Archive for Public Policy

Review of children’s toys in Washington finds some toxic chemical violations

By | April 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

More than 20 children’s toys and products sold in Washington state violate the state’s limits on toxic chemicals, including baby sandals sold at Gap and Old Navy, a Minnie Mouse purse at Toys R Us and “funny teeth” at Fred Meyer.

The state Dept. of Ecology purchased 226 children’s toys and products from 10 retail stores in Washington state and two online retailers in the spring of 2013.

A review of the products found 15 violations of phthalates, a chemical platicizer often used to increase flexibility in plastic products. The review also found seven violations of lead or cadmium, and two toxic metal violations in the packaging that came with children’s products.

The Ecology department noted in a press release that the majority of manufacturers are in compliance. The agency notified the companies with potential violations, and said it is working with state and federal agencies on the issue.

The review focused mostly on big box retailers because the items sold in the stores are likely to be found throughout the state.

Among the toys that exceeded toxic chemical limits were a Spiderman swimming mask and flippers at Big Lots, baby sandals at Gap and Old Navy, bendable zoo animals and alien putty at Amazon, bath toys at Wal-Mart, pencil cases at Toys R Us, a bath book at Target, princess makeup at Claire’s and gem pendants at the Dollar Tree.

Click to download the list of children’s toys and retailers here.

The tests were done to measure compliance with the state’s Children’s Safe Product Act, which limits the amount of lead, cadmium and phthalates allowed in children’s products sold in Washington after July 1, 2009. The law also requires the Dept. of Ecology and Dept. of Health to develop a list of chemicals of “high concern” to children.

The full report was released in April and is available here.

A segment about the toxic toys will air on “The Impact” on Wednesday, April 23 at 7 & 10 p.m.

Categories: Public Policy

UPDATED: Should all private workers in Washington have access to a state retirement plan?

By | April 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

Retirement experts agree: Getting people to voluntarily save money for retirement doesn’t work.

Public campaigns to convince people to open an Individual Retirement Account or voluntarily contribute to a 401(k) have proven unsuccessful, experts say. In Washington state, only 51 percent of workers between the ages of 55-64 participate in a retirement plan at work.

“We’ve studied this for 100 years and the only way that people save for retirement is if they do it automatically from their paycheck,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, a New York-based think tank.

“The job is where is the money is,” she said. “The paycheck is where the discipline is.”

Several Democratic state lawmakers held a work session Tuesday to consider ways to make sure that Washington workers have enough money to retire. One in four Washington residents between the ages of 45-64 years old has $25,000 or less in savings for retirement.

“What’s happening to our citizens is not right,” said Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma. “To have so many on the edge of poverty in the years when they should be enjoying their lives.”

Experts discussed ongoing efforts in other states, including California and Oregon, to study the creation of a state retirement plan that would be available to all private sector workers. California is considering a plan that would give private workers an individual account with CalPERS, the state’s pension fund for public employees.

Employees could contribute between 3 to 10 percent of their paychecks into the state retirement account and use the money to supplement social security when they retire. The plan infrastructure would look similar to the state’s health insurance exchange, said Ghilarducci, who was one of several experts who addressed the panel and worked on California’s plan.

Ingrid McDonald of AARP Washington said other states have faced three types of opposition in trying to pass this type of legislation.

First, the plans are complex and lawmakers want to avoid creating a new liability for the state. Second, the plans face opposition from the financial services industry because they don’t want a public-private partnership to “take over their turf,” she said.

Lastly, the plans get “pushback” from the small business community. Small business owners don’t want additional burdens or to be forced to make a contribution match to retirement accounts, McDonald said.

This year, the Washington state House voted to pass House Bill 2474, which would have allowed private workers to contribute money to plan administered by the state’s retirement system.

The bill passed 54-43 largely along party lines, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed. The bill did not get a committee hearing in the Senate, which is controlled by the Majority Coalition Caucus.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, told TVW this week that Republicans support moving more workers into defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s. He proposed Senate Bill 6305 this year, which would have transitioned elected officials away from pensions into defined contribution plans.

“A lot of this is fear of change,” Braun said. “People think about their retirement they want security, the want safety, they want something they know. In many cases, especially in the public sector, a defined contribution plan is an unknown. For that reason alone it is worthwhile for elected officials to lead the way and take some of the fear out of it.”

Republican lawmakers also introduced a bill this session, Senate Bill 5851, that would have created a defined contribution plan option for public employees, such as teachers and law enforcement officials. The bill passed 25-22 out of the Senate, but did not get a hearing in the Democratically-controlled House.

TVW taped the Democratic-sponsored work session and it will be archived at this link. Watch interviews with Senators Braun and Conway for a segment on the retirement issue on The Impact this week:

Categories: Public Policy, WA Senate
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State officials warn against mudslide scams

By | March 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

State officials are warning people to avoid scams spurred by the Oso mudslide in Snohomish County that has left 16 dead and dozens more unaccounted for.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman released a joint statement this week urging people to look out for scam artists who may be soliciting donations for the disaster. They instead recommend donating through give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Washington state’s Combined Fund Drive has also launched a campaign to help mudslide victims. The program allows state public employees to donate to charity through payroll contribution and agency fundraising events. The website can be found here.

Categories: Public Policy

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:

2014 Roundup: What bills passed, what didn’t pass during session

By | March 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

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.

PASSED:

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…)

Fees that support homeless programs extended through 2019

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

A document fee that raises money for homeless programs will be extended through 2019, under a bill passed by the Legislature on Thursday night.

The bill passed out of the Senate, 41-8, and was immediately transferred to the House, where it passed 74-22.

“This bill will save lives,” said Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma.

Programs that operate homeless shelters, low-income housing and other homeless services depend on money raised through a $40 document recording fee collected during certain real estate transactions, such as a buying or refinancing a house. The fee is set to decrease starting next year.

Senate Bill 5875, which would have extended the fee for one year, was amended by Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, to extend the fee through June 2019. It also creates a work group to look at the effectiveness of the program, and plan for homeless funding in the future. In addition, the bill sets aside 45 percent of the money raised through the fee for private rental housing.

The bill calls for a performance audit in 2016 and a task force starting in 2017.

“I made a commitment to make it work to help homeless people,” Angel said, who said that she was nearly homeless at one point in her life. “I know what that feeling is like. I’ve been very committed to coming up with a good solution.”

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, spoke in support of the amendment.

“I wish there was not a sunset or the sunset was pushed out further,” he said. “We are saving thousands and thousands of people from losing their homes.”

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said he supported the bill.

“I personally preferred removing the sunset, frankly. But there are others who are not. And I have responsibilities for that team,” he said.

“We have four years to work on it,” Benton said. “We’re going to make sure it’s going to go where we all want it to go to. And that’s to help folks who are homeless and not toward administrative costs toward some agency somewhere.”

More than 20 people testified at a public hearing on the bill this month, including homeless advocates who say many programs rely on the fees to provide services across the state.

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Military tuition bill approved by Legislature

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

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. It passed out of the House unanimously in the final hours of the regular 2014 legislative session. It previously passed unanimously out of the Senate, and now heads to the governor for his signature.

“This legislation is a tiny token of appreciation to our veterans and their families,” said Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo.

The bill was one of two pieces of legislation that leaders exempted from last week’s policy deadline, allowing the bills to be considered up until Thursday.

Categories: Public Policy

Lawmakers give support to parents with disabilities

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Parents with intellectual and developmental disabilities lose custody of their children at disproportionately high rates. Legislation will now extend services to help these families stay together.

David Stadden proposing to his fiancé Brittany Graves. Photo Credit: Diane Stadden

Both chambers unanimously passed House Bill 2616, which will provide more support to parents with disabilities who are at risk of losing their kids.

The bill requires the Developmental Disabilities Administration, a part of the Department of Social and Health Services, to create a service plan for parents that is tailored to their needs and offer assistance based on his or her disability if a “reasonable accommodation” can be made.

Rep. Roger Freeman, D-Federal Way, the bill’s prime sponsor, said  that his ultimate goal is to raise awareness that people with certain disabilities are capable of being parents.

A report from The National Council on Disabilities reveals that anywhere between 40 to 80 percent of parents with intellectual disabilities lost custody of their children. The reports also finds that they are more often denied adoption.

Diana Stadden, the mother of an adult with autism and the policy and advocacy coordinator of Arc of Washington State, said that current laws are failing to maintain the rights of disabled parents. She added that most research and resources target children with developmental disabilities, but adults are often neglected.

“We don’t think about these children who are going to grow up and want to have a life like anyone else,” said Stadden.

Stadden’s future daughter in law, Brittany Graves, who is autistic, testified at a previous Senate Human Services and Corrections hearing and expressed desires to  one day be a mother. Stadden said this bill means professional services will be available if she makes a few mistakes along the way.

The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for a final signing.

Categories: Public Policy

New Senate bill dealing with homeless fees passes out of committee

By | March 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Senate budget writing committee voted Monday to pass a bill out of committee that would temporarily extend a $40 fee that helps pay for homeless shelters, low-income housing and other homeless services.

Many of those services are currently paid for by a $40 document recording fee collected during certain real estate transactions, such as a buying or refinancing a house. The fee is set to decrease starting next year unless the Legislature takes action.

Senate Bill 5875 would extend the fee for one year, until July 2016. It also creates a workgroup to look for alternative funding sources in the future.

More than 20 people testified at a public hearing on the bill Monday, including homeless advocates who say they rely on the fees to provide services across the state.

Flo Beaumon of Catholic Community Services testified in opposition to the Senate bill, and urged lawmakers to make the fee permanent. “We know what works and we need to be able to keep on doing it,” she said. “The sunset pulls the rug out from under the feet of somebody who just got up on those feet.”

Speaking in support of the measure, Bill Clarke of Washington Realtors said the fee is “not the funding source we like” but it keeps the issue moving forward while also studying alternative funding sources. “Our belief is a more stable, less volatile funding source than document recording fees should exist,” he said.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted to pass the bill later Monday night. Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said the bill is a “good way to move the discussion forward and to keep this bill alive and to keep this discussion alive.”

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said one year is not enough of an extension. “I think it’s critical that we get this done,” he said.

“They need to project into their human services budgets money from this account. I really hope that we can approve and strengthen this bill forthwith,” Frockt said.

A competing bill, House Bill 2368, would make the fees permanent. It passed out of the House, but did not get a vote in the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Housing & Insurance Committee.

Categories: Public Policy

House passes bill banning tanning beds for teens under 18

By | March 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Teenagers under the age of 18 would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington under a bill passed by the House on Friday.

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.

“We don’t let kids smoke under the age of 18 and there’s no reason to tan under the age of 18,” said Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, on the House floor Friday.

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, spoke in opposition to the bill Friday, saying it should be a decision left up to parents. “Please stop,” he said. “Quit getting in between parents and children.”

The bill passed out of the House 58 to 39, and previously passed out of the Senate. The amended version of the House bill now returns to the Senate.

Categories: Public Policy

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

Disabled parking renewal would need doctor’s signature under bill

By | February 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

People with disabled parking permits would have to get a signature from a doctor, a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant to renew, under a bill passed unanimously in the Senate Monday.

“We heard from a lot of the people who have permanent disabilities, because there’s a lot of people who aren’t following the rules, it’s actually hard for them to find the spot,” said Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah).

People with permits to park in spaces reserved for the disabled must renew every five years. Supporters say they hope that the bill will prevent fraud.

 A work group led by the Department of Licensing last year identified abuse of disabled parking permits as a problem.
Categories: Public Policy

House approves lobbyist spending disclosure bill

By | February 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

The House passed a bill that would require lobbyists to file their spending reports for the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission electronically by 2016.

Rep. Jim Moeller (D-Vancouver) said House Bill 1005 would make it easier for the public to find information about lobbying activities.

“We currently have a system that’s searchable for all our candidates but we don’t have a system that’s searchable for all the lobbyists,” he said. “This bill would require all lobbyists to file online and create a system that’s searchable.”

The Public Disclosure Commission must have electronic system must be ready by 2016 under the bill. The bill passed unanimously in House, and will be referred to the Senate for consideration.

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Gay conversion therapy, toxic toys and oil spill laws

By | January 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Wednesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we cover two bills considered in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. One bill aims to end the practice of gay conversion therapy on minors, and the other would increase suicide prevention training for medical professionals.

We also have highlights from the floor debate about a bill that would ban certain flame retardants from being used in furniture and children’s products. Plus, a debate over a bill that would tighten the state’s oil spill laws.

Watch the show below:

Proposal would end pitbull bans, other types of dog breed ‘discrimination’

By | January 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

Many cities in Washington have laws against breeds of dogs perceived to be dangerous, including pit bulls, mastiffs and rottweilers. But legislators are considering a bill that would prevent cities from enacting laws against specific breeds.

Bill sponsor Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) says these laws are discriminatory and punish families.

“Most any dog can be made vicious by irresponsible owners and most any dog can be made gentle by conscientious owners,” she said. “I have a close friend who was attacked and disfigured by a beagle. We’re talking now about Snoopy. Are we going to ban Snoopy?” 

Laws that name specific breeds of dogs are on the books in Auburn, Everett, Yakima and dozens of other Washington cities, according to DogsBite.org, an organization that advocates in favor of such laws. Some cities have an outright ban on pit bulls.

Zak Thatcher of Clear Lake brought her bull terrier Ozymandias to a hearing

Several dog owners testified Thursday at the House Judiciary Committee meeting in favor of Appleton’s bill.  Zak Thatcher, an emergency room nurse in Clear Lake, introduced her bull terrier Ozymandias to the committee.

“This is a dog who is good with children, this is a dog you can take absolutely everywhere,” she said. “This dog is banned in some cities based on his appearance, because his appearance is scary to some people. But the dog himself is harmless.”

Dog rescuer James Walker said that problem dogs start out with problem owners.

“We found that anyone can ruin a perfectly good dog. To outlaw pit bulls, rottweilers, whatever, what you’re going to find is that as those dogs are pushed out into rescue and given to families in other communities,” he said. “The families that have dangerous dogs will end up with another breed that they’ve turned into a dangerous dog. You can’t get rid of the problem by outlawing breeds.”

However, Byron Coney of DogsBite.org said that certain breeds have a history of aggressive behavior. The group has provided testimony in several court cases, most recently in Maryland, he said.

“Anyone who possesses a pit bull that causes injury to someone. It’s inherently dangerous and it’s enough to prove is that if that dog is a pit bull, you’re automatically liable,” he told the committee.

(more…)

State Attorney General outlines legislative priorities for 2014

By | December 10, 2013 | 0 Comments
Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Attorney General Bob Ferguson

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson will ask lawmakers to consider four policy bills in the upcoming legislative session, including one that failed to pass two years ago when introduced by his predecessor Rob McKenna.

Ferguson announced his 2014 legislative agenda at a press conference Tuesday, along with sponsoring legislators from the House and Senate.

One bill would bring Washington state in line with 49 other states that do not have to pay attorney’s fees if it loses a case brought under the Consumer Protection Act.

Currently, the state is on the hook for attorneys’ fees if it loses a case in trial. That happened in 2006 when the state sued a doctor who was practicing medicine without a license and lost on a technicality, then was forced to pay $420,000 in attorneys’ fees.

“Washington is only state in country where that’s the reality we face,” Ferguson said.

McKenna requested the same bill in 2011, but business groups fought it and the bill never made it out of committee. Ferguson said he’s been reaching out to the business community to try to prevent that from happening again.

Another bill would require all public officials to undergo training on open government laws, including the Public Records Act and the Open Public Meetings Act. Many state agencies already provide some training, but the bill would make it mandatory.

Last year, the state auditor found more than 250 violations of open government laws that could expose the state to expensive lawsuits, Ferguson said.

“The public’s access to records is critically important,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Fain. “When local officials don’t have a clear understanding of their obligations, it makes it difficult for an everyday citizen to be able to access these important records.”

The third bill would grant certain legal protections to military members who are called to active duty by the governor in the case of a disaster like a fire or flood.

Soldiers on federal active duty are are covered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and the bill would incorporate those same protections into state law. For example, military members would be protected from legal action if they have to break a rental lease early, get evicted or are facing foreclosure.

Lastly, Ferguson called for changes to a law that affects the nearly 300 sexually violent predators at McNeil Island.The bill would require sexually violent predators to participate in a yearly review with the state’s forensic psychologist if they want the state to pay for their own expert at trial. It would also define treatment programs.

Ferguson said the bill will protect the public’s safety by reducing the risk of a sexually violent predator being released into the community and reoffending.

TVW taped the press conference — watch it online here.

Categories: Public Policy

State workgroup issues recommendations to crack down on abuse of handicap passes

By | December 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

Drivers who are fraudulently using handicap parking passes to get free parking could soon be facing misdemeanor criminal charges and stiffer fines.

It’s one of the three key recommendations from a workgroup convened to look at abuse in the state’s disabled placard program.

The group also recommends creating a new “payment-exempt” placard, in addition to the state’s current disability placard.

Only people who have disabilities that prevent them from handling coins or tickets, or cannot physically reach a meter, would be allowed to park for free. Standard placard holders would have to start paying for street parking.

Currently, disabled drivers with a placard can park for free in any metered space for an unlimited time.

“If a meter-exempt placard were to be created, that’s one way you could still have that option for people who need it, but eliminate the free parking for those who may not need the free parking,” said Tony Sermonti, the legislative policy director for the Department of Licensing.

The Department of Licensing lead the workgroup, which also included disability advocacy groups, the city of Seattle and the Department of Health. The group, which started in June, is finalizing its recommendations this month and will forward the report to the Legislature during the upcoming session.

Sermonti said the group shadowed a parking enforcement officer in Seattle and saw people using expired handicap passes to get free street parking. “So we know it is occurring in some of our bigger cities where parking is a challenge in general,” he said.

If someone is caught using an expired or borrowed disabled placard, they must pay a $250 fine and are issued a civil parking infraction. The group recommends changing that to a more serious misdemeanor criminal offense, which carries heftier fines.

Drivers can either apply for a permanent disability placard, which is good for five years, or a temporary one, which is valid for six months. A licensed physician must sign the application.

The group’s third recommendation is to extend the temporary parking permit from six months to one year.

Sermonti said that will reduce the number of permanent placards being issued, and it gives people more time to recover from an injury or illness.

(more…)

Categories: Public Policy

TVW will be live Wednesday night with press conference following Boeing vote

By | November 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

Boeing machinists have until 6 p.m. Wednesday to cast their vote on a proposed contract that could determine the future of aerospace manufacturing in Washington state.

Results will be tallied at the Seattle union hall and released around 9 p.m. Shortly after the results are released, TVW will be live with a press conference by Gov. Jay Inslee — watch live on television or at this webcast link.

About 31,000 members of the International Association of Machinists District 751 will vote on the proposed contract. Boeing has pledged to build its new 777X airplane and carbon fiber wings in the Puget Sound if the union accepts the contract, which includes:

  • Ending the pension plan and replacing it with a 401(k)-style retirement plan
  • Increasing health insurance costs and copays
  • Slower wage increases
  • A $10,000 signing bonus that would be paid to every member in December

The Legislative passed two bills during a quick three-day special session that will provide nearly $9 billion in tax incentives to Boeing through 2040 if they build the airplane in Washington state. Lawmakers say the deal will provide billions in revenue for the state and create an estimated 56,000 jobs.

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Washington’s time capsule ‘keepers’ prepare to fill 2014 mini-capsule

By | November 12, 2013 | 0 Comments

A group of thirtysomethings met at the Capitol on Tuesday to fulfill an oath they made when they were 10 years old: To watch over a time capsule that will be opened 376 years from now.

In 1989, hundreds of 10-year-olds took an oath delivered by then-Gov. Booth Gardner to be “keepers” of the Washington Centennial Time Capsule. Several of those keepers — who are now about 34 years old — rose their right hand and repeated that pledge on Tuesday.

Time capsule keepers open the safe.

The time capsule is a 3,000-pound green safe that sits inside an entrance of the state Capitol building. Inside, there are stainless steel mini-capsules that are to be filled every 25 years. The keepers are preparing to fill the 2014 capsule with items representative of this era.

The 1989 capsule includes a Centennial banner taken into space, a woven Indian basket, a cookbook and microfilm with more than 10,000 messages from Washington residents.

All of the time capsules will be opened in 2389, the state’s 500th birthday.

Knute Berger, the project’s architect, said Washington’s time capsule is unique because it is not buried underground, and it offers more than just a single snapshot of time. It is considered the first “updatable” time capsule of its kind, Berger said.

“This capsule will not live its life alone and buried,” Berger said.

TVW has more photos of the event here. For more information about the keepers, visit their Facebook page.

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Committee gets update on investigation into abuses of state-run pension plan

By | July 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

Four retirees must pay back the state after an investigation found that they got “significant” pay raises just before retiring from their state job, allowing them to collect larger pension payments.

The investigation was spurred by a three-part series written earlier this year by Mike Baker of The Associated Press. The stories highlighted several cases of “pension-spiking” abuses in an old state-run pension plan called LEOFF-1, or the Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ Retirement System Plan 1.

The Select Committee on Pension Policy was briefed on Tuesday about the ongoing investigation by Dave Nelson, the legal and legislative manager at the state’s Department of Retirement System. He said the LEOFF-1 system is unique in that it pays out a pension benefit based on a worker’s salary at the time of retirement. Other pension systems use an average salary over five years, he said.

Nelson said the department conducted audits of the workers whose cases were highlighted in the articles. Of those, the investigation found:

  • Four workers got improper pay raises just before retiring. “We will correct those accounts and bill the employees for those overpayments,” Nelson said.
  • Two workers got proper pay raises. Nelson said the higher salary was within the salary schedule, and it was continued for the next person who filled the position.
  • Two workers got pay raises that had already been discovered and corrected by auditors.

Nelson said the department plans to clarify its administrative rules, examine documentation for “significant salary increases,” and evaluate contracts for retirees who take on jobs as independent contractors.

The LEOFF-1 pension system, which closed in 1977, has about 143 active workers and about 8,000 retirees who receive benefits from it.

Watch the meeting below.

Categories: Public Policy, TVW
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