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In brief: Court can’t force funding for raises

OLYMPIA – The state Supreme Court can’t force a governor to budget for raises awarded to a public employee union, even though state law says the governor “must” include that money in her state spending proposal, justices ruled Thursday.

The court’s closely divided opinion is a victory for Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire. She was sued in late 2008 by the Service Employees International Union’s Local 775, which represents about 25,000 state contractors who provide in-home health care to people eligible for Medicaid.

The union, which is active in the state’s Democratic politics, was awarded pay and benefits increases worth more than $80 million in binding arbitration. But Gregoire refused to ask the Legislature to pay for those items when she suggested a new state budget in late 2008, citing a looming budget deficit.

In Thursday’s 5-4 decision, the state’s highest court said its power to order an executive’s actions couldn’t be unleashed on the governor’s budgeting decisions, since those choices involve political and policy judgments reserved for the elected official.

Portland updating red light cameras

PORTLAND – Portland city commissioners have approved spending $7 million over the next five years on red light cameras.

KGW reports the city is not adding more cameras but is upgrading to digital models that produce clearer pictures.

The camera tickets earn Portland less than $10,000 a year, but the city’s traffic engineer says they cut crashes by 30 percent.

Funeral scheduled for Yakima soldier

YAKIMA – The funeral for a Yakima soldier killed in Afghanistan will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Church of the Nazarene in Zillah.

Twenty-one-year-old Army Pfc. James Miller was killed March 29 by a roadside bomb. He was a 2007 graduate of Chugiak High School in Anchorage, Alaska, and was based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports people carrying flags lined Yakima Valley streets Wednesday as a police honor guard escorted his body from the Yakima airport to the Zillah funeral home.

Bear euthanized after cyst found

BOZEMAN – A 15-year-old male grizzly bear that lived at a West Yellowstone wildlife center and helped test the “bear-proofness” of coolers and other containers was euthanized after a cyst was found near its spine.

John Heine with the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center said the bear, dubbed Stoke, was euthanized in March. He said the cyst was compressing the bear’s spinal cord, causing severe, degenerative damage. Doctors at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital said the cyst was inoperable.

Stoke and his brother, Rebel, were orphaned near Revelstoke, B.C., and were adopted by the center in 1995.

The center still has seven grizzly bears and two packs of gray wolves.


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