The Budget: Democrats splinter at GOP-drafted Senate proposal
A Republican-drafted state Senate budget proposal, in which Democrats were given input, was unveiled in Olympia Wednesday and caused a splintering just short of sawdust among Democrats in the Legislature and the governor’s office. The $33 billion budget for the next two years is $1.1 billion less than proposed last week by Gov. Jay Inslee, and does not contain the extension of taxes and closing of loopholes proposed by the Democratic governor. It does make a $1 billion down payment on a state Supreme Court directive that the state fully fund K-12 public education. “The proposal released today would cut child care subsidies for low-income families and other families working to get off welfare, and reduce long-term care services for the elderly and people with developmental disabilities,” said the Governor. “It would make deep cuts to our state prison system, would force us to close state parks, and fall far short of my plan for expanding early childhood education opportunities.” Seattle P-I, 4-3-13.
The Budget: Senate transportation plan would keep ferry service intact
The state Senate Transportation Committee released a budget proposal Wednesday that would preserve ferry service, complete the building of two new boats, re-power another, and possibly delay toll increases on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The Senate would spend $8.7 billion in 2013-15 — $5.3 billion on construction and $3.4 billion for operations and debt payments. If approved by the full Senate, the proposal would then be considered by the House of Representatives, which was scheduled to announce its own proposal Thursday at 10 a.m. “Service reductions cannot be the default suggestion for solving the funding needs of the system,” said Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D-26). “Ferries are a critical component of everyday life, not an extravagance to be curtailed when times are tough.” Kitsap Sun, 4-3-13.
The Budget: Rep. Hunter rips GOP “assumptions that are unconstitutional or unsustainable”
Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48), chair of the House Appropriations Committee: “This budget will do nothing to improve their mood. In addition to being unsustainable, some of their decisions seem downright cruel. Providing child care subsidies for parents trying to get back into the workforce was part of the deal when we “reinvented welfare” two decades ago. Cutting it now will not only force single moms back onto welfare, it will perpetuate the opportunity gap in our schools for years to come. I am also very concerned with some of the shaky assumptions made in the proposal. There are $157 million in unnamed efficiencies, $40 million in an uncollectable use tax, and $166 million in a school trust transfer that is clearly unconstitutional.” House Democrats Blog, 4-3-13.
House panel rejects push for passwords
An amendment that would have allowed bosses to ask for a worker’s Facebook or other social media password during company investigations was withdrawn Wednesday from a bill in the Legislature. However, House lawmakers said they will keep tweaking the bill to address concerns by business groups. House Labor and Workforce Development Committee chair Rep. Mike Sells (D-38) withdrew the amendment that he had introduced at the request of business groups. The groups were concerned that SB 5211 would open an avenue for employees to divulge proprietary or consumer information to outsiders. Sells said the failed amendment didn’t specify what kind of evidence managers would need before they could ask for a social media password. Other members of the panel agreed. Seattle P-I, 4-3-13.
Teachers union leader apologizes to Hobbs
A leader of the state’s largest teachers union has apologized to Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44) after learning the group of teachers who left fliers at the lawmaker’s home in Lake Stevens recently included one of his son’s instructors. More than 100 teachers knocked on doors in Hobbs’ district late last month, handing out fliers criticizing the second-term senator for his support of a controversial bill
giving school administrators a stronger voice in deciding which teachers, work on their campus making it easier for principals to hire and fire teachers with no regard for collectively bargained contracts. Those who dropped a flier on the front door of Hobbs’ home then took pictures and posted them on the Facebook page of the Washington Education Association. Everett Herald, 4-3-13.
Fight heating up over bottled water in Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park has become the latest battleground for the fight over bottled water. A push from the “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign, which works to educate the public on the disadvantages of plastic water bottles, has turned its sights on bucking plastic bottles from national parks – and specifically banning them from Mount Rainier National Park. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) has already shot back at the initiative with its own statement saying that bottled water serves as a healthy alternative for consumers on-the-go to sugary drinks like soda. Emily Rich, an organizer with Think Outside the Bottle, says this is just another example of the bottled water industry trying to falsely promote their product as green. “We need to send the right message that water, like our parks, are not for sale,” says Rich. Seattle Weekly, 4-3-13.
Seattle protests: The noisy versus the successful
A Seattle day seldom goes by without activists demanding media coverage of a demonstration or press conference. Served up Wednesday was a protest against Alberta’s sprawling oil sands project, with two demonstrators chaining themselves in a conference room at the Canadian consulate. The goal is attention and publicity. The “Great Helmsman” of Chinese Communism, Chairman Mao Zedong, once observed that power flows through the barrel of a gun. Nowadays, the theory goes, it flows through the lens of a TV camera or an iPhone. Not necessarily: The noisiest of Seattle protests often leave an impression as deep and lasting as footprints in the snow. Joel Connelly, Seattle P-I, 4-3-13.
Fired Medina police chief, after $2M award, won’t take job back
Jeffrey Chen won’t be returning to the Medina Police Department. The former police chief, who won a $2 million award from a jury that found he had lost his job as the result of racial discrimination, has told the court he doesn’t want his job back. A U.S. District Court jury last week concluded City Manager Donna Hanson discriminated against Chen, who is Chinese American, on the basis of his race or national origin when she fired him in early 2011. Chen’s attorney, Marianne Jones, told the court that the City Council “has not taken any steps to address and correct the causes of Chief Chen’s injuries.” Seattle Times, 4-3-13.
Pacific mayor hires ex-police chief at center of pepper-spraying incident
Pacific’s mayor is once again the subject of controversy with his selection for interim police chief. Mayor Cy Sun says former University of California-Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza will be in charge while John Calkins is on non-disciplinary leave.
“I’m not looking for in-depth help,” Sun said. “What I’m looking for is she will carry us over the crisis that we have now.” Spicuzza made headlines in November, 2011 when she was put on leave as the university’s police chief after her officers pepper sprayed demonstrators. Two officers involved in the incident were also placed on leave. Spicuzza says she later retired. The incident reverberated well beyond the university, with condemnations and defenses of police from elected officials and from the wider public on Facebook and Twitter. KOMO, 4-3-13.
Cross Kirkland Corridor rail removal halts, faces federal lawsuit
The City of Kirkland was served a federal lawsuit on Monday, which seeks to stop removal of rail tracks and ties along the Cross Kirkland Corridor. The Ballard Terminal Railroad Company filed the lawsuit at the Federal District Court in the Western District of Washington. “Our argument and hopes were that Kirkland could be convinced to change their minds, leave the railroad tracks alone, but they completely rejected that idea,” said Byron Cole, the founder and principal of the Ballard Terminal Railroad Company. “They just don’t want to hear it.” The Cross Kirkland Corridor is 5.75 miles of the 44-plus mile Eastside Rail Corridor. Apart from the segments owned by the City of Kirkland and the City of Redmond, the Eastside Rail Corridor was recently acquired by King County. Kirkland Reporter, 4-3-13.
Renton considers lawsuit over closure of airport tower
The City of Renton is considering legal action over the planned closure this month of the control tower at Renton Municipal Airport by the FAA. “We do anticipate taking some legal action by the end of this week,” Mayor Denis Law said Tuesday. He doesn’t know yet whether the city would join another lawsuit against the FAA or file one of its own. Spokane Airports filed a lawsuit against the FAA last week over the closure of the tower at Felts Field, which is separate from Spokane International Airport. The purpose of a lawsuit would be to stop the FAA from closing the tower until federal officials can resolve their budget issues, he said. Renton Reporter, 4-2-13.
Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester
Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts. Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially. Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them. “We’re hoping that something will change, as legislators see the impact of this,” Ralph Boccia, director of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Bethesda, Md., said. “I don’t think we could keep going, without a change, for more than a couple of months.” Boccia estimates that 55 percent of his patients are covered by Medicare, making any changes to reimbursement rates difficult to weather. “When I look at the numbers, they don’t add up,” he said. “Business 101 says we can’t stay open if we don’t cover our costs.” Washington Post, 4-3-13.
Kansas district shuns compromise, supports Tea Party Congressman, Tea Party agenda
In a cramped meeting room at the county courthouse, US Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) had just finished an update for his constituents when a woman rose. She didn’t really have a question for the congressman, she said, so much as a message. “I just want to thank you,” she said, “for continually being a thorn in the side.’’ “Keep it up!” a man nearby yelled. On it went. Huelskamp, a two-term Republican, is known, more than anything else, as a major irritant in Congress — a stubborn, hard-headed opponent of just about everything except bigger budget cuts. He’s so unwilling to compromise that even House Republicans removed him from his high-profile committee assignments. Huelskamp embodies the new intransigence that has invaded Washington, making it almost impossible to cut deals, bringing the capital to a grinding halt. Boston Globe, 4-3-13.
Op-ed: Big Sugar’s subsidy — how sweet it is
Cut by cut, the forced budget reductions known as the sequester are beginning to affect millions of Americans. Head Start education programs for low-income students are being slashed. So are medical services for 2 million native Americans living on Indian reservations and in Alaska. The Army is suspending tuition assistance for soldiers hoping to enroll in classes, while scholarship funds have been curtailed for children of troops who were killed in combat. Cutbacks at U.S. Customs and Border Protection are causing long waits and security concerns at Miami International Airport. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture will furlough 6,200 food inspectors for 11 days this summer, which the agency says will create an $8 billion delay in meat exports. Still, not everyone who depends on the federal government is suffering in these austere times. According to the Wall Street Journal, the USDA is on the verge of purchasing 400,000 tons of sugar in a massive bailout of domestic sugar processors. The move would cost taxpayers about $80 million. Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald, 3-24-13.
To Think About
Op-ed: The racket with standardized test scores
It is time to acknowledge that the fashionable theory of school reform — requiring that pay and job security for teachers, principals and administrators depend on their students’ standardized test scores — is at best a well-intentioned mistake, and at worst nothing but a racket. Our schools desperately need to be fixed. But creating a situation in which teachers are more likely than students to cheat cannot be the right path. Standardized achievement tests are a vital tool, but treating test scores the way a corporation might treat sales targets is wrong. Students are not widgets. I totally reject the idea that students from underprivileged neighborhoods cannot learn. Of course they can. But how does it help these students to have their performance on a one-size-fits-all standardized test determine their teachers’ compensation and job security? Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, 4-1-13.