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Corrections chief Eldon Vail quits

OLYMPIA — Secretary of Corrections Eldon Vail quit this afternoon citing "personal reasons." Gov. Chris Gregoire who reportedly learned about his decision just today, quickly named a temporary replacement.

A brief statement from the Department of Corrections said his resignation was "effective immediately" but didn't give further information about his reasons for leaving. A call to the department was referred to a spokesman who did not immediately return the call.

A spokeswoman for Gregoire said she had no additional information about Vail's reason for resigning. Asked if Gregoire was surprised by the announcement, she replied "it's fair to say she learned about it today."

Gregoire named Prisons Director Bernie Warner as Vail's interim replacement about 20 minutes after Vail's announcement. Warner played a key role in the prison system's expansion in the 1990s, she said, leading the siting process for Airway Heights Corrections Center and two other facilites. He has worked in California, Arizona and Florida and returned last October to serve as the department's prisons director.

Get while the getting is good

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire is ending her term as president of the National Governor's Assocation and starting her term as chairman of the Western Governors Association.

That sounds a bit backwards, going from the national to the regional, but remember that Gregoire was picked for the NGA in November to fill out the term of West Virginia's Joe Manchin, after he was elected to the Senate. So that wasn't the normal ascension to the top.

In any case, her first big initiative at the Western Governors Association is to boost tourism, recreation and conservation around these here parts, out where buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play.

"Many of our friends and neighbors have lost their connection to the land just beyond the city limits —  especially the younger generation and poorer, inner city residents," she said at the WGA annual meeting in Coeur d'Alene. The initiative will "help restore that connection," she said.

The initiative has a slogan, as any good initiative must.

Get Out West!

The exclamation point comes with the slogan, it wasn't added just now for emphasis. Providing the correct punctuation is probably a good thing because with different punctuation, and varying inflection, one could convey different meanings entirely.

Get…Out West. Get Out! West? Get out, West. Get. Out West.

Punctuation was one of the problems with a slogan Washington had for a brief time, a few years back: Say WA. Too many people interpeted as Say WA?

OK, so that was a minor problem with Say WA, the bigger problem was the slogan itself. But still.

High rivers a blow to wind farms

When the wind is blowing and the Columbia River is flowing, wind turbine operators in Washington have a problem they are looking to France and Germany for help.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is in Europe for a 10-day trade mission, said she met Thursday with the chief executive officer of AREVA, a French firm that operates wind farms around the Tri-Cities. The problem of wind power and hydropower peaking at the same time has been particularly bad this year, she said.

"There are concerns about BPA shutting down wind power because of excess hydropower," she said.

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

Gov at Paris Air Show: Part Deux

Seattle will be the site of a  "summit" on aerospace suppliers next March and a Bellingham company will expand to reconfigure planes for an Austrian airline, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday.

Deals for both were struck during the second day of the Paris Air Show, which Gregoire is attending to boost the chances of selling more Boeing planes and the products of some 650 aerospace manufacturers and suppliers in Washington.

The summit, to be hosted by Boeing and the state Commerce Department, is expected to draw about 600 businesses and be the first of its kind in North America, Gregoire said in a telephone press conference.

"All in all, it was a pretty good day for us," she said.

The governor also defended the 10-day trip out of the state — she stopped in Spain before Paris to talk with the company that will dig the tunnel for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement in Seattle, and will travel to Hamburg to talk with BMW and other companies making carbon-fiber parts at a new Moses Lake facility — as worth the $40,000 price tag for herself, two staff members and three representatives of the Commerce Department.

"I'm here promoting our state," she said. "We are not going to come out of this recession with me sitting in my office."

She didn't attend the last Paris Air Show in 2009, "and I took criticism for not going."

She met with top executives from Boeing, lobbying for Washington to be the site for any expansion of the company's 737 jetliner production. She also met with the American chief executive officer of Boeing's aviation industry rival Airbus, which also buys parts from aviation suppliers in Washington. "I made clear to them I fully appreciate we're the Number Two state in the nation with (companies) supplying to Airbus."

Asked if that meeting was awkward, considering she helped lead the lobbying for Boeing to beat out Airbus for a U.S. Air Force contract to build a new refueling tanker to replace the KC-135, Gregoire said she made clear she was rooting for "my home team." 

"We didn't talk very much about the tanker at all," she said.

Bonjour. Je m’appelle Chris. Je suis la gouverneur de Washington.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is in Paris this week, talking up Boeing at the biennial air show and talking up Washington as a place for the aerospace giant’s next assembly line.
In a telephone press conference after the first day of the Paris Air Show, where she helped open the state’s pavilion, Gregoire said she’s trying to boost all 650 of the state’s aerospace manufacturers and suppliers, not just its biggest one.. .

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

Eyman was on good behavior

OLYMPIA — Earlier in the week, Spin Control mentioned that inveterate initiative sponsor and sometime gubernatorial critic Tim Eyman would be attending the final bill signing ceremony that included all those little bills — the operating budget, the capital budget, workers compensation reform, government streamlining.

Spin Control might also have implied that some antics were expected, considering Eyman had in previous appearances made some gestures that signified he didn't much like a particular bill while posing for the ceremonial post-signing photo.

It seems only fair to note that Eyman was what mom would have called a good guest Wednesday. Not only did he not give anything a thumbs down, stick out his tongue or make rabbit ears behind Gov. Chris Gregoire during photos, he brought her a bouquet of flowers.

It would be safe to say Gregoire was surprised, and touched.

He was around when Gregoire signed the budget and said she was not vetoing a shift of money from the state auditor's account that Brian Sonntag said could affect his ability to do performance audits. She said she didn't agree with the shift, and will watch it carefully but "I'm not worried about the Legislature turning its back on perfromance audits."

Later he called to say that while he was disappointed that she didn't line-item veto that piece of the budget, he thought the Legislature essentially left Gregoire with no choice in the matter, and that they should be blamed, not her.

Gregoire in Spain, checking out tunnel

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire's office is providing daily updates of her itinerary as she makes her way to the Paris Air Show, where she'll be plugging those big flying metal things folks make in various parts of the state.

Today's stop is Spain, where she's meeting with the honchos of Dragados, the company hired to dig the tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, providing opponents in Seattle don't find a way to stop it. To check out their work, Dragados officials are showing her a tunnel they bored in Madrid. Folks from the U-dub met with folks from the U-Madrid to set up an exchange program that will result in hundreds of Huskey students teaching English in Spanish high schools, and likely convincing them to wear purple on the last Saturday in November when the Apple Cup is played.

Tomorrow she meets with Iberdrola, a company that operates wind farms in Washington state, then heads for Paris after tapas, paella and sangria.

OK, we made the menu items up. For all we know, she's having burgers and fries with a Diet Coke.

The state has a "press kit" for the Paris Air Show. Interested? You can see it by clicking here.

In other action from Weds. bills signing

Gov. Chris Gregoire congratulates Sen. Mike Baumgartner on the passage of his government consolidation bill just before she signs it.

OLYMPIA — All the political infighting, negotiating and debating of the last weeks of the special session were essentially condensed Wednesday with bill signings for more than a dozen pieces of legislation.

That meant that some t hings that generated much angst and several stories during the 105-day regular session and the 30-day special session got fairly short shrift Wednesday as Gov. Chris Gregoire signed what is either the Legislature's crowning bipartisan achievement or its shining example of economic irresponsibility, the 2011-13 general operating budget.

But before Gregoire signed the budget, she signed into law the revisions to the workers compensation system that allow for voluntary structured settlements for folks who get hurt on the job, an expansion of family planning services, restrictions on the amount of time a family can receive temporary aid, a revamp of the Disability Lifeline and a study of the possible leasing of the liquor distribution system.

She also signed what turned out to be the last bill passed  in the session, SB5931, which was Spokane Republican Sen. Mike Baumgartner's bill to streamline government by combining several departments like General Administration, printing and information services into a single Department of Enterprise Services. agencies.

"Now we'll implement it, and we'll implement it well, right everybody?" she asked state officials gathered for the signing.

When she got a tepid assent, she repeated "RIGHT, EVERYBODY?" and got stronger agreement.

Baumgartner made the trip over for the bill signing and was all smiles, although it's not clear if it was more because his bill passed or his wife, Eleanor Baumgartner, just had their first child less than a week earlier.

Their son, Conrad Michael Augustine Baumgartner, was born June 6 at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Budget signing today

OLYMPIA — After about 135 days of fretting and arguing and nearly two weeks of perusing, Washington's 2011-13 Operating Budget and Capital Budget are set to be signed this afternoon.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has an official signing ceremony at 2:30 p.m. for the budgets and some other bills passed in the closing hours of the special session. She could line-item veto parts of the bills — some folks are urging her to knock the emergency clause out of a proposal to seek bids on getting the state out of the wholesale liquor distribution biz, under the theory that voters may get a chance to take the state completely out in November, and there's no real emergency here. She's also being asked to veto cuts to the performance audit system.

Initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman has promised (threatened?) to attend. In past years, he's stood behind the governor and made thumb's down gestures, or scarfed up several "signing" pens, even though he's been opposed to the specific bill being signed.

Good times…

Gregoire terms: From a disputed win to recession-era budgets

OLYMPIA – Chris Gregoire, who became governor in the midst of controversy and managed the state during some of its worst economic adversity, said Monday she won’t seek a third term.
Instead, she said she’ll spend the next 18 months working to improve the economy, then take some time off.
“The worst thing that I can think of for the state of Washington is for me to be preoccupied with a campaign right now,” she said at a morning press conference in front of the Governor’s Mansion, where she was flanked by members of her family and had members of her cabinet and senior advisors gathered on the driveway nearby. “We are going to make sure we pull this state out of this recession.”
She said she wanted to leave “on my terms, in my time” and go on to do something else after taking “a little break” to spend time with her family…
 To read the rest of  Tuesday morning's story, go inside the blog

Gregoire called Inslee, urged him to run

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire made the decision not to run for re-election over the weekend after talking with family and close advisors, called cabinet members and one potential replacement on Sunday evening.

She urged Jay Inslee, the Democratic congressman from Western Washington's 1st District, to get in…although it seems unlikely she had to push very hard. Inslee has been itching to get into the race as soon as Gregoire is officially out.

"I don't know who all's going to get in the field," she said during her press conference outside the Governor's Mansion to announce that she won't.

Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna officially got in last week.  He made the courtesy call to Gregoire before his announcement, and she followed protocol by not really saying very much about that when asked.

Look for an Inslee campaign rollout press conference later this week, and any other serious candidates in the near future. After all, it is June of 2011, which means the 2012 general election is ONLY 17 months away.

Holder backing dispensary raids, Gregoire says

OLYMPIA – States that have legalized marijuana for medical uses are pushing the U.S. Justice Department for help in sorting out the conflict between federal drug laws and their own, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he’s aware of the problems and agreed this week to work with her, as the head of the National Governor’s Association and the point person for the 16 states with medical marijuana laws.

But Holder told her a department memo on not using federal resources to pursue patients using medical marijuana is being “misinterpreted” by the states and people setting up dispensaries to sell the drug to patients. That lack of prosecution was intended only for “those that are really quite ill” she said. “It’s expanded beyond anything anticipated in the Ogden Memo.” Holder told her he fully supports federal prosecutors who are shutting down dispensaries, and they are in Eastern Washington and Montana.

Gregoire believes the federal government should reclassify marijuana so it can be used for some medicinal purposes. Right now it’s classified as illegal for all uses. But reclassification usually takes time for drug tests, and the states don’t have that luxury. “I said, ‘The states need your help, the sooner the better.”

Gregoire to decide on re-election run this month

Gov. Chris Gregoire at a post-bill-signing press conference Tuesday.

OLYMPIA — Chris Gregoire will decide this month whether she will seek a third term as Washington's top elected official.

"I haven't made a decision. I'm meeting with my family this weekend," the governor said during a press conference after signing a list of bills from the recently completed special session of the Legislature ."I can't go on beyond this month. I've got work to do."

Although the election is not until 2012, she would want to start on a statewide campaign this summer if she decides to run, and another candidate will need that time if she doesn't. The two-term Democratic incumbent said she talked this week with Republican Attorney General Rob McKennas but declined to say what the subject was. "It's his to announce," she said of his plans.

Asked if the conversation was about a lawsuit over federal health care reform, on which they disagree, or about the gubernatorial campaign, she replied: "Not about the health care lawsuit."

Next week Gregoire is expected to sign a budget that cuts social service programs, education, higher education and most state services. "I didn't run on this six years ago. I didn't run on this two years ago. But the times are what they are."

Fire danger light this season

Gov. Chris Gregoire opens a fire shelter during the annual training and test required for being on site at a wildfire or forest fire.

OLYMPIA — With snow still on the mountains and plenty of rain this spring in the lowlands, the danger of wildfires is light, at least for the first part of summer.

That's the word from state officials today as Gov. Chris Gregoire, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste and others took their annual Department of Natural Resources fitness and fire shelter test at Chehalis Western Trail at Woodard Bay.

The test isn't too strenuous: Cover a mile on foot in 15 minutes, which is a brisk walk, or as Gregoire complained at one point "barely a saunter." Then open a portable fire shelter, get in it and lie on the ground in the right direction for an approaching fire within 25 seconds. (Tip: The right direction is feet toward the fire, under the theory that your head is the more valuable thing to protect.)

The training is necessary for going to the fire line should a wildfire break out. Even the governor and the WSP chief have to qualify.

Everybody passed, although it's probably not something that will be needed in most of the state this summer, except maybe in parts of the Columbia Basin.

Fees set for state parks and rec areas

OLYMPIA – Planning on driving to a state park or recreation area for some fun in the great outdoors after July 1? It'll cost you.
The same for visiting a state heritage site or wildlife area, using a state boat launch or trail.
Under a law signed Thursday by Gov. Chris Gregoire, lands controlled by the State Parks and Recreation Commission, Department of Natural Resources or Department of Fish and Wildlife will charge a $10-per-day vehicle fee for visitors who drive in. Regular users can buy an annual “Discover Pass” for all areas for $30.
The Legislature approved the new fees to help offset some $72 million in cuts those three state agencies are expected to get in the 2011-13 general operating budget.

To read more on the state park fees, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Spec Sess Day 16: Health care laws signed

OLYMPIA – Washington will stay in the forefront of federal health care reform, and could save as much as $26 billion over the next decade, with a half dozen bills signed into law Wednesday.

Even though the federal health care reforms are being challenged in court and by critics in Congress, Gov. Chris Gregoire and other state officials said the new state laws are needed now. They also make Washington eligible for federal funds while giving the state the chance to reshape health care to fit its needs.

“We can’t sit back and wait,” State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said. “Doing nothing means the feds are going to take over.”

To read the rest of this story, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Spec Sess Day 16: Where to take medical marijuana revisions?

OLYMPIA – With a Senate panel considering a new rewrite of the state’s medical marijuana laws, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday she’ll push to get the federal government to rewrite its laws and make the drug legal to treat some conditions.
The newest attempt to regulate some aspects of medical marijuana had few supporters for its debut in the Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday morning. Its sponsor, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, conceded SB 5955 was drafted in a hurry and needed revision.
Steve Sarich of CannaCare, which operates medical marijuana clinics and dispensaries, said if the goal was to provide clarity, allowing each city and county to set limits on the drug won’t do that: “You guys are creating chaos if you pass this measure."..
To read the rest of this story, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Gregoire on 2nd special session: ‘I’m not calling them back’

OLYMPIA — With speculation mounting that the Legislature will need a second special session to finish all work on the budget, Gov. Chris Gregoire is stepping up her Shermanesque statements.

"I'm not calling them back," she said when the standard question about the prospects of another overtime session came up at today's bill-signing ceremony.

For the past week, she's offered a different answer,  insisting a second special session "is not in my vocabulary". She's been meeting with legislative leaders off and on, and perhaps some people were thinking she'd picked up the phrase from one of them.

The reason for a second session would be the same as the reason for this one, that the Legislature didn't adopt the 2011-13 budgets and all the legislation needed to make them work. So if she's not calling them back, what would she do come July 1, when the state starts a new fiscal year?

"When they get ready to pass a budget, they can let me know," she said. "We're not going to sit here. People are just going to have to compromise."

Special Session Day 15: New medical marijuana bill introduced

OLYMPIA — Supporters of better laws defining medical marijuana procedures are "rolling another one".

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, introduced a bill today that she believes will overcome Gov. Chris Gregoire's concerns about the previous bill, which was mostly vetoed late last month.

The new bill, SB 5955, proposes a voluntary registry that would shield medical marijuana patients from arrest and set up a system of non-profit cooperatives where they could buy their supplies. It would also allow local governments to control where dispensaries can be located.

But it does not set up a system that has the state Department of Agriculture licensing growing and processing operations and the Department of Health licensing dispensaries. The last bill proposed that, and set off a debate over whether federal agents could arrest state workers involved in medical marijuana tasks could be arrested under federal drug laws.

The bill gets a hearing at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

An amnesty for tax deadbeats?

OLYMPIA – Business organizations regularly bemoan how little recognition, respect and support they get from the state. But evidence to the contrary was clear last week, when the state announced a “windfall” of some $321 million from a tax amnesty program.
It showed that when there’s something fishy about what they’ve been doing, businesses get the benefit of the doubt that poor people don’t.
Cheers for the money were second only to Mariner’s improving win-loss record, and with good reason. The state originally thought it might pick up about $24 million by offering businesses a chance to clear up their tax debts without penalties or interest. It got $321 million – $264 million of which the state keeps after sending local governments their share – which is real money in anyone’s book. It offers the Legislature, in the words of Gov. Chris Gregoire, a chance to balance the state’s biennial budget and “go home.”
No one seemed concerned, however, about the reason for the unexpected bonanza….

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

Slain officers honored

The honor guard arrives Friday for the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor/Peace Officers Memorial ceremony.

OLYMPIA – After the bugler played “Taps”, the bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” and the honor guard was dismissed Friday, Marjorie Petersen and Manuel de Encio went to the state Law Enforcement Memorial to get graphite rubbings of the newest name on the stone monument.
Their friend and co-worker, Monroe Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl, was the first person killed in the line of duty in a Washington prison in more than 30 years. Department of Corrections officers in their dress uniforms joined immaculately attired police, sheriff’s deputies, state troopers and even red-jacketed Canadian Mounties in the honor guard.
“It’s kind of a change in our culture,” said Petersen, a corrections officer, as de Encio, a volunteer at the installation made some final pencil swipes over the paper that showed Biendl’s name and date of death. Some security changes have already been made, and more are on the way, she said…

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Gregoire, McKenna to honor law enforcement

OLYMPIA — The Legislature may be gone, but the Capitol campus won't be empty today. Gov. Chris Gregoire and Attorney General Rob McKenna will be presenting the state's Medal of Honor to two law enforcement officers at a ceremony today.

The 1 p.m. ceremony, at the Law Enforcement Memorial just north of the Temple of Justice, will also recognize two killed in the line of duty.

New law applies to cattle trucks using Spokane Valley roads

Yesterday Governor Chris Gregoire signed a new law that will require cattle trucks in Spokane and Pend Oreille counties that are more than 40,000 pounds gross weight to stop at a port of entry. Neighbors living along Barker and Harvard Roads complained to the Spokane Valley City Council last year that the cattle trucks were using State Highway 290 to bypass the port of entry and its inspections and then using those roads to connect back to I-90. The council worked with local legislators to get a law passed. Olympia reporter Jim Camden has more details here.

Medical marijuana bill mostly vetoed

OLYMPIA — State workers will not be licensing medical marijuana growers or dispensaries, and patients will not be able to sign onto a registry that could save them from arrest.
Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed most of a bill this afternoon that would have established a state structure for the production and sale of medical marijuana, saying she feared state involved in the system would face federal prosecution….
(To read the full report, click here to go inside the blog.)

State workers: Veto medical marijuana bill

OLYMPIA — The state employees union joined the fray over the medical marijuana bill, urging Gov. Chris Gregoire in a letter today to veto it.

The letter from Greg Devereaux, executive director of the Washington Federation of State Employees, said the law would put them in a "precarious position of enforcing a state law which could potentially lead to their prosecution under federal law."

That missive comes on the heels of Thursday's letter from University of Washington Law Professor Hugh Spitzer, one of the state's top constitutional law experts, that  contends those types of prosecutions are highly unlikely, despite a letter from federal prosecutors to Gregoire. Spitzer accused U.S. Attorneys Mike Ormsby of Spokanke and Jenny Durkan of Seattle of "federal bullying" and argued such prosecutions haven't occured over other conflicts between federal and state laws for decades — maybe not since the Civil War.

Gregoire is scheduled to take action on the bill at 2:30 p.m., and said earlier in the week she'd like to salvage the state registry for medical marijuana patients if she can find a way to separate that from provisions that call for state agencies to license growing, processing and dispensary operations. 

Just can the whole thing, Devereaux said in the letter.

If that happens, the Legislature could take up the issue again in the special session if there's an agreement by the leaders of both parties in both chambers and Gregoire. That kind of OK would be needed because a medical marijuana isn't directly connected to the budget, which is supposed to be the focus of the special session.

Law prof: Feds bullying state on medical marijuana

OLYMPIA — Federal agents are unlikely to arrest state workers for regulating medical marijuana, despite warnings from two federal prosecutors, a constitutional law expert told Gov. Chris Gregoire Thursday.

Hugh Spitzer, a University of Washington law professor and one of the state's top constitutional scholars, said a warning to the state from U.S. Attorneys Mike Ormsby of Spokane and Jenny Durkan of Seattle over the proposed medical marijuana law amounts to "inappopriate federal 'bulllying' of our state  in connection with a controversial policy issue where this Washington is undertaking an approach that is not preferred by that Washington."

Gregoire said Wednesday she may veto the bill, which passed the Legislature late last week because of the warning from Ormsby and Durkan that state employees involved in overseeing or licensing growers, processors or dispensaries could face prosectution.

"I won’t intentionally put state employees at risk,” she said Wednesday. “I don't even know if I can implement the law.” (Read the rest of that post here.)

But Spitzer argues the state needn't worry. State workers haven't been prosecuted for carrying out a law that conflicts with federal law since the Civil War, he said. Even during the Civil Rights struggles, when state and local offiicals were enforcing local laws that conflicted with federal laws, they weren't prosecuted. 

It is possible the conflict could end up in federal court, and a federal judge could issue a cease and desist order against the state statutes. In that case, the state would readily comply, Spitzer said.

"Washington's governor should not stand in for the federal government to frustrate the will of Washington's voters and a legislative policy decision favoring the type of regulatory control encompassed by (the bill)," Spitzer said. "I respectfully urge you to sign E2SSB 5073."

WA Lege Day 101: Cop killer at bill signing?

OLYMPIA – One of the people gathered around the table as Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the bill outlawing “motorcycle profiling” last week may have been a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang who once killed a Portland police officer.
The above photo of the event above, first published in The Spokesman-Review, has law enforcement officials studying the faces and patches on some motorcyclists who applauded as the bill was signed and posed with Gregoire and several legislators.
KIRO News radio in Seattle reported Wednesday that its law enforcement sources identified one of the bikers as Robert Christopher, who was convicted of killing a Portland police officer during a raid on the Outsiders’ motorcycle club’s headquarters in 1979. Christopher is the third in from the left, KIRO law enforcement sources said.(For more on Christopher, check out Austin Jenkin's piece from Northwest Public Radio.)

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

Healthy lawns, clean water act becomes law

From the Spokane Riverkeeper: Today, Governor Christine Gregoire signed the “Clean Fertilizers, Healthier Lakes and Rivers” legislation (ESHB 1489) into law.  The legislation manages the sale of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers and provides a commonsense and cost effective approach to making sure that our lakes and rivers are clean.
This legislation was one of the four environmental community priorities for the 2011 legislative session and the first to be signed into law.
When phosphorus in fertilizer washes off of our lawns into lakes, rivers, and Puget Sound, it causes pollution that costs taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars to clean up.  Excess phosphorus in our waterways causes rapid growth of weeds and smelly algae blooms that can harm fish, wildlife and public health.  Lake Spokane/Spokane River, Lake Whatcom, Lake Vancouver, Lake Washington and hundreds of other waterways across our state are polluted from too much phosphorus. 

Gregoire doesn’t like the way House would pay for med school

Gov. Chris Gregoire congratulates Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, for sponsoring a bill extending domestic partnership rights to couples with domestic partnerships or same-sex marriages in other states.

OLYMPIA — A House spending plan that includes $35 million to start a medical school in Spokane is "a problem" because it adds more debt to the state than her budget, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday.

The House Capital Budget, released Monday, has millions more for construction projects than the budget she proposed in December but gets extra money from bond sales through what she considers a gimmick, Gregoire said. Instead of selling bonds only in the first year of the biennium, they sell them in both years.

"They have split up the capital budget over two years. That grows debt," Gregoire said at a press conference. "That is a problem for me."

If there had been room in the capital budget to spend money on the med school without increasing debt, she would have included it in her proposal, the governor added. If the Senate, which will produce it's own capital budget in the next week or so, finds a way to pay for it without extra debt "I'm all for it."

Gregoire was also skeptical of a plan in the House general operating budget to sell the state's liquor distribution center for $300 million and add that money to general expenses.

"I've asked (the Office of Financial Management) to thoroughly review it," she said. "It did not work in Maine. But I don't know why it didn't work."

The sale would be subject to a bid process, she added. If the money isn't available, the state would be without the projected $300 million put in the budget, and would have to eliminate programs the House budget tries to save, she added.

"I don't want to start with criticism of the House budget. I think they stepped up," she said. "But it's not and end (the session) budget. Some of it doesn't work."

Gregoire spoke to reporters after signing several bills, including one that allows same-sex couples who have a domestic partnership or marriage in another state to be in a domestic partnership if they move to Washington, and another that requires all counties in the state to use all-mail voting. Of the state's 39 counties, only Pierce County still has poll site voting.

WA Lege Day 74: New workers comp bill in works. House budget coming next week?

OLYMPIA — An attempt to breathe life back into efforts to revise the state's workers compensation system will be released late today or Friday by the governor's office — a new bill that tries to find savings to help make the system solvent, Gov. Chris Gregoire said.

What it won't have, she said, is a provision for "compromise and release" a change much desired by business and much loathed by organized labor. A bill with that change, which passed the Senate weeks ago, is bottled up in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee, and isn't likely to see the light of day.

Republican House leadership believes they could pass that bill if they could get it to the floor. Democrats say they couldn't, and Gregoire said she's not taking any chances.

Her new bill will have a provision for voluntary settlements for workers over age 55, along with a freeze of cost of living adjustments and offsets of workers comp payments with Social Security, and a Rainy Day fund system, she said. But no compromise and release.

"I'm not willing to risk…it fails and we have nothing and go home," Gregoire said.

The Legislature has one month left in its regular session, and still has not produced a comprehensive budget in either house to address the 2011-13 biennium and a projected $5 billion shortfall between money expected to come in and money that would have to be spent for existing programs.

Gregoire said she's been told a spending plan from the House, which takes the lead this year on budget writing, should be released early next week. She's been told it will not propose an increase in gambling to increase state revenue. If any legislator has such an idea, "they need to tell me…because there are real legal issues associated with the tribes."

The state and many of the tribes have gaming compacts that define what each can offer in the way of gambling.