Archive for May, 2009

DSHS: Stevens County will get new social worker, more changes in response to critical reports

By | May 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

The Department of Social and Health Services has created 30- and 60-day action plans for the Colville DSHS office, after dozens of complaints alleged illegal and shoddy activity there. DSHS says their operation engendered an “environment of mistrust” that affected how the office operated in the community.

“We are taking action immediately to improve the practice of the Colville office and reaching out to community partners to better serve the children and families in the area, ”said interim Assistant Secretary Randy Hart.

The “roadmap” is below.

Within 30 days:
1. Review the internal Children’s Administration internal report and the Office of Family and Children’s Ombudsman report and issue a detailed response by June 15, 2009.
2. Re-establish the Child Welfare Overview Committee meetings and meet on a quarterly basis with judges, Court Appointed Special Advocates, public defenders, and Kids First director, and social workers for education, with the purpose of collaboration, communication, information sharing and cross training.
3. Continue to participate in the Table of 10 meetings that include CASA, Stevens County public defender, Kids First director, assistant attorney general and court administrator. Improve child welfare services within the community by focusing on cross training and collaboration with community partners.
4. Area administrator will engage a member of the Colville medical community regarding participation as the facilitator of the north county Child Protection Team.
5. Consult with the University of Washington School of Law’s Court Improvement Training Academy on developing an agenda for a “town hall” meeting to give an overview of child welfare system to foster community meetings with stakeholders focusing on improving community relationships.
6. Area administrator to continue to meet with Stevens County CASA supervisor on a weekly basis to improve overall communication.
7. Hire an additional Social Worker III to reduce social worker caseload in Stevens County.
8. Collaborate with juvenile court personnel to define and outline the process for family reconciliation services, child in need of services, at-risk youth and providing packets to the court clerk and juvenile personnel defining this process.

And within 60 days:
1. Area administrator assigned to the Colville office on a full-time basis.
2. Conduct team building meetings for the staff in the Colville and Republic offices to improve overall staff relationships and morale.
3. Request a mediator to work with the Court Appointed Special Advocate and Division of Children and Family personnel to improve the overall working relationship.
4. Follow-up with Ombudsman Meinig to get additional input and suggestions for consultation.
5. Develop a Community Advisory Board as outlined by the Family to Family Program.
6. Recruit local providers for client services including medical, mental health, parent-child development, visitation, transportation for visitation and services.
7. Provide community partners and Children’s Administration staff with “lessons learned” training from previous fatality and critical incidents.
8. Area administrator to schedule individual meetings with other relevant community partners to solicit feedback, build relationships, develop effective communication strategies and procedures to address concerns.

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Some reaction to Gregoire’s executive order on greenhouse gas emissions

By | May 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

The Association of Washington Business sent out some reaction to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s testimony before the Environmental Protection Agency this morning. Their take?

AWB has long advocated that a federal approach to climate change policy is much preferred over a state-by-state patchwork of conflicting policies that puts Washington state businesses at a competitive disadvantage with other states,” said Grant Nelson, AWB governmental affairs director on climate change issues. “The proposed changes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions would create higher operational costs for industries, higher costs for goods and services for consumers and threatens the availability of good family-wage jobs.

“While AWB prefers a federal approach, we believe that Congress, not EPA should enact a national approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Congress is better positioned than EPA in representing the interests of citizens nationwide, guarding against further harm to our already fragile economy and job loss,” he said.

And Rep. Shelly Short sent out a response to Gregoire’s executive order to reduce greenhouse gases:

I would have preferred her to allow the legislative process take its course so that an agreement could be reached within the structure of the Legislature. Regardless, I, and my House Republican colleagues, will continue to work with her to ensure that climate change policies take into account our families, our jobs and our state’s economy.”

Watch Inside Olympia right now. Catch Supreme Court live in 10 minutes

By | May 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

Here’s this week’s installment of Inside Olympia, featuring Paula Hammond, head of the Department of Transportation:

Camping this weekend? DNR asks: Please don’t start a forest fire

By | May 21, 2009 | 0 Comments

Whether you’re camping or off-roading (or hiking and smoking?) this weekend, the Department of Natural Resources is asking politely: Please do not set state lands on fire.

How can you avoid being the 71st person to start a wildfire in Washington this year (actually, DNR says there have been “over 70 small wildfires across the state”)?

- If you’re using an off-road vehicle, make sure the catalytic converter is working properly.
- If you’re smoking something, dispose of it properly (do not throw burning material on the ground).
- Build campfires only in designated areas.
- No fireworks. It’s illegal.
- Doing some outdoor burning? Call 1-800-323-BURN or go here before you start the fire.

Not going anywhere this weekend? DNR suggests you survey your home or business to assess the “structural survivability.” That entails checking whether the building is made of fire resistant material, assessing the fire exposure (large, dry vegetation near or touching your home are a no-no), and access for firefighters.

Gregoire announces greenhouse gas reduction initiatives

By | May 21, 2009 | 1 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced (after testifying before the Environmental Protection Agency) that, through an executive order, all state agencies must develop emissions reduction strategies and set benchmarks for industry emissions to make sure the state reaches the 2020 reduction goals.

“We can’t further delay action on climate change,” she said. Gregoire introduced a bill that would have capped greenhouse gas emissions and allowed affected industries to trade credits, but it failed.

Here’s the summary of the executive order, which she calls “Washington’s Leadership on Climate Change,” courtesy of her office:

Develop emission reduction strategies and industry emissions benchmarks to make sure 2020 reduction targets are met.
Work with TransAlta to reduce emissions from the company’s coal-fired power plant near Centralia by more than half.
• Ensure Washington has trees to capture harmful carbon, while creating financial incentives for the forestry industry.
• Work on low-carbon fuel standards or alternative requirements to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.
• Join with neighboring states and the private sector to implement a West Coast highway accessible to electric and alternative-fuel vehicles.
Address rising sea levels and the risks to water supplies.
Increase transit options, such as buses, light rail, and ride-share programs, and give Washington residents more choices for reducing the effect of transportation emissions.
• Continue to work with six other Western states and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative to develop a regional emissions reduction program design.
• Work with the Obama Administration to help design a national program that is strong, and reflects state priorities.

She said the order invites innovation and could create thousands of “green collar” jobs.

“Where the legislature faltered, the governor didn’t give up,” said Sen. Phil Rockefeller, during the press conference. Gregoire praised Rockefeller and Rep. Dave Upthegrove for their efforts on her climate change bill.

For more information from Department of Ecology, go here. For our previous posts on cap and trade, go here.

Gregoire to announce ‘landmark initiative’ to reduce greenhouse gas

By | May 20, 2009 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire sent out an announcement that she’ll announce “a landmark initiative to reduce greenhouse gases in Washington” tomorrow. She’ll also testify in Seattle at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing on whether such emissions affect human health. The EPA earlier held a public hearing on the same issue in Arlington, Virginia.

So, that’s all we know: At 9 a.m., she testifies and at 10 a.m. she announces her climate initiative. Stay tuned.

(And related: You’ll recall Gregoire’s cap and trade bill failed to pass this session.)

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Watch The Impact here and now

By | May 20, 2009 | 0 Comments

Here’s the full budget bill signing video

By | May 20, 2009 | 0 Comments

In case you missed it, here’s the bill signing — and Gregoire’s explanation of her vetoes and some controversial points in the budget.

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Tonight on The Impact: Some laid off teachers may get hired back.

By | May 20, 2009 | 0 Comments

Here’s a bit about tonight’s show from Jennifer Huntley, host of The Impact, which airs tonight on TVW at 7 and 10 p.m.:

Budget cuts mean big changes to the state’s Department of Fish & Wildlife. 76 employees will be laid off and all of the agency’s programs will face cuts. Deputy Director Joe Stohr fills us in on what changes the public can expect, including less maintenance at access points for fishing and hunting. There will also soon be a 10percent surcharge on fishing and hunting licenses.

Also, teachers across Washington state received layoff notices this past week. Some of those teachers might get hired back. We’ll talk with the Association of School Principals and the Washington Association of School Administrators. They’ll explain the process for hiring teachers back and how classrooms will look different next year. Programs on the chopping block are electives, which vary by district, but some examples include ESL classes, advanced classes, or classes not many students take, such as physics.

Don’t miss the show: Tonight at 7 and 10 p.m. and anytime at tvw.org.

Fake charities, Lehman Brothers are under scrutiny

By | May 20, 2009 | 0 Comments

First off, if you’ve given money to the “American Veterans Relief Foundation,” “Coalition of Police and Sheriffs” or “Disabled Firefighters Fund,” this may be of interest: Attorney General Rob McKenna and Secretary of State Sam Reed say they’re bogus.

The duo — along with the Federal Trade Commission, among others — are cracking down on “badge charities” that claim to represent honorable causes but really only pass a small percentage of money to those causes.

“Operation False Charity is about sounding the siren on the phonies, cheapskates and outlaws,” McKenna said in a release. “We’re policing those who claim to be raising money for cops, firefighters and veterans but aren’t being honest. (Much more information after the jump.)

As for Lehman Brothers, they’re getting sued by the Washington State Investment Board for playing fast and loose with $100 million in state investments.

Since Lehman filed for bankruptcy, they aren’t listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, but former executives and directors of the company are fair game, as are underwirters for their offering and their auditor, Ernst and Young. The investment board alleges in the lawsuit that those groups violated federal and state securities law via “negligent misrepresentation” and a breach of their fiduciary responsibility. (Again, more after the jump!) (more…)

Dreyfus sworn in as DSHS secretary

By | May 20, 2009 | 0 Comments

Susan Dreyfus, who Gov. Chris Gregoire announced as the new head of Department of Social and Health Services back in March, was just sworn in.

Dreyfus now takes charge of some 19,000 employees, a two-year budget of around $20 billion, and a caseload of about 2 million Washingtonians seeking medical, mental, vocational, food, child welfare, elderly, disabled, child support and substance abuse assistance, just to name a few.

Gregoire said the state faces “tougher and more challenging times than we’ve ever seen,” and that’s why she thinks Dreyfus, who has experience ranging from running a national children’s organization to a behavioral health system, is the woman for the job.

“Times like these call for courage and innovation. No longer is there room for doing things the same old way. Susan will guide DSHS in finding new and better ways to deliver our services.”

Dreyfus said she’ll get to work right away making the largest state agency more efficient and better at handling the challenges the department faces. The Governor’s office sent out an announcement saying Dreyfus has been asked to immediately identify efficiencies — or areas that can be trimmed down.

“Please be assured that none of us is alone in this walk. All of us will have to consider new and effective ways to do our work to focus where need is the greatest, work through partnerships, across systems and agencies, explore new technologies and maximize all resources available to us.”

Dreyfus said the state cannot give up hope.

TVW will air the swearing in tomorrow and I will post it here as soon as it’s available.

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Today’s complete list of signed bills

By | May 19, 2009 | 0 Comments

Here’s the full list of bills signed into law today by Gov. Chris Gregoire:

* Engrossed Substitute House Bill No. 1244, relating to fiscal matters.

* Engrossed House Bill No. 2242, relating to creating a Department of Commerce.

* Substitute House Bill No. 2341, relating to changes in the Basic Health Plan program necessary to implement the 2009-2011 operating budget.

* Substitute House Bill No. 2346, relating to crisis residential centers.

* Engrossed House Bill No. 2357, relating to modifying nursing facility Medicaid payments by clarifying legislative intent regarding the statewide weighted average, freezing case mix indices, and revising the use of the economic trends and conditions factor.

* Substitute House Bill No. 2361, relating to modifying state payments for in-home care by prohibiting payment for services provided by agency employees who are related to or live with the client.

* Substitute House Bill No. 2362, relating to providing support for judicial branch agencies by imposing surcharges on court fees and requesting the supreme court to consider increases to attorney licensing fees.

* Substitute House Bill No. 2363, relating to temporary suspension of cost-of-living increases for educational employees.

* Substitute Senate Bill No. 5734, relating to tuition fees.

* Substitute Senate Bill No. 5795, relating to the Tacoma Narrows toll bridge account.

* Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill No. 5809, relating to workforce employment and training.

* Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill No. 5892, relating to authorizing state purchased health care programs to maximize appropriate prescription drug use in a cost-effective manner.

* Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill No. 6108, relating to allowing the state Lottery Commission to enter into an agreement to conduct an additional shared lottery game.

* Senate Bill No. 6121, relating to the surcharge to fund biotoxin testing and monitoring.

* Senate Bill No. 6168, relating to reducing costs in state elementary and secondary education programs.

* Senate Bill No. 6179, relating to chemical dependency specialist services.

* Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill No. 6180, relating to the training and background checks of long-term care workers.

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Gregoire signed the budget. See what was vetoed…

By | May 19, 2009 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the operating budget bill today. She said this was the toughest legislative session in 30 years, and that soon, everyone will feel the cuts.

Here’s a short synopsis, courtesy of the Governor’s office, of the $4.4 billion in budget cuts:
* Savings through administrative reductions and efficiencies in state agencies.
* Reductions in payments provided for hospital reimbursement.
* Savings by making a more than 40 percent reduction to the Basic Health Plan, which provides health coverage to low-income individuals.
* Savings by imposing additional Temporary Assistance to Needy Families caseload management strategies and reducing administrative costs.
* Funding for 3 percent in medical inflation costs for state employee health benefits each of the next two fiscal years, which is less than the projected rate of approximately 7 percent.
* No funding for salary increases for represented or non-represented state and higher education employees.
* No funding for cost-of-living adjustments for K-12 and certain community and technical college staff.
* Reduction in the Initiative 728 per-student allocations to K-12 school districts.
* Savings by modifying state pension contributions.

The budget also depends on a few billion dollars in federal stimulus, some money from the capital budget and the rainy day fund to make ends meet.

Gov. Gregoire vetoed a section of the bill that State Auditor Brian Sonntag has been loudly criticizing: It would have stripped his office of about $30 million in funding for audits. With it went the requirement that auditor’s funding would be tied to results of performance audits.

That office will instead by cut by $15 million. Since Gregoire can’t add that into the budget — she can just veto the cut — the auditor’s office will hang onto it until the next legislative session.

She also vetoed the transfer of $22 million from the convention center fund to the general fund. She said she wasn’t sure whether it was “legally appropriate.” And she vetoed a $32 million cut to the Department of Social and Health Services. That veto will allow for caseload increases.

From the release: The budget leaves a total of $741 million in savings, with $250 million in the constitutionally protected rainy day fund and $491 million in unobligated revenue.

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Two reform bills signed into law today: Education and child welfare

By | May 19, 2009 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed two substantial reform bills into law today. One would redefine basic education and the other will change the way child welfare systems are administered in the state.

But first: Neither bill is quite as robust as it started out this session.

The education reform bill began as the product of an interim, bipartisan task force aimed at making the first changes in education in 30 years. The resulting bill came with a $9 billion-or-so price tag — though in the ending bill, most of the costly pieces have been delayed. Here’s a good cross-section of Senate debate on that bill.

Similarly, the child welfare bill began as a complete retooling of the system. What remains is a partial retooling that is nonetheless significant: It will require the transition to “performance based” contracts. Adam Wilson has a good blog post about it here.

Gregoire vetoed sections of the basic education bill that would make preschool part of “basic education” for at-risk children. That would effectively guarantee funding for at-risk preschool programs. Gregoire said in vetoing the bill that preschool is important for all children and should be addressed as such. Peter Callaghan at The News Tribune has a bit more here.

Rep. Ross Hunter, who worked on the task force, said the bill signing was “bittersweet” because Gregoire didn’t sign the bill as they’d envisioned it.

“I am disappointed the Governor vetoed the early learning portion of the bill. I understand her concerns about singling out one population of students, but we already do that with many of the current elements we consider basic education, such as the English Language Learners program and Learning Assistance Program. These are services necessary for children to successfully take part in our state’s basic education system,” Hunter said in a release.

Sexual assault, crime victim services across the state to get federal cash

By | May 19, 2009 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire just sent out an announcement that almost $1 million in federal stimulus money will be distributed through the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy, which will help victims of sexual assault and other crimes. The money will go to offices around the state, creating 14 jobs and saving four positions. The workers will be in position by July.

The office is part of CTED and works with more than 250 local agencies to provide crime services.

“I am pleased to see recovery funding going straight to our communities to serve crime victims,” Gregoire said in the release. “I applaud the hard work of the Office of Crime Victim’s Advocacy for recognizing this federal funding opportunity and ensuring Washingtonians can benefit.”

After the jump is a complete list of where the $933,000 is going. For information on where all the federal money is going in Washington, check here. (more…)

Unemployment rate steady for the first month in about a year

By | May 19, 2009 | 0 Comments

The Employment Security Department released figures for April unemployment and the news is good-ish: Unemployment is still high, but it didn’t rise between March and April. It’s the first time in more than a year that the rate didn’t increase. unemp

The seasonally adjusted rate is now set at 9.1 percent. That means about 322,219 people — not seasonally adjusted — were unemployed in April. About 217,065 of those received unemployment benefits — meaning a full one-third of unemployed people were not receiving benefits.

We don’t know what the future holds, but for now it’s great to see our unemployment rate holding steady,” Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee said in a release.

More from the release:

The state lost an estimated 9,900 non-agricultural jobs last month, seasonally adjusted.
The largest monthly declines were in professional and business services, down 4,300 jobs, manufacturing, which lost 3,800 jobs, and construction, down 3,000 jobs. The only major sectors that did not shed jobs between March and April were government, up 2,400 jobs, leisure and hospitality, up 700, financial activities, which gained 400 jobs, education and health services, up 200, and transportation and warehousing, up 100 jobs.
The state lost 116,100 jobs from April 2008 to April 2009, a 3.9 percent decrease. Some 43 percent of the losses occurred since January 2009. Nationally, employment declined by 3.8 percent over the past year.

Laid-off workers can apply for unemployment benefits online at esd.wa.gov or call 800-318-6022.
In addition to training programs, unemployed workers can get help looking for work at Employment Security’s affiliated WorkSource offices across the state, where a variety of employment services are offered, including free help with interviewing skills or résumés and with job referrals. WorkSource offices are listed online at www.go2worksource.com. In addition, more than 14,000 current job openings are posted at www.go2worksource.com.

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Salary commission meets now — could raise pay for almost 500 elected officials

By | May 19, 2009 | 0 Comments

The commission that decides pay raises for state elected officials — 479 of them in all — meets today. They’ll likely decide on a two-year pay freeze for all lawmakers and judges, according to a report in The Olympian by Brad Shannon.

The salary commission last met in January. At that time, virtually every state elected official who spoke to them asked for a pay freeze.

Here’s a bit of it:

Stay tuned. I’ll update with the decision as soon as we know about it.

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Anti-everything-but-gay-marriage initiative gets a title — still too early for signature gathering

By | May 18, 2009 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed what some have called the everything-but-marriage bill for domestic partners today, moving the initiative against that bill further one step closer to signature-gathering stage.

The Attorney General and Secretary of State offices had put the initiative on hold until Gov. Gregoire signed the bill — since she could have vetoed part or all of it. Now that she’s signed it, the initiative has been given a ballot title and text.

But — no signature gathering yet. Both sides have a chance to contest the title or text in Thurston County Court. That takes about a week, according to the Secretary of State’s office. When that ends, the initiative supporters can begin gathering signatures. They’ll have until July 25 to get 120,577 valid signatures from registered Washington voters in order for the initiative to make November ballots.

According to a news release sent by the Secretary of State’s office, if it does make it on the ballot, the law extending rights and responsibilities of married couples to domestic partners will not go into effect until December 2009 — if at all.

Here’s the concise description that will appear on official material: “This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.”

Gregoire signs 24 bills, partially vetoed green jobs and health partnership plan bill

By | May 18, 2009 | 0 Comments

Here’s the full list, courtesy of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office, of the bills she signed this afternoon:
regoire partially vetoed bills 2227 and 5945:

* Substitute House Bill No. 1758, relating to expanding options for students to earn high school diplomas.
* Substitute House Bill No. 1103, relating to the estates of vulnerable adults.
* Substitute House Bill No. 1239, relating to parenting plans and residential schedules in dependency proceedings.
* House Bill No. 2347, relating to the review of support payments.
* Substitute House Bill No. 1749, relating to regulating the business practices of mortgage brokers for compliance with the secure and fair enforcement for mortgage licensing act of 2008.
* Substitute House Bill No. 1869, relating to transparency of health care cost information.
* Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill No. 1935, relating to adult family homes.
* Substitute House Bill No. 2003, relating to the professional educator standards board membership and duties.
* Engrossed Substitute House Bill No. 2035, relating to requiring registered sex and kidnapping offenders to submit information regarding any e-mail addresses and any web sites they create or operate.
* Engrossed House Bill No. 2299, relating to the formation, operation, and non-state funding of public facilities districts.
* Engrossed Substitute House Bill No. 2049, relating to personnel practices regarding exempt employment.
* Engrossed Substitute House Bill No. 2075, relating to the excise taxation of certain products and services provided or furnished electronically.
* Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill No. 2227, relating to green jobs.
* Engrossed Substitute House Bill No. 2245, relating to clarifying public employees’ benefits board eligibility.
* House Bill No. 2349, relating to disproportionate share hospital adjustments.
* Substitute House Bill No. 2343, relating to achieving savings in education programs by revising provisions relating to diagnostic assessments, classified staff training, conditional scholarships, certain professional development programs, coordination for career and technical student organizations, and national board certification bonuses.
* Engrossed Substitute House Bill No. 2344, relating to resident undergraduate tuition.
* Substitute House Bill No. 2356, relating to revising student achievement fund allocations.
* Substitute Senate Bill No. 5410, relating to online learning.
* Engrossed Senate Bill No. 6158, relating to delaying the implementation of the family leave insurance program.
* Second Substitute Senate Bill No. 5945, relating to creating the Washington health partnership plan.
* Substitute Senate Bill No. 6016, relating to training for educators to identify students with dyslexia.
* Senate Bill No. 6137, relating to common schools.
* Substitute House Bill No. 1292, relating to waivers from the 180-day school year.

For the entire list of bills signed this year, go here.

Hear the HEC board on issues in higher education

By | May 18, 2009 | 0 Comments

The Higher Education Coordinating Board met last week to discuss issues regarding higher education in 2009. It’s airing on TVW now, and you can also watch the whole thing here:

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