Ballard breweries nervous, furious about beer tax proposal
Several small breweries in Ballard are shifting their feet nervously as the Washington State Legislature considers a beer tax that could sky rocket the cost of running business for them. “The increased excise taxes which are being proposed would mean an even greater challenge for us not just to grow, but just to keep the doors open,” said Amy Besunder, co-owner of Populuxe Brewing. The tax in question would be an extension and expansion of a new excise tax on breweries made in 2010. That tax, which only affects breweries that produce more than 60,000 barrels per year (just Red Hook brewery), put on an extra 50 cents per gallon. Effectively, it increased the price for Red Hook from $8 per barrel to about $24 per barrel. Meant to be temporary, the tax is supposed to sunset in July of this year, but Inslee’s budget proposal would keep it going. His proposal would also include getting rid of the exemption on smaller breweries, meaning it would affect anyone and everyone in Washington. Ballard News Tribune, 4-18-13.
City committee finally briefed on what happened on May Day
It took the City Council nearly a year to get the Seattle Police Department’s official accounting of its troubled response to the May Day demonstrations, hearing what went wrong last year and how it won’t happen again in two weeks. Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer, seated next to Police Chief John Diaz, apologized to Councilman Bruce Harrell and the other members of the council’s public-safety committee for the “attenuated circumstances” that resulted in months of delay in the release of the SPD’s May Day after-action report and a second, independent review paid for by the department. Kimerer and Diaz did not explain, under pointed questioning by Harrell, the committee chairman, why the department never responded to Harrell’s five official emails and a letter seeking answers about the delay in releasing the after-action report. Seattle Times, 4-17-13.
Rodney Tom shocker: Poll says people can tell he’s a douchebag
This week I just had to get some Rodney Tom rage out of my system. Satisfying, yes. But Fuse Washington has been mocking him for a long time and yesterday, they released something more useful than mockery—a report about his poll numbers. Spoiler alert: They’re down. From Fuse’s polling memo:
According to the results of our recent survey in Washington’s 48th Legislative District, State Senator Rodney Tom’s teaming with Republicans to create the Majority Coalition Caucus has resulted in significant damage to his standing. Indeed, Tom’s ratings are the lowest that we have seen over the seven years we have conducted research in this district… Today, just one quarter of voters (25 percent) rate the job he is doing as state senator as excellent or good, while 44 percent give him just fair or poor job reviews, a –8 point net drop since last June.
They also point out that “when it comes to reelecting Tom, just 22 percent of voters would reelect him at this point while a plurality (41 percent) choose someone new.” Anna Minard, The Stranger, 4-18-13.
Surprise! McGinn gets bicycle club endorsement
The Cascade Bicycle Club, who interviewed all of the major mayoral candidates, last night voted to throw its support behind Mayor Mike McGinn’s re-election effort. The nation’s largest bicycling club, with more than 15,000 members – 6,000 of them in Seattle – also endorsed McGinn in the general election four years ago. Cascade also endorsed Sally Bagshaw, for Seattle City Council, Position #4; Richard Conlin, for Seattle City Council, Position #2; and Mike O’Brien – Seattle City Council, Position #8. Seattle Weekly, 4-18-13.
Things get testy with adjournment looming in Olympia
Washington lawmakers are entering the state of testiness. And that’s a good thing. Increased incidents of finger-wagging and verbal jabbing between House and Senate members are signs they are edgy and want out of Olympia. Unfortunately, it may not come next week when the 2013 session is supposed to conclude. You will be hard-pressed to find a representative, senator, or lobbyist not expecting or preparing for a special session when this one concludes April 28. Even rookie Gov. Jay Inslee seems to be of this mindset. On Tuesday, he told reporters it would take “a thousand conversations over the next several weeks to come up with a budget” which accommodates the costs and policies in his proposal for combating drunken driving. He laughed when asked if that meant a special session is coming. “Strike that last comment. The calendar is getting ahead of me. Until the end of the first session. How’s that?” Everett Herald, 4-18-13.
Op-ed: Could SR 167 sink in the Columbia River?
Out of the blue comes a distant political squabble that somehow threatens the most important transportation effort in the state – the Puget Sound Gateway Project. Gov. Jay Inslee supports the Gateway, which would knit together state Route 167, Interstate 5 and state Route 509, eliminating bottlenecks and creating a bonanza of jobs in the process. The state House of Representatives is prepared to invest more than $1.25 billion in it. But suddenly everything might hinge on a spat over light rail in Clark County. Rail transit is part of the Columbia River Crossing, a planned overhaul of Interstate 5 where it jumps the river between Washington and Oregon on the ancient Interstate Bridge. Transit opponents in the Vancouver area have whipped up a backlash against the $3 billion-plus project. They cite several complaints, including the height of the new bridge, but they wouldn’t be raising such a stink if the span weren’t going to extend Portland’s rail system into Vancouver. In Olympia, the Republican-controlled Senate appears ready to reject any major highway improvements if the Crossing project is part of the package. The South Sound’s economic future has thus gotten tangled in the old, tired war between transit-haters and car-haters — a battle the Puget Sound region has largely put behind it. Tacoma News Tribune, 4-18-13.
Kilmer’s first bills would help workers hurt by furloughs
The first two bills sponsored by U.S.Rep. Derek Kilmer would help civilian defense workers and other federal employees deal with the impacts of furloughs. Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, has represented Washington’s Sixth District since January, when Norm Dicks retired. Defense workers, including nearly 14,000 in Kitsap County, were originally told they faced 22 furlough days. That total has been cut back to 14, and there was talk last week that senior Pentagon leaders might cut furlough days to as few as seven. Workers must receive 30-day notices before being furloughed; those notices haven’t been issued yet. If and when employees start taking hits to their paychecks, Kilmer wants there to be laws to protect them. One of his bills would make it so any financial hardships from furloughs wouldn’t be counted against a worker when they try to renew their security clearances, which many jobs require. The other would allow them to make a hardship early withdrawal from their retirement account without paying a 10 percent tax on early withdrawals. A similar bill was passed for Hurricane Sandy victims. Kitsap Sun, 4-18-13.
Immigration activists in Wenatchee encouraged by reform bill
A bipartisan Senate bill that would enact sweeping changes to the nation’s immigration laws is sparking intense debate on Capitol Hill and beyond, but local advocates for reform say this could be a historic chance to fix a broken system. “This is a bipartisan bill. That’s what makes it so historic,” local reform-activist Jorge Chacón said Wednesday. “We know the system is broken. This is an opportunity to make it into a system that addresses not only the needs of the people, but the needs of the country.” Suellen Harris, chair of Chelan County Democrats, said the bill would address the many undocumented workers that have lived and worked in this country for decades and raised their families here. “The bill is an acknowledgement of what is already happening,” Harris said. “This is going to be like the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s. Eventually it will move forward on its own weight.” Wenatchee World, 4-18-13.
Florist sued again for refusal to service gay wedding
Florist Barronelle Stutzman already faced a consumer protection lawsuit over the incident filed against her last week by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. She maintained her Christian beliefs prevented her from selling the flowers for the same-sex wedding, according to court papers. The plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit filed Thursday are Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state. The couple were longtime customers of Stutzman’s business, Arlene’s Flowers, in Richland, their lawsuit said. The ACLU’s lawsuit is not based on the legality of same-sex marriage in the state. Instead, it centers on the state’s law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, said Doug Honig, ACLU spokesman. “Everybody is entitled to their own private religious beliefs and the ACLU respects that strongly,” Honig said. “But a business open to the public cannot use religion as a reason to justify discriminating,” he said. Reuters, 4-19-13.
Rep. Elizabeth Scott often stands alone in Olympia
It’s pretty easy for a freshman representative to get lost in the crowd of 98 House members. Not if you’re the only person voting against a bill allowing one spouse to be charged with raping the other. Or you don’t sign a resolution honoring a fallen former governor. And you oppose legislation to boost the aerospace industry, which is a major employer in your district. Do all that, and, as first-term Rep. Elizabeth Scott (R-39) has learned, you’re not anonymous anymore. Not even to senators. “They’re noticing, too,” a smiling Scott said in a recent interview. Portrait of a Tea Partier. Everett Herald, 4-18-13.
Conservatives see a turning tide on immigration
Hours after a bipartisan group of eight senators introduced a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, conservative radio talk show hosts took over two floors of a Capitol Hill hotel on Wednesday and denounced the proposal on the country’s drive-time airwaves as nothing more than a reward for lawbreakers. On a Florida station, WFTL, the host Joyce Kaufman called it “pure amnesty.” Jim Sharpe, a talk show host on KFYI in Phoenix, promised that “Arizonans are still not taking this sitting down.” On Denny Schaffer’s show in New Orleans, callers demanded deportations. “I see nothing wrong with putting them on a bus and shipping them back to wherever they came from,” a caller named Alan told Schaffer. “The law’s the law.” But even some of the talk show hosts most vehemently opposed to illegal immigration said they were worried that times have changed. They said their listeners seemed less agitated by the prospect that 11 million illegal immigrants might be granted legal status and concede that proponents of the legislation — who now include some conservative radio personalities — are better at promoting their message this time around. New York Times, 4-17-13.
AFL-CIO’s nonunion worker group headed into workplaces in 50 states
The country’s largest nonunion workers’ group will soon announce plans to establish chapters in every state, achieve financial self-sufficiency, and extend its organizing—so far focused on politics and policy—directly into the workplace. “This organization has done really what nobody else thought could be done,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told The Nation, “and that’s recruit more than three million people without a union to be part of the labor movement.” That organization is Working America, the AFL-CIO affiliate for workers without a union on the job. Created ten years ago, it now claims 3.2 million members—more than any of the individual unions in the AFL-CIO, or any of the other “alt-labor” groups organizing and mobilizing nonunion workers in the United States. “We’re taking the momentum that we’ve built organizing workers in communities,” said Working America Executive Director Karen Nussbaum, “and beginning to organize a community in the workplace.” The Nation, 4-17-13.
Poll: Most say redistribute wealth
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say wealth is distributed unfairly in the United States, and a majority want the federal government to play Robin Hood to fix the problem, according to a poll released Thursday. Only 33 percent of Americans think the current distribution of wealth in this country is fair, according to the Gallup Poll, while 59 percent say it is not. Fifty-two percent said the United States should redistribute wealth through heavy taxes on the rich, while 45 percent disagreed. While the percent of Americans who said the current distribution of wealth is unfair is down from 68 percent in 2008, the number of Americans who favor federal redistribution is at an all-time high. Politico, 4-18-13.
To Think About
Why American CEOs get paid way more than CEOs anywhere else (hint: it’s not performance based)
Top corporate executives have always been well-paid for obvious reasons. Running a major corporation is a demanding job; you would expect to pay a high salary to get and retain talented hardworking people. But in the last three decades, the pay of CEOs has gone from just being high — say 30 or 40 times the pay of typical workers — to being in the stratosphere. The pay of CEOs at major corporations now averages several hundred times the pay of ordinary workers. Annual compensation packages routinely run into the tens of millions of dollars and can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The fact that CEO pay often bears little resemblance to performance and that the upward explosion has not occurred to anywhere near the same extent in other countries, suggests that it is not driven by the natural workings of the market. The origins of the outrageous paychecks at the top can be more likely found in the failing of the corporate governance structure in the United States. Dean Baker, Alternet, 4-18-13.