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Spin Control

Posts tagged: 2014 Washington Legislature

McMorris Rodgers challenges Pakootas to 3 debates

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers challenged Democratic opponent Joe Pakootas today to three debates this fall, including two in Spokane. Pakootas said he planned to counter with a proposal to do at least two more in other areas around the large congressional district. . .

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

 

McCleary attorney pans Legislature’s ed report

OLYMPIA – Legislators’ recent report on how they will improve public education is so lousy they should be held in contempt, plaintiffs in the landmark case over school funding told the state Supreme Court. Maybe the court should levy fines, take control of the budget or close down schools until the legislators comply, their attorney suggested.

 The report by a special committee, submitted late last month, ignores previous court orders to provide detailed plans and offers excuses similar to a child telling a teacher “the dog ate my homework,” attorney Thomas Ahearne wrote in a formal response filed this week.

“This Court must decide whether court orders really matter,” he said.

Rep. Susan Fagan, a co-chairwoman for joint select committee on meeting what’s generally known as the McCleary decision, said the tone of Ahearne’s response was disappointing but probably not aimed at the court. . . 

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

To see the plaintiff's latest response in the McCleary case, click here.

 

4th Cong District: Then there were 10

The number of candidate's for Central Washington's 4th Congressional District seat climbed into double digits for Thursday as a second Democrat and an independent joined the crowd.

Tony Sandoval, a Yakima businessman, filed as a Democrat. Richard Wright of Kennewick, who ran unsuccessfully against Doc Hastings in 2006, filed as an independent.

So for those keeping track at home, there are now seven Republicans: George Cicotte, Clint Didier, Kevin Midbust, Janea Holmquist Newbry, Dan Newhouse, Gavin Seim and Glen Stockwell; two Democrats: Estakio Beltran and Sandoval, and one independent, Wright.

Candidate filing closes tomorrow. Those filing in person at secretary of state's office have until 5 p.m. Those filing at a county elections office have until the normal closing time for that office; in Spokane County, that's 4 p.m.

Online filing is available for all positions. It closes at 4 p.m.

2015 critical year for school reform, panel says

OLYMPIA – The Legislature needs to pick up the pace at coming up with more money to improve the state's schools, a special committee is telling the state Supreme Court in a report due Wednesday.

Although it may not have done as much for schools in the past session as some may have wanted, a joint legislative committee said the Legislature did pass some improvements during the short session, such as increasing the number of credits needed for high school graduation in 2019, showing consensus is possible.

The real test will come next year, the panel concluded in its report. It asked the court give “deep consideration” to the improvements made so far and “recognize that 2015 is the next and most critical year for the Legislature to reach the grand agreement needed.”

That agreement could mean as much as $3.5 billion more for public schools between 2015 and 2019.

The Legislature is under a 2012 order from the court to improve schools, and essentially put money behind its past promises for education reform. Last year the court ordered the Legislature to provide it with a report by April 30 on how it will meet those goals. On Tuesday, with one day to spare, the Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation adopted a 58-page report which is primarily a summary of actions taken since 2009 and a recap of education bills that did or didn’t pass in the 2014 session. It includes extensive appendices for the court that explain the state’s two-year budget process and how it pays for basic education.

Article IX is the section of the state Constitution that says it is “the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

The report offers little insight into what the Legislature might do next year. As Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, said after the meeting, the committee can’t commit a future Legislature to any particular action.

“Coming up with the plan is not within the jurisdiction of this committee,” Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said.

The question of how to pay for better schools likely will be a source of contention in 2015, as it has been for years. Magendanz said the state should cover the cost of school improvements, as its paramount duty, before spending money on anything else, and only consider tax increases for other programs if what’s left of the existing revenue isn’t enough.

“We also have taxpayers to think about,” Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, said. 

Sunday Spin: Getting a closer look at IT spending

OLYMPIA – Tucked inside the 291-page budget Gov. Jay Inslee signed last week is a paragraph that tells state agencies to ask for money for new-fangled tech gear a better way.

It’s what’s known as a proviso, sort of a marching order from the Legislature, somewhat akin to an earmark from Congress. . . 

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Inslee signs most of ‘disappointing’ budget

OLYMPIA – The ink from his signature wasn’t even dry on the Legislature's current budget before Gov. Jay Inslee was challenging lawmakers to do more on their next one.

Inslee signed the state’s supplemental operating budget, vetoing some elements such as a section that would have ended the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

Overall, he called it a budget with “modest adjustments” in many programs and disappointing on education.

“It does not make sufficient progress on the state’s paramount duty to schools,” he said.

Legislators are also disappointed, but more with Inslee’s characterization of their final work product that passed the Senate 48-1 and the House 85-13. Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said the spending plan, as a supplement to last year’s two-year budget that added almost $1 billion to public schools, was supposed to make modest adjustments.

But it keeps the state in the black, financially, through this fiscal period and the next, Braun said.

“There were a lot of tough decisions that had to be made,” he said… .

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Drone bill vetoed

OLYMPIA — A proposal to regulate the use of drones by law enforcement and other agencies was vetoed Friday. Gov. Jay Inslee said the bill did not do enough to protect the public's right to privacy and raised questions about public records.

In its place, Inslee said he was issuing an executive order for a moratorium for the next 15 months on purchase or use of unmanned aircraft by state agencies for anything other than emergencies, such as forest fires. He said he hoped local police chiefs and sheriffs would issue similar orders, and the Legislature would take another run at the issue next year.

The proposal had broad, bipartisan support in the Legislature, with backing of both the ACLU and the law enforcement community. Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman Mike Padden, who helped shepherd the bill through the final days of the session, said he was surprised by the veto.

“We had worked with so many different groups, getting their input,” Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said.

The bill set up standards for state and local government's use of unmanned aircraft or drones, with requirements for obtaining warrants for surveillance uses by law enforcement.

In striking down the House Bill 2789, Inslee called it “one of the most complex bills we've had to analyze”  and said the emerging technology of drones create difficult issues for government. The bill had some conflicting provisions on disclosure of personal information, he added 

“I'm very concerned about the effect of this new technology on our citizens' right to to privacy,” he said.”People have a desire not to see drones parked outside their kitchen window by any public agency.”

Sections of the bill dealing with exemptions to public record laws for some information gathered by drones could create a “major carve-out” to the state's public records laws, Inslee added. 

Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, called Inslee's veto disappointing and described the bill as “well-balanced and carefully considered.” His call for a  15-month moratorium will have little impact, she said in a prepared statement, because it still allows agencies to acquire drones and “includes no rules for their use after acquisition.”

Padden said legislators worked at balancing the rights of privacy with law enforcement's needs to gather information on criminal activity.

“We thought there were some safeguards in there with the warrants,” he said. The bill required police to obtain a warrant from a judge for using drones the same why they would need a warrant for other types of surveillance.

 

Education bill raises graduation requirements

OLYMPIA – Washington high school students will need 24 credits to earn a diploma, with an extra credit of math and science, starting in 2019.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Thursday that legislators said will help give students a “meaningful diploma” increasing both the number of credits and the overall hours of class for high school students.

The State Board of Education must adopt rules for the 24-credit graduation requirements with an eye toward the students going on to college or careers and school district must provide students with classes that allows them to complete those credits.

The state must provide the schools with enough money to help cover two laboratory science classes per student.

Senate Bill 6552 was one of a half-dozen education bills from the recent session signed into law Thursday.. . 

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Bills, bills and a plate of oysters

OLYMPIA – Children will have to have lawyers before a court can sever their parents’ rights. Juveniles will have more protection against self-incrimination in Washington.

Marijuana growers won’t get tax breaks that other farmers get. People who sign local initiative petitions more than once will get one signature counted when the others are thrown out. The state will try to buy products that are free of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls.

And the Olympic oyster is the official state oyster. . .

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Gun surrender law could save lives, victim says

Stephanie Holten, center, talks with Rep. Laurie Jinkins and Grace Huang of the state Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

OLYMPIA – When her ex-husband pointed a gun at her and threatened to blow her head off while she knelt in her Spokane living room, there was a point when Stephanie Holten thought “I’m going to die.”

Still, Holten remained calm enough to slip out her cell phone and dial 911 when Corey Holten turned his head away for a few seconds, then slip the phone under a blanket hoping the line was open. When he ordered her upstairs and demanded she surrender custody of their son, she stayed clear headed enough to bargain with him to give her the ammunition and put the gun down in return.

 As the last round was ejected from the chamber, she heard “Spokane Police. Show us your hands” as officers arrived, guns drawn, and arrested him.

As calm as she was on that January night in 2012, Stephanie Holten had a brief panic attack Friday after watching Gov. Jay Inslee sign a bill that will make it less likely that someone under a no-contact order and prone to domestic violence, as Corey Holten was that night, will show up at another former spouse or partner’s house with a gun.

The shakes, she explained later after catching her breath, were partly adrenaline from seeing a goal accomplished and partly post-traumatic stress that lingers.

“I’m overjoyed,” she said. “I truly believe that it will save lives.”

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Senators’ per diem pay going up 33%

OLYMPIA — State senators will be able to collect an extra $30 a day for expenses during legislative sessions under a rule approved Tuesday by a committee of their members.

The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee voted 4-3 to raise the allowance for daily expenses by 33 percent, upping the per diem to $120 from the $90 it has been since 2005.

Over objections from some senators who said the question of expenses requires a more comprehensive look, the committee agreed to match the House of Representatives, which raised per diem for its members before the 2014 session started.

“I think it's inappropriate to raise the per diem for members and staff with less than 24 hours notice,” said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “This is the wrong message at the wrong time, and possibly not even the right measure.”

The main expense for legislators living in Eastern Washington or other districts far from Olympia isn't food and rent, he said. It's the cost for trips to and from home. Raising the per diem “is going to reward the people who live closest to the capital,” he said.

Committee Chairman Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said the committee had discussed it enough, and cast the deciding vote to raise the expense allotment for senators, as well as a jump from $30 to $40 in the per diem for legislative assistants.

Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, said legislators haven't received a pay increase since 2008. “We don't need to get rich being in public office, but we sure as hell don't need to go broke.”

Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, made the motion to raise the per diem, even though she doesn't collect it during the session. It would be reasonable to consider other expenses in the coming months, she said, and those who object to the increase have an alternative: “Nobody has to take the full amount of per diem. You can take less.”

Raising the per diem in the House added about $176,000 in expenses for a 60-day session like the most recent one, and would add about $308,000 for the longer 105-day session. Estimates for the committee say the increase for the Senate would add $95,000 in a short session and $155,000 in a long session.

The $30 increase was the largest per diem raise since the Legislature started yearly sessions in 1979. The rate started at $40 in 1979, and was raised gradually, every few years, for most of that period through 2005. Ten years is the longest it has ever remained at the same rate.

 

 

Sunday Spin: Tab fees could go up to pay for ferry

OLYMPIA – Coming soon, to a county auditor’s office near you, may be a chance to help pay for a new ferry.

Whether you want to or not. Whether there’s a ferry anywhere near you or not. Whether you have ever ridden or expect to ever ride on a ferry or not. And all you have to do is renew your car tabs. . .

 

Immigrant protections added to labor law

OLYMPIA – Washington employers who threaten their immigrant employees with deportation or the destruction of their documents while forcing them to work can be charged with a felony.

A new law signed Wednesday stiffens the penalties for coercing workers into forced labor, adding to existing law that makes it illegal to threaten a person with physical harm to make them work. The law now allows employers to be charged with a felony if they threaten to withhold or destroy documents connected to a worker’s immigration status, or threaten to report them to immigration officials to force them to work.

Reporting someone to federal officials for being in the country illegally is not against the law; using it as a threat against workers as a form of “involuntary servitude” is.

Another term for that practice, Gov. Jay Inslee said when signing the bill, is slavery. 

As Palouse Falls. . .

OLYMPIA – Palouse Falls is officially the state water fall.

In a ceremony this afternoon with the Eastern Washington falls as a backdrop and dozens of Washtucna Elementary students around the table, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill that bestows the title on the geologic feature. The students came up with the idea as a way to draw attention to the falls and a handful of them traveled to Olympia to testify on behalf of the bill.

It was one of two successful efforts to name an official state something in the last session. The Legislature also named the Olympia oyster the official state oyster. 

If you find yourself missing the Lege. . .

OLYMPIA – So the Legislature blew Dodge on time for the first time since 2009. Sure, you’re saying “good riddance” now, but that may change if they avoid a special session and don’t show up until next January.

Political junkies who have been glued to TVW could suffer withdrawals for the speechifying that has been the soundtrack for the last two months.

Should anyone be Jonesing for a little legislative eloquence in the meantime, here’s a bit of all-purpose rhetoric. Adopt a serious tone, start anywhere and end when the mood hits you. For real verisimilitude, have a friend yell “Point of Order” when the mood hits:

Mr. Speaker, I didn’t intend to speak on this bill, but I can’t resist the opportunity to address the body on an issue that’s of vital importance to the good men and women of my district and the hard-working folks all over the great state of Washington, who send us here to do the people’s business. . .

 

WA Lege 2014: The done and the undone

OLYMPIA – The Legislature closed up shop with seven minutes before its constitutionally mandated midnight stopping time Thursday, ending a short session that was short on expectations, and many would argue, short on accomplishments.

After passing an updated operating budget that even supporters said contained plenty of things to dislike, a couple of bills on many legislators’ priority lists were saved from oblivion and moved back and forth between chambers with admirable speed.

Military veterans were granted in-state tuition at Washington’s public colleges and universities, regardless of how long they’ve been in the state. A $40 fee home buyers pay to file their documents, which pays for programs to fight homelessness but due to expire this year, was extended until 2019.

Meanwhile, the subject getting the most attention seemed to be deciding what medical procedures can be performed by plebotomists, medical assistants who draw blood. A phlebotomist bill ping-ponged back and forth across the Rotunda and showed up on one floor or the other eight times in the last eight days as the chambers tweaked the bill with amendments. It eventually had to be untweaked because the wrong amendment was added – and approved – before people noticed, so that amendment had to be subtracted and replaced, prompting three roll-call votes on the last day.

“I didn’t know what a phlebotomist was until today,” Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, deadpanned. . . 

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g.

Inslee raps Legislature for no transportation package

Gov. Jay Inslee says Republicans in the Senate kept changing demands on the amount of sales tax they wanted redirected for transportation projects.

OLYMPIA — Washington faces reduced maintenance on roads and bridges as well as cuts in mass transit because the Legislature did  not pass a major package this year of transportation projects funded by higher gasoline taxes, Gov. Jay Inslee said early Friday morning.
 
The Legislature finished its 60-day session at 11:53 p.m. after a flurry of final day bills that included some modest changes to its operating budget, a bill to allow all veterans to receive instate tuition at state universities and colleges and an extension of a fee that helps pay for programs that fight homelessness.
 
There were big wins in the constitutionally short session, particularly a law earlier in the year that allows the Washington high school students who aren't legal residents but grew up in Washington to be eligible for some college aid, Inslee said shortly after midnight. But, he added, “there's a lot left undone”…
 
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Down to the wire

Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife Trudi watch floor action in the Senate on the last night of the session.

OLYMPIA — With time running out, the Legislature agreed to let military veterans attend Washington's public college on in-state tuition, and extended a fee on documents to help programs for the homeless.

A pair of bills that had wide support but seemed mired in the parliamentary mud became unstuck tonight. The veterans tuition bill, described by Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo as a “tiny token” of thanks for service to the country, passed the House 96-0. It had passed the Senate unanimously in January.

A few minutes later, the extension of the $40 filling fee on documents like home purchases passed the Senate 41-8, was sent quickly to the House, where it passed 74-22. Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, described it as a bill on “a rocky path to a good outcome.” The fee has been in place since 2005, and was extended until June 30, 2019.

Supplemental budget passes

OLYMPIA — Barely six hours after it was unveiled to the public, the Legislature passed the 2014 supplemental budget and sent it to Gov. Jay Inslee.

The budget passed the House 85-13, and the Senate 48-1. For a full report, go inside the blog.

Stick a fork in the medical pot bills

OLYMPIA —Washington's two marijuana systems — an older one for medical patients and a new one for “recreational use” by adults —may remain separate at least for another year.

Legislators involved in negotiations over proposals to merge the two as Washington gets its new legal recreational marijuana system off the ground agreed there was little chance bills would pass in the waning hours of the session.

Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, said House Republicans wanted a portion of the tax money to be collected from the newly licensed marijuana growers, processors and retail stores to go to local governments. Initiative 502, which voters approved in 2012, sends all marijuana tax revenue to the state. Without that change, the main proposal to merge the two systems had “no hope, no how,” he said.

But Condotta held out hope that a separate bill calling for a group to study ways to improve and merge the two marijuana system would pass before the Legislature adjourned.

Cities and counties around the state have imposed moratoriums on allowing new medical marijuana businesses within their borders, but Condotta said those objections would disappear if they were promised revenue to help pay for the extra law enforcement many local officials think will be needed when the businesses open.

Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, said the proposed change to send some tax money to local governments didn't have the votes to pass and was “95 percent dead.” The study bill wasn't going to pass without the larger bill dealing with the merger, she said, but Gov. Jay Inslee could call for a study through an executive order.

Ezra Eickmeyer of the Washington Cannabis Association, a group that represents medical marijuana patients, accused local jurisdictions of “holding the initiative hostage” for tax money. But merging the two systems and closing the current medical marijuana dispensaries without some agreement to drop the moratoriums and allow recreational stores all over the state meant patients would have trouble getting the medical version of the drug.

Without controls on the growing number of medical marijuana growers and dispensaries, Cody said the state could have trouble with the federal government, which still considers the drug illegal for all uses. “The feds may come in and start closing some of them down,” she said.

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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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