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Innovate WA on the chopping block

OLYMPIA – A state agency with roots in Spokane’s 1980s push to attract more high-tech jobs to the region would be eliminated under legislation approved this week by the House.

Innovate Washington would cease to exist and its Riverpoint building, leases on other office space in the area, reports and even furniture would be turned over to Washington State University under a bill that passed Thursday evening on an 88-9 vote… .

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

 

Transpo package gets hearing today

OLYMPIA – Senate negotiators will begin the push today for a package of new road projects and improved maintenance that could complete the long-discussed North Spokane Corridor and raise gasoline taxes by 11.5 cents over three years.
The package of 10 related bills, with a total price tag of $8.7 billion for projects all over the state, gets a formal airing at a Senate Transportation Committee hearing this afternoon. Whether it will prompt a special session or just lay the groundwork for more debate next year is unknown…
To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Ed Murray staying a senator until year’s end

OLYMPIA — Ed Murray will keep two titles — state senator and mayor-elect — through the end of the year in case he has to return to the state capital for a special session on transportation.

In a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, Murray said he will resign his Senate seat on Dec. 31. That will give Democrats in his district the time to name a replacement before the regular session of the Legislature starts in January.

Murray, who won the Seattle mayor's race this month, had planned to resign before then, “but with the prospect of an upcoming vote on transportation, he did not want to leave the 43rd District without representation,” Aaron Wasser, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic Caucus, said in a press release.

Inslee has said he might call a special session — which would be this year's fourth — if legislators can reach agreement on a package of transportation construction and maintenance projects accompanied by increases in the gasoline tax and some vehicle fees. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, which includes all Republicans and two Democrats, reportedly is putting the finishing touches on a $8.7 billion package that would raise gas taxes by 11.5 cents over three years. Legislators will test the waters for such a plan later this week during committee hearings.

Under state law, Democratic precinct officers within Murray's legislative district will nominate up to three possible replacements, and the final choice will be made by the King County Council. The person selected will serve in the regular session and any special sessions in 2014, and run for election next November.

Right-to-work special session ‘not going to happen’

In the wake of the Boeing machinists’ rejection of a contract extension the company said would assure the 777X would be built in Washington, a Spokane legislator said the state needs to take a bold step to become more attractive to manufacturing.

Make Washington a “right-to-work” state, which would make union membership and its dues optional.

That would be part of making the state “a welcoming overall environment” with a lower possibility of strikes, Republican Sen. Mike Baumgartner said. He wants Gov. Jay Inslee to call a special session to consider and pass such legislation.

“That’s not going to happen,” a spokesman for Inslee said. Boeing never mentioned right-to-work legislation as something it was seeking to guarantee the plane would be built in Washington, David Postman said. . .

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

 

Senate per diems for Special Session = $8,460

OLYMPIA — The three-day special session cost the state $8,460 in per diem expenses for members of the state Senate.

That's the tally released today from the Secretary of the Senate's office, from per diem requests filed by senators from last week's Thursday-through-Saturday session.

Legislators are allowed $90 per day to cover expenses while they are in Olympia for a special session. Some who didn't arrive until Friday only claimed $180, and a couple who only showed up for the final day, when the two Boeing bills came to the floor for votes, only requested $90. Nine senators didn't put in for any per diem, even though they were there for the full three days and did some of the heavy lifting, like Sen. Andy Hill, the R-Redmond, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Among the Spokane-area delegation, Republicans Mike Baumgartner, Mike Padden and Mark Schoesler and Democrat Andy Billig put in for the full $270, while Republican John Smith requested $180.

Per diem expenses for the House, which has a slightly different calendar for reporting expenses, are expected to be available next week.

 

Fractured metaphor

OLYMPIA — There's an axiom in politics that anything worth saying is worth repeating, sometimes ad infinitum.

Based on the late great special session, it would seem that even things not worth saying are worth repeating. That would be the only explanation for something Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, said repeatedly as she tried to amend legislation designed to help Boeing and the aerospace industry in such a way that all businesses in the state would get similar help.

“What's good for Goliath is good for David,” Holmquist Newbry said during floor speeches, and repeated in her post-session press release.

That's a very strange reading of the Bible, because 1Samuel seems to make very clear that what was good for David was something very much different than what was good for Goliath. Recall that Goliath wasn't just some big-assed dude, but he was decked out in full armor, like everyone else on the battlefield where David shows up with food for his bros.

David hasn't got an armor or a sword, and turns down King Saul's offer to wear his battle gear into the fight. He downs Goliath with a sling (which the G-man scoffed at), then whacks off the big guy's head with Goliath's sword. So it would seem that nothing that was good for Goliath was good for David, or vice versa.

Holmquist Newbry's amendments failed, but probably not because the state Senate is full of Scriptural purists.

Inslee signing Boeing legislation today

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee travels to the Museum of Flight this morning to sign legislation passed over the weekend in the hurry-up special session.

Probably an appropriate backdrop, considering the session was all about luring a new Boeing assembly line and wing manufacturing plant for the 777X, and the Museum of Flight is at Boeing Field, just down from Boeing facilities, and there are lots and lots of Boeing planes inside and out.

On Saturday, after the Legislature wrapped and the many fathers of the legislative victory assembled with Inslee for a victory press conference, the governor was asked when the “dog and pony show” of bill signing would take place. Normally these occur in the governor's conference room.

Time and date to be determined, Inslee said, but added: “Just dogs. It's a Lean Management things. We don't use ponies.”

Apparently Lean Management does, however, allow the use of planes.

 

Senate passes Boeing bills

OLYMPIA — The Senate gave overwhelming approval to bills designed to convince Boeing to build a new jetliner in Washington but rejected calls to spread the tax benefits and streamlined permit approvals to all businesses in the state.

On a 42 to 2 vote, the Senate extended tax breaks the aerospace industry currently enjoys for the 787 production through 2040, rewriting some provisions to include the new 777 X assembly line and a manufacturing facility for a new high-tech carbon fiber wing. The tax breaks have an estimated value of more than $8 billion to the aerospace giant, but would be cancelled if the company moves the assembly of the plane or any significant part manufacturing to another state.

On a 44 to 0 vote, the Senate approved a package of training programs for aerospace workers at state community and technical colleges and streamlined permitting for building new aerospace facilities.

Before each bill passed, however, the Senate rejected amendments that would cut the state's business and occupation tax by 40 percent for all businesses, and require all counties to process building permits as quickly as the aerospace projects will be handled.

“What's good for Goliath should be good for David,” Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, said.

Boeing is special, Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane said, but the Senate should “make a statement today that Washington's small businesses are also important.”

Both amendments failed on voice votes, and most senators stressed the impact Boeing has on the state's economy and lauded Gov. Jay Inslee for calling them into special session. But Baumgartner, who eventually voted for both bills, complained about the way they were rushed through committees outside the normal review process and with little chance for the public to understand what the Legislature was doing.

“I hope the next time there is a special deal for a special company…we do it in the normal way,” he said.

The bills go to the House, which is expected to take them up this afternoon.

Murray steps down as Senate Dem leader

OLYMPIA — Sen. and Seattle mayor-elect Ed Murray said he's dropping one of  his titles, that of Senate Democratic leader.

Murray said he was relinquishing that post and Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, was stepping in as interim leader for the special session. Murray will remain in the state Senate through the session, and announce a resignation date after that with enough time for a replacement to be selected before the regular session starts in January.

Some question if state getting enough for Boeing tax breaks

OLYMPIA – The Legislature opened its third special session, which some have dubbed the Boeing session, with a look back 10 years, trying to make sure the aerospace giant keeps jobs in Washington in return for some $8.4 billion in proposed tax breaks.

Gov. Jay Inslee and most other witnesses at a House Finance Committee hearing on the tax break package extolled the economic and civic virtues of the state's largest manufacturer. It employs tens of thousands in its factories, has hundreds of suppliers around the state, keeps ports busy, stimulates the Puget Sound economy and even provides work for more than 100 visually impaired machinists through Lighthouses for the Blind in Seattle and Spokane.

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

Special Session 3: They’re baaaack. . .

Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, leads a lightly populated Senate through the pro forma opening for this year's Third Special Session.

OLYMPIA — The Legislature convened — or should we say reconvened — this morning, although if you overslept or lingered over that second cup of coffee, you might've missed the action. Such as it was.

As expected, these were starting sessions were pro forma — which is Latin for nothing much worth seeing — with a handful of legislators on hand to take care of the necessities like getting the formal notice from the governor and bringing all of the legislation that has been laying dormant since they were last gathered together in June out of mothballs.

The House Finance Committee has a hearing this afternoon, which will be a starting point for HB 2089,  tax preferences Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing  to accommodate Boeing and its 777X plant. Tomorrow the House Appropriations Committee it will have a hearing on HB 2088, which is the package for aerospace training programs. 

Not yet scheduled: the $10 billion transportation package which Inslee says also is needed. That would likely go through Transportation Committees, which currently aren't scheduled to meet until Nov. 21, and haven't had their agendas updated to reflect any new proposals.

Baumgartner to hold meeting before session

Before heading to Olympia for the start of the special session, state Sen. Mike Baumgartner wants to hear from constituents. He's holding a “mobile office” session in Airway Heights on his way out of town.

“I want to answer questions and receive feedback about what is on the minds of the voters,” he said in a press release.

Baumgartner will be at the Buckhorn Inn, 13311 W. Sunset Highway, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Thursday. That means he'll miss the official start of the session, which is scheduled to kick off at 9 a.m. But Thursday is expected to be “pro forma” in the chambers, so he won't miss much.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday afternoon that he was calling the Legislature into a special session on Thursday morning.

Special session starts Thursday

OLYMPIA – The Washington Legislature will meet in a special session starting Thursday to consider a $10 billion transportation package and other legislation Gov. Jay Inslee said is key to landing the manufacturing plant for a new Boeing jetliner.

Standing with legislative leaders, Boeing executives and union officials, Inslee said a combination of transportation improvements, extended tax breaks, faster permits for building and aerospace education programs would guarantee the company will build the new jetliner and a new carbon fiber wing in Washington state.

The current 777 facility supports 56,000 jobs, and the new plane will create thousands more, Inslee  said: “These jobs are ours if we act now.”. .

 

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

Lege panel to court: We’re spending $982 million more on schools

Although the Legislature needed two special sessions to agree to a budget, in large part because of disagreements over how much to spend on public schools, a special legislative committee needed only about six minutes Tuesday to tell the state Supreme Court that budget is meeting a mandate to adequately fund education.

With only three members in the room and the remainder connected by telephone, the Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation unanimously approved a report that listed four major increases in state money going to school districts over the next two years.

  • $374 million extra for materials, supplies and operating costs
  • $131.7 million extra for transportation costs
  • $103.6 million extra for smaller kindergarten and Grade 1 classes in high poverty schools
  • $90 million extra for all-day kindergarten.

It's part of a total increase of $982 million to be spent on public schools in the 2013-15 biennium. . .

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


Documents:

State lawmakers fund compensation for wolf depredation

PREDATORS — The Washington Legislature appropriated $250,000 to a fund for compensating ranchers for livestock injured or killed by wolves.

Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen's Association, said the amount “a great first step” for the agency and for the livestock industry, according to the Capital Press.

The direction WDFW is going on preventative measures, he said, will hopefully reduce the impacts of wolves. The budget also provides $750,000 for nonlethal deterrence methods.

Another important change this year is the removal of a $1,500 cap on the value of an animal. Instead, compensation will be based on the market value of the animal. A steer could be worth $600 and a prize bull would be far more, but the owner would need proof of its value, Capital Press reports.

Legislature funds Spokane River Centennial Trail project

TRAILS — The state budget approved during the special session of the Washington Legislature provides strong funding — $65 million — for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which in turn funds grants to critically approved projects across the state.

Bids for projects involving the Spokane Centennial Trail and Spokane County Conservation Futures are among the 88 projects the WWRP has approved.  Now that fundng is in the budget, some excellent recreation and wildlife projects will be allowed to go forward. 

 In addition to providing funding for these critical projects, the legislature also maintained the WWRP’s integrity, continuing to fund projects using a merit based ranking system that has made the WWRP a successful and nationally recognized program.

“Preserving critical habitat through the WWRP means all sportsmen and women will continue to have access to the outdoors,” said Barry Nilson of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “Hunters, anglers, and others will continue to see healthy wildlife populations and recreational opportunities across our great state. We hope to bring public access to even more outdoor enthusiasts in the next biennium.”
 
Projects funded by the WWRP will protect wildlife habitat, create new opportunities for outdoor recreation, and keep farms working across the state.

Renewing WWRP funding is an essential investment in the state’s long-term economic prosperity because of the number of jobs that outdoor activities like fishing, hunting and hiking and more create and support. Annually, parks and recreation-based activities generate $22.5 billion in retail dollars and $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue, supporting 227,000 jobs statewide.
 
The Coalition’s members consist of a diverse group of about 280 organizations representing conservation, business, recreation, hunting, fishing, farming, and community interests. The breadth and diversity of the Coalition is the key to its success—no one member could secure such a high level of funding for parks and habitat on their own.

Sunday spin: Lots to learn from six months of session

There are things one learns after 153 days watching the Legislature.

Well, technically not 153 days of watching, because there were big stretches of time in the 105-day regular session, the 30-day first special session and the 18-day second special session that there really was no Legislature to watch. Most of the honorables were gone home and the few leaders and budget negotiators were squirreled away from the prying eyes of the public. But even when they are gone, there were lessons to be learned. Such as:

To read the list, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

WA Lege: That’s all, folks

OLYMPIA – After 153 days, the Washington Legislature decided Saturday it had had enough, even though Gov. Jay Inslee wanted it to do more.

In quick succession, the House and Senate passed a $3.6 billion spending plan for large capital construction projects with large majorities from both parties. In less than an hour, legislators adjourned their second special session and headed home.

A short time earlier, the Senate had killed a $10 billion plan for road and bridge projects, which the House passed and Inslee supported. The predominantly Republican majority coalition, which held a tight rein on its members the entire year, defeated a parliamentary measure that could have shocked it back to life. . . 

To read the rest of this post, and a list of local construction projects in the Capital Budget, go inside the blog

 

Capital budget passes. Lege to adjourn

OLYMPIA — The Legislature passed a $3.6 billion capital projects budget this evening as its last action of its protracted session.

In quick succession, the House and Senate both passed the list of projects and gave the state the authority to sell bonds to build them.

With a plan to spend an extra $10 billion on transportation projects dead, the capital budget was the final thing on the Legislature's plate and adjournment is expected soon.

Quite moment on Senate floor

OLYMPIA — Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, holds Henry Schlicher while his father, Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, handles a motion on the Senate floor. The extended special session prompted Schlicher to bring his son to the Legislature Saturday.

Transpo package dead

OLYMPIA — That sound you heard was the last gasp death rattle of a $10 billion plan to raise gasoline taxes to pay for new road projects, fix existing roads and bridges and boost mass transit.

Despite a plea from Gov. Jay INslee earlier in the day to pass the package, which was declare dead but then moved to life support late Friday night, the coalition that controls the Senate said there were too many questions about the list of projects, the cost of doing them without further reforms in the state Transportation Department or rules for building roads and bridges.

Senate Democrats tried to force the bill onto the floor through a parliamentary maneuver. Inslee had predicted if the predominately Republican coalition would allow a vote, it could pass.

Before the vote on the maneuver, technically known as a motion to move to the Ninth Order, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, asked to reject it as a “procedural vote.” In case anyone missed his point, Schoesler used the word procedural four times. The coalition has always held its 25-24 margin on procedural votes.

It did this time, too. The motion failed 26-21.

Legislature expects to adjourn later today.

What’s in the state budget “deal”, anyway?

OLYMPIA — There was very little information on the 2013-15 operating budget that was announced Thursday, and only “broad-brush” details emerged during the day. 

Late last night, however, the Legislature got the whole enchilada up on the budget website. Plenty of time for everyone to read it before this morning's 8:30 a.m. hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Not to worry, though, Chairman Andy Hill assured folks who showed up bright and early for the hearing. The budget is really just a “compilation of bills that have already been heard in this committee” — with the exception of a couple of tax exemptions for renewable energy projects.

Lobbyists who had gathered for what is likely to be their last big committee hearing of 2012 were mostly complimentary of the latest incarnation of a spending plan, which does not remove most of the tax credits and exemptions for businesses that some legislators had targeted at the beginning of the year.

Budget agreement reached

Inslee and legislative leaders say there's a budget deal.

OLYMPIA – After 150 days of debating, posturing and negotiating legislative leaders and Gov. Jay Inslee reached agreement Thursday – Day 151 – on a $33.6 billion spending plan to carry many state programs through the next two fiscal years.

“State government will continue to operate,” Inslee said.

The deal should be passed by both houses and on his desk by 5 p.m. today, Inslee said in a brief announcement attended by a bipartisan group of 10 legislators. He released no details of the agreement, but legislative leaders later offered only some broad outlines of the deal, either in meetings with their rank and file members or to the press.

Among them:

Tougher DUI bill passes House

OLYMPIA — Like the Senate a day before, the House gave unanimous approval Thursday to tougher penalties for people who drive drunk or under the influence of drugs.

It requires anyone arrested on a second driving under the influence charge be taken to jail, spends more money to speed prosecutions and requires an interlock system be installed on the suspect's car within five days of release. It also sets up a test program for daily testing for alcohol and drugs, plus electronic monitoring of  people convicted of multiple drunk driving offenses as an alternative to incarceration.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, passed the House 92-0 after a 46-0 vote in the Senate. Tougher DUI standards was one of the priorities Gov. Jay Inslee had set for the special session of the Legislature.

Announcing the deal

OLYMPIA — Here's what it looked like when Gov. Jay Inslee announced they had a budget deal… just before the left without answering any questions about it

Left to right: Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy Hill, House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, Inslee, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan House Speaker Frank Chopp, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Ross Hunter, Sen. Jim Hargrovve, Sen. Nick Harper, Rep. Gary Alexander.

Question: What's missing from this group? 

Answer inside the blog.

Budget impasse keeps Inslee out of Hoopfest

Inslee goes up for a rebound last January in pickup game at governor's mansion.

OLYMPIA — The Legislature has until Sunday night to pass a budget that would stave off a partial state government shutdown, but the impasse will keep Gov. Jay Inslee out of Hoopfest this weekend.

 An avid basketball player who arranged a pick-up game on Inauguration Day between his swearing in and the ball, Inslee put together a team last year when he was on the campaign trail. He had promised a contingent from the Spokane-area chambers of commerce that he'd bring a team to Hoopfest this year and vowed to double the wins from 2012… to two.

But that was in January, when it seemed like the Legislature had plenty of time in its 105-day regular session to agree on the 2013-15 operating budget. One regular session and 1.5 special sessions later, that budget deal remains elusive. If that deal is reached, both chambers will have to pass it and Inslee sign it before midnight Sunday to give the state the authority to spend money on certain programs and pay wages and benefits for many state workers.

“He is not going to be leaving town this weekend,” spokeswoman Jaime Smith said.

Team Inslee would have been down two players. State Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, was on the roster and he, too, is stuck in Olympia. They didn't sign up for the tournament, Smith said.

Senate passes tougher DUI bill

OLYMPIA – The Senate gave unanimous approval Wednesday to tougher laws against people who drive drunk or under the influence of drugs, particularly repeat offenders.

The proposal would require an automatic arrest for a second offense, and require ignition interlock devices on their vehicles before their cases go to trial. It would require a court appearance within 48 hours and set up a test program for repeat offenders have their sobriety monitored on a daily basis with electronic  home monitoring  rather than more expensive incarceration.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the bill’s sponsor, called drunk driving a “preventable disease” that costs victims, their families and society. The bill now goes to the House, which must pass it before the second special session ends.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, argued that judges should be given greater leeway with drivers convicted of impaired driving if they have a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana. Chemicals from marijuana remain in the blood stream longer than alcohol or many other drugs, and making patients give up their medical marijuana in order to drive was “totally unjust.”

But judges routinely order drunk drivers not to drive if they drink, Padden said, and marijuana should be treated the same way if a person is convicted of impaired driving. “Impaired means impaired,” he said.

Gov’s office preps for shutdown, hopes for deal

Heuschel describes some effects of a partial state government shutdown to reporters Wednesday.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee's staff tried to emphasize “tremendous concern” over a potential government shutdown that could be required next week without suggesting “the sky is falling”.

 But they stressed there was no agreement yet on a 2013-15 budget which would eliminate the need for a shutdown. Although the predominantly Republican coalition that controls the Senate said late this morning that an agreement had been reached, other sides involved in negotiations called that premature.

“This came as a big surprise to the other parties,” David Postman, the governor's spokesman, said. “They were negotiating at the time of the announcement . . These things happen. We all make mistakes.”

Inslee's cabinet spent an hour Wednesday discussing the effects of a partial government shutdown in the event a deal is not reached, passed and signed by midnight Saturday, the final day of the current fiscal year. 

Mary Alice Heuschel, Inslee's chief of staff, emerged to offer a partial list of people being notified about the state services that could feel the impacts on Monday.  . .

Deal or no deal? Senate Majority: ‘Yes’; Gov: Not yet

OLYMPIA — The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus is telling its members a deal has been struck over the state's 2013-15 budget. 

Gov. Jay Inslee's staff cautions, however, that there is no final agreement.

Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, in an e-mail to members, describes it as “truly a compromise budget”.  in which no one got everything they wanted but “in the end I think we arrived at a balanced approach that everyone can live with and that brings us closer to the education-first budget many of us envisioned. ”

It may not  be a fully cooked deal, however, Sen. Joe Fain, the coalitions floor leader, told reporters there are still some issues to be worked out, just before leaving the House wings with Rep. Reuven Carlyle, the House Finance Committee Chairman.

David Postman, the governor's spokesman, said talk of a deal is premature: No one has reported to the governor or his budget director that there is an agreement. And, in fact, the House has told us that it is still negotiating with the Senate at this hour. We believe we are close, but as of now there is more work to be done. I’ll take it as a good sign that the Senate is anxious to make an announcement, but it is premature for anyone to say at this point that a deal has been struck. 

Inslee has a noon meeting with his cabinet to discuss contingencies in case there's a partial government shutdown next week. His staff is scheduled to give an update when that meeting ends around 1 p.m.

 

Parlette's e-mail is inside the blog.

Running out of ‘close’ metaphors. A good sign?

OLYMPIA — Legislative budget negotiators appear to be running out of ways to describe how close they are to an agreement without actually reaching one. 

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, described the sides simply as “so close” and unlike last week wouldn't venture a prediction as to when there would be an agreement. Lots of details to work out in a 500-page document, he said. 

“More important than expediency is getting the job done right,” Tom told reporters who are channeling Howie Mandel's question of deal or no deal?

An agreement may be close enough that legislative leaders are figuring out how they would announce the broad outlines to the budget then brief their members, but no times or locations for such announcements have been announced yet.

Meanwhile, the House is scheduled to take up another hot topic this afternoon, a transportation proposal that could raise gasoline taxes to pay for some new road and bridge projects and increase maintenance on others.