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Issue #179

(Daily Clips will return to publication following the New Year, and in plenty of time before the Legislature is in session. The editor, who performs these duties strictly on a volunteer basis, needs the holiday. Best season’s wishes to all, even to Republicans.)

King County

OSPI deal to give Seattle Times student data alarms privacy experts

Bill Gates wants to make money on your kids' data
Bill Gates wants to make money on your kids’ data
Frank Blethen wants whatever Bill Gates wants.
Frank Blethen wants whatever Bill Gates wants.

KUOW has learned that the Washington state education department has signed agreements to share nonpublic student data with media including the Seattle Times and Associated Press. Data security experts say that the agreements raise serious privacy concerns for the state’s public school students. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, generally prohibits release of confidential student data without parental consent. But as schools collect more student and staff data, it’s increasingly being given to outside entities for analysis and storage. That alarms parents and educators, who worry the data could be used to identify their children, fall into the wrong hands, or be used for commercial purposes. Even without names attached to student data, privacy experts said children’s anonymity is not guaranteed. (Most of the Seattle Times’ education reporting is now being underwritten by the Gates Foundation.) KUOW, 12-19-13.

Murray’s big tent solution for the $15 minimum wage fight

Council member-elect Kshama Sawant at Thursday's press conference: 'My commitment is unwavering, unshakable, to getting $15 an hour.'
Council member-elect Kshama Sawant at Thursday’s press conference: ‘My commitment is unwavering, unshakable, to getting $15 an hour.’

Mayor-elect Ed Murray has given a committee a challenging assignment: to come up with a plan for increasing Seattle’s minimum wage. The committee includes people who were at odds over the $15 per hour minimum wage ballot initiative that voters recently approved in the nearby city of SeaTac. Murray announced the members of his Income Inequality Advisory Committee Thursday, and said they’ll have four months to develop a proposal. The Mayor-elect has said he supports raising the wage to $15 per hour by the end of his four-year term. The 23-member committee, a mix of City Council members, business leaders, and labor representatives, is charged with hammering out the details of the wage bump. Included on the committee is recently elected Socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant, whose push for a $15 minimum wage has generated a swirl of national attention. Crosscut, 12-19-13.

Eastside Catholic students rally to support vice principal, fired after his gay marriage

Eastside Catholic High school students march to 228th Av SE during a walkout and sit-in at the school Thursday.
Eastside Catholic High school students march to 228th Av SE during a walkout and sit-in at the school Thursday.

More than 300 students at Eastside Catholic High School staged a cafeteria sit-in Thursday, protesting the forced resignation of a popular vice principal who married another man last summer. The removal of Vice Principal Mike Zamuda was “a church decision not a school decision,” ordered by the Archdiocese of Seattle, Sister Mary Tracy of the school told KING/5. “Seeing Mr. Z clean up all the garbage left in the gym is another reminder of how such a such a humble man is being punished for love,” tweeted student Rachel Groven. Students at the school were using social media to rally support from other Catholic schools, even appealing to a higher authority.  In a tweet to Pope Francis, one student wrote @Pontifex: “Hey big guy, we need you over here in Washington.  A teacher is being fired for love.” Seattle P-I, 12-19-13.

Bad year for Metro bus drivers continues; contract proposal includes pay freeze

A Seattle Police officer stands next to a King Co. Metro bus with multiple bullet holes in its windshield and side windows, after a Metro bus driver was shot, Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in downtown Seattle.
A Seattle Police officer stands next to a King Co. Metro bus with multiple bullet holes in its windshield and side windows, after a Metro bus driver was shot, Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in downtown Seattle.

It has been an unsettling year for King County Metro bus drivers.  They saw one of their own wounded in downtown Seattle by a lunatic’s gunfire in August, and another who in October drove the wrong way onto the Interstate 5 express lanes with an articulated bus full of passengers. A driver accidentally killed a pedestrian crossing at 11th and Pine on Capitol Hill, and more recently, a driver has been fired for using an 8-pound rubber wheel block to beat the living daylights out of a passenger who spit on him. He told police he simply “lost it.” Now, the county’s 2,672 full time and part time drivers are being called on Thursday to vote up or down a contract that imposes a one-year pay freeze. Drivers are being squeezed because the state legislature has not approved new funding for transit and additional money to keep the wheels going round and round on King County’s fleet of 1,119 buses. Seattle Weekly, 12-18-13.

The State

Inslee looking for a ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ in GOP to help break climate deadlock

Gov. Jay Inslee, accompanied by state budget director David Schumacher (left), talks about his latest budget proposal with the Olympian editorial board Wednesday.
Gov. Jay Inslee, accompanied by state budget director David Schumacher (left), talks about his latest budget proposal with the Olympian editorial board Wednesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate-change workgroup hit a wall recently, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the panel taking markedly different approaches to reducing carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming. The two sides put out rival written plans last week before a Dec. 13 public hearing, and a majority testifying at the hearing gave strong support for action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. But where the climate panel–known as the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup, or CLEW–goes from here is a question. It was supposed to meet Wednesday to hammer out final recommendations for action by the 2014 Legislature, and the meeting was canceled so that Inslee and four voting lawmakers on the panel could keep working on a path forward. “Here’s something that could be really inspiring, I think,” Inslee said, “is if we see [at least] one … Republican in the state Legislature who will decide to be a leader on this issue and decide to lead their party into an honest discussion about how we address this (climate) issue. And to have one Republican decide to look in the mirror and see Teddy Roosevelt, that’ll be a really great thing for our state, our country and the world, because there is a huge vacuum there.’’ Olympian, 12-18-13.

Lawmakers are already pushing new laws

Could Snoqualmie Falls become our new state waterfall?
Could Snoqualmie Falls become our new state waterfall?

A preview of coming attractions and distractions for lawmakers next year can be found in the pile of legislation awaiting them when they return to Olympia in January. There have been 59 bills filed early—38 in the House and 21 in the Senate—dealing with specialty license plates, protecting hospital employees from violent criminals, and naming a state waterfall and ensuring natural disasters don’t shut down the state government. Here’s a sample of new laws House and Senate members are already pushing: List of bills, with links to full text. Everett Herald, 12-19-13.

Ferguson wants stiff penalty in anti-522 contribution case

Washington attorney General Bob Ferguson

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he hopes his lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association results in a penalty sufficient to deter future violations of the state’s campaign cash disclosure laws. Ferguson was referring to his  lawsuit stemming from the GMA’s heavy contributions to the ultimately successful effort to defeat I-522. That measure would have required labeling of genetically modified food ingredients. Ferguson said the state’s disclosure laws won’t have much impact if the penalty for violating those laws is small enough to be no more than “the cost of doing business” for big contributors. Grocery Manufacturers Association collected $10.6 million from its members to fight the labeling initiative. Bellingham Herald, 12-19-13.

State-run marijuana bank would solve two problems at once

State Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-11) has been championing a state-run bank for years, based on a successful state bank in North Dakota, and if you’ve been wondering what he’s been smoking in pursuit of this seemingly quixotic effort, well, he may have just answered your question. The latest iteration of Hasegawa’s bill attempts to recast his proposed state bank as “the sole depository for in-state marijuana producers, processers, and retailers.” It’s a clever hack on top of Hasegawa’s previous state bank proposal that provides all the benefits of helping state government while addressing a huge unmet need created by the passage of Initiative 502: the lack of access to legal banking services by Washington State’s large and growing legal marijuana industry. The Stranger, 12-18-13.

Conspiracy or sour grapes? Former candidate for state Dem chair blasts ‘insider cabal’

Longtime political operative Nancy Biery dropped out of the race for state Democratic Party chair last week.

When longtime political operative Nancy Biery dropped out of the race for state Democratic Party chair last week, she issued a terse statement blaming unnamed “status quo” forces inside the party. In an interview this week, Biery elaborated, blasting supporters of rival Dana Laurent, the former political director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, who has amassed the support of a small army of influential Democratic donors and political consultants. Biery claims she was elbowed out of the race. A former chair of the Jefferson County Democrats who worked as an aide to Gov. Gary Locke and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, Biery argued she was the most qualified. But political consultants and donors wanted “somebody they could control,” Biery said. ”It became clear the powers that be did not want me to be party chair.” The final straw seems to be when Joby Shimomura, chief of staff to Gov. Jay Inslee, threw her name behind Laurent—a move Biery and others viewed as signaling the governor’s own preference. Seattle Times, 12-18-13.

The Nation

New Mexico Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage legal

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that it’s unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples in New Mexico. News of the ruling, which came after eight county clerks in the state had started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples earlier this year, spread quickly on social media and touched off celebrations among marriage-equality advocates. New Mexico joins 16 other states in allowing gay marriage through legislation, court rules or voter referendums. The court rejected the argument that “responsible procreation and child-rearing” is an “overriding governmental interest,” in part because procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law, and state law recognizes the right of same-gender couples to raise children. Santa Fé New Mexican, 12-19-13.

Baucus nomination, resulting musical chairs, lift hopes of Dems for retaining Senate majority

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

When the veteran Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) announced his retirement in April, a feeling of dread went through the Democratic ranks, not so much over the potential loss of his Montana seat, but over the game of musical committee chairs that would elevate an iconoclast to lead the coveted Finance Committee and a pro-oil moderate to head the energy committee. But as politics begin supplanting policy considerations ahead of the 2014 elections, calculations are shifting on Capitol Hill. It is a measure of the challenging political landscape Democrats face that Baucus’ pending nomination to be ambassador to China has been greeted with glee by his fellow Senate Democrats. New York Times, 12-19-13.

Amazon warehouse workers plan union vote; would be first in US

Workers at an Amazon distribution center in Brieselang, near Berlin.
Workers at an Amazon distribution center in Brieselang, near Berlin.

Amazon may be getting its first union shop in the United States. The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a union-representation vote on Jan. 15 for 30 mechanics and technicians at an Amazon warehouse in Middletown, DE. The workers will choose whether to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. John Carr, a spokesman for the Machinists, said at least 30% of the 30 workers had indicated they favored filing a petition with the NLRB, though he declined to give a precise figure. The 1.2-million-square-foot Delaware warehouse, with 1,500 employees, opened last year and handles smaller iterms such as DVDs. “Some employees came to us and said they wanted some help,” Carr said. The union move comes as Amazon faces a backlash from employees in Germany, where union members have held a series of strikes over conditions at several facilities there. Amazon has successfully battled prior union efforts in the U.S., including groups of customer-service representatives. Wall Street Journal, 12-17-13.

States with higher black turnout are more likely to restrict voting

In most elections, the intricacies of voting procedures rarely warrant headlines or interest most Americans.  But in 2012, voter identification laws took center stage.  In fact, in the five years preceding the 2012 election, almost half of states enacted some form of legislation restricting voter access—such as requiring photo identification or proof of citizenship to vote, more stringently regulating voter registration drives, shortening early voting periods, repealing same-day voter registration, or further restricting voting by felons. More specifically, restrictive proposals were more likely to be introduced in states with larger African-American and non-citizen populations, and with higher minority turnout in the previous presidential election.  These proposals were also more likely to be introduced in states where both minority and low-income turnout had increased in recent elections. Washington Post, 12-17-13.

To Think About

Robert Reich: What will it take for us to get back to being a decent society?

Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He also served on President Obama's transition advisory board.

It’s the season to show concern for the less fortunate among us. We should also be concerned about the widening gap between the most fortunate and everyone else. It’s still possible to win the lottery, but the biggest lottery of all is what family we’re born into. That’s not always been the case. The faith that anyone could move from rags to riches–with enough guts and gumption, hard work, and nose to the grindstone–was once at the core of the American Dream. But for more than three decades we’ve been going backwards. Robert Reich, Alternet, 12-19-13.

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