Democrats challenge Senate transportation proposal over two-thirds supermajority rule

By | February 27, 2015 | Comments

Those who were hoping to see a transportation package passed off the floor on Friday were left with a cliffhanger. Senators will return to the debate on Monday following a surprise challenge from Democrats.

The state Senate on Friday began debate on a $15 billion dollar transportation package, which would pay for major road projects around the state by raising the gas tax by 11.5 cents per gallon. The package also includes conditions that many Democrats oppose — including what they call a “poison pill” that would shift money away from transit, bike and pedestrian paths if the governor institutes a clean fuel standard.

Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson urged members on the floor to adopt a “clean package” without the conditions. She said her version still provides tax money to fund transportation projects, but is “not linked to any other legislation which may be based on ideology from either party.”

That proposal failed along caucus lines. As the Senate prepared to debate the final transportation package that included the conditions, Democratic Sen. Annette Cleveland asked Lt. Gov. Brad Owen if the proposal to raise the gas tax requires approval of two-thirds of members based upon a rule change made on the first day of session.

The rule change, which was passed off the floor by the mostly Republican Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, includes a clause that would require bills with a new tax to get a two-thirds supermajority approval of the Senate before advancing to third reading.

Republican Sen. Curtis King responded to Cleveland’s question by saying he believes the gas taxes in the package are “existing taxes and therefore would not fall under that guideline.”

Following a break, Sen. Joe Fain told members the Senate will hold off on the transportation package until Monday to give Owen time to make his decision.

Before the challenge, the Senate debated several other bills related to the transportation package. One of the most contentious proposals, Senate Bill 5990, would shift sales tax money collected from building road projects away from the general fund, and use it for transportation.

Several Democrats spoke in opposition to the proposal, saying it will rob the general fund of education money.

“The fact is that taking a billion dollars, when we have no agreement around where those dollars are going to come from, means that we are saying, ‘We are going to fund concrete instead of our kids,’” said Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle.

Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane urged support, saying the transportation package will add money to the general fund for education in the long-term. “What those roads are going to do is allow our economy to grow and generate a tremendous amount of economic growth,” he said.

The bill passed along caucus lines with a vote of 26 to 23.

You can watch the full Senate floor debate in TVW archives. We’ll also have the highlights on Friday’s edition of “Legislative Review” at 6:30 and 11 p.m. (unless a committee is live).

Categories: transportation, WA Senate

Lawmakers address questions of teacher COLA

By | February 27, 2015 | Comments

Voter-approved teacher cost-of-living-adjustments, or COLAs, have been tabled for the past six years. So, midway through the 2015 session, Republican and Democratic lawmakers addressed questions about whether this is the year the teacher COLA would come back.

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that she was happy to see the 3 percent cost-of-living-adjustment for teachers built into the state’s balanced four-year budget outlook.

She said teachers in her district have been seeing take-home pay shrink in recent years.

“Their paychecks are declining because they are actually paying more for their health care, and they are bringing home significantly less money, and I’m not just talking a little bit,” she said. “So I was really thrilled to hear Sen. (Andy) Hill say that he built in the 3 percent COLA into the four-year balanced budget.”

Rivers was one of several Republican panelists at a weekly media availability.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, which produces the Budget Outlook, projects expenditures and revenue for the next four years based on current law. Hill not only chairs the council, he is the Senate’s chief budget writer as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

While Initiative 732, an annual cost of living adjustment for teachers, was approved by voters in 2000 and is written into law, it has been suspended by the state during economic downturns. However, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council did include the initiative in the most recent iteration of the Budget Outlook, which shows a positive balance over the next four years.

For the Democrats, Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Seattle, at a press availability on Thursday, said there was strong support for a teacher raise in their caucus, but declined to fix on a percentage.

“They’ve gone six years without a COLA,” he said. “I think there will be strong support on our budget team and in our caucus for a COLA.”

The House proposed budget is expected to be released in March, followed by the Senate’s proposal.

Gov. Jay Inslee‘s 2015-17 budget included a 3 percent cost of living adjustment the first year and 1.8 percent the following year, which will cost $386 million over the two years.

The press conferences followed the week after the release of the state revenue forecast for 2015-2017, which showed a moderate increase of $140 million over previous predictions. 

Categories: Education, Uncategorized

Judges could disarm potentially-violent gun owners under bill

By | February 27, 2015 | Comments

Shooting victims and gun rights groups testified before the House Appropriations committee this week about a bill that would allow a judge to confiscate someone’s gun if that person poses an extreme risk of violence.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins, committee member and prime sponsor, says it would prevent cases similar to Joel Reuter, Sheena Henderson and Chris Henderson, three people who have been the subject of several mental illness and gun bills this session. Reuter was killed by police after an eight-hour standoff during a mental health crisis. Chris Henderson killed his wife, Sheena, then himself after having his gun confiscated — then returned — by police.

“In my mind, this would provide a tool for families in the very rare circumstances when they see their loves one descending into an extreme level of mental illness,” the Tacoma Democrat said.

House Bill 1857 creates an “extreme risk protection order,” allowing family members or law enforcement officers to petition a judge to take away an individual’s firearms and gun licenses for a year.

Courts, under the bill, could use threats of violence, incidents of domestic violence and violations of harassment, stalking and sexual assault protection orders to determine whether an individual presents an extreme risk of violence. Reckless use of a firearm, prior felonies and substance abuse would also be factors.

California passed a similar law after a gunman killed six people near University of California, Santa Barbara. The shooter’s family members alerted authorities to disturbing behavior, but could not have his firearms removed.

NRA lobbyist Brian Judy told lawmakers the bill would not make Washington safer. “This bill ineffectively targets the tools, but not the problem,” he said. “It creates a false sense of security. You’re going to take the firearm, but let the person go and leave the person in society to carry out harmful designs by other means.”

Cheryl Stumbo, a survivor of the 2006 Seattle Jewish Federation shooting, told lawmakers her shooter’s family was aware of his deteriorating mental state. “I met my shooter’s father in the courtroom,” she said. “He begged for my family and me to forgive him, if not his son. I know this legislation won’t stop every killer, but I remember the pain in the courtroom.”

Other opponents of the bill worry about false accusations, or lack of due process.

Bill Burroughs is a retired Pierce County Sheriff who spoke in opposition to the bill, saying it leaves “loopholes” for civil rights.

“It lacks due process in the sense that guns can be removed from you without have the chance to speak to a judge beforehand, without an arrest, without any kind of mental commitment,” he said.

No action was taken on the bill Thursday. It passed earlier this month out of the House Judiciary committee, which Jinkins chairs. Among several gun bills introduced this year, the extreme risk protection order proposal has so far advanced the furthest.

As of Friday morning, the bill had not been scheduled for a committee vote. Friday is the deadline for bills to move out of fiscal committees.

Categories: Gun control

Idea to raise speed limits to 75 mph gets over bump in House

By | February 26, 2015 | Comments

A new proposal to allow for highway speed limits of up to 75 mph was heard and passed in a House Transportation committee meeting Thursday morning.

HB 2181 would allow the Washington State Department of Transportation to raise speed limits in areas throughout the state where safe. It passed out of the Transportation committee 22-3.

Washington State Department of Transportation traffic engineer John Nisbet told the panel that the state would work with other groups to determine which areas in the state would be safe to get a boost in the maximum speed limit.

Right now, in most areas of the state, the maximum speed limit allowed on a state highway is 60 mph, though local authorities may raise it to 70 mph. The bill’s language does not alter the 60 mph speed limit for vehicles heavier than 10,000 pounds, such as semi-trucks and other large vehicles.

I-90 near Ellensburg. (Photo by WSDOT via Flickr.)

The bill differs from another bill that would set a 75 mph speed limit on Interstate 90 through Kittitas, Grant, Lincoln, and Adams counties.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said he supported giving WSDOT a chance to explore raising the speed limit.

“At first, I really wanted to have a stick that said, ‘DOT, thou shalt raise it except in certain situations,’ ” he said. “This is a reasonable approach for right now.”

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, said that he had concerns about the earlier bill, but that he would support 2181.

“It’s prudent to check it out if we can raise [speed limits] if it is safe,” said Riccelli, who also mentioned that he is a frequent motorist on rural I-90.

“A lot of people alongside me are going a little quicker anyway, and I think they’d like to be doing that within the realm of the law.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | February 26, 2015 | Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Wednesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” We cover a pair of bills that aims to reduce the child pornography trade in Washington by using unclaimed lotto money to fund a task force. Plus, we have details about several bills considered in fiscal committees and other measures passed off the Senate floor.

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

Categories: Criminal Justice

Tuesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | February 25, 2015 | Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Tuesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” On the show, we cover a bill that would shift the $10,000 cost of training new law enforcement cadets away from the state and onto the agencies that hire them. Another measure aims to consolidate health care plans for teachers and school employees. Plus, we highlight several bills passed off the Senate floor.

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

Categories: TVW

State Senate advances bill to discourage ‘patent trolls’

By | February 24, 2015 | Comments

Washington startups say they’re facing an onslaught of letters threatening lawsuits from so-called “patent trolls,” who claim everything from storing files online to using a smartphone application is patent infringement.

The state Senate on Tuesday passed a bill with a vote of 41-6 to discourage patent trolls from sending threatening letters to small businesses, forcing them to pay licensing fees or face an expensive lawsuit.

Senate Bill 5059, called the Patent Troll Prevention Act, amends the state’s Consumer Protection Act to include bad faith assertions of patent infringement and would allow the Office of the Attorney General to bring action against a company which violates the rule.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested the bill, sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, and Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle. Ferguson’s office recently investigated one company that sent 900 letters to more than 300 Washington businesses. The business used shell companies and was not incorporated within the state, a spokesperson said.

Bad faith assertions outlawed in the bill include demands without specific information about the patent, such as its registered number, the name and address of the patent owner or facts relating to how the patent was obtained.

Patents were created to protect and incentivize innovation, but now some say the process is backfiring and it’s becoming easier to file patents for broad ideas. The U.S. Patent Office issued a record number of patents in 2013 – nearly three times as many as it issued 20 years ago. (Story continues below)

Broad patents mean startups and inventors are unfairly burdened, Megan Schrader, executive director of national advocacy organization TechNet, said.

“It’s a distraction for a lot of companies,” she said. “You might get a letter that looks very official, but it’s not always the case. Startups will have to decide whether to pay to go to court or pay licensing fees for patents that can be so broad, even as far as patenting any retailer that has a mobile app.”

It’s not just technology. Homebuilders last month told lawmakers they are being flooded with letters claiming the use of fans to dry out a home was patent infringement. A Santa Clara University study in 2012 found that 55 percent of patent trolls target small business and 18 percent of business give in to demands without fighting the infringement assertion in court.

But Marshall Phelps, former head of intellectual property for Microsoft and IBM, says Washington should wait for the federal system to work itself out. Patent litigation was down 40 percent last year and the U.S. Patent Office is getting tougher, he said.

“Maybe for a while there, the U.S. Patent Office was too generous, but I don’t think that’s a point you can still make,” he said. “Washington lawmakers might just be trying to help out the mom and pop store, but they could make it worse. I would hate to see the federal system lose public approval.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard a record number of patent cases in the past two years. Recent rulings have made it easier for small businesses to have lawyers’ fees reimbursed when they win a case against patent trolls.

Similar laws have passed in 17 other states. A federal bill to discourage patent trolls passed with overwhelming support in the House, but stalled in the Senate. Supporters say heaving lobbying from biotechnology and other companies prevented the bill from moving forward.

One of the world’s largest patent portfolios is in Washington state. Intellectual Ventures, a Bellevue-based company with more than 40,000 patents, has spent more than $700 million buying patents from inventors and has more than 500 employees to manage and create new patents.

The firm said the federal measure was too broad and set up a political action committee to lobby against it. Intellectual Ventures contributed $83,450 to federal candidates as of Election Day 2014, according to OpenSecrets.org. A spokesperson said the company supports Washington’s proposal to stop abusive letters and similar efforts in other states.

Washington’s effort now moves over to the House, where it will have until April 1 to make it out of a chamber committee. Companion House Bill 1092, sponsored by Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, passed out committee on Jan. 29.

Categories: Business

TVW selects Renee Radcliff Sinclair as new president, CEO

By | February 24, 2015 | Comments

The TVW Board of Directors announced Tuesday that former state legislator and Apple Inc. education policy director Renee Radcliff Sinclair will become the new president and chief executive officer of TVW. Her first day will be March 2.

Sinclair succeeds Greg Lane, who left in October and is now Deputy Secretary of State.

Renee Radcliff Sinclair

Since 2010, Sinclair has directed education policy for several western states for Apple Inc. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of Business Monthy Magazine, CEO of the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce, and the executive director of congressional and public affairs for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States for the Pacific Northwest.

From 1995 to 2001, Sinclair served in the Washington State House of Representatives representing Snohomish County.

Sinclair was chosen after a search led by TVW board chair and former House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler and board member Steve Kipp of Comcast.

In a statement, Kessler said Sinclair is a professional communicator who “thoroughly understands Washington government and politics” as a former legislator. “We believe she will effectively lead TVW in its mission to provide unbiased, unfiltered public access to government,” Kessler said.

Categories: TVW

House considers extension of electric vehicle sales tax exemption

By | February 23, 2015 | Comments

An electric vehicle sales tax exemption would continue until 2025, under a bill heard Monday in the House Finance Committee.

The tax incentive, due to end this year, would apply to the first $60,000 of the vehicle’s price. Currently the tax exemption has no restriction on the vehicle price.

A Smart car plugged in at the North American International Auto Show. Photo by smart via Facebook.

The sales tax exemption could save a car buyer up to $3,900 in state sales and use tax on the first $60,000 of an electric car purchase. The state estimated the changes would reduce state revenues by $5.5 million in the 2016 fiscal year, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

JJ McCoy, a member of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association, says the HB 1925 would encourage the average consumer to choose an electric vehicle, which would save them money on fuel in the long run. He said that spending money on gasoline is not the best economic driver.

“If they can save money on fuel, that’s money that people will spend on almost anything else, whether it’s food or entertainment or personal services. Those are far better generators of jobs in the local economy,” he said.

Cliff Webster of GM also testified in support, but asked lawmakers to work on the language so additional plug-in electric hybrids, like the Chevrolet Volt, can qualify. The Volt currently does not qualify for the same sales tax exemption, according to the state Department of Revenue.

The House Finance committee heard testimony from 13 bills on Monday morning, and took executive action on several bills. You can watch the hearing in TVW’s archives.

Categories: Uncategorized

Bills face first policy cutoff

By | February 23, 2015 | Comments

It’s nearly half-way into the 105-day session and time’s up for Washington state lawmakers to pass non-budget bills out of committee.

Feb. 20 was the first policy cutoff of the session and the end for many of the more than 2,200 bills introduced so far this year.

Lawmakers are still considering an increase to the state’s minimum wage, a push to make it a crime to hold a phone while driving, a bill to require doctors to notify parents when a teen seeks an abortion, a push to remove personal belief as a vaccine exemption. The full list of bills that made out out of committee by the policy cutoff deadline is here.

Stalled bills include a push to discourage minors from vaping, an effort to abolish the state’s death penalty, a bill to make it a crime to secretly record video at a farm and a proposal to end Daylight Savings in Washington.

Gov. Jay Inslee last week signed the first bill of the session, adding nearly $218 million to the 2013-2015 operating budget for natural disasters, court payouts and other unexpected costs.

Bills with a fiscal note have until Friday to receive a committee reading. The next deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin is March 11.

Categories: Olympia, WA House, WA Senate

Revenue forecast shows moderate increase as lawmakers craft budget

By | February 20, 2015 | Comments

Budget writers will have an additional $140 million to work with as they develop the state’s next two-year budget, according to figures released Friday by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

Washington is seeing strong job growth — especially in Seattle — and consumers are saving money from lower gas prices, said the state’s chief economist Steve Lerch. However, the state has collected slightly less revenue from legal marijuana than forecasted. The slowdown at the ports is also having an economic impact, although so far it is only affecting volume and not dollars, Lerch said.

The budget for the 2015-2017 cycle remains at about $37 billion, leaving legislators with a $2 billion dollar shortfall as they attempt to meet education funding mandates.

Rep. Ross Hunter, the lead Democratic budget writer in the House, said the updated figures make a “difficult problem slightly less difficult.” The House is expected to release its budget proposal in mid-to-late March.

The forecast also includes an additional $134 million for the current budget cycle, raising total collections to $274 million through 2017.

Republican lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said the additional revenue should “reduce the pressure on the perennial call for more taxes.” The Senate will release its own version of the budget after the House. Gov. Jay Inslee‘s budget was announced in December.

Watch the revenue forecast at this link.

Categories: Budget
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Thursday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | February 20, 2015 | Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Thursday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” On the show, we cover the passage of bills off the House floor, including one that would change state law to allow for a group of people to be awarded the Medal of Valor. It’s intended for those who risked their lives to help others during the Oso landslide. Plus, a committee hears Secretary of State Kim Wyman‘s proposal to change presidential primary elections and we have details from the public hearing on the Senate’s transportation proposal.

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

Categories: transportation, TVW

Senate bill to end Daylight Saving Time in Washington dies

By | February 19, 2015 | Comments

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, hadn’t been the only lawmaker who proposed ending Daylight Saving Time in Washington, but the idea’s time is not now.

McCoy’s proposal died in the Senate Governmental Operations and Security Committee on Thursday, after a lack of support.

Committee member McCoy told the other members some of his constituents have complained of health issues from “springing forward” every March.

“They say it interrupts their sleep and gets them out of cycle and everything else,” he said. “Because we’re a northern tier state, in the summer months, our days are long naturally. So fooling around with the clock, I don’t see any advantage in it.”

Daylight Saving Time is when clocks are set ahead by an hour in the springtime. It was established to take advantage of daylight hours during the summer time, according to an information page on the NASA website. Most states abide by this standard. Arizona and Hawaii are exceptions.

 Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, said he thought it was a worthy topic of discussion because of the health concerns — and says he feels them whenever the clocks are changed —  but wondered how it would affect jobs.

“My question was for people who do work with particularly the Eastern seaboard, adding an additional hour means they’re now instead of three hours off they are four hours off from work colleagues,” he said.

McCoy said that his friends in Arizona and Hawaii, two states that do not observe Daylight Saving Time, told him that residents adapt.

The bill was considered in executive session, but after determining there was little support, the committee skipped the vote. Friday would have been the deadline for bills to pass out of committee in order to continue this session.

McCoy’s was not the only bill this session to reconsider the clock. Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, introduced a similar bill in the House that would establish Pacific Standard Time year-round in Washington. Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, introduced a House Joint Memorial that would ask Congress to establish Daylight Saving Time all year.

Daylight Saving Time starts on March 8 this year.

Categories: Uncategorized

Inslee signs supplemental budget for wildfires, mental health

By | February 19, 2015 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the first bill of the session on Thursday, supplementing the current budget with more than $217 million for disaster relief and additional funds to the state’s mental health and child welfare systems.

“Leaders worked very quickly and very diligently to respond to the extraordinary, unanticipated costs of the past 12 months,” Inslee said. “I do think it portends well that the Legislature has been able to act with great efficiency and speed to reach an agreement on how to get this done.”

House Bill 1105 allocates more than $77 million to fire and disaster management. Some of the funds will go towards repaying costs accrued from the Carlton Complex fire, the largest in state history.

The supplemental budget also funds 45 beds at Western State Hospital. Thirty beds would be for the civil ward, and 15 would be for the forensic ward. The funding is partly a response to a lawsuit that the state lost last year, which ruled the state could not continue to board mental health patients in emergency rooms.

Other mental health funds will pay for an increased number of competency evaluation services, which determine whether a person is fit to stand trial. Patients allege they were forced to wait an unconstitutional amount of time before receiving such evaluations. Earlier this year, a Department of Social and Health Services official told lawmakers the department needed more funding to provide such services faster.

The bill also includes a partial payout in Rekhter v. Washington Department of Social and Health Services. The state Supreme Court ruled 5-4, ordering the department to reimburse 22,000 in-home care providers $79 million for unpaid services.

The budget also puts additional funds in the state’s child welfare system.  Lawmakers moved up the state’s annual budget forecast, which historically had been delivered on March 20 in budget years. It will be presented on Friday, one month earlier.

Categories: Uncategorized

Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | February 19, 2015 | Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Wednesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” We cover a proposal to abolish the death penalty in Washington, as well as a drone bill that would put new regulations on law enforcement officers and state agencies. Plus, families of inmates ask the Legislature to create a new office independent of the Dept. of Corrections to handle their complaints.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11.

Legislature holds memorial service for lawmakers who have died

By | February 18, 2015 | Comments

The Legislature held a joint session Wednesday for its biennial ceremony honoring lawmakers who have died in the past two years.

Among the 27 people honored were former Gov. Booth Gardner; former representatives Kip Tokuda and Tom Huff, Sen. Michael J. Carrell, who died during the 2013 legislative session; and Rep. Roger Freeman, who was re-elected posthumously last year to his seat in the House.

2.1.12

 

The lawmakers honored were: (more…)

Categories: Uncategorized

Washington would abolish death penalty if bill passes

By | February 18, 2015 | Comments

For the more than 30 years since Washington’s death penalty was reinstated, state lawmakers have debated whether to abolish it.

That didn’t change this year when Rep. Reuven Carlyle introduced his seventh bill to keep criminals in prison for life and off death row. But this year’s push, amidst a death penalty moratorium, has more bipartisan support.

House Bill 1739 has 17 sponsors, including two Republicans. Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, has long supported eliminating the death penalty, but this year’s bill also has support from Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah. Republican Sen. Mark Miloscia is sponsoring the Senate version.

Families of murder victims, law enforcement, bill sponsors and a former death row inmate were among those who testified Wednesday before a House committee on the bill.

The death penalty, Carlyle said, fails to deter homicide and is much more costly than life in prison.  “There are incredible implications, not just for our state and for our society, but for the choices we are making for the justice system, public safety and how we choose to spend the public’s hard-earned tax dollars,” the Seattle Democrat said. “Regardless of your view, the death penalty struggles to justify itself finally.”

Rep. Jay Rodne, Snoqualmie Republican and House Judiciary’s ranking GOP member, told sponsors he doesn’t think cost is enough to justify abolishing a punishment that he says gives justice to families. “The cost argument is a red herring, it’s disingenuous,” he said.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium on the death penalty last February. He did not vacate sentences of the nine men currently on death row in Washington, but announced none would be executed while he’s in office.

The state sentenced Washington’s most recent death row inmate after Inslee took office. Byron Scherf, an inmate who killed corrections officer Jayme Biendl while she was on duty at a Monroe prison in 2011, was sent to death row in May 2013.

Inslee issued a statement in support of the measure following Wednesday’s hearing. “Capital punishment is a complex and emotional issue with very strong feelings on both sides and it’s important to have civil discussions like we saw today,” he said.

The niece of Delbert Belton, the 88-year-old World War II veteran who was killed by two Spokane teenagers in 2013, testified in support of the bill. One of the boys was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison.

She told lawmakers she’s thankful her family did not have to go through the process of seeking the death penalty. ”It would reopen this wound again and again,” she said. “It may be the only way I end up remembering my uncle. Instead I end up remembering my found childhood memories of him.”

Only one person testified in opposition to the bill. Mitch Barker, executive director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said the death penalty is important leverage for law enforcement.: “Had the death penalty not been available to prosecutors, Gary Ridgway would never had admitted what he’d done,” he said.

If the bill passes, Washington would follow 18 states in abolishing the death penalty. Washington has a long legacy of banning and re-imposing a death penalty. The state reinstated the death penalty most recently in 1981. Since then, 33 people have been sentenced to death, but only five have been executed. Altogether, the state has executed 78 people since 1904.

Categories: Criminal Justice

Tuesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | February 18, 2015 | Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Tuesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” We have highlights from the debate over a bill that would end a parent’s ability to exempt a child from vaccines for personal or philosophical reasons. Plus, a measure that would allow people with PTSD to use medical marijuana, and a bill that would allow fathers to terminate legal responsibilities for a child that he can prove through DNA does not belong to him.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11.

 

Categories: Healthcare, TVW

Vaccines debated as lawmakers consider eliminating personal belief exemption

By | February 17, 2015 | Comments

A House committee held a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that would end a parent’s ability to exempt a child from vaccines for personal or philosophical reasons.

Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said she introduced House Bill 2009 in response to the recent measles outbreak. “These are diseases that were eradicated and are now coming back largely due to the fact that people are choosing to not immunize their children,” she said.

Children in Washington must be vaccinated for school unless they are exempted for medical, religious or personal reasons. Last year, 3.6 percent of school-age children were exempted from vaccinations for non-medical reasons.

Some Washington schools have exemption rates as high 40 percent, said Kathy Lofy of the state Dept. of Health. She worries those schools will serve as “tinderboxes” for diseases that are easily spread through crowds.

Kathy Hennessy of Bellingham said her child caught pertussis from an unvaccinated classmate in preschool. “I’m frustrated that so many people are choosing not vaccinate their children based on misinformation and pseudoscience,” she told legislators.

More than a dozen opponents testified Tuesday, asking lawmakers to keep the personal exemption in place.

Grant Keller said the people who oppose vaccinations are “not conspiracy theorists,” but often well-educated parents with high incomes. “They are capable of reading and digesting scientific information, and they are making informed decisions regarding the health of their children,” he said.

Other parents who testified say they are not immunizing their children because they worry about a negative reaction to the vaccine.

Josh Swenson said drug allergies and sensitivies run in his family, and he worries how vaccines could affect his children. “I’m not wiling to sacrifice my children’s health and future for the good of all,” he said.

If the bill passes, Swenson said his only choices would be to take his children out of public schools or move out of state. “You cannot force me to hurt my child,” he said.

Secretary of State proposes changes to Washington presidential primary

By | February 17, 2015 | Comments

A proposal by Secretary of State Kim Wyman would require political parties to use 2016 Washington presidential primary results — and also would require primary voters to declare a party affiliation publicly.

Washington’s presidential primaries don’t determine the delegates for the Democratic and Republican parties. Both parties choose their delegates via caucus. Wyman’s predecessor Sam Reed canceled the 2012 presidential primary, saving $10 million.

Wyman said she hopes the change will give voice to the voters, most of whom either cannot participate in the party caucuses or choose not to.

“This is our opportunity to showcase Washington and our issues for the presidential candidates,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Wyman noted that presidential primaries attract 10 times the participants as caucuses. She also told reporters that the leaderships of the parties did not raise any objections when she approached them with the plan last year.

Under Wyman’s proposal, both parties would have until Oct. 1 to agree to use primary results in their delegate selection processes. The proposal doesn’t prescribe how much weight the parties should put on the primary results.

The primary would be the only election in which a voter would be asked his or her party preference. However, voters’ party preferences would be public, according to Wyman’s plan.

Under the plan, the primary election date would be March 8, 2016. The primary would cost $11.5 million, Wyman said.

If both parties don’t agree to the plan, then the primary would use a single ballot with all candidates. No party declaration or oath would be required and no record kept of party affiliation.

Wyman’s request has been introduced in both chambers, under bills SB 5978 and HB 2139.

Watch the press conference in TVW’s archives.

Categories: Election