Food banks to win in governors’ Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl bet

By | January 29, 2015 | Comments

Ivar's Clam Chowder. (Photo by Jeffrey Chiang via Flickr)

Whether the Seattle Seahawks or the New England Patriots reign supreme on Super Bowl XLIX, food banks in three states will win after a bet between Gov. Jay Inslee and the governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Food pantries in Massachusetts and New Hampshire will get 1,000 cups of clam chowder donated by Inslee and Seattle-based Ivar’s. Food pantries in Washington will get Boston cream pie cupcakes from the Koffee Kup Bakery in Springfield, Massachusetts, donated by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, and New Hampshire bacon donated by the North Country Smokehouse in Claremont, donated by New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The food banks will get the donations, no matter who prevails.

“If there’s one thing we know it’s that the Hawks will fight to the end for this win,” Inslee said in a prepared statement. “Washington’s 7 million 12s will be with them in full force to cheer our team to victory and are looking forward to celebrating another Super Bowl win.”

At a press availability on Thursday, Inslee predicted the Seahawks would win 27-20.

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also announced a wager, with fine state products on the line.

From Washington, Owen will wager a magnum bottle of wine from Snohomish-based Quilceda Creek Vintners; an assortment of packaged smoked salmon,  albacore tuna, herbal tea, a “Paddle to Quinault” plush throw and wooden decorative carvings, donated by the coastal Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah; and a box of superior Washington apples, courtesy of Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Kershaw Fruit.

Polito has wagered products an assortment of craft beer from Wormtown Brewery and a box of cannoli from Wholly Cannoli, both products of Worcester, MA.

Both lieutenant governors also agreed to donate to food banks in the state of the winning team.

Categories: Uncategorized

Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | January 29, 2015 | Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Wednesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” We cover a bill known as “Sheena’s Law” named after the victim of a murder-suicide in Spokane. Plus, mobile home owners and landlords clash over a bill that would make changes to leases. The show also has highlights from a debate over a bill known by supporters as the Early Start Act.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. on TVW.

Sheena’s Law, other mental health bills get hearing in House committee

By | January 28, 2015 | Comments

Kristen Otoupalik of Spokane said if her friend Christopher Henderson‘s suicide threat history could have been recorded by mental health professionals and police, courts might have been able to force him into getting help before he fatally shot his wife, Sheena Henderson, and himself last year.

“How much would you pay, how many papers would you write and how much time would you invest to save the life of your loved one,” Otoupalik said. “Better yet, how many of you would like to trade places with me, and lose your loved ones because there wasn’t a strong enough paper trail, or we were not able to make changes, no matter how minimal, in our state?”

Kristen Otoupalik (left), Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, and Gary Kennison drop Sheena's Law, named after Kennison's daughter. Photo courtesy Rep. Riccelli's office.

Otoupalik spoke at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, which reviewed four mental health bills which would add new standards to commit someone into mental health treatment and give the court alternatives to long-term hospitalization.

Otoupalik and Sheena Henderson’s father, Gary Kennison, both spoke in favor of House Bill 1448, Sheena’a Law, which Kennison requested to be renamed Sheena and Chris Henderson’s Law. The bill would allow officers responding to a threat of suicide to refer the person to a designated mental health professional. That mental health professional can determine whether the person needs more intensive intervention, including involuntary commitment.

Christopher Henderson had been taken to a hospital after a suicide threat, but the family was left with few options when he was released to them after three hours, Kennison said.

“There was no follow up to see if any care was given,” Kennison said. “Not one person called to see if they could help him get mental health (treatment).”

However, James McMahan, policy director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said the bill would force people into the mental health system in cases where police determine that the person is not a danger.

“We don’t think that the right solution is to put the lowest risk people in an already bogged down system,” McMahan said.

However, the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs testified in favor of the bill.

Other bills reviewed were:

  • HB 1287 – Allows the courts to order year-long outpatient mental health treatment as an alternative to inpatient commitment.
  • HB 1450 – Allows a person who meets the definition of ”in need of assisted outpatient treatment” to be ordered into involuntary mental health treatment.
  • HB 1451 - Adds “persistent or acute disability” as one of the standards that would allow for court-ordered involuntary mental health treatment.

Len McComb, lobbyist of the Washington State Hospital Association, warned that the state needs to back up any changes with funding to keep services and beds available.

“We don’t have a mental health system in this state. We have pieces of a mental health system that is broken,” he said, testifying on HB 1451. “Be careful what you wish for.”

“Simply changing the standards and changing the law and not changing the system will not change things a bit,” he said.


Tuesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | January 28, 2015 | Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Tuesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” It includes the public hearing on Gov. Jay Inslee’s carbon pollution plan, as well as several voting measures. Plus, an effort to train more officers on how to deal with the mentally ill.

“Legislative Review” airs each night at 6:30 and 11 p.m. on TVW.

Categories: Environment, TVW

Bills call for responses to initiative fiscal statements, tighter rules for write-ins

By | January 27, 2015 | Comments

The state’s ballots and voters pamphlets could look different in upcoming elections if bills considered in a House committee Tuesday get passed.

The House State Government Committee considered several bills that would make changes to election ballots and pamphlets.

House Bill 1228 would call for initiative backers and opponents to submit responses to a measure’s fiscal statement, which says how much it costs.

The bipartisan bill was cosponsored by representatives Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, and Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, who addressed the committee. Johnson says he sponsored the bill in response to Initiative 1351, which reduces class size.

“Voters need to know if they accept an initiative what the fiscal impact would be and whether they would face tax increases to pay for specific outcomes,” Johnson said.

Other bills discussed were:

  • HB 1143, which would allow voters to return ballots by fax or by email, without following up with a paper ballot. This already applies to military and overseas voters.
  • HB 1548, which would raise the threshold of write-in candidates who make it past the primary and to the general election ballot from 1 percent to 5 percent.
  • HB 1635, requested by the Secretary of State, which would require write-in candidates to declare their candidacy before the election.

Write-in candidates have been nominated and put on ballots against their will in the state’s smallest counties, said Sheryl Moss, program manager of certification and training in the Secretary of State’s office.

“For Wahkiakum County commissioner, it only took eight votes to put that candidate on the ballot,” she said.

You can watch the entire hearing in TVW’s archives.

WSU, UW propose fixes to doctor shortage

By | January 27, 2015 | Comments

The state’s top two universities have different ideas about how to train more doctors, but both agree: Washington State University can establish and operate a new medical school if it’s not at the expense of the existing University of Washington program.

Washington faces a dire shortage of primary care providers, particularly in underserved rural communities on the eastern side of the state. The state’s only medical school struggles to train enough doctors with only enough funding to admit 140 students to study within the state each year.

Both universities have different proposals to improve healthcare access. WSU wants funding to hire staff and secure accreditation for a new school while UW wants to expand an existing program to accommodate more students. Spokane lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow both.

The University of Washington has since 1917 had exclusive rights to operate a medical school in the state. Now, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Rep. Marcus Riccelli have introduced joint bills to remove the restriction and allow WSU to create its own program on the other side of the mountains. The bill also removes UW’s sole rights to medicine, forestry products and logging engineering majors.

UW doesn’t mind giving up its exclusive rights, but worries about the financial impact for its existing program, spokesperson Genesee Adkins said. WSU last year announced it was withdrawing from WWAMI, a doctor training program operated in partnership with the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. WWAMI trains doctors for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. It’s an acronym for the first letter of each state.

In 2013, WSU accepted nearly $6 million in state money to help support existing students at the Spokane branch of the WWAMI program. Now, WSU plans to reallocate the funding to pay for its own program.

Adkins says UW does not want the money reallocated. “Do not explore this one concept at the expense of another,” she told the House Higher Education committee on Tuesday.

UW wants $8 million to expand the WWAMI program in order accommodate 80 students in Spokane per year by 2017. “The need for expansion of medical professions is absolutely clear and we recognize that need,” University of Washington President Michael K. Young told lawmakers on Thursday. “Our program is scalable.”

Washington State President Elson S. Floyd says the two programs don’t have to be mutually-exclusive. “We are not duplicating what already exists,” Floyd said. “The teaching model at the University of Washington can continue. It is our hope and desire that it would be augmented.”

WSU wants $2.5 million to launch a community-based medical school, using partnerships with medical facilities instead of building its own research hospital. Michigan State and Florida State universities – as well as UW – use similar models.

The university hopes to welcome its first class of 40 students by 2017 and grow to accommodate 120 by 2021.

House Bill 1559, which only removes the restriction and doesn’t provide funding for either program, has more than 60 bipartisan sponsors signed on. The bill needs only a simple majority to pass the chamber of 98 lawmakers. Senate Bill 5487 is a companion.

Categories: Education, Healthcare

Monday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | January 27, 2015 | Comments

Here’s our recap of Monday’s legislative activities. We cover the debate over raising the state’s minimum wage and requiring paid sick leave. The show also has details about the $20 million cost of an involuntary treatment bill, known as “Joel’s Law.” Plus, an effort to reimburse doctors who use telemedicine to connect with patients.

“Legislative Review” recaps each day’s legislative highlights in 15 minutes. It airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. on TVW.

Categories: TVW

Washington business owners disagree on minimum wage increase

By | January 26, 2015 | Comments

An overflow crowd came to a Monday hearing on a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour in four years.

Business owners testified both for and against the proposed minimum wage and sick leave bills at Monday’s House Labor Committee hearing.

Tiffany Turner owns Adrift Hotel in Long Beach and is in support of the bill. She said paying employees a higher wage is the right thing to do. Turner said that she pays above minimum wage, and has seen improved retention, which helps her business.

“We live in a state and an economy where people can’t make ends meet,” at minimum wage, she said. “As business owners this is responsible and it is not difficult for businesses to implement,” she said.

But Bob Mandel, who owns a Dairy Queen franchise in University Place, said he took home $45,000 a year from his franchise last year and can’t afford to give his employee a raise.

“Fast food restaurants are not a final destination, we’re are a starting point for most,” he said.

House Democrats introduced a bill that would raise the state minimum wage to $12 in four years.

The current state minimum wage is $9.47 an hour — the highest state minimum wage in the nation. That’s not counting the city-wide minimum wage increases in Seattle and Seatac, places where the minimum was set at $15 an hour.

The minimum wage bill would implement a $10 minimum wage in 2016, and then raise it to $10.50 in 2017, $11 in 2018, reaching $12 an hour in 2019.

Nathan Ward, who makes $9.50 an hour working at Taco Bell, was among the workers who testified in favor of the bill. Ward said that with his current rate of pay, he’ll be paying for medical bills for years.

“It is as such right now I can’t afford to miss one shift,” he said. “It is either miss a shift or take a $70 hit in my paycheck that I can’t afford. I wouldn’t be able afford to pay cell phone bill or pay my rent, or I’d get kicked out on the street.”

He also said if he made more, he could afford to spend the money at other businesses in Aberdeen.

But JoReen Brinkman, who owns restaurant franchises in Pullman, said that she would have to raise prices in order to accommodate the change.

“Last year we were forced to raise our prices 2 percent due to an increase in minimum wage and a rising costs of goods. We had a huge backlash from customers,” she said.

To accommodate for a $12 minimum wage, “I would have to increase prices 7.8 percent,” she said.

People also testified on a sick leave bill that would allow employees to earn paid leave to take care of illnesses or domestic violence issues. Employers would be required to offer between five to nine days of leave depending on the size of the company.

The bills are scheduled for a committee vote on Thursday. You can watch the entire hearing in TVW’s archives.


Categories: Business, Labor

Youth drug prevention programs untested after legal marijuana

By | January 26, 2015 | Comments

Legalized marijuana is a new world for youth drug prevention programs, and the data does not yet exist to determine which programs are the most effective, prevention specialists told lawmakers Monday morning.

“There just hasn’t been enough done specifically looking at youth marijuana use… especially in the context of legalized marijuana,” Brittany Rhoades Cooper, an assistant professor in Washington State University’s Department of Human Development, told the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing committee, which heard Senate Bill 5245.

Initiative 502 provides 15 percent of the state’s marijuana excise tax to the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). The agency is required to use 85 percent of that funding for prevention programs that are “evidence-based” and “cost-beneficial.” DSHS is expected to receive $29 million for the 2015-17 biennium, and $52 million for the 2017-19 biennium from marijuana excise taxes.

However, prevention specialists told the committee that the data still need to be gathered on the effectiveness of programs and why they work — especially now with recreational marijuana legal in Washington.

“No programs have ever been tested in the context of legalized marijuana,” said Kevin Haggerty, a professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work.

Senate Bill 5245 would allow DSHS to use the money it gets from Initiative 502 to evaluate drug prevention programs.

“Communities should have the best evidence to do the work,” Haggerty said. “We owe it to our communities to provide a strong menu of options…. and we need to provide programs in the context of legalized marijuana.”

The bill also would delay the requirement that the funded programs have a good cost-benefit analysis until 2020, but it still allows local communities to use money for prevention programs in the meantime.

Cooper added that it was important continue to fund prevention programs while the studies are being done.

If the funding isn’t maintained, “all of the good intended by those dollars will likely fall short, and our communities can’t wait until the research catches up,” she said.

Thursday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | January 23, 2015 | Comments

Here’s Thursday’s edition of “Legislative Review.” The show includes details about a drunk driving bill that aims to stop repeat offenders. It would make a DUI a felony on the fourth offense. Plus, we’ve got two segments that deal with medical marijuana — including a proposal to create a new license that would allow biotech companies and universities to grow their own products for research purposes.

The show airs every night at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Categories: TVW

Medical marijuana regulations proposed in two separate bills

By | January 22, 2015 | Comments

Lawmakers have been saying for the past few years that medical marijuana needs clear regulations as the state allows retail marijuana shops, which were made legal by the passage of Initiative 502.

The Senate in 2014 passed a medical marijuana bill written by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, with a number of amendments by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, but the House did not vote on it.

This session, Rivers and Kohl-Welles once again proposed different bills that would create a medical marijuana system alongside the recreational market.

Rivers introduced Senate Bill 5052 before session. Among the proposed rules are:

  • Establishes a registry for patients and for medical marijuana stores.
  • Barring smoking products and smokable marijuana to be sold as medical products.
  • Exempting medical marijuana products from use tax and sales tax.
  • Allowing medical marijuana patients to have up to six plants — a reduction from the 15 allowed now – and allowing patients to grow their own marijuana.
  • Replacing collective gardens with registered growing cooperatives, where only members could participate with no monetary payment.

Rivers’ original language called for a medical marijuana retail license, but Rivers said Thursday she would change her bill to establish three types of stores: those that sell both medical and recreational; and those that just sell one or the other.

Kohl-Welles earlier this week held a press conference announcing Senate Bill 5519. SB 5519 would phase out the collective gardens and dispensaries and do away with the medical authorization system. The medical products would be available in marijuana I-502 retail stores.

  • Making low-THC, high CBD products tax-free
  • Making available an additional endorsement to show that a store has expertise in medical marijuana.
  • Allowing medical marijuana patients to have up to six plants.
  • Creating a waiver for marijuana patients who need more than six plants. The waiver also would allow for people to purchase of retail marijuana without sales tax.
  • Permitting anyone 21 and older to grow up to six plants or fewer for their own personal use. People may give to one ounce of usable marijuana that they’ve grown to another person without compensation.
  • Would not create a registry for patients.

Kohl-Welles emphasized that her bill shares similarities with Rivers’ bill.

“My colleague on the other side of the aisle, Sen. Ann Rivers, is also working hard on this issue and her legislation has many commonalities with mine,” Kohl-Welles said in a statement. “I anticipate that we will find a way to pass legislation that combines the best of both of our proposals.”

Rivers’ bill was heard Thursday, which also was Medical Cannabis Lobby Day at the Capitol.

Retailers, collective garden organizers, activists and patients testified to Rivers’ bill on Thursday both for and against the bill.

Ryan Day of Federal Way was one of the speakers on Sen. Ann Rivers' medical marijuana bill.

Ryan Day, who grows medical marijuana that stops the seizures of his six-year-old son, Haiden, said that getting rid of the collective garden system would make it difficult to provide his son’s treatment when their plants at home haven’t fully grown.

The type of cannabis that Day grows does not cause a high, which makes it hard to obtain on the recreational market, he said. Day said that he wants to work with lawmakers to create a system that gives options other than recreational marijuana stores for patients to get medicinal cannabis.

“I went to a recreational store. The interior reminded me of the basement in ‘That ’70s Show,’ ” Day said after the meeting.

TVW took video of the press conferences and the public hearing:

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles press conference

Senate Health Care Public Hearing

Sen. Ann Rivers press conference

Bill would create statewide regulations for ride-share companies

By | January 22, 2015 | Comments

State lawmakers have launched a push to regulate app-based transportation companies, including UberX and Lyft, operating in Washington.

Senate Bill 5550 would require the companies to provide liability, uninsured motorist and personal injury insurance for drivers, conduct background checks and inspect vehicles. It would reverse city regulations and put in place a statewide standard.

The move comes after extensive negotiations between Seattle leaders, taxi companies and ride-share services.

Taxi drivers last year told the Seattle City Council that UberX and Lyft were hurting business. When council members agreed and voted to cap the number of ride-share services, a citizen’s group suspended the ordinance after collecting enough signatures to send the measure to the ballot.

It took an intervention from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and months of negotiations for stakeholders to come up with a compromise plan. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Cyrus Habib, would undo that ordinance and set up framework for the state.

The Kirkland Democrat says it’s important to set up a unified system as ride-share companies launch around the state. City and county regulations have weighed down the taxi industry, he said.

“The taxi system ultimately has become so dysfunctional because of a myriad of contradictory regulations,” Habib told TVW. “We have a chance to get this right on day one, so let’s not let this become dysfunctional.”

Colorado was the first state to pass a law regulating ride-share services. Washington’s bill is modeled after the law.

Seattle’s law requires drivers to get insurance, but Habib says cities lack the authority to require insurers to pay out in an accident. That’s a function of the state, he says. Stakeholders who took part in city negotiations were “deeply involved” in drafting this bill, Habib says, including drivers unions, ride-share services and Seattle Uber general manager Brooke Steger.

Habib is blind and says he’s relied often on the services to get around. “We need to make sure we are supportive of their ability to operate,” he said. “But we need to write a law that protects the consumer and provides safe options.”

Categories: transportation

Seattle Police begin testing evidence backlog as lawmakers consider rape-kit bill

By | January 22, 2015 | Comments

Seattle Police Department on Thursday announced plans to test a backlog of more than 1,200 so-called rape kits, one week after lawmakers heard a bill that require law enforcement agencies to submit evidence for testing within 30 days.

When a sexual assault is reported, the victim undergoes a forensic examination to collect evidence, including blood, saliva and semen. Evidence is preserved in a so-called rape-kit, sent to Washington State Patrol crime lab, examined and entered into a DNA database.

Seattle Police have tested only 365 of the 1,641 kits collected in the past decade. Testing can cost as much as $1,500 per kit. “We will test all sexual assault kits moving forward and begin addressing untested kits,” Deanna Nollette, supervisor of SPD’s Special Victims Unit, wrote in a statement.

House Bill 1068 would require law enforcement to send DNA evidence for analysis within 30 days and create a work group to study a backlog of more than 5,000 untested rape kits. Senate Bill 5225 is a companion measure.

Rep. Tina Orwall is the prime sponsor. On average, the Des Moines Democrat told a House committee Jan. 14, a rapist commits 11 sexual assaults before he or she is charged. About 40 percent of rapes are reported, she said, and 12 percent of those lead to an arrest.

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network says even more rapes are kept quiet — only 32 percent are reported, according to the group, and 2 percent of rapists are arrested.

The bill will move to executive session in the House Public Safety Committee at 10 a.m. Friday.


Categories: Uncategorized

Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | January 22, 2015 | Comments

Here’s Wednesday’s edition of “Legislative Review.” We cover a bill that aims to stop scalpers from using computer bots to buy tickets to popular concerts and sporting events. We also have highlights from the testimony on Gov. Jay Inslee’s revenue proposal. Plus, a bill that would make changes to how landlords could charge rental application fees.

The show recaps each day’s legislative activities in 15 minutes. It airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Categories: TVW

Washington smoking age would rise to 21 under Attorney General’s bill

By | January 21, 2015 | Comments

The legal age to buy tobacco products and vaping products would rise from 18 to 21 under a bill requested by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

“As you know you have to be 21 to purchase alcohol in this state. You have to be 21 to purchase marijuana in this state. It’s time to make the age of the purchase and use of tobacco in this state that same age,” he said at a press conference announcing the bill. The bill numbers are  Senate Bill 5494 and House Bill 1458.

Ferguson said the intent of the bill is to eradicate smoking, citing reports by RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris that stated that most people who have not smoked by age 21 will not start the habit.

State Department of Health Secretary John Weisman added that 90 percent of cigarettes purchased for teenagers are purchased by people between the ages of 18 and 21.

The bills would not affect military bases in Washington and the laws on reservations would vary by tribe, according to Ferguson’s office.

Ferguson and bill supporters say that the change is a matter of public health, which will save money in the long run as people don’t suffer tobacco-related disease.

Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, a sponsor of the bill in the House, said she watched both her parents struggle with quitting smoking, which they started in their teens.

“It’s a life of addiction,” she said.

Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, said that the effects of smoking are widespread and devastating.

“All of us have a personal story of how smoking has affected us,” he said. His wife’s parents both died 20 years ago of smoking-related complications.

Miloscia said that he aimed to get the legislation passed within three years.

Ferguson’s office said that as of Wednesday, there were 10 sponsors in the House, and three in the Senate.

Several cities and counties have set legal smoking ages at 21, including New York City and Hawaii’s Big Island, but no state yet has a smoking age that high.

The legal smoking age is 19 in four states, including Alaska, Utah and New Jersey, which last year considered a bill to raise the age from 19 to 21. Colorado and Utah have also considered raising the age to 21.

TVW taped the press conference. It will be added to this post when it’s available in our archives.


Categories: Uncategorized

Rep. Klippert: Repeal legal marijuana, recognize fetus in murder cases

By | January 21, 2015 | Comments

Two controversial measures could appear before lawmakers this session – a bill to repeal recreational marijuana and another that would recognize a fetus as a victim if a crime is committed against a pregnant mother.

Rep. Brad Klippert

Rep. Brad Klippert plans to introduce legislation to repeal Initiative 502, the voter-approved measure legalizing marijuana, he told TVW. “Possession and consumption of marijuana by our children is skyrocketing. The black market for marijuana is skyrocketing,” he said Wednesday. “It’s not being a positive thing for our state – it’s actually having some negative effects.

The Kennewick Republican will need a majority of lawmakers to agree in order to repeal the measure. Two-thirds of lawmakers must vote repeal, suspend or amend an initiative within two years of passage. Since I-502 was approved in 2012, it doesn’t have to meet that standard and could be repealed by a simple majority, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Other lawmakers have introduced reforms to the state’s legal marijuana system. The so-called “Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Act,” introduced Wednesday, would merge I-502 with the state’s medical marijuana system, which has been largely unregulated since the initiative was implemented.

Another bill Klippert plans to introduce would would make it a crime to kill a fetus in some circumstances. If a suspect kills an unborn child during a crime against the pregnant mother, he or she could be charged with first-degree murder.

Klippert, a Benton County Sheriff’s officer, says the bill comes after he responded to a triple murder with a pregnant victim. “Now, the way the law is written, we cannot charge that suspect with aggravated murder of that child,” he said.

Rep. Roger Goodman, the Kirkland Democrat who chairs the House Public Safety Committee, said the bill will stir debate. “The question of viability or personhood of a child not yet born is probably the most controversial issue that we deal with in the legislature,” Goodman said. “That issue will certainly come up when we hear this proposal.”

Klippert and Goodman will appear on TVW’s The Impact with Anita Kissee at 7 and 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Tuesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | January 21, 2015 | Comments

Watch Tuesday’s edition of “Legislative Review” right here. We cover the so-called “ag-gag” bill that would make it a crime to secretly record video on farms, as well as a bill that aims to end the elephant ivory trade in Washington state. Plus, an effort to reopen cigar bars. The show recaps each day’s legislative activities in 15 minutes. It airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Categories: TVW

Proposal would make most elephant ivory sales a felony

By | January 20, 2015 | Comments

An African elephant bull. Photo by Arno Meintjes via Flickr.

African elephants are being threatened by illegal poaching. To combat this, a bill proposes making most sales of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns illegal in Washington.

House Bill 1131 was heard Tuesday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Bill sponsor Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, says the purpose of the bill is to shrink the market for poached ivory.

“In 2013, there were 41 tons of ivory confiscated, illegal ivory of course. There was actually 35,000 elephants destroyed in 2012,” he said.

African elephants are an endangered species. Since 1988, it’s been illegal to import new elephant ivory to the United States. However, you can still sell ivory that was here before then. Washington is one of seven states considering expanding the ban to most elephant ivory sales.

The bill would require licenses for exceptions to the rule, which including selling elephant ivory for educational or scientific purposes, inheriting an ivory piece, ivory that is part of a musical instrument made before 1976, or selling antiques that are less than five percent ivory.

Under the bill, selling ivory would be a felony punishable by jail time or fines.

John Garner of Point Defiance Zoo says action is important, as the problem of illegal poaching gets worse.

He cited news articles from Africa that linked the illegal poaching trade, which can make millions of dollars, with terrorism, such as the abductions of girls last year by Boko Haram.

“On the surface, all these crimes have in common have is that they happen on the same continent but there is an intimate connection. Like many terrorists organizations in Africa, Boko Haram is funded by sales of illegal ivory, he read.

However, artists and crafts people objected to the language, saying the law was too broad in its inclusion of woolly mammoth ivory and ivory that is already in the United States.

Pete Lange, an artist who lives in Seattle, said that the law will hurt his and other businesses that depend on existing U.S. ivory stocks while not doing much to stop the illegal trade of ivory. Markets outside of the United States where ivory items have a greater demand, such as Asia, drive the poaching, Lange said.

“The proposed law is unfair to people who have been following the law,” Lange said.

However, Jennifer Reichert of District Auctions asked lawmakers for a complete ban on ivory with no exceptions. She says a ban would clarify rules for sellers and save elephants.

“The only way to really make a difference is to have a zero tolerance policy on this, and say it’s just unacceptable, and the state of Washington is behind this,” she said. “New ivory, old ivory — it’s all part of a slaughter business.”

You can watch the testimony in TVW’s archives:

‘Ag-gag’ bill would outlaw undercover video at farms

By | January 20, 2015 | Comments

Washington could become one of eight states to limit the undercover investigations of animal rights groups on farms.

A cow reacts to abuse at an Idaho farm in a screenshot of the undercover video.

House Bill 1104 would make it a crime to record agricultural operations without permission. Anyone found guilty of intending to cause economic injury to a farm, under the bill, would be charged with a gross misdemeanor and face a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The bill, called “ag-gag” by opponents, is modeled after a law passed in Idaho last year. Following a Los Angeles-based animal rights group release of a video showing abuse at a dairy farm, the state passed the law to curtail similar undercover investigations. One dairy worker was sentenced to 180 days in jail for beating cows inside a milking barn. The farm fired at least five additional workers.

Prime sponsor Rep. Joe Schmick says the bill would protect farmers, ranchers and growers from unfair sabotage. “Every farmer, and I’m speaking as a farmer, is scared of misrepresentation when we’re going everything right,” the Colfax Republican told the House Public Safety committee Tuesday.

Opponents, which include animal rights groups, labor organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union, say the bill is unconstitutional and violates First Amendment rights. “This is pretty clearly an attempt to protect certain kinds of businesses from certain kinds of unflattering publicity,” Washington’s ACLU spokesperson Chris Kasaas said. “We already have laws that outlaw trespass and industrial sabotage. This bill is targeting speech, and a very specific kind of speech.”

Schmick says the bill doesn’t keep people from reporting crimes. Illegal behavior should be reported, he says, and farm owners would have to prove someone entered an agricultural business with intent to cause economic harm.

At least seven states have so-called “ag-gag” laws making it a crime to secretly film farm operations without the owner’s consent. Kansas, Montana and North Dakota were the first in the 1990s. Since then, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri and Utah have followed.

Dan Paul, Washington director of the Humane Society of the United States, told TVW this bill would outlaw important investigations for improving agricultural conditions — for our health and animals’. A farm in California, he says, was sending cows too sick to stand up to the slaughter lines. “That meat was going to school lunch programs in the state of California,” he said. “Without that undercover investigation, we would never have discovered.”

Beyond animal abuse, labor groups say the law would discourage farm workers from reporting labor abuse. Actions described in the bill, Columbia Legal Services attorney Andrea Schmitt said, “are the same actions critical to showing farms are violating Washington’s long-standing labor laws.”

Demonstrating against farms or recording labor negotiations she says would fall under the language of the bill, which would make it a crime to intentionally cause economic injury.

Farmers, ranchers and growers protected under the bill were not at the hearing to testify. Schmick told the committee it’s because agricultural business owners were scared to weigh-in on the controversial bill for fear of retaliation from animal rights and other groups.

Categories: Business, Labor

Family members say Joel’s Law could have saved murdered Spokane woman

By | January 19, 2015 | Comments

If the Washington State Legislature passes “Joel’s Law” this year  – a bill that offers a way for families to appeal to the courts if their family members have been denied involuntary mental health commitment  – it comes too late for the friends and family of Sheena Henderson of Spokane.

Sheena Henderson’s father, Gary Kennison, said the law might have been able to prevent his son-in-law, Chris Henderson, from coming to  his wife’s place of work, where he fatally shot her and killed himself last July.

“We now have two children who are growing up without parents. Christopher, who committed this act, wasn’t a bad person,” Kennison said in a Monday morning hearing in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health & Housing committee.

Chris Henderson’s mental condition had been deteriorating in the months before the shooting, and he had been briefly hospitalized and his guns confiscated. But he was released from the hospital days before the shooting after assuring authorities he was no danger, and he collected his gun from the Spokane Police Department the day before the fatal shooting.

“There was no avenue whatsoever for us to go back and appeal that decision…. So I believe that Joel’s Law, had it been in place, it would have given me a tool to protect my daughter and she would have been here today,” Kennison said.

“Joel’s Law,” which is filed this year under Senate Bill 5269 and House Bill 1258, is named after Joel Reuter, who died in a shootout with Seattle police in 2013.

His parents, Doug and Nancy Reuter, came to Olympia from Texas to lobby the Washington State Legislature last year to pass the law. The bill passed the House unanimously, but was never brought to a floor vote in the Senate.

Joel Reuter had been treating bipolar disorder successfully for several years, but made a turn for the worse after starting chemotherapy for lymphoma. He died after shooting at police officers.

Joel’s family returned this session. Doug Reuter testified on Monday that he believes the designated mental health professionals are given too much leeway in making commitment decisions.

“They answer to nobody. The unilaterally decide who gets help and who does not get help,” Reuter said.

Nancy Reuter (left) and Doug Reuter speak to reporters after a hearing on "Joel's Law," named after their son.

All families want is the ability to make an appeal, he said.

“This will not only provide an avenue for family members to have someone else — a judge — look at all the evidence to determine whether they are a danger to themselves or others. And it gives the (designated mental health professional) a chance to review their files all at the same time,” Reuter said.

Reuter also criticized the fiscal notes from last year, saying the costs are overestimated they assumed ongoing mental health treatment, when the bill only addresses commitment.

One change in this year’s bill is a provision to give the mental health professional 24 hours to respond to the family’s appeal before the appeal is heard by a judge.

However, Shankar Narayan, legislative director of the ACLU of Washington, expressed concern over the rights of those who would be detained against their will.

“This is a human being, a person who’s interests might be different from their family members,” said Narayan after the morning hearing.

Mike De Felice, a public defender who works with mental health cases in King County Civil Commitment Court, said the changes could tie up designated mental health professionals in court, when they should be in the community making assessments.

De Felice and Narayan both made the argument that the best place for the investment is in community mental health.

“Olympia needs to fund outpatient treatment in the community, and we can avoid them coming into involuntary treatment,” De Felice said.

Legislators in both chambers and both parties pledged to get the bill passed.

“I have been working very closely with the Reuter family, and other parents with a similar story, who were unable to get help for their son after numerous attempts,” said Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, in a prepared statement. O’Ban is also the chairman of the Senate Human Services, Mental Health & Housing committee.

Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, said that since the issue was brought to the forefront last session, legislators have been hearing from families in similar situations.

“Across the state, legislators are now realizing that it’s becoming an epidemic,” Ortiz-Self said at a Monday afternoon press conference.

Doug Reuter said after the morning hearing that after the bill died in the Senate last year, he and his wife did not expect to return to Olympia for this session, but that Speaker Frank Chopp convinced them to return for another attempt to pass it.

“I thought everyone would forget Joel,” he said.

Categories: Courts