School districts cutting programs since losing No Child Left Behind waiver

By | November 21, 2014 | Comments

Schools have been forced to cut after-school programs, preschool sessions and other extra services for students since the state lost its No Child Left Behind waiver earlier this year, school district representatives told a legislative committee Friday.

The U.S. Department of Education revoked the state’s waiver because the Legislature failed to pass a bill last session requiring student test scores to be a factor in teacher and principal evaluations. As a result, public schools no longer have flexibility in spending about $40 million in federal funding.

“Since we haven’t had the waiver, it’s been devastating,” said Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, the director of special programs and elementary education for the Bremerton School District. “We can’t take another year without the waiver.”

“Quite frankly, I’m wondering why we have to chose between tying our teacher evaluations to an assessment that we have not even taken yet and having the flexibility and doing the best by No Child Left Behind,” Sullivan-Dudzic told the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee during a work session Friday.

Before the waiver was revoked, the district had an after-school program that served 360 students with 70 hours of instruction. That’s since been cut to 20 student who receive 18 hours of instruction, Sullivan-Dudzic said.

Other school districts are experiencing similar reductions.

Rosalind Medina of Tacoma Public Schools said the district had to cut some services to students, including before and after-school programs and extended learning opportunities.

Wapato School District cut two sessions of preschool and teacher interventions for at-risk students, according to superintendent Becky Imler.

“When we had the waiver, there was a difference for kids. My story is not just true in Wapato, it’s true throughout the Yakima Valley. We’re an area of high Title 1 need. We need the flexibility, we need the local control because with it we can make a difference,” Imler said.

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe,  D-Bothell, questioned why the districts haven’t applied to be a NCLB provider, which would provide supplemental educational services for disadvantaged students.

“I think what you’re facing here is the current underfunding of basic education. If this Legislature steps up and funds basic education, you won’t have these stories,” McAuliffee.

Committee chair Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, said after the hearing that not having the waiver has been a “huge detriment” to the students who need the help the most. He said he is working on a bill for the upcoming session that would require test scores to be part of teacher evaluations.

“There’s clearly an impact in the school districts not having access to that funding,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, who also sits on the committee.

“If we were funding a lot of the programs that the state is supposed to be funding, would this loss of flexibility from federal government have been as big a deal?” Rolfes said.

Rolfes and Litzow discussed the waiver, along with other K-12 education issues, on “The Impact.” That show will air Wednesday, Nov. 26 at 7 & 10 p.m.

Community struggling with PTSD, economic recovery in the wake of Oso mudslide

By | November 20, 2014 | Comments

Eight months after the deadly Oso mudslide, people in the community continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are struggling to move forward, local officials told lawmakers Thursday.

There is also a “tenseness” because of the uncertainty of what will happen to the Stillaguamish River during the flooding season, said Arlington mayor Barbara Tolbert at a meeting of the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

“We have very resilient people in the community,” said Tolbert, who said the region’s next challenge is recovering economically from the disaster. A federally-funded economic review is underway, and the report should be completed early next year, she said.

The Oso mudslide on March 22 killed 43 people, burying dozens of homes and part of State Route 530. The road reopened to two-way traffic in September.

The committee also heard testimony from people involved in the recovery effort at the mudslide. Retired forest service member Peter Selvig listed several problems he encountered in the days after the mudslide as he helped organize efforts on the Darrington side of the disaster.

He said he was twice denied flood lights, and he also received pushback on the number of portable toilets and body bags he ordered. Communications were focused on the Arlington side of the disaster, he said, leaving the Darrington side with minimal services.

“These are some of the confusions that just rip your gut apart thinking that this was happening and there was nobody there to respond,” Selvig told the committee.

Watch the hearing below:

Lawmakers facing budget shortfall, say Initiative 1351 ‘creates a problem’

By | November 19, 2014 | Comments

Economic forecasters said Wednesday the state is on track to collect $36.9 billion in the next two-year budget cycle, about $275 million more than they previously forecasted.

But it is still not enough to cover current government services and K-12 education obligations. Lawmakers will be facing about a $2.2 billion dollar shortfall for the 2015-17 budget.

Initiative 1351, a new measure approved by voters to reduce class sizes, added a significant cost to the budget projections — costing about $2 billion during the same budget cycle.

“If you look at the outlook as it stands today, we’re $2 billion short which matches pretty close to 1351,” said Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond.

“Overall, 1351 creates a problem. But if you take that out of the equation, it is kind of what we expected,” Hill said.

He said it is “too soon to tell” if the Legislature will vote to suspend the initiative. It would require a two-third supermajority vote of the Legislature to change a voter-approved initiative.

“I think we have to figure out, do we have two-thirds to change an initiative that just got passed by the people? There’s typically a lot of reluctance to change those,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina.

Hunter noted the budget doesn’t include collective bargaining agreements for state employees “who have had a 15 percent reduction in real salaries in last six years,” nor does it include half of the state’s McCleary obligations. Looking ahead, the state can expect a $4.7 billion dollar gap by the end of 2019, he said.

Gov. Jay Inslee will propose a budget in December. The House and Senate will each release budget proposals during the 2015 legislative session.

Read the budget outlook from the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. Watch today’s meeting below:

Categories: economy
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On ‘The Impact:’ State auctions off unclaimed treasures, carbon emissions update

By | November 19, 2014 | Comments

An unauthenticated Pablo Picasso sketchbook is up for auction

This week on “The Impact:” Look inside dozens of unclaimed safe deposit boxes that will be auctioned off by the state Dept. of Revenue.

A possible Pablo Picasso sketchbook, jewelry, coins, stamps and other collectibles are among thousands of items that have been turned over to the state after the owners of the safe deposit boxes defaulted on their payments. If the owners haven’t been found within five years, state law allows the Dept. of Revenue to auction off the contents.

James G. Murphy, Inc. will hold the auction on Nov. 19 and 20 in Kenmore. The Dept. of Revenue holds the cash proceeds — minus fees — in the safe deposit box owner’s name in case the owner comes forward later to claim the money.

The department is currently holding more than $1 billion in unclaimed funds. To check for a claim, go to claimyourcash.org.

Also on the show, an update on the report released this week by the Carbon Emissions Reductions Task Force. Interviews include Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen and task force member Perry England.

Update: Watch the show below:

Categories: TVW

Carbon task force issues report on cap-and-trade and carbon tax approaches

By | November 17, 2014 | Comments

A task force convened by Gov. Jay Inslee to help craft a carbon pricing policy released a report on Monday that examines both a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax, although the group stopped short of making a policy recommendation.

The cap-and-trade approach sets a cap on the total amount of carbon that can be emitted during a specific time period. A fixed number of emissions “allowances” would be issued, and those allowances could be traded or auctioned off.

A carbon tax sets a price on each unit of carbon that’s emitted, with the price typically set in advance.

The task force said in its report that both strategies can “help the state build a coherent carbon emissions reduction strategy that aligns private incentives” to reach the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by the end of the decade.

However, the group cautioned that there are “substantial design challenges” in developing a policy.

Inslee talked about the report later in the day at a South Seattle community meeting about air quality.

“This morning, my task force gave me a report on a way to move forward to cap the amount of carbon and put a price for polluters to pollute our air and to me it makes sense that polluters who pollute our air ought not to be able to do that for free in unlimited quantities,” Inslee said.

“I’m excited to tell you we are going to be pursuing this in the next year in the state of Washington,” he said.

The task force wrote in the report that carbon prices should be established in a way that will “limit volatility and provide long-term certainty,” and take into consideration the impact it will have on businesses. The report also notes that the policy should “address equity and affordability concerns” for low-income and minority communities.

The transportation sector is the largest source of carbon emissions in the state, according to the report.

“With an explicit cost placed on carbon, the price of transportation fuel will increase,” it said.

The group recommends a comprehensive policy that addresses transportation-related issues, such as incentivizing the use of low or zero emission vehicles, expanding public transit and building alternative fuel infrastructure.

The task force concluded by saying that “certain important questions remain unanswered and further analysis will be important” to crafting a carbon pricing approach.

Read the full report here.

The 21-member group included representatives from business, labor, public health, tribal and government entities. The task force met half a dozen times throughout the year to draft the report.

The report will serve as an “important foundation” in developing a policy, Inslee wrote in a reponse letter to the report. “I understand your finding that each of the policy approaches under consideration offers strengths and weaknesses for Washington, and that market based approaches can make a unique contribution to reaching our statutory carbon emissions limits,” Inslee wrote.

Watch Monday’s carbon task force meeting below:

On TVW for committee week: 2015 budget preview, McCleary impact, ebola readiness and mental health

By | November 17, 2014 | Comments

It’s committee week, and TVW will be airing a number of meetings. Here’s a look:

Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 9 a.m.: Ebola readiness is on the agenda for a joint committee on Health Care Oversight, along with an update on the Affordable Care Act. TVW will be live on television and the web.

Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m.: The Economic Revenue and Forecast Council will release its budget outlook and quarterly revenue forecast. TVW will be live on television and the web.

Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 1 p.m.: TVW will be live with the House Appropriations committee as it discusses how to implement the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision and the fiscal impact of Initiative 1351, which mandates smaller class sizes.

Thursday, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m.: TVW will be live on television with the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which will discuss the Oso landslide impact and recovery efforts. We will also tape the Senate Energy Committee to be aired at a later time, or you can watch it live on the web at this link.

Thursday, Nov. 20 at 1:30 p.m.: TVW will be live on television with the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which is holding a “session preview” of the 2015 operating and capital budgets. We will also be live webcasting the Senate Transportation Committee as they discuss the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Interstate 405 and low carbon fuel standards — watch at this link.

Thursday, Nov. 20 at 3:30 p.m.: The Senate Human Services and Corrections committee will be live on television discussing psych bed certifications and other mental health issues. TVW will tape and live webcast the Senate Health Care committee, which is holding a work session on e-cigarettes and Hepatitis C.

All other committees on Thursday will be webcast on TVW.org.

Friday, Nov. 21 at 8 a.m.: TVW will be live on television with the Senate Early Learning and K-12 committee. Initiative 1351 is on the agenda, along with the impact of losing the No Child Left Behind waiver. We will tape the Senate Law and Justice Committee for air later and live webcast it at this link.

Friday, Nov. 21 at 10 a.m.: The Senate Trade and Economic Development committee will be live on television, and the Senate Agriculture committee will be taped and live webcast at this link.

All other committees on Friday will be webcast on TVW.org.

Categories: TVW

Election update: Republicans expected to gain seats in the state House

By | November 13, 2014 | Comments

Four Democratic incumbents appear to have lost their seats in the Washington State House, while another race remains too close to call.

Counties across the state still have about 68,000 ballots to process, but some candidates have conceded races in which the outcome is not expected to change. Results will be certified by counties on Nov. 25.

Here’s an update on the races:

Democratic state Rep. Kathy Haigh conceded the race to Republican challenger Dan Griffey on Thursday, with the latest election results showing Haigh trailing by 512 votes. Haigh was first elected to the 35th District seat in 1998. Griffey, a firefighter from Allyn, claimed victory on his campaign Facebook page, writing “I appreciate Kathy Haigh’s sacrifice in serving our district and was very touched by her call this afternoon.”

In Southwest Washington, Democratic state Rep. Monica Stonier has lost her re-election bid to Republican businesswoman Lynda Wilson. Ballot tallies show Wilson winning by 1,147 votes. “Although it has not been certified, our numbers have continued to rise and my opponent has graciously conceded this race,” Wilson wrote on her campaign website earlier this week.

Republican Michelle Caldier, a dentist in Kitsap County, claimed victory on Saturday in the tight race against Democratic incumbent Rep. Larry Seaquist. Caldier is leading by about 600 votes.

Political newcomer Republican Melanie Stambaugh held onto to her election night lead over Democratic Rep. Dawn Morrell, winning by more than 3,500 votes. At 24, Stambaugh will be the youngest member of the state House.

An open House seat remains too close to call in the 28th District. Democrat Christine Kilduff is leading by 279 votes over Republican Paul Wagemann. They are competing for the seat formerly held by Democratic Rep. Tami Green, who lost a Senate bid against Republican Steve O’Ban.

If the election results hold up, Democrats will have a 51-47 vote majority in the state House. That’s down from a 55-vote majority.

Several close Senate races have not changed since election night, with the Republican-led Majority Coalition Caucus expected to hold onto control of the Senate with a 26-23 vote majority over Democrats.
Categories: Election

Former state leaders mobilize to save sinking USS Olympia

By | November 12, 2014 | Comments

The USS Olympia took part in two major wars, carried home the body of the Unknown Soldier and is one of the last surviving Naval ships of its era.

It’s also falling into disrepair, and will be sent to the scrapyard unless enough money is raised to save it.

A group in Washington is stepping up to help save the vessel — and by doing so, they hope to make amends for what they say is more than 100 years of neglect by its namesake.

“I think it is almost disgraceful that we as a state have not taken more pride in this vessel that is named after our state’s Capitol, and it is in this kind of condition without us taking any steps to help out,” said former Secretary of State Sam Reed, one of several prominent state leaders lending their names to the effort.

The USS Olympia is at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, where it is at risk of sinking into the Delaware River. A spokesperson for the museum said they are doing what they can to raise money to repair the ship — including hosting private events and ghost tours on deck — but it isn’t enough.

The ship’s steel hull is rusting and needs to be replaced, at a cost of $7 million. It will cost another $3 million to replace its leaking wood deck — and the costs go up from there.

The Washington Friends of the USS Olympia (FOTO) formed to support the fundraising effort. Leaders include Reed, former governors Dan Evans and Chris Gregoire, former Secretaries of State Ralph Munro, former Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and retired U.S. Navy admiral Tom Hayward.

The USS Olympia was the Navy’s most modern warship when it was first commissioned in 1895, said FOTO’s secretary Les Eldridge. It’s now the oldest steel-hulled ship still afloat.

It served as the flagship under Cmdr. George Dewey, and helped win the first victory of the 1898 Spanish-American War at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines. The USS Olympia also escorted convoys during World War I, and was tasked with returning the body of the Unknown Soldier from the battlefields of France. It was decommissioned in 1922.

Washington state financed a silver tea service for the ship back in the early 1900s that is now on display at the Governor’s Mansion, Eldridge said. “That’s the last thing we’ve done for her in 114 years,” he said. “And we’ve never done anything else to support her. So we’re trying to make amends.”

Go to navycruiserolympia.com for more information.

Watch the segment below:

Round-up of early election results: GOP retains control of State Senate, gun control measure wins

By | November 5, 2014 | Comments

Early voting results show the GOP-led Majority Coalition Caucus is likely to remain in control of the Washington State Senate. A Democratic majority remains in the House, although Republicans appear to have picked up a few seats.

Here’s a look at some of the key legislative races:

Sen. Andy Hill, the Senate’s lead Republican budget writer from Redmond, appears to be holding onto his seat, with 53 percent of the vote. Democratic challenger Matt Isenhower has 47 percent of the vote.

Republican Sen. Steve O’Ban of Tacoma was defeating his Democratic challenger, Rep. Tami Green, 55 to 45 percent.

In Federal Way, Republican Mark Miloscia is in the lead with 56 percent. His Democratic opponent, Shari Song, has 44 percent. The seat become open earlier this year when Democratic Sen. Tracey Eide decided not to run for reelection.

Republican Sen. Pam Roach fought a bitter contest against fellow Republican Rep. Cathy Dahlquist in the 31st District. Results show Roach in the lead, 53 to 47 percent.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, a Democrat who joined with the Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate, appears to be holding onto his seat. Sheldon is ahead with 55 percent of the vote against Democrat Irene Bowling.

Democratic Rep. Cyrus Habib is winning the 48th District seat by 64 percent. He will succeed Sen. Rodney Tom, who was one of two Democrats, along with Sheldon, who joined the GOP-led Majority Coalition Caucus.

In Spokane, Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner was leading his Democratic opponent Rich Cowan, 57 to 43 percent.

Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale also appears to have a comfortable lead, winning 59 percent of the vote over his Democratic challenger Seth Fleetwood.

In the state House, a few seats appear poised to switch parties.

Democratic Rep. Monica Stonier of Vancouver is trailing behind her Republican challenger Lynda Wilson. Wilson is ahead 51 to 49 percent.

In the 25th District, Republican Melanie Stambaugh, a 24-year-old newcomer to politics, is leading against Democratic Rep. Dawn Morrell. Stambaugh, who would become the youngest member of the Legislature if elected, is ahead with 53 percent of the vote.

One race that is too close to call is between Democratic Rep. Larry Seaquist and Republican Michelle Caldier, a dentist who is running for office for the first time. Caldier is currently ahead by just 78 votes.

Another tight race is shaping up between Democratic Rep. Kathy Haigh and Republican Dan Griffey, a firefighter who is challenging her for the third time. Haigh has a slight lead of 223 votes.

Rep. Roger Freeman, a Democratic lawmaker from Federal Way, died last week after a battle with cancer. His name remained on the ballot, and he appears to be winning the election against Republican Jack Dovey, 53 to 47 percent. If Freeman wins, Democrats will appoint a replacement.

Republican Rep. Jesse Young is leading in the 26th District, which includes parts of Bremerton, Port Orchard and Gig Harbor. He faced opposition from emergency room doctor and former Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher. Young was ahead 53 to 47 percent.

You can see all the legislative results on the Secretary of State’s website.

Voters also decided on three initiatives:

Voters approved Initiative 594, a gun control measure that expands background checks on gun sales in the state. The initiative was winning with 60 percent of the vote. The counter measure, Initiative 591, which bars the state from adopting background checks stricter than national standards, was being rejected by 55 percent.

A classroom size initiative is still too close to call. Initiative 1351 would require smaller classroom sizes, and the “no” votes were leading by 51 percent to 49 percent of “yes” votes.

Categories: Education

On ‘The Impact’ tonight: Election results and wolf update

By | November 5, 2014 | Comments

On this week’s edition of “The Impact,” we wrap up the election results and look at how it will shape the 2015 Legislature.

Reporters Jordan Schrader of The News Tribune and Jerry Cornfield of The Everett Herald join us to talk about the results of key legislative races, and what it means for the upcoming session.

Plus, David Ware of the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife talks about the latest tensions over Washington’s wolf recovery effort.

The department is seeking a dozen citizen candidates to serve a two-year term on the Wolf Advisory Group, a committee created last year to advise the department on wolf recovery and management. The group currently has nine members representing ranchers, wolf advocates and hunters. The term for the current members expires at the end of the year.

Applications must be submitted in writing and include the following:
  • The applicant or nominee’s name, address, telephone number, and email address
  • People or groups making nominations must also submit their own names and contact information
  • The candidate’s relevant experience, organizational affiliations, and reasons why he or she would be an effective advisory group member
  • His or her familiarity with Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and current wolf recovery status
  • His or her experience in collaborating with people who have different values

Nominations must be postmarked by 5 p.m. on Nov. 14 and addressed to Dave Ware, Game Division Manager at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091 or via email to David.Ware@dfw.wa.gov.

Also on the show, learn about the contents of hundreds of unclaimed safe deposit boxes that will be auctioned in November.

Updated: Watch the show below:

Categories: TVW
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TVW election night show starts at 8 p.m. Tuesday

By | November 3, 2014 | Comments

TVW will be live on election night with results for all the legislative and statewide races.

Tune in on Tuesday, Nov. 4 starting at 8 p.m.

As the numbers roll in, host Anita Kissee will be discussing the results on-set with Republican and Democratic analysts.

We’ll also have live phone interviews with candidates and legislative leaders, and we’ll be sharing the latest Twitter and Facebook posts related to the state elections on air.

This year, voters will be deciding which party should control the state Senate. The chamber is currently controlled by the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus, while the House is controlled by Democrats.

Voters will also be deciding on an initiative which would require smaller classroom sizes, as well as two competing gun measures: I-594, which would expand the state’s background check requirements, and I-591, which would ban the state from requiring background checks that are stricter than those imposed by the federal government.

You can watch TVW’s live webcast from your computer at this link. To find TVW on television in your area, check out this channel guide.

Categories: Election, TVW

State Rep. Roger Freeman dies after battle with cancer

By | October 29, 2014 | Comments

Rep. Roger Freeman, a Democratic freshman lawmaker from Federal Way, has died after a yearlong battle with cancer, according to The News Tribune.

Freeman, 48, was diagnosed with colon cancer last year. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement saying Freeman was “fully committed to his work despite the battle he faced against cancer, and was one of the most professional, eloquent and kind-hearted legislators I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”

Freeman was running for re-election against Republican Jack Dovey in the 30th Legislative District.

The Secretary of State’s Office said that if Freeman wins the election, it will result in a vacant seat that must be filled through the standard appointment process. Three candidates would be nominated by 30th Legislative District Democrats, and the King and Pierce County Councils would jointly select a replacement.

“Though Rep. Freeman’s time in the Legislature was short, I got to know him well enough to know that he loved his family deeply and missed them every day when he was here working on behalf of the people of our district,” said retiring state Sen. Tracey Eide of Federal Way.

Categories: WA House

On ‘The Impact’ this week: Millennial voters and charter school lawsuit

By | October 29, 2014 | Comments

On this week’s edition of “The Impact,” meet millennial voters — and hear their thoughts about what they are voting on this year.

Guests include Washington Director of Elections Lori Augino.

Plus, learn more about the legal challenge to Washington’s new charter school law as it reaches the state Supreme Court.

We’ll also have details about the final “free day” of the year at Washington State Parks.

The show airs Wednesdays at 7 & 10 p.m. Updated: Watch the show below.

Categories: TVW

Washington’s charter school law debated in front of the state Supreme Court

By | October 28, 2014 | Comments

The Washington Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about the constitutionality of the state’s new charter school law.

A lawyer for the coalition that is suing to stop the charter school law argued that charter schools are “fundamentally different” than traditional “common schools” and should not be funded with certain taxpayer money.

“There is a requirement, in our view, in the state constitution that says when you appropriate money for common schools, it’s got to be used for common schools,” said Paul Lawrence, who represents a coalition that includes the Washington Education Association, El Centro De La Raza and the League of Women Voters of Washington.

The tax revenue collected from various sources to fund common schools is constitutionally protected, Lawrence argued, and can’t be used for charter schools.

State attorney Rebecca Glasgow told the justices the state’s public school system must adapt to the changing needs of students.

“When the voters approved Initiative 1240, they added charter schools to a long list of existing non-traditional, public education programs — many of which are run by school districts, but some of which are not,” Glasgow said.

“This court should hold that charter schools are common schools,” she said. “But even if they weren’t, they can be operated with unrestricted general fund education money.”

Approved by voters in 2012, the charter school law allows up to 40 charter schools to open over the next five years. So far, ten charter schools have been authorized.

The first charter school opened this fall in Seattle, eight schools are enrolling students for next year and one school is slated to open its doors in 2016, according to the Washington State Charter Schools Association. The association’s CEO Thomas Franta issued a statement saying he was “confident” the court will uphold the law, which he described as one of the strongest in the country.

The Supreme Court will issue a decision at a later date. TVW taped the arguments — watch it below.

Charter school law before the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday

By | October 27, 2014 | Comments

The Washington Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a case that challenges the constitutionality of Initiative 1240, a measure approved by voters in 2012 that allows 40 public charter schools to open in Washington state over five years.

TVW will air the arguments live on Tuesday, Oct. 28 shortly after 2 p.m.

A coalition that includes the Washington Education Association, El Centro De La Raza and the League of Women Voters of Washington is seeking to have the charter school law declared unconstitutional.

The coalition writes in court filings that “education is the Legislature’s paramount duty” under Article IX of the state Constitution, and lawmakers must offer a “uniform basic education” though taxpayer-funded “common schools.”

The group argues the initiative diverts public funds for “experimental charter schools,” which it says are operated by private organizations and “not required to follow most of the uniform state laws” that apply to common schools. The schools are also outside the supervision of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the coalition says.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote in response that plaintiffs are asking the court to “override the will of Washington’s voters based on an extreme, antiquated approach to Article IX.”

Ferguson wrote: “Moreover, plaintiffs ask this court to adhere rigidly to the framers’ supposed (but unstated) intent, while ignoring that the framers explicitly distinguished between ‘common schools’ and ‘high schools.’ Today, no one – not even plaintiffs – questions the legislature’s decision to classify high schools as common schools, and that Article IX is flexible enough to allow that classification.”

Read all the court filings here.

A King County Superior Court judge last year upheld most of the charter school law, but ruled that some parts are unconstitutional. Judge Jean Rietschel said in her ruling that a “charter school cannot be defined as a common school because it is not under the control of the voters of the school district.” Since it is not a common school, she said it does not qualify for certain state money, such construction funds.

The Washington Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

On TVW this week: Charter school lawsuit, carbon emissions task force

By | October 27, 2014 | Comments

Monday Oct. 27 at 10:30 a.m.: TVW is live with the Joint Energy Supply and Energy Conservation Committee. The agenda includes policy recommendations to the 2015 Legislature.

Tuesday Oct. 28 at 10 a.m.: The Carbon Emissions Reductions Task Force will hold a meeting to discuss the draft report on taskforce recommendations. TVW will webcast the meeting.

Tuesday Oct. 28 at 2:30 p.m.: The Washington Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether the law passed by voters allowing charter schools violates the state constitution. TVW will be live on television and the web.

Wednesday Oct. 29 at 10 a.m.: TVW is live with the House Finance Committee as they hold a work session on city and county fiscal sustainability.

Categories: TVW

State approves coverage for transgender people

By | October 22, 2014 | Comments

Healthcare plans for state workers will soon include benefits for transgender services, including gender reassignment surgery.

The state Public Employees Benefits Board voted unanimously at a special meeting Wednesday to cover benefits for gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person doesn’t believe their gender identity conforms with their birth gender.

Starting January 1, 2015, all health care plans administered by the state board will include benefits for “covered non-surgical health care services, covered prescriptions, and covered surgical services for the treatment of gender dysphoria.” The board administers healthcare plans for state employees, their family members and retirees.

Kathryn Mahan of Puyallup has been a government employee for 28 years, and told the board she plans to take advantage of the transgender services next year.

After the meeting, she said the board’s decision was “life changing.” Without coverage, surgery would cost $20,000. “I never thought this would be possible,” Mahan said.

Board members said they were pleased at how quickly the services will be covered. Transgender advocates first approached the board in the spring. “There was a lot of interest in the transgender benefits,” said PEBB division director Lou McDermott.

Categories: Olympia, State agency news

On ‘The Impact’ this week: Backpage lawsuit and Ebola outbreak

By | October 22, 2014 | Comments

On “The Impact” this week, hear from the family of one of the underage girls who was trafficked for sex on the Backpage website. A lawyer for the girl argued before the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday that the website is responsible for some of its content. Backpage contends that it is immune under a federal communications law.

Also on the show, details about the new screening measures in place to monitor travelers coming to Washington from Ebola outbreak zones. Host Anita Kissee interviews Kathy Lofy, the communicable diseases epidemiologist with Washington’s Dept. of Health.

More information about Washington’s efforts to stop the Ebola outbreak can be found on the department’s website.

The show airs Wednesday Oct. 22 at 7 & 10 p.m. We’ll post a link here once it is available online.

Categories: TVW

Backpage sex trafficking case argued before state Supreme Court

By | October 21, 2014 | Comments

Protestors rally against Backpage in front of the Supreme Court

A lawyer for Backpage.com argued before the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday that the website should be granted “complete immunity” from prosecution because it did not write the online ads that resulted in the sex trafficking of three underage girls.

Backpage maintains that the website is immune under the federal Communications Decency Act, which says that an Internet service provider is not liable for the content posted by users.

“It’s clear that Backpage did not create or develop the ads that allegedly harmed the plaintiffs,” Backpage attorney Jim Grant told the court.

But a lawyer for the three victims says that Backpage did play a role in developing the ads.

Erik Bauer told justices that Backpage should be considered an “information content provider” because of its posting guidelines, which he said help traffickers write sex ads that won’t get flagged by law enforcement.

The guidelines include suggestions such as “don’t advertise in time increments of 15 minutes,” and offer a way for pimps to pay for the ads with untraceable prepaid credit cards, Bauer said.

“These so-called posting rules that are on the Backpage website are actually instructions to pimps on how to post an ad that works,” Bauer said.

Grant countered that claim, saying virtually every website has posting guidelines. “Backpage’s rules prohibit illegal content and prohibit improper content, just as Craigslist rules do, just as Facebook rules do, just as Microsoft Windows rules do,” Grant said.

The three victims in the case were between the ages of 13 and 15 when they were trafficked.

The mother of one of the girls told TVW after the hearing that her daughter ran away from home at the age of 15, took a bus to Seattle and within 36 hours was trafficked for sex by a pimp who used Backpage to sell her multiple times a day.

“She’s doing much better today,” her mother said. The pimp was arrested, and she said the next step was to go after the facilitator — Backpage. “I felt it was time Section 230 (of the Communications Decency Act) was looked at,” she said.

The justices will release a decision at a later date. TVW taped the hearing — watch it below:

Washington Supreme Court set to hear Backpage sex trafficking case

By | October 20, 2014 | Comments

The Washington Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit brought against Backpage.com by representatives of three teenagers who say they were trafficked for sex on the website.

Lawyers for the sex trafficking victims allege that Backpage is liable for creating an online marketplace for sex, and for contributing to some of the content of the ads by posting certain guidelines. Backpage argues it is immune under the 1996 federal Communications Decency Act, which says that an Internet service provider is not liable for the content posted by users.

TVW will air the arguments live at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

The victims were runaways between the ages of 13 through 15 when they were initially trafficked on Backpage by a pimp, according to court filings. The victims allege that Backpage never attempted to verify their ages, and they say they were raped numerous times as a result of the online escort ads that were posted and paid for by the pimp.

They argue in court filings that Backpage contributed to the content of the ads by “providing phoney posting rules and content requirements to instruct sex traffickers not to use certain words and graphics in order to avoid growing scrutiny by the public and law enforcement.”

The pimp who trafficked the girls was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to 26 1/2 years in prison.

Backpage attorney Liz McDougall told TVW it was premature to comment on the lawsuit. However, in an email she said that Backpage fights child trafficking with “approximately 100 staff dedicated to operating a 24/7 triple-tier prevention system (including an automated filter and two levels of human review).”

McDougall said “identifying and vilifying a single U.S. website (previously craigslist, now Backpage.com) as the cause of the problem and the key to the solution are ill-founded and unproductive,” and will result in children being trafficked on offshore websites that are outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement.

A Pierce County Superior Court judge denied a motion by Backpage to dismiss the case under the Communications Decency Act. Backpage appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court accepted review of the court’s decision.

If the Supreme Court agrees with the victims, then Backpage could be denied immunity and required to pay damages, according to the state Attorney General’s Office, which filed a “friend of the court” brief in the lawsuit against Backpage.

Read all the court filings here.