Bill would reduce drug possession charge from felony to misdemeanor

By | January 16, 2015 | Comments

Drug possession would no longer be a felony in Washington state, under a bill being considered in the state House.

Possessing one ounce or less of a controlled substance would become simple misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for drug possession now, as a Class C felony, is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. House Bill 1024 would reduce penalties to a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Rep. Sherry Appleton, Poulsbo Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, told a House committee Friday that reducing the charge would save the state millions and allow offenders to move on without the barrier of a felony. “We’re still going to hold people accountable,” she said.

A felony makes it difficult for offenders to find jobs, housing and more, Mary Clare Kersten of Sensible Washington told the committee. “Addiction is a illness and it should rightfully be combated with treatment instead of punishment,” she said. “A felony is a label we can’t shed,” she said.

Some worry the bill would encourage addiction. James McMahan Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs said the measure sends the wrong message. “It’s probably time we send the message ‘it’s OK to be sober,’ ” he said.

Appleton says reducing the charge would save the state in prison costs that could be used to fund education and other priorities. Candice Bock says some of that cost would land on cities — about $4.5 million next year.

Voters in California approved a similar measure last year. Lawmakers here tried to pass a similar bill last session, but it did not make it out of the same House committee.

Categories: Courts, Criminal Justice

Bills for paid sick leave, $12 minimum wage introduced

By | January 15, 2015 | Comments

Bruce Lee, who works at the Lynnwood Fred Meyer, speaks at a press conference where House Democrats announced bills to require paid sick leave and a bill to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour.

The state minimum wage would rise to $12 an hour by 2019 under a bill introduced on Thursday by House Democrats. They’re also calling for a minimum standard for paid sick days.

Democrats introduced the two bills at a press conference Thursday in a press conference with more than 20 lawmakers.

They say they aim to help workers like Peggy Meyers of Tacoma — who says she isn’t able to make ends meet, even though she has 20 years of experience as a home health care worker.

“My monthly living expenses are $1,800 a month. I only bring home $1,700 a month,” she said. “I am currently on food assistance. My gas is $200 a month and I have zero in savings.”

Bruce Lee works at a Fred Meyer in Lynnwood. He says many workers there feel taking time off for illness isn’t an option.

“So often that we have to come into work sick just so we can afford the basics of living, food, gas and rent. But that is the reality for me and my coworkers,” he said.

The current state minimum wage is $9.47 an hour — the highest state minimum wage in the nation. That’s not counting the city-wide minimum wage increases in Seattle and Seatac, where the minimum was set at $15 an hour.

The minimum wage bill would implement a $10 minimum wage in 2016, and then raise it to $10.50 in 2017, $11 in 2018, reaching $12 an hour in 2019.

Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Lake Stevens, introduced a minimum wage proposal last year, but the bill stalled in the House Appropriations committee.

She says the new proposal addresses some of the concerns previously raised by other legislators and small businesses. For many businesses, wages are the biggest expenditure.

“We don’t minimize that at all,” she said. To address concerns, the new bill was changed the phase-in period.

“We are stretching out modestly the implementation from three years to four years.”

Sen. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way, who switched to the Republican party when he ran for former Sen. Tracey Eide’s seat last year, also threw his support behind the minimum wage bill.

“Let’s reach out to the other side to businesses to republicans to people throughout the state, to find a win-win situation,” he said. “The fruits of our labor went to all parties, not just to stakeholders or the people who own the companies.”

The legislators also introduced a sick leave bill that would allow employees to earn paid leave to take care of illnesses or domestic violence issues.

Employers would be required to offer between five to nine days of leave depending on the size of the company.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, described the policy as a public health issue. Allowing people to have paid sick leave would prevent them from spreading disease she said.

The CDC reported that “83 percent of the Norovirus in the country is transmitted from ill food workers. When we see what flu looks like in Washington state, people are dying,” she said.

However, Rep. Matt Manweller, the ranking Republican on the House Labor committee, told TVW he’s skeptical the bills will pass this year, when democrats have a slimmer majority than last year.

“In this session, we have Democrats rolling out $12 minimum wage, sick leave, paid vacation, and on and on and on. Taken together, how much less friendly can we make the business environment in this community?” he said.

Categories: Minimum Wage
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Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | January 15, 2015 | Comments

Watch Wednesday’s edition of “Legislative Review” right here. The show recaps each day’s legislative activities in 15 minutes. It airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Categories: TVW

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

By | January 14, 2015 | Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized

Former Gov. Daniel J. Evans honored by Senate

By | January 14, 2015 | Comments

Daniel J. Evans, former Washington state governor, legislator, college president and U.S. Senator, was honored by the Washington State Senate Wednesday morning, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his first gubernatorial inauguration.

“There are no Republican schools and no Democratic highways. There are no liberal salmon. There are no conservative parks,” Dan Evans said to the Senate, which gave him a standing ovation.

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He was with his wife, Nancy Evans, and with former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton. Other members of his family, including his grandchildren, were in the gallery.

Evans was 39 when he was elected governor in 1964. He served as governor for 12 years — a record that has been unmatched since then.

During Evan’s tenure as governor, he started a state department of ecology, and created a number of councils to address issues important to women, Native Americans, Asian Americans, energy policy, thermal power plant siting, mental health services, and the prevention of drug abuse. The Evergreen State College, which later appointed him president, was founded during his tenure.

Evans was the keynote speaker at the 1968 Republican National Convention, and he was under consideration to be Richard Nixon’s vice presidential running mate, according to reports at the time.

In 1983, he was appointed to fill the term of U.S. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, who died in office. Evans left the position in 1988.

“When the famous billboard went up during the ‘Boeing Bust’ asking the last person leaving Seattle to turn out the light, Gov. Evans remained steadfastly committed to seeing our state through a period of 14 percent unemployment,” said Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia. “I appreciate his thoughtful, long-range approach to public policy which continues to benefit the people and natural resources of our state.”

Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, cited his accomplishments and influences throughout the state in her support.

“I can think of no one more deserving of our appreciation, and the appreciation of the people of Washington than Dan Evans,” she said.

Categories: Governors Office
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Bills would help homeless, others find housing

By | January 14, 2015 | Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By | January 14, 2015 | Comments

Snowshoes are a perishable item when it comes to sales, David Burroughs of Cascade Designs in Seattle told a joint Senate committee — and congestion linked to a labor dispute at West Coast ports is hurting the 40-year-old outdoor gear company.

“We lost orders to our mainly Chinese-manufactured competitors,” he said. “We have lost sales to date of $1.2 million.”

Because of the backlog of work at container ports, including the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Cascade Designs had issues with getting parts from its plant in Cork, Ireland to its plant in Seattle. The congestion also hurt the company’s ability to send its products to its overseas customers, Burroughs said.

“This type of thing creates reputational damage,” he said. “Our customers count on our products being there on time.”

Aerial photo of Port of Tacoma taken in 2012 by Aequalis Photography for the Washington State Department of Transportation

 

The congestion at 29 west coast ports, including ports in California and Oregon as well as Seattle and Tacoma, has been hurting businesses from all over Washington that rely on international trade, senators at a joint meeting of the Commerce and Labor and the Trade and Economic Development committees heard Wednesday morning.

The backup is occurring in the midst of protracted contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents the companies that manage work at the ports, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents the workers. The contract expired in June and the two sides are negotiating in San Francisco.

Negotiators brought in a federal mediator last week this month, according to the Journal of Commerce.

Dan McKisson, president of the Puget Sound District Council of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said that the Pacific Maritime Association cut the night shift, making it difficult for workers to clear cargo from the port and causing an increase in accidents.

“It’s a mess right now,” McKisson said. “When we were working full shifts, we could clear it.”

McKisson also said that having one shift during the day — when street traffic is at its worst — doesn’t help.

Labor leaders told KING 5 earlier this week longshoremen want the night shift to return.

However, the Pacific Maritime Association representatives told The News Tribune last month that the night shift was cut to accommodate an intentional slowdown of work by the longshoremen.

The association declined an invitation to appear at Wednesday morning’s hearing, according to Senate Commerce and Labor Committee chairman Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane).

Eric Schinfeld of the Washington Council on International Trade told the committees the contract dispute is the direct cause of the slowdown, which costs businesses that rely on trade to lose millions of dollars the short and long term.

“Because of that contract negotiation we are seeing slowdowns. Because of that in the last few months and into this year. We are seeing hundreds of millions of dollars of lost economic activity in our state,” he said. “Frankly, those are international customers who are saying, ‘If you’re not going to sell us your goods in Washington state, we are going to find people from other countries around the world to give us their goods instead.’ ”

Business interests who testified on Wednesday said the backup at the port is causing a ripple effect, with layoffs occurring on the growing, processing and shipping end.

Marc Spears, export sales manager of Chelan Fresh Marketing, which represents 400 growers, said that their exports through the ports were being cut in half.

Spears said that apple and pear growers are missing a big part of the Chinese New Year market in Asia, where the state’s apples have been a big draw in the months of December, January and February.

“Basically, these first three months, that’s demand that’s pulling us through these trying times,” he said. “Everyone has been counting on these times.”

 

Categories: Business

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Inslee’s state of the state, Republican response and revenue forecast bill

By | January 14, 2015 | Comments

On Tuesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have highlights from Gov. Jay Inslee’s State of the State address, as well as the Republican response. Plus, the Senate budget writing committee considers a bill that supporters say would help lawmakers finish their work on time without going into special session. The measure would move up the quarterly revenue forecast from March to Feburary during long sessions.

“Legislative Review” recaps each day’s legislative activities in 15 minutes. It airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Inslee makes case for capital gains tax, carbon charges in 2015 State of State

By | January 13, 2015 | Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transportation

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

(more…)

Republicans say Inslee proposals would risk economy

By | January 13, 2015 | Comments

Screen shot of Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) delivering the Republican perspective on Jan. 13, 2015.

Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) and Republicans in the Senate and House rebutted major points in Gov. Jay Inslee‘s State of the State address, saying his proposed policies would damage economic growth and would be unnecessary.

“His proposals do, indeed, have a cost. They would increase the cost of our food, our utility bills, and our fuel to get to and from work. And they would hit hard our rural communities,” said Smith, in the remarks delivered in the Republican response to the State of the State.

“Why then, would you put on the table any proposal that has in its crosshairs the very sector of our economy most crucial to our economic recovery and vitality?” she said.

She also said that there has been bipartisan support for such environmental policies as cleaning up waterways and toxic sites, and that she personally is committed to developing renewable energy, but that “there is room for on this issue for reasonable debate.”

“The governor says we need to create a new fuel mandate and new taxes to demonstrate leadership. But his proposals will have almost zero impact on the global challenges we are facing,” Smith said.

“We are absolutely willing to consider pollution-reducing ideas that will work, and that won’t place such a terrible burden on the hard-working people of Washington state, particularly those in the middle class, and those who are struggling,” she said.

Smith also said that the state can fund education through a combination of changes in policy and an additional $3 billion in revenue than originally forecast.

“If we are thoughtful and careful about how we spend your tax dollars, and prioritize, we can balance our state budget without tax increases,” Smith said.

“[W]e must rectify the failure of the past three decades, where leadership in Olympia has allowed non-education spending to dramatically outpace education spending. Simply put: education has not been the top priority. Funding education first would change that,” she said.

Smith joined fellow Republicans representatives Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) and Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) and senators Ann Rivers (R-La Center), Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) and Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee) to rebut other parts of the governor’s address, and to answer questions from the media.

(more…)

Categories: Budget, Education, Republicans

Seahawks’ Wilson, Sherman in new health exchange PSA

By | January 13, 2015 | Comments

The Seattle Seahawks are encouraging people to sign up for health insurance through the state exchange.

NFC Championship-bound team’s Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman volunteered to help spread the word in a new Washington Healthplanfinder public service announcement. “Too many Washingtonians are living without insurance,” Wilson said.

The deadline to apply for health insurance through the state exchange is Feb. 15 for coverage that begins March 1. Apply by Jan. 23 for coverage beginning Feb. 1.

Categories: Healthcare, The Impact

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Two-thirds vote to raise taxes, opening day activities

By | January 13, 2015 | Comments

On Monday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have highlights from the Senate floor debate over changing the rules to make it harder to raise taxes. We also cover Sen. Pam Roach‘s election as president pro tem, House Speaker Frank Chopp‘s speech and other details from the first day of the 105-day session. Plus, transportation leaders discuss gas taxes during TVW’s opening day show.

Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m., recapping each day’s legislative activities.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Senate Democrats back Pam Roach for Senate President Pro Tem

By | January 12, 2015 | Comments

Sen. Pam Roach (R-Auburn)

Senate Democrats blocked the appointment of Majority Coalition Caucus-backed Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) to President Pro Tempore with the nomination of Sen. Pam Roach (R-Auburn).

Roach received 25 votes out of 49 — all 23 of the Democrats, and herself and Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver).

The Senate President Pro Tempore presides when Lt. Gov. Brad Owen is absent and also serves as the vice chair of the Committee on Rules.

Sheldon, who has been the President Pro Tempore for the past two years, crossed over with former Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Bellevue) from the Democrats to caucus with Republicans, creating the Majority Coalition Caucus.

Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-Shoreline) nominated Roach, citing her long service and seniority, after Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler nominated Sheldon. Then, Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) nominated Democrat Sen. Karen Fraser (D-Olympia), citing Fraser’s long service.

Fraser joined the other Democrats and Roach and Benton in backing Roach. Sheldon received the other 24 votes.

“It is a tremendous honor to continue serving our legislative district and to take on the job of president pro tem,” said Roach in a prepared statement. “If you had told me in 1991 that I would become the first woman elected to seven terms in our state Senate, I would not have believed it – but the people keep hiring me for another four years.”

Categories: WA Senate

Washington Senate imposes two-thirds approval rule for tax increases

By | January 12, 2015 | Comments

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

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

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

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

The Senate approved the rules with 26 yes votes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: tax, Uncategorized
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Live from the Capitol: TVW’s opening day show starts 10 a.m. Monday

By | January 9, 2015 | Comments

The Washington State Legislature’s 2015 session begins Monday, Jan. 12. Opening ceremonies start at noon, but tune in to TVW early to catch exclusive interviews with lawmakers, who will discuss key issues for the coming months.

Starting at 10 a.m., The Impact’s Anita Kissee will host the live show from the Capitol rotunda. Gov. Jay Inslee will stop by to talk about his budget proposal and more.

Guests include House and Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle, including Senators Sharon Nelson, Mark Schoesler, Andy Billig, Linda Evans Parlette and Representatives Dan Kristiansen, Pat Sullivan, Joel Kretz and Eric Pettigrew.

Hear about key issues including education, transportation and mental health from Senators Jeannie Darneille, Doug Ericksen, Curtis King, Steve Litzow, Rosemary McAuliffe, John McCoy and Steve O’Ban, plus Representatives Judy Clibborn, Hans Dunshee, Richard DeBolt, Cary Condotta and Sharon Wylie.

We’ll also get insight about the session from Capitol reporters Jim Camden of The Spokesman-Review and Jordan Schrader from The News Tribune.

TVW will carry gavel-to-gavel coverage of opening ceremonies beginning at noon.

Stay tuned to TVW throughout the session for coverage of the state Legislature. Starting opening day of session, Legislative Review will air nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. “The Impact” airs Wednesdays at 7 and 10 p.m. and Inside Olympia with Austin Jenkins is Thursdays at 7 and 10 p.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee raises ’12th Man’ flag

By | January 8, 2015 | Comments

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

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

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

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Categories: Uncategorized

Lawmakers spar over proposed capital gains tax

By | January 8, 2015 | Comments

The debate over Gov. Jay Inslee‘s proposed capital gains tax continued along party lines at Thursday’s Associated Press Legislative Preview event.

The tax was debated on a budget panel that included Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Rep. Bruce Chandler (R-Granger), ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee; Sen. Karen Fraser (D-Olympia), member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Inslee last month proposed a $39 billion 2015-17 budget that ends a number of tax breaks, charges carbon polluting companies and raises $800 million over two years through a proposed capital gains tax. The proposed capital gains tax would be 7 percent on money made from the sale of stocks and bonds above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for joint filers — which lawmakers say would affect the top 1 percent of earners in Washington state.

Inslee, in his Q&A session, defended his proposal of a capital gains tax, saying it gets the state closer to a system that can get the benefit of people earning more money without also increasing the tax burden on lower-income and middle-income earners.

“If we can tax higher income folks when they get capital gains, and not lower income folks when they buy a pair of shoes, that’s good,” he said.

“Whatever the concerns on the volatility of the capital gains tax, the alternative is zero,” Inslee said.

Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond)

Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond)

Hill criticized Inslee’s budget as perpetuating what he called a “deficit myth,” in which the only option was to raise taxes.

He said that because the state’s revenue has risen by more than 4 percent in each of the past two years, the state can continue its existing services and put an additional $1 billion in state education funding over two years.

“When I’m talking with business groups, I ask, ‘Would you like 4 percent growth year over year in this economy,’ ” he said. “I see nods. With some I see a little drool.”

“To say we have a huge budget problem, I think it’s meant to scare people,” Hill said. “The next step is you have to raise taxes.”

Hill also said that a capital gains tax is too unpredictable to be a reliable source of funding for school education, which was one of the requirements under the McCleary ruling. (more…)

Categories: Budget, WA House, WA Senate
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Gov. Jay Inslee defends tax proposal

By | January 8, 2015 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday defended his plan to raise $1.4 billion in revenue with a capital-gains tax, cigarette taxes and other changes, saying he embarked on a “long and arduous” process to come to that conclusion.

“I’ve been wrestling with these budget numbers for several months,” Inslee said at the Associated Press Legislative Preview forum. “Legislators are just now returning from their private lives and businesses and farms. They’re now going to have to look at the hard numbers, and they will see we have some real challenges.”

Responding to Republican criticism that a capital-gains tax would be too volatile, Inslee said that 43 other states use it as a “well-known, well-tested, predictable source of financing.” The governor’s budget proposal calls for a 7 percent tax on capital gains earnings from stocks and bonds above a certain threshold, which he says would affect less than 1 percent of Washingtonians.

Gov. Inslee speaking at AP Legislative Preview

Inslee’s budget would also increase the state cigarette tax by 50 cents and add a tax to e-cigarette and vapor products. He said on Thursday that e-cigarettes are a “gateway” to nicotine addiction for kids — not a way to quit smoking traditional cigarettes, as many smokers say.

The governor said he’s not surprised at the “heavy skepticism” that is being expressed at his budget ideas, including a proposal raise $380 million by charging polluters for carbon emissions.

Much of the new spending would fund education. Inslee said he is open to other solutions offered by Republicans.

Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said earlier in the day it is a “myth” that the state is facing a budget deficit, and believes it is a tactic to “scare” people to raise taxes. He says he believes the issues can be solved with existing revenue.

Inslee disagreed, calling it a “rhetorical debate.”

TVW taped the forum — watch the governor’s segment here.

Categories: Governors Office, tax

House, Senate leaders discuss priorities for 2015 session

By | January 8, 2015 | Comments

The Washington State Legislature’s top priorities for the 2015 session should be education funding, mental health and tax reforms, state House and Senate leaders said Thursday.

Senate and House leaders at the AP Legislative Preview

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, House Speaker Frank Chopp and House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen discussed their agendas for the upcoming session at the Associated Press Legislative Preview.

Education is the top priority this year, they agreed. So do voters, as an Elway Poll revealed this week. The Legislature must meet the demands of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision to fully fund K-12 education.

Kristiansen said House Republicans will continue to push for ¨Fund Education First,” an approach first introduced by their caucus nine years ago that would restructure K-12 funding.

“We do need to make sure we’re prioritizing based on our constitutional responsibilities, and we just haven’t done that in the past,” Kristiansen said.

Nelson, D-Maury Island, criticized the proposal. ¨We keep hearing ‘fund education first’,” she said. ¨I say fund children and families first … This is not a simple solution, it’s not time for a slogan. It’s time to work together to find real solutions.”

Lawmakers will also have to decide how to implement Initiative 1351, a measure passed by voters in November that would reduce class sizes at an estimated cost of $2 billion for the first two years. Voters approved another class size reduction initiative in 2000, but it never received full funding from the Legislature. This year, lawmakers will decide whether to fulfill the new class size mandate or suspend it.

Initiative 1351 is expensive, but Chopp, D-Seattle, said they will have to address voters’ wishes. ¨It’s a very important step forward for people in Washington,¨ he said. ¨You can’t just ignore it.¨

Each of the legislative leaders also identified mental health as a priority.

(more…)

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Lawmakers offer preview of 2015 session at Washington Policy Center summit in Bellevue

By | January 7, 2015 | Comments

It wasn’t quite a debate, but the differences were clear in presentations on state legislative priorities given by Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) and Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) at the Washington Policy Center’s Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) and Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) speak at the Washington Policy Center's Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), seated, and Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) speak at the Washington Policy Center's Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

Hill made the argument that the surplus in the state revenues would allow for an additional $1 billion in education spending and cover existing expenses over the next biennium.

However, Hill, the Senate Ways & Means chairman, criticized Gov. Jay Inslee‘s proposed new capital gains tax in his $39 billion, two-year budget, which the governor introduced last month.

“We do not have a brutal deficit,” Hill said. “It’s a false choice to say you raise taxes or you make cuts.”

Carlyle, the House Finance chairman, was critical of Washington’s taxing system as a whole, which he says squeezes middle- and lower-income taxpayers as well as small businesses. But Carlyle was also skeptical of the idea that the spending side of a budget should get the most scrutiny. He said many of the state’s tax exemptions to businesses have not been revisited since they were passed.

“I believe the best tax structure would be low rates, broadly applied with few exemptions,” he said.

The Washington Policy Center, a pro-business think tank, hosted Hill, Carlyle and Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) and others in a half-day summit that prepared attendees and other supporters for the 2015 Washington state legislative session. The Bellevue event, which drew 400 people, was the second day of a two-day summit on legislative issues. The first day was held in Kennewick on Tuesday.

Other speakers at the Bellevue event included former Attorney General Rob McKenna, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Forbes columnist and former health care policy advisor to Mitt Romney Avik Roy and a small business panel that included former Starbucks president Howard Behar and restaurateur Taylor Hoang, who owns Pho Cyclo restaurants.

Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) speaks at the Washington Policy Center's Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

In a transportation forum, King, the Senate transportation chairman, declined to discuss in detail why lawmakers failed to come up with a transportation package that would pay for major road projects in the last session, but said that going forward, the state needs to consider what projects would make the greatest economic impact to the state as a whole.

“We got to take this limited amount of money and use it to address our problems,” he said. “Bike and ped paths are not our problem… They are nice to have, but not our problem.”

King, who was in the panel with Marc Scribner, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, also criticized cities that make local decisions without considering how transportation will be affected, such as in Seattle, where several projects in the South Lake Union area will bring 44,000 people to the area to live and work and bringing further congestion to the area, he said.

“Because Seattle said, ‘Hey, we’ll let you build those towers,’ is that the state’s problem?” King asked.