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On The Impact tonight: Health care reform – the people affected & Rob McKenna

By | March 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

On The Impact tonight, you’ll see updates from a couple people we interviewed just after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law.  The original interviews were part of our hour-long special report, Shock to the System: How national reform is changing your health care.  Tonight, we find out what’s happened to Liz Teisan, a woman who was denied insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions.  We also check in with Don Conant, a small business owner and skeptic of the law, who is now involved in the law’s implementation at the state level.  I also have a one-on-one interview with Attorney General Rob McKenna about Washington’s involvement in the legal challenge of the individual mandate and other provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  Due to time constraints, we had to cut short that interview on the show, so here it is in its entirety.

You can watch The Impact Wednesday nights at 7 & 10 p.m. on TVW.

Categories: Healthcare

Judge upholds liquor privatization initiative – watch the ruling here

By | March 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

A Cowlitz County judge reversed his previous ruling on a voter-approved liquor privatization initiative, allowing for implementation to continue.  Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning ruled the initiative had two subjects, rendering it unconstitutional.  On Monday, he changed his mind.

“While nobody likes to say that they are wrong, and I think judges least of all, I think I was previously,” said Warning.

Watch his entire ruling below.  Then, on Wednesday, tune into The Impact for my interview with the director of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, who updates us on progress toward implementing I-1183, even as this Cowlitz County case is appealed to the State Supreme Court.

You can watch The Impact Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on TVW.


House budget chair offers new budget proposal

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

A new budget proposal, if passed by both chambers today, could get the legislature out of Olympia without a special session.  A summary of the proposal is posted here.  It’s an amendment to replace the details of the Senate Republican budget, which was passed last week when three Democrats crossed party lines to support the GOP plan.  I”m still reviewing the plan before heading up to the Capitol Rotunda for our daylong live coverage of sine die, but the proposal includes the controversial deferral of payments to school districts worth $340 million, down from the House Democrats’ original proposal to shift more than $400 million.  It’s something Senate Republicans have opposed, calling it an accounting “gimmick.”  If the House inserts this proposal into the Senate Republican budget today and pass it off their floor, the bill goes back to the Senate and that chamber can give it an up or down vote – the Senate would not be able to amend it.

The Impact’s special coverage of sine die begins at 8:45am with a press panel analysis of the legislative session.  We’re planning to be live with the governor at 9am – stay tuned for her comments on this latest budget proposal.

Categories: Uncategorized

No budget deal on the horizon, Zarelli and Kastama tell TVW

By | March 7, 2012 | 0 Comments

On The Impact set this morning, I interviewed two key figures in the Republican takeover of the Senate budget — Sens. Joe Zarelli (R-Ridgefield) and Jim Kastama (D-Puyallup).  Before the taped interview started, we talked about the negotiations process.  While the governor said she’d be pushing until midnight yesterday to hammer out a go-home deal, Zarelli said his last discussion with the governor was at 6 p.m., and he had yet to get a response to engage in formal negotiations with House Democrats, whose version of the budget was voted out of that chamber a week ago.  Kastama said during the interview that he wants the Senate Republican budget to be negotiated with the House Democrats’ budget — regardless of whether his priority reform measures are passed.

The entire episode of The Impact will air on TVW tonight at 7 p.m., unless it’s preempted by live floor action.  We’ll also be based in the Capitol Rotunda tomorrow for a full day of live and taped interviews.

Categories: Uncategorized

Fund Education First budget proposal is “more symbolism than substance,” according to Senate Majority Leader

By | February 2, 2012 | 0 Comments

Less than hour after the House Republicans unveiled their stand-alone education budget proposal, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown dismissed it as “more symbolism than substance.” Brown was responding to a reporter’s question at her weekly media availability. She said the state has a responsibility to fund not only basic education, but also a “broad spectrum” of programs from early learning to natural resources. The House Republican education budget would shave $46 million from education, leaving most of the $1.5 billion in likely cuts to come from other programs. Brown said “if you fund education first and pretend there aren’t tradeoffs, I think that’s a bait-and-switch.”

On transportation funding, Brown said the governor’s proposal to charge $1.50 per barrel of oil has “rolled away” and indicated transportation leaders are working on a smaller funding package through a number of fees.  On a question about possible threats from Wednesday night’s same-sex marriage vote, she said lawmakers get harassed over all sorts of issues.  She wasn’t aware of any threats that required police involvement.

On The Impact tonight: Congressman Adam Smith on defense spending cuts, a payroll tax extension and unemployment benefits

By | December 7, 2011 | 0 Comments

Congressman Adam Smith, D-9th District, is the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.  He joins me to talk about defense cuts, in the wake of the supercommittee’s failure to reach a grand deficit-reduction compromise.  He also explains his opposition to a payroll tax holiday extension and what he makes of the Occupy movement.  In my show tonight, I had to cut down the interview for time, so here it is in its entirety:

Also on tonight’s show, we take a look at cuts to addiction and mental health services.  On set are two key lawmakers on this topic:  Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, and Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood.  You can watch The Impact Wednesday nights at 7:00pm and 10:00pm on TVW.

Categories: Uncategorized

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s take on taxes, the budget, protests and more — exclusive interview from The Impact

By | November 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

On tonight’s edition of The Impact, I talk with Gov. Chris Gregoire about her tax proposal, the state budget, special session, her thoughts on the Occupy protests at the capitol – and much more. We didn’t have time to air the entire interview on the show, so I’m posting the full, unedited version here.

But don’t miss tonigh’ts show: We’ve also got more on the protests, an on-set interview and news from the first week of this 30-day special session. You can watch at 7 and 10 p.m. on TVW.

Learn more about Elwha River dam removal on The Impact and through these links

By | September 21, 2011 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150On The Impact on TVW at 7:00 pm tonight, you’ll see part of the big weekend ceremony, launching the removal of two dams on the Elwha River. When those dams come down, supporters say the free-flowing river will allow endangered salmon to return.  The National Park Service estimates 3,000 salmon were in the river before the dam removal.  When those dams went up in the early 1900s, it’s estimated that 300,000 salmon ran the river each year.

During the last scientific tour before demolition began, we interviewed two federal scientists who talk about the challenges of restoring salmon habitat, how this effort compares to other dam removals around the country, and how long it will take for abundant salmon runs to return. But there’s so much more to learn, so I’m providing you some links to the National Park Service, a site monitoring the removal through webcams, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, which all have much more information.

Also on The Impact tonight, I’m interviewing Les Purce, president of The Evergreen State College in Olympia.  Students are returning to campus this week, amid new concerns of another round of budget cuts. You can watch The Impact on Wednesdays at 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm on TVW and at various times on our four PBS partners.

Working on The Impact special report: Ferries director David Moseley assures the bigger boats are coming

By | August 26, 2011 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150The Washington State Ferry system has faced challenge after challenge over the past decade or so.  Among the major issues is its boat-building program.  With three new 64-car ferries nearly complete, the next step is to build boats that can carry about 144 cars – these boats are considered more versatile with the ability to serve larger routes throughout the system.  The legislature secured money for the first of two 144-car ferries, and ferry administrators are working toward a contract to start the first one.

Interview with WSF director David Moseley at Bainbridge Island church, where he addressed concerned citizens

Interview with WSF director David Moseley at a Bainbridge Island church, where he had just finished addressing a group of engaged citizens

In a 40-minute, in-depth interview with ferries director David Moseley, he talked about the importance of new boats to the aging fleet, as the three Evergreen State Class ferries near the end of their 60-year lifecycle.

Bidding issues have held up boat-building programs before, and it wasn’t until the 80-year-old Steel Electrics were suddenly pulled from the system in 2007 that the 64-car program was pushed through. With the 144s in the pipeline Moseley told me “we’ve got the money to build, and we’re going to start building the 144s next year.”

Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, has expressed concerns about the direction of the past and present boat procurement process (for background go here), and he’s asking the governor and state auditor’s office to investigate.

Will the state ferry system’s vessel replacement program continue to navigate rough waters in the future, as it has in the past?  It’s just one of the many questions we’re asking in our special report – Staying Afloat:  Challenges facing Washington State ferries.  Stay tuned for the premier on Tuesday, September 27th at 7:00 pm, on TVW.

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Working on The Impact Special Report: Washington’s Marine Highways

By | August 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150While The Impact’s weekly show is on a two-month hiatus, I’m spending my time riding Washington State ferries to various Puget Sound islands:  Bainbridge, San Juans, Whidbey.  This is not a vacation; this is a plum, summer-long special assignment.  I’m exploring the current challenges of one of the world’s largest ferry systems, which transports 23 million riders a year through nine routes in the Puget Sound.  It’s a critical transportation link for commuters and commercial traffic, and it’s widely considered one of the biggest tourism draws for the state. And yet, ferry operations, maintenance and construction face persistent funding problems; fares have skyrocketed over the past decade while ridership has declined; and ferry administrators have been forced to fight off a series of public relations disasters.  In order to better understand these issues, Washington State Ferries managers have granted us unprecedented access to the boats and maintenance facilities.

ferry san juans

Riding on the MV Sealth, an inter-island ferry for the San Juan Islands

But before we can fully grasp today’s issues, we need to understand how the Puget Sound marine highway developed starting in the late 1800s.  From its origins as a disjointed fleet of hundreds – perhaps thousands – of boats known as the “Mosquito Fleet”, to the dominance of a single private ferry company known as the Black Ball Line, to the state’s decision to take over the ferry system in 1951, we’ll examine how the ferry system became what it is today.

And then we’ll look to the future and ask tough questions:  how can policymakers keep the ferry system afloat? Can they find funding to replace more than half the fleet over the next three decades? Should the state be in the ferry business at all or should private enterprise be brought in to modernize it? And if state leaders can’t provide more predictability over services and fares for customers or improve the ferry system’s public image, will ferry riders abandon the service all together?

We’re interviewing riders, ferry workers, the state ferry chief, state legislators, local elected leaders, transportation analysts, history buffs and more.  Stay tuned for The Impact special report on TVW, coming in September.

Categories: Uncategorized

New medical marijuana legislation drafted – learn more on The Impact tonight

By | May 4, 2011 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150I just got off the set with Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, who provided me with a draft copy of new legislation dealing with medical marijuana production and a registry for patients. Last week, the governor vetoed of significant portions of the regular session legislation, including measures that would regulate the production and distribution of cannabis for medicinal uses.  Sen. Delvin said the governor’s staff was directly involved in drafting the new bill that will be introduced during the special session.

Here are some of the main provisions:

  • The registry:  the Department of Health would create a medical cannabis registry by January 1, 2013, allowing a health care professional to register a patient or a designated provider.  Registration would be voluntary, except for nonprofit patient cooperatives, which would be required to register their locations.
  • Collective gardens:  ten or fewer patients could participate in a collective garden that could grow 15 plants per patient, up to 45 plans in total.  Members would be required to carry their proof of registration with the medical cannabis registry.  Local governments could not ban collective gardens.
  • Nonprofit cooperatives:  if a collective garden has more than 10 members, it could become a nonprofit patient cooperative, registered with the Secretary of State.  According to the draft legislation, the maximum number of cannabis plants would still be 45.  Local governments could ban cooperatives. If counties or cities want to approve cooperatives, they could create for a cooperative, including business licensing and security requirements.

As I mentioned, this is draft legislation and it hasn’t been formally dropped this session.  Learn more in my interview with Sen. Delvin, who sponsored the original legislation in the Senate.  I also talk with Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach, who opposes the measure.  The Impact airs tonight at 7pm & 10pm on TVW.

On The Impact: Workers’ comp, nuclear energy & cuts to social services

By | March 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150We have some really good debates on The Impact tonight.  If workers’ compensation reforms can be made interesting, I think we did it.  We take a closer look at the most controversial portion of that issue and then hear from two key House lawmakers about their thoughts on voluntary settlements.

Of course, the nuclear crisis in Japan is bringing new attention to nuclear energy here in the U.S.  So how safe is nuclear energy?  And what role should it play in Washington’s energy future? The House’s lead legislator on energy, Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, told me more nuclear power production is coming to our corner of the world.  So, the questions are when, where and how can we make it secure?  Right now, we have just one plant operating on the Hanford nuclear site near Tri-Cities.  Rep. McCoy is joined on set by Rep. Terry Nealey, a Republican member of the House energy committee, who proposed legislation this year to expand the state’s production of nuclear power.

And finally, a good debate on social services between Rep. Ruth Kagi, the chair of the House Early Learning & Human Services Committee, and Sen. Mike Carrell, a Republican on the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee. The biggest divide came over the extent of fraud and abuse within the safety net system.  During that debate, I promised Rep. Kagi to post a graphic representation of the decline in funding for social services, so here it is:

human services updateDon’t miss The Impact Wednesday nights at 7pm & 10pm on TVW.

Categories: Uncategorized

The marijuana legalization debate isn’t over … and other things I learned on cutoff day

By | March 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

MidsessionStillMarijuana legalization is a much sexier headline than something about the the state’s budget process as lawmakers move toward sine die.  So, I’ll get to pot talk later in this post.  But yesterday was policy cutoff for the legislature, and The Impact crew was set up  between House and Senate chambers for the entire day, conducting 27 interviews with the governor and key lawmakers on the budget, education, health care, jobs, and yes – marijuana. Here are some of my takeaways:

Look for the budget chairs to roll out their proposals on March 21 or 22 - the Monday or Tuesday after the March 17th revenue forecast. Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said he’s expecting a $500 million to $1.5 billion drop in revenue projections and has some contingency plans ready to go.  He also said the budget proposal will include plans to close the shortfall for the budget ending in June, as well as the next two-year budget cycle.

The governor’s budget director, Marty Brown, has both state and federal budget cuts on his mind.  He’s watching for $200 million to $700 million in federal cuts that would mostly impact social services. Brown said “it’s really hard to tell when they’re sort of passing things in two week increments right now.”  Congress has until October to finalize their budget proposals. (more…)

On The Impact tonight: Prison guard death investigation & redistricting

By | February 2, 2011 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150Tune into The Impact tonight at 7:00 pm on TVW to watch the eight-minute, unedited interview with Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail about the circumstances surrounding the murder of Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl. I ask about prison budget cuts, safety concerns, and monitoring of repeat sex offenders. There are also new memorial funds set up in honor of Officer Biendl.

Here’s how to contribute to the funds set up by the Department of Corrections:

To support Officer Biendl’s family: donate at any Key Bank location under the name “Jayme Biendl Memorial Fund.”

For costs related to memorial service: donate at any Union Bank, formerly known as Frontier Bank, under the name “In memory of Jayme Biendl.”  Any remaining funds will be given to the family.

Here’s how to contribute to a fund set up by her union:

For funeral expenses and Officer Biendl’s family:  donate at any Bank of America branch under the name “Jayme Biendl Benevolent Fund.”

In the second half of the show, we take a closer look at Washington’s unique redistricting commission system, responsible for creating new political boundaries.  One of the commissioners gives me his initial impressions of where a new 10th Congressional District could be drawn up.

Don’t miss The Impact Wednesday nights at 7:00 pm & 10:00 pm on TVW.

Save for retirement, win a prize?

By | January 25, 2011 | 1 Comments

The number of American workers currently saving for retirement is on the decline – just 60% down from 65%, according to this report, and lawmakers are considering ways to change that trend.  One idea:  allow banks and credit unions to offer prizes through drawings for customers who start saving.  The Senate Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee is holding a hearing on the measure SB 5232, sponsored by Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor.

Sen. Kilmer is testifying now on the bill he referred to as a “funky one.”  Here’s how it would work:  people join by opening a $25 certificate of deposit and can make unlimited deposits in a one-year term. The more you save, the more chances you have to win.  He says, “the gap between savings and debt is alarming.”

Sen. Kilmer rejects the notion this is gambling, saying it’s “not a game of winners and losers.” In the end, the worst that can happen is “you save some money.”  He says it’s already a proven program – successful in Michigan, Maine, Rhode Island, and other countries around the world.  He also testifies it’s particularly successful in encouraging increased savings among lower-income families.

Categories: Uncategorized

On The Impact tonight: Speaker Chopp on budget & reforms, plus the top school administrator on consolidating education agencies

By | January 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150In a one-on-one interview at the capitol, Speaker Frank Chopp weighs in on his approach to leading House Democrats through a difficult budget-cutting session. A strong advocate for safety net programs like Disability Lifeline (eliminated in the governor’s proposed budget), he’ll play  a critical role in deciding how the state will bridge a $4.6 billion budget gap.   Here’s what we covered in the eight-minute un-cut interview:  his message to freshman and veteran lawmakers alike, sacred budget programs,  bold ideas/specific reforms proposals, and how he’s reaching out to Republicans.

There’s also a heavy focus on education in tonight’s episode.  K-12 Superintendent Randy Dorn joins us in studio to respond to the governor’s proposal to create a new Department of Education, which would oversee agencies dealing with early learning through college.  In our Session Extra segment, we get the higher education perspective on the same proposal.  Rep. Larry Seaquist, chair of the House Higher Ed Committee, and Rep. Larry Haler, ranking Republican on the committee, talk about a breakdown in coordination in the current education structure. They also share their thoughts on giving more power to universities to raise tuition.

Don’t miss our first 2011 legislative session edition of The Impact tonight at 7 & 10 pm on TVW.  You can also watch us on our PBS partners:  KBTC, KSPS, KTNW and KWSU.  For a complete list of times and channels, go here.

The Governor on The Impact tonight

By | December 15, 2010 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150The governor is set to roll out her 2011-2013 budget plan in about an hour.  This comes after three other press conferences this week, announcing her proposals for government reform, pension reform and union negotiations.  Shortly after this morning’s media event, she’ll be joining me on The Impact set for a one-on-one interview about the proposals and working with the legislature to get them implemented.  Don’t miss our final Impact show of the year tonight at 7:00 pm on TVW.

Categories: Uncategorized

On The Impact Tonight: Budget negotiations, health care reform & inmates on the job

By | December 1, 2010 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150It’s been a week since the governor sent out a letter to Senate & House leadership, detailing proposed budget cuts to fill a $1+ billion shortfall for the current budget cycle ending in June.  As I write this, the governor is meeting with those leaders to see if they can hash out a formal plan, in order to bring back the full legislature for a special session.  On The Impact tonight, we detail some of her proposal and the challenges for getting it passed.  Then we dive into another thorny issue:  health care reform.  The governor’s top policy advisor on health care is our studio guest.  If you want to know the details about health care policy in Washington State, Jonathan Seib is the guy you talk to.  He explains how the state can use its muscle to change how health care is paid for and ultimately drive down costs.  He also explains why the Basic Health Plan could be eliminated even if federal money comes through.

Obviously, the budget crisis is the most pressing issue in Olympia these days.  The governor solicited the public’s advice on budget solutions this past summer.  The number two response:  put all inmates to work. Well, the Department of Corrections already has a pretty expansive work crew system in place, so blog reporter Niki Reading went to check it out.  We then have DOC Secretary Eldon Vail on set to explain just how much work inmates are doing in Washington State and we ask if it really saves taxpayer money.

For more on these stories, don’t miss The Impact Wednesday night at 7:00 pm & 10:00 pm on TVW and at various times on our PBS programming partners:  KBTC, KSPS, KTNW & KWSU.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Impact: Higher ed budget, fee holiday, and Facebook me!

By | November 17, 2010 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150On The Impact tonight, you can learn about the Higher Education Coordinating Board’s budget proposal, which actually includes a possible increase in funding.  We ask the HECB executive director about the plan, which provides more money for the state’s neediest students.

Then we go down to Clark County for a different kind of holiday season.  Right now, they’re celebrating a fee holiday.  It’s a gift for developers:  build in a designated area of Clark County and all county permitting fees will be waived.  There’s a lot of talk about incentivizing job growth, so we went to see how it’s being done at the local level.  Coincidentally, not long after we taped that segment, we learned about the governor’s executive order to halt all new rulemaking processes by state agencies.  It’s also meant to reduce regulatory hurdles that hinder job growth.  You can learn more about her efforts here.

And finally, I’m getting social.  Please request  to be my friend on my Impact Facebook page.  My email address is  You can follow what I’m working on, and I may even ask for your help tracking down story leads.

Don’t miss The Impact Wednesday nights at 7pm & 10pm on TVW.  You can also catch us on our PBS partner stations.

Tonight on The Impact: Election night preview & health care reform

By | October 27, 2010 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150We here at The Impact are preparing for TVW’s most expansive election night coverage to date.  We’re bringing back Jennifer Huntley to host the show, while reporters Niki Reading and Lars Peterson bring you live updates from party headquarters (I’m not taking the night off – I’ll be behind the scenes, coordinating the coverage).  In tonight’s show, you’ll learn about the key races we’re watching and what the outcomes could mean for the national and state legislative pictures.

I also headed up to Seattle this week to talk with Jonathan Cohn, a renowned health care journalist and author of Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis – and The People Who Pay the Price.  I get his insights into implementing the national health care reform law in Washington State.  He talks at length about new models of coordinated health care that could ultimately drive down costs, while improving quality.  You can learn more by watching our show tonight, as well as by clicking here for our hour-long special:  Shock to the System:  How national reform is changing your health care.

I also mention a public hearing on child safety laws.  If you can’t make the December 9th meeting, you can find out more about the proposed regulations and how to provide your input at the Department of Ecology’s website here.

The Impact airs every Wednesday at 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm on TVW.