Archive for January, 2009

Just for fun: Photos of the dome

By | January 27, 2009 | 0 Comments

This is a photo of the dome this morning at 8:30 a.m., taken from my phone.

And this is a (very poor) photo of the dome opening day of session at 7 a.m. When I drove onto campus, there was a traffic jam in the parking lot:

The good news: This is a photo from yesterday at 7:30 a.m. Not so bad!

Categories: Uncategorized

Viaduct tolling?

By | January 26, 2009 | 0 Comments

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, chairwoman of the SEnate Transportation Committee, (which you can watch live on TVW now) just addressed a burning Viaduct-replacement question: How much did the state promise?

Governor Chris Gregoire unveiled a program earlier this month that included $2.8 billion from the state. The problem: The Legislature says they only promised $2.4 billion.

During the committee hearing, Huagen heard reference to the $2.8 billion and said that, for the record, it was $2.4 billion. “The rest will have to come from tolling.”

Categories: Budget
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House Democrats cut even more from budget

By | January 26, 2009 | 0 Comments

Here is a post by The News Tribune’s Joe Turner on cuts proposed by the House Democrats. They topped the $100 million in cuts proposed by Senate Democrats last year.

I’m following the Basic Education Task Force issue, but will look into this a bit more this afternoon.

Categories: Budget

Should state fund education first?

By | January 26, 2009 | 0 Comments

In the press conference from the Basic Education Funding Task Force, things were mostly cordial between the bipartisan group. There was a lot of agreement between the mix of Republican and Democratic lawmakers. But one issue came up that Republicans have brought up a few times this session: Funding education first.

Republicans say that, since its the state’s paramount duty to fund education, education funding should be decided first. If the state can afford the rest, they fund it. If not ….

Students of Washington have kind of been abused, being held up to justify every tax increase that we’ve seen in the last decade. The other things are what the tax increase is for,” said Sen. Cheryl Pflug.

None of the Democrats on the panel indicated agreement, but they also didn’t publicly explain. I can’t make any assumptions.

Press conference over, I’m headed back to the office to write a bit more on what was said.

More credits required to graduate, smaller classes?

By | January 26, 2009 | 0 Comments

The discussion at the Basic Education Task Force press conference turned to how the funding model will work. Basically, though the Legislature cannot dictate how school districts allocate their money, they will base the allocation on the number of students. More money will be given to schools with a higher percentage of English language learners and special education students.

The state’s model will allocate funding for, say, 22 teachers based on the number of students. If the school decides not to hire that many teachers, Rep. Ross Hunter said that knowledge could be the springboard for a rich discussion with the school board. In other words, the state’s new funding model will provide more transparency.

Also new under this proposal: More credits required for high school graduation.

And more money: Hunter says the estimate right now is up to 50 percent more than is currently being spent.

The Basic Education Funding Task Force

By | January 26, 2009 | 0 Comments

Rep. Pat Sullivan opened up the Basic Education Task Force press conference by saying that it’s “critical” to address school financing this year.

The bipartisan task force met over the interim to try to figure out the best way to fund education.

Rep. Skip Priest just said one of the biggest pieces of the school funding reform legislation is that it includes early learning in the definition of basic education.

Sen. Fred Jarrett says there are provisions in the bill that emphasize the importance — and preparedness — of teachers.

“The career ladder that we’re proposing is to create three new certificates. A resident certificate, a professional certificate and a masters certificate,” he said, based on peer review.

Quick! File those initiatives.

By | January 26, 2009 | 0 Comments

Today is the deadline for filing initiatives. Hurry!

And now, I’m headed up to the basic education finance task force. I’ll try to blog from there. If that’s not possible, I’ll come right back for an update. Stay tuned.

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s Friday. Here’s what happened this week you’ll need to know for next week.

By | January 23, 2009 | 0 Comments

On Monday: Dick Thompson, Gov. Gregoire’s liaison to federal stimulus, said publicly that the state may not get as much of the federal stimulus as he originally thought.

On Tuesday: Cheryl Oullette, aka Cheryl the Pig Lady, testified about the importance of a loan program for mobile slaughter units. The units would allow small farmers (like Cheryl) to have their meat butchered in USDA-inspected facilities, which means they can more easily sell to restaurants or at farmers markets and donate to food banks.
Tuesday was also the inauguration, of course.

On Wednesday, state schools chief Randy Dorn announced a plan to replace the WASL.

Later that night on The Impact, Jen had the first reaction from lawmakers:

For the rest of the week … (more…)

Is it a recession? Or is the economy “resetting”?

By | January 23, 2009 | 0 Comments

Yesterday, Microsoft announced its first major layoffs in the software company’s history. KUOW reported the hit to the economy is even greater than it sounds: Each Microsoft job supports, on average, three other local jobs.

But something CEO Steve Ballmer said relates to state government budget discussions: Microsoft, he said, is making cuts because they don’t see the economic downturn as a recession, they think the economy is resetting to a lower level of consumer spending.

It’s not just semantics: The difference is at the heart of the public budget-related disagreements between Republicans and Democrats here.

Republicans say state spending grew to an unsustainable level and should be reset to a lower level.

Democrats say we’re in a recession, the state’s economy will bounce back, and with that will come increased revenues from sales and property tax.

And that’s why Democrats have been open to using federal stimulus money to patch the $6 billion-and-growing budget hole, whereas Republicans say they don’t: One group thinks they’re building a bridge, the other thinks they’re lengthening the plank.

A committee hearing in the life of: House Commerce & Labor

By | January 22, 2009 | 0 Comments

There’s been so much talk about the budget this year, it can seem like that’s all lawmakers have on their plates. But, as I was just looking over the listings for tomorrow’s hearings, I noticed this, which handily illustrates the scope of discussions here.

3. HB 1273 – Allowing counties, cities, and towns to conduct raffles under certain terms and conditions.
4. HB 1280 – Regarding the expiration of explosives licenses issued under chapter 70.74 RCW.

The full budget-cutting press conference

By | January 22, 2009 | 0 Comments

I heard murmurs downstairs that there’s a(n intentional) reference to “Spaceballs” in here somewhere. Can you find it?

Categories: Budget

The difference between the Governor’s proposed cuts and the announcement today

By | January 22, 2009 | 0 Comments

In Gov. Chris Gregoire’s supplemental budget, she proposed cuts of around $77 million, according to Sen. Lisa Brown.

In the non-supplemental-budget-cut-proposal unveiled right now (live on, there’s about $100 million in savings. So about $20 million difference.

Many of the targets are the same, but this proposal adds cuts to the judicial branch, which submitted cut suggestions of its own, they said.

The reason for the duplication: Brown said that the Governor’s budget cuts can be reversed — she recently un-froze the hiring freeze implemented late in the summer, for example. If it’s a cut made by the Legislature, however, it can’t be overturned as easily.

Plus, this is the first in a multi-step round of cuts, Brown said. First, belt tightening. Then, after the March revenue forecast, maybe another hit to the 2007-2009 budget. And then a 2009-2011 budget.

“We’re going to be moving at ludicrous speed. There’s a quote for all of you,” said Sen. Jim Hargrove.

Categories: Budget

Bipartisan, bicameral “early action” plan to fix the budget

By | January 22, 2009 | 0 Comments

Sen. Lisa Brown has just kicked off the press conference for the Senate plan to save about $100 million in the budget.

Brown said some of the bills could pass as early as next week.

Rep. Lynn Kessler: “We do need to do a supplemental bill, but we’re not going to do that until we get updates on revenue,” she said. That’s not until March 19.

Sen. Rodney Tom: “We’re trying to go above and beyond where the Governor went” by extending cuts to the judicial branch and beyond.

What’s in it: Hiring freeze. Salary freeze. Personal service contract freeze. State travel freeze. Equipment purchase freeze.

Categories: Budget

On the schedule this morning: Visible clothing and impending cuts

By | January 22, 2009 | 0 Comments

This morning, a bill to require anyone recreating in an area where hunting is allowed to wear “visible clothing.” The requirement would only be in effect during certain game seasons.

Also: Visible clothing means “visibility orange” clothing — the same stuff hunters are required to wear now.

The idea is to reduce hiker deaths: Last summer, a 50-year-old hiker was killed by a teenager who thought she was a bear.

On that note, there was another bill heard that would require adult supervision for children under 14.

Also: At 12:30, TVW will air a live press conference of the Senate’s first announcement of budget savings. We’ll be there.

Categories: Budget, Public Policy
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By | January 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

Today was potato day and I was nowhere to be found. Free potatoes. I should have told you!

Enjoy them baked or mashed for dinner and please accept my apologies!

Categories: Uncategorized

One feature of Dorn’s WASL replacement: Do overs

By | January 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

Dorn’s proposal to replace the WASL includes a provision that the test is administered twice a year. That’s only half the story: Students who pass in the fall won’t have to retake the test in spring.

I talked to Nathan Olson, media relations manager for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, about it. He confirmed that the test is like a check-up: Pass every year on the first try, and you’ll take the WASL seven times (once in 3-8 grades, once in 10th grade.)

However, if every fall a student does poorly, they can take the test in spring with the hopes of passing.

One thing: “Fail” and “pass” are another can of worms. Let’s just say “proficient” and “not proficient.”

Categories: Public Policy, Schools
Tags: ,

Points on Dorn’s WASL-changing authority

By | January 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

People are talking quite a bit about whether Dorn has the authority to making sweeping changes to the WASL without consulting the Legislature.

Here is the Code (28A.655.070) that Dorn’s office is quoting:

(3) (b) Effective with the 2009 administration of the Washington assessment of student learning, the superintendent shall redesign the assessment in the content areas of reading, mathematics, and science in all grades except high school by shortening test administration and reducing the number of short answer and extended response questions.

Well, that settles it, right? No. (more…)

Categories: Public Policy, Schools
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Reserve your 7 and 10 p.m. time slot tonight for The Impact

By | January 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

Tonight at 7 and 10 p.m., watch TVW for The Impact with Jennifer Huntley.

Here’s what she tells me you can look forward to on tonight’s show:

• We’ll have lawmaker reaction to State Superintendent Randy Dorn’s announcement to throw out the WASL.
Tough choices are being made to balance the current budget…find out how the state’s Department of Social and Health Services is managing the cuts.
• And want to learn more about how the state spends your money? A new budget website gives you a chance to examine the books.
• We’ll also bring your questions on transportation issues to top lawmakers.

Guess what else is on the show: Me.

Categories: TVW
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Superintendent of Public Schools Randy Dorn’s press conference on scrapping/changing/renaming the WASL

By | January 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

Categories: Public Policy, Schools
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We’ll know more about Dorn’s authority on Tuesday.

By | January 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

Dorn’s press conference is playing on TVW right now. Go. Watch.

Not convinced? Here’s what Dorn just said on the technology:
“I don’t have to tell print journalists that the use of technology will rock your world.

And now for more on Dorn’s power to change the WASL without legislative approval: According to the draft schedule, there’s a 10 a.m. hearing next Tuesday when Dorn has the stage during a work session to present his “action plan” for the WASL.

We’ll have that live. Also, I’ll very soon have a clip where Dorn foreshadows this very day.

Categories: Public Policy, Republicans, Schools, TVW
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