Archive for March, 2012

In case you missed it: Gov. Chris Gregoire on the threat to veto if lawmakers don’t make progress

By | March 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

Yesterday, Gov. Chris Gregoire had some harsh words for legislators: Get some work done or she’ll start vetoing their bills. Here’s the full video:

Categories: Budget, Governors Office
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Watch the latest Inside Olympia right here

By | March 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

Senators Karen Keiser, D-Kent, and Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, talk with host Austin Jenkins about this year’s biggest healthcare issues — from medicaid fraud to abortion insurance coverage. New episodes air Thursdays at 7 & 10 p.m.

Categories: Healthcare, TVW
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Inslee, McKenna weigh in on the new Republican budget proposal

By | March 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

Republicans and three Democrats released a new budget proposal this morning that they say offers a compromise by not making any cuts to education, while offering up a number of reforms, including one that would skip a payment to the pension system.

Senate Democratic leaders responded by saying it takes a step closer to their priorities — particularly in regard to education — but it makes too deep of cuts to the safety net, including eliminating food assistance and Disability Lifeline. At a bill signing in the afternoon, Gov. Chris Gregoire said she is mad — and vetoes could be on the way if lawmakers don’t come to a budget agreement.

And now, the two candidates running to replace Gregoire in the governor’s race this fall are weighing in. Click through to read statements from each: (more…)

Categories: Budget
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Governor: 25, 50 and 1 will get us home — vetoes are in store if lawmakers don’t make progress

By | March 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire is mad — and she’s ready to do whatever it takes to get lawmakers to pass a budget. She said as much while answering media questions after her afternoon bill signing. She said the budget released this morning will not get the Legislature out of special session. “Twenty-five, 50 and 1,” she said, referring to the vote count in the Senate, House and her signature needed to end special session.

She said she negotiated with legislators this morning before the press conference and Republicans didn’t bring up some of the budget ideas they presented just an hour later. She called the press conference to unveil the budget “theatrical.”

“They did, under sufficient pressure, move to the Democrats’ position” of no cuts to education, she said. “Yay.” She said this morning she told lawmakers that she would not sign a budget that has more than $80 million in reversions, which she said spends the same dollar three times. She said the budget unveiled this morning has about twice that amount.

She said the budget has “still got the myth of we’re going to skip a payment … you skip a payment in pensions and it costs you about $400 million in the long haul. Last time I checked: gimmick.” She said she’s happy that the budget doesn’t cut K-12 or higher education.

“There has to be trust in the room. This does not advance trust in the room,” she said. She added that budget negotiators are scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow. “If they don’t get something done here, I’m going to start trickling out vetoes. Maybe that will get their attention.”

A reporter commented that the Governor appeared mad. “I am mad,” she said, adding that legislators need to stop negotiating in the press, “get your jobs done and then go home,” she said.

“I’m not putting fault on anybody… I’ve been restrained, I have been complimentary, I have negotiated in good faith. Time’s up,” she said. “My frustration level is as high as it gets.” She said “suddenly putting charter schools” in their latest proposal is not helpful. “I promised to veto it… get over it.”

UPDATED: Senate Republicans and three Democrats propose new budget compromise

By | March 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

Senate Republicans and three moderate Democrats revealed a budget proposal this morning that they say offers a compromise. The proposal does not contain any cuts to K-12 or higher education, although it still skips a $140 million pension payment that has been widely opposed by Democrats.

Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said they listened to concerns and the proposal “buys back” the cuts to education by leaving less money in reserves and other savings. The budget that Republicans previously proposed cut $44 million to K-12 and $30 million to higher education.

“It can receive broad-based support and bring special session to a close,” said Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup. Kastama was one of three Democrats — along with Sens. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch and Rodney Tom of Bellevue — who helped the Republicans seize control of the Senate earlier this month and pass a budget using a procedural maneuver. They joined seven Republicans at Thursday’s press conference.

Kastama said the budget includes a number of reforms: a constitutional debt limit, a 4-year balanced budget requirement, and pension reform. It also includes proposals to reform healthcare for public school employees.

The pension proposal skips a $140 million payment and ends early retirement for state employees. “The skipping of the payment is joined at the hip with pension reform,” and will save the state $2 billion over the next 25 years, said Zarelli.

The budget also includes a bill that would create 10 charter schools — a move that Sen. Rodney Tom said focuses only on the state’s worst-performing schools.

Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt said after passing the budget on the Senate floor, they were essentially ignored by the majority party for six days — “as if there were total denial.” Until a meeting of the four budget writers this morning, Hewitt said there has not been any discussion during special session either.

Hewitt said if there is not resolution on the budget, they are willing to bring their proposal up for vote in the Senate using the Ninth Order, the same procedural maneuver they used in regular session to pass the first version of their budget.

Watch the full announcement here.

UPDATE: Following the announcement, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Democratic Sen. Ed Murray held an impromptu news conference, where they said that the budget proposal moves closer to their priorities — but not enough.

“They’ve moved toward us in significant ways — particularly education,” Murray said. But it still contains “unacceptable cuts” to the safety net, Brown said. “These cuts have an impact on real people’s lives,” she said.

Furthermore, Brown said she doesn’t understand why the proposal is focusing on pension payments. “The state’s pension system is well-funded. It is not the problem,” she said. Brown said the budget doesn’t include any revenue ideas that  Democrats have put on the table, such as closing certain tax loopholes.

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Judge tosses phrase from same-sex marriage referendum

By | March 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

A Thurston County judge ruled Tuesday that a referendum to repeal the same-sex marriage law cannot include the phrase “redefine marriage” on the ballot in the fall election. The ruling frees backers of the referendum to begin collecting the 120,577 signatures they need by June 6th to put the issue to voters.

Gov. Gregoire signed a bill passed by the Legislature last month that allows same-sex couples to marry. Opponents of same-sex marriage are seeking to overturn the law with Referendum 74, which asks voters to approve or reject the legislation.

The Attorney General’s original language for the ballot summary of Referendum 74 said it would “redefine marriage” to allow same-sex couples to marry. The League of Women Voters of Washington and PFLAG sued to challenge the wording, arguing that it was politically charged.

Under Judge Thomas McPhee’s ruling, the following language will be used to summarize the ballot measure if it reaches voters:

“This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnerships are converted to marriages, except for seniors.  It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies.  The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster care or child placement.”

Rep. Jay Inslee leaves Congress to focus on run for governor

By | March 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

Rep. Jay Inslee announced over the weekend that he’s resigning from his 1st Congressional District seat to focus on the race for governor. Inslee, a Democrat from Bainbridge Island, is facing Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna in the race to succeed Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Inslee said in a statement he made his decision after watching Republican presidential nominees bring a “divisive social issues agenda” to Washington state during campaign stops. “It was a difficult decision, but what I need to do right now is focus all my attention on talking to people about what’s really important – creating jobs and growing our economy,” Inslee said.

Inslee has represented the district since 1999. His resignation will take effect March 20th, and the seat will remain vacant until the results of the November election.

Categories: Election
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No budget deal, Gov. Gregoire calls a special session

By | March 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Legislature just adjourned without passing a supplemental budget. Gov. Chris Gregoire has called for a special session starting Monday at noon. Gregoire said in a statement that lawmakers passed landmark same-sex marriage legislation and education reform during the 60-day session, but “disagreement still remains over how to close our state’s budget shortfall.”

The House passed its version of a supplemental budget before deadline, but the Senate did not take it up by midnight Thursday. The Legislature did not take up the capital budget, or the “jobs bill,” and will be working on that during special session as well, Gregoire said.

Watch the Governor’s announcement here:

Categories: Budget
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Repeal of out-of-state sales tax exemption fails to get a supermajority vote in House

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

A proposal debated in the House that would have repealed the retail sales tax exemption for out-of-state shoppers failed to get a supermajority vote, which is required to raise taxes. Revenue from the bill would have been redirected to help pay for the state’s all-day kindergarten program.

The vote followed a long debate. Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma said she’s heard lawmakers talk all night about “funding education first,” and this bill is an opportunity to do that. “We should not be handing out money to people who don’t live in this state above educating our children,” she said.

Opponents said it would hurt the economies of border cities, particularly cities near Oregon, a sales tax-free state. “I look at the state of Oregon out of my window and it is a constant reminder we have to be careful of tax policy,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama. He says some businesses in Vancouver generate as much as 50 percent of their retail sales from Oregon residents, and the bill would force layoffs and store closures.

Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said he spoke to retailers in his community and they said it would have “no impact or minimal impact” on business. He said it would exempt car sales, which was a concern raised by other lawmakers.

The vote was 51-47 — a constitutional majority, but not the two-thirds vote needed to pass, said Speaker Pro Temp Jim Moeller.

Categories: tax
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House passed motion picture incentive bill

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House passed a bill that is aimed at bringing movies and television show filming to Washington on last night of the regular session.

The bill, which I covered for Legislative Review earlier this year, would extend a program that grants tax credits for qualifying filmmakers to 2017. 

Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) said motion pictures bring money and jobs to the state and that Washington’s Motion Picture Competitiveness Program is unique.

“We’ve got some terrific protections in here to make sure the benefit goes to citizens in the state,” Orcutt said. “In order to qualify for any of this benefit, they have to actually report and prove that the people who were working on it actually have residency in the state.”

The bill passed the House 92-6 and now heads to the Governor’s desk for her signature. 

You can watch my segment on this bill from earlier in the session below:

Categories: WA House
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House passed Medicaid Fraud bill

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House is debating the bill to crack down on Medicaid fraud, a bill Sen. Cheryl Pflug has pushed for this year. The bill allows whistleblowers to collect a portion of legal settlements, called a “qi tam provision.” The provision currently exists at the federal level, but not on state actions here.

An amendment by Rep. J.T. Wilcox, which would have removed the qi tam provision, failed.

Rep. Deb Eddy, speaking on final passage of the bill, said it will allow the state to join in some existing federal lawsuits, which will mean more money for the state. “After several years, it’s now time to pass this bill,” she said.

Rep. Jay Rodney (R-North Bend) said this bill will increase healthcare costs and do little to combat Medicaid fraud. “We, as a state, are so exposed to lawsuits,” he said.

The bill passed 56 to 42.

Categories: WA House
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Watch all of today’s interviews right here

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

TVW’s Jessica Gao and Christina Salerno were at the capitol all day today interviewing lawmakers. While the Senate and House are on break, catch up on all the news right here.

Categories: Uncategorized

Update: House passed latest budget proposal

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House is debating the latest budget proposal now. Watch live on TVW.

First up: Amendments. Rep. Gary Alexander filed a striking amendment to Rep. Ross Hunter’s striker.

“We’re not that far apart,” said Rep. Richard DeBolt. He says that Alexander’s striker is the only budget that will get lawmakers out of Olympia today. “Let’s send that budget over to the Senate and let’s Sine Die tonight,” he said.

Rep. Bruce Dammeier said some of the budget cuts in Alexander’s amendment are “difficult…. At some point, we have to own up to our responsibility” to write an “honest” budget that doesn’t use accounting tricks.

Rep. Eileen Cody said the minority party wants to “kick 20,000 people off healthcare” so that they can avoid sending an apportionment payment to schools one day late. She said that’s not something she can vote for.

“This striking amendment will take us back in the right direction. It will bring some honesty and transparency back to this process,” said Rep. Barbara Bailey.

The amendment failed, 43 to 55.

Now, for debate of Hunter’s striking amendment.

Rep. Ross Hunter said he wants the House to adopt a budget and thinks this one strikes the right balance.

Rep. Gary Alexander said the chance to pass a bipartisan bill, however, is done. “I don’t think this bill has 50 votes in the House and 25 in the Senate,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know why they’re voting on it at all. He said the delay of payments to the school district is “an accounting error that will cause longstanding repercussions.” He said he’s pleased with a few of the changes in the budget, but not enough to earn his vote. (more…)

Categories: Budget, WA House
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Gov. Gregoire signs teacher evaluation bill

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

After numerous negotiations on teacher evaluation bills, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a final version into law at noon on the last day of regular session. 

“The new evaluation system will replace one in which teachers and principals were rated as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory,” Gregoire said in a statement. “The old system just didn’t work. It was too broad and didn’t really help anybody.”

The bill sets up a four-tier rating system and requires complete implementation in Washington schools by the 2015-2016 school year. It also requires that student growth data must be used as a significant factor in the evaluations. Many of the people who testified against the legislation in committee did not want student growth data used in this way. For more from the House committee hearing of the bill, click here for our coverage.

The bill is expected to cost about $5.7 million in 2013.

“I’m pleased to sign what I believe will be a model for the country,” Gregoire said in a press release. “This law will help ensure every public school student has the good teacher he or she deserves, and every neighborhood school has the good principal it deserves.”

Scenes from the final day of regular session: A Photo Gallery

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Senate floor

Legislators and lobbyists converse on Sine Die

 

People mill about the hallways while the legislature is on break

(more…)

Sens. Rodney Tom and Joe Zarelli: New House budget creates a $2B problem

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sens. Rodney Tom and Joe Zarelli talked to Jessica Gao this morning. Watch the whole thing here:

Some takeaways:

“If we pass the budget that the House Democrats are going to send over to us, what we have next January is easily a $2 billion problem,” Zarelli said.

Tom said his constituents are tired of budget shortfalls. “At some point, just like households, you have to live within your means. It’s not rocket science,” he said.

 

Interviews with lawmakers on Sine Die

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Here’s Christina, talking with Sen. Karen Keiser, who said she’s pleased with the work that has been done on the healthcare exchange bill that passed.

We’ll be posting all our interviews online as soon as we can, and they’ll be on TVW as soon as there is a break in floor action.

Categories: Democrats, WA Senate

Reps. Ross Hunter and Gary Alexander on the budget, special session

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Reps. Ross Hunter and Gary Alexander talked with Jessica Gao this morning. They both talk about the striking amendment to the Senate-backed budget that House Democrats just unveiled.

Watch Gov. Chris Gregoire’s thoughts on a budget deal, special session here

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Here’s Jessica Gao’s interview with Gov. Chris Gregoire from this morning. Hear what she has to say about a possible budget deal, special session and more:

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan says House deal could ‘absolutely’ end session today

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

TVW is interviewing top lawmakers throughout the day. Here’s The Impact host Jessica Gao’s interview with House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, in which he says this morning’s deal could “absolutely” get the Legislature out on time:

Categories: Budget
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