Author Archive

State approves coverage for transgender people

By | October 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

Healthcare plans for state workers will soon include benefits for transgender services, including gender reassignment surgery.

The state Public Employees Benefits Board voted unanimously at a special meeting Wednesday to cover benefits for gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person doesn’t believe their gender identity conforms with their birth gender.

Starting January 1, 2015, all health care plans administered by the state board will include benefits for “covered non-surgical health care services, covered prescriptions, and covered surgical services for the treatment of gender dysphoria.” The board administers healthcare plans for state employees, their family members and retirees.

Kathryn Mahan of Puyallup has been a government employee for 28 years, and told the board she plans to take advantage of the transgender services next year.

After the meeting, she said the decision was “life changing.” Without coverage, surgery would cost $20,000. “I never thought this would be possible,” Mahan said.

Board members said they were pleased at how quickly the services will be covered. Transgender advocates first approached the board in the spring. “There was a lot of interest in the transgender benefits,” said PEBB division director Lou McDermott.

Categories: Olympia, State agency news

On ‘The Impact’ this week: Backpage lawsuit and Ebola outbreak

By | October 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

On “The Impact” this week, hear from the family of one of the underage girls who was trafficked for sex on the Backpage website. A lawyer for the girl argued before the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday that the website is responsible for some of its content. Backpage contends that it is immune under a federal communications law.

Also on the show, details about the new screening measures in place to monitor travelers coming to Washington from Ebola outbreak zones. Host Anita Kissee interviews Kathy Lofy, the communicable diseases epidemiologist with Washington’s Dept. of Health.

More information about Washington’s efforts to stop the Ebola outbreak can be found on the department’s website.

The show airs Wednesday Oct. 22 at 7 & 10 p.m. We’ll post a link here once it is available online.

Categories: TVW

Backpage sex trafficking case argued before state Supreme Court

By | October 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Protestors rally against Backpage in front of the Supreme Court

A lawyer for Backpage.com argued before the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday that the website should be granted “complete immunity” from prosecution because it did not write the online ads that resulted in the sex trafficking of three underage girls.

Backpage maintains that the website is immune under the federal Communications Decency Act, which says that an Internet service provider is not liable for the content posted by users.

“It’s clear that Backpage did not create or develop the ads that allegedly harmed the plaintiffs,” Backpage attorney Jim Grant told the court.

But a lawyer for the three victims says that Backpage did play a role in developing the ads.

Erik Bauer told justices that Backpage should be considered an “information content provider” because of its posting guidelines, which he said help traffickers write sex ads that won’t get flagged by law enforcement.

The guidelines include suggestions such as “don’t advertise in time increments of 15 minutes,” and offer a way for pimps to pay for the ads with untraceable prepaid credit cards, Bauer said.

“These so-called posting rules that are on the Backpage website are actually instructions to pimps on how to post an ad that works,” Bauer said.

Grant countered that claim, saying virtually every website has posting guidelines. “Backpage’s rules prohibit illegal content and prohibit improper content, just as Craigslist rules do, just as Facebook rules do, just as Microsoft Windows rules do,” Grant said.

The three victims in the case were between the ages of 13 and 15 when they were trafficked.

The mother of one of the girls told TVW after the hearing that her daughter ran away from home at the age of 15, took a bus to Seattle and within 36 hours was trafficked for sex by a pimp who used Backpage to sell her multiple times a day.

“She’s doing much better today,” her mother said. The pimp was arrested, and she said the next step was to go after the facilitator — Backpage. “I felt it was time Section 230 (of the Communications Decency Act) was looked at,” she said.

The justices will release a decision at a later date. TVW taped the hearing — watch it below:

Washington Supreme Court set to hear Backpage sex trafficking case

By | October 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit brought against Backpage.com by representatives of three teenagers who say they were trafficked for sex on the website.

Lawyers for the sex trafficking victims allege that Backpage is liable for creating an online marketplace for sex, and for contributing to some of the content of the ads by posting certain guidelines. Backpage argues it is immune under the 1996 federal Communications Decency Act, which says that an Internet service provider is not liable for the content posted by users.

TVW will air the arguments live at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

The victims were runaways between the ages of 13 through 15 when they were initially trafficked on Backpage by a pimp, according to court filings. The victims allege that Backpage never attempted to verify their ages, and they say they were raped numerous times as a result of the online escort ads that were posted and paid for by the pimp.

They argue in court filings that Backpage contributed to the content of the ads by “providing phoney posting rules and content requirements to instruct sex traffickers not to use certain words and graphics in order to avoid growing scrutiny by the public and law enforcement.”

The pimp who trafficked the girls was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to 26 1/2 years in prison.

Backpage attorney Liz McDougall told TVW it was premature to comment on the lawsuit. However, in an email she said that Backpage fights child trafficking with “approximately 100 staff dedicated to operating a 24/7 triple-tier prevention system (including an automated filter and two levels of human review).”

McDougall said “identifying and vilifying a single U.S. website (previously craigslist, now Backpage.com) as the cause of the problem and the key to the solution are ill-founded and unproductive,” and will result in children being trafficked on offshore websites that are outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement.

A Pierce County Superior Court judge denied a motion by Backpage to dismiss the case under the Communications Decency Act. Backpage appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court accepted review of the court’s decision.

If the Supreme Court agrees with the victims, then Backpage could be denied immunity and required to pay damages, according to the state Attorney General’s Office, which filed a “friend of the court” brief in the lawsuit against Backpage.

Read all the court filings here.

On ‘The Impact’ this week: Senate races, voting history

By | October 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

On this week’s edition of “The Impact,” we break down the state Senate races that are most in play.

On-set guests Republican Sen. Bruce Dammeier and Democratic Sen. Kevin Ranker talk about the implications the races will have on the balance of the state Senate, which is currently controlled by the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus.

Plus, a look into the state archives to see the first voters’ pamphlet dating back 100 years. The Secretary of State’s office has archived all voters’ pamphlets since 1914 at this link.

Update: The show is now online — watch it below:

Categories: TVW

Ethics board votes to limit free meals for legislators

By | October 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

Legislators cannot accept more than 12 free meals a year from lobbyists under a new rule adopted unanimously Tuesday by the Legislative Ethics Board.

Lawmakers are allowed to accept gifts of food or beverages on “infrequent occasions” if they are discussing legislative business. However, an investigation published last year by the AP and Northwest Public Radio found that legislators were accepting hundreds of meals worth thousands of dollars from lobbyists on a regular basis.

The ethics board held four meetings this year to define “infrequent” for the first time.

The new rule adopted Tuesday defines “infrequent” as 12 times per calendar year, and states that a qualifying meal could be a breakfast, lunch or dinner that includes food and beverages.

It also includes a number of exceptions — for example, a legislator is allowed to accept a free cup of coffee from a lobbyist. The rule also doesn’t apply to buffet-style events where attendance is related to the legislator’s official duties.

Read the draft rule here.

The new rule goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015. Watch today’s hearing at this link.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate
Tags:

Smaller class size initiative leading in Elway Poll

By | October 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

Voters appear to be in support of an initiative that would require smaller class sizes in public schools.

The latest Elway Poll shows that 66 percent of voters said they would definitely or probably vote yes for Initiative 1351. Twenty four percent said they would definitely or probably vote no, and 11 percent remain undecided.

The ballot measure requires the Legislature to allocate funding for smaller class sizes over the next four years, starting with high poverty schools where half of the students receive free or reduced lunch.

The poll said the initiative showed support across demographics, although support waned when voters pay closer attention. “The more attention voters have paid, the less likely they are to support I-1351,” pollster H. Stuart Elway said.

Supporters say the measure would allow teachers to pay more attention to students and bring the state in line with national class size rankings. Opponents argue that the measure doesn’t say where the money would come from, and it displaces money that could be better spent.

TVW’s Video Voters Guide has statements from the proponents and opponents of the measure.

In 2000, Washington voters passed Initiative 728 requiring smaller class sizes, but the ballot measure was repealed by Legislature in 2012 because of lack of funding.

Categories: Election

On TVW this week: Ethics board, welfare program updates

By | October 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Here’s what we’re covering live on TVW this week:

Tuesday, Oct. 14 at noon: The Legislative Ethics Board is meeting to discuss and vote on a rule for how frequently lawmakers are allowed to accept free meals from lobbyists. TVW will air the meeting on television and the web.

Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 7 & 10 p.m.: On “The Impact,” we look at the battle over control of Washington’s Senate and why it matters so much this election. Plus, a rare glimpse into our state archives to see what Washingtonians voted on 100 years ago.

Thursday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m.: The House Early Learning committee is holding a meeting to discuss child welfare court data. It will be broadcast live on television and on the web.

Thursday, Oct. 16 at 7 & 10 p.m.: On “Inside Olympia,” host Austin Jenkins interviews the proponents and opponents of the class size initiative, as well as the gun control initiative.

Friday, Oct. 17 at 9 a.m.: A health subcommittee is scheduled to get updates on two welfare programs, as well as a prescription drug initiative. Live on television and the web.

Friday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m.: TVW will be live with the Citizens Tax Preference Commission.

Categories: TVW

Former TVW president Greg Lane to become Deputy Secretary of State

By | October 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

Secretary of State Kim Wyman announced today that former TVW President and CEO Greg Lane will become Deputy Secretary of State.

Current deputy Mark Neary will become Assistant Secretary of State, succeeding Ken Raske, who will retire at the end of the year.

Lane joined TVW in 2008, and his last day as leader of the organization was Oct. 3. He previously worked as the deputy chief of staff and communications director for the Attorney General, and as the media services director at the House of Representatives.

From the Secretary of State’s press release:

Wyman noted that as a TVW board member, she had an opportunity see Lane’s administrative and policy skills in action. After Lane announced his departure from TVW, Wyman said she realized Lane would be an ideal fit for the Office of Secretary of State and asked him to come on board.

“I’m delighted that Greg will be our new Deputy Secretary and I know he brings energy, innovation and a commitment to excellence,” Wyman said. “As we look toward big changes at the State Library and State Archives and bringing our `A-Game’ to Elections, Corporations, Legacy Washington and our special programs, we will have a very strong leadership team to guide the way.”

Categories: TVW

AT&T to pay $105 million for ‘cramming’ customer bills

By | October 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

AT&T agreed to pay $105 million to settle claims that it charged customers for premium services they never requested, such as horoscopes, trivia or sports scores.

Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson says more than half a million Washingtonians may have been affected by the practice, called “cramming.” In many cases, customers were charged $9.99 per month without their permission for third-party services like ringtones, wallpapers and text message subscriptions.

AT&T will pay $80 million to the Federal Trade Commission to refund customers nationwide who were charged unauthorized fees.

Current or former AT&T customers may apply for a refund by visiting www.ftc.gov/att.

The wireless carrier is also paying $20 million to the attorneys general of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as $5 million to the FCC as a penalty.

Washington state received $807,314 for its participation in the agreement, according to Ferguson.

Categories: Attorney General

Bankers say they need more guidance to provide services to marijuana businesses

By | October 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

Bankers told legislators this week they need more clarity when it comes to laws that allow them to provide checking accounts, loans and other financial services to marijuana businesses.

Salal Credit Union of Seattle currently counts five marijuana producers and four retailers among its customers, Russ Rosendal told a joint legislative committee on Monday.

The bank follows guidelines from the so-called “Cole memo” released by the U.S. Department of Justice last year. The memo said the federal government will only enforce eight areas of the federal Controlled Substance Act in Washington and Colorado.

However, the memo contains “exceptions and loopholes,” Rosendal said, and it doesn’t prohibit the federal government from launching investigations or prosecutions. “So while it was a step forward, there are still a lot of issues there,” he said.

Numerica Credit Union also provides services to marijuana businesses. Bank representative Lynn Ciani said one reason she thinks more banks aren’t providing financial services to the marijuana industry is because of the criminal penalties that the DOJ can impose for violating federal anti-laundering laws.

“Although we are used to the large civil penalties and that risk, the whole going to jail thing and wearing orange is probably causing people to take a second thought,” Ciani told the committee.

Both banks also follow guidance released in February by the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Justice Department.

However, a number of issues remain to be sorted out.

Rosendal said it is unclear what tax deductions a marijuana business is allowed to take. He said banks are also unsure about forfeiture and seizure laws. “As long as financial institutions are unclear about what collateral they have…it is going to be hard to lend any money to 502 businesses,” he said.

Credit cards are also a problem, Rosendal said, because companies like Visa or Mastercard don’t allow their products to be used for marijuana. “Until these I-502 businesses can do electronic transactions, they’re going to be forced to be in a cash business,” he said.

Watch the full meeting at this TVW link.

 

Categories: Marijuana

On TVW: Marijuana banking regulations, jail and mental health agency collaborations

By | October 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

Here’s what we’re covering this week on TVW:

Monday, Oct. 6 at noon: A joint legislative committee is holding a work session on legal marijuana and federal banking regulations. At 1 p.m., the House Government Accountability and Oversight committee will discuss the legal marijuana markets in Washington and Colorado. The meetings will be broadcast on TVW and the web.

Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 7 & 10 p.m.: On “The Impact,” Washington lawmakers get an update on the legal marijuana market and how it’s working so far. Plus, the pros and cons to I-1351, Washington’s class size initiative.

Thursday, Oct. 9 at 7 & 10 p.m.: On “Inside Olympia,” host Austin Jenkins discusses the upcoming elections with State Democratic Party Chairman Jaxon Ravens and Susan Hutchison, the chair of the state Republican party.

Friday, Oct. 10 at 9 a.m.: The Adult Behavioral Health System Task Force is holding a meeting to discuss jail and mental health agency collaborations, among other items. TVW will air the meeting live on television and the web.

 

Categories: TVW

‘Flight Plan: Charting a Course for Drones in Washington’ is now airing on TVW, online

By | October 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

This one-hour television special from TVW looks at the growing popularity of civilian drones, and the privacy questions they raise. TVW introduces you to hobbyists who are flying drones for fun, as well as professionals who want to use them for things like selling real estate or growing grapes.

We also take you inside Washington’s booming drone industry, where unmanned aerial systems are built primarily for military customers. And finally, we show you how police and Washington state agencies could use the technology — and hear from those who say government drones threaten your civil rights.

“Flight Plan: Charting a Course for Drones in Washington” is airing on TVW. Or, you can watch it anytime on YouTube or at TVW’s website.

Categories: Drone, TVW

More must be done to prevent oil spills in Washington, Inslee says

By | October 1, 2014 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee says the state and federal government must do more to prevent oil spills from “outdated, inadequate and outright dangerous” trains that carry volatile Bakken crude oil across Washington state.

“These train cars were not designed to carry this product,” Inslee said at a press conference in Seattle on Wednesday. The governor is calling on the federal government to impose a speed limit of 30 miles per hour for trains that have not been updated to transport high-hazard materials, and 40 miles per hour once the train cars are upgraded.

“We don’t let speeding cars through our school zones,” he said. “We should not let speeding unsafe oil rail cars through Washington state cities.”

A train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in Seattle in July as it was heading for a refinery at Anacortes, but it didn’t spill any oil. Inslee said the state “dodged a bullet” because the train was traveling at slow speeds.

Inslee also wants the federal government to shorten the two-year time period it is proposing for rail companies to upgrade train cars. “That is too long,” he said. “A one year window should provide adequate time for rail car upgrades that are already underway.”

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, the governor urged a “quicker phase out of the T-111 tank cars that are inadequate for transporting high-hazard materials,” saying the cars should not be used to transport Bakken crude after October 2016.

The Dept. of Ecology released a preliminary report on Wednesday that makes recommendations on how the state can improve rail safety at a time the state is seeing increased carloads of oil and coal from Montana and North Dakota.

The report includes more than $12 million in budget recommendations, including hiring extra rail inspectors, providing equipment and training for local first responders and firefighters, and developing new geographic response plans for oil spills.

Inslee said he would use the recommendations to submit a plan to the Legislature during the 2015 session.

The public can submit comments about the initial recommendations online or at two public meetings: Oct. 28 in Spokane, or Oct. 30 in Olympia.

TVW taped the press conference. Watch it below:

On TVW: Food safety hearing, revenue forecast & health benefit exchange update

By | September 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Here’s what TVW is live with this week:

Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 9 a.m.: House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee is holding a work session on food security and new federal food rules. TVW will be live on television and the web with the hearing.

Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 10 a.m.: House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education is having a work session on early education. The meeting will be broadcast live on television and the web.

Wednesday, Sept. 17 a 7 & 10 p.m.: On “The Impact” this week: Finding adequate treatment and housing for Washington’s mentally ill patients. Plus, how the new military alliance will work to preserve the military’s economic presence in our state.

Thursday, Sept. 18 at 10 a.m.: A health care committee will get an update on the health benefit exchange. Watch live on TVW, or at this link.

Thursday, Sept. 18 at 1:30 p.m.: The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council will release its revenue forecast. Live on TVW, and the web.

Thursday, Sept. 18 at 7 & 10 p.m.: On “Inside Olympia” this week: What are the reasons behind record Columbia River salmon runs? Is wildlife poaching a problem in Washington? Host Austin Jenkins interviews a leader from the state Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

Friday, Sept. 19 at 1 p.m.: TVW will be live with the Citizens Tax Preference Commission.

 

Categories: TVW

Supreme Court holds Legislature in contempt for education funding

By | September 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington Supreme Court is holding the Legislature in contempt for failing to submit a plan detailing how the state will pay for public schools through 2018.

However, the court stopped short of imposing sanctions. It is giving the Legislature the “opportunity to purge the contempt” if lawmakers submit an education funding plan by the end of the 2015 session.

“If the contempt is not purged by adjournment of the 2015 legislature, the court will reconvene and impose sanctions or other remedial measures,” Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote in the unanimous order released Thursday.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 2012 McCleary decision that Washington state was not meeting its constitutional duty to fund K-12 education. The court has since demanded regular updates from the Legislature, including an order asking lawmakers to submit a plan in April explaining how the state will pay for basic education.

The Legislature failed to submit that plan, spurring a contempt hearing last week in which lawyers for the state asked for more time.

“The state assured the court that a contempt order is not necessary to get the legislature’s attention, that school funding is the number one issue on the legislature’s agenda, and that the 2015 session will provide the best opportunity to take meaningful action on the matter,” Madsen wrote.

“The court has no doubt that it already has the legislature’s ‘attention.’ But that is not the purpose of a contempt order. Rather, contempt is the means by which a court enforces compliance with its lawful orders when they are not followed,” the court said.

The order will be posted on the court’s website.

Categories: Education, McCleary

Oil train safety on ‘The Impact’

By | September 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

On this week’s edition of “The Impact,” host Anita Kissee looks at the controversy surrounding oil trains traveling through Washington, and what the state is doing to prepare.

The state Dept. of Ecology is conducting an oil transportation study to look at risks to health and safety, as well as environmental impacts. The Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study is due to the governor and Legislature in March 2015.

Also on the show: A look inside Washington’s first charter school to see the unique way it’s educating children. Plus, there is a new way for parents to find out what toxic chemicals are in things like children’s toys with an online database of all consumer products tested by the Ecology department.

Watch the show below:

Categories: Oil Trains

Supreme Court hears arguments in contempt hearing related to school funding

By | September 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

A lawyer for the state argued Wednesday that the Washington Supreme Court should not hold the Legislature in contempt for failing to come up with a plan to fund schools because it would set back progress.

“Finding contempt and ordering a sanction could impede progress toward the ultimate resolution — the ultimate funding of schools — rather than promote it,” deputy solicitor general Alan Copsey told justices during a show-cause hearing.

The state Supreme Court is considering holding the Legislature in contempt for not complying with a court order related to the 2012 McCleary ruling, which found the state is not meeting its constitutional duty to fund K-12 education.

The court ordered the Legislature to come up with a detailed plan in April explaining how it will pay for schools through 2018. The Legislature failed to submit that plan, spurring Wednesday’s hearing.

Copsey asked the court to wait until after the 2015 session to give lawmakers time to write an operating budget and pass legislation to fund education.

“This court should give the 2015 Legislature the opportunity to act, but stand ready should legislators stumble in that duty,” said Copsey.

Justice Charles Wiggins questioned why justices should believe the Legislature will do things differently this time.

Copsey responded by saying the Legislature was not “thumbing its nose” at the court order, but it simply couldn’t agree on how to fund schools. He says he hopes legislators will come to an agreement in 2015.

An attorney for the McCleary family and other plaintiffs urged the court to take action against the Legislature.

“Call a spade a spade. They’re in contempt, don’t be afraid to say the word ‘contempt’,”  attorney Thomas Ahearne told justices.

Ahearne said the court should demand the Legislature submit a plan by the end of 2014. If lawmakers fail to submit a plan, he said the court should step in with sanctions.

“The reason for a sanction is to coerce…the person who is not complying to actually comply,” he said.

The Supreme Court will respond at a later date. TVW taped the show-cause hearing — watch it below.

Categories: Education, McCleary

TVW president Greg Lane stepping down

By | August 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

TVW President and CEO Greg Lane is stepping down from his position, effective Oct. 3

Lane joined TVW in 2008. He is the third president in TVW’s history, succeeding Cindy Zehnder and founding president Denny Heck.

During Lane’s tenure, TVW expanded its web services to make meetings more accessible to the public. All hearings and meetings recorded by TVW are now available on the organization’s website, and viewers can search, highlight and share TVW video, as well as track issues and access legislative documents.

Lane also led efforts to enhance the produced programs at the station. TVW won three Emmy Awards from the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the last two years. In 2013, TVW won the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism.

The education resource Teach With TVW was expanded under Lane’s guidance, including the creation of Capitol Classroom, which each year teaches more than 300 middle and high school students how to participate in the legislative process.

“TVW was established because citizens deserve to be able to watch their government work, no matter where they live in our state,” Lane said. “I’m very proud of the improvements TVW has made over the last six years to increase that access, as well as help people better understand the issues and how to participate in the process.”

TVW’s Board of Directors is launching a search to fill the position.

Categories: TVW

McCleary school funding hearing set for Sept. 3, TVW will carry live

By | August 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington Supreme Court is ordering lawyers for the state to appear before justices to explain why the Legislature should not be held in contempt for failing to provide a complete plan for funding education.

TVW will air the hearing live on television at 2 p.m. on Sept. 3. It will also be live webcast at this link.

The state Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary case that the state is not fulfilling its obligation to fully fund education. The court has demanded regular updates from the Legislature since the 2012 ruling, and earlier this year the court gave lawmakers an April 30 deadline to explain how the state will pay for schools through the 2018 school year.

Legislators submitted a report by the deadline, but it didn’t include a plan. The report instead asked the Supreme Court to give “deep consideration” to the action taken by lawmakers this year, and recognize that “2015 is the next and most critical year for the Legislature to reach the grand agreement” to pay for education.

The plaintiffs in the McCleary case filed a brief this month asking the Supreme Court to take action if lawmakers don’t have a funding plan by the end of the year.

The court issued a show-cause order for the state’s lawyers to appear before the court to “address why the state should not be held in contempt for violation of this court’s order” that directed the Legislature to submit a complete plan for funding education.

Categories: Courts, Education, McCleary