Archive for Olympia

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 board’s 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

Legislative Year in Review

By | March 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

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:

Lawmakers aim to keep invasive species out of Washington’s waterways

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington lawmakers want to make sure invasive species do not infest the state’s waterways.

Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson (right) and aquatic invasive species coordinator, Allen Pleus (left) pose with zebra mussels.

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that will address invasive species through an “integrated pest management” approach. It passed unanimously in the Senate and with a vote of 97-1 in the House.

The legislative action comes after zebra mussels, an invasive species from Russia, were spotted in Lake Powell, bordering Utah and Arizona. Zebra mussels multiply quickly, deplete water nutrients, clog pipes and take away natural resources from native species.

“This is a biological wildfire. What’s worse is that we don’t see the one that’s underwater,” said Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson at a previous Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the issue.

Senate Bill 6040 aims to manage invasive species by reinforcing monitoring checkpoints, providing technical assistance to environmental groups and giving a portion of tax revenues to prevention efforts. It will also conduct education and outreach programs to inform the public about the issue.

Supporters, including Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, said that the bill is critical to deal with the threat of invasive species more effectively and offers organizations more tools in case of emergency situations.

However, a funding source to implement these measures is not included in the bill.

During a Senate Floor Debate Thursday, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, said that the bill only establishes a policy because the House “stripped” the funding account leaving lawmakers to address the issue “next year.”

The governor’s signature is the final act needed for the bill to become a law.

Live in Olympia: TVW’s Sine Die show starts at 8 a.m. Thursday

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

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 reporting live from the capitol rotunda for TVW's special edition mid-session show Feb. 18.

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.

Homeless fees, veteran tuition bill can be considered after Friday’s deadline, legislative leaders say

By | March 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Legislative leaders in the House and Senate signed a joint letter that releases two bills from Friday’s cutoff deadline, allowing the bills to be considered up until the final day of session.

Friday at 5 p.m. is the deadline for lawmakers to consider policy bills and send them to the governor’s desk for his signature. Only bills related to the budget or taxes are allowed to be considered after Friday’s deadline.

Senate Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, House Speaker Frank Chopp and House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan all signed a letter Friday saying two bills are not subject to the policy deadline.

One proposal would allow veterans and active duty military members to get in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to establish residency. The House and Senate have each passed a separate veteran tuition bill, but lawmakers are reportedly stalled over which chamber should get credit.

The second measure would make permanent a real estate fee that was set to expire in 2015. It helps fund homeless transition and housing programs. Advocates rallied at the Capitol this week in favor of the measure.

In the letter, the legislative leaders said: “The veterans’ tuition bill is designed to provide education opportunities for our veterans. The document recording fee provides targeted funding for vulnerable citizens who are struggling with homelessness. House and Senate leadership is in agreement that these issues are not subject to today’s cutoff, and we look forward to delivering this important legislation to the governor before Sine Die.”

The final day of session is Thursday, March 13.

Categories: Olympia, Public Policy

Lawmakers, advocates rally at Capitol to save homeless service fees

By | March 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

When Mindy Woods lost her apartment to a black mold infestation she also lost her pet-sitting business.

With no family nearby, Woods, a single mother, resorted to couch-surfing with her teenage son who has Type 1 diabetes. Turns out, finding a refrigerator for his insulin was one of the biggest challenges.

“I couldn’t live out of my car,” said Woods. “I needed a hand up, not a handout.”

It wasn’t until Woods found the YMCA’s program Pathways for Women that she felt a more stable life was in sight.

Woods is among thousands of homeless people, who turn to homeless services in times of desperation.

Many of these services depend on on “document recording fees” for the majority of funding. These fees come from homebuyers, who pay $40 during real estate transactions, that fund about 60 percent of programs that transition a homeless person into shelters and more stable housing. It pays for emergency and transitional shelters, rental assistance and supportive services.

In 2006, a law passed mandating these fees until 2015. House Bill 2368 would make these fees permanent. It passed out of the House on Feb. 13, but never came up for a vote in the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee.

Bill critics, including Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, have previously said the fee has increased too much from the original $10 surcharge in 2005. Also, opponents object to taking immediate action because the charge would not decrease until the summer of 2015.

Now, lawmakers and homeless organizations are trying to resurrect the bill before the gavel drops in six days. Senate Democrats attempted to bring the bill up for a vote using a procedural motion called “Ninth Order” on Feb. 28 but did not have enough votes.

The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance brought homeless advocates to the capitol to ring a gong 5,043 times to represent the 5,043 unsheltered homeless people recorded during the most recent “one night count.” The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma, along with other supporters attended a press conference to bring attention to the bill.

Sawyer said this is a bill about “moral consciousness.”

More than 30,000 students are homeless in Washington, which is nearly 50 percent higher from a few years ago.

Also, Gov. Jay Inslee raised concerns about the rising number of homeless students and voiced his support of the bill at a press conference Thursday and said it “does not make sense” to decrease support for homelessness.

“The myth that this isn’t needed is beyond me,” said Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma. “Now is the time to finish this debate from taking homeless people hostage.”

E-cigarette bill passes in House Finance committee

By | March 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

An e-cigarette

The House Finance Committee approved a tax increase on electronic cigarettes in a narrow 7-6 vote on Tuesday.

The amended bill would tax tobacco substitutes, including e-cigarettes, at 75 percent, down from the original bill’s 95 percent tax. Also, under an amendment, the liquid nicotine solutions would be tax-free if prescribed by a doctor as a way to quit smoking.

At a previous hearing on the tax, dozens of ex-smokers and vapor shop owners testified against the bill. They argued that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to tobacco and it has helped many to quit smoking.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat up a liquid that can contain nicotine. Users inhale vapor instead of smoke.

Bill supporters say they are concerned about the safety of the products and the way it is advertised to teens. E-cigarettes have doubled in popularity among teenagers between 2011 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s a sensible thing from a health perspective and for our children,” supporter Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, said.

Opponents are concerned that a tax increase would discourage former smokers from switching to the healthier tobacco-free alternative and shut vapor businesses down.

Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, objected to the bill, describing it as a “tax bill,” and said the bill “has nothing to do with safety and health.”

Watch the full discussion on TVW’s video here.

Democratic senators hold ‘briefing’ on abortion insurance bill

By | March 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

Advocates for more abortion insurance coverage gathered at the capitol Monday.

A group of Democratic state senators urged their fellow lawmakers to reconsider an abortion insurance bill during a one-sided “briefing” Monday.

The bill passed in the House last year, but stalled in the Senate. History repeated itself this session. The bill, which supporters call the Reproductive Parity Act, would require health insurers to cover abortions if they also pay for maternity care.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, legislators and advocates testified at Monday’s hour-long briefing about the importance of expanding abortion coverage, particularly for low-income women.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, is the sponsor of the stalled Senate bill. He said that he is concerned that the state’s new health insurance exchange will deny certain women the procedure and many will not be able to afford additional coverage.

“Women will have fewer choices in the end,” said Hobbs.

Elaine Rose with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest said, “People’s health care decisions are determined by how much money the have.”

An abortion costs about $600 in the first trimester and typically gets more expensive the longer a woman waits, according to Tiffany Hankins with the Community Abortion Information and Resource Project. Hankins added that abortion is a “ticking clock” because the procedure gets more expensive the longer you wait.

Bill supporter Christine Kocsis called herself “living proof” that abortion is often about money. Seven years ago, Kocsis got pregnant by an abusive partner and wanted an abortion, but delayed her procedure because she couldn’t afford it.

Although she was uninsured at the time, she said she “cannot imagine” if she had been paying for insurance and found it would only cover her if she carried the pregnancy to term. That’s the scenario advocates are trying to prevent.

Opponents said the bill discriminates against those who don’t believe in abortions. During a previous House Health Care and Wellness Committee hearing, bill critic, Angela Connely, said the act would bully people into covering the procedure.

On Monday, Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, the chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, called the bill “the abortion insurance mandate bill.” She said abortion coverage is readily available and if it becomes a problem then the issue can be readdressed.

Becker said, “What really worries me is if every carrier is forced to cover abortions what choice is left for folks who don’t want to? We have to respect those people.”

Former smokers oppose a 95 percent tax increase on e-cigarettes

By | March 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

E-cigarettes look, taste and feel like real cigarettes. But, they have a few major differences: They are tobacco-free, battery operated and contain a flavored liquid mix.

During a House Finance Committee on Friday lawmakers considered a bill that would put a 95 percent tax on the tobacco substitutes, also known as vapor products.  This would make them taxed the same as regular tobacco products.

Dozens of former smokers and vapor store owners testified against the bill and said they fear a tax increase would put vapor business out of work and discourage smokers who are trying to kick the habit.

Zach Mclean, a previous smoker for 25 years and vapor store owner, said that e-cigarettes saved his life.

“I got my smell back, my taste back and in a month I was tackling stairs again,” said Mclean.

Other opponents to the legislation explained that after switching to the fake cigarettes they could run marathons, play football with their children again and enjoy fuller lives. Kim Johnson, a vapor store owner, said the reason e-cigarettes are more effective than the patch, gum and other tobacco substitutes is because it satisfies the “hand to mouth” habit.

However, Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, challenged the idea that e-cigarettes are good for you. While the products are healthier compared to real cigarettes, he said nicotine is still addictive.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, also expressed concern that adults trying to quit smoking are not the only ones using the products. E-cigarettes doubled in popularity among teenagers between 2011 and 2012 and one in five middle schoolers said they have tried the tobacco substitutes, according to the Center Disease Control and Prevention.

Susan Tracy of the Washington State Medical Association, the only one to testify in support of the bill, said that more research needs to be conducted on the products and there is “no scientific data” to back up the claims that e-cigarettes are safe. The F.D.A has yet to approve e-cigarettes.

The committee took no action on the bill Friday. It is scheduled for a committee vote at 8 a.m. Tuesday. TVW will air the hearing live on television and webcast it here.

House committee passes bill that targets shaved keys

By | February 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

One of thieves’ favorite tools, shaved keys, is getting scrutiny from Washington lawmakers.

The House Public Safety Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 6010 out of committee on Wednesday. The bill would ban the possession of shaved keys, which are altered to fit locks apart from their intended one.

Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirklandadded an amendment to the bill that requires police to find intent to commit a crime before convicting someone who makes, mends or possesses up to 10 shaved keys.

Supporters of the original bill, including Rep. Brad Klippert, R- Kennewick, argued the only purpose of the key is for criminal activity, making it worthy of a misdemeanor.

Mark Marsh with the Edmonds Police Department agreed.

“We come into contact almost daily with people who have shaved keys. Never do they have a legitimate reason to have them. The only reason to have shaved keys is to steal a car, pure and simple,” said Marsh.

The majority of committee members disapproved of original bill that would make having a key the sole grounds for an arrest, but support the amended version that makes intent a part of the arrest process.

Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, called the original legislation “a liability bill.” Holy said it has potential to not only make wrongful convictions, but it would also give police too much discretion.

In 2012, more than 3,500 motor vehicle thefts were reported in Seattle and there were about 1,900 motor vehicle thefts in Tacoma, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Poor voter turnout among young people topic of forum

By | February 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington leaders are not only questioning why more millennials don’t engage in the political process, but they’re also looking for solutions to boost participation.

Fewer than half of Washingtonians between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the 2012 national election. That’s compared to 70 percent of voters 30 and older.

Disengaged youth was this year’s topic at a forum put on Friday by the Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service and the Jackson Foundation in Olympia.

Millennials are more diverse, socially connected and volunteer more than their parents — but they are less likely to cast a ballot, said Kei Kewashima-Ginsberg, deputy director at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.

Lack of passion among millennials isn’t the problem. Young people don’t make the connection between voting and making an impact, said Emile Netzhammer, the Chancellor of Washington State University.

“They don’t see immediate change or necessarily any change at all,” said Netzhammer. He said that has created an apathetic political climate, where millennials have a distrust in the process and believe that one vote doesn’t matter.

One panelist argued that the problem of low voter turnout among young people is often exaggerated. Lindsay Pryor, Voter Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Washington Secretary of State office, assured the audience that as people get older, they vote more.

“If you look at baby boomers, they did not vote more than millennials when they were young,” said Pryor. (more…)

Categories: Olympia, TVW
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Anti-harassment bill would make it harder for prisoners to sue their victims

By | February 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Criminals may soon face additional hurdles if they attempt to sue their victims from behind bars.

Senate Bill 2102 would require prisoners convicted of serious violent offenses to get court approval before filing lawsuits against their victim or the victim’s family. If the prisoner files a lawsuit without a judge’s approval, he or she would lose a chance of an early release.

The prime sponsor, Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma, is pushing the bill after his friend was sued by the man who killed her husband.

In 1995, Paula Henry’s husband was murdered by his former business partner, Lawrence Shandola. Six years later, Shandola was sentenced to more than three decades in prison. But locking him up didn’t stop him from harassing Henry.

During tearful testimony at a previous House committee, Henry shared her experience of being stalked and sued by the criminal for about five years.

“All of the sudden a stranger knocks on the door and I thought it might be the cable guy or something. He throws all of these papers at me and the papers said you’re being sued by the man who blew my husband’s head off,” she said.

Now, she wants to make sure other victims do not suffer. Sawyer said Henry did not testify at Friday’s Senate committee because it was too upsetting to revisit the experience.

However, bill critics such as the American Civil Liberties Union said a system already exists to filter out frivolous lawsuits.

Greg Link with the Washington Defenders Association said at Friday’s Senate committee hearing that Henry’s situation is rare, and it does not justify the bill.

He added that it punishes criminals for actions outside of their original crime and prison behavior, straying from the structure of the Sentencing Reform Act. The act seeks to ensure that the punishment for a criminal offense is proportionate to the seriousness of the offense and the criminal’s history.

“It creates more holes than it fills,” said Link.

The bill unanimously passed out of the House. The Senate Law and Justice Committee took no action on the bill Friday.

Early education advocates deliver Valentine’s Day gift to Gov. Jay Inslee

By | February 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

In the midst of Friday floor debates, Gov. Jay Inslee got a Valentine’s Day gift in the form of a giant “sweetheart” from several toddlers and their parents. Inside, he’ll find messages from moms and kids thanking him for his work on early learning legislation.

This session, the Governor proposed a plan to close seven tax loopholes to provide an additional $200 million for basic education.

The nonprofit MomsRising coordinated the event and the founder, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, said, “We want to thank you for supporting Washington’s littlest residents.”

2.1.12

Republicans react to Governor’s decision to suspend death penalty

By | February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Republican lawmakers Wednesday criticized Gov. Jay Inslee for suspending the death penalty, saying it is a “misuse of power.”

Inslee announced he is imposing a moratorium on capital punishment while he’s in office, citing a flawed and expensive system.

Rep. Jay Rodne, Sen. Steve O'ban and Sen. Kirk Pearson (left to right)

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, and Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe called a press conference on Wednesday to respond to the governor’s decision.

The Republicans said the governor went around lawmakers by ignoring previous bills to end the death penalty that have stalled in the Legislature.

Rodne also took issue with the governor’s reasoning that suspending death penalties will save the state money. Since the moratorium only lasts while the governor is in office, Rodne said prosecutors will still pursue death penalty cases and the costly appeals process will not stop.

Rodne said issuing executive action over legislation is “cruel” to the inmates on death row because a future governor could reverse the policy, which would draw out the process.

Focusing on the families of victims impacted by the moratorium, O’ban said the decision robs loved ones of deserved justice.

He pointed out three offenders from Pierce County, Cecil Emile DavisAllen Eugene Gregory and Robert Lee Yates Jr., who will not face execution, as of yesterday. Women were murdered in all three of the cases.

“Part of capital punishment is to bring closure to families. I really hurt for them,” added Pearson.

A history of the Fish Wars: 40th anniversary of the Boldt decision

By | February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

From arrests to apologies, the passionate battle between Native American tribes and Washington state over fishing rights has been intense and lengthy.

Photo credit: The News Tribune

Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of a federal court ruling that affirmed treaty fishing rights for tribes. For the 80 Indians still alive who fought for their rights to fish in Washington’s waterways, they might finally get closure.

House Bill 2080 would erase criminal records  and clear the names of Indians who were arrested during what is known as the civil rights movement of the Pacific Northwest: The Fish Wars.

A glimpse of history

In 1854, Washington tribes gave the U.S. two million acres of land in exchange for money, three reservations and access to traditional fishing rights under the Treaty of Medicine Creek. Similarly, the 1855 Treaty of Point No Point ensured Indians had a right to fish.

However, as salmon populations declined, the state implemented new regulations on net fishing in Puget Sound rivers. The state wanted tribal fishermen to be held to the same standards as non-tribal fishermen, but Indians ignored regulations.

This confrontation sparked the “fish wars” which intensified during the 1960s and 1970s.

Hank Adams, a Sioux from Montana, played a significant role in getting this issue national attention.  He set up protests, fish-ins and rallies, and he even got Marlon Brando to participate in a demonstration in Olympia.

The Native Americans were instigating confrontation — and the police responded violently.

Sept. 9, 1970 marked the most extreme raid when Tacoma officers and other agents arrested 72 tribe members — including ten juveniles — using tear gas and firing shots.

Finally, federal government got involved and filed the lawsuit U.S. vs. Washington. In 1974, U.S. District Judge George Boldt ruled that the tribes were entitled to up to 50 percent of the harvestable salmon and the ruling known as the Boldt decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court five years later.

The long-awaited decision had a powerful impact on the tribes.

Photo credit: The News Tribune

The former Washington Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander, who was a young attorney at the time said, ”This sent shockwaves, not only through the commercial fishing community but to the public at large. That decision really ignited a lot of pride and energy in the Indian community.”

Moving forward

The Native Americans may have won in their fight for justice, but the ruling could not erase the past. Decades later, the criminal records from the arrests still impact about 80 tribal members and often stop them from getting loans, adopting children or leaving the country.

Now, lawmakers in House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee are trying to give the convicted Indians a change to expunge their records. Under the measure that is expected be considered on the House floor within the next few days, tribal members could apply to the sentencing court to revoke their convictions if they were exercising their treaty fishing rights and not convicted for a violent crime. (more…)

UW Huskies lobby for Dream Act and tuition issues

By | February 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

About 120 students from the University of Washington took a day off from school to lobby at the Capitol Thursday. The Huskies pushed the Dream Act and a bill preventing differential tuition.

The students expressed their support of extending financial aid to undocumented immigrant students and thanked legislators for passing the Dream Act, known in the Senate as the Real Hope Act.

Also, the students pushed House Bill 1043, which prohibits state universities from allowing differential tuition, which is a tuition rate based on a student’s major. Amber Amim, a student majoring in informatics and applied math at UW, raised concerns that math and science students would have to pay more if it were allowed.

The bill to prohibit differential tuition passed in the House at the start of the session.

But the value of lobby day goes beyond these particular issues, said Jillian Celich, a senior at UW and ASUW employee.

“It’s important for students to tell their personal stories to lawmakers. There needs to be a stronger voice for higher education,” Celich said.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, spoke at the Capitol steps and encouraged the crowd of student lobbyists to stay involved with the legislative process after lobby day.

His final words: “Think bigger than just today.”

2.1.12

Categories: Education, Olympia, Rally, Schools, TVW

Crowd roars at ‘Moment of Loudness’ celebration in Olympia

By | February 5, 2014 | 0 Comments

It may not be the Seattle victory parade, but Seahawks fans in Olympia got in on the action today.

At exactly 12:12 p.m., a few hundred Seahawks fans gathered on the capitol steps in Olympia to cheer in a “Moment of Loudness” to celebrate team’s Super Bowl win. Earlier this week, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation calling for the moment.

For some it was a spirited way to spend a lunch break, for others it was a chance to let loose in between floor sessions and hearings. Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D- Seattle, fired up the crowd and led a roaring “Go Seahawks” chant.

Moments later, it was back to business as usual.

Watch the video here (warning– you may want to turn down your volume a few notches):

Proposal would require day care providers to learn about safe sleeping practices

By | February 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is the leading cause of death among babies. During the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee on Monday, lawmakers talked about ways to make safe sleeping practices clear to care providers .

House Bill 2695 would require the Dept. of Early Learning to provide applicants seeking child care licenses with information about safe sleep practices and also monitor the way child cares manage nap time. If a facility was found violating safe sleep practices more than once the department would would revoke their license.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, examples of safe sleeping practices include placing a baby on a firm surface, laying the baby on his or her back and keeping soft objects out of the crib, such as loose bedding.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, is also pushing “The Eve Uphold Act” a related bill that would require the department to conduct official reviews when a baby dies at a licensed daycare. She said that the goal is to emphasize the importance of safe sleeping to child care providers and hold them accountable for their actions.

Representatives from the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds (OFCO) and Knowledge Universe supported the intent of the bill, but say that child care providers should lose their license upon the first violation.

“One violation is one too many. One incident of a provider failing to meet safe sleep practices can result in a child’s death,” said Erin Shea McCann with OFCO.

Categories: Olympia, TVW, WA House

Controversial DNA testing bill considered in Senate committee

By | January 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

Anyone arrested for a felony in Washington state would be required to submit a DNA sample under a controversial measure considered Friday in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Senate Bill 6314 would require police officers to collect DNA samples of all adults arrested for felonies and certain gross misdemeanors, except for drug offenses. Only qualified lab personnel would have access to the DNA records, and personal identifying information would not be stored in the database.

Prime sponsor, Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, is pushing this bill after she had a change of heart.

She said that she was responsible for stopping a similar bill that was introduced in 2005 because she felt that the DNA collection process was a threat to civil liberties. Today, she sees it as a tool to to protect more women and children from crimes, prevent wrongful convictions and eliminate racial bias.

“We have the opportunity to solve more crimes with accuracy,” Darneille said.

A rape victim, Laura Niblack, testified in support of the bill.  She believes that this technology could have stopped her perpetrator before he raped her and his other 22 victims.

Opponents said that DNA has not been shown to improve public safety and voiced concerns that marginalized communities would be unfairly impacted.  Shankar Narayan with ACLU also said that the $600,000 that would be used to execute this bill could be better spent to help solve more crimes.

No action was taken at the hearing.

Name-changing legislation: Mt. Seattle Seahawks & 12th Man National Park

By | January 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Senate floor was awash in blue and green on Friday as lawmakers showed off their Seahawks pride with ties, scarves, pins and jackets.

Lawmakers unanimously voted to rename Mt. Rainier to Mt. Seattle Seahawks and rename the Mt. Rainier National Park to 12th Man National Park from today until 12 a.m. Monday. The support didn’t stop there; they also proclaimed Sunday Feb. 2 “Seahawks Sunday” as part of Senate Resolution 8676.

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, embraced this as an opportunity to get in touch with his inner comedian. Wearing a hoodie and shades, he impersonated Marshawn Lynch saying, “I hate to talk to the press” and “I’m just taking it all in boss.”

They concluded the light-hearted discussion with an appropriate “Go Hawks!” chant.

Watch a run-down of the playful stunt below:

Categories: Olympia, TVW, WA Senate