cleaned out of the Spokane River.

Industrial and municipal waste accounts for only about 43 percent of the PCBs in the river. One of the potential sources of the other 57 percent of the toxic compound is from residual PCBs in everyday products that can get washed into river during rain storms and with melting snow.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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