Ethics board looks at rule allowing legislators to accept free meals, drinks

By | April 15, 2014 | Comments

An ethics board is seeking to clarify how frequently legislators are allowed to accept free meals and drinks, following news reports that some lawmakers have accepted dozens of free meals from lobbyists.

State legislators are allowed to accept meals or drinks on “infrequent” occasions. The Legislative Ethics Board held a meeting Tuesday to start the process of adopting a new rule for gifts for legislators, which could include setting a formal definition of “infrequent.”

The discussion stems from news reports published by the Associated Press and Northwest Public Radio that showed that lobbyists picked up the tab for hundreds of meals for lawmakers worth about $65,000 during the first four months of the 2013 legislative session. One Republican senator accepted about $2,000 worth of freebies on 62 occasions over four months.

Robert Cavanaugh testified at Tuesday’s public hearing, describing himself as a citizen activist who has worked on legislative issues since the 1970s. He says corporate lobbyists get unfair access to legislators, leaving people like him at a disadvantage.

“We cannot compete with the Boeings and the Microsofts,” he said. “When I try to get access to a legislator and get on an agenda, I see high-paid lobbyists coming and going into those offices. And I sit outside in the hallway with an appointment that is never honored.”

Cavanaugh told the board he believes that legislators should not be allowed to accept any free meals or lodging.

“I resent the favoritism that goes on and I think you have an opportunity to change it and I hope you do,” he said.

Former Olympia mayor and city councilman Bob Jacobs also testified at the hearing. He recommended the board adopt a complete prohibition against accepting gifts, which he says would take the pressure off of lawmakers.

“You can say, ‘It’s illegal, I can’t do that, that’s off the table.’ It’s clean and everybody understands it,” Jacobs said.

An outright ban may be outside of the board’s scope, said member Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle.

“I don’t think we have the authority to do that, given that the Legislature has authorized gifts on an infrequent basis — which in my view doesn’t mean 62 times in four months — but also doesn’t mean never ever,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen also suggested that lawmakers should file a statement each month listing what they’ve received, rather than leave that paperwork up to lobbyists.

The board agreed to come up with draft proposals for a new rule before the group meets again on June 17. Those proposals will be refined by the board’s August meeting and formally adopted by October, board members agreed.

TVW video of Tuesday’s meeting is available at this link.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom won’t seek re-election

By | April 14, 2014 | Comments

Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Medina)

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom announced Monday he won’t seek re-election, citing family and health concerns.

Tom was one of two conservative Democrats who helped Republicans take control of the state Senate last year, forming the Majority Coalition Caucus. Tom became the new Senate Majority Leader under the power arrangement on the first day of the 2013 legislative session.

Tom’s seat is up for re-election in November. Former Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride, also a Democrat, previously announced she was running against him.

In a statement, Tom said he decided over the weekend to drop his bid for re-election because of a “series of events that have impacted my family and health.”

“Since the end of session, I have continued to work through some health issues, but the main reason for my decision is my 85-year old father who was hit by a car last week while walking in a grocery store parking lot. He’s going to require a lot of physical therapy over the next several months and I’m the only son who lives close to him. I have always said that health and family are the most important values — and beyond campaign slogans — I really do try to live by those values,” Tom wrote in the statement.

Tom, who is from Medina, was first elected to the state House as a Republican in 2002, but switched to the Democratic Party four years later. He was elected to the state Senate in 2010, where he represents the 48th Legislative District.

Tom said serving as the Senate majority leader has been “historic for Washington and an opportunity of a lifetime for me personally.”

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson said in a news release that Tom “clearly left a mark on the Senate and the Legislature that will not soon be forgotten.”

“There’s no question he will be remembered vividly for his work on both sides of the aisle and in multiple caucuses,” she said.

Democrats currently hold 23 seats in the state Senate, while the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus holds 26 seats. This fall, 24 of the 49 seats in the Senate are up for election. The primary election in August determines which candidates appear on the November ballot.

TVW nominated for six Emmy Awards

By | April 14, 2014 | Comments

TVW was nominated for six Emmy Awards by the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on Friday.

Washington’s Food Fight,” a one-hour documentary about the debate over labeling GMO food, was nominated in the Politics/Government “Program/Special” category. Those nominated include host and executive producer Anita Kissee, videographers Lars Peterson, Markisha Lynch and Brett Hansen, producers Greg Lane and Mike Bay.

Anita Kissee was also nominated separately as the writer of the documentary. Videographers Lars Peterson and Markisha Lynch were nominated separately in the photographer category.

A segment on “The Impact” dealing with GMO foods was nominated in the Public/Current/Community Affairs “Feature/Segment” category. Those nominated include host and executive producer Anita Kissee, director Nate Shaw and senior production technicians Markisha Lynch and Lars Peterson.

An episode of “Inside Olympia” that focuses on the threat of mega-earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest was nominated in the Interview/Discussion “Program/Special” category. Those nominated include host Austin Jenkins, producer Christina Salerno, producer Mike Bay and photographer Aaron Qualls.

Starcia” is a one-hour look at the life of Starcia Ague, who overcame her juvenile criminal history and received a rare pardon from former Gov. Chris Gregoire. It was nominated in the Public/Current/Community Affairs “Program/Special” category for Director of Education Resources David Johnson, special projects manager Jason Gutz, producer Greg Lane and VP of Programming Mike Bay.

The full list of all nominees for the 2014 Northwest Regional Emmy Awards is available here. The winners will be announced June 7.

Categories: TVW

On TVW this week: Ed funding, Hanford cleanup and lobbyist-provided meals

By | April 11, 2014 | Comments

Here’s what TVW will be covering live this week:

Monday, April 14 at 9:30 a.m.: A joint legislative committee tasked with interacting with the Washington Supreme Court on education funding issues will meet in Seattle. The high court issued an order earlier this year requiring the Legislature to come up with a plan by April 30 explaining how the state will fund schools through 2018.

The committee will discuss the court’s order, as well legislation related to education funding that was passed or proposed during the 2014 session. TVW will live webcast the meeting at this link.

Monday, April 14 at 10 a.m.: Gov. Jay Inslee‘s Results Washington group will meet to discuss progress on the initiative, which intends to bring “lean management” techniques to state government in five areas: education, environment, health, economy and government.

The meeting will focus on the “Sustainable Energy and a Clean Environment” category. Participants include Inslee, Dept. of Ecology director Maia Bellon, Dept. of Fish & Wildlife director Phil Anderson, Dept. of Health Secretary John Wiesman and several others.

TVW will live webcast the meeting at this link.

Tuesday, April 15 at noon: The Legislative Ethics Board will discuss meals and drinks that are provided as gifts to legislators. It is the first step in developing a formal rule on the issue. The discussion comes out of news reports about several Washington lawmakers who regularly allow lobbyists to pick up dinner tabs.

The meeting agenda also includes “informal advice” about two proposed trips by legislators. TVW will air the meeting live on television and webcast it at this link.

Tuesday, April 15 at 7 p.m.: The three government agencies in charge of the Hanford nuclear waste cleanup are holding a “State of the Hanford Site” public meeting to discuss cleanup progress, challenges and priorities related to the site. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington State Department of Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will deliver presentations and hold an open discussion about Hanford.

TVW will live webcast the public forum at this link.

Wednesday, April 16 at 3 p.m.: The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council will present a budget outlook. The meeting will be live webcast by TVW at this link.

Categories: TVW

Confidential data found on old state computers sold as surplus, audit says

By | April 10, 2014 | Comments

A new state audit has found that 9 percent of old computers sent to a state surplus program to be sold to the public contained confidential data, including Social Security numbers, medical records, tax forms, applications for public assistance and other sensitive information.

State Auditor Troy Kelley released a report Thursday outlining how several state agencies failed to properly erase confidential data from the computer hard drives before sending them to the surplus program.

State agencies got rid of 20,000 computers over the last two years through the Department of Enterprise Services surplus program. Some of the computers are redistributed to other agencies, non-profits or school districts, and the rest are sold to the public at a surplus store in Tumwater.

The auditor’s office inspected computers from 13 state agencies sent to the surplus program over a six week period. It found that 9 percent, or 109 of the 1,215 computers, still contained confidential information.

“With the right knowledge of data retrieval, the confidential information we found could be obtained in a few minutes,” the report said. The information on the computers “posed a risk of harm to private individuals and the state.”

Four state agencies were responsible for the data breaches: Dept. of Ecology, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Labor & Industries and the Dept. of Social and Health Services.

In addition to personal information like Social Security numbers and addresses, the computers also contained documents such as job applications, personnel evaluations and medical or financial records. The audit found that many other agencies weren’t following recommended practices to make sure that data on hard drives is erased.

Sales of surplus computers were halted after the results of the audit were shared with the state agencies, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer is working on guidelines for data removal.

Read the full audit here.

Categories: State agency news
Tags: ,

Environmental review set to begin for Grays Harbor oil storage proposals

By | April 9, 2014 | Comments

Environmental reviews begin this week for two proposals to build storage facilities to handle hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil and other fuels at the Port of Grays Harbor.

The state Department of Ecology and the city of Hoquiam will begin collecting public comments starting Thursday for environmental impact statements.

Westway Terminal Company has proposed expanding its current facility so that it can receive, store and ship crude oil. It would allow the terminal to receive about 9.6 million barrels of oil a year and store 800,000 barrels of crude oil.

Imperium Renewables wants to build nine storage tanks for up to 720,000 barrels of biofuels, petroleum products, crude oil and renewable fuels such as diesel and jet fuel.

The public comment period is open from April 10 through May 27. Public meetings will be held April 24 at Hoquiam High School and April 29 at Centralia High School. The meetings are from 5 to 9 p.m., with public comment beginning at 6 p.m. People can also submit comments online here.

Categories: Uncategorized

UPDATED: Should all private workers in Washington have access to a state retirement plan?

By | April 8, 2014 | Comments

Retirement experts agree: Getting people to voluntarily save money for retirement doesn’t work.

Public campaigns to convince people to open an Individual Retirement Account or voluntarily contribute to a 401(k) have proven unsuccessful, experts say. In Washington state, only 51 percent of workers between the ages of 55-64 participate in a retirement plan at work.

“We’ve studied this for 100 years and the only way that people save for retirement is if they do it automatically from their paycheck,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, a New York-based think tank.

“The job is where is the money is,” she said. “The paycheck is where the discipline is.”

Several Democratic state lawmakers held a work session Tuesday to consider ways to make sure that Washington workers have enough money to retire. One in four Washington residents between the ages of 45-64 years old has $25,000 or less in savings for retirement.

“What’s happening to our citizens is not right,” said Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma. “To have so many on the edge of poverty in the years when they should be enjoying their lives.”

Experts discussed ongoing efforts in other states, including California and Oregon, to study the creation of a state retirement plan that would be available to all private sector workers. California is considering a plan that would give private workers an individual account with CalPERS, the state’s pension fund for public employees.

Employees could contribute between 3 to 10 percent of their paychecks into the state retirement account and use the money to supplement social security when they retire. The plan infrastructure would look similar to the state’s health insurance exchange, said Ghilarducci, who was one of several experts who addressed the panel and worked on California’s plan.

Ingrid McDonald of AARP Washington said other states have faced three types of opposition in trying to pass this type of legislation.

First, the plans are complex and lawmakers want to avoid creating a new liability for the state. Second, the plans face opposition from the financial services industry because they don’t want a public-private partnership to “take over their turf,” she said.

Lastly, the plans get “pushback” from the small business community. Small business owners don’t want additional burdens or to be forced to make a contribution match to retirement accounts, McDonald said.

This year, the Washington state House voted to pass House Bill 2474, which would have allowed private workers to contribute money to plan administered by the state’s retirement system.

The bill passed 54-43 largely along party lines, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed. The bill did not get a committee hearing in the Senate, which is controlled by the Majority Coalition Caucus.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, told TVW this week that Republicans support moving more workers into defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s. He proposed Senate Bill 6305 this year, which would have transitioned elected officials away from pensions into defined contribution plans.

“A lot of this is fear of change,” Braun said. “People think about their retirement they want security, the want safety, they want something they know. In many cases, especially in the public sector, a defined contribution plan is an unknown. For that reason alone it is worthwhile for elected officials to lead the way and take some of the fear out of it.”

Republican lawmakers also introduced a bill this session, Senate Bill 5851, that would have created a defined contribution plan option for public employees, such as teachers and law enforcement officials. The bill passed 25-22 out of the Senate, but did not get a hearing in the Democratically-controlled House.

TVW taped the Democratic-sponsored work session and it will be archived at this link. Watch interviews with Senators Braun and Conway for a segment on the retirement issue on The Impact this week:

Categories: Public Policy, WA Senate
Tags: , , ,

On TVW this week: Retirement insecurity, outdoor task force, fish and wildlife meeting

By | April 7, 2014 | Comments

Here are the events TVW is covering live this week:

Tuesday, April 8 at 10 a.m.: TVW will live broadcast a work session held by Democratic lawmakers on the issue of retirement insecurity. Several experts will discuss retirement issues faced by many of the state’s residents.

Participants include Sen. Steve Conway (D-Tacoma), Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent), Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle), Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-Shoreline), Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle); plus Diane Oakley, Executive Director, National Institute on Retirement Security; Teresa Ghilarducci, Director Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, The New School For Social Research; Terry Gardiner, VP Policy and Strategy, Small Business Majority; and Ingrid McDonald, Advocacy Director, AARP Washington.

Wednesday, April 9 at 9 a.m.: TVW will live webcast the first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation, which was established by Gov. Jay Inslee in an executive order. The 28-member task force must come up with a plan by September to promote Washington’s parks and outdoor recreation assets, with a focus on increasing jobs and outdoor activities. The meeting agenda is available here. The task force includes 16 members involved in recreation businesses or organizations, such as REI and Sierra Club, four legislators and eight state agency representatives.

Watch the live webcast at this link.

April 11-12, 8:30 a.m.: TVW will live webcast the two day meeting of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. The full agenda is available here. Webcast links can be found on TVW’s daily schedule page.

Drone bill vetoed by Gov. Inslee

By | April 4, 2014 | Comments

Citing privacy concerns, Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a drone bill Friday and announced he is temporarily banning all state agencies from purchasing or using drones for the next 15 months except during emergencies or natural disasters.

“I’m very concerned about the effects of this new technology on our citizens’ right to privacy,” Inslee said before vetoing a bill that would have put restrictions on how public agencies are allowed to use drones.

House Bill 2789 would have required public agencies such as police departments to obtain a warrant before using a drone, except during emergencies when there is immediate danger of death or injury. It also would have allowed drones to be used for training, testing, wildlife and environmental monitoring.

Calling it “one of the most complex bills” his office has analyzed, Inslee said the measure contained too many ambiguities. In particular, he said the bill has conflicting provisions on the “disclosure and destruction” of personal information collected by the drones.

Inslee said his office will create a task force to study the issue and come up with a new drone bill for the 2015 legislative session. He said he is calling for legislation that provides a “clear and unambiguous” framework for government use of drones.

One of the drone bill’s sponsors, Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, released a statement saying he was disappointed the governor vetoed a “well-worked, forward-looking” bill that was intended to “protect citizens from being spied on by their government without legal approval.”

“The measure passed both the House and the Senate with strong bipartisan support. It specifically permitted the use of drones for forest-fire surveillance, wildlife management, military training, and emergencies proclaimed by the governor, and it allowed development of the technology to continue,” Morris said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s so difficult to override a veto once regular session has ended. But I will continue working to ensure that we control technology – technology doesn’t control us.”

Gov. Inslee signs supplemental budget, vetoes a funding cut for life science fund

By | April 4, 2014 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed the supplemental budget passed by the Legislature, but vetoed a section that would have cut funding for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

The fund provides research grants for the life sciences industry, and was established under former Gov. Chris Gregoire with money from tobacco settlements. The budget would have phased out $20 million for the fund and ended the program early.

Inslee said cutting off the funding prematurely is “short sighted,” and ignores the contributions the fund has made to the state.

He cited a program that was developed by the University of Washington and the Foundation for Health Care Quality using a $1.3 million dollar grant from the fund. That program cut healthcare costs by tens of millions of dollars by reducing the number of unnecessary surgeries and surgical complications, Inslee said.

Republican Sen. John Braun criticized the governor’s veto, saying it creates a bigger budget problem for next year by “punching a $20 million dollar hole.” He said the decision to cut funding was a difficult one for legislators on both sides the aisle, but was ultimately supported by 90 percent of lawmakers.

“To do a surprise veto at the end is disappointing,” Braun said.

The supplemental budget signed by the governor spends about $155 million dollars, including an additional $58 million for schools and $20 million for mental health services.

Inslee described it as a “modest” budget, and said he was frustrated it didn’t put more money into education by closing tax loopholes as he proposed. Next year, the state will need more than $1.5 billion dollars to fund the next step of McCleary obligations to pay for basic education, he said.

Braun said closing tax loopholes is a “tired” proposal, and Republicans believe the number needed for McCleary is closer to $750 million and can be achieved by prioritizing spending.

Inslee also vetoed several other sections of the supplemental budget. Read the full veto list here.

TVW taped the bill signing ceremony — watch it online here.

Categories: Budget, Healthcare

Medal of Honor recipients honored at state Capitol

By | April 2, 2014 | Comments

Three Washington soldiers who earned the nation’s highest military honor for their actions during the Afghanistan war were recognized Wednesday during a ceremony at the Capitol.

Leroy Petry, Ty Carter and William Swenson received the Medal of Honor for risking their lives “above and beyond the call of duty” during combat. There are only six living Medal of Honor recipients from the Afghanistan war.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell, the Commanding General of the 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, also spoke at the ceremony.

The medal recipients saw their names unveiled on the state’s Medal of Honor monument, which is etched with 91 names. The last addition was Maj. Bruce Crandall in 2007.

Watch the ceremony below:

Categories: Military

Today on TVW: Medal of Honor ceremony, UW minimum wage debate

By | April 2, 2014 | Comments

TVW will live webcast the following events on Wednesday, April 2:

11 a.m.: A public ceremony honoring the three most recent Washington state Medal of Honor recipients will be held Wednesday at the Capitol Rotunda. Leroy A. Petry, Ty M. Carter and William D. Swenson received the highest military decoration awarded by the U.S. government for their actions during the Afghanistan war.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell, the Commanding General of the 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, will speak at the ceremony. Following the ceremony, the medal recipients will see their names unveiled on the state Medal of Honor monument on the Capitol campus.

TVW will live webcast the ceremony at this link.

7 p.m.: National and local experts will debate minimum wage at the University of Washington on Wednesday evening. “The Minimum Wage Debate” is hosted by the Washington Policy Center’s young professionals group and will be moderated by Robert Mak.

Panelists include Steve Moore of The Wall Street Journal, Sarah Jane Glynn of the Center for American Progress, T. William Lester of University of North Carolina, Steve Hooper co-founder of Kigo Kitchens in Seattle, Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, and Rep. Chris Reykdal, D–Tumwater.

TVW will live webcast the debate at this link.

Categories: TVW

Governor signs dozens of bills into law

By | March 27, 2014 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee signed nearly 50 bills into law during a bill signing ceremony on Thursday, including measures that address tanning beds, alcohol theft, state parks and drunk driving.

Gov. Inslee prepares to sign bills

Among the bills signed by the governor:

House Bill 2155: Gives the Liquor Control Board more authority to take action against liquor stores that have an “unacceptable”  rate of thefts, defined as two or more thefts over six months that result in a minor obtaining alcohol.

House Bill 2163: Makes it illegal for stores to sell a certain type of cough syrup to anyone under the age of 18. Young people are drinking cough syrups that contain dextromethorphan to get high, which Inslee described as a “growing problem.”

Senate Bill 6034: Allows certain types of advertising in state parks to help raise funds. It also allows parks to form partnerships with businesses, tribes, public agencies and other organizations. Parks cannot be renamed after a company.

Senate Bill 6065: Bans teenagers under the age of 18 from using tanning beds, unless UV radiation treatment has been prescribed by a doctor. Tanning salons will be charged $250 for each violation. Inslee acknowledged the parents of a woman who died from melanoma at the bill signing, saying the skin cancer can affect people of all ages. He said the new law will help young people “shield themselves from this increasing risk.”

Senate Bill 6413: Adds five new crimes to the list of offenses that can be counted as prior offenses when a person is charged with a DUI, including operating a boat, aircraft, snowmobile or commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It also includes driving an off-road vehicle in a way that’s “likely to endanger” another person’s property. Inslee said the bill will help “reduce the scourge” of repeat drunk drivers. Lawmakers are continuing to work on legislation to provide full-time monitoring of repeat DUI offenders, he said.

Senate Bill 6424: Creates a state seal of biliteracy for the high school diplomas of students who are proficient in English and one or more other languages, including sign language and Native American languages. “This is a great idea,” Inslee said. “We love having citizens of the world coming out of our schools.”

TVW taped the bill signing and it will be archived at this link.

Inslee also spoke briefly with reporters following the bill signing ceremony about the Oso mudslide. “We do know this could end up being the largest mass loss of Washingtonians,” he said.

The governor said with a full-scale rescue effort underway, “we’re looking for miracles to occur.”

Watch the press conference at this link.

Last minute push to enroll people in health insurance plans before March 31 deadline

By | March 26, 2014 | Comments

With the March 31 deadline approaching for people to sign up for private health insurance plans through Washington Healthplanfinder, officials are making a last-minute push to encourage people to sign up for coverage.

The deadline does not apply to Medicaid, which accepts applicants year-round.

Figures released Tuesday by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange show 12,000 people signed up in the past week, an increase of four times the weekly average. A total of 895,000 people have completed enrollments through the exchange, including those who were previously covered or eligible through Medicaid.

About 250,000 newly eligible adults have signed up for Medicaid, while 125,000 people have enrolled in private commercial health insurance plans, known as Qualified Health Plans.

“Medicaid numbers are great,” said Richard Onizuka, CEO of the exchange, in an interview with TVW Wednesday. “The private health insurance – the qualified health plans – are really robust. We didn’t know what to expect, but to have 125,000 as of Monday is a pretty good number for us.”

Critics say that the Medicaid expansion will be a burden on state and federal taxpayers. Roger Stark of the Washington Policy Center said Wednesday that’s the “thing that gets lost in all of this discussion.”

“If we look at the numbers, only 14 percent of the people who have signed up and paid for premiums are actually in the private market,” Stark said. “That means 86 percent have signed up for the Medicaid program, an entitlement program completely funded by taxpayers.”

For more details about the last-minute push and who is signing up, as well as interviews with Onizuka and Stark, watch “The Impact” on Wednesday, March 26 at 7 & 10 p.m.

People seeking private health insurance must enroll and pay before 11:59 p.m. on March 31 for coverage that starts on May 1, 2014. To sign up, go to or attend an enrollment event.

Categories: Healthcare

State officials warn against mudslide scams

By | March 26, 2014 | Comments

State officials are warning people to avoid scams spurred by the Oso mudslide in Snohomish County that has left 16 dead and dozens more unaccounted for.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman released a joint statement this week urging people to look out for scam artists who may be soliciting donations for the disaster. They instead recommend donating through, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Washington state’s Combined Fund Drive has also launched a campaign to help mudslide victims. The program allows state public employees to donate to charity through payroll contribution and agency fundraising events. The website can be found here.

Categories: Public Policy

Legislative Year in Review

By | March 24, 2014 | Comments

On this special one-hour edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights from the 2014 session — from opening day to Sine Die. The show includes debate over issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, gun control, abortion insurance bill, death penalty, mental health, teacher evaluations, taxing e-cigarettes and the supplemental budget. Plus, a quick wrap-up of several of the bills that passed this year. Watch the show below:

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Highlights from the final week of session

By | March 17, 2014 | Comments

On our 30-minute weekly edition of “Legislative Review,” we recap the highlights from the final week of session — including the Sine Die ceremony, debate over the supplemental budget and the passage of a bill to help fund homeless programs.

Watch the show below:

Categories: TVW

2014 Roundup: What bills passed, what didn’t pass during session

By | March 14, 2014 | Comments

The Washington State Legislature adjourned shortly before midnight on Thursday, the final day of the regular 2014 session. It’s the first time since 2009 that lawmakers finished their work without going into an overtime special session.

Here’s an overview of what lawmakers accomplished — and didn’t accomplish — during the session.


Supplemental budget: Both chambers agreed on a supplemental operating budget that spends about $155 million, including $58 for K-12 books and supplies. It also adds additional money to the mental health system, early learning and prisons. It does not include any new taxes or tax breaks, nor does it include teacher pay raises.

Dream Act/Real Hope Act: The Dream Act allows undocumented immigrants to apply for state need grants to help pay for college. The House passed its version of the Dream Act on opening day. The Senate renamed it the Real Hope Act and added $5 million to the state need grant. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in February.

Homeless fees: As part of a last-minute deal, lawmakers agreed to extend until 2019 a $40 document recording fee that people pay during real estate transaction, such as buying or refinancing a house. The fee supports homeless shelters, affordable housing and other services and was scheduled to sunset unless the Legislature took action.

24 credit diploma: Starting with the class of 2019, high school students will have to earn 24 credits for a diploma. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum. The bill will also provide more opportunities for students to take career and technical classes that meet graduation requirements.

Tanning beds ban: Teenagers under the age of 18 would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington. Senate Bill 6065 bans minors from using tanning beds, unless they have a written prescription for UV radiation treatment from a doctor. Tanning salons would be fined $250 for violations.

Domestic violence: Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders will soon be barred from owning guns. The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement.

Drones: The Legislature approved a bill that puts limits government agencies that use drones, or remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance. An agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions, such as a fire or other emergency.

Religious holidays: State employees will be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons, and public school children will be excused for two days under a bill approved by the Legislature.

Military in-state tuition: Veterans and active duty military members will soon qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency. Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families.

Short-barreled rifles: Washington gun owners will soon be allowed to own a short-barreled rifle under a bill approved by the Legislature. It is currently a felony to own a gun with a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, or to have a modified gun that is shorter than 26 inches overall. (more…)

Federal education waiver in limbo after teacher evaluation bill dies

By | March 14, 2014 | Comments

The state’s waiver from federal No Child Left Behind requirements is in question, after legislators failed to pass it before the end of the 2014 legislative session Thursday.

Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters before the end of session that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made clear to him that without the bill, the state would lose $40 million of flexibility on federal money for schools.

Inslee said the bill would help satisfy the federal No Child Left Behind law requirement to include standardized test scores in teacher evaluations, but the state had been lobbying for a waiver of that requirement because of its own teacher evaluation program.

Inslee said if the bill didn’t pass, “we have to rethink and regroup.”

The bill failed in the Senate 19-28 last month. It was not brought up in the House for a vote.

Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, who had tried to get support, told reporters that Senators in both parties had supported the bill, but not enough to get the votes to pass it.

“We always lose the far right and the far left,” he said.

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D- Bothell, who opposed the bill, said all that would happen without the waiver would be that the $40 million would be spent on programs specified by the federal Department of Education. That was not enough reason to give in on teacher evaluations, she said.

“They are not losing the money, they just having strings attached,” she said.

McAuliffe said the federal government needs to change the No Child Left Behind law, and said Washington state shouldn’t hand over control of its own education system to the federal government.

“I hope it sends a message to them,” she said.

Categories: Education

Fees that support homeless programs extended through 2019

By | March 13, 2014 | Comments

A document fee that raises money for homeless programs will be extended through 2019, under a bill passed by the Legislature on Thursday night.

The bill passed out of the Senate, 41-8, and was immediately transferred to the House, where it passed 74-22.

“This bill will save lives,” said Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma.

Programs that operate homeless shelters, low-income housing and other homeless services depend on money raised through a $40 document recording fee collected during certain real estate transactions, such as a buying or refinancing a house. The fee is set to decrease starting next year.

Senate Bill 5875, which would have extended the fee for one year, was amended by Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, to extend the fee through June 2019. It also creates a work group to look at the effectiveness of the program, and plan for homeless funding in the future. In addition, the bill sets aside 45 percent of the money raised through the fee for private rental housing.

The bill calls for a performance audit in 2016 and a task force starting in 2017.

“I made a commitment to make it work to help homeless people,” Angel said, who said that she was nearly homeless at one point in her life. “I know what that feeling is like. I’ve been very committed to coming up with a good solution.”

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, spoke in support of the amendment.

“I wish there was not a sunset or the sunset was pushed out further,” he said. “We are saving thousands and thousands of people from losing their homes.”

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said he supported the bill.

“I personally preferred removing the sunset, frankly. But there are others who are not. And I have responsibilities for that team,” he said.

“We have four years to work on it,” Benton said. “We’re going to make sure it’s going to go where we all want it to go to. And that’s to help folks who are homeless and not toward administrative costs toward some agency somewhere.”

More than 20 people testified at a public hearing on the bill this month, including homeless advocates who say many programs rely on the fees to provide services across the state.

Categories: Public Policy