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House Republicans tap Kristiansen as new leader

By | April 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

Rep. Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) has been elected leader of the minority House Republicans.

Kristiansen replaces Rep. Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis), who stepped down due to health concerns on April 17. The announcement was made over the weekend as lawmakers finished up the 105-day regular session. A special session is slated to begin May 13.

The vote was unanimous for the 50-year-old real estate businessman who has been serving in the Legislature since 2003.

“I appreciate the confidence my colleagues have shown in me, but this isn’t about me. This is about a group of 43 Republican lawmakers who are dedicated to creating jobs, improving our education system and protecting hard-working taxpayers,” Kristiansen said in a news release. “It’s a unique time to come in as leader, but we are all united and will continue to advocate for solutions to get Washington working.”

Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) was retained deputy leader. Here’s the rest of the leadership team:

  • Caucus chair: Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake (replaces Rep. Dan Kristiansen)
  • Vice-caucus chair: Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy
  • Floor leader: Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm
  • Assistant floor leader: Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley
  • Assistant floor leader: Rep. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County(replaces Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, who chose not to run for the position again)
  • Whip: Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver
  • Assistant whip: Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney
  • Assistant whip: Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union
  • Assistant whip: Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe

 

Categories: Republicans, WA House

Will beer tax find new life under proposed DUI legislation?

By | April 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

A proposal to extend the state’s beer tax that died earlier this week may find new life under legislation aimed at cracking down on drunken drivers.

House Democrats dropped the plan to extend a tax on brewers that was set to expire later this year, but on Friday the Senate Law and Justice Committee was briefed on an amendment to Senate Bill 5912 that would use revenue from a beer tax to pay for costs associated with the stricter DUI laws.

The author of the amendment, Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle), has proposed a separate amendment that would tap a liquor excise tax to pay for new DUI legislation. Kline said he does not intend to use both taxes, but is hoping for support of one or the other.

“I don’t want to tax both beer and liquor. They don’t go together,” Kline said

The revenue would help solve one of the many concerns stakeholders have with proposals to go after repeat DUI offenders. Regardless of the final product, most lawmakers agree tougher penalties will result in higher court, prison, treatment and monitoring costs.

The beer tax extension earlier proposed in the House Democrats package would have raised a projected $60 million over two years. It was dropped over fears that large beer companies would challenge the tax with a ballot initiative.

Two recent high-profile DUI cases in the Seattle area that left three people dead have prompted lawmakers to make a push for tougher laws in the final days of the 105-day legislative session.

The committee took no action on bill Friday.

Categories: Alcohol, Criminal Justice

Senate GOP says their business is finished, call on House to finish on time

By | April 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

Members from the Senate’s 23-Republican-two-Democrat Majority Coalition Caucus met with reporters on Thursday afternoon to announce they are officially finished with their business in the upper chamber.

“We are now waiting for the House to complete theirs. Unfortunately, the House has passed a budget that doesn’t balance,” Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver) said. “But we are committed to stay here to the end of session to finish.”

Majority Coalition Caucus speaks at press conference

With three days remaining in the 105-day legislative session, there is a $900 million divide between the budget passed by House Democrats and the Senate’s no-tax spending plan.

The House proposal would close a number of tax breaks and extend a business and occupation tax due to expire this year. Senate Republicans insist no new revenue is needed to balance the budget a meet a court mandate to fully fund basic education.

A special session would be required for lawmakers to work beyond Sunday.

At one point during the press conference, Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) suggested that some Democrats in the Legislature who are running for other offices would favor taking time off before convening a special session.

“So now there are rumors that a special session might be called in two or three weeks and frankly I got to say, I smell a rat. I think it’s politics that now gets involved. There are individuals that are running for other offices – mayor of Seattle, for Senate as well – and they need to raise money. And the idea that we would adjourn and of course you can’t raise money while we are in session,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon seemed to be alluding to Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray (D-Seattle), who declared his candidacy for Seattle mayor in December.

Earlier this week, Gov. Jay Inslee indicated that a special session may be needed for lawmakers to reach an agreement on the budget and a number of other key issues — gun control, DUI legislation, the abortion insurance bill, and the Washington Dream Act. The governor did not elaborate on a timetable if a special session is indeed called.

Benton said lawmakers should take the matter in their own hands if a deal can’t be reached by Sunday and a special session doesn’t start immediately.

“If the governor is not willing to call a special session on Monday because he is interested in politics rather than finishing our work, then the Legislature should call itself into special session,” he said.

Categories: Budget, WA House, WA Senate

House panel approves technical change to marijuana law

By | April 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

A House Committee on Thursday approved a technical change to the state’s new law legalizing marijuana that supporters say is necessary to prosecute illegal growers and sellers.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg told the House Committee on Government Accountability and Oversight that the change is needed to prosecute cases.

“We still need to hold accountable those who sell marijuana to minors and those who act outside of the law. There is nobody in the state crime lab today who can come and testify in a court of law that material meets the definition of marijuana under state law,” Satterberg said.

At issue is the legal definition of “THC concentration” in Initiative 502, which is meant to distinguish marijuana from industrial hemp. The new law defines marijuana as having more than 0.3 percent of delta-9 THC, the content that creates the psychoactive effects of pot. But scientists with the state crime lab said that definition is too narrow and they don’t have the tools to isolate delta-9 THC from the total THC content.

The measure would change the law to define marijuana by the total THC content. When marijuana is burned or cooked into food, THC acid turns into delta-9 THC and the pot becomes fully potent. The worry is when someone is in violation of the new marijuana laws, prosecutors won’t be able to prove in court that the plants seized meet the new definition.

Officials with the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab testified that the state would need to buy new expensive machinery and tests would take longer to complete if the definition remains unchanged.

“That is possible, but it is of considerable expense,” said Vancouver crime lab manager Ingrid Deermore.

The committee passed the measure by a 6-3 vote. Rep. Cary Condotta (R- East Wenatchee) said he needed more information before he could support a change to the initiative, which will require a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature.

“I am getting conflicting reports here. The rest of the world operates in a certain manner. We are moving to that. We are moving to an industrial hemp nation, a legalized marijuana nation and the rest of the world is way ahead of us on that. What there definition of the standards are should work for us. I worried we are becoming an outlier possibly,” Condotta said.

Categories: initiatives, Marijuana

Lawmakers ponder special session in final days

By | April 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

State lawmakers acknowledged on Wednesday that a special session may be needed to find a compromise on the state’s budget and other key issues.

“There’s much work to be done, we’d have to draw into an inside straight to be done by Sunday,” Gov. Jay Inslee said during a press conference.

Inslee said that many issues remain unresolved, including an agreement on the operating budget, capital budget and transportation package. He also said it would be a disappointment if lawmakers left Olympia without taking action on a number of key issues — gun control, DUI legislation, the abortion insurance bill, and the Washington Dream Act.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders reserved some hope that the Legislature can finish its business by Sunday, when the 105-day session is scheduled to end.

“This place is amazing in the miracles that can transpire if everybody gets together,” Senate Majority Leader Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Medina) said.

Lawmakers will have to find a compromise between the Senate’s no-tax budget and a House proposal calling for $900 million in new revenue. If a special session is called, it could last up to 30 days.

“It is still very much in the mechanics of the institution to finish on Sunday,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritsville). “I am a farmer, so I have to be an optimist.”

Categories: Budget

House panel delays vote on DUI bill

By | April 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

The House Public Safety Committee delayed a vote Wednesday on a proposed legislation that takes aim at repeat drunken driving offenders.

The bill was scaled back from the original House proposal, but committee chair Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) said a vote would have to wait due to lack of support.

“I am not willing to wait too much longer. We are not going to let up but we are not going to be voting on this morning,” he said.

The revised bill calls for the mandatory arrest of drivers suspected of a repeat offense, rather than all drivers suspected of driving under the influence. It also requires an ignition interlock device to be installed as a pretrial condition and a condition of release. The original proposal, the required that the device be installed before it was released from the impound lot.

Read the revised bill here.

Other parts of the original bill have been removed, including a provision that would ban repeat offender from purchasing alcohol for 10 year.

Member from both parties on the committee questioned the timing of legislation, saying lawmakers were rushing the bill to the House floor.

“We are not going to stop the carnage,” said Rep. Jeff Holy (R-Cheney). “To pass this out of committee today appears to be reacting to tragedy. We can do better.”

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee have proposed changes to the state’s impaired driving laws after two recent cases in the Seattle area left three people dead.

Watch the hearing below:

Categories: Alcohol, Criminal Justice

House committee approves revised tax package

By | April 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

A proposal calling for $900 million in tax increases was approved by Democrats in the House Finance Committee on Tuesday.

Supporters say the tax package is necessary to funnel more money into the state’s public schools, but Republicans who voted against the measure say the plan will hurt businesses and the state’s economy.

House Bill 2038 passed on an 8-5 vote along party lines. The measure ends certain business tax exemptions and extends some taxes set to expire this year. Parts of the original proposal were dropped, including tax extensions on the beer industry, janitors, insurance agents and stevedores.

“Asking everyone to contribute to our quality of life, our quality of education for 1 million students in every community in our state is hard work. It’s tough to do. Closing just a few is hard, but investing in education is essential,” said committee chair Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle).

Republicans in the committee said the Legislature does not need new taxes to meet a court mandate to fully fund the state’s education system.

“We don’t need new taxes to balance our budget,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama). “We’ve got plenty of money for education. If there is any courage needed, it’s the courage to fund education first and to say no to some other people.”

The tax measure will now head to the House floor for a vote.

Categories: tax, WA House

Senate vote could mean end of paid family leave law

By | April 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

If lawmakers can’t find a way to pay for it, a program giving parents five weeks paid time off to be with a new child will be eliminated under a measure passed Monday in the Senate.

Washington’s Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act was adopted in 2007 and gives new parents paid leave of up to $250 a week for five weeks. The program was slated to start in 2009, but a lack of funding has delayed the implementation date twice.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia), said the program was a good idea, but without funding it’s an “empty promise.”

The measure was amended to include the creation of a task force to find a funding solution for the program. If a source isn’t found, parents would still be eligible for five weeks of unpaid leave. The author of the amendment, Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens), said he plans to introduce a bill that will provide funding.

Under federal law, businesses with 50 or more employees are required to give workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical leave or to take care of a new child.

The measure passed on a 27 to 21 vote. It now head to the Democratic-controlled House.

Categories: Healthcare

House panel approves transportation tax package

By | April 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

A transportation spending package calling for a 10-cent gas tax increase cleared its first hurdle on Monday, clearing the way for a debate and vote on the House floor with less than a week remaining in the 105-day legislative session.

The House Transportation Committee approved the $8.4 billion package by a 16-13 vote along party lines. In addition to raising the gas tax, the proposal would increase various weight fees and call for higher vehicle registration and title transfer fees.

“We are going to be moving forward and making sure the economy is creating jobs,” said committee chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island). “I think it’s a perfect time. Even though it does raise taxes and does raise fees, there are going to be places where people can point and say this made a difference in our lives.”

(more…)

Categories: transportation

Senate passes ‘bare bones’ transportation budget after CRC agreement is reached

By | April 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

The Senate on Friday unanimously passed what budget writers call a “bare bones” transportation spending package that includes $8.7 billion to fund existing projects around the state.

The vote comes a day after a compromise was reached on the Interstate 5 bridge bridge project over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver. Senate Republicans have voiced concerns over the project – specifically the proposed height of the bridge and a built-in light rail component.

The agreement calls for withholding about $82 million for the project in the budget until the U.S. Coast Guard decides whether to issue an important project permit. The Coast Guard, which has expressed concern over the bridge’s height, is expected to make a decision on the permit in September. The deal also calls for an audit of the Columbia River Crossing project by the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.

(more…)

Categories: transportation

Firearms registry, social networking measures approved as key deadline passes

By | April 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

Wednesday marked another key legislative deadline in Olympia as lawmakers faced a 5 p.m. cut-off to move bills out of the opposite chamber. Here’s a roundup of key bills that made the cut and those that are likely dead this year.

PASSED:

Firearm offender registry: House Bill 1612 would require the Washington State Patrol to create the database of felony firearm offenders. Offenders would be required to register with the sheriff in their county of residence. The database would not be available to the public and the offender’s name would be removed after four years if no other firearm offenses are committed. It is one of the few bills dealing with gun control approved by both chambers during the 2013 legislative session. A number of proposals, including a bill that would require background checks for private gun sales, never made it to the floor for a vote.

Social networking passwords: A bill that makes it illegal for any employer to request a password for any social networking site maintained by an employee was approved by the House. Supporters say Senate Bill 5211 is about protecting privacy rights.

(more…)

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

DeBolt stepping down from leadership role due to illness

By | April 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

Rep. Richard Debolt (R-Chehalis)

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis) has announced he is stepping down from his leadership role due to an illness.

“Two years ago I had some severe health challenges and now I am going to face some new challenges and I know I’m going to be fine, but it’s time for me to step aside as leader,” DeBolt said on the House floor Wednesday morning.

DeBolt, who was first elected in 1996, has missed key votes in recent days after he had a medical emergency at his home on April 10. He has been under the care of doctors since then, according to a statement. He plans to serve out the remaining two years of his term.

“It will be hard leaving a job I love and have done for so long, but there comes a time that you must change your priorities in life. I really appreciate the love and support my colleagues have shown me. It speaks volumes about them and their compassion,” he said.

Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) will be acting House Republican Leader until the caucus formally names a new leader.

Categories: WA House

Senate blocks attempt by Democrats to revive Dream Act, abortion insurance bill

By | April 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

Update: Senate Democrats made another attempt to revive the Reproductive Parity Act on Wednesday. Sen Karen Keiser (D-Kent) proposed to add the abortion insurance bill to House Bill 1638 during a special order of business at 4:59 p.m. today. The motion failed by a 25-23 vote. Wednesday marks a key legislative deadline for bills to be considered by the opposite house.

Original post:

Members of the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus blocked a Democratic attempt to revive two key bills on Tuesday.

Senate Democrats attempted to use a parliamentary tactic called the Ninth Order to force a vote the Washington Dream Act and an abortion insurance bill known as the Reproductive Parity Act.

The attempt was voted down 25-23, with Sens. Rodney Tom (D-Medina) and Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island) voting against the effort, despite their support for the measures.

Democratic Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam) voted with the Republican-led majority to block the bill. He had previously said he would offer a proxy vote in the place of ailing Sen. Mike Carrell (R-Lakewood) if he is unable to be in Olympia for a close vote. Carrell is home battling a pre-leukemia blood condition.

The Washington Dream Act would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for state financial aid to help pay for college. The Reproductive Parity Act would require all insurance companies in the state to provide coverage for abortions if they also cover maternity care. Both bills passed out of the House, but never received committee votes in the Senate.

After the vote, Senate Democrats released a statement criticizing the majority coalition.

“A vote against the Ninth Order is a vote against the Reproductive Parity Act. It’s a slap back and forth across the face of Democracy in our state to continually block a vote that would ensure access to reproductive health care. With 25 votes waiting to vote the RPA off the Senate floor, strong public support, and Gov. Inslee waiting pen in hand to sign the RPA into law, this is anything but self-proclaimed bipartisanship,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent), ranking member on the Senate Health Care Committee.

Watch the debate on the Senate floor below:

Categories: WA Senate

Proposals emerge in effort to crack down on DUIs

By | April 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

Those who are arrested for drunken driving would face stiffer sentences and see more barriers preventing them from driving impaired again under a pair of identical bills introduced this week.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers at a news conference to discuss the proposals, which come on the heels of two recent DUI cases in Seattle that left three dead.

Inslee called the legislation the most aggressive program to reduce drunken driving in the history of the state.

“It is the right thing to do in the light of the terrible tragedies of the kind we have experienced recently in Washington state,” Inslee said.

Here are details on the proposed legislation in House Bill 2030 and Senate Bill 5912:

  • The bills call for the creation of a new statewide program to combat alcohol and substance abuse called the 24/7 sobriety program. It is modeled after a similar program in South Dakota and would be administered by the Office of the Attorney General.
  • Repeat offenders would spend more time in jail and courts would be not be allowed to grant deferred sentences.
  • The installation of ignition interlock devices would be required on vehicles impounded after a DUI arrest.
  • Law enforcement would be required to arrest anyone suspected of DUI. The approach is modeled after current domestic violence laws.
  • The new restrictions would prohibit people with three or more DUI offenses from purchasing or being served alcohol for ten years. Offenders would be required to use a specially designed driver’s licenses.
  • Driving the wrong way to the normal flow of traffic may be considered as an aggravating circumstance for sentencing.

A hearing is scheduled for the two bills on Thursday morning at 8 a.m.

Categories: Alcohol

House Democrats push for slightly smaller transportation tax package

By | April 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

House Democrats have narrowed a transportation tax proposal that would pump $8.4 billion dollars into new projects around the state.

The plan is about $1.6 billion less than a package unveiled in February, but still relies on a 10 cent a gallon increase on the state’s gasoline tax. Other revenue-generating plans have been dropped from the new package, including a car tab tax and a fee on bicycle purchases.

Read a summary of the revised proposal here.

The package targets improvements to State Route 167, funding for the Interstate 5 Columbia River Crossing project and the state ferry system. Last week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood urged lawmakers to fund the CRC project or risk losing federal funding. Some Republicans in the Senate take issue with design elements in the bridge project and have vowed to stop it.

In a statement released Tuesday, Senate Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) said he was willing to discuss the House proposal.

“Members of both parties can agree to the critical need to invest in our transportation system and though I don’t agree with everything in this package, I agree that we need to have this conversation,” King said.

With less than two weeks remaining in the 105-day legislative session, backers of the proposal are running out of time to get the plan approved. It must first be approved in the House Transportation Committee before it reaches the floor.

Read the full statement from the House Democrats on the transportation package here.

Categories: transportation

House approves measures expanding liquor sales, sampling

By | April 15, 2013 | 0 Comments

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Three measures that would loosen restrictions on alcohol sales and sampling were approved by lawmakers on Monday.

The legislation that won approval in the state House would allow alcohol service in day spas and dinner theaters and expand sampling at liquor stores.

Two other measures — one that expands beer and wine sampling at farmers markets and a bill that allows culinary and viticulture students between the ages of 18 and 21 to taste, but not consume alcohol — cleared both chambers of the Legislature last week.

The legislation comes amid a debate among lawmakers about passing stricter penalties for drunken driving after two high- profile cases in Seattle left three dead. Gov. Jay Inslee has called a press conference Tuesday to discuss a proposal that would tighten regulations surrounding the use of interlock devices on cars for people charged with DUIs.

Here is a look at the measures passed by the House on Monday:

  • Day spa drinks: A measure introduced by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent) would allow day spa owners to offer a complimentary glass of wine or beer to clients. The measure limits the amount to 12 ounces of beer or 6 ounces of wine.
  • Spirits sampling: Allows stores with a spirits retail license to provide customers with single-serving samples of 0.5 ounce or less of spirits for the purpose of sales promotion.
  • Theater licenses: Allows theaters that serves meals and have no more than 120 seats per screen to sell spirits, beer, and wine.

 

Categories: Alcohol

House committee passes budget, sets stage for floor vote

By | April 12, 2013 | 0 Comments

A $34.5 billion budget proposed by House Democrats was passed out of the House Appropriations Committee late Thursday night, clearing the way for a floor vote Friday afternoon.

The budget was expected to win approval in the Democratic-controlled committee, but a slew of amendments will likely be proposed by House Republicans during the floor session this afternoon.

The proposal calls for the elimination 15 different tax breaks and the extension of business and beer taxes set to expire this year. Those maneuvers would raise about $1.3 billion and meet a court mandate that the Legislature fully fund basic education at the state’s schools.

The lead Republican budget writer Rep. Gary Alexander (R-Olympia) was critical of the late-night committee vote in a statement released late Thursday.

“I’m always amazed that the policies and programs supported in the budget are heard in the light of day, but the faults exposed during executive session are witnessed by empty seats in the dead of night,” Alexander said.

The budget passed by an 18-13 vote around 10 p.m.

Committee chair and lead budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) called the budget “honest, responsible and stable.”

Once the budget is approved by the full House, negotiations will begin to find a compromise with the budget passed by the GOP-controlled Senate last week.

Categories: Budget

Senate panel considers stricter DUI laws

By | April 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

Lawmakers spent Thursday morning discussing ways to crack down on driving under the influence around the state in the wake of two high-profile cases in the Seattle area that left three dead.

Attorneys, judges and law enforcement officials offered their views during a Senate Law and Justice Committee work session focused on preventing more tragedies like the ones making headlines in recent weeks. The chair of that committee, Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley), is sponsoring a title-only piece of legislation called the Driving Under the Influence Act of 2013.

One idea gaining traction is changing the felony DUI scoring – making the offense a felony on the third or fourth conviction, instead of the current law of five within 10 years.

“Clearly if the law were narrower, we would see a dramatic increase in DUI felony crimes,” said King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim.

Changing the law would also result in higher costs for the courts and prison system. That presents a problem for lawmakers who are trying to close a $1.2 billion budget deficit and funnel more money into the state’s school system.

Other ideas considered by the committee included:

  • Tightening regulations surrounding the use of interlock devices on cars for people charged with DUIs. Some say it should be mandatory and Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) said he would like to see them installed while the cars are impounded following a DUI arrest.
  • Allowing law enforcement to use roadside sobriety checkpoints. A number of states around the country use checkpoints, but some questioned the constitutionality of the practice.
  • The committee heard a presentation about South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Program, which gives people convicted of alcohol-related crimes a chance to stay out of jail as long as they are monitored daily for alcohol use. It requires repeat DUI offenders to take twice-daily breath tests to prove their sobriety or to wear alcohol-monitoring bracelets or test through an interlock device on their car.

It’s unclear when a finished piece of legislation will be proposed, but Padden said more meetings will take place with stakeholders and a joint meeting with his committee and the House Public Safety Committee will likely take place next Thursday.

Categories: Criminal Justice

House budget plan would end tax breaks to pump money into education

By | April 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

House Democratic leaders on Wednesday unveiled a $34.5 billion dollar budget that would funnel more into education by eliminating a number of tax breaks.

The proposal is similar to a budget plan proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee two weeks ago and calls for about a $1 billion more than a plan proposed by the GOP-controlled Senate last week.

The plan calls for a $1.9 billion increase in funding for K-12 education, including $1.3 billion dedicated to meeting a court mandate to fully fund basic education. A budget proposed by the Senate last week called for a $1.5 billion increase in funding for education and $1 billion for the McCleary decision, which made education the Legislature’s top priority this session.

“It represents a real commitment to meeting our paramount duty without devastating other vital state services,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington).

Read a summary of the budget here and a breakdown by agency here.

(more…)

Categories: Budget

Transportation Secretary LaHood urges state lawmakers to fund Columbia River Crossing

By | April 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Olympia on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to approve funding package for the Columbia River Crossing project.

The $3.4 billion project will widen Interstate 5, replace bridges between Oregon and Washington and connect light rail to downtown Vancouver. The project is dependent on a funding commitment from both Washington and Oregon to secure federal money – and a deadline is looming.

“This is the 11th hour. It’s time to fish or cut bait,” LaHood said during a news conference with Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday morning.

The project faces vocal opposition from some in the Republican-controlled Senate. They take issue with the proposed bridge’s height and addition of light rail.

Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver), a vocal critic of the project, said he came away from the meeting with LaHood with little hope for compromise.

“The Secretary was immovable on his position that it’s now or never,” Benton said.

LaHood said the state needs to come up with about $460 million to move the project forward. Oregon lawmakers have already approved $450 million for the CRC.

Watch the press conference below:

 

Categories: transportation