Archive for State agency news

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

Confidential data found on old state computers sold as surplus, audit says

By | April 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

A new state audit has found that 9 percent of old computers sent to a state surplus program to be sold to the public contained confidential data, including Social Security numbers, medical records, tax forms, applications for public assistance and other sensitive information.

State Auditor Troy Kelley released a report Thursday outlining how several state agencies failed to properly erase confidential data from the computer hard drives before sending them to the surplus program.

State agencies got rid of 20,000 computers over the last two years through the Department of Enterprise Services surplus program. Some of the computers are redistributed to other agencies, non-profits or school districts, and the rest are sold to the public at a surplus store in Tumwater.

The auditor’s office inspected computers from 13 state agencies sent to the surplus program over a six week period. It found that 9 percent, or 109 of the 1,215 computers, still contained confidential information.

“With the right knowledge of data retrieval, the confidential information we found could be obtained in a few minutes,” the report said. The information on the computers “posed a risk of harm to private individuals and the state.”

Four state agencies were responsible for the data breaches: Dept. of Ecology, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Labor & Industries and the Dept. of Social and Health Services.

In addition to personal information like Social Security numbers and addresses, the computers also contained documents such as job applications, personnel evaluations and medical or financial records. The audit found that many other agencies weren’t following recommended practices to make sure that data on hard drives is erased.

Sales of surplus computers were halted after the results of the audit were shared with the state agencies, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer is working on guidelines for data removal.

Read the full audit here.

Categories: State agency news
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Meet the Public Disclosure Commission candidates

By | August 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

If you care about the disclosure of public records, campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, the Public Disclosure Commission wants to see you: Next week on Wed., Aug. 24 they’re hosting an open house for the top two candidates to run the commission.

Andrea McNamara Doyle and Alan Rathbun will be available at the open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 711 Capitol Way, Room 206.

State agencies asked to find another 10 percent in cuts

By | August 8, 2011 | 0 Comments
Budget director Marty Brown is asking state agencies to submit more proposed cuts.

Budget director Marty Brown is asking state agencies to submit more proposed cuts.

The state budget picture must not be looking good: Marty Brown at the Office of Financial Management has sent out a memo on behalf of Gov. Chris Gregoire asking all state agency directors to submit a proposal for 5 percent “first priority” cuts — and an additional 5 percent cut for a total of 10 percent.

The reason? Brown says in the memo that the “near-term economic outlook has weakened since June,” when the last Economic and Revenue forecast was issued. And he says there’s a “distinct possibility” that further revenue losses are on the way in the coming year.

And what will those cuts look like? The Washington Policy Center has the chart from OFM here.

The agencies were asked to assume a January start date for cuts that couldn’t be implemented immediately. And they were warned that, as OFM monitors the economic conditions, the target could be revised.

The next ERFC Economic Review is on Sept. 2 at 2:30 p.m. TVW will cover that, as usual. And we’ll be there two weeks later for the Sept. 15 Economic and Revenue Forecast – when we’ll find out if the forecast is indeed down. But that’s not all:  Before session, we’ve also got the November forecast to deal with.

On this lovely summer weekend, steer clear of the raw oysters

By | August 5, 2011 | 0 Comments

It’s finally summer! And while a blog about state government might not be the first place you’d check for culinary tips, we have some news from the Department of Health you might want to read before whipping up a mignonette: Avoid raw oysters or risk illness.

Oyster

Yes, it looks delicious. But a total of 22 vibriosis illnesses have been linked to commercial and recreational raw oysters in Washington recently. Vibriosis sets in anywhere from 12 hours to a day after you eat the infected oysters and can cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, headache, vomiting, fever, and chills for up to a week. For those with compromised immune systems, it can be life threatening.

DOH says:

· Put oysters on ice or refrigerate them as soon as possible after harvest.

· If a receding tide has exposed oysters for a long time, don’t harvest them.

· Always cook oysters thoroughly. Cooking oysters at 145° F for 15 seconds destroys vibrio bacteria. Rinsing fully-cooked oysters with seawater can recontaminate them.

Here’s to a healthy, vibriosis-free weekend!

Think unemployed workers stay on benefits because they don’t want to work? ESD says think again

By | July 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Employment Security Department released survey results today that they hope debunks the myth that unemployes workers don’t look for jobs until their benefits are about to run out. ESD sent the survey out to anyone who had run out of unemployment benefits since Nov. 2009, and more than 5,000 people responded. The result: Three of four survey respondents who ran out of benefits are still out of work.

“The survey contradicts the perception that unemployed workers wait until their benefits run out, then quickly find work,” said ESD Commissioner Paul Trause. He added that there simply aren’t enough jobs.

The survey was sent to more than 30,000 “exhaustees” — those unemployed workers who have exhausted their benefits, which can last up to 99 weeks. Of those who responded and had found jobs, 80 percent were making less than they had before being laid off. The average pay cut was 29 percent. Survey respondents also said they feel age is a barrier to employment.

You can read the full report here.