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Issue #80

The State

House Democrats begin girding for July 1 government shutdown

Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-47)

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-47) says  the House and Senate are fa-a-a-r from closing in on a deal – and he’s not talking a few days. “We are still pretty far apart,” Sullivan said, noting Gov. Jay Inslee‘s statement before special session that the parties were light years apart. “I would say we are still somewhere out in space,’’ Sullivan said. The Republican-led Senate passed a budget Saturday that hews largely to its April position, and Sunday, it passed three policy bills that it wants in exchange for considering any new revenue. In the meantime, House Democrats are shifting gears and preparing for what happens in the event a Washington, D.C.-style  government shutdown occurs July 1. That is when the next budget cycle begins and a new two-year budget is needed to avoid shutting down programs and agencies. Olympian (Tacoma News Tribune), 6-10-13. Lawmakers’ typically sunny (and not very credible) chit chat about working to get everything done by the last day of session is finally giving way to what passes for realism at the Capitol. There was frank recognition Monday they won’t hit their (still-moving) target for finishing up. Olympian (Tacoma News Tribune, 6-10-13). House Democrats aren’t giving up on their desire to allow students who arrived in this country illegally as children to receive state aid for college. Deep in the weeds of the operating budget passed by House Democrats last week is $100,000 to set up a system enabling them to apply for a state need grant. Everett Herald, 6-10-13.

GOP Senator: Fund transit with sales tax, not car-tab tax

Sen. Curtis King (R-14)

If King County wants more dollars for bus service, it should raise sales taxes, not car-tab fees, says Sen. Curtis King (R-14), co-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. King released his Republican version of a 10-year, $8.4 billion state transportation plan on Monday.  Like his House counterpart, Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-41), he calls for a 10-cent increase in the state gasoline tax, mainly to pay for highway expansions, and smaller shares for ferries and road maintenance. The main differences involve transit – historically a local obligation with minimal state aid. The question is, what taxing tools should transit providers even be allowed to use?  King has said he doesn’t think drivers should bear the burden of funding buses. Instead, his plan would allow the current sales tax for transit, of 0.9 percent, to be raised to 1.2 percent — only if voters approve a ballot measure. Seattle Times, 6-10-13.

Gun show loophole initiative to be filed

Entrepreneur Nick Hanauer

A statewide initiative to close the “gun show loophole” and require criminal background checks for those buying firearms will be filed Tuesday at the Washington State Capitol by faith community leaders, a shooting survivor, and leaders of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “We intend to continue pounding on the fact that something like this needs to be done,” said Jackie O’Ryan, co-director of the Faith Action Network of Washington. The initiative campaign raised more than $750,000 at a May 30 luncheon in Seattle, which drew more than 1,200 people to the Westin Hotel. Nick Hanauer, the Seattle entrepreneur who co-founded the Washington Alliance, is promising this time “a world class initiative to pass criminal background checks.”  Seattle P-I, 6-10-13.

NLRB sides with PLU faculty in unionization push

In a decision with national implications, labor relations officials have ruled that certain faculty at Pacific Lutheran University should be allowed to form a union. This case is a test of some new provisions in labor law, and is being followed by other universities around the country. It centers on so-called contingent faculty at PLU, the fill-in or adjunct instructors who teach a third of the university’s credit hours. The faculty members say they’re underpaid and have no job security, and they want to vote on whether to form a union. Administrators have fought that effort, saying, among other things, the university is a religious institution and therefore lies outside the National Labor Relations Board’s jurisdiction. KPLU, 6-10-13.

Op-ed: Senate brings toxic, destructive DC mentality to our state

Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council

After a 105-day regular legislative session and 28 days of a 30-day “Special Session,” the Senate Republican majority caucus has finally and clearly revealed its hand. They are holding the operating, capital, and transportation revenue budgets hostage to a set of policy bills that have nothing to do with any of the budgets. These bills, SBs 5127, 5895, 5312, 5242, and 5296, would jeopardize the safety net for injured workers, cap spending on health care, housing and food assistance for the most vulnerable, expand the payday debt trap for people strapped for cash, make it easier to arbitrarily discipline and fire teachers, and lessen protections to public health by modifying how the Model Toxic Control Act operates. The Senate Republican majority caucus doesn’t mind mimicking the behavior of Republicans in Congress. They are obsessed with protecting the interests of the rich and corporations to the point that it is never appropriate to raise taxes on them. The time to address policy bills is long over. Jeff Johnson, The Stand, 6-10-13.

King County

Seattle City Council bans criminal background checks during first stage of hiring process

Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell

The Seattle City Council Monday passed legislation to prohibit employers from executing criminal background checks of candidates during the first stage of the hiring process. The legislation passed unanimously, 9-0, and will go into effect November 1, 2013. “The purpose of the legislation is very simple: to reduce recidivism,” the council’s public safety chair, and the legislation’s sponsor, Bruce Harrell, said before the vote. “When employment rates increase, crimes decrease.” The bill prohibits employers from asking whether candidates have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime until said employer has first weeded out unqualified applicants. The Stranger, 6-10-13.

City Council wants Nickelsville closed: Is it compassion or politics?

The Nickelsville homeless encampment

Seven City Council members delivered a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn Monday asking that Nickelsville – the well-known homeless encampment – be closed by Sept. 1. The letter also indicates that the council will designate $500,000 from the city’s general fund to be used for housing and services for Nickelsville residents. The real issue, according to Real Change’s Tim Harris, is an acute shortage of emergency services in Seattle. Harris views the letter as more of a political tool than an actual problem solver. In his estimation, the letter represents the city council pushing the ball into McGinn’s court, an attempt to force the mayor into what would be an unquestionably bad photo-op, especially during campaign season. Seattle Weekly, 6-10-13.

The Nation

US abandons effort to limit sales of morning-after pill

US District Judge Edward Korman

The Obama administration has decided to stop trying to block over-the-counter availability of the best-known morning-after contraceptive pill for all women and girls, a move fraught with political repercussions for President Obama. The decision means that any woman or girl will soon be able to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a prescription. The Justice Department had been fighting to prevent that outcome, but said late Monday afternoon that it would accept its losses in recent court rulings and begin putting into effect a judge’s order to have the FDA certify the drug for nonprescription use. In a letter to Judge Edward R. Korman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the administration said it would comply with his demands. The Justice Department appears to have concluded that it might lose its case. New York Times, 6-10-13.

West Coast senators try to preempt Pebble Mine in Alaska

Aerial view of site for giant proposed Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay in Alaska. Frying Pan Lake, pictured here, would disappear beneath a giant pile of tailings. Bristol Bay is one of the world’s geatest fisheries.
Aerial view of site for giant proposed Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay in Alaska. Frying Pan Lake, pictured here, would disappear beneath a giant pile of tailings. Bristol Bay is one of the world’s geatest fisheries.

Senators from Washington, Oregon, and California, in a letter to President Obama, are seeking to preempt a huge proposed mining project in Alaska that would be located between two prime salmon spawning streams of North America’s premier commercial and sport salmon fishery. “The Pebble Mine would be one of the largest hard rock mines in the world and the largest copper porphyry mine in the United States: Water contamination and habitat loss from construction and operation of a hard rock mine in Bristol Bay would put thousands of fishery-related family wage jobs at risk,” said the Senators’ letter. The letter is signed by Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray (D-WA); Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (D-CA); and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Depending on which of three possible mine plans is submitted, according to the EPA’s assessment, 24, 56 or 90 miles of streams could be lost to mining pits, tailings storage, waste rock piles, or the pollution and/or de-watering of spawning streams. Seattle P-I, 6-10-13.

Tea partier is GOP’s best hope in NJ special Senate election

Steve Lonegan, former mayor of Bogota NJ, candidate for US Senate

The deadline for candidates to file for the special election to fill the Senate seat formerly occupied by the late Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) passed at 4 p.m. Monday. As the deadline approached, Steve Lonegan remained the only well-known Republican who has declared his intention to enter the race. Lonegan is a former mayor with a colorful history who, most recently, has been leading a local activist group funded by the Koch Brothers. Last year, Lonegan spent the presidential election participating in Americans For Prosperity’s “Obama’s Failing Agenda” bus tour. At a Manhattan rally for the tour, he compared President Barack Obama to Fidel Castro. In 2007, he made headlines when police discovered he hired two illegal immigrants to assemble Americans For Prosperity lawn signs in his garage. Talking Points Memo, 6-10-13.

To Think About

NSA leak highlights key role of private contractors

Edward Snowden

The US government monitors threats to national security with the help of nearly 500,000 people like Edward Snowden – employees of private firms who have access to the government’s most sensitive secrets. When Snowden, an employee of one of those firms, Booz Allen Hamilton, revealed details of two National Security Agency surveillance programs, he spotlighted the risks of making so many employees of private contractors a key part of the U.S. intelligence apparatus. The reliance on the private sector has grown since then, in part because of Congress’ efforts to limit the size of federal agencies and shrink the budget. Of the 4.9 million people with clearance to access “confidential and secret” government information, 1.1 million, or 21 percent, work for outside contractors, according to a CIA report. Of the 1.4 million who have the higher “top secret” access, 483,000, or 34 percent, work for contractors. Huffington Post, 6-10-13.

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