On this special one-hour edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights from the 2014 session — from opening day to Sine Die. The show includes debate over issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, gun control, abortion insurance bill, death penalty, mental health, teacher evaluations, taxing e-cigarettes and the supplemental budget. Plus, a quick wrap-up of several of the bills that passed this year. Watch the show below:
Archive for initiatives
The Washington State Legislature adjourned shortly before midnight on Thursday, the final day of the regular 2014 session. It’s the first time since 2009 that lawmakers finished their work without going into an overtime special session.
Here’s an overview of what lawmakers accomplished — and didn’t accomplish — during the session.
Supplemental budget: Both chambers agreed on a supplemental operating budget that spends about $155 million, including $58 for K-12 books and supplies. It also adds additional money to the mental health system, early learning and prisons. It does not include any new taxes or tax breaks, nor does it include teacher pay raises.
Dream Act/Real Hope Act: The Dream Act allows undocumented immigrants to apply for state need grants to help pay for college. The House passed its version of the Dream Act on opening day. The Senate renamed it the Real Hope Act and added $5 million to the state need grant. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in February.
Homeless fees: As part of a last-minute deal, lawmakers agreed to extend until 2019 a $40 document recording fee that people pay during real estate transaction, such as buying or refinancing a house. The fee supports homeless shelters, affordable housing and other services and was scheduled to sunset unless the Legislature took action.
24 credit diploma: Starting with the class of 2019, high school students will have to earn 24 credits for a diploma. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum. The bill will also provide more opportunities for students to take career and technical classes that meet graduation requirements.
Tanning beds ban: Teenagers under the age of 18 would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington. Senate Bill 6065 bans minors from using tanning beds, unless they have a written prescription for UV radiation treatment from a doctor. Tanning salons would be fined $250 for violations.
Domestic violence: Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders will soon be barred from owning guns. The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement.
Drones: The Legislature approved a bill that puts limits government agencies that use drones, or remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance. An agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions, such as a fire or other emergency.
Religious holidays: State employees will be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons, and public school children will be excused for two days under a bill approved by the Legislature.
Military in-state tuition: Veterans and active duty military members will soon qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency. Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families.
Short-barreled rifles: Washington gun owners will soon be allowed to own a short-barreled rifle under a bill approved by the Legislature. It is currently a felony to own a gun with a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, or to have a modified gun that is shorter than 26 inches overall. (more…)
Washington’s legislative leaders will adjourn the 2014 session Thursday, unless a special session extends the deadline. But before they go back to their districts TVW will air back-to-back live interviews with more than 20 lawmakers starting at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Anita Kissée, host of The Impact, will sit down with Gov. Jay Inslee, House Democratic Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan and House Republican leader Rep. Dan Kristiansen.
Other guests include Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island. The lawmakers will talk about a range of issues from education to the capital budget to the environment.
Plus, Austin Jenkins, host of TVW’s “Inside Olympia” and reporter for the Public Radio Northwest News Network, and Brian Rosenthal, a state government reporter for The Seattle Times, will stop by to talk about some highlights from the past 60 days and what to expect when the election process begins.
Coverage will be here on the blog, and you can watch live on TVW or via webcast.
On Wednesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have highlights from the floor debate in the House over passing a version of the Dream Act. The show also has highlights from a committee hearing on a bill that would allow some advertising in state parks. Plus, a work session on alcohol and marijuana use among teenagers in the wake of Initiatives 1183 and 502.
Watch the show below:
Initiative activist Tim Eyman proposed a new voter initiative Monday that would cut $1 billion a year from the state budget unless the Legislature sends voters a constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled last year that the two-thirds “supermajority” requirement violates the state constitution because a bill requires a simple majority vote of the Legislature to pass. The high court said a constitutional amendment would be necessary to implement the two-thirds requirement.
If voters approve Eyman’s initiative, the proposal would cut the state’s sales tax from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent, or about $1 billion dollars a year, unless the Legislature puts a two-thirds constitutional amendment on the ballot by April 2015. If the constitutional amendment reaches voters by April 2015, the sales tax reduction never will go into effect.
“Our initiative gives the Legislature an impossible-to-ignore financial incentive to let us vote. It’s elegant, legal, and easy to explain,” Eyman said in a press release.
Eyman’s initiative was among six filed at the Secretary of State’s office Monday. Other initiatives filed Monday include:
- Two other Eyman-sponsored initiatives, including one that would restore $30 car tabs and eliminate cameras used for issuing tickets for speeding and red-light violations, and another that would outlaw such cameras unless approved by voters;
- Two medical cannabis initiatives that would create legal protections for patients with prescriptions for medical marijuana;
- An initiative that would show state support for a U.S. Constitutional amendment to prevent corporations from being considered citizens.
The full text of the initiatives filed Monday are available on the Secretary of State’s website.
Initiative sponsors have until July 3 to submit 246,372 valid signatures from registered Washington voters before they would appear statewide in the November general election.
The Washington State Academy of Sciences released a report Wednesday about Initiative 522 that was commissioned by a bipartisan group of state legislators.
Initiative 522 would require labels on genetically engineered food sold in Washington grocery stores. The controversial issue has generated record-breaking campaign donations, and is also the subject of a TVW documentary.
More than 90 percent of the corn, soybean and cotton grown in the United States are genetically modified. About 70 percent of the processed food sold in grocery stores — such as soups, cookies and chips — contain genetically modified ingredients.
The report found that GMO foods are “safe given the current state of knowledge and evidence,” with no documented long-term health effects in scientific studies.
However, it called for “continued surveillance of long-term health effects” of both GMO and non-GMO foods. It noted that some scientific authors are concerned that most of the studies done on GMO food have been “short-term studies, mostly nutritional studies, with limited toxicological information.”
It found that GMO foods are “substantially equivalent” to non-GMOs, except for “golden rice.” The rice is engineered to producer higher levels of beta-carotene to prevent vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries.
While the authors of the report do not provide a dollar figure, they believe that food prices will increase if the initiative passes.
“Mandatory labeling, especially at a state versus federal level, is likely to affect trade and impose higher costs on firms producing and selling products in Washington. These costs are likely to be passed on to the consumer resulting in higher food prices,” the report said.
The campaigns involved in the initiative have contradictory claims about food prices. The No on 522 campaign funded a study that says that the initiative could cost a family of four an additional $450 a year. The Yes on 522 campaign cites a study from Emory University that found there would be no increased cost, or a cost as low as $2.20 per person a year.
Thomas Marsh of Washington State University is the co-chair of the committee that wrote the Washington State Academy of Sciences report. Marsh said in a press release that “the greatest costs are not in the labeling itself, but in the segregation and demonstration of GM-free status.”
Marsh said that the cost estimate varies widely because there’s no “after the fact” data, since no other state requires labels. Costs related to regulatory oversight, lab analysis and litigation are also “imprecise or unknown,” the report said.
You can read the full 30-page report here. The Washington State Academy of Sciences is a group of scientists and engineers that provide independent analysis for public policy makers. A group of three Republican and three Democratic state legislators requested the report.
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.
An out-of-state firm called Botec Analysis has won the state’s marijuana consultant contract, the Washington’s Liquor Control Board announced Tuesday.
The Massachusetts-based firm will provide technical expertise as the Liquor Control Board implements Initiative 502, the measure passed by voters in November which legalizes, taxes and regulates marijuana.
More than 100 groups and individuals indicated interest in the consulting role. Botec has a history of working with government agencies on drug policy issues. The firm is led by Mark Kleiman, a public policy professor at UCLA and author of ‘‘Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know.’’
“This team’s lead members and subcontractors are among the world’s leading experts on marijuana and drug policy,” Board Chair Sharon Foster said in a news release.
Rep. Christopher Hurst (D-Enumclaw) says the state should require higher fees for licenses to grow, process and sell marijuana. As I-502 stands, people interested in entering the state’s new recreational marijuana business would have to pay a $250 application fee and a $1,000 annual renewal fee.
The proposal would require a “502 Marketing Certificate” before people could obtain a license. The certificate would be transferable and the price would be determined by the Liquor Control Board.
“We have a billion dollar mandate from the Supreme Court to fund our K-12 system. It would be foolish to leave money on the table in the face of a daunting number like that,” Hurst said in a news release.
The legislation would also ease restrictions on where a marijuana retailer can locate. Under House Bill 2000, a licensee could locate a business closer to parks and schools – 500 feet away instead of 1,000 feet.
Hurst argues the current restrictions may limit access to legitimate licensed retailers, opening the door for an underground marketplace.
“Citizens voted for an end to the dangerous, illicit marijuana market and a new, well-regulated market in its place. The initiative was carefully drafted, but a few changes need to be made to ensure a smooth and successful transition,” Hurst said.
A hearing on the bill is scheduled for March 19 at 1:30 p.m.
Initiative 522 would require labeling of most raw farm commodities, processed foods and seeds if genetically engineered. If adopted, the legislation would make Washington the first state in the nation with GMO labeling. A similar measure was defeated in California three months ago.
Supporters of the measure say it’s a public health issue about informing the public.
“We believe people should have the freedom to choose what they put into their bodies,” said Nick Pascoe with the Natural Products Association Northwest. “They should be free to make that choice through mandatory labeling.”
Opponents of the initiative told lawmakers the new labeling standards would create big problems for farmers and food processors and say it is an attempt to scare people away from food that doesn’t present a health risk.
Lawmakers also heard testimony on a I-517, a measure backed by longtime initiative activist Tim Eyman. Dubbed the “Protect the Initiative Act,” the measure would set penalties for interfering with signature-gatherers. It would also require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures appear on the ballot and extend the time sponsors have to collect signatures, from less than half a year to one full year.
Legislators have three options for each initiative – pass it into law as is, take no action and send it to the ballot for a public vote, or send it and a legislative alternative to the ballot. The Legislature typically takes no action.
Lawmakers heard debate on three similar pieces of legislation Thursday that would make permanent, through a constitutional amendment, the two-thirds tax initiative voters approved this fall.
In November, voters supported Initiative 1185, which requires a two-thirds “supermajority” vote of the Legislature in order to raise taxes. Voters have passed similar rules four times in the past two decades, but lawmakers have been able to suspend those rules and pass taxes with a simple majority.
During Thursday’s hearing in the Senate Governmental Operations Committee, Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver) said it’s time to stop the Legislature from continually dismantling voter-approved initiatives.
“As a legislator and more as a citizen, I find it extremely insulting and arrogant that our elected officials continually slap down the will of the people,” he said. “I’m voted here to represent them, not to think for them.”
Opponents say amending the constitution goes too far, forever limiting the Legislature’s ability to find funding for education, social programs and other state needs.
“We feel this is a terrible fiscal idea that will harm our state’s finances. It will lead to more job losses and it provides the wealthy and corporations a tool to rig the system in their favor,” said Remy Trupin, the executive director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center.
House Democrats brought a lawsuit against the 2010 two-thirds initiative. After a Seattle judge ruled the initiative violated the state constitution, it was appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Oral arguments were heard in September and a decision is expected this year.
The proposed constitutional amendment is unlikely to get support in the House, which has a Democratic majority. It is unclear if the resolutions will get a debate and vote on the Senate floor this session.
During the hearing, committee chair Pam Roach (R-Auburn) continually pointed to the 64 percent of voters who approved I-1185.
“Do we think the voters are not very smart, or what,” she said.
The committee took no action on the bills.
An initiative that would require labels on food and seeds produced with genetic engineering has advanced to the Legislature.
The Secretary of State’s office says Initiative 522 was certified Thursday afternoon with more than enough signatures.
The initiative would require GMO labels starting July 1, 2015. If adopted, the legislation would make Washington the first state in the nation with the labeling requirements.
A similar measure was defeated in California last November.
The Legislature has the option of passing the initiative or sending it to a public vote in November. Lawmakers can also send it to a public vote with an alternative.
Liquor Control Board chair Sharon Foster is at the center of the storm when it comes to implementation of Initiative 502, the state’s new law legalizing the sale and production of recreational marijuana.
Foster, along with board members Ruthann Kuros and Chris Marr, will make the final call on rules and regulations surrounding the new law.
An overflow crowd packed the first public forum on the rules process Tuesday in Olympia (listen to audio from the meeting). Another forum is scheduled for tonight in Seattle.
TVW caught up with Foster on this week to discuss the implementation process:
What exactly is the board’s role in shaping the state’s new rules concerning I-502?
We try to go to as many meetings and open forums and listen to everybody, but ultimately it is the three-member board that will make every single decision on what goes forward.
There was an overflow crowd at your first public meeting yesterday. What kind of questions and concerns did you hear?
I think there was definitely a concern about the medical marijuana industry and how I-502 will impact that. There will be bills in the legislature this year dealing with medical marijuana. We are not in charge of medical marijuana so we are in a watch mode. There were lots of folks interested in small growers vs. large growers and there were a lot of questions about the banking industry – things we don’t have answers to right now.
These are historic times when it comes to marijuana legalization and Washington will be leading the way. How much pressure is there on the board to get this done right and on time?
I think there is an incredible amount of pressure to do it right. It has never been done anywhere in the world before to the extent that we are doing it. I think if we want any sort of approvals going forward from the federal government, we are going to have to do it with good regulations and controls. Safety has always been paramount in our mission as is having the retail market competitive enough so people don’t go to the black market.
Looking a few years down the road, what does Washington’s cannabis marketplace look like?
I see it looking a lot like how our liquor control board used to look like other than the stores will be owned and operated privately. There won’t be any state employees running those stores. The density problem is something we don’t know yet – what the density is going to be, what the consumption rate is going to be. Anything I would say would be so speculative it would silly to try to answer that. Every time we talked about how much marijuana needs to be out in that open legalized retail market we had people in the audience saying we should take that number and double it. We don’t know whether that’s true or not. That’s one of things we hope to learn when we hire someone who is more of an expert than any of us here combined and that can help us define the best way to grow, what the consumption rate might look like. We are going to depend a lot on that person or that person’s team to help guide us.
The start of the 2013 Washington State Legislature is still a few days away but an initiative that would require genetically engineered food to be labeled is already grabbing headlines across the state and nation.
Supporters of Initiative 522 turned in 350,000 petition signatures to state officials last week, almost assuring the measure will have the required signatures of registered state voters needed for certification.
The initiative would require labels on food and seeds produced with genetic engineering starting July 1, 2015. If adopted, the legislation would make Washington the first state in the nation with GMO labeling. A similar measure was defeated in California two months ago.
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, is one lawmaker who has already voiced support for the initiative.
“I think people should have the right to know more information about the food they are eating,” Fitzgibbon said. “For me, it’s not about whether or not genetically modified foods are good or bad, but I do think that families and individuals should have the right to know.”
Fitzgibbons doubts the legislature will adopt the measure, likely leaving it to a vote on the November 2013 ballot. Lawmakers also have the option to send an amended initiative to voters.
California’s initiative was defeated 53 percent to 47 percent after showing strong support in early polls. Food and agriculture companies opposed to the labeling measure spent more than $40 million in advertising claiming the initiative would raise food prices and hurt farmers.
Fitzgibbon said those opposed to California’s initiative relied on studies with questionable assumptions and said the actual cost of labeling the products would be marginal.
“I think legislators will be taking a close look at it. Proponents see a state ripe for a vote,” he said.
Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, who chairs the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, expects this issue to attract plenty of attention.
“It’s a global debate and there are some foreign countries banning GMO foods. It is interesting because it’s not a right or left issue,” he said.
Forty-nine countries, including all European Union member states, have laws mandating disclosure of genetically engineered foods on labels, according to the initiative.
Blake said he worries the labeling rules would come at a cost, both to consumers and the state’s agricultural industry.
“I think you can make the case that it would raise food prices,” he said. “I am personally not afraid of GMO food and I am concerned that it will drive food processors out of the state if we are the first to adopt this.”
He also sees a broader agenda from backers of the initiative, who delivered the signatures to the secretary of state’s office inside an ambulance with a sign reading “Label GMO Food” on the side.
“It is very clear that this is a campaign to smear GMO foods and so I would hope they would be more up front about that.”
Blake said the House Ag committee will convene a hearing after the initiative is certified.
In 1958, Rudy Henry met John McCluskey at a New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco.
That’s the part they can agree on.
“We dated awhile before moving in together,” Rudy said.
“That’s not true,” John said. “It was love at first sight. He came to the party with someone else, but he left with me.”
That was more than 50 years ago.
Today, they were the first couple in line at the Pierce County Auditor’s Office to get their marriage license on the day same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State.
The office opened early at 6:30 a.m. to accommodate the 27 couples who wanted to be among the first in the county to get their marriage licenses. Deputy auditor Lori Augino said the office expected 150 couples before the end of the day.
Rudy, who is 78 years old and in a wheelchair because of a stroke, was so excited he had trouble sleeping the night before. Still, he had mixed emotions about the day.
“What’s sad about this is that I’m an American citizen, and so are my parents,” Rudy said. “But I was denied things that were never denied other people — the benefits of being a citizen in this country.”
“We never, ever thought we would ever get to this day,” said John, 76.
Liquor sales are up nearly 3 percent since the state got out of the liquor business in June. Prices are also up — a standard liter of liquor now costs an average of $2 more per bottle than last year.
Consumers purchased about 8 percent more spirits when compared to last year, according to figures released today by the state Department of Revenue.
Bars and restaurants, meanwhile, are buying less — there was a 13 percent drop in liquor purchases from businesses from June to September. The revenue department speculates that’s because businesses stockpiled in May, before the privatization law went into effect.
A year ago, the average retail price for a liter of liquor, including taxes, was $21.58. The same bottle now costs an average of $24.09 — a nearly 12 percent increase.
Washington’s minimum wage will increase to $9.19 per hour starting on Jan. 1, the Department of Labor & Industries announced today.
The hourly wage will rise 15 cents, up from $9.04 an hour.
Each year, the department adjusts the state’s minimum wage based on the Consumer Price Index for urban and clerical workers, which monitors the cost of food, clothing, shelter, gas and services. The index rose 1.67 percent over the past year — largely because of a spike in gas prices, officials said.
Washington has the highest statewide minimum wage in the nation, and is one of 10 states that adjusts the minimum wage based on inflation. The state’s labor department calculates the minimum wage as required by Initiative 688, which voters approved in 1998.
Today’s the day, folks. “The Impact” is returning to the air with a new host, a revamped set design and a series of fresh episodes planned for the upcoming season.
Anita Kissée is the new host of the show. Anita comes to TVW from Portland-based television station KATU, where she covered city government. Prior to that, she covered gubernatorial elections at an ABC station in Central California and was the host of “Viewpoint,” a political show in Boise on KTVB.
The first edition of the show tackles one of the most controversial measures Washingtonians will vote on this year: I-502 and legalizing marijuana. We’ll walk you through how the law would work, how much money the state could earn and where it would go, and of course, the long list of concerns from opponents.
We’ll hear from supporters, including state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and detractors like Steve Freng of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program. Plus, find out why the medical marijuana community is surprisingly divided on the issue.
“The Impact” airs Wednesdays at 7 & 10 p.m. on TVW.
The ACLU of Washington released an interactive map today that shows how much money the state has spent on enforcing marijuana laws over the past decade.
The grand total? About $211 million, which includes costs associated with arresting, prosecuting and jailing people for pot-related offenses.
King County spent the most, at about $35 million. About half of that tally — $17 million — comes from prosecution and defense costs.
Pierce County came in second in spending, at $21 million, followed by Snohomish County at about $14 million.
ACLU supports I-502, an initiative on the fall ballot that would legalize and tax marijuana.
TVW will be taking a closer look at the initiative next week when The Impact comes back from summer hiatus Sept. 5th.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board today voted 2-1 to deny a request from the city of Seattle to allows bars to serve alcohol past 2 a.m., the current cut-off time for selling booze.
Board chair Sharon Foster said she was concerned about extending hours at the same time the state’s new liquor privatization law is set to go into effect, increasing the availability of liquor by five-fold starting June 1st. Foster voted no, along with board member Ruthann Kurose.
Board member Chris Marr voted yes, saying the board needs to start thinking about redefining its mission in the wake of Initiative 1183, the voter-approved measure that privatized the state liquor business.
Watch the full half-hour meeting here.