City Light bills may grow 1.5%; Sawant: big business should pay
Seattle City Light customers could face a 1.5 percent surcharge on their electricity bill by August because of the light mountain snowpack and low wholesale energy prices. For a typical homeowner paying about $60 a month for electricity, that’s an additional 90 cents a month. But City Light and elected city leaders fear the shortfall in revenues is likely to continue because of climate change and the effectiveness of fracking at driving down the price of natural gas, a competitor to hydroelectricity sales. City Council member Kshama Sawant, in her first meeting as chair of the council Energy Committee Wednesday, said the burden for rate increases should not fall on economically struggling residents. “Seattle is becoming very expensive to live in. If there are any rate increases to come, they should fall on big corporations that can afford it and not on working families,” she said after the hearing. Seattle Times, 1-23-14.
Reform candidates trying to dislodge top IAM leaders
The contentious Boeing contract extension offer that machinists narrowly passed earlier this month left many workers unhappy with their union leaders. This Saturday, they’ll have a chance to nominate new candidates for top positions in the union’s national headquarters. But the reform candidates face an uphill battle in their effort to dislodge the top leaders. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers hasn’t had a contested election for its highest jobs in more than half a century. The Department of Labor last year investigated allegations that the union stymied a challenger’s attempt to run for office and found merit to the claim. As a result, the union agreed to hold a new election process under Department of Labor oversight. KPLU, 1-23-14.
Is marijuana allowed in Sea-Tac Airport?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Sure, but where in hell are you going to go with it? Basically, because Sea-Tac is owned and run by the Port of Seattle and not federal property, Washington’s marijuana laws under I-502 apply there. So, it’s legal for adults 21 and over to have up to an ounce on their person. And all the other rules apply, too: No displaying or using in public, no selling or handing out, etc., said Perry Cooper, a spokesman with the Port of Seattle for Sea-Tac Airport. Cooper explained that while the men and women of the Transportation Security Administration are federal employees, they have no law enforcement authority and can only report problems to Port of Seattle police. Seattle P-I, 1-22-14.
Tacoma, Seattle ports agree to talk about agreeing
The cooperative agreement between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle that was announced last week is either a) a pretty big deal that will benefit taxpayers and the economy of the state of Washington or, b) window dressing to distract those who have tired of the ports’ ruinous competition. The answer depends on what the two ports and their leaders do once their request to share information gets the go-ahead from the federal government. The deal, after all, isn’t an agreement to agree, it is only an agreement to talk about agreeing. Peter Callaghan, Tacoma News Tribune, 1-23-14.
Op-ed: Senate needs to deal with transportation plan–or Eastside will pay
Sometimes, a “do nothing” approach in the face of a daunting challenge has unintended consequences: It actually makes things worse. So it is with the transportation funding package now languishing in the state Senate. For residents of King County—and particular for those on the Eastside and Mercer Island—failure to adopt a method for financing critical transportation projects likely leads to one of two outcomes, both bad: A State Route 520 “bridge to nowhere,” or tolls on the Interstate 90 bridge across Lake Washington and Mercer Island. The ball is in the Senate’s court. They need to play—or we on the Eastside and Mercer Island will pay. Rep. Cyrus Habib (D-48), Bellevue Reporter, 1-23-14.
House Democrats propose $12 minimum wage
House Democrats introduced a bill Thursday that would boost the state’s minimum wage nearly 30 percent, to $12 an hour, by 2017. Under the proposal, HB 2672, the state’s current $9.32 cent-an-hour minimum wage would increase to $10 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2015, and would get another $1 an hour bump at the beginning of 2016 and again in 2017, according to Democratic sources. After that, wage increases would revert back to the current method, which ties bumps in pay to inflation. The GOP-led caucus controlling the Senate has indicated it’s opposed to increasing the minimum wage, arguing it would put Washington state businesses at a competitive disadvantage. It’s not clear at this point if the measure will get a floor vote in the House. More than 30 House Democrats have signed onto the bill, but some members of the caucus do not support the legislation. It takes 50 votes to pass a measure in the House. Democrats control the chamber, 55-43. Seattle Times, 1-23-14.
Things turn nasty in Olympia over climate change
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican Sen. Curtis King (R-14) may have set down their poison pens, but are no closer to forging agreement on a transportation funding package. Their exchange of stinging missives last week on low-carbon fuel standards continues to punctuate negotiations and imperil chances of a bipartisan deal getting inked this session. King, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, is convinced Inslee will wait until lawmakers depart Olympia in March, then unilaterally impose tougher standards for the level of carbon allowed in fuel sold to motorists. He insists this will drive up the price of gas, and wants the governor to categorically deny he would act in such a manner. Inslee unquestionably views a low-carbon standard as a mechanism for developing cleaner fuels and a critical weapon in the fight against climate change which he’s made a signature issue in his first term. But he said he’s not discussed adopting any specific standard nor proposed anything resembling what King calls a “carbon fuel tax.” In other words, there is nothing up his sleeve and thus nothing to deny. Everett Herald, 1-23-14.
Wylie’s bill would override recent Attorney General’s opinion, deny cities and counties the option to ban pot sales
HB 2638 intends to override or at least clear up the controversial opinion issued earlier this month by the State Attorney General. The AG opined that, even with no clear mention of local municipal authority to throw out state voter’s supported recreational cannabis use, I-502, cities, towns, and counties can prohibit any or all aspects of the historic state’s rights experiment of personal recreational use of cannabis. Rep. Sharon Wylie, (D-49), a former Oregon State Legislator (1993-1998), has one co-sponsor, Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46), on her bill. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing. Washington State Wire, 1-23-14.
Committee narrowly passes Reproductive Parity Act
With a one-vote margin, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee passed a bill that would require most insurance companies to cover abortion if they cover maternity services. HB 2148, often called the Reproductive Parity Act was denounced by opponents like Rep. Shelly Short (R-7), as limiting the choice of people who are morally opposed to abortion and don’t want insurance plans that cover it for others. But supporters like Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-27) said the decision on whether to have an abortion should be made by a woman and the people she chooses to consult—her doctor, family, or faith community: “It is not for a business to decide, it is not for an insurance company to decide, it is not for someone else’s faith community to decide.” Committee Chairwoman Eileen Cody (D-34), the sponsor of the bill, said for years she’s had men ask her why they should pay for insurance plans with maternity services that they’ll never use. But, she added “we’re not going to change anyone’s mind either way on this.” Spokesman-Review, 1-23-14.
Ted Bottiger, former Senate majority leader, dies at 81
Former state Senate majority leader Ted Bottiger died Thursday morning at the age of 81. Word went out at the Legislature later in the day, announcing that the former Pierce County politician had passed away. Details on arrangements were not immediately available. Bottiger, a south Tacoma native and Democrat, served the 2nd Legislative District in the Senate from 1973 until 1987. He also served four House terms during 1965-72 in the 28th and 29th districts, and left the Legislature after winning appointment to the Northwest Power Council. He was first elected majority leader in 1981 but that lasted only a couple of weeks–when Sen. Peter von Reichbauer switched to the Republican Party and shifted the majority to the GOP during a deep recession. Voters gave the Senate back to Democrats in the 1982 election and Bottiger became leader again in 1983. During his status as minority leader in the Senate, he was quoted by reporters as saying: “The role of the queen’s loyal opposition must be exactly that … We shouldn’t sink the ship.’’ Olympian, 1-23-14.
Attorney General Herring: Put Virginia on ‘right side of history’
Attorney General Mark R. Herring, saying Virginia must be “on the right side of history,” today formally announced that he has concluded that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, and that in federal court he will speak for same-sex couples seeking to get married in the commonwealth. “Virginia has argued on the wrong side of some of our nation’s landmark cases–in school desegregation in 1954, on interracial marriage in the 1967 Loving decision, and in 1996 at opening Virginia Military Institute to female cadets,” Herring said in a news conference at the Attorney General’s Office. “It’s time for the commonwealth to be on the right of history and on the right side of the law.” Gov. Terry McAuliffe “supports the Attorney General’s conclusion and his efforts to ensure that all Virginians are treated equally under the law,” said Brian Coy, a spokesman for the governor. Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1-23-14.
Holder: Feds to set rules for banks and pot money
The Obama administration will soon announce regulations to make it easier for banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday. “You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system,” Holder said during an appearance at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash—substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective.” While Holder spoke twice of new “regulations” that were being prepared, a Justice Department spokesman said later that the attorney general was referring to legal “guidance” for prosecutors and federal law enforcement. Such a legal memo wouldn’t be enforceable in court and would amount to less than the kind of clear safe harbor many banks say they would want before accepting money from pot businesses. The federal banking accommodation, being worked out jointly by the Justice and the Treasury departments, follows decisions by voters in Colorado and Washington state to legalize the sale and possession of pot. The moves have created legal tensions, since marijuana remains illegal under federal law. One particular problem has been the refusal of banks to deal with pot-related businesses out of fears they will be accused of violating money laundering laws. Politico, 1-23-14.
No Medicaid expansion means millions more in taxes for Tennessee employers
Employers in Tennessee will have to pay tens of millions in new taxes annually because the state is not expanding its Medicaid program, according to a new study. The new study released Wednesday by Jackson Hewitt estimates that Tennessee’s failure to expand Medicaid could cost employers in the state between $48 million and $72 million in 2015. Nationally, the new tax penalties could reach nearly $1.5 billion each year in the 25 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid for adults. The tax penalty is somewhat hidden in the language of the Affordable Care Act, said the study’s lead author, Brian Haile, Jackson Hewitt’s senior vice president of health policy. “Just because there has not been strong enrollment interest thus far doesn’t mean squat,” said Haile, adding that low-income consumers tend to buy insurance when they get their tax refund. “There’s going to be solid enrollment,” Haile said, but adds that there might not be accurate enrollment data until May or June. “Jackson Hewitt has no position as to whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea to expand Medicaid,” Haile said, “I’m just pointing out that there will be a tax consequence to this decision.” Nashville Tennessean, 1-22-14.
Huckabee: Government shouldn’t help women who can’t control libidos
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said that the government shouldn’t help women who can’t control their “libido or their reproductive system” by providing co-pay-free birth control and that Democrats are encouraging women to be “victims of their gender.” Huckabee made the comments during a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting Thursday. “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be,” Huckabee said. Huckabee argued that Democrats “think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have the government provide for them birth control medication.” Huckabee also argued (with no apparent irony) that his party is not waging a war on women. Talking Points Memo, 1-23-14.
When companies break the law and people pay: The scary lesson of the Google Bus
Ever since Rebecca Solnit took to the London Review of Books to ruminate on the meaning of the private chartered buses that transport tech industry workers around the San Francisco Bay Area (she called them, among other things, “the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule us,”) the Google Bus has become the go-to symbol for discord in Silicon Valley. First a Google Bus piñata was smashed to pieces at a rally in San Francisco’s Mission district last May. Then protesters drove a fake Google Bus in the annual Pride Parade with props linking the shuttles to gentrification, eviction, and displacement. By December, when activists blockaded an actual Google bus on the street, the city and media were primed for the street theater stunt heard round the world. This frenzy seemingly culminated yesterday when, following another morning blockade and protest and several hours of contentious public comment, San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Authority unanimously approved a plan to begin regulating the shuttles by requiring them to obtain a permit and pay a $1 per stop fee. Bus blockaders say that the various tech companies owe San Francisco $1 billion in fines for their illegal use of the stops over the past decade. (San Francisco Bay Guardian reporter Rebecca Bowe calculated the unpaid bill as closer to $500 million to $600 million, still a significant amount of money compared to the transportation agency’s annual budget of $800 million.) Google, Facebook and Apple aren’t facing millions in unpaid parking fines, however, because the MTA hasn’t been writing the tickets. Since the shuttles began using public bus stops, they’ve simply flouted the law without consequences. Salon, 1-23-14.
To Think About
The coming Common Core meltdown
The trouble with the Common Core is not primarily what is in these standards or what’s been left out, although that’s certainly at issue. The bigger problem is the role the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are playing in the larger dynamics of current school reform and education politics. Today everything about the Common Core, even the brand name—the Common Core State Standards—is contested because these standards were created as an instrument of contested policy. They have become part of a larger political project to remake public education in ways that go well beyond slogans about making sure every student graduates “college and career ready,” however that may be defined this year. We’re talking about implementing new national standards and tests for every school and district in the country in the wake of dramatic changes in the national and state context for education reform. It took nearly a decade for NCLB’s counterfeit “accountability system” to bog down in the face of its many contradictions and near universal rejection. The Common Core meltdown may not take that long. Stan Karp, Washington Post, 1-23-14.