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Lawmakers consider bill in wake of Powell murders

By | March 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

The House Early Learning and Human Services Committee considered a bill Thursday that was spurred by last year’s Powell family tragedy. Josh Powell was a suspect in his wife’s disappearance when he killed himself and his two young sons during a supervised home visit.

The Department of Social Health Services conducted an investigation of the Powell case, which is required whenever a child dies of suspected abuse or neglect. The findings of the Child Fatality Review Team are the basis for this bill.

Under the proposed legislation, parents who are the subject of a murder investigation would have their visitation rights restricted or removed. It also requires DSHS to coordinate with law enforcement and the court system if a family member is suspected of a crime that could affect the safety of a child.

Patrick Dowd, a former ombudsman of Washington’s Office of Family and Children, told the committee that there needs to be more transparency between DSHS and law enforcement.

“Not perhaps asking for full disclosure,” Dowd said, “but simply a worker saying, ‘look we need to determine what limitations might be placed on the father’s contact so we can protect these kids.’”

Sen. Randi Becker (R-Eatonville) is the sponsor of the bill and also served on the fatality review team. She views another element of the bill as crucial — the requirement of DSHS to reassess family visitations when a parent is ordered to complete a psychosexual evaluation.

This revision, Becker said, could have prevented the deaths of the Powell boys.

“When he went in to make his appointment for that psychosexual evaluation he asked all sorts of questions,” Becker said. “From my own perspective I think that’s when he realized he was in trouble.”

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Rep. Denny Heck warns of sequester cuts on tour of businesses in Lakewood

By | February 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

Rep. Denny Heck visits Tactical Tailor

U.S. Rep. Denny Heck spent his time off this week delivering a message to small business owners in the Puget Sound: “We’re going over the fiscal cliff.”

The Democrat said he is upset that Congress is on recess instead of remaining in session to pass a plan to avoid cuts, now only nine days away. Forced cuts known as the sequester totaling $85 billion will fall March 1 unless Congress acts.

State officials told lawmakers last week that Washington state is expecting to receive $118 million less in federal grants; cuts will range from 5 to 12 percent for programs like early learning and transportation.

The Department of Defense will be hit the hardest. The Army, in Washington alone, could lose $461 million. Lakewood could feel the sequester especially hard because many of its residents earn their paychecks at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“The largest employer, as everybody sitting in this room knows, in South Puget Sound is Joint Base Lewis-McCord,” Heck said in Lakewood on Thursday.

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Categories: Budget

New Secretary of State says Heritage Center is a priority

By | January 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

New Secretary of State Kim Wyman speaks to members of the media at Friday's meet-and-greet.

Secretary of State, Kim Wyman, laid out her priorities for this session at a meet-and-greet with members of the media Friday. At the top of her list is the completion of the Washington’s Heritage Center on the state’s capitol campus.

The center would house the State Archives, the State Library and the State Capitol Museum’s exhibits.

Construction for the heritage center was proposed by former Secretary of State Sam Reed in 2007. A year later, due to the deepening of the recession, the building was placed on hold. The Secretary of State’s office says a total of $16 million dollars dedicated for the Heritage Center has been reallocated elsewhere.

Wyman said now that the economy is improving the project should resume, and the destruction of the General Administration building provides just the right location. In terms of costs, she said the price-tag of construction is currently the lowest it will be for the next ten years.

“So, I think we should at least start having the conversation about how we could move forward,” she said.

Wyman compared the current renting of the state’s library site — at an annual cost of $1.2 million — to using a credit card when the state could be laying down cash for a profitable venture.

“It’s just a silly investment if we continue to rent space when we could be investing in an actual capital project that is going to be here for generations to come,” Wyman said.

Also on the new Secretary of State’s agenda: ensuring a printed voter’s pamphlet for all federal and state officials in even-year primary elections, and discontinuing the holding of primary elections for judicial races when only one or two candidates have filed for office.

Categories: Budget
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Sen. Adam Kline hopes to amend Citizens United decision

By | January 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

Senator Adam Kline at the press conference next to a stack of petitions.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, is asking U.S. Congress to pass an amendment to the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.

He discussed his sponsorship of a Senate Joint Memorial at a press conference Thursday.

Under the 2010 Citizens United decision, corporations and unions were freed from restrictions on campaign funding, allowing them to donate unlimited amounts to so-called super PACs. The court ruled they were protected by the First Amendment. The Center for Public Integrity says the decision opened the door to nearly $1 billion in political spending during the 2012 election, much of that ultimately on ad campaigns.

Kline said separating money from politics is “good for the state government, good for the people” and “absolutely necessary.”

Also at the press conference were members of organizations that helped gather signatures in support of the amendment. Occupy Seattle’s “Get Money out of Politics” has collected 12,000 signatures in four months.

“We all share the same concern about how the voices of ordinary citizens can be heard when we don’t have a million dollars to spend on TV ads to air against politicians and ballot initiatives that threaten the profit margin for corporations,” said member Jonathan Tong.

Kline said that he will not be submitting the bill until he has asked all members of the Senate for support. Members, Kline urged, who need to hear from their constituents. “Nothing rings a legislator’s bells more than a contact, email, phone call that starts, ‘Senator, I live in your district and this is an issue I want you to pay attention to,” Kline said.

“We answer to the people, if we believe that people are against this issue, you can’t expect us reasonably to vote for it, we’re not going to lose our jobs over this unless you show us that people in our districts are in favor of it,” Kline said.

Categories: Election