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OLYMPIA — Washington state will debut its web site to help people find medical insurance under Obamacare on Tuesday even if the federal government is forced into a shutdown over health care reform, Gov. Jay Inslee said.
Some state workers might be furloughed, some job training programs could be cancelled and some road projects might eventually put on hold if the shutdown continues, Inslee said. But the new health care exchange, a way for uninsured people to shop for the best deal on medical insurance, will be up and running sometime in the morning even if Congress deadlocks and doesn't pass legislation to continue paying for some parts of the government.
“We will be open for business,” Inslee said of the Washington Health Plan Finder, which had its web address and toll-free number on the podium beneath his microphone.
As many as 1 million Washington residents are expected to get health care in the coming years through the exchange and the expansion of Medicaid. Increased federal money for the Medicaid expansion is also expected to help the state balance its budget.
State agencies are still trying to determine how programs that get some or all of their money from the federal government will be affected by a shutdown. Training programs to help returning military veterans would be put on hold, Inslee said. Extended unemployment insurance benefits come from the federal government, and could be delayed. The state Department of Transportation might delay some projects that rely on federal transportation money.
Some 1,000 civilian employees of the Washington National Guard could be sent home a few hours after they arrive at work Tuesday. Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the Guard, said they could come to work Tuesday morning and be told they have four hours to wrap up and go home until further notice. About 120 workers got notices last week that they could be furloughed, but their labor contract requires a seven-day notice, so they may be working through this week but it's not clear if the state would be reimbursed for their pay.
Alarm over potential Fairchild encroachment is being sounded so often and by so many and over so much these days that it's at risk of becoming a bad Spokane punch line.
Don't like the new paint job on your neighbor's house? Argue that it creates too much of a distraction for Air Force pilots trying to find the Fairchild runway.
Looking for a sure-fire way to either stop or support Spokane's efforts to crack down on all those R-rated bikini barista stands? Suggest that the position opposite of yours puts the future of Fairchild in peril but that base officials have been instructed by the Pentagon to keep mum and stay out of local politics.
The real reason it's taking so long to get the North Spokane Freeway built? No one has figured out yet how to link its rapid completion to possibly helping keep Fairchild off the BRAC closure list.
To be sure, Fairchild is a critical piece of Spokane's economy and no one questions taking all reasonable steps to keep the base viable.
But with the dizzying number of times the encroachment issue is getting raised these days by groups at odds with each other over one project or another, it's getting tougher to discern reasonable from opportunistic. Casinos. Municipal zoning. Trailer parks. Industrial expansion. Gravel pits.
The latest salvo came yesterday, when Gov. Jay Inslee openly questioned why Spokane County commissioners are creating new encroachment risks with a controversial industrial expansion while at the same time trying to persuade voters to increase taxes to pay for alleviating a separate risk. Inslee has joined others in trying to get the expansion overturned.
Commissioners suggest Inslee's concern is misguided and are hoping to meet with him to iron things out. But that sounds a lot like the kind of response commissioners tend to get from backers of proposals that they're trying to block by raising the specter of encroachment.
Regardless of where anyone might stand on any of the various proposals, the real risk right now seems to be political fatigue.
Inslee says digging to resume soon.
OLYMPIA — The longshoremen's union removed pickets from the site of Seattle's tunnel dig this morning at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee, which could allow the digging to resume in a few days.
The work stoppage on one of the state's major transportation projects was threatening to undermine any public support for a possible package of tax increases for road maintenance and new projects being discussed at hearings around the state by the Senate Transportation Committee, Inlee said.
The governor announced this morning at a press conference that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union agreed to remove its pickets for an undetermined amount of time while negotiations continue on a labor dispute. The ILWU contends that some jobs loading dirt being removed from the tunnel and loaded onto barges for transport should be performed by its members.
The pickets had stopped work on the tunnel being dug by “Bertha”, a drill boring a 57.5-foot hole under the Seattle waterfront, to replace the Alaska Way Viaduct.
“Bertha will soon be back in business,” Inslee said. “This had gone on long enough.”
The pickets came down as “a sign of good faith” after Inslee met with union officials and contractors. A solution to the dispute has not yet been found.
Inslee's spokesman David Postman said the governor suggested removing the pickets and union officials agreed. The union set no deadline for an agreement before resuming the pickets, and is expected to call Inslee before resuming the action.
(Editor's Note: Because of incorrect information supplied, an earlier version of this post contained an incorrect diameter measurement of the hole being bored under the Seattle waterfront.)
OLYMPIA – It is impossible these days to criticize any experiment to merge politics with social media without sounding like a 21st Century Luddite, or at least some cranky octogenarian telling teenagers to turn down their music and get off the lawn.
Social media, after all, fueled the fire of the Arab spring and Tahrir Square. It eats dead-tree journalism for breakfast then orders a pumpkin spice latte to clear that “past its expiration date” taste out of the mouth.
So it is with some trepidation that I say the governor’s recent Twitter Town Hall was a bit underwhelming, at least from the standpoint of connecting state government and large segments of the population that don’t have regular access to the machinery of governing. . .
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OLYMPIA — Gov Jay Inslee and about a dozen state officials tried to answer questions and get suggestions about improved state government over Twitter this morning.
At one point during the one-hour Twitter Town Hall, the topic, #ResultsWA was “trending” in Seattle, which for those not well versed in twitter-lingo means it was among the more popular topics in the city. And that, spokeswoman Jaime Smith said, was “pretty damn cool”.
Just how cool, or how effective, might be hard to quantify.
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OLYMPIA — If you have an idea to improve state government that you're just dying to tell Gov. Jay Inslee about, you might get your chance this morning.
If you have a Twitter account, and can keep it to 140 characters.
Fresh of his more conventional press conference Tuesday for Results Washington, his plan to make state government more efficient, Inslee is hosting aone-hour Twitter Town Hall on improving government starting at 10 a.m.
People can tweet their questions to Inslee and his management team, who will try to answer them. But wait, you might be saying, what about answers to those questions that require more than the 140 character limit on Twitter? (Which is to say, almost anything of substance.)
They'll be answered more fully on the results.wa.gov website next week.
To participate, or even just to watch, follow @GovInslee. Questions should have a #ResultsWA .
OLYMPIA — Washington and federal officials had what's being called a “standard followup” meeting this morning about the new policy on state-legal marijuana. Nothing earth-shattering to report, apparently.
Gov. Jay Inslee, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and U.S. Attorneys Mike Ormsby and Jenny Durkan has a morning meeting in Inslee's office. No big policy changes, say those familiar with the meeting.
Ormsby after the meeting described it as just an opportunity to underscore last week's memo out of Washington, D.C., on federal policy regarding states that have legalized marijuana in some form. The Justice Department said it would not be trying to stop Washington and Colorado from proceeding witlh rules to allow the growing, sale and use of recreational marijuana to adults, but it would step in to stop sales to minors, laundering of money from criminal enterprises and some other activities.
Inslee's office, too, said nothing new came out of the meeting. “It was just standard followup,” spokeswoman Jaime Smith said. “It's all an ongoing conversation.”
OLYMPIA – With enough time, things that were once unthinkable can become conceivable options.
I’m not talking about anything as outrageous as using sarin gas or electing a Democrat in the 4th Legislative District. But a few months ago, it would have been incomprehensible to talk seriously about calling yet still another special session of the Legislature this year.
When legislators limped wearily out of Olympia in late June after two overtime sessions, it seemed like returning in January would be more than soon enough.
Now, however, a special session to address some of the state’s major transportation woes is being floated by Gov. Jay Inslee, who said last week he’d consider calling one in November if legislators could agree on a package of projects and revenue. . .
In what state officials described as a “game changer”, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday the federal government will focus attention on several key areas of illegal marijuana production and sales, but allow
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Inslee and Ido finish the planting of a tree to mark the sister state anniversary.
OLYMPIA – Leaders of Washington state and Japan’s Hyogo prefecture marked the oldest “sister-state” relationship in either country by making speeches, planting a tree and feasting on smoked salmon and barbecue.
The link between the two regions Washington and Hyogo marked its half-century this summer since that relationship started.
“These ties are as important now as they were then,” Gov. Jay Inslee told a Senate chamber where the floor and the galleries were filled with local residents and visitors from Japan. . .
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Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife Trudi greet Hyogo Prefecture Gov. Toshizo Ido at a ceremony marking the sister state relationship between the two areas.
OLYMPIA — Washington state officials will mark the 50th anniversary of a relationship with Japan's Hyogo prefecture with some pomp and circumstance around the capital today.
Gov. Jay Inslee will welcome Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido and members of the prefecture's assembly at the Temple of Justice this morning, and the two chief's of state will have lunch at the governor's mansion at noon while various business, education and cultural groups will have seminars around the Capitol Campus. They'll renew the sister-state relationship with a signilng ceremony in the Senate Chambers, then attend a reception with food and entertainment from both locales.
Spokane's sister city, Nishinomiya, is located in Hyogo prefecture. So which came first, the sister city or the sister state?
The relationship between Nishinomiya and Spokane predates the Washington-Hyogo relationship by a couple years.
The federal government must resume work on the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada that would store the high-level nuclear waste from Hanford and other sites around the country, a federal appeals court said today.
In what amounts to a judicial smackdown of the Obama administration, the court said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Obama administration can't override Congress, which ordered the repository built in 2002.
Washington state, which is the home to an estimated 56 million gallons of highly toxic nuclear waste from the production of nuclear warheads at Hanford, had joined the lawsuit against the commission. Along with South Carolina and some residents of the Tri-Cities, Washington sought a writ of mandamus, or order from the court for the federal government to follow the law. Today they got what they wanted …
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WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Gov. Jay Inslee has reappointed the chair of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to a six-year term and has appointed the executive director of the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association to a vacant position.
OLYMPIA – Washington’s new state budget signed into law this week relies on the expansion of Medicaid, both to provide health insurance to hundreds of thousands of people and to help balance its bottom line.
But state residents will have to wait until October to sign up for that coverage, and until next January for it to kick in. State officials agree that the program isn’t well understood yet, but say a major information campaign is coming to help people understand how it works and who will qualify.
In general, anyone whose annual income is below 138 percent of the poverty level, will be eligible for free health care under Medicaid…
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OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee's recent press conferences have been a mix of the good and the bad from the late legislative session.
Yay for the billion added to public schools, the tuition freeze for colleges, expanded health care, the social service programs included in the budget. Boo for the lack of an extra transportation package, failure of the Reproductive Parity Act, Dream Act…
In case anyone missed the coverage in newspapers, blogs, websites, television or radio, the Inslee campaign team took up the refrain this week in a blast e-mail to supporters.With a handy link to click to “spread the word on Facebook”
But they made one goof, referring to the extra health care as coming from Medicare, which is a program targeted mainly to seniors, rather than Medicaid, which is targeted at low-income residents.
Yeah, it's a common mistake, and we here at Spin Control have done it a time or two. But we've probably never put it in a big green box with oversized type, at least not without running it past editors.
Campaign machinery gets a little rusty in the months after the election.
Inslee says there's no money for the CRC, and no plans right now to get any.
OLYMPIA — The office planning for a new bridge to cross the Columbia River from Vancouver to Portland will be shut down, with no plans to replace the structure, Gov. Jay Inslee said.
“There is no money for work in this bridge,” Inslee said Monday. The Legislature failed to pass a transportation package that would have contributed the state's share of the project and without that money, federal funds aren't coming, he said.
September is the deadline for a state decision to join the project with Oregon and the federal government, but as long as the coalition that controls the state Senate opposes the project, there's no reason to call another special session to address that and other new transportation projects and additional road and bridge maintenance that would be funded by a gasoline tax increase, he said.
Inslee and legislative leaders say there's a budget deal.
“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.
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.
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. . .
Inslee predicts budget agreement by end of Monday.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said legislators are could reach an agreement on the 2013-15 operating budget by the end of the day.
“The current state of negotiations gives me confidence that agreement is imminent,” Inslee told reporters at a 2:30 p.m. press conference. “I'm more confident than I was at 9 o'clock this morning.”
Legislative leaders have come up with a “significant change”, which, Inslee said “I won't be able to share with you.”
But those changes have created a way the state can meet its mandate to improve public education and preserve the safety net, he said.
Inslee spoke slightly more than an hour after state agencies began sending temporary layoff notices to some employees who would be told not to show up for work next Monday if the Legislature doesn't pass and Inslee sign the 2013-15 operating budget. About 26,000 workers, out of the 59,000 or so in state employ, would be subject to layoff because the budget gives the state the legal authority to spend money on programs and salaries.
The Legislature was unable to agree on a budget during its regular 105-day session or the 30-day special session that followed. It is now on Day 13 of its second special session. In recent days, some legislative leaders have made predictions about a deal being reached that proved overly optimistic and Inslee was asked why the public should think this was any different.
“This is the first time I have said there has been very substantial progress in negotiations,” he replied
OLYMPIA — Despite a slightly better economic forecast and expectations of a budget deal among legislators, Gov. Jay Inslee's office has prepared a list of state services that would and wouldn't be available July 1 if a budget isn't passed.
The preliminary list divides agencies into three categories: No shutdown; partial shutdown and complete shutdown. Among those staying open are the state colleges and universities, the courts and those that receive money from something other than the operating budget, such as the Transportation Department, Innovate Washington, Financial Institutions, Treasurer and Traffic Safety Commission.
Some smaller agencies — the Arts Commission, Public Disclosure Commission, Eastern Historical Society, Liquor Control Board, Human Rights Commission and Indian Affairs — would be among those facing complete shutdown, as would the state Parks.
Partial shutdown is more complicated, but it includes many of the big agencies like Departments of Social and Health Services, Health, Military, Natural Resources, Corrections and State Patrol. But no, the last two don't mean the prisons doors would be thrown open or no one would be writing tickets on I-90.
For a look at the list, click here.
OLYMPIA – The Legislature closed for about 17 hours overnight Tuesday – the amount of time between its ineffectual first special session and a second special session that some say could bring the state to a fiscal cliff.
Gov. Jay Inslee criticized the largely Republican Senate majority for pushing ideology over budget compromise as he issued the proclamation for a second legislative overtime period Tuesday morning.
“The budget is our primary duty. That’s where our focus should be,” Inslee said. “They need to come to a common-sense position, so that we can fulfill the obligation to our kids”. . .
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OLYMPIA — It's the final day of the First Special Session. Or possibly the eve of the Second Special Session. Take your pick.
Legislators don't have much incentive to pass anything today unless they could pass it in both chambers, because at the beginning of a special session everything still hanging fire goes back to its “house of origin”, which means they'd just have to pass it again.
Gov. Jay Inslee has a 10:30 a.m. press conference “to discuss the special session”, which means he could issue the call for the second session at that point, or urge them to get as much done as possible before midnight before the call goes out.
Inslee deploys a fire shelter.
OLYMPIA — Jay Inslee completed one of the annual spring rituals for a Washington governor this morning: passing the test for minimum wildfire training in the advance of the state's fire season.
To do this, one must walk a mile in no more than 16 minutes. He managed it in just over 13, strolling with Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark staff and assorted media, on a course laid out by the Department of Natural Resources at Capitol Lake. Possibly most impressive, he did it in his dress shoes.
One must also demonstrate the ability to unpack and crawl into a fire shelter in 26 seconds. He had a few seconds to spare.
“I'm trying to get a budget through the Washington Legislature. Geting into a fire shelter is nothing,” he told reporters afterwards.
This doesn't qualify one to fight wildfires in the forests or ranges. That's a much tougher test. This is the minimum for going up to the fire line.
Summers are getting warmer, drier and longer with each passing decade, and tree kills by beetles more frequent, Inslee said, which means fire seasons in most years are getting more longer and more intense.
One might assume that if the governor showed up at a wildfire, they'd let him go to the fireline if he wanted, but governors usually take the test to show support for the DNR.
Inslee criticizes Senate plan to change estate tax.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee, clearly frustrated over a lack of progress in budget negotiations and a plan to fix a problem with the estate tax, accused the Senate today of hurting school children to help multi-millionaires…
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OLYMPIA — The Senate got through its pro forma session this morning in 34 seconds. That was about 5 seconds short of the record, but still in the neighborhood of “don't blink or you'll miss it.”
Gov. Jay Inslee has a noon press conference to discuss “budget issues pending in the special session.” Considering he issued a statement on Friday in which he said he was “increasingly concerned about the pace of budget negotiations”, and the pace has not picked up one might reasonably expect he is at least still concerned. You can watch it live on TVW; we'll have a report shortly after the press conference concludes.
The House Appropriations Committee has a hearing tomorrow on a bill to eliminate some tax preferences; would love to tell you what's in it but it won't be available until Wednesday, possibly not until noon, which is 90 minutes before the hearing starts.
The committee might also vote on an early House Democratic budget, House Bill 1057, which predates the proposals that passed at the end of the regular session.
OLYMPIA — Time is running out for the work the Legislature needs to do in the special session, Gov. Jay Inslee said today.
Inslee called a committee vote earlier in the morning on legislation go fix a problem with the state's estate tax “good progress”, adding he expects the Legislature to reach an agreement on the bill in the next couple of days.
“However, there is still much that remains to be done and time is running out,” he said. Today is Day 17 of the 30-day Special Session.
“If budget negotiators are able to reach key compromises in the next week, we will be able to finish on time,” he said in a press release. “But negotiators need to pick up the pace to make it happen.”
OLYMPIA — Washington will spend $150,000 from the Economic Development Strategic Reserve for a program to let the public know that businesses in and around Skagit County are open, even though a section of the I-5 bridge is down.
Gov. Jay Inslee today said he directed the state Commerce Department to tap the reserve to help get the word out about alternate routes while the state works on a temporary and a permanent fix to the Skagit River Bridge. The money will be used for marketing and promotion efforts, not just for Skagit but for Whatcom, San Juan and Island counties, who are likely to feel the pinch. The state may also apply for a disaster declaration from the Small Business Administration after it collects data on the economic impact.
Money from the reserve will be used to develop a marketing program to tell people what businesses and attractions are open and how to access them on alternate routes or ferries.
“People need to know that these counties are open for business and that the bridge collapse need not interfere with vacation, business or recreation plans,” Commerce Director Brian Bonlender said in press release announcing the money.
A section of the 58-year-old bridge collapsed into the river last Thursday evening after a truck collided with some of the support structure. Traffic will be detoured to other bridges at least until next month while a temporary replacement section is built and installed. A more permanent replacement section might be finished by September.
PREDATORS — Gov. Jay Inslee today signed legislation that will provide state wildlife managers more resources to prevent wolf-livestock conflict and expand criteria for compensation to livestock owners for wolf-related losses.
- Increases the state's personalized license plate fee by $10, effective Oct. 1, with the proceeds to support WDFW's efforts to monitor wolf recovery and prevent wolf-livestock conflict in collaboration with farmers, ranchers and local governments, and to compensate livestock owners. The Department of Licensing estimates the fee will raise more than $1.5 million during the upcoming two-year budget cycle.
- Allows WDFW to compensate livestock owners for their losses at the current market value of the animals.
- Permits compensation regardless of whether livestock owners were raising the animals for commercial purposes.
- Revises other elements of state law to make it more consistent with the state's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan as adopted by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission in December 2011.
OLYMPIA — Employers can't ask their current workers or job applicants for access to their social media accounts under a law signed Tuesday.
Sometimes called the “Facebook Bill”, Senate Bill 5211 makes it illegal for an employer to request a worker or a job applicant for the login information to a social media account or to make the employee access the account with the employer present. An employee or applicant can't be required to add someone to a contact list or change the settings to give a third party access to the account.
Sen. Steven Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, said Washington is the eighth state to have such a bill. “Privacy shouldn't be a thing of the past that we are forced to sacrifice every time technology moves forward.”
After signing the bill, Gov. Jay Inslee said it was a solid step for protecting people's privacy today.
“We do have to realize that technology changes so fast that we may turn around tomorrow and find circumstances where people are not adequately protected by it, from new technologies we haven't even thought of yet,” he said.