Friday, April 26, 2013

The Advance is moving......

Beginning today, The Advance will no longer be updated on this site. But we aren't going away -- we are just moving over to the House Democratic Caucus web page. Check out our new look!

With the move, we'll also be making this more of a blog by enabling reader comments. Starting on Monday, The Advance, along with other posts on our website, will allow readers to comment through their Facebook profiles.

As always, some topics will be off-limits to keep us out of trouble with state ethics laws and House rules. Comments that discuss political campaigns or promote commercial interests will be removed. Profane, obscene, personally abusive, and threatening comments will also be deleted. Off topic comments may also be removed at our staff’s discretion.

In short, we ask that you please keep the conversations civil, be respectful of differing opinions, and stay on topic. You can read our entire comment policy here.

Thanks for sticking with us for all these years. We'll see you over at

You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Washington Department of Revenue wins national award

Latest available data from the U.S. Small Business Administration says there were 546,885 small businesses in our state in 2010. That's 98.1 percent of all businesses in Washington! Hence, the reason you often hear people referring to small business as the backbone of our economy.

So when the Department of Revenue came up with a mobile app for both iPhone and Android to help all these businesses easily file and pay taxes accurately, the Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA) took notice and gave our state its 2013 Award for Outstanding Compliance Program.

The award recognizes the department's mobile device application that helps taxpayers, especially small businesses, determine the right sales tax rates to charge customers.

FTA judges said our state was the first to identify a compelling taxpayer need and meet it with a mobile app.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

“Day in court” for appeals of SR 520 toll penalties

Nearly one in five drivers crossing the State Route 520 bridge over Lake Washington lacks the pre-purchased windshield transponder that is "read" by electronic sensors so that the toll amount can be deducted from a prepaid or online account. For those 20 percent, cameras photograph the vehicle license plate and then mail a bill for the toll to the owner. Late payment of the toll triggers penalties: $5 for a 15-day delay, another $40 for an 80-day delay – for each crossing.

Some drivers have complained that they got slapped with the penalties, but never got the bill in the mail in the first place – maybe because they moved, were in the hospital, got divorced or for other understandable reasons. But no matter how legitimate the excuse, they've been out of luck: The judges in the state's "toll court" lack the authority to reduce or waive the penalties if the underlying toll was correctly assessed.

But that would change under a bill by Rep. Cyrus Habib that gives penalized drivers who think they've been wronged a chance to make their case – and gives judges the power to cut the drivers some slack if the argument is convincing. House Bill 1941 received final legislative approval April 23 and is on its way to the governor. Click here to read more about it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Which House Democrats are on Twitter?

Twitter may be the fastest way to hear about breaking news.

If you're interested in what's happening at the state capitol, Twitter is also a great way to keep up with your local lawmakers and the reporters who cover the capitol.

Below is a list of House Democrats on Twitter. Even if you don't have an account on Twitter, you can follow legislative news by searching for the hash-tag #waleg to see tweets about the legislature.

Click here for a shortcut to the #waleg feed.

House Democrats on Twitter 

House Democratic Caucus, @WAHouseDems

Rep. Jim Moeller (America's Vancouver), Speaker Pro Tem

Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (Sequim), Majority Whip

Rep. Ross Hunter (Medina), chair of Appropriations

Rep. Reuven Carlyle (Seattle), chair of Finance

Rep. Marko Liias (Edmonds), vice chair of Transportation

Rep. Laurie Jinkins (Tacoma), vice chair of Health Care and Wellness

Rep. Larry Seaquist (Gig Harbor), chair of Higher Education

Rep. Derek Stanford (Bothell), vice chair of Capital Budget

Rep. Marcus Riccelli (Spokane), Assistant Deputy Majority Whip

Rep. Jeff Morris (Mt. Vernon), chair of Technology and Economic Development

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (West Seattle), Deputy Majority Whip

Rep. Chris Reykdal (Olympia), vice chair of Labor and Workforce Development

Rep. Dave Upthegrove (Des Moines), chair of Environment

Rep. Larry Springer (Kirkland), Deputy Majority Leader for Jobs and Economic Development

Rep. Tina Orwall (Des Moines), Deputy Speaker Pro Tem

Rep. Monica Stonier (Vancouver), vice chair of Education

Applications available for Legislative Youth Council

2009 Legislative Youth Advisory Council
If you're a teen, chances are you can't afford a lobbyist to represent your interests in Olympia, but laws passed under the Capitol dome have an impact on your life just the same.

Wanting to hear from Washington's young residents, legislators passed SB 5254 in 2005, which created the Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) to:
Examine issues of importance to youth, including but not limited to education, employment, strategies to increase youth participation in state and municipal government, safe environments for youth, substance abuse, emotional and physical health, foster care, poverty, homelessness, and youth access to services on a statewide and municipal basis.
In 2007, impressed with LYAC's great success, lawmakers passed HB 1052 to extend the program another two years. Finally, in 2009 they passed SB 5229, eliminating the program's expiration date.

LYAC is a 22-member council of 14- to 18 year-old students from across the state who serve two-year terms. Applications are reviewed by the Council and the Lieutenant Governor's office is in charge of making the final selection.

There are three to six annual meetings usually held in Olympia or Seattle and students are expected to attend all meetings and activities. Outside of the scheduled meetings, LYAC's members contact legislators to advise on pending legislation, draft letters and legislative reports, reach out to other youth and community organizations, and participate in Council conference calls.

This year's applications are due on June 25. Click here to download the Legislative Youth Advisory Council application.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Need to know: Annual report on Washington courts

The recently released Caseloads of the Courts of Washington report contains "data from the state's Judicial Information System," as well as "a detailed overview of the level of activity in the courts of Washington." 

Information is included in the report for every Washington Superior Court and most every Washington District and Municipal Court.

Information in this "Caseloads of the Courts of Washington" report is reviewed all the time by state Rep. Ross Hunter and other budget-writers. Hunter's striking amendment to Senate Bill 5034 that was passed out of the House the other day, 54-43, and sent back over to the Senate is crafted upon this very type of real-world information.

Budgeteers use these and related past and present details -- as well as, the estimates of future needs contained in the caseload-forecast reports.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New protections enacted for stalking victims

Stalking is a crime that affects approximately 3.4 million Americans each year. These perpetrators know no economic, racial, or societal bounds. Some stalkers are former spouses or boyfriends who are angry about child custody battles or embittered by breakups. But they can also be total strangers to the victim.

Stalking can destroy lives. They sit outside homes for hours. They follow victims to work, to the gym, and out with friends. They call dozens of times a day and make constant threats.

Stalking may go on for years and can end in murder or suicide. Victims of stranger stalking in Washington state have virtually no tools to stop these actions. Under current law, the only protection these victims can receive is an anti-harassment order. Anti-harassment orders are what neighbors file against each other over barking dogs or fence disputes. Law enforcement places very low priority on anti-harassment orders.

Fortunately, HB 1383 sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) will help save lives. It will create a new a stalking protection order, similar to sexual assault and domestic violence protection orders. This will give law enforcement better tools to stop stalkers, more protections for victims, and harsher penalties for perpetrators.

HB 1383 passed the House and Senate unanimously. It was renamed the "Jennifer Paulson Stalking Protection Order" in memory of a Tacoma special education teacher who was murdered by her stalker three years ago. The bill now heads to the Governor's office for his signature.

More information:
•    End Stalking In America, Inc.
•    What other states are doing about stalking
•    Jennifer Paulson’s story

Photo credit: Salvatore Vuono/