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.

2.1.12
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.

TVW nominated for six Emmy Awards

By | April 14, 2014 | Comments

TVW was nominated for six Emmy Awards by the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on Friday.

Washington’s Food Fight,” a one-hour documentary about the debate over labeling GMO food, was nominated in the Politics/Government “Program/Special” category. Those nominated include host and executive producer Anita Kissee, videographers Lars Peterson, Markisha Lynch and Brett Hansen, producers Greg Lane and Mike Bay.

Anita Kissee was also nominated separately as the writer of the documentary. Videographers Lars Peterson and Markisha Lynch were nominated separately in the photographer category.

A segment on “The Impact” dealing with GMO foods was nominated in the Public/Current/Community Affairs “Feature/Segment” category. Those nominated include host and executive producer Anita Kissee, director Nate Shaw and senior production technicians Markisha Lynch and Lars Peterson.

An episode of “Inside Olympia” that focuses on the threat of mega-earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest was nominated in the Interview/Discussion “Program/Special” category. Those nominated include host Austin Jenkins, producer Christina Salerno, producer Mike Bay and photographer Aaron Qualls.

Starcia” is a one-hour look at the life of Starcia Ague, who overcame her juvenile criminal history and received a rare pardon from former Gov. Chris Gregoire. It was nominated in the Public/Current/Community Affairs “Program/Special” category for Director of Education Resources David Johnson, special projects manager Jason Gutz, producer Greg Lane and VP of Programming Mike Bay.

The full list of all nominees for the 2014 Northwest Regional Emmy Awards is available here. The winners will be announced June 7.

Categories: TVW

On TVW this week: Ed funding, Hanford cleanup and lobbyist-provided meals

By | April 11, 2014 | Comments

Here’s what TVW will be covering live this week:

Monday, April 14 at 9:30 a.m.: A joint legislative committee tasked with interacting with the Washington Supreme Court on education funding issues will meet in Seattle. 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.

The committee will discuss the court’s order, as well legislation related to education funding that was passed or proposed during the 2014 session. TVW will live webcast the meeting at this link.

Monday, April 14 at 10 a.m.: Gov. Jay Inslee‘s 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.

The meeting will focus on the “Sustainable Energy and a Clean Environment” category. Participants include Inslee, Dept. of Ecology director Maia Bellon, Dept. of Fish & Wildlife director Phil Anderson, Dept. of Health Secretary John Wiesman and several others.

TVW will live webcast the meeting at this link.

Tuesday, April 15 at noon: The Legislative Ethics Board will discuss meals and drinks that are provided as gifts to legislators. It is the first step in developing a formal rule on the issue. The discussion comes out of news reports about several Washington lawmakers who regularly allow lobbyists to pick up dinner tabs.

The meeting agenda also includes “informal advice” about two proposed trips by legislators. TVW will air the meeting live on television and webcast it at this link.

Tuesday, April 15 at 7 p.m.: The three government agencies in charge of the Hanford nuclear waste cleanup are holding a “State of the Hanford Site” public meeting to discuss cleanup progress, challenges and priorities related to the site. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington State Department of Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will deliver presentations and hold an open discussion about Hanford.

TVW will live webcast the public forum at this link.

Wednesday, April 16 at 3 p.m.: The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council will present a budget outlook. The meeting will be live webcast by TVW at this link.

Categories: TVW

Confidential data found on old state computers sold as surplus, audit says

By | April 10, 2014 | Comments

A new state audit has found that 9 percent of old computers sent to a state surplus program to be sold to the public contained confidential data, including Social Security numbers, medical records, tax forms, applications for public assistance and other sensitive information.

State Auditor Troy Kelley released a report Thursday outlining how several state agencies failed to properly erase confidential data from the computer hard drives before sending them to the surplus program.

State agencies got rid of 20,000 computers over the last two years through the Department of Enterprise Services surplus program. Some of the computers are redistributed to other agencies, non-profits or school districts, and the rest are sold to the public at a surplus store in Tumwater.

The auditor’s office inspected computers from 13 state agencies sent to the surplus program over a six week period. It found that 9 percent, or 109 of the 1,215 computers, still contained confidential information.

“With the right knowledge of data retrieval, the confidential information we found could be obtained in a few minutes,” the report said. The information on the computers “posed a risk of harm to private individuals and the state.”

Four state agencies were responsible for the data breaches: Dept. of Ecology, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Labor & Industries and the Dept. of Social and Health Services.

In addition to personal information like Social Security numbers and addresses, the computers also contained documents such as job applications, personnel evaluations and medical or financial records. The audit found that many other agencies weren’t following recommended practices to make sure that data on hard drives is erased.

Sales of surplus computers were halted after the results of the audit were shared with the state agencies, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer is working on guidelines for data removal.

Read the full audit here.

Categories: State agency news
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Environmental review set to begin for Grays Harbor oil storage proposals

By | April 9, 2014 | Comments

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

By | April 8, 2014 | 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 | 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.

Drone bill vetoed by Gov. Inslee

By | April 4, 2014 | Comments

Citing privacy concerns, Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a drone bill Friday and announced he is temporarily banning all state agencies from purchasing or using drones for the next 15 months except during emergencies or natural disasters.

“I’m very concerned about the effects of this new technology on our citizens’ right to privacy,” Inslee said before vetoing a bill that would have put restrictions on how public agencies are allowed to use drones.

House Bill 2789 would have required public agencies such as police departments to obtain a warrant before using a drone, except during emergencies when there is immediate danger of death or injury. It also would have allowed drones to be used for training, testing, wildlife and environmental monitoring.

Calling it “one of the most complex bills” his office has analyzed, Inslee said the measure contained too many ambiguities. In particular, he said the bill has conflicting provisions on the “disclosure and destruction” of personal information collected by the drones.

Inslee said his office will create a task force to study the issue and come up with a new drone bill for the 2015 legislative session. He said he is calling for legislation that provides a “clear and unambiguous” framework for government use of drones.

One of the drone bill’s sponsors, Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, released a statement saying he was disappointed the governor vetoed a “well-worked, forward-looking” bill that was intended to “protect citizens from being spied on by their government without legal approval.”

“The measure passed both the House and the Senate with strong bipartisan support. It specifically permitted the use of drones for forest-fire surveillance, wildlife management, military training, and emergencies proclaimed by the governor, and it allowed development of the technology to continue,” Morris said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s so difficult to override a veto once regular session has ended. But I will continue working to ensure that we control technology – technology doesn’t control us.”

Gov. Inslee signs supplemental budget, vetoes a funding cut for life science fund

By | April 4, 2014 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed the supplemental budget passed by the Legislature, but vetoed a section that would have cut funding for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

The fund provides research grants for the life sciences industry, and was established under former Gov. Chris Gregoire with money from tobacco settlements. The budget would have phased out $20 million for the fund and ended the program early.

Inslee said cutting off the funding prematurely is “short sighted,” and ignores the contributions the fund has made to the state.

He cited a program that was developed by the University of Washington and the Foundation for Health Care Quality using a $1.3 million dollar grant from the fund. That program cut healthcare costs by tens of millions of dollars by reducing the number of unnecessary surgeries and surgical complications, Inslee said.

Republican Sen. John Braun criticized the governor’s veto, saying it creates a bigger budget problem for next year by “punching a $20 million dollar hole.” He said the decision to cut funding was a difficult one for legislators on both sides the aisle, but was ultimately supported by 90 percent of lawmakers.

“To do a surprise veto at the end is disappointing,” Braun said.

The supplemental budget signed by the governor spends about $155 million dollars, including an additional $58 million for schools and $20 million for mental health services.

Inslee described it as a “modest” budget, and said he was frustrated it didn’t put more money into education by closing tax loopholes as he proposed. Next year, the state will need more than $1.5 billion dollars to fund the next step of McCleary obligations to pay for basic education, he said.

Braun said closing tax loopholes is a “tired” proposal, and Republicans believe the number needed for McCleary is closer to $750 million and can be achieved by prioritizing spending.

Inslee also vetoed several other sections of the supplemental budget. Read the full veto list here.

TVW taped the bill signing ceremony — watch it online here.

Categories: Budget, Healthcare