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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Central Washington residents say Natural Resources failed them in battling Carlton Complex fires

OLYMPIA – Government agencies failed to react fast enough to smaller fires that grew last July into the largest wildfire in state history, Central Washington residents told legislators Thursday. While Department of Natural Resources officials defended their efforts to battle the Carlton Complex in hot, dry, windy conditions, Okanogan County officials and residents accused them of being disorganized and ill-prepared. They’re worried about a repeat this summer, when weather conditions are expected to be similar.

Lawmakers look at banning hazardous, yet popular microbeads

OLYMPIA – Many facial soaps contain tiny, gritty pieces of plastic called microbeads, for scrubbing away dead skin and stubborn blemishes. Some Washington lawmakers want to ban them. The exfoliating beads present an environmental hazard, researchers warn. Small enough to slip through bathroom drains, the beads end up in rivers, lakes and oceans around the world. They are easily swallowed by fish and other creatures and are known to cause cell damage, even death.

House collectively passes ‘Joel’s Law’

OLYMPIA – Rep. Tom Dent urged his colleagues to pass “Joel’s Law” by recalling his son’s tense standoff late last year with Spokane County sheriff’s deputies. A patient of severe bipolar disorder, Monty Dent went missing for several days last year after stealing a family car, and Tom Dent feared he was suicidal. After letting his father know where he was, Monty Dent was arrested by Spokane County deputies.

WALeg Day 18: DNR response to Central WA fires blasted

OLYMPIA – Government agencies failed to react fast enough to smaller fires that grew last July into the largest wildfire in state history, Central Washington residents told legislators. While DNR supervisors defended efforts to battle the Carlton Complex, Okanogan officials accused them of being disorganized and ill-prepared.

Outdoor enthusiasts fight proposed bill that could cut access to Washington waters

OLYMPIA – Following backlash from state agencies and outdoor enthusiasts, a Benton County lawmaker is shrinking the scope of a bill that could cut access to Washington’s lakes, rivers and streams. The bill aims to alleviate a parking problem along the Yakima River, but opponents worried it would hinder public water access statewide. It could result in a misdemeanor for someone who uses public land to access a public body of water.

Washington legislators struggle with ‘boarding’ mentally ill when space is already slim

OLYMPIA – As they try to address multiple court orders on Washington’s mental health system, legislators struggle with a conundrum: How can the state care for more people with mental illness when there’s not enough room or money to treat existing patients? “We’ve got a broken mental health system – it’s not working,” Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, told the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. “We’ve got mentally ill people who do not realize they’re mentally ill, and under our warped version of civil liberties, we are allowing them to walk the streets.”

WALeg Day 17: Splitsville for Washington? History says not likely

OLYMPIA – Eastern and Western Washington are so different they should be two separate states, says a new bill that would set up a way to split them apart. Sound familiar? Maybe that's because legislators from east of the Cascades have been saying it – and trying to find a way to divvy up the state – for at least 100 years.

Changes to write-in candidate laws considered in Legislature

OLYMPIA – Rob Chase wouldn’t have been elected Spokane County treasurer under changes the Legislature is considering to the state’s write-in candidate laws. Filing as a write-in candidate after the primary ballots were mailed in 2010, Republican Chase got about 2 percent of the votes against incumbent Democrat Skip Chilberg, who was running unopposed. But that 2 percent earned Chase a spot on the November ballot, and he beat Chilberg in the general election.

UW to legislators: WSU can have med school – without $5.9M set aside for UW

OLYMPIA – If Washington State University wants to start its own medical school, it should do so without using $5.9 million set aside to expand University of Washington’s Spokane medical program, UW officials told legislators on Tuesday. That money was budgeted for WSU as part of a plan to expand the number of medical school students in Spokane when the two universities were cooperating on UW’s program, Ian Goodhew, chief information officer for the UW School of Medicine, told a House committee. WSU shouldn’t get to spend it on plans that could lead to future students; UW should be able to spend it on students coming this year.

How many votes should a write-in candidate need to advance?

OLYMPIA – Rob Chase wouldn't have been elected Spokane County treasurer under changes the Legislature is considering to the state’s write-in candidate laws. He got about 2 percent of the vote as a write-in against Skip Chilberg; a new proposal would raise the threshold to 5 percent.

Statewide minimum wage of $12 debated

OLYMPIA – Raising Washington’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2019 was described Monday as too much for some businesses and not enough for some workers. Representatives of grocery stores, restaurants and farms told the House Labor Committee they would lose customers if they raised their rates or prices to pay higher wages.

Ballot postage in Washington elections covered in bill

OLYMPIA – Covering return postage for the state’s all-mail balloting would cost about $1 million for a presidential election and about $2.7 million for the next two years, a Senate committee was told Monday. But supporters of a proposal to do just that say it would make voting more convenient and remove a possible barrier for poor residents.

WALeg Day 15: Should state pay to mail back ballots?

OLYMPIA -- Adding return postage for the state's all-mail balloting system could cost about $2.7 million over the next two years. But supporters say it may remove a barrier that keeps the poor from voting.

‘Sheena’s Law’ a lifesaver, dad says

OLYMPIA – Six months after Sheena Henderson was shot and killed by her estranged husband at Deaconess Hospital, her father is urging state lawmakers to pass a bill that he believes could save others from the same fate. “Sheena’s Law” would enable law enforcement officers to get mental health experts involved more quickly in instances where they have concerns about someone who falls short of the legal threshold for being taken into protective custody. Supporters say it might have led to treatment for Sheena’s husband, Chris Henderson, who also fatally shot himself on July 8.

Medical pot growers have unfair advantages, say counterparts

OLYMPIA – Medical marijuana growers and sellers have a series of unfair business advantages, their recreational pot counterparts told legislators Thursday. Medical marijuana is unregulated in Washington state. It’s unlicensed. It’s not tested for harmful substances like pesticides and fungicides. It’s not labeled for its potency.

Washington smoking age could jump from 18 to 21

OLYMPIA – Young adults would be barred from cigarettes under a proposal unveiled Wednesday by Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Under Ferguson’s plan, Washington would become the first state in the country to raise its smoking age from 18 to 21; Utah and Colorado tried but failed last year. So far, only a handful of cities and counties, including New York City, have done it. In Alabama, Alaska, Utah and New Jersey, it’s 19.