WSDOT update on fish passage barriers

By | June 4, 2014 | Comments

The Washington State Department of Transportation is spending $36 million on replacing fish passage barriers during the current two-year budget cycle that ends in 2015, the most it has ever devoted to the project.

But it still falls short of the estimated $310 million needed each budget cycle to meet the U.S. District Court injunction requiring the state to fix hundreds of fish-blocking culverts by 2030.

WSDOT Director of Environmental Services Megan White said Wednesday the department is working in “good faith” to meet the deadline, but an estimated $2.4 billion dollars of work remains to be done.

“Replacing culverts isn’t easy,” White said.

The average cost of replacing a culvert is $3 million, she said, although some cost upwards of $20 million. The culverts must be built to last and able to handle a significant amount of traffic, White said.

Watch an interview about the issue on “The Impact” on Wednesday, June 4 at 7 & 10 p.m. More information about the project can be found here, including WSDOT’s response to last year’s court injunction requiring the state to increase its efforts in fixing the culverts.

Update: Watch “The Impact” below:

Health department investigating cluster of birth defects in Eastern Washington

By | May 28, 2014 | Comments

The state Department of Health is investigating more than two dozen cases of babies born with a rare birth defect in a three-county area in Eastern Washington.

From 2010 to 2013, there were 23 babies were born with anencephaly in Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties — roughly four times the national average. Anencephaly is a neural tube defect in which the baby’s brain and skull do not fully form during the first month of pregnancy. Babies with the defect often die shortly after birth.

Kathy Lofy, state health officer for the Dept. of Health, spoke with Jennifer Huntley of “The Impact” about the ongoing investigation, and whether or not there is a link to the nearby Hanford nuclear site in Benton County. The show airs Wednesday, May 28 at 7 & 10 p.m.

More information about the investigation can be found here. Officials recommend that pregnant women take folic acid daily to prevent birth defects, and also have their water tested for nitrate and bacteria if drinking from a private well.

Update: Watch “The Impact” below:

Categories: Healthcare, TVW

On TVW this week: Forum on teen brain development, swearing-in of new justice

By | May 19, 2014 | Comments

Here’s what we’re covering this week on TVW:

Monday, May 19 at 1 p.m.: The Joint Legislative Executive Committee on Aging & Disability is meeting to discuss several agenda items. TVW will be live on television and webcast the meeting at this link.

Tuesday, May 20 at 8:30 a.m.: Washington Supreme Court justices will hear from experts about adolescent brain development and new developments in the juvenile justice system. Read more about the symposium here. Judge Mary Yu will be sworn in to serve as the newest justice on the state Supreme Court directly following the symposium. TVW will broadcast the symposium live on television, and webcast it at this link.

Tuesday, May 20 at 9 a.m.: TVW will live webcast the Public Records Exemptions Accountability Committee, also known as the “Sunshine Committee.” The meeting will be webcast at this link.

Tuesday, May 20 at 10:30 a.m.: TVW will live webcast the Select Committee on Pension Policy. Watch the live webcast here.

Wednesday, May 21 at 7 & 10 p.m.: Find out how new research on the adolescent brain is changing how juveniles are treated in the justice system on this week’s edition of “The Impact.” Plus, young artists from around the state gather to showcase their art. Host Jennifer Huntley is filling in for Anita Kissee.

Thursday, May 22 at 7 & 10 p.m.: “Inside Olympia” host Austin Jenkins interviews Kris Johnson, head of the Association of Washington Business and David Giuliani, the co-founder of the Washington Business Alliance.

Categories: TVW

Supreme Court race: Mary Yu declares candidacy, Bruce Hilyer decides not to run

By | May 15, 2014 | Comments

Former King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer will not seek election for the state Supreme Court seat formerly held by Justice James Johnson, who retired at the end of April.

Gov. Jay Inslee recently appointed King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu to fill out the remainder of Johnson’s term until the November election. Yu filed this week to officially enter the race.

Hilyer said in an interview that he did some “soul-searching” and discovered that he has found satisfaction in helping parties resolve disputes out of court. He is currently working for Seattle-based firm Judicial Dispute Resolution.

“I’ve decided that’s my first priority and to not seek election to the court,” Hilyer said.

Hilyer filed campaign committee paperwork in April with the state Public Disclosure Commission. He submitted an email to the PDC on May 6 withdrawing the filing.

TVW this week interviewed Yu about her appointment to the state Supreme Court — watch that segment on “The Impact” here.

Categories: Courts, Election

Party buses targeted by Washington regulators

By | May 14, 2014 | Comments

Alcohol-fueled parties that take place on buses outfitted with smoke machines, music, flat-screen TVs and brass poles are coming under the scrutiny of a Washington regulatory agency.

Inside of a party bus

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission completed a report in April looking at incidents on so-called “party buses.”

It found 21 deaths and 48 injuries related to party buses operating in the U.S. and Canada since 2009. No incidents have occurred in Washington state.

“What we learned gave us reason for concern,” said commission chair David Danner, speaking at a meeting Wednesday of the Joint Transportation Committee.

The report found the most common reason for death was because a passenger fell out of the moving bus. Others died after hitting their head on an overpass while on the top deck of a bus. In two cases, underage passengers died after drinking an excessive amount of alcohol.

Danner said party buses are a “new and growing phenomenon.”

In Washington state, 33 companies operate party buses, but only 14 hold a UTC charter party certificate. Those companies without certification may not have proper insurance, safe vehicles or drivers that have been drug tested, Danner said.

Danner encouraged lawmakers at the meeting to consider a bill that would clarify the law on party buses.

He pointed to a recently enacted California law, which requires party buses carrying minors to have a chaperone to ensure there is no underage drinking. The chaperone is held liable if any incidents occur.

TVW taped the meeting, and the archive video will be available here.

Categories: transportation

Seattle high school wins national honors at mock trial competition

By | May 13, 2014 | Comments

A mock trial team from Seattle Prep won the National High School Mock Trial Competition in Wisconsin on Saturday, beating state championship teams from 45 other states.

The mock case examines a death at a rave in the Wisconsin woods. The victim’s lawyers argued that the dead man was poisoned by his business partner at an energy drink company, while the defense contends that the victim had a history of drug use.

Students received details about the case in April, and began preparing by studying cardiology, toxicology and intellectual property rights.

TVW will air the championship trial, which took place at the Wisconsin Supreme Court, later this month. TVW previously aired the Washington State Mock Trial State Competition in March.

The victory is the second time Washington state has won a national championship. Seattle’s Franklin High School took home the top prize in 2000.

More details about Washington’s mock trial program is available here.

Categories: TVW

Widow of Oso mudslide victim urges state to take action

By | May 12, 2014 | Comments

A woman whose husband died in the Oso landslide urged the state Forest Practices Board on Monday to enforce logging regulations and to let people know about the “dangerous creatures on our lands.”

“Nothing can prepare you for a loss like this,” said Deborah Durnell, whose husband Tom was buried by the landslide in their home on Steelhead Drive. “We owe it to every person who died to do all in our power to make sure logging regulations are adequate and that they are enforced.”

Durnell testified during a special all-day meeting Monday of the Forest Practices Board, which sets the standards for forest practices such as timber harvests. The board heard from several experts about the history and science behind landslides in the wake of the Oso mudslide, which left 41 people dead and two missing.

U.S. Geological Survey research scientist Jonathan Godt said the Oso landslide traveled “a remarkably far distance” of nearly a mile from the slope.

Geological maps show landslide activity was documented on that hill going back to the 1950s, with the most recent activity in 2006. Godt said an unusually wet spring likely contributed to the landslide. An earthquake has been ruled out as a factor, he said.

Godt estimated it would take years and several million dollars to answer key questions about the landslide, including why it traveled so far, how old it is and the location of similar landslide deposits.

But Peter Goldman of the Washington Forest Law Center told reporters that he doubts it would take that long, or cost that much money. He said the more important question is whether there was logging in the recharge zone, and if that zone was put in the right place.

“Did we increase the risk of a catastrophic landslide by allowing logging in areas where we know water gets into the ground? That needs to be modeled in retrospective,” said Goldman.

Goldman later told the board it should adopt an emergency rule imposing a moratorium on logging near landslides.

Rob Kavanaugh, who worked on the Stillaguamish River Basin Plan more than two decades ago, said the people who lived in the area weren’t notified that they were living in a catastrophic slide area.

“My concern is public safety. There are 43 dead people, and something went wrong with your system that allowed them to be killed. And you haven’t identified what it is that you’re doing wrong,” Kavanaugh told the board during the public comment period.

There are about 51,000 landslides in Washington state, according to data presented at Monday’s meeting. Of those, about 11,000 are deep-seated landslides like the Oso landslide. Deep-seated landslides are typically large and occur on terrain with a long history of landslides.

“Landslides will always be a natural part of our landscape in the the Pacific Northwest, and we will always have impacts due to the wet weather and geology,” said Mark Doumit of the Washington Forest Protection Association.

“It’s time for a broader public discussion to inform people and keep them out of harms’ way,” he said.

TVW taped the meeting — you can watch the first part here. We’ll update this post with a link to the second part of the meeting once it is available.

Categories: Environment

On TVW: Oso landslide review, regulating ‘party buses’ and tax preference review

By | May 9, 2014 | Comments

A look at upcoming events:

A funeral service for tribal fishing activist Billy Frank Jr. will be held Sunday at the Squaxin Island Tribe’s event center at the Little Creek Casino Resort. Frank was a member of the Nisqually Tribe and died May 5 at the age of 83. He was arrested dozens of times during the “fish wars” protests of the 1960s. TVW will not cover the funeral, however the tribe will live stream it at this link.

Monday, May 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: The Washington Forest Practices Board will hold a special all-day board meeting to review the Oso landslide and to discuss regulatory protections. TVW will air the meeting live on television and webcast it at

Tuesday, May 13 at 10 a.m.: The House Capital Budget committee is holding a work session on storm water, flood risk reduction and water supply. TVW will air the work session live on television at the web.

Wednesday, May 14 at 10 a.m.: The Joint Transportation Committee is meeting at DuPont City Hall to discuss several issues, including the regulation of “party buses.” The Washington State Patrol will discuss its $40 million project to transition to digital radios and the patrol’s recent switch to Ford Interceptor SUV’s as their main patrol car. The committee will also get an update on the Alaskan Way Viaduct program and State Route 530, which was damaged in the Oso landslide. TVW will tape the meeting for air later and webcast it at

Friday, May 16 at 1 p.m.: TVW will broadcast the meeting of the Citizen Commission for Performance Measurement of Tax Preferences. The commission meets periodically to consider public testimony and establish a schedule for review of tax preferences.

Categories: TVW

School officials weigh changes to discipline law

By | May 6, 2014 | Comments

A state law passed last year bans Washington schools from kicking a student out of school for good, instead placing a one-year limit on suspensions and expulsions.

Senate Bill 5946 also says schools “should make efforts” to get the student back in school as soon as possible, and hold a reengagement meeting with the student’s parents within 20 days of the punishment to develop a plan to get the student back in school.

The Office of Superintendent Public Instruction is finalizing procedures related to the new law, and about 50 people appeared at a public hearing on Monday to weigh in. Another 1,500 people submitted comments by email.

A working draft of the changes is expected to be completed by the end of the month, and the finalized rules would take effect at the start of the 2014-15 school year, according to OSPI.

Many of those who spoke at Monday’s hearing said that minorities and special education students face a disproportionate amount of discipline in public schools. School officials suspended or expelled more than 59,000 students in Washington schools in 2012-13, according to state data.

An analysis of the data by Washington Appleseed, a non-profit advocacy group, found that black students in Seattle were expelled at five times the rate as white students in the 2012-13 school year.

Katie Mosehauer of Washington Appleseed said the figures also show that the majority of students are being disciplined for “relatively minor behaviors,” such as disobedience, violating the dress code or truancy.

Mosehauser’s group wants OSPI to change the procedures so that reengagement meetings with parents are mandatory. She also wants a stronger appeals process and for the law to apply to all students, regardless of when they were expelled.

But others say that the proposals could jeopardize the safety of the students and teachers.

Under the law, schools can petition for a punishment that exceeds the one year limit for students who pose a threat to “public health or safety.” Emergency expulsions must be changed to another form of corrective action within 10 days.

Parker Howell, an attorney for the Washington Association of School Principals, said those parts of the law have generated confusion, and don’t offer clear guidance on how to handle emergency expulsions.

“In some cases, returning a student to school prematurely can entail safety risks and we must be thinking of the safety concerns of the other students and staff,” said Howell.

He pointed to a $1.3 million jury verdict awarded to two students who were stabbed by a fellow classmate in a restroom at Snohomish High School. The attacker had previously been suspended for threatening students.

Howell said under the current rules, a school administrator can only expel a student for violating school rules. He suggested changing the rule so students can be expelled for posing a safety risk.

Several parents and guardians of special education students also spoke at the meeting, and said they were grateful for the new law. Others representing minority communities also say it is long overdue.

Structural inequalities in Washington schools have resulted in a “school-to-prison pipeline,” said Thelma Jackson of the Washington Alliance of Black School Educators.

“Given the deplorable situation in discipline for many schools in Washington state, I am very glad to finally see some movement to remedy the unjust and unfair practices that have been going on in most of our schools for quite some time,” Jackson said.

TVW taped the hearing — it will be archived at this link.

Categories: Education

Gov. Jay Inslee appoints Judge Mary Yu to Washington Supreme Court

By | May 1, 2014 | Comments

King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu was appointed Thursday to the Washington Supreme Court, becoming the sixth woman on the court, as well as the first Asian-American, Latina and openly gay member.

Yu will fill the seat of Justice Jim Johnson, who retired Wednesday from the court for health reasons.

“She has a very, very unique combination of life experiences and legal experiences to bring to this court,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, who announced the appointment at the Temple of Justice with all nine members of the high court present, including Johnson.

Judge Mary Yu and Gov. Inslee

Yu served 14 years on the King County Superior Court, and was a prosecutor under the late Norm Maleng.

She is the daughter of two immigrants, her mother from Mexico and her father from China.

Speaking at Thursday’s announcement, Yu paid tribute to Johnson, saying he “served with honor, he remained true to his beliefs and to what he believed is right.”

Johnson was known as one of the most conservative members of the court,

Yu said she was “proud to come from the ranks” of the state’s trial court judges, describing them as the “work horses” of the court system.

“While I am from King County, I want each of you to know I am truly and earnestly committed to serving all the people of the state of Washington,” Yu said.

She must run for election in November to keep the seat and fill out the two years remaining on Johnson’s term.

TVW taped the announcement — watch it here.

Education funding report to state Supreme Court says 2015 session will be ‘critical’

By | April 30, 2014 | Comments

The Washington Supreme Court earlier this year gave the Legislature an April 30 deadline to submit a plan explaining how the state will pay for education. Lawmakers met that deadline with a report submitted Tuesday — but it doesn’t include a plan.

“The Legislature did not enact additional timelines in 2014 to implement the program of basic education as directed by the Court in its January 2014 order,” according to the report, which was prepared and unanimously approved by the Article IX Litigation Committee.

During the 2014 legislative session, “there was was no political agreement reached either among the political caucuses or between the legislative chambers” on a plan to fully fund basic education by 2018.

Nor does the committee have the authority to come up with a plan, the report said. The Article IX committee was set up to communicate with the Supreme Court on matters related to to the McCleary lawsuit, and “does not have policy-making or budget-making authority.”

The 58-page report details bills that were passed this year, including Senate Bill 6552. The bill requires high school students to earn 24 credits for a diploma, starting with the class of 2019. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum.

It also notes the Legislature approved an increase of $58 million in the supplemental budget for K-12 books and supplies.

The committee asked the Supreme Court to give “deep consideration” to the action taken this year, and recognize that “2015 is the next and most critical year for the Legislature to reach the grand agreement needed to meet the state’s Article IX duty.”

Read the full report here.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn criticized the report as “far from complete.”

“It isn’t even a plan. It reads like a small history lesson,” said Dorn, who urged the Supreme Court “to do what it can to keep the Legislature’s feet to the fire.”

Democratic Sen. David Frockt and Republican Rep. Chad Magendanz, who both sit on the Article IX committee, discussed the report on this week’s edition of “The Impact.”

“We didn’t pass a plan, per se,” said Frockt. He said the committee instead tried to acknowledge what the Legislature accomplished, and explain how the budget process works in a supplemental year.

“In terms of what the court does with that, it’s hard to say,” Frockt said.

The Supreme Court is expected to give a response to the report this summer.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a brief to accompany the report, saying he “hopes that the Court’s response to the attached Report will further facilitate, and not complicate, this endeavor, thereby allowing each branch to fulfill its constitutional role.”

Categories: Education

Inslee signs executive order that aims to reduce carbon pollution

By | April 29, 2014 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee advanced his climate change agenda on Tuesday, signing an executive order that he says will result in legislative and executive action next year.

One key part of the executive order appoints a task force to come up with recommendations for a market-based program to reduce carbon pollution in Washington state. The 21-member task force includes representatives from business, labor, environmental and health groups.

Inslee met with the Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce shortly after signing the executive order at Shoreline Community College on Tuesday.

The governor told the group he doesn’t expect proposals that are “neatly packaged with a bow.” Instead, he called on them to use “creative thought grounded in reality” to come up with multiple policy solutions.

“Inaction is not a solution,” Inslee said.

Task force co-chair Rod Brown of the Cascadia Law Group expressed optimism about the group’s ability to come up with proposals.

“I think we can actually do this and do it relatively quickly and without too much trouble,” Brown said. “You might not think that’s possible if you listen to all the rhetoric about climate change, but when you get down the the level of finding the tools to fight carbon pollution, it turns out it is not that hard.”

Inslee told reporters the executive order “will result in action, both at the executive level and a program that will be presented to the Legislature next January.”

In addition to creating the task force, the executive order directs the governor’s budget office to study the costs and benefits of requiring clean fuel standards, also known as low-carbon fuel standards. It also calls for state agencies to work with utilities to reduce — and eventually eliminate — electrical power produced from coal.

The executive order requires action in a total of seven areas. All recommendations must be submitted to the governor by November, according to his spokesman.

Legislative Republicans oppose the idea of low-carbon fuel standards, and say it will result in higher gas prices.

“We have only to look to California to see where the high cost of cap-and-trade policies will take Washington: a projected 40-cent spike in the cost of a gallon of gas,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, Republican chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.

“California is now embroiled in costly litigation over its cap-and-trade policies and has suspended the implementation of its low-carbon fuel standards due to massive compliance problems. These are the same policies that Gov. Inslee is determined to impose on Washington,” Ericksen said.

Ericksen also criticized the governor convening the task force on Tuesday without notifying the public or the Legislature.

TVW taped Tuesday’s press conference — watch it here.

Categories: Governors Office

On TVW: Gov. Inslee climate change event, ed funding report to state Supreme Court

By | April 28, 2014 | Comments

Here’s what TVW is covering live this week:

Tuesday, April 29 at 10:15 a.m.: Gov. Jay Inslee is holding a press conference to announce the “next steps in his plan to address climate change in Washington,” according to a news release. TVW will live webcast the event at Shoreline Community College at this link.

Tuesday, April 29 at 2 p.m.: A joint legislative committee will meet at the Capitol to adopt an education funding plan to submit to the Washington Supreme Court. The high court issued an order earlier this year requiring the Legislature to come up with a plan by April 30 explaining how the state will fund schools through 2018. TVW will be live on television and the web with the meeting.

Wednesday, April 30 at 9 a.m.: TVW will broadcast a memorial service event for former Washington State Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers, who died in December. Speakers include Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst and attorney Paul Stritmatter. The event will also be live webcast at this link.

Wednesday, April 30 at 10 a.m.: Inslee’ss Results Washington group will meet to discuss progress on the initiative, which intends to bring “lean management” techniques to state government in five areas: education, environment, health, economy and government. TVW will live webcast the meeting, which will focus on the health category.

Thursday, May 1 at 9 a.m.: The Economic & Revenue Forecast Council will adopt the state’s budget outlook. TVW is live webcasting the meeting.

Thursday, May 1 at 12 p.m.: TVW will be live on television and the web as Gov. Jay Inslee announces his appointment to the Washington Supreme Court. Watch the webcast at this link.

Friday, May 2 at noon: The Senate Commerce & Labor Committee will hold a public hearing on the Cowlitz Indian Tribe gaming compact. The tentative gaming compact would allow the tribe to build up to two gambling facilities on 152 acres west of La Center. TVW will air the hearing live on television and the web.

Friday, May 2 at 1 p.m.: TVW will live webcast the Washington State Law Enforcement Medal of Honor/Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony. Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson will recognize officers who have died in the line of duty or displayed “exceptionally meritorious conduct.” TVW is live webcasting the ceremony at this link.

Categories: TVW

Feds rescind No Child Left Behind waiver from Washington state

By | April 24, 2014 | Comments

The U.S. Department of Education is rescinding Washington’s No Child Left Behind waiver, a move state officials called disappointing but not surprising.

Washington is the first state to lose the waiver, and it means public schools will no longer have flexibility in spending about $40 million in federal funding.

“Loss of that funding means those districts now face potential impacts that could include laying off some of Washington’s tremendous teachers or cutting back on programs that serve at-risk students,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, who called the decision “disappointing but not unexpected.”

The waiver is being revoked because the state did not adopt legislation to require student test scores to be a factor in teacher and principal evaluations, according to the Education Department.

“I recognize that requiring the use of statewide assessments to measure student learning growth requires a legislative change, and that Gov. Inslee and your office worked diligently to obtain that change,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote in a letter to Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. “However, because those efforts were unsuccessful, and your legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until January 2015, I cannot extend Washington’s authority to implement ESEA flexibility…”

The state Senate rejected a bill on a 19-28 vote in February that would have made changes to the state’s evaluation system. The sponsor of that bill, Republican Sen. Steve Litzow, said the loss of the waiver is “not at all a surprise given legislative Democrats refusal to comply with the very requirements we signed up for.”

Superintendent Dorn supported making student progress a factor in teacher evaluations. “Unfortunately the teacher’s union felt it was more important to protect their members than agree to that change and pressured the Legislature not to act,” Dorn said in a statement.

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson said the No Child Left Behind law is “ineffective,” and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle “were not willing to risk our kid’s futures for policies that don’t work.”

“Our evaluation system was designed for Washington and it works for Washington’s kids and their teachers and principals,” Nelson said.

Categories: Education

Sen. Rodney Tom expects Majority Coalition Caucus to retain control of Senate

By | April 24, 2014 | Comments

Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Medina)

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom says he expects the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus to keep control of the state Senate next year, even though his departure means only one Democrat will remain in the coalition.

Sen. Tom was one of two Democrats, along with Sen. Tim Sheldon, who joined with Republicans to form the coalition in December 2012.

In the months leading up to his decision to leave the Democratic caucus, Tom said he approached then-Senate Majority Leader Ed Murray and suggested that Democrats share some power with Republicans.

“In my conversations I said, ‘Ed if we’re going to make this work, it can’t be a winner take all. Let’s share some of the committees, let’s bring them in…and have a much more cooperative atmosphere,’” Tom said. “There was just no adhesion to that.”

A few months later, Tom and Sheldon stood besides several Republicans and announced the formation of the new coalition. Tom discussed his tenure with the caucus as part of an edition of “Inside Olympia” that will air Thursday, April 24 at 7 & 10 p.m.

Tom dropped his re-election bid earlier this month because of his health and to help take care of his father, who was recently hit by a car. Democratic Rep. Cyrus Habib is running for Tom’s seat. No Republicans have announced candidacy.

Tom said will likely be an “even swap” of seats, with Democrats picking up Tom’s former seat and Republicans winning the seat formerly held by Democratic Sen. Tracey Eide, who is not running for re-election.

Former Democratic state Rep. Mark Miloscia is running as a Republican for Eide’s seat. Democrat Roger Flygare announced this month he is also joining the race.

Watch the interview below:

Categories: Election

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

By | April 22, 2014 | 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 agency completed five reports related to the testing of the products, all of which are available 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

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

By | April 21, 2014 | 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

On TVW: Columbia River Crossing audit, health insurance update

By | April 21, 2014 | Comments

Here’s what we’re covering live on TVW this week:

Wednesday, April 23 at 10 a.m.: A recent state audit found the Columbia River Crossing project included $17 million in questionable payments. The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee will review the audit, as well as discuss a report about competency evaluations completed by the Dept. of Social and Health Services. The full agenda is here. TVW will be live on television and the web with the hearing.

Wednesday, April 23 at 11 a.m.: TVW will live webcast a press conference in Seattle with Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray as they discuss health insurance enrollments in Washington state. State healthcare officials will release new data, including private health insurance figures, demographic information and the types of plans selected. Watch the live webcast at this link.

Wednesday, April 23 at 1:30 p.m.: The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee will hear public testimony on three recent state audits: Medicaid managed care, safe data disposal and performance-based funded for higher education institutions. TVW will be live on television and the web with the hearing.

Wednesday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m.: TVW will air a previously recorded Seattle CityClub forum with U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer and U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, who will discuss partisanship and finding common ground in Congress. Political journalist Robert Mak will moderate the program.

Thursday, April 24 at 12 p.m.: A legislative task force on career education opportunities will meet to discuss its goals. The group was created to look at ways that schools can better prepare students for careers, including technical and career courses. TVW will be live on television and the webcast it at this link.

Thursday, April 24 at 7 & 10 p.m.: Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom will sit down for an in-depth interview with “Inside Olympia” host Austin Jenkins.

Categories: TVW

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

By | April 15, 2014 | 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 | 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.