Archive for WA Senate

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)

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)

Senate, House leaders talk about priorities for session

By | December 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

Newly elected Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler says some Democrats will be starting session with a “preordained goal of raising taxes” to pay for education — something he says should only be a “last resort.”

The GOP-led Majority Coalition Caucus is focusing on “efficiencies and savings” to close the budget gap, Schoesler said. As an example of inefficient spending, he cited a $600,000 workshop in Tacoma for Department of Social and Health Services employees at the same time the agency was facing layoffs.

“The agency directors down through mid-management have to understand, we think lean management is a great idea,” he said. “They need to get it, or get out.”

Democratic House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said that after five years of budget reductions, “finding additional room for cuts is more difficult than ever.”

Sullivan said Democrats are focused on funding education while also protecting services. “That’s got to be foremost goal,” he said. “Whether we pay for it in existing revenue is the debate we’ll have.”

Both leaders spoke on this week’s edition of “The Impact” – watch it below.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Mark Schoesler elected Senate majority leader

By | December 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

Mark Schoesler

Senate Republicans on Monday elected Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville to be the new majority leader.

Schoesler succeeds Sen. Rodney Tom, a Democrat who joined with Republicans two years ago to form the Majority Coalition Caucus. Tom did not seek re-election to his seat.

The Majority Coalition Caucus will continue to use the name. The group controls the Senate with 25 Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch. Democrats hold 23 seats in the chamber.

Republican Sen. Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee will continue as chair of the caucus. Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, will be deputy leader, Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, will serve as whip and Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, was re-elected as floor leader.

Democrats control the House with a 51 to 47 vote majority. The party selected its leaders last month.

Rep. Frank Chopp of Seattle will continue as speaker, Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, will serve as majority leader and Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, will be the caucus chair.

Ethics board votes to limit free meals for legislators

By | October 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

Legislators cannot accept more than 12 free meals a year from lobbyists under a new rule adopted unanimously Tuesday by the Legislative Ethics Board.

Lawmakers are allowed to accept gifts of food or beverages on “infrequent occasions” if they are discussing legislative business. However, an investigation published last year by the AP and Northwest Public Radio found that legislators were accepting hundreds of meals worth thousands of dollars from lobbyists on a regular basis.

The ethics board held four meetings this year to define “infrequent” for the first time.

The new rule adopted Tuesday defines “infrequent” as 12 times per calendar year, and states that a qualifying meal could be a breakfast, lunch or dinner that includes food and beverages.

It also includes a number of exceptions — for example, a legislator is allowed to accept a free cup of coffee from a lobbyist. The rule also doesn’t apply to buffet-style events where attendance is related to the legislator’s official duties.

Read the draft rule here.

The new rule goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015. Watch today’s hearing at this link.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Rep. Cyrus Habib and Joan McBride swap races in 48th District

By | April 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Rep. Cyrus Habib

Joan McBride

Democratic Rep. Cyrus Habib announced Monday he’s running for the Senate seat being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom.

Former Kirkland mayor Joan McBride previously announced her intentions to run for Tom’s seat. Instead, the Democrat will switch races and compete for Habib’s seat in the House.

The 48th Legislative District includes parts of Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond.

Tom, of Medina, ended his re-election campaign last week, citing family and health concerns. He was one of two conservative Democrats who helped Republicans take control of the state Senate last year, forming the Majority Coalition Caucus.

According to the Redmond Reporter, McBride said in a news release: “I originally ran for two reasons: to defeat Rodney Tom and bring my perspective and experience as a longtime Eastside Civic leader to Olympia and continue my record of service. With Tom out, my priority is to do what’s needed to make a difference on issues that matter—fixing transportation and transit, investing in our schools and families, and protecting our environment. I think I can make the most immediate impact as part of a dynamic team in the state House.”

Cyrus is a Bellevue native who became legally blind at age 8 because of cancer. He is the vice chair of the House Technology and Economic Development Committee.

“I am running to bring both my legislative experience and our district’s socially progressive yet pro economic growth values to the State Senate, where I know I can make an even greater difference,” Cyrus said in a release.

A Republican candidate has not yet been named in either race.

Categories: Election, WA House, WA Senate

Ethics board looks at rule allowing legislators to accept free meals, drinks

By | April 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

An ethics board is seeking to clarify how frequently legislators are allowed to accept free meals and drinks, following news reports that some lawmakers have accepted dozens of free meals from lobbyists.

State legislators are allowed to accept meals or drinks on “infrequent” occasions. The Legislative Ethics Board held a meeting Tuesday to start the process of adopting a new rule for gifts for legislators, which could include setting a formal definition of “infrequent.”

The discussion stems from news reports published by the Associated Press and Northwest Public Radio that showed that lobbyists picked up the tab for hundreds of meals for lawmakers worth about $65,000 during the first four months of the 2013 legislative session. One Republican senator accepted about $2,000 worth of freebies on 62 occasions over four months.

Robert Cavanaugh testified at Tuesday’s public hearing, describing himself as a citizen activist who has worked on legislative issues since the 1970s. He says corporate lobbyists get unfair access to legislators, leaving people like him at a disadvantage.

“We cannot compete with the Boeings and the Microsofts,” he said. “When I try to get access to a legislator and get on an agenda, I see high-paid lobbyists coming and going into those offices. And I sit outside in the hallway with an appointment that is never honored.”

Cavanaugh told the board he believes that legislators should not be allowed to accept any free meals or lodging.

“I resent the favoritism that goes on and I think you have an opportunity to change it and I hope you do,” he said.

Former Olympia mayor and city councilman Bob Jacobs also testified at the hearing. He recommended the board adopt a complete prohibition against accepting gifts, which he says would take the pressure off of lawmakers.

“You can say, ‘It’s illegal, I can’t do that, that’s off the table.’ It’s clean and everybody understands it,” Jacobs said.

An outright ban may be outside of the board’s scope, said member Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle.

“I don’t think we have the authority to do that, given that the Legislature has authorized gifts on an infrequent basis — which in my view doesn’t mean 62 times in four months — but also doesn’t mean never ever,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen also suggested that lawmakers should file a statement each month listing what they’ve received, rather than leave that paperwork up to lobbyists.

The board agreed to come up with draft proposals for a new rule before the group meets again on June 17. Those proposals will be refined by the board’s August meeting and formally adopted by October, board members agreed.

TVW video of Tuesday’s meeting is available at this link.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom won’t seek re-election

By | April 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Medina)

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom announced Monday he won’t seek re-election, citing family and health concerns.

Tom was one of two conservative Democrats who helped Republicans take control of the state Senate last year, forming the Majority Coalition Caucus. Tom became the new Senate Majority Leader under the power arrangement on the first day of the 2013 legislative session.

Tom’s seat is up for re-election in November. Former Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride, also a Democrat, previously announced she was running against him.

In a statement, Tom said he decided over the weekend to drop his bid for re-election because of a “series of events that have impacted my family and health.”

“Since the end of session, I have continued to work through some health issues, but the main reason for my decision is my 85-year old father who was hit by a car last week while walking in a grocery store parking lot. He’s going to require a lot of physical therapy over the next several months and I’m the only son who lives close to him. I have always said that health and family are the most important values — and beyond campaign slogans — I really do try to live by those values,” Tom wrote in the statement.

Tom, who is from Medina, was first elected to the state House as a Republican in 2002, but switched to the Democratic Party four years later. He was elected to the state Senate in 2010, where he represents the 48th Legislative District.

Tom said serving as the Senate majority leader has been “historic for Washington and an opportunity of a lifetime for me personally.”

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson said in a news release that Tom “clearly left a mark on the Senate and the Legislature that will not soon be forgotten.”

“There’s no question he will be remembered vividly for his work on both sides of the aisle and in multiple caucuses,” she said.

Democrats currently hold 23 seats in the state Senate, while the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus holds 26 seats. This fall, 24 of the 49 seats in the Senate are up for election. The primary election in August determines which candidates appear on the November ballot.

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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On TVW this week: Retirement insecurity, outdoor task force, fish and wildlife meeting

By | April 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Here are the events TVW is covering live this week:

Tuesday, April 8 at 10 a.m.: TVW will live broadcast a work session held by Democratic lawmakers on the issue of retirement insecurity. Several experts will discuss retirement issues faced by many of the state’s residents.

Participants include Sen. Steve Conway (D-Tacoma), Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent), Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle), Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-Shoreline), Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle); plus Diane Oakley, Executive Director, National Institute on Retirement Security; Teresa Ghilarducci, Director Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, The New School For Social Research; Terry Gardiner, VP Policy and Strategy, Small Business Majority; and Ingrid McDonald, Advocacy Director, AARP Washington.

Wednesday, April 9 at 9 a.m.: TVW will live webcast the first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation, which was established by Gov. Jay Inslee in an executive order. The 28-member task force must come up with a plan by September to promote Washington’s parks and outdoor recreation assets, with a focus on increasing jobs and outdoor activities. The meeting agenda is available here. The task force includes 16 members involved in recreation businesses or organizations, such as REI and Sierra Club, four legislators and eight state agency representatives.

Watch the live webcast at this link.

April 11-12, 8:30 a.m.: TVW will live webcast the two day meeting of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. The full agenda is available here. Webcast links can be found on TVW’s daily schedule page.

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.


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…)

On ‘Legislative Review:’ High tech tax break, religious holidays and ed goals

By | March 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Tuesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have highlights from a debate on the Senate floor about extending a tax incentive for high-tech companies. Plus, the Legislature passes bills dealing with religious holidays, tanning beds and the state’s educational goals for the next decade.

Watch the show below:


Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Democratic Sen. Tracey Eide will not run for re-election

By | March 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, announced Monday that she will not run for re-election in November.

Eide has spent 18 years in the Legislature and is in her fourth term in the Senate, according to her biography.

Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way

When the Democrats were the majority in the Senate, Eide was elected the Majority Floor Leader in 2010, according to her senate biography.

After two Senate Democrats opted to caucus with Republicans, forming the  Majority Coalition Caucus in 2013, Eide became the co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, sharing chairman duties with Republican Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima.

“After 18 years in the Legislature, including 16 in the Senate, I leave with mixed feelings. I’ve taken joy and satisfaction in every successful effort on behalf of my constituents and my state, and I’ve agonized over those that came up short. It has been a point of privilege and honor to represent my district. I wish I could have done even more, but I’m sure every legislator feels that way,” she said.

Eide’s full statement was released on her website.

Former state representative Mark Miloscia of Federal Way announced last week that he will run for the seat, switching parties from Democrat to Republican.

Categories: WA Senate

Limits on government drones advances through Senate

By | March 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

The  Senate advanced a house bill that limits government agencies in their use of drones, remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance, under a bill passed Friday evening.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane, said lawmakers weighed a variety of needs.

“We’ve been trying to protect as much as we can the rights of privacy of citizens of our state, and at the same time balance the legitimate needs of law enforcement,” he said.

Sen. Adam Kline, D- Seattle, also spoke in support of the bill.

“It balances the expectations of law enforcement and the rest of us,” Kline said. “This is where law enforcement meets the civil liberties of the citizens of the state of Washington.”

Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, introduced and withdrew several amendments, including one that compels Santa Claus to follow Washington law on drones.

“This is how ridiculous I think this piece of legislation is,” Honeyford said, as he withdrew the Santa Claus amendment.

He said if something can be photographed via plane, it makes no sense to ban drones from taking the same photo.

According to HB 2789 an agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions:

  • For a non-criminal emergency, such as a fire, with immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury.
  • For training or testing if no personal information is collected.
  • For emergency response during a  governor-declared state of emergency.
  • Environmental or wildlife monitoring or  assessment, when collection of personal data is unlikely.

The bill passed 46 to 1, with Honeyford as the sole vote no.

Categories: Criminal Justice, WA Senate

Senate supplemental budget proposal adjusts $96 million

By | February 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

After a positive revenue forecast, Senate budget writers released a supplemental 2014 budget proposal Monday that makes about $96 million in adjustments to the 2013-15 biennium budget.

Changes include an additional $40 million for K-12 school technology, $5 million for the Real Hope Act, $5.6 million in mental health and $5 million in new prison space. It also includes $2.1 million to start a medical marijuana patient registry and issue authorization cards, according to budget documents.

Senate Ways & Means chairman Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) said that while earlier in the session, some in the Senate had believed that a supplemental budget would not be necessary, the positive revenue forecast changed that point of view. He also added the budget mainly represents adjustments.

“It’s not a second bite at the apple,” Hill said.

He said adjustments were possible through a new $60 million in the revenue forecast, along with savings from having fewer people requiring long-term care or temporary financial assistance and fewer students enrolling in K-12 schools.

Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam) said he believed the budget preserved many of the Senate Democrats’ priorities.

“My caucus certainly agrees with K-12 as a priority, money for higher ed, but I want to make sure everyone understood we did this without cutting the social safety net,” Hargrove said.

The budget did not include teacher cost-of-living pay raises, closing certain tax loopholes and other changes that Gov. Jay Inslee had proposed earlier this year as a way to address the school spending ordered by the Washington Supreme Court as part of the McCleary lawsuit.

Inslee, in a prepared statement, urged additional education funding in the House’s supplemental budget.

“The proposal acknowledges the pressing need to address our constitutional obligation to basic education. While the Senate proposal does not go far enough in that regard, it’s a start. I urge the House to make a more substantial investment in education — one that does more to provide our students with the classroom tools they need and restores cost-of-living raises for our teachers,” he said.

House budget writers are also expected to release a supplemental budget proposal this week. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan released a statement Monday saying he looks forward to “presenting our own proposal and sitting down with the Senate to resolve our differences.”

The 2014 Senate supplemental budget is available online from the state’s website.

The Senate’s proposed supplemental budget will be heard by the Senate Ways & Means Committee at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Hill said he expects it to come up for a floor vote in the Senate this week.

Categories: Budget, WA Senate, Ways & Means

Senate supplemental budget proposal slated for release

By | February 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Senate is expected to release a supplemental budget proposal Monday afternoon, according to a press release.

A bipartisan group of senators are slated to attend the press conference. They include Senate Ways and Means Chair Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) and Senators Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam), John Braun (R-Centralia), Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island), and others, according to the press release.

TVW plans to webcast the press conference, which is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Categories: Budget, WA Senate, Ways & Means

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.

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Highlights from the week’s cutoff floor action

By | February 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Tuesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have highlights from floor debate over a number of bills that passed out of the House or Senate before Tuesday’s policy cutoff deadline. Plus, the Senate rejects an attempt to change teacher and principal evaluations.

Watch the show below:

Categories: TVW, WA House, WA Senate

Senate rejects changes to teacher evaluations, 19 to 28

By | February 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Senate rejected a bill Tuesday that would have made changes to the state’s teacher and principal evaluations. The bill failed on a vote of 19 to 28.

Lawmakers who supported the bill said the evaluation system must be updated to meet federal standards, or the state risks losing a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. The bill would have required student test scores to be used as a factor in teacher and principal evaluations.

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said it was “mind-boggling” that the Legislature would give up more than $40 million dollars of federal money at a time when the state is struggling to fund basic education.

But opponents argued that the state should not allow the federal government to take away local control.

“We have one of the best evaluations programs in the nation and we should not break it,” said Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell. “Why would we let the federal government tell us what to do?”

McAuliffe and Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, released a statement following the vote saying that lawmakers intend to find other solutions so that the state can keep its federal waiver.

Categories: Education, WA Senate

Senate approves bill creating harsher penalties for ‘knockout game’

By | February 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday creating tougher penalties for the so-called “knockout game,” where people pick victims at random and attempt to knock them unconscious with one punch. The attacks are frequently filmed and posted on social media sites.

Senate Bill 6011 would make a random assault a Class C felony, which could result in jail sentences of up to three months for the first offense.

“What we’re trying to do is get ahead of the curve here and indicate that we don’t want to see this phenomenon grow in our state,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, said the attacks are done without regard to the victims. “They pick frail people. They laugh about it, they film it. They gain cred for it, and it is unacceptable in our just society,” she said.

However, Sen. Adam Kline said the state already has assault laws on the books, as well as hate crime laws.

“Fads come and go. Our law doesn’t,” he said. “I suggest we not change our law to accommodate this particular kind of fad.”

The bill passed with a vote of 38 to 9.

Categories: WA Senate