Archive for January, 2011

Day 22: Let’s Review

By | January 31, 2011 | 0 Comments

Here is a look back at the 22nd day of the 2011 legislative session.

Law enforcement argued for a bill that would extend benefits to those who died of a heart attack or stroke within 24 hours of stressful and strenuous duty.

- The bill to lower the unemployment insurance rate is on its way as the Senate Labor committee passed it unanimously.

- In a brief press conference on the Monroe correction officer killing Governor Chris Gregoire said that “This is not about budget cuts, this is about are we adequately staffed.”

- A Florida judge ruled that the federal healthcare act is unconstitutional. Rob McKenna and Gregoire both had something to say about this.

- A domestic violence bill was heard today that would make it harder for offenders to get out of the long-term protection orders against them.

- The Senate Ways and Means was briefed on the Disability Lifeline and their various options.

That’s it for now folks. Good night.


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Senate Ways and Means committee talks about Disability Lifeline

By | January 31, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Senate Ways and Means is getting an overview on the Disability Lifeline Cash Assistance Program. Here is the entire slide show.

According to staff the largest part of Disability Lifeline is Unemployable (DL-U), making up 55 percent of the entire program. Only those who are physically or mentally incapacitated, causing them to be unemployable, can be on it. One major stipulation is that they can not be chemically dependent.

Most DL-U clients are white, there are more males than females, and there are more in the 40-49 age range than any other. A little less than a third of them identified as homeless.

The exit rate for this program is pretty substantial, the staff said, with only 11 percent remaining on the program three years after joining it.

Because of their age and disabilities, DL-U recipients are one of the higher cost state medical coverage groups, with average spending of $7,100 per person per year.

The state estimates that by Jan. 1, 2014 almost all of those on Disability Lifeline will be federally covered under Medicaid. The Medicaid waiver does allow the state to retain its current benefit structure. It also does not prohibit the state from terminating the whole program – which has been proposed by Governor Chris Gregoire. As well, the state could cap enrollment for the program and put people on a waiting list.

You can watch the live hearing here.

Domestic violence bill would strengthen lifetime protection orders

By | January 31, 2011 | 0 Comments

When a victim of domestic violence is given a life-time protection order from their abuser it usually means they can begin to move on with their life – but a decision by the Washington Supreme Court changed that last year.

In the case, In Re Marriage of Freeman, the court reversed a life-long protection order based on the fact that Robert Freeman had moved out of the state and had not broken the order for over 10 years. However, Robin Freeman continued to fear her former husband. A bill brought before the House Judiciary committee today called on the Legislature to find that the Court’s decision established incorrect standards for ending long-term protection orders.

At the hearing today an advocate asked the committee to not just think about the trauma of coming back to court and having to face an abuser – after thinking they never had to worry about seeing them again – but also consider that the whole process puts them in danger all over again. “It is important that the burden [for the abuser] be high,” she said.

Next a victim of domestic violence spoke. Last year, she said, her abuser pointed a gun at her face and as she tried to crawl out the winder he told her “better the mess outside.” Now she is facing the possible amputation of her leg and can not use the right side of her body, she said. “I was told I had a permanent order of protection,” she said. “I can be safe.” Currently she is involved in the court case against her abuser. “Every time I get out of that car I am terrified of what is going to happen to me between the car and the court house,” she told the committee. She asked what would happen in five to ten years, if she has gotten over the night mare only to find out that he was able to get the protection order lifted? What purpose would lifting it serve, she asked. “In the end I would like to know that when he is convicted I can go one with my life.” (more…)

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Florida judge rules federal healthcare unconstitutional in lawsuit McKenna joined

By | January 31, 2011 | 0 Comments

A judge in Florida has ruled the federal healthcare reform legislation to be unconstitutional — this is the case that Attorney General Rob McKenna joined last year with two dozen other states.

The District Court judge issued a nearly 80 page ruling. The law is also being challenged in other courts, and it may be on the way to the Supreme Court.

See what McKenna and Gregoire have to say after the jump. (more…)

Gov. Gregoire on Monroe correction officer killing

By | January 31, 2011 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Eldon Vail just held a very brief press conference on the correction officer killing in Monroe.

The takeaway: Gregoire says there had been no staffing reductions there, but that’s not the issue. “This is not about budget cuts, this is about are we adequately staffed,” she said.

She only took a couple of questions and then left.

Senate Labor committee just passed unemployment insurance reduction bill

By | January 31, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Senate Labor Committee just passed an amended version of the unemployment insurance reduction bill.

The original version, requested by Gov. Chris Gregoire, reduced the unemployment rate and extended training benefits to more unemployed workers. It also contained a provision to allow extended benefits — paid for by the federal government — to continue.

Instead of increased training benefits, labor leaders said during public hearings that they preferred a plan that would give unemployed workers with children an additional $15 per child.

The amended bill removes the extended benefits provision. That means it simply reduces the unemployment rate. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles says they have until March to deal with the unemployment benefits extension.

“We have many ’99ers,’ as they’re called,” said Sen. Steve Conway. He said those unemployed workers — who have been collecting benefits for up to 99 weeks — would see their benefits disappear if the legislature doesn’t pass that portion of the bill later this session.

“This doesn’t mean that we are not going to actively pursue the second link,” said Sen. Adam Kline, referring to the benefits extension.

The bill passed out of committee unanimously.

Is heart disease an occupational disease for police officers?

By | January 31, 2011 | 2 Comments

When police officers and firefighters are killed in the line of duty, their families are eligible for benefits. But when they die off-duty — from heart attack or strokes — they are not eligible. A bill that’s getting a public hearing right now would change that.

Vanessa Walsh, spouse of a police officer who died of a massive heart attack near the end of his shift, said she was shocked to find out that her family didn’t qualify for survivor benefits. She said her husband was a dedicated public servant who was active and healthy in his off-duty time.

One officer said the adrenaline that police experience during the course of a shift can be damaging to their bodies — so heart attacks and strokes should be considered an occupational disease.

Steve Nelson, executive director of the Law Enforcement Officers Plan 2 Board, said the bill would not guarantee that heart attacks are always considered duty-related. He said use of tobacco products, weight, lifestyle and heredity can all be considered. He said a similar federal law has not lead to every heart attack being designated as duty-related. “Without this determination, there are no workers’ comp duty related benefits, there are also no LEOFF Plan 2 duty related benefits,” he said. (more…)

Here’s the latest edition of Legislative Review

By | January 31, 2011 | 0 Comments

A week’s worth of news in 30 short minutes. Enjoy.

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A peek ahead at Monday

By | January 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

Monday’s schedule is packed with hearings. Here’s a sampling that we’ll be watching:

After perhaps a hearty breakfast of poached eggs, members of the Senate committee on Agriculture will take a look at a bill that would give egg-laying hens more space. The public hearing begins at 10 a.m. and you can watch the live webcast at TVW.org.

At 1:30, lawmakers are set to consider several controversial questions, including:

- What should it take to graduate high school? The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education committee plans to dive into the question.

- Should flavored tobacco products be outlawed? The House Health and Wellness committee will look at restricting sales.

- What can the state do to protect the elderly and mentally disabled from abuse? The House Judiciary committee will hear a bill that would defend the vulnerable.

Gopher
- What about the Mazama Pocket Gopher (at right)? One bill ahead for the Senate committee on Natural Resources looks at studying the threatened species.

At 3:30, the House Ways and Means committee could hear plans for deporting non-citizen criminals and restricting eligibility for the Basic Health Plan in order to cover people under the Medicaid waiver.

At that same time, the Senate Ways and Means committee is scheduled for a work session and public hearing on mental health and Disability Lifeline cash.

Week 3: Let’s Review

By | January 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

If you find yourself at the end of week 3, wondering what’s just happened: Don’t worry. We’ve compiled much of it for you here.

Monday: Five bills on public records were up for hearing, bipartisan, bicameral ferry reform was introduced, the House debated and passed the early action budget savings, the Senate discussed canceling the 2012 presidential primary, the House held a hearing on regulating crisis pregnancy centers and the Senate Ways and Means discussed what’s next for public health. Here’s Monday’s Legislative Review.

Tuesday: The Senate considered banning synthetic pot, Gov. Chris Gregoire urged lawmakers to pass the unemployment insurance rate reduction, we talked to freshmen lawmakers, the Senate considered a way to get you to save more cash — that involves prizes!, and Gregoire also talked about budget cuts and Labor’s idea to add a dependent benefit to unemployment. Here’s Tuesday’s Legislative Review.

Wednesday: The held a hearing on a controversial bill aimed at decreasing health insurance rates, the Senate held a hearing on a bill to stem the tide of foreclosures, the House Public Safety Committee considered who should be notified when a juvenile sex offender registers for school, the Senate considered outlawing smoking in cars where children are present and Jessica Gao looked into the debate over the latest budget cuts. And here’s Wednesday’s Legislative Review.

Thursday: A House committee considered expanding toxic toys legislation, the House Community Development Committee heard about homelessness in Washington, Austin Jenkins interviewed business and labor leaders and a House committee looked at the 2011-2013 capital budget. Here’s Thursday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Friday: We’ve been very busy putting together tonight’s Legislative Review — a 30 minute show with all the week’s top headlines. You can watch that tonight at 6:30. In other news, the House agreed on their rules — including a mandated 24 hour breather between when the budget is introduced and when it gets a vote — and the Senate Higher Education Committee heard testimony about the governor’s proposed 2011-2013 budget.

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Day 18: Let’s Review

By | January 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

Today:

- The House considered expanding the toxic toys legislation

- The House also heard about homelessness in Washington

- On The Impact, Jessica tracked the latest in budget cuts

- And on Inside Olympia, Austin talked to business and labor leaders

- And the House looked at the capital budget

Watch tonight’s Legislative Review for more on these stories — plus the details of a Senate plan to cut lawmakers’ salaries.

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House takes a look at the upcoming capital budget

By | January 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

Right now Marty Brown is briefing the the House Capital Budget Committee on the 2011-2013 capital budget

“2011-2013 ready to build projects were her priority,” he told the representatives about how Gov. Chris Gregoire approached the proposal.

They have figured that the upcoming general obligation bond capacity is $958 million

The prison expansion in Walla Walla is the most expensive human services project slated at $50 million. Community and technical colleges will see a small slice of the pie with a $37.6 million replacement of Index Hall in Everett and a $21.8 renovation of the science, math and technology building in Green River.

Here is Brown’s powerpoint on the proposed 2011-2013 capital budget.

the Superintendent of Meridian School District, Tim Yeomans, said the main building there was built in the 20s and the maintenance staff had to put up tresses this week to keep the roof up. Animprovement project district raised $17 million from the public with the promise that they would have matching funds from the state. The project was set to begin next week but everything is on hold, he said, because they don’t know if they are getting any of the matching funds. “We made a huge commitment to our community,” said Yeomans. “School construction not only impacts the the schools…but it impacts jobs throughout our communities.” (more…)

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Business and labor: Hear what their legislative priorities are this year

By | January 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

Austin Jenkins talks to business and labor leaders about their 2011 legislative priorities in tonight’s Inside Olympia. Watch it now:

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Watch The Impact here

By | January 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

This week, Jessica is following the latest budget-cutting debate, a measure to protect cyclists and pedestrians from negligent drivers, and a proposal to clarify regulations about how medical marijuana is bought and sold.

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Homelessness in Washington

By | January 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

The House Community Development and Housing Committee is holding a work session on homelessness. Norm Suchar, director of the Center for Capacity Building at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, is giving a presentation. Watch live on TVW now.

He said they’ve done many studies on the cost of homelessness to the healthcare system. One study of Rhode Island showed that the average homeless person uses tens of thousands of dollars of healthcare per year.

He said foster children are far more likely to become homeless — when they age out of the system — than others. Behind them: Those being released from prison. Washington’s homelessness rate is higher than the national average.

He said one solution is building affordable housing. “Placing a chronically homeless individual into supportive housing actually reduces their needs” for healthcare and emergency services — in most cases “it’s so successful at doing that that it actually covers its own cost,” he said.

He cited 1811 Eastlake in Seattle as a cost-saving program that is being copied across the country.

Amanda Urwiler, a teen who was homeless for three years, says she relied heavily on drop-in programs. She says she got back on her feet with their help — and is now able to take care of her 15 month old son.

Brandy Lahue was also homeless. “Even as a child, me and my mom and my sister were homeless,” she said. “I dropped out of high school, I had a child … bounced around a lot, I was at like four places in a week,” she said. She was also in a violent relationship. She says community youth services have been a huge part of her life: They had computers to help her find a job, and interview clothes, too.

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House holds hearing on a bill to expand toxic toys legislation

By | January 27, 2011 | 1 Comments

The bill to get toys that contain toxic chemicals out of stores is up for hearing now — watch live on TVW. The companion Senate bill had a hearing on Tuesday.

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, prime sponsor of the bill, said lawmakers have a special responsibility to keep children safe, including by making sure that babies and children aren’t playing with toys that contain dangerous chemicals. “Those chemicals are all around us. Now, our state took action two years ago on pthalates, and Congress followed our lead,” she said. “These chemicals include cadmium, which is found in some McDonalds drinking cups,” she said. “There is no current federal law at this time to protect against these issues.”

“We can’t ban one chemical at a time,” she said. “It’s inefficient and bad for business.”

“A number of companies have implemented strategies to remove toxics from their products … and they’ve found that this has improved their competitiveness,” says Carole Kraege with the Department of Ecology.

“Usually, you bring a piece of legislation forward because there’s a problem with the way the system is working,” said Rep. Shelly Short. “I’m just kind of curious if it’s putting the cart before the horse,” she said.

“I don’t think so,” Kraege said. She said current law dictates that the state collects information about the toxics in products. This bill would clarify what to do with that information. She said just because a chemical is in a product doesn’t mean it’s unsafe, and this bill would allow them to make the determination. She said the one thing they can’t do now that this bill would guarantee is the ability to ask manufacturers to look for alternatives to toxics.

Mark Johnson with the Washington Retail Association said products that are found to be unsafe are immediately recalled and taken off the shelves. “Retailers are struggling to make it through this Great Recession,” he said, and “heaping costs” on them will only make things worse. (more…)

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Wednesday’s Legislative Review is ready to watch

By | January 27, 2011 | 1 Comments

If you missed out on Legislative Review last night, watch it now:

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Make cars with kids a smoke-free zone?

By | January 26, 2011 | 0 Comments

Health advocates believe that it should be illegal to smoke in a car with kids in it and SB 5016 aims to do just that. No one signed up in opposition to the measure at the Senate Transportation committee today where it received its first public hearing.

One health official said that “even with the window open the concentration of [second-hand-smoke] particles is twice the level that is considered healthy.” “Seeing kids in cars that are full of smoke is really a problem,” she said.

“Children are especially vulnerable to second hand smoke…and they don’t have a choice,” said an advocate. She pointed out that there are already protections for foster children in both homes and vehicles.  “Four out of five parents who smoke allow smoking in the vehicle,” she said.

John Wheeler from the University of Washington, Tacoma, said that he welcomes the legislation but commented on the perverse order in which the state has protected people from second hand smoke, as the law began in the bars.   “Those are the voices we don’t hear; those are the voices of the children,” said Wheeler. When a cigarette is inhaled by a smoker 15 percent of it is ingested – the other 85 percent goes into the air he said and pointed out that cars in the Northwest climate are often even more confined as people are more likely to only crack the window a small bit.

Heidi Henson, an advocate for smoke-free air told the story of a 54-year old adult child of a pack-a-day smoker who still suffers. At age 7 they turned blue and passed out in the back seat.  “Be aware that second hand smoke can have an impact on your kids not only now but for the rest of their lives,” they told Henson to tell the committee.

A handful of other states have written such bans into law. In Arkansas if a child under the age of six is along for the ride then the cigarettes can not be. California prohibits smoking in the car if a minor is present while Louisiana protects those who are 12-years-old and younger.

If enacted Washington would join California by setting the bar at age 18. If a passenger is younger than that and someone is smoking in the car the driver could be ticketed. As a secondary infraction the police could only fine someone if they were pulled over for a different violation. The ticket would not go on their driving record.

As so much of the support for the bill is based on health issues the transportation committee was asked to pass it along to the Senate Health & Long-Term Care committee for further consideration.

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Bill would inform parents if a sex offender joins their child’s class

By | January 26, 2011 | 0 Comments

The House Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness Committee is hearing testimony on a measure that would require schools and colleges to notify staff, parents and students age 18 and older if a sex offender is joining the district.

Sponsored by Rep. Kirk Pearson, HB 1208, would require schools to give out a student’s name, crime they were convicted of and the details of their sentencing if they are classified as a level 2 or level 3 sex offender. The current law requires sex offenders let the county sheriff know when they enroll in classes and that sheriff then informs the school that a sex offender will be joining them. That information must only be passed on to teachers and any others who will be supervising the student. Beyond that the information must be kept confidential. This bill would bring parents and students 18 and older into the loop.

Ten years ago Rep. Pearson said he was approached by a young lady who was being assaulted by sex offender who was going to her school. “We have over 400 juvenile sex offenders in our schools,” he said. “I would like to empower parents that they would be able to know,” said Pearson. “Notification like this is powerful. When you have information like this out a juvenile sex offender will know that they are being watched.” It is not to bully them out of an education, he added.

Pearson passed similar legislation in 2005 but he said that was a small step, this is the next step.

“We strongly support the bill,” said a representative of the Washington Education Association. They said they especially like the part that includes staff, bus-drivers etc. Not only would it be better for their individual safety, they said, but it would also help them to help the juvenile offenders to re-acclimate to student life.

“We are concerned that this bill will not achieve that goal [protecting the community],” said Dan Knoepfler, Wash. Ass. for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. Two reasons he said are because the rate of recidivism  in juvenile offenders is low and the tool used to assess risk does not make good judgment when it comes to juveniles. “To use a public notification based on that would further exacerbate some the problems that these kids have.”

“I am passionately opposed to many of the notification requirements in this bill,” said Mahna Salter with the Washington Defenders Association. She has been working with juvenile offenders for years in Colorado and said that school is one of the only places were they can have normal social interactions. This bill, she said, would further stigmatize and isolate them while damaging their hope of recovery. “In my experience most all of them were victims of sexual abuse and acted out sexually,” said Salter. Treatment is already difficult and isolating, she added.

Rep. Chris Hurst, said that he got the impression that those testifying it would be a good idea to give more information to those that work for the school district as they could help the juvenile offender. But what they might need to take another look at, he said, was the intended and unintended consequences of giving that information out to parents and students.

You can watch the live hearing here.

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Foreclosure hearing: “Something needs to be done”

By | January 26, 2011 | 0 Comments

Sen. Adam Kline opened up the hearing on a bill to help prevent foreclosures by saying the bill would take some simple steps to helping homeowners stay in their homes. The bill would allow the homeowner and lender to go into mediation and would also seek to get more loan modifications.

One homeowner going through foreclosure says he contacted Wells Fargo to get a loan modification, but he’s been ignored. “To pay Wells Fargo, I have depleted a great deal of my retirement savings,” he said. “I do not know if you will be able to help me, but I know I am not the only person in this situation,” he said.

Another man said his girlfriend experienced kidney failure and had to go on dialisis for 20 hours per week — in addition to her full-time job. He said they looked into loan modification because of her medical complications. But Bank of America didn’t communicate with them, he said. They also lost paperwork. He said he has spent more than 200 hours trying to get her loan modified. “Something needs to be done,” he said.

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