Governor: ‘Dang shame’ gas tax bill died in Senate
The gas tax won’t be going up this summer, or next, unless something changes at the Capitol. Calling it a “dang shame for the state of Washington,” Gov. Jay Inslee said he wants to find a way to bring up the gas tax increase later this year. He did not rule out calling another special session. Raising the gas tax 10.5 cents over the next year would have paid for freeway improvements and would have helped pay for a new I-5 bridge to Portland. That project was set to receive $850 million from the federal government. Inslee said that money may not be available to the state after September 1. “If the state Senate decided to take a more mature approach and allow a vote,” said Inslee, “It may be possible to keep that money, federally.” KING, 7-1-13. Of course, to hear Republican flacks like Washington State Wire’s Erik Smith tell it, it’s all Inslee’s fault that Republican Senators are too cowardly to go on record with a vote that would screw their own constituents. Washington State Wire, 6-30-13.
Ty Trenary selected as new Snohomish County sheriff
Snohomish County has a new sheriff: Ty Trenary. The County Council approved the appointment Monday with a 5-0 vote. Trenary, 47, of Stanwood, is a captain at the sheriff’s office, where he’s worked since 1991. He served as police chief for Stanwood, which contracts with the county for police services, from 2008 to 2012. Trenary, a former leader of the union that represents sheriff’s deputies, also has worked as a sheriff’s office training manager and as a patrol supervisor. Detective Sgt. James Upton, 53, of Monroe, also sought the job. Voters will cast ballots in a 2014 special election to determine who serves out the remaining year left on the sheriff’s term. A regular election for the four-year term is scheduled in 2015. Both Upton and Trenary said they plan to run in those elections. Everett Herald, 7-1-13.
800 phone calls help protect 52,000 acres
Eight hundred people raised up their phones at a Seattle Convention Center breakfast in May, in a very public display of lobbying elected officials to do right by a legendary valley in the eastern Cascades, reached in less than two hours’ drive from Seattle. Guests at the fundraiser for Forterra (formerly the Cascade Land Conservancy) were told to dial Olympia, and ask for dollars to buy up 52,000 acres of land in the Teanaway River east of Cle Elum. The appeal worked. A rancorous, fractious Legislature — which was a graveyard for many worthy projects — forked up $97 million for purchase of Teanaway lands in Washington’s new capital budget. “It is the state’s biggest single land acquisition in over 50 years,” Gene Duvernoy, executive director of Forterra, said Monday. The purchase and restoration of land in the Teanaway is a key component of the Yakima Integrated Plan, an ambitious program to increase water storage to restore salmon runs and assure water to irrigators in the eastern Cascades’ largest connected river system. Seattle P-I, 7-1-13.
DOE to pay $136,000 fine in Hanford settlement
The Department of Energy has agreed to pay a $136,000 settlement to the U.S. Treasury for allegedly disposing of Hanford waste without treating it ,and other alleged violations, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA also accuses DOE of operating several dangerous waste storage units without proper permit authorization. The EPA National Enforcement Investigation Center team conducted inspections focused on Hanford’s Solid Waste Operation Complex in 2011. The national team interpreted permitting rules as they had been applied nationally, which is not necessarily what was envisioned by DOE and its regulators at the beginning of environmental cleanup at Hanford. DOE signed the agreement, but has not admitted nor denied improper storage or treatment of waste. Tri-City Herald, 7-1-13.
Providence St. Peter, 1199 still at odds over labor contract
Providence St. Peter Hospital and unionized employees were still at odds Monday on a new labor contract after the hospital made (what it said was) its final offer to the union last week. Both sides said Monday that nothing had changed: the hospital has made its final offer while the union, SEIU 1199NW, was sticking to its position. “We believe implementing at this time would be unlawful,” dietary worker and bargaining team member Barbie Freitag said in a statement. “We are not at impasse,” she added. The hospital disagreed. “We have no doubt that we are at impasse,” spokeswoman Deborah Shawver said, pointing out that talks have been facilitated by a federal mediator since August 2012. The same mediator also said last month that it would not be productive to meet again due to the lack of movement, although the hospital is willing to do so if the mediator advises it. The union represents hundreds of service workers at the hospital. Olympian, 7-1-13.
Everett School District plans video surveillance room
A surveillance system is planned in the Everett School District’s new administration building to allow officials to monitor what is happening in every school by fall of 2014. While the cameras will allow for a quick response in emergencies, it raises privacy issues, especially for a district that has come under fire in the past for a hidden camera in one of its schools. On Tuesday, the Everett School Board is scheduled to consider a new policy and guidelines for the surveillance program. The draft rules say that recordings won’t be viewed in public, but the district anticipates that people may seek access under open records laws. “Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis,” according to the document. Only district employees, school administrators and law enforcement will have access to the live video monitoring. Everett Herald, 7-1-13.
Struggling Skamania County seeks federal support
Reciting the numbers he now knows by heart, Skamania County Commissioner Chris Brong has been greeted with outright disbelief. A county budget has been lashed from $50 million to $25 million in three years. A hundred permanent and temporary county employees were laid off. There has been a reduction to a four-day work week, providing only bare-minimum services. Skamania County was battered by the economic turmoil of recent years, a fate familiar to just about any government agency these days. But it’s other outside forces that Brong and others say prevent the county from lifting itself out of the financial mess. Now Skamania County leaders are asking federal officials to help tilt the balance back in their favor. Tops on their wish list: reliable federal funding, and an increase in tax-generating timber harvests on federal lands. Vancouver Columbian, 6-30-13.
House Dems lose patience with Boeing; won’t delay required Duwamish cleanup any longer for fish-consumption study
House Democrats removed funds for a fish-consumption study from the final state budget. That went against the wishes of one of the state’s biggest business interests, Boeing. Tribes and environmental groups have been urging the state to update its standard and require stricter regulation of water pollution. But that has been met with resistance from businesses, including Boeing. The state Senate wanted to include money for a fish-consumption study in the budget. Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48) says he and other House leaders removed the language because the federal EPA recently told Washington state to stop delaying. “It was pretty clear to me that if you did a three-year study that the EPA was going to impose a standard long before the study was completed. So (it) didn’t seem like a productive use of money,” Hunter said. A spokeswoman for the Department of Ecology says the department expects to have a draft rule ready next year. The investigative journalism project Investigate West has reported a series of articles that show how Boeing succeeded in slowing down the process during Gov. Chris Gregoire’s administration. KPLU, 7-1-13.
Metro faces cuts as funds dwindle
King County says its ability to provide full transit service next year has been thrown into limbo, after the state Senate adjourned without acting on a proposed county tax to fund transit and roads. In a few weeks, Metro Transit will organize public outreach to explain which routes might be cut or reduced beginning in mid-2014. Besides stoking the political embers for a last-ditch lobbying effort, the sessions will lead many passengers to worry about whether they’ll lose their bus to work, school or medical appointments. Metro has identified 65 relatively low-use routes that could be scrapped, and an additional 86 more-popular routes that might run with fewer daily trips, if a feared $60 million yearly shortfall occurs. Seattle Times, 7-1-13.
At UW, Democratic delegation urges rollback of student loan rates, which just doubled
Gathered in the shade in front of the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library Monday morning, Democratic members of Washington’s Congressional delegation called for interest rates on subsidized student loans — which doubled Monday — to be rolled back. Interest rates rose today from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, after Congress was unable to come up with a compromise bill to maintain the lower interest rate. Monday’s news conference was a kind of replay to a similar news conference at the UW’s computer science building in April 2012. Then, as now, Congress was at an impasse over student loan interest rates, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray criticized Republican members of Congress for not being willing to compromise. Monday, she echoed those concerns. “Because Congress can’t agree on a lot these days, interest rates are going to go up starting today,” she said. Seattle Times, 7-1-13.
White House has coal country on the defensive
After several years of taking a beating from the poor economy, new pollution rules and a flood of cheap natural gas, the coal industry was on the rebound this year as mining projects moved forward in the Western U.S. and demand for the fuel began to rise, especially in Asia. But almost overnight, coal is back on the defensive, scrambling to stave off a dark future amid President Barack Obama’s renewed push to rein in climate change. The proposal, with its emphasis on cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants, would put facilities like the 2,100 megawatt Colstrip electricity plant in eastern Montana in regulators’ cross hairs. That has profound spin-off implications for the massive strip mines that dot the surrounding arid landscape of the Powder River Basin and provide the bulk of the nation’s coal. Associated Press (Bellingham Herald), 7-1-13.
Kansas Tea Party Congressman introduces Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage
As promised, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) introduced legislation late Friday to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage. The bill already has 28 Republican cosponsors, none of whom are particularly surprising. But it remains to be seen whether House Republican leaders will throw any support behind it, particularly now that the Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Huelskamp’s bill has no chance of becoming law, but it gives lawmakers strongly opposed to same-sex marriage a chance to make their views known. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) previously cosponsored a similar Federal Marriage Amendment that failed to advance in July 2006. That vote was the last time Congress has voted on such a proposal. Requests for comment from Boehner’s and Cantor’s offices were not returned. Huffington Post, 7-1-13.
Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky Secretary of State, to run against Sen. Mitch McConnell
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes answered the wishes of Kentucky Democrats Monday, announcing she will challenge U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014. “I have met with my supporters, we have had a great conversation and determined and decided that we can next make the best move, the best difference in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, by running for the U.S. Senate,” she told a hot room packed with supporters and reporters in Frankfort. However, Grimes starts off in a fundraising hole because McConnell’s campaign had $8.6 million on hand as of March 31, according to federal election filings. Louisville Courier-Journal, 7-1-13.
Yoga in public schools is not religious instruction, judge rules
A San Diego Superior Court judge rejected a claim Monday by parents in the Encinitas elementary school system that teaching yoga in the schools is an improper attempt at religious indoctrination. The ruling by Judge John Meyer, who heard the case without a jury, means that the Encinitas Union School District can continue to teach yoga as part of a health and exercise curriculum. Dean Broyles, president and attorney for the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy, had filed a lawsuit on behalf of a couple with two children in the school system. The suit sought to have the program ousted as a violation of state law prohibiting the teaching of religion in public schools. But Meyer sided with the school district’s explanation that it has taken out any references to Hinduism and its liturgical language, Sanskrit. Yoga, the judge said, is similar to other exercise programs like dodgeball. Los Angeles Times, 7-1-13.
To Think About
War on the unemployed
Is life too easy for the unemployed? You may not think so, and I certainly don’t think so. But that, remarkably, is what many and perhaps most Republicans believe. And they’re acting on that belief: there’s a nationwide movement under way to punish the unemployed, based on the proposition that we can cure unemployment by making the jobless even more miserable. What’s going on here? Is it just cruelty? Well, the GOP, which believes that 47 percent of Americans are “takers” mooching off the job creators, which in many states is denying health care to the poor simply to spite President Obama, isn’t exactly overflowing with compassion. But the war on the unemployed isn’t motivated solely by cruelty; rather, it’s a case of meanspiritedness converging with bad economic analysis. Paul Krugman, New York Times, 6-30-13.