Archive for Uncategorized

Seattle Police begin testing evidence backlog as lawmakers consider rape-kit bill

By | January 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

Seattle Police Department on Thursday announced plans to test a backlog of more than 1,200 so-called rape kits, one week after lawmakers heard a bill that require law enforcement agencies to submit evidence for testing within 30 days.

When a sexual assault is reported, the victim undergoes a forensic examination to collect evidence, including blood, saliva and semen. Evidence is preserved in a so-called rape-kit, sent to Washington State Patrol crime lab, examined and entered into a DNA database.

Seattle Police have tested only 365 of the 1,641 kits collected in the past decade. Testing can cost as much as $1,500 per kit. “We will test all sexual assault kits moving forward and begin addressing untested kits,” Deanna Nollette, supervisor of SPD’s Special Victims Unit, wrote in a statement.

House Bill 1068 would require law enforcement to send DNA evidence for analysis within 30 days and create a work group to study a backlog of more than 5,000 untested rape kits. Senate Bill 5225 is a companion measure.

Rep. Tina Orwall is the prime sponsor. On average, the Des Moines Democrat told a House committee Jan. 14, a rapist commits 11 sexual assaults before he or she is charged. About 40 percent of rapes are reported, she said, and 12 percent of those lead to an arrest.

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network says even more rapes are kept quiet — only 32 percent are reported, according to the group, and 2 percent of rapists are arrested.

The bill will move to executive session in the House Public Safety Committee at 10 a.m. Friday.

 

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Washington smoking age would rise to 21 under Attorney General’s bill

By | January 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

The legal age to buy tobacco products and vaping products would rise from 18 to 21 under a bill requested by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

“As you know you have to be 21 to purchase alcohol in this state. You have to be 21 to purchase marijuana in this state. It’s time to make the age of the purchase and use of tobacco in this state that same age,” he said at a press conference announcing the bill. The bill numbers are  Senate Bill 5494 and House Bill 1458.

Ferguson said the intent of the bill is to eradicate smoking, citing reports by RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris that stated that most people who have not smoked by age 21 will not start the habit.

State Department of Health Secretary John Weisman added that 90 percent of cigarettes purchased for teenagers are purchased by people between the ages of 18 and 21.

The bills would not affect military bases in Washington and the laws on reservations would vary by tribe, according to Ferguson’s office.

Ferguson and bill supporters say that the change is a matter of public health, which will save money in the long run as people don’t suffer tobacco-related disease.

Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, a sponsor of the bill in the House, said she watched both her parents struggle with quitting smoking, which they started in their teens.

“It’s a life of addiction,” she said.

Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, said that the effects of smoking are widespread and devastating.

“All of us have a personal story of how smoking has affected us,” he said. His wife’s parents both died 20 years ago of smoking-related complications.

Miloscia said that he aimed to get the legislation passed within three years.

Ferguson’s office said that as of Wednesday, there were 10 sponsors in the House, and three in the Senate.

Several cities and counties have set legal smoking ages at 21, including New York City and Hawaii’s Big Island, but no state yet has a smoking age that high.

The legal smoking age is 19 in four states, including Alaska, Utah and New Jersey, which last year considered a bill to raise the age from 19 to 21. Colorado and Utah have also considered raising the age to 21.

TVW taped the press conference. It will be added to this post when it’s available in our archives.

 

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Proposal would make most elephant ivory sales a felony

By | January 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

An African elephant bull. Photo by Arno Meintjes via Flickr.

African elephants are being threatened by illegal poaching. To combat this, a bill proposes making most sales of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns illegal in Washington.

House Bill 1131 was heard Tuesday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Bill sponsor Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, says the purpose of the bill is to shrink the market for poached ivory.

“In 2013, there were 41 tons of ivory confiscated, illegal ivory of course. There was actually 35,000 elephants destroyed in 2012,” he said.

African elephants are an endangered species. Since 1988, it’s been illegal to import new elephant ivory to the United States. However, you can still sell ivory that was here before then. Washington is one of seven states considering expanding the ban to most elephant ivory sales.

The bill would require licenses for exceptions to the rule, which including selling elephant ivory for educational or scientific purposes, inheriting an ivory piece, ivory that is part of a musical instrument made before 1976, or selling antiques that are less than five percent ivory.

Under the bill, selling ivory would be a felony punishable by jail time or fines.

John Garner of Point Defiance Zoo says action is important, as the problem of illegal poaching gets worse.

He cited news articles from Africa that linked the illegal poaching trade, which can make millions of dollars, with terrorism, such as the abductions of girls last year by Boko Haram.

“On the surface, all these crimes have in common have is that they happen on the same continent but there is an intimate connection. Like many terrorists organizations in Africa, Boko Haram is funded by sales of illegal ivory, he read.

However, artists and crafts people objected to the language, saying the law was too broad in its inclusion of woolly mammoth ivory and ivory that is already in the United States.

Pete Lange, an artist who lives in Seattle, said that the law will hurt his and other businesses that depend on existing U.S. ivory stocks while not doing much to stop the illegal trade of ivory. Markets outside of the United States where ivory items have a greater demand, such as Asia, drive the poaching, Lange said.

“The proposed law is unfair to people who have been following the law,” Lange said.

However, Jennifer Reichert of District Auctions asked lawmakers for a complete ban on ivory with no exceptions. She says a ban would clarify rules for sellers and save elephants.

“The only way to really make a difference is to have a zero tolerance policy on this, and say it’s just unacceptable, and the state of Washington is behind this,” she said. “New ivory, old ivory — it’s all part of a slaughter business.”

You can watch the testimony in TVW’s archives:

Bill could change levels of cadmium allowed in children’s jewlery

By | January 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

Children’s jewelry sold in Washington would be allowed to contain 7.5 times more cadmium – a carcinogen that causes kidney failure — if lawmakers pass a new bill.

Right now, children’s jewelry cannot contain more than 40 parts per million. Senate Bill 5021 would increase the allowable amount to match the American Society for Testing and Materials standard – 300 parts per million for metal components and 75 parts per million for paint components. It applies to jewelry expressly marketed to children ages 12 and younger.

Brent Cleaveland, executive director of the Fashion, Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association, told the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications committee products would still be safe and would provide a “harmonized” standard for the industry.

Cadmium levels are already lower than the current limit, he said. Cleaveland doesn’t expect raising the limit to increase cadmium levels in jewelry. “The industry has been very effective in eliminating cadmium from the market,” he said.  The bill will save businesses the cost and confusion of separate testing standards and still maintain safety, he says.

Still, some state health officials worry about increasing levels of a toxic metal known to cause kidney and liver damage.

“We have a difficult time eliminating it from our bodies,” Barbara Morrissey, a toxicologist with the state Department of Health, said. “Once it’s absorbed, (cadmium) has an estimated half-life in the kidney of one to four decades.”

Morrissey says kids’ exposure to cadmium in Washington state is already about three times higher than the national average, according to a department study. She worries about ingestion and says cadmium levels may rise after jewelry wears down.

“Cadmium does come out of the jewelry,” she said. “Its toxicity, its persistence in the body and limited evidence we have that it might be higher in kids already, we think these are good reasons to minimize cadmium.”

Sen. John McCoy, Tulalip Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, said it’s a work-in-progress. “As we often do in the Legislature, we’ll bring bills forward knowing they probably need some work,” he told the committee. “This bill is probably going to need some work.

Cleaveland says he will meet with the Department of Ecology on Thursday afternoon to continue discussing the bill.

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Bills would help homeless, others find housing

By | January 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

State House and Senate Democrats today introduced bills they say will help remove barriers for the state’s homeless population and others to find housing.

Liz Mills of YWCA Seattle, Sen. David Frockt, Rep. Brady Walkinshaw and Sen. Cyrus Habib discuss housing bills.

Screening costs, evictions, rent hikes and discrimination can make it difficult for many to find a place to live, low-income housing advocates said Tuesday during a press conference to introduce the bills.

Thomas Green, a Seattle man who says he became homeless after returning from military service, told lawmakers high costs of tenant screenings kept him from finding housing. Sometimes, he said, he was turned away because the address he listed on applications was a homeless shelter.

YWCA Seattle’s advocacy and policy director Liz Mills says many people who come to the center for help struggle to afford application costs.

“Housing options are significantly limited by screening costs,” she said.

Senators David Frockt and Jeannie Kohl-Welles, both Seattle Democrats, are prime sponsors of Senate Bill 5123. The Fair Tenant Screening Act creates a standardized screening report for tenants.

Three other bills aimed at offering protections to tenants were filed today and will have short titles this evening, a spokesperson for the Senate Democratic caucus said.

  • So-called Source of Income Discrimination Protections would prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants based on the type of payment they use. Mills said homeless people are often turned away when they present government-issued Section 8 voucher as payment.
  • The Truth in Evictions Reporting Act would restrict consumer reporting agencies from disclosing eviction information in some cases. Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, says sometimes people are unfairly listed on eviction reports and prevented from housing because of it, even it’s cleared up in court. Right now, she says, “if a tenant is served an eviction notice, that is an eviction on their record and it’s there forever.”
  • Another effort requires a 90-day notice for “major” rent increases.
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Inslee makes case for capital gains tax, carbon charges in 2015 State of State

By | January 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee addresses the 2015 Washington State Legislature during the State of the State address.

Gov. Jay Inslee pledged to work on a transportation package, increased funding for pre-kindergarten and a minimum wage increase in his 2015 State of the State address, framing his policy decisions as an investment in Washington’s residents.

“One path leads to an economy that works for all Washingtonians, supports thriving communities and preserves a healthy environment. The other path leads to a slow erosion of our shared prosperity, a widening gap of inequality and a deterioration of our clean air and water,” he said.

“[T]here are no better people to invest in than Washingtonians, there is no better place to invest in than Washington and there is no better time to invest than 2015,” he said.

He also spoke on his plans for education, the environment and raising taxes through his proposed capital gains tax. His remarks on the latter two issues drew a more enthusiastic response from Legislative Democrats than from Republicans, many of whom withheld applause during those sections of the speech.

Republicans also issued a perspective on this year’s session  with a statement from Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) and a press availability from several Republicans from the House and Senate sides of the Legislature.

Members of the 2015 Washington State Legislature, and members of the State Supreme Court, listen to Gov. Jay Inslee deliver the annual State of the State address.

Transportation

On transportation, Inslee said that his plan would be multimodal and include reforms and funding for “a transportation system that truly works as a system,” he said.

(more…)

Washington Senate imposes two-thirds approval rule for tax increases

By | January 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Patrol Color Guard presents the colors at the start of the 2015 Washington State Legislature Opening Day.

The 2015 Washington State Legislature kicked off Monday with a new rule that makes it harder for the Senate to pass tax increases — a new requirement for a two-thirds majority approval to pass tax increases in that chamber.

The new rules would apply to bills in the Senate, which is controlled by the Majority Coalition Caucus. The House of Representatives, which has a Democratic majority, did not consider a similar rule. Tax increases in this Legislative session, however, would have to pass both chambers before becoming law.

The rules included a clause that would require bills proposing new tax increases to get a two-thirds supermajority approval of the Senate before advancing to third reading. The exception would be to bills that send the tax increases to the voters in a referendum.

The Senate approved the rules with 26 yes votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville), told TVW before the opening day ceremonies he believed the voters of the state would support the change.

In 2012, 64 percent of Washington voters approved Initiative 1185, which created a requirement of two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate — or voter approval — to pass tax increases. 1185 passed in every county. It was similar to previous initiatives, including Initiative 1053 which also passed by 64 percent in 2010.*

“The two-thirds majority requirement was approved by nearly every county we represent,” Schoesler told Anita Kissee of The Impact.

However, the State Supreme Court struck down 1185 initiative as being unconstitutional in 2013. The state Constitution requires a simple majority in the Senate to pass.

The change could make it more difficult for legislators to pass key parts of Gov. Jay Inslee‘s budget proposal, which includes a new capital gains tax and a tax on polluters for carbon emissions.

Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) cited the court decision and the state Constitution as a reason to vote against the rule change. He proposed his own amendment that would have required a two-thirds majority to approve the rule change.

“We are proposing a Senate rule that goes around the Constitution,” he said. “This is no different of any rule that needs to be enforced. We can’t have one set of rules for us, that aren’t in the Constitution.”

Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) argued that the rule does not include closing tax loopholes and acting on existing taxes, which means that there are still ways for the Senate to propose revenue increases without the two-thirds majority approval.

“It only would impact things like a capital gains tax or an income tax or a radical change in the tax structure of our state,” he said.

But Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) said that the bill hurts moderates, because 17 members of the Senate can block an increase.

“In my view this set of rules is about preventing members of the majority from moving to the center to work on compromise,” he said. “The solutions come usually from the political middle…. This set of rules is a recipe for gridlock.”

Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) said the rules change will force the Legislature to think of ways to address budget issues other than raising taxes.

“While I wish we could have applied this rule to all taxes that might come before the Legislature this session, applying it to new taxes is still very significant,” he said in a prepared statement released following the rule change. “This will make it much more difficult for Gov. Jay Inslee to pass his misguided proposals for cap and trade and a new capital gains tax.”

*An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the most recent supermajority tax approval initiative.

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Gov. Jay Inslee raises ’12th Man’ flag

By | January 8, 2015 | 0 Comments

As the Seattle Seahawks prepare for the second round of the playoffs, the 12th Man gathered at the state Capitol Thursday to show support.

Fans cheered as Gov. Jay Inslee and special-teamer Heath Farwell raised the 12th Man flag, which they say will remain outside the state Capitol building until the Seahawks win the Super Bowl.

People came from around the state to wish the team luck against the Carolina Panthers this weekend. The game starts at 5:15 p.m. at Century Link Field.

2.1.12

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Governor Inslee proposes capital gains tax to fill budget gap

By | December 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

 

Gov. Jay Inslee says it’s time to “buck up” and invest in the state of Washington. He’s recommending a new capital gains tax to help close a $2 billion dollar gap in the next two-year budget.

“It is time to reinvest in our state and this budget does that,” Gov. Inslee said.

The Governor released his 2015-17 budget proposal Thursday. The $39 billion plan is a combination of cuts to current programs and new revenue. The focus is on four key areas: stronger schools, healthier kids, cleaner air, and a fairer tax system.

“There is one simple fact: we cannot balance this budget and educate our children on cuts alone.”

In addition to the charge on carbon polluters unveiled earlier in the week, Gov. Inslee proposes a seven percent capital gains tax on money made from the sale of stocks and bonds above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for joint filers. It would begin in 2016 and is estimated to raise $800 million dollars in the first biennium.

“This is a tax on fewer than one percent of Washingtonians,” the Governor explained.  “For those folks who have retirement accounts, stock in those accounts when they sell that stock, there will be zero capital gains on that.”

The Governor says Washington’s capital gains tax would be less than similar taxes in Idaho, Oregon and California.  Also exempt is money earned from the sale of homes, farms, and forestry.

“This is not intended to show any lack of respect for those who would pay under this proposal. We honor success in Washington. In fact, we treasure it, but we always have to push for fairness.” The Governor later explained why he believes a capital gains tax is a better option over a sales tax increase. “It would be unfair to working families in this tough economy, where you have such incredible income inequality, to put more tax burden on working families. I believe, in this circumstance where we’ve had such wealth creation in this state… That giving a beginning teacher, or a person who’s making $500,000 selling stocks and bonds, at this point we outta ask that wealthier person to step up to the plate.”

Among the other ideas on the list of new revenues, Gov. Inslee wants five tax breaks repealed, the state cigarette tax increased by 50 cents a pack, a new tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products, and a tax on bottled water.

Those new revenues add up to $1.4 billion dollars.

Given the size of the budget shortfall and the State Supreme Court mandate on McCleary, the Governor says statewide cuts are also needed. His budget proposal includes $211 million in General Fund spending cuts. Another $212 million was found by shifting General Fund costs to other fund sources and maximizing federal funds.

“The fact of the matter is we have made reductions of $12 billion dollars since the recession started. We have already slashed mental health way past the bone. We’re in the arteries.”  Governor Inslee said as a result the courts have held the state in contempt. “The point is this recession has put us $1 billion dollars in the hole, and we have slashed to the bone and now we’re looking into the cartilage to the tune of about $400 million dollars.”

The largest chunk of Gov. Inslee’s budget is dedicated to schools. He wants to spend $18.2 billion in order to meet McCleary. That would include money for smaller K-3 classes and full-day kindergarten for all students across the state.

Social and Health Services would get $6.4 billion. Washington colleges and universities would be allocated $3.4 billion, but in-state undergraduate tuition would be frozen.

When asked whether he changed his tune from the 2012 campaign when then-candidate Inslee vowed not to raise taxes: “The combination of the legislature not closing these loopholes… and increasing demands in education and mental health, we simply have not been able to generate the revenues necessary to provide vital services to Washingtonians. I have hoped to avoid this route. I have tried to avoid this route, but we now have an obligation to our children. They oughta have a first class education. It is a duty of ours and I intend to fulfill it.”

Immediately following the Governor’s news conference, the Senate Republican’s chief budget writer issued a statement. Sen. Andy Hill (R – Redmond) said, “Investing in student achievement and providing essential services should not depend on risky tax schemes that threaten our economy. Educating our children, caring for those in need and supporting our local economy demands thoughtful, bipartisan budget leadership. Tax increases should be the last resort, not the first response.”

You can see more of the details of the Governor’s 2015-17 budget proposal here.

You can also hear more from Governor Inslee’s budget director, David Schumacher.  He is the  guest on this week’s “Inside Olympia.”

Governor Jay Inslee to Release Entire Budget Proposal Thursday

By | December 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Governor Jay Inslee will release the entirety of his proposed 2015–17 biennial budget on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

TVW will carry the event live, both on TV and on our website.

Here’s the link to watch it live from your computer.

Washington Works to Protect Students From Natural Disasters

By | December 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Oso landslide and fierce summer wildfires show how natural disasters might impact Washington schools. And to help school districts plan ahead, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has released its final “K-12 Facilities Hazard Mitigation Plan.”

For three years, staff researched the natural dangers facing our schools, making us one of the first states in the country to tackle such a large study.

The six major natural disasters most likely to occur in Washington: earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, wildfires, volcanic events and landslides.

The hope is school districts will use the report to help plan renovations to old buildings, and safer designs for new ones that can be ready for the disasters pinpointed for their region.

The final report is available here.

It’s also one of the topics on “The Impact” this week which airs on TVW Wednesday at 7 & 10 p.m.

Also on the show this week: The Governor’s budget proposal, including a carbon pollution charge to raise money for schools and transportation, and the school district building an innovative new school to protect kids from an earthquake followed by a tsunami.

Categories: The Impact, Uncategorized

Inside Olympia: Paroles & Pardons

By | December 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Deciding whether to parole or pardon prisoners is a difficult, politically dicey task. Austin Jenkins interviews Gov. Jay Inslee’s General Counsel Nick Brown, Clemency and Pardons Board Chair Jennifer Rancourt, and Indeterminate Sentence Review Board Chair Lynne DeLano.

Watch here:

Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony

By | December 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

It’s Officially Christmas at the Washington State Capitol. For the 26th year, the annual Holiday Kids’ Tree is lighting up the Capitol rotunda.

Photo: Courtesy AWB

It’s a noble fir grown in Olympia and donated by the Winkleworld Noble Fir Tree Farm. The tree is 35 feet tall and wrapped with five-thousand LED lights. The 200 decorations covering the tree fit the theme of Disney’s “Frozen.” Once the tree is taken down after Christmas, all the stuffed characters will be wrapped and given to patients at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital.

The Tree is sponsored by the Association of Washington Business and also helps raise money for rural families in need.

You can get in the holiday spirit and watch the Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony here.

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House Democratic Leaders Reorganize Committees

By | December 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

Democrats have a new structure for House committees for the 2015 legislative session. Some committees have been canceled, others added, and some of the remaining will have new names and roles.

According to a document given to House members, there are now 21 committees instead of 23. The committees canceled include the appropriations subcommittees on education and the one on health and human services, along with the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee.

There is a new committee being formed to deal specifically with issues related to marijuana and gambling. It’s called the Commerce and Gaming Committee. The description on the document: “The House Commerce & Gaming Committee considers issues relating to commerce in alcohol, tobacco and cannabis and issues relating to the regulation and oversight of gaming, including tribal compacts.”

Also new next session, a State Government Committee. It will take over the ethics, campaign finance and other state agency issues often heard by the Government Operations and Elections Committee.

There is a new name and focus for the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Information Technology. It’s no longer considered a subcommittee and will address issues of state government, LEAN management, and audits.

The new Labor Committee has a shorter name. The Workforce Development part was dropped from that committee and moved to the Higher Education Committee.

To read the House committee descriptions: 2015-16 committee issue areas (2)

Majority Coalition Caucus Selects all Republican Committee Leaders

By | December 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

With Republicans firmly in control of the Washington State Senate, the Majority Coalition offered all committee chairmanships to members of the majority party. No Democrats were included on the list of chair assignments released by the caucus Tuesday afternoon.

For the last two year, with two Democratic members of the MCC, the caucus had given the chair position to Democrats on two committees: Financial Institutions & Insurance, chaired by Sen. Steve Hobbs (D – Lake Stevens), and Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development, chaired by Sen. Brian Hatfield (D – Raymond). In 2014, Sen. Hobbs was demoted to co-chair in order to share the position with Sen. Jan Angel (R – Port Orchard). Former Sen. Tracey Eide (D – Federal Way) co-chaired the Transportation Committee. The Democrats turned down other chair positions that had been initially offered.

This year the only Democratic member of the Majority Coalition Caucus is Sen. Tim Sheldon (D – Potlach).

New this year, the Majority Coalition created the Accountability & Reform Committee. Senator-elect Mark Miloscia, who was once a Democrat, (R – Federal Way) will chair that committee. In a Senate Republican press release, new Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler (R – Ritzville) said the committee is a priority for the caucus. “We have a crisis of confidence and competence,” said Schoesler. “Our main focus will be to restore people’s trust and to make sure state government works for the people who pay the bills and not just special interests.”

Other committees that will be lead by new chairs:

-Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development
Chair: Senator-elect Judy Warnick (R – Moses Lake)

-Commerce & Labor
Chair: Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R – Spokane)

-Financial Institutions & Insurance
Chair: Sen. Don Benton (R – Vancouver)

-Trade & Economic Development
Chair: Sen. Sharon Brown (R – Kennewick)

-Transportation
Chair: Sen. Curtis King (R – Yakima)

The remaining committees will be led by the same chair:

-Early Learning & K-12 Education
Chair: Sen. Steve Litzow (R – Mercer Island)

-Energy, Environment & Telecommunications
Chair: Sen. Doug Ericksen (R – Ferndale)

-Governmental Operations
Chair: Sen. Pam Roach (R – Auburn)

-Health Care
Chair: Sen. Randi Becker (R – Eatonville)

-Higher Education
Chair: Sen. Barbara Bailey (R – Oak Harbor)

-Human Services, Mental Health & Housing
Chair: Sen. Steve O’Ban (R – Tacoma)

-Law & Justice
Chair: Sen. Mike Padden (R – Spokane Valley)

-Natural Resources & Parks
Chair: Sen. Kirk Pearson (R – Monroe)

-Ways and Means
Chair: Sen. Andy Hill (R – Redmond)

Gov. Inslee details plan for new clean water standards

By | July 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing new clean water standards that are partly based on an assumption of how much fish Washingtonians eat each month.

Inslee’s plan would raise the state’s fish consumption rate from 6.5 grams a day — or about one serving of fish a month — to 175 grams a day, or about a serving of fish every day of the month. He said the new standard is more “realistic” and protects those who eat locally-caught fish as a regular part of their diet, including tribal members and recreational fishers.

The fish consumption rate is part of a formula that determines how much pollution can be discharged into the state’s waterways by factories, municipal sewage plants and other industries.

Businesses have previously opposed stricter water quality standards because of the high cost of upgrading equipment. Boeing on Wednesday issued a statement saying the proposed standard could result in “little to no improvement to water quality and be a substantial detriment to Washington jobs and economic health.”

As part of his plan, Inslee intends to send a proposal to the 2015 state Legislature that would reduce toxics in the water by targeting four chemicals: PCBs, phthalate plasticizers, toxic flame retardants and zinc.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler says any new standards must balance environmental benefits with protecting family budgets and jobs.

The Department of Ecology must come up with a preliminary draft rule that matches Inslee’s proposal by Sept. 30. The full package won’t be submitted to the federal Environmental Protection Agency until after the 2015 legislative session to allow for the passage of the toxic reduction bill, Inslee said.

Watch TVW video of the press conference below:

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Environmental review set to begin for Grays Harbor oil storage proposals

By | April 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

Environmental reviews begin this week for two proposals to build storage facilities to handle hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil and other fuels at the Port of Grays Harbor.

The state Department of Ecology and the city of Hoquiam will begin collecting public comments starting Thursday for environmental impact statements.

Westway Terminal Company has proposed expanding its current facility so that it can receive, store and ship crude oil. It would allow the terminal to receive about 9.6 million barrels of oil a year and store 800,000 barrels of crude oil.

Imperium Renewables wants to build nine storage tanks for up to 720,000 barrels of biofuels, petroleum products, crude oil and renewable fuels such as diesel and jet fuel.

The public comment period is open from April 10 through May 27. Public meetings will be held April 24 at Hoquiam High School and April 29 at Centralia High School. The meetings are from 5 to 9 p.m., with public comment beginning at 6 p.m. People can also submit comments online here.

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Lawmakers pass two unpaid days off for religious reasons for state workers, students

By | March 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

State employees would be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons under a bill passed by the Senate Tuesday. It also excuses public school children for two days.

Sen. David Frockt, D- Seattle, who is Jewish, said he could relate to the issue.

“Growing up in the south and not being from the majority faith (in the) community I grew up in, this is a really big deal for children and students to make sure they’re excused,” he said. “It’s hard to explain when you’re in third or fourth grade how it feels —  not in a bad way, but you learn to respect everybody’s traditions — but just that you’re a little different.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, urged support of the bill.

“This bill for more personally signifies one of the most important thing this session quite frankly and it costs no money,” Hasegawa said. “What we’re doing is recognizing the core American value of religious freedom.”

Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, agreed.

“I think this is a really important bill. We’re a nation of many faiths and many traditions and we need to have the ability to respect all of those,” he said.

The bill passed unanimously. SB 5173 passed 64-32 out of the House last week. The bill can head the governor’s office.

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Tanning bed ban for teenagers passes Senate

By | March 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

Teenagers under the age of 18 years old would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds under a bill passed out of the senate Tuesday.

Bill sponsor Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, urged the Senate to concur with a House amendment to allow tanning beds with a doctor’s prescription.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, stood in the support of the bill.

“It’s going to make a huge difference i think in saving young people’s lives from melanoma,” she said.

Salons that allow a minor to use a tanning bed could be fined up to $250, according to the bill.

SB 6065  passed 42 to 6, and heads to the governor’s desk for signature.

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Washington issues first recreational marijuana business license

By | March 5, 2014 | 0 Comments

When Sean Green of Spokane became Washington’s first licensee to produce and process recreational marijuana, he likened it to the end of an era.

“Cannabis prohibition is over,” he said.

Green’s license were issued at a Washington State Liquor Control Board meeting on Wednesday to a flurry of publicity.

“We are living the dream today here right now,” he said.

Green will operate a 21,000-square-foot growing operation in Spokane under the business name Kouchlock Productions. (Couch lock is slang for too stoned to move.) He said he’s invested $6 million in the growing and processing operation.

Sean Green of Spokane displays the first recreational marijuana producer and processor license issued in the state.

Green has operated a medical cannabis dispensary since it was legalized in Washington in 2011, and has dispensaries in Shoreline and Spokane.

Green said there still were obstacles for entrepreneurs, citing the ongoing difficulty in finding a bank willing to work with marijuana businesses.

While Green was the first licensee, the Washington State Liquor Control Board is going through 2,800 applications for producing and processing, said Becky Smith, Liquor Control Board Marijuana Manager.

Several more producer and processor licenses are in the final stages and will be issued this week, according to the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Sean Green of Spokane hugs a staff member of the Washington State Liquor Control Board as he receives the first recreational marijuana producer and processor license in the state.

Retail licenses will be issued after a lottery later this spring, and the state is still set for the first pot stores to open this summer, according to Liquor Control Board agency director Rick Garza.

Board member Chris Marr said he expects the retail stores to roll out, rather than all be ready to open on the first day. The state will issue 338 retail licenses.

The Seattle Times raised questions about Green after uncovering labor complaints made by Green’s employees.

Marr told reporters that the board’s staff felt that Green satisfied all the requirements and criteria for receiving a producer and grower’s license.