Saturday, January 17, 2009

Legislature honors MLK and celebrates kids Monday

Monday is a holiday for most of America, but the Washington State Legislature isn't taking the day off. This provides a great opportunity for those who don't have to go to work or school to come to the Capital and visit their elected Representatives and Senators.

Committees will meet as usual, and the House will be in session at 10:00 am. The agenda on the floor: Resolutions honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrating Washington's children. One day each session, members are encouraged to bring their children to observe the legislature in action. The kids get to go out onto the floor, listen to the speeches, and push the voting buttons on Mom's or Dad's desk.

This year, the young visitors might also get a glimpse of history in the making -- a big part of Martin Luther King's famous "dream" will be realized Tuesday with the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Your incomplete guide to Oly-speak

Niki Sullivan from TVW has posted a top-three list of what she describes as “ semi-obscure phrases I’ve heard this week that, if you don’t know the inside language, may seem confusing.”

Her top three? Bow wave, entitlement and sacred cow.

That got us thinking about what other words and phrases we throw around here that might make the average person scratch their head in confusion.

There is, of course, the alphabet soup of government acronyms we use all day long.

Acronyms like OFM (Office of Financial Management), LAs (Legislative Assistants), HB or SB (House Bill or Senate Bill), HEC Board (Higher Education Coordinating Board), HDC (that’s us – the House Democratic Caucus!), and on and on and on. Most of us can’t remember what the acronyms stand for because, well, we just can’t. That’s what Google is for.

And what about the odd words and phrases we use?

Ever heard of “Ulcer Gulch?” It’s an actual location in the Legislative Building where the lobbyists hang out and retrieve messages. The name speaks for itself.

There’s lots of news about identifying projects that are “shovel ready.” Why are these projects so important all of a sudden? President-elect Obama wants to send money to the states to use towards “shovel-ready” projects, essentially meaning projects that are planned, permitted and ready to go.

Ever been to a two-corner meeting? What about a three-corner, four-corner or five-corner meeting? A two-corner meeting is a meeting of leaders from the House majority and the Senate majority. A three-corner meeting would include the governor (or her people). Four corners is all four caucuses in the House and Senate -- House D's, House R's, Senate D's and Senate R's. "Five corners" is all four caucuses plus the guv.

Of course, our favorite phrase without question is “sine die.” Pronounced sigh-nee die, it’s Latin for “without day” and is what we call the final adjournment of the legislative session. And in case you’re keeping count, our scheduled sine die is only 100 days out.

What's hot in the House next week?

Usual disclaimer: plans are made to be broken so committee schedules are subject to change. Usually at the last minute. But for now, here's a preview of next week's interesting committee activities.

Monday 1/19/09

1:30pm in Human Services
Public Hearing: HB 1076 – Allowing crime victims to submit input to the Department of Corrections regarding an offender’s placement in work release.

3:30pm in Capital Budget
Public Hearing/Possible Executive Session: HB 1113 – Financing the school construction assistance program (2009 Supplemental Capital Budget for K-12)

6:30pm in Education
Work Session: Achievement Gap Studies

1. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Tribute.
2. Background of Achievement Gap Studies.
3. African American Students: Center for the Improvement of Student Learning.
4. Asian American Students: Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.
5. Pacific Islander American Students: Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.
6. Native American Students: Governor’s Office on Indian Affairs.
7. Hispanic American Students: Commission on Hispanic Affairs.

Tuesday 1/20/09

1:30pm in State Government & Tribal Affairs
Public Hearing: HB 1024 – Designating Aplets and Cotlets as the state candy. (OK, so this isn’t really all THAT hot, but we thought you’d be interested anyway…)

3:30pm in Capital Budget
Work Session: Joint Legislative Task Force on School Construction Funding briefing.

Wednesday 1/21/09

1:30pm in Environment Health
Public Hearings:
HB 1165 – Providing for the safe collection and disposal of unwanted drugs from residential sources through a producer provided and funded product stewardship program.
HB 1180 – Regarding the use of bisphenol A (this is the baby-bottle bill).

6:00pm in Health and Human Services Appropriations
Work Session:
1. Overview of the Health Care Authority Base Budget
2. Overview of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Base Budget
3. Overview of the Vocational Rehabilitation (DSHS) Base Budget
4. Overview of the Labor & Industries Base Budget

Work Session: Overview of the Sentencing Guidelines Commission and its 2009 proposed legislation.

Thursday 1/22/09

8:00am in Agriculture & Natural Resources
Public Hearings:
HB 1114 – Regarding youth hunting privileges.

HB 1116 – Requiring visible clothing while recreating in a mixed-use area during hunting season.

10:00am in Community & Economic Development & Trade
Work Session: The Governor’s 2009 Economic Stimulus Strategy.

10:00am in Human Services
Work Session: General Assistance-Unemployable: In-depth look at services and resources.

10:00am in Technology, Energy & Communications
Public Hearing: HB 1005 – Requiring a commercial web site that collects personally identifiable information to post a privacy policy.

1:30pm in General Government Appropriations
Work Session: Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development – Agency overview and review of the Governor’s Biennial and Supplemental Budget Proposals.

1:30pm in Health & Human Services Appropriations
Work Session:
1. Overview of the Children and Family Services (DSHS) Base Budget.
2. Overview of the Governor’s Proposed 09-11 Budget for the Department of Social and Health Services.

Friday 1/23/09

8:00am in Commerce & Labor
Public Hearing: HB 1055 – Requiring workers to have licenses, certificates, or permits in their possession when performing work in certain construction trades.

8:00am in Ecology & Parks
Work Session: Western Climate Initiative (WCI) overview & recommendations.

8:00am in Higher Education
Work Session: Matching workforce supply and demand in high demand occupations.

1:30pm in Finance
Work Session: Review of Economic and Revenue Forecasting Models; Dr. Arun Raha, Executive Director, Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

Today's House Hot List

8:00 a.m. in Commerce and Labor
Work Session: Governor’s Economic Stimulus Package: Providing economic stimulus through the unemployment insurance program.

8:00 a.m. in Ecology & Parks
Work Session: Climate Action Team Recommendations

Work Session: Impact of climate change on low-income communities

8:00 a.m. in Higher Education
Work Session: Discussion of cost increases in higher education, impacts on financial aid, and student debt after graduation.

1:30 p.m. in Finance
Work Session: Briefing on state and national economy

1:30 p.m. in State Government & Tribal Affairs
Public hearing on HB 1017 - Creating a committee to study the feasibility of creating a board with public records act and open public meetings act responsibilities.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

From the classroom to the capitol, these kids know their stuff

They come every year, dressed in suits and ties, talking to senators and representatives about new laws -- to fight crime, decrease pollution, save energy or improve schools. But they're not lobbyists or community activists. Most of them can't even vote.

They're government students at Snohomish High School, and every winter, they pile into school buses to make the trip to the state capitol to bring their ideas to lawmakers.

The ideas aren't just a class project. Some become state law.

Rep. Hans Dunshee sponsored Courtney's Law, named after a Snohomish High student killed in a low-speed car crash when an unsecured speaker in the back seat crushed her.

To the left: Rep. Hans Dunshee listens to three Snohomish High students -- Molly Thunder, Alejandro Ponte and Nicole Schindler -- pitch their idea for the Green Lighting Act of 2009, which would require schools to use energy efficient lights. After doing some research, the students said schools and taxpayers could save 25 percent on electricity costs versus traditional lights.

Puyallup Police + Rep. Morrell = New State Laws

What do the City of Puyallup Police Department and Rep. Dawn Morrell have in common? Two recent state laws, working on three.

For the third year in a row, the Puyallup Police Department is asking Morrell to pass a law to help them protect the public. In 2007, they asked for a new law to make it harder for metal thieves to fence their stolen goods. Morrell got it passed.

In 2008, they asked for an expanded metal theft law to target the theft of catalytic converters. Morrell got it passed into law. This year, the department is asking Morrell to strengthen state laws against child abandonment.

The Puyallup Police Department request responds to a growing number of cases where young children are abandoned for hours and put at risk of harm. In one case, a 22-month-old boy nearly died in a Puyallup apartment fire after his mother had abandoned him and left a cigarette burning in order to drive to an Arby's for a meal.

The problem is that current law makes it hard to prosecute child abandonment cases where criminal negligence creates a risk of bodily injury, but no serious injury actually occurs.

Today, Morrell proposed the solution requested by the police department: a new law of child abandonment in the fourth degree that would make it a misdemeanor to abandon a child with criminal negligence that puts the child at risk of bodily harm.

According to Morrell, "it isn't enough to have child abandonment laws that respond after the fact to the tragedy of a child's death or serious injury. We need a law that can help prevent tragedies before more children suffer."

Will Morrell succeed in helping the Puyallup Police Department get a new law enacted for the third straight year? Stay tuned. Morrell's House Bill 1234 has been referred to the House Committee Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness for consideration.

You gotta fevah, and the only prescription is more bill information

And if Bruce Dickinson wants more bill information, we should probably give him more bill information. Well, we'll be your Gene Frenkel, and give you just what you need. Introducing a handy new bill tracker for House committees at:

As the description (prescription?) reads:
This takes you to a drop-down screen which lists all House standing committees. Once you select a committee, you can review committee meeting agendas and documents relevant to the 2009 session.
Said documents usually include the committee's bills and resources like briefing papers, powerpoint presentations, etc., provided by those who testify before the committee.

We invite you to explore the space.

McCoy’s TEC committee will examine ‘green power’ in hearing

Chaired by state Rep. John McCoy, the House Technology, Energy & Communications Committee will receive the year’s first formal progress report on the implementation of Initiative 937 in a public hearing next Monday afternoon, Jan. 19.

The “green power” initiative was passed by voters more than two years ago. It directs that electric utilities with 25,000 or more customers must meet specific targets for energy conservation and the use of renewable-energy resources.

McCoy, D-Tulalip, says he wants to find “fair and realistic strategies to make the initiative work in light of current energy markets and renewable-production capabilities.”

The full news story is here.

Today's House Hot List

10:00 a.m. in Local Government and Housing Committee
Work Session: Growth Management Act and Shoreline Management Act

1:30 p.m. in Health & Human Services Appropriations
Public Hearing: Public testimony on health and human services items in the Governor’s proposed 2009-11 budget.

6:00 p.m. in Health & Human Services Appropriations
Public Hearing: Continued public testimony on health and human services items in the Governor’s proposed 2009-11 budget.

Rep. Upthegrove says addressing climate change brings economic opportunities

It’s a busy week for the House Ecology & Parks Committee.

On Tuesday, the committee held a one-hour work session in which Ross Macfarlane of Climate Solutions presented a report entitled “Carbon Free Prosperity 2025”.

Rep. Dave Upthegrove, Chairman of the Ecology & Parks Committee, is eager to dispel the notion that addressing climate change can’t be done during difficult economic times.

“The report that was presented on Tuesday looked at five areas of opportunity that have the potential to create 63,000 new jobs in the Pacific Northwest by 2025,” he said. “It also highlighted some of the strengths that our region has for growing ‘clean-tech’ jobs versus other regions of the country. I think we need to take a very close look at these opportunities, because it could be a huge economic stimulus for us.”

Also testifying in Tuesday’s hearing was Rogers Weed of Business Leaders for Climate Progress. The BCLP is comprised of executives, entrepreneurs and investors from 125 Northwest businesses who are committed to reducing the negative effects of climate change by supporting the transition to a clean-energy economy. Mr. Weed asked the legislators on the committee to put climate change policies in place this session that will, in his words, allow “the free market to do what it does best.” Specifically, Mr. Weed called on the committee to pass legislation to implement a regional cap and trade program.

Rep. Upthegrove noted that the issue of climate change is creating partnerships among business and environmental interests.

“I think [Mr Weed’s] remarks show that strengthening our economy and protecting our environment go hand in hand,” Rep. Upthegrove said. “Ultimately, reducing carbon emissions is important for the long-term economic future of our state.”

On Friday, the committee meets again at 8:00 a.m. sharp in House Hearing Room C. At this session, the Climate Action Team will present their final recommendations, and there will also be a work session on the impact of climate change on low-income communities.

“There’s a tendency to think that ‘going green’ puts a burden on low-income communities because of the costs involved. And yet, when you take a close look at the effects of climate change, such as extreme weather, it’s often the low-income communities that suffer the most damage,” Rep. Upthegrove said.

So if you can make it over to House Hearing Room C bright and early on Friday morning, the information presented will probably be stimulating enough to keep you awake without caffeine. Which is good, because you’re not really supposed to bring food or drink into the hearing rooms.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Today's House Hot List

11:30am – Joint Session
Governor’s Inaugural Address

1:30 to 3:30
Education Committee
Governor's Proposed Budget for K-12 Education.
a. 2009 Supplemental.
b. 2009-11 Biennial.

Way & Means

Governor’s proposed 2009-11 operating budget for health and human services.

Governor’s Inaugural Ball

Correction: The Commerce and Labor Committee will hear a report on the Governor's economic stimulus package on Friday, 1/16. Not today.

The View from (some of) Our Window(s)

We here in the HDC don't see the light of day much - or at all - during session, unless it's from a window. Yet even from a window at dawn this morning it was a pretty awesome sight.

That's all. Carry on.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Closing the African-American achievement gap

It passed unanimously in the House and Senate last session and was a top priority for the African-American community. House Bill 2722 addressed the African-American achievement gap by supporting an in-depth look at inequities and disproportionality among African-American youth. The bill established an advisory committee that created a strategic plan to close the gap. See the committee’s final report to the state Legislature.

“This was not an easy task, and I am truly impressed with all of the work the committee has done,” said Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, the prime sponsor of HB 2722. “My hope is that this will have a significant impact on addressing educational struggles among African-American youth. This is a stepping stone in a road map to additional development and advocacy for African-Americans in the educational system.”

You can read the original press release from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Four other groups are also wrapping up reports about how to address the achievement gap among Asian American, Pacific Islander American, Native American and Hispanic American students in our schools. The House Education Committee will hear the findings and recommendations of the five Achievement Gap study reports on Monday, January 19, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. The meeting will take place in Hearing Room A of the John L. O’Brien Building in Olympia.

Rep. Orwall starts as Human Service vice chair

Yesterday was a day of firsts for new members. Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Normandy Park, went straight from the swearing-in ceremony to her first committee meeting as vice chair of the Human Services Committee.

The committee is chaired by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, also pictured, talking about one of the areas the committee will be involved with.

For more information on what the committee handles: House Human Services Committee

Today's House Hot List

10:00 a.m. in Ecology & Parks
Work Session: Climate Solutions "Carbon Free Prosperity 2025" Report.

10:00 a.m. in Education
Work Session: Introduction of Randy Dorn, newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction

New tool to prevent DUI-related deaths takes effect

Rep. Roger Goodman recently held a press conference with the Washington State Patrol and the Department of Licensing to announce the release of the ignition interlock license -- putting alcohol-detecting devices in the cars of people who have driven drunk.

Estimating with results in Arizona, around 100 lives could be saved this year alone.

“We already know that we can't trust known drunk drivers to obey the law," Goodman said, "so while we'll still be tough on them we're also going to be smart by using innovative technology, and this new approach should save countless lives.”

Here an ignition interlock device manufacturer demonstrates the process:

And here is the full press release from the WSP on the event for more information:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Speaker Chopp to House members: “let's keep our eyes on the horizon”

Representative Frank Chopp was re-elected Speaker of the Washington State House this afternoon. In his acceptance speech, Chopp paid respects to his old friend, Rep. Bill Grant, who passed away last week. Acknowledging the sadness that hung over the legislature, he urged his fellow members to remember Grant’s commitment to “One Washington”: a philosophy “that looks at the needs all across the state, works to unify our people, and to move everyone in Washington forward.”

He also reminded them that while the economic situation in our state is very serious, we must keep focused on the future.

“We have to be very careful this year not to let a budget problem rob us of our vision and values,” he said. “We can choose to react to this economic downturn by shrinking our hopes for our state, or we can keep our eyes on the horizon and direct our attention and resources to what is truly important.”

For full text: Text of Speaker Chopp's acceptance speech

Photos from Opening Day 2009

Please to enjoy... Photos from in, on, and around the House Floor, Opening Day 2009.

New House Democrats are attending their first caucus meeting

The eight newly-elected Democrats are currently attending their first official caucus meeting. Both House caucuses generally meet for two hours three times a week, although that schedule changes as the session progresses.

Reuven Carlyle (Seattle), John Driscoll (Spokane), Fred Finn (Olympia), Jim Jacks (Vancouver), Marcie Maxwell (Renton), Tina Orwall (Normandy Park), Tim Probst (Vancouver), and Scott White (Seattle), will be sworn in on the floor of the House during ceremonies that start at noon today.

The Speaker Speaks

Speaker of the House Frank Chopp will give his opening day speech at Noon today.

While the opening day is usually a sort of homecoming after a long interim, and filled with anticipation and excitement, Speaker Chopp will take a moment to remember those recent members of the House whom we lost this year, including the beloved Bill Grant.

Chopp will also lay out a clear vision for the 2009 session, and emphasize his hope that bold ideas can still spring from even hard economic times; indeed, that's when they are needed most.

Here's a small quote from the Speaker's speech to tide you over until then:
"We have to be very careful this year not to let a budget problem rob us of our vision and values.

As Thoreau said: 'In the long run, men hit only what they aim at.'

"We can choose to react to this economic downturn by shrinking our hopes for our state, or we can keep our eyes on the horizon and direct our attention and resources to what is truly important."

We’ll be providing commentary and pics throughout the day here and via our twitter feed at So check back early and often.

Today's House Hot List

As we mentioned last Friday, we'll do a weekly and daily preview of interesting legislative activities to keep an eye on.

If you're not in Olympia to watch these things live (and we're guessing that's probably the case), tune in to TVW or go to and you can either watch or listen to almost any official meeting and hearing.

Without further adieu, today's "Hot List."

Noon in House Chambers
Opening ceremonies and remarks by House Speaker Frank Chopp

1:30 in Community & Economic Development & Trade
Work Session: Washington Grows: A manufacturing industry strategy for cultivating a recession-proof economy

1:30 in Technology, Energy & Communications
Work Session: State efforts to increase the use of biofuels and alternative fuels

3:30 in Ways & Means
Public hearing on Governor’s 2009 supplemental budget proposal