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.

On ‘The Impact’ this week: Senate races, voting history

By | October 15, 2014 | Comments

On this week’s edition of “The Impact,” we break down the state Senate races that are most in play.

On-set guests Republican Sen. Bruce Dammeier and Democratic Sen. Kevin Ranker talk about the implications the races will have on the balance of the state Senate, which is currently controlled by the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus.

Plus, a look into the state archives to see the first voters’ pamphlet dating back 100 years. The Secretary of State’s office has archived all voters’ pamphlets since 1914 at this link.

Update: The show is now online — watch it below:

Categories: TVW

Clarification on the League of Women Voters of Washington

By | October 14, 2014 | Comments

TVW would like to clarify the position of the League of Women Voters of Washington. In our question to Sen. John Braun on the Oct. 8 edition of “The Impact,” we stated the league was opposed to Initiative 1351, which would reduce class sizes. The league’s board voted to take no position, and neither supports nor opposes the initiative.

The following is a statement from their website: LWVWA.org.

“Initiative 1351 – The League of Women Voters of Washington does not take a position on this initiative.This measure would direct the legislature to allocate funds to reduce class sizes and increase staffing support for students in all K-12 grades, with additional class-size reductions and staffing increases in high-poverty schools. Although the LWVWA has studied K-12 education numerous times (1968, 1975, 1977, 1991, 1997 and 2009), it has not studied class size as a way “to ensure that every child regardless of race, color, gender, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or disability is ready to learn (K-12 – 2). The League’s position on Initiative and Referendum supports having sponsors of these measures suggest ways to pay for them.Therefore the LWVWA Board voted to neither endorse nor oppose Initiative 1351.”
Categories: TVW

Ethics board votes to limit free meals for legislators

By | October 14, 2014 | Comments

Legislators cannot accept more than 12 free meals a year from lobbyists under a new rule adopted unanimously Tuesday by the Legislative Ethics Board.

Lawmakers are allowed to accept gifts of food or beverages on “infrequent occasions” if they are discussing legislative business. However, an investigation published last year by the AP and Northwest Public Radio found that legislators were accepting hundreds of meals worth thousands of dollars from lobbyists on a regular basis.

The ethics board held four meetings this year to define “infrequent” for the first time.

The new rule adopted Tuesday defines “infrequent” as 12 times per calendar year, and states that a qualifying meal could be a breakfast, lunch or dinner that includes food and beverages.

It also includes a number of exceptions — for example, a legislator is allowed to accept a free cup of coffee from a lobbyist. The rule also doesn’t apply to buffet-style events where attendance is related to the legislator’s official duties.

Read the draft rule here.

The new rule goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015. Watch today’s hearing at this link.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate
Tags:

Smaller class size initiative leading in Elway Poll

By | October 14, 2014 | Comments

Voters appear to be in support of an initiative that would require smaller class sizes in public schools.

The latest Elway Poll shows that 66 percent of voters said they would definitely or probably vote yes for Initiative 1351. Twenty four percent said they would definitely or probably vote no, and 11 percent remain undecided.

The ballot measure requires the Legislature to allocate funding for smaller class sizes over the next four years, starting with high poverty schools where half of the students receive free or reduced lunch.

The poll said the initiative showed support across demographics, although support waned when voters pay closer attention. “The more attention voters have paid, the less likely they are to support I-1351,” pollster H. Stuart Elway said.

Supporters say the measure would allow teachers to pay more attention to students and bring the state in line with national class size rankings. Opponents argue that the measure doesn’t say where the money would come from, and it displaces money that could be better spent.

TVW’s Video Voters Guide has statements from the proponents and opponents of the measure.

In 2000, Washington voters passed Initiative 728 requiring smaller class sizes, but the ballot measure was repealed by Legislature in 2012 because of lack of funding.

Categories: Election

On TVW this week: Ethics board, welfare program updates

By | October 13, 2014 | Comments

Here’s what we’re covering live on TVW this week:

Tuesday, Oct. 14 at noon: The Legislative Ethics Board is meeting to discuss and vote on a rule for how frequently lawmakers are allowed to accept free meals from lobbyists. TVW will air the meeting on television and the web.

Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 7 & 10 p.m.: On “The Impact,” we look at the battle over control of Washington’s Senate and why it matters so much this election. Plus, a rare glimpse into our state archives to see what Washingtonians voted on 100 years ago.

Thursday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m.: The House Early Learning committee is holding a meeting to discuss child welfare court data. It will be broadcast live on television and on the web.

Thursday, Oct. 16 at 7 & 10 p.m.: On “Inside Olympia,” host Austin Jenkins interviews the proponents and opponents of the class size initiative, as well as the gun control initiative.

Friday, Oct. 17 at 9 a.m.: A health subcommittee is scheduled to get updates on two welfare programs, as well as a prescription drug initiative. Live on television and the web.

Friday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m.: TVW will be live with the Citizens Tax Preference Commission.

Categories: TVW

Former TVW president Greg Lane to become Deputy Secretary of State

By | October 9, 2014 | Comments

Secretary of State Kim Wyman announced today that former TVW President and CEO Greg Lane will become Deputy Secretary of State.

Current deputy Mark Neary will become Assistant Secretary of State, succeeding Ken Raske, who will retire at the end of the year.

Lane joined TVW in 2008, and his last day as leader of the organization was Oct. 3. He previously worked as the deputy chief of staff and communications director for the Attorney General, and as the media services director at the House of Representatives.

From the Secretary of State’s press release:

Wyman noted that as a TVW board member, she had an opportunity see Lane’s administrative and policy skills in action. After Lane announced his departure from TVW, Wyman said she realized Lane would be an ideal fit for the Office of Secretary of State and asked him to come on board.

“I’m delighted that Greg will be our new Deputy Secretary and I know he brings energy, innovation and a commitment to excellence,” Wyman said. “As we look toward big changes at the State Library and State Archives and bringing our `A-Game’ to Elections, Corporations, Legacy Washington and our special programs, we will have a very strong leadership team to guide the way.”

Categories: TVW

AT&T to pay $105 million for ‘cramming’ customer bills

By | October 8, 2014 | Comments

AT&T agreed to pay $105 million to settle claims that it charged customers for premium services they never requested, such as horoscopes, trivia or sports scores.

Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson says more than half a million Washingtonians may have been affected by the practice, called “cramming.” In many cases, customers were charged $9.99 per month without their permission for third-party services like ringtones, wallpapers and text message subscriptions.

AT&T will pay $80 million to the Federal Trade Commission to refund customers nationwide who were charged unauthorized fees.

Current or former AT&T customers may apply for a refund by visiting www.ftc.gov/att.

The wireless carrier is also paying $20 million to the attorneys general of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as $5 million to the FCC as a penalty.

Washington state received $807,314 for its participation in the agreement, according to Ferguson.

Categories: Attorney General

Bankers say they need more guidance to provide services to marijuana businesses

By | October 6, 2014 | Comments

Bankers told legislators this week they need more clarity when it comes to laws that allow them to provide checking accounts, loans and other financial services to marijuana businesses.

Salal Credit Union of Seattle currently counts five marijuana producers and four retailers among its customers, Russ Rosendal told a joint legislative committee on Monday.

The bank follows guidelines from the so-called “Cole memo” released by the U.S. Department of Justice last year. The memo said the federal government will only enforce eight areas of the federal Controlled Substance Act in Washington and Colorado.

However, the memo contains “exceptions and loopholes,” Rosendal said, and it doesn’t prohibit the federal government from launching investigations or prosecutions. “So while it was a step forward, there are still a lot of issues there,” he said.

Numerica Credit Union also provides services to marijuana businesses. Bank representative Lynn Ciani said one reason she thinks more banks aren’t providing financial services to the marijuana industry is because of the criminal penalties that the DOJ can impose for violating federal anti-laundering laws.

“Although we are used to the large civil penalties and that risk, the whole going to jail thing and wearing orange is probably causing people to take a second thought,” Ciani told the committee.

Both banks also follow guidance released in February by the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Justice Department.

However, a number of issues remain to be sorted out.

Rosendal said it is unclear what tax deductions a marijuana business is allowed to take. He said banks are also unsure about forfeiture and seizure laws. “As long as financial institutions are unclear about what collateral they have…it is going to be hard to lend any money to 502 businesses,” he said.

Credit cards are also a problem, Rosendal said, because companies like Visa or Mastercard don’t allow their products to be used for marijuana. “Until these I-502 businesses can do electronic transactions, they’re going to be forced to be in a cash business,” he said.

Watch the full meeting at this TVW link.

 

Categories: Marijuana

On TVW: Marijuana banking regulations, jail and mental health agency collaborations

By | October 6, 2014 | Comments

Here’s what we’re covering this week on TVW:

Monday, Oct. 6 at noon: A joint legislative committee is holding a work session on legal marijuana and federal banking regulations. At 1 p.m., the House Government Accountability and Oversight committee will discuss the legal marijuana markets in Washington and Colorado. The meetings will be broadcast on TVW and the web.

Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 7 & 10 p.m.: On “The Impact,” Washington lawmakers get an update on the legal marijuana market and how it’s working so far. Plus, the pros and cons to I-1351, Washington’s class size initiative.

Thursday, Oct. 9 at 7 & 10 p.m.: On “Inside Olympia,” host Austin Jenkins discusses the upcoming elections with State Democratic Party Chairman Jaxon Ravens and Susan Hutchison, the chair of the state Republican party.

Friday, Oct. 10 at 9 a.m.: The Adult Behavioral Health System Task Force is holding a meeting to discuss jail and mental health agency collaborations, among other items. TVW will air the meeting live on television and the web.

 

Categories: TVW

‘Flight Plan: Charting a Course for Drones in Washington’ is now airing on TVW, online

By | October 2, 2014 | Comments

This one-hour television special from TVW looks at the growing popularity of civilian drones, and the privacy questions they raise. TVW introduces you to hobbyists who are flying drones for fun, as well as professionals who want to use them for things like selling real estate or growing grapes.

We also take you inside Washington’s booming drone industry, where unmanned aerial systems are built primarily for military customers. And finally, we show you how police and Washington state agencies could use the technology — and hear from those who say government drones threaten your civil rights.

“Flight Plan: Charting a Course for Drones in Washington” is airing on TVW. Or, you can watch it anytime on YouTube or at TVW’s website.

Categories: Drone, TVW

More must be done to prevent oil spills in Washington, Inslee says

By | October 1, 2014 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee says the state and federal government must do more to prevent oil spills from “outdated, inadequate and outright dangerous” trains that carry volatile Bakken crude oil across Washington state.

“These train cars were not designed to carry this product,” Inslee said at a press conference in Seattle on Wednesday. The governor is calling on the federal government to impose a speed limit of 30 miles per hour for trains that have not been updated to transport high-hazard materials, and 40 miles per hour once the train cars are upgraded.

“We don’t let speeding cars through our school zones,” he said. “We should not let speeding unsafe oil rail cars through Washington state cities.”

A train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in Seattle in July as it was heading for a refinery at Anacortes, but it didn’t spill any oil. Inslee said the state “dodged a bullet” because the train was traveling at slow speeds.

Inslee also wants the federal government to shorten the two-year time period it is proposing for rail companies to upgrade train cars. “That is too long,” he said. “A one year window should provide adequate time for rail car upgrades that are already underway.”

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, the governor urged a “quicker phase out of the T-111 tank cars that are inadequate for transporting high-hazard materials,” saying the cars should not be used to transport Bakken crude after October 2016.

The Dept. of Ecology released a preliminary report on Wednesday that makes recommendations on how the state can improve rail safety at a time the state is seeing increased carloads of oil and coal from Montana and North Dakota.

The report includes more than $12 million in budget recommendations, including hiring extra rail inspectors, providing equipment and training for local first responders and firefighters, and developing new geographic response plans for oil spills.

Inslee said he would use the recommendations to submit a plan to the Legislature during the 2015 session.

The public can submit comments about the initial recommendations online or at two public meetings: Oct. 28 in Spokane, or Oct. 30 in Olympia.

TVW taped the press conference. Watch it below: