Friday, January 30, 2009

Brendan Roethlisberger vs. Marko Warner

Jerry Cornfield at the Everett Herald is covering the match-up of the session thus far: Veteran Rep. Brendan Williams-Roethlisberger leads the Steelers against rising star, Rep. Marko Liias-Warner, and the Cards.

Says Williams: "It’s not even a photo-shopped picture – it’s actually one from my playing days," he said.

Read all about it here.

Tough economic times = difficult pension obligations for state

Adam Wilson at the Olympian writes today about the difficulties the state faces in our pension obligation to retired employees and those nearing retirement.
As Wilson writes:
The investment fund that pays for the pensions of 453,000 public employees in Washington has taken a massive hit, losing 22 percent of its value in 2008.
The problem is compounded when the money that the state would normally invest and earn on has all but dried up due to the economic downturn and subsequent reduced revenue flowing into the state. Less money flowing into pension investments now means a bigger cut from salary contributions in the future.

When asked by Rep. Steve Conway, Chair of the House Commerce and Labor committee, if he sees an end in sight to these economic troubles, Joe Dear, executive director of the Washington State Investment Board, replied, "Until the credit markets return to more normal functioning, until house prices stabilize, the problems will continue. We've not seen the end of the bad news."

Read Adam’s full story here.

Happy Earned Income Tax Credit Day!

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) came about in 1975 to help low- and moderate-income folks keep more money in their pocket. Sadly, a lot of folks eligible to claim the credit don’t.

The Tri-City Herald reports:
Last year, 365,000 state residents applied for the credit, bringing about $655 million into the state's economy. Another estimated $65 million went unclaimed.

That's why the state has proclaimed today as Earned Income Tax Credit Day to raise awareness of this federal credit that goes unused by about 15 percent to 17 percent of people entitled to it.

Rep. Deb Wallace is actually going to be in Vancouver on Monday morning as part of a bi-state effort with Oregon to raise awareness about a public-private partnership program known as the Free File Alliance. The Alliance provides free tax preparation services and e-filing for the very folks the EITC is intended to help.

What's hot in the House next week?

Monday 2/2/09
10:00am Floor Action: HB 1694 – Early Action Savings Bill

3:30pm in Capital Budget
Work Session: Low Income Housing, Housing Trust Fund, Housing Finance Commission

Public Hearing:
HB 1384 – Increasing the debt limit of the housing finance commission.
HB 1452 – Concerning economic stimulus.

3:30pm in Transportation
Public Hearing:
HB 1209 – Providing funding for passenger-only ferry construction.
HB 1652 – Eliminating a requirement that certain ferry vessels be constructed within the boundaries of the state of Washington.

Tuesday 2/3/09
10:00am in Commerce & Labor
Public Hearing: HB 1528 – Prohibiting certain employer communications about political or religious matters.

10:00am in Ecology & Parks
Public Hearing: HB 1819 – Design of a cap and invest system in Washington.(If referred)

10:00am in Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
Public Hearing: HB 1382 – Expanding the DNA identification system.

1:30pm in Finance
Public Hearing: HB 1387 – Repealing nonresident exemptions from tax on retail sales.

3:30pm in Capital Budget
Work Session: Joint Legislative School Construction Funding Task Force.
Public Hearing: HB 1618 – Concerning community and surplus schools.

UPDATED: 6:00pm in Commerce and Labor
Public hearing on legislation based on Governor's Unemployment Insurance package.

Wednesday 2/4/09
8:00am in Judiciary
Public Hearing:
HB 1045 – Concerning home warranty rights.
HB 1393 – Addressing residential real property construction improvements through consumer education, warranty protections, contractor registration requirements and worker certification standards.

1:30pm in Education
Public Hearing:
HB 1646 – Making adjustments pertaining to the high school Washington assessment of student learning in mathematics and science.
HB 1562 – Changing the requirements for graduating without a certificate of academic achievement or a certificate of individual achievement.
HB 1341 – Motivating students through incentives to pursue postsecondary education by eliminating statewide assessments as a high school graduation requirement.

1:30pm in Environmental Health
Public Hearing: HB 1189 – Regarding retail store carryout bags.

3:30pm in Capital Budget Jt. w/ Ways & Means
Work Session: Review of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Action Agenda and an overview of agency operating and capital base budgets for Puget Sound restoration and how they contribute to the Action Agenda.

Thursday 2/5/09
8:00am in Finance
Public Hearing: HB 1633 – Providing excise tax exemptions for hog fuel used for production of electricity, steam, heat or biofuel.

8:00am in State Government & Tribal Affairs
Public Hearing:
HB 1289 – Campaign contributions to candidates for public lands commissioner.
HB 1436 – Regarding electronic filing of lobbying report.
HB 1572 – Adopting all mail voting.
HB 1598 – Approving the entry of Washington into the agreement among the states to elect the president by national popular vote.

10:00am in Judiciary
Public Hearing: HB 1727 – Expanding the rights and responsibilities of state registered domestic partners.

1:30pm in Education Appropriations
Work Session: Presentation by Randy Dorn, Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Friday 2/6/09
8:00am in Education
Public Hearing: HB 1418 – Establishing a statewide dropout reengagement system.

1:30pm in State Government & Tribal Affairs
Public Hearing:
HB 1624 – Authorizing internet voting for service voters and overseas voters.
HJR 4202 – Amending the Constitution to allow seventeen year olds to vote in a primary if they will be eighteen years old by the next general election, and the primary is being held to select candidates for the November general election.

Today's Hot List

It's short and sweet. And particularly noteworthy. This is the bill that implements much of the Climate Action Team's recommendations for reducing greenhouse gases in Washington.

8am in Ecology and Parks

Public Hearing: HB 1718 - Reducing greenhouse gases in Washington

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Even rock stars can have embarrassing accidents...

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready has played concerts before tens of thousands of people. But sometimes, his Crohn's Disease gets in the way.

Today, McCready traveled to Olympia with his wife, Ashley O'Connor, to tesify before the House Judiciary Committee in support of HB 1138. The bill would allow people with certain medical conditions - like Crohn's Disease - access to employee restrooms in retail establishments that otherwise have no public restroom. Rep. Marko Liias (Mukilteo) is the legislation's prime sponsor.

McCready has suffered from Crohn's disease for over 20 years. He told the committee how the disease affects his life, particularly when he is in public and can't get to a restroom quickly enough to avoid an accident.

"I have had many of those accidents around Seattle and on stage," he said.

Also testifying was Lois Fink, another Crohn's sufferer who lives in Edmonds. She had contacted Rep. Liias last year through the Legislative Hotline. Ms. Fink was inspired by the story of Ally Bain of Illinois, who at age 14 helped spur legislation similar to HB 1138 in her state when she was denied access to a restroom while suffering a colitis attack in a retail store. In her email to Rep. Liias, Ms. Fink described the challenges her medical condition presents when she is out shopping or in other public places. She was surprised when Rep. Liias called her personally and said he was willing to sponsor a bill.

Members of various business associations praised the manner in which the bill was drafted during today's testimony.

Kris Teft, of the Association of Washington Business, said the bill is "a model for lawmaking in this kind of situation."

HB 1138 has been scheduled for an executive session in the House Judiciary Committee on February 5th, and Rep. Liias feels confident that it will be moved out of Judiciary and to the House Rules committee, where it will then be considered for placement on the floor calendar.

Mr. McCready has indicated if HB 1138 passes the House, he is willing to return to Olympia to testify in the Senate in favor of it.

Rep. Liias is grateful that Mr. McCready, Ms. O'Connor, and Ms. Fink, as well as Rob Menaul of the Northwest chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, all came to Olympia today.

"It puts a human face on the legislation," he said.

License plate fees might be rolled back

In 1997, legislators approved a bill requiring folks to replace their license plates (for most vehicles) every seven years. The argument from the State Patrol was that the reflective coating on license plates deteriorates over time making them hard to read at night.

Sounded reasonable. The problem? Replacing the plates costs vehicle owners about $10. The other problem? If you want to keep the same license plate number, it costs another $20.

Rep. Deb Eddy checked into this after she started receiving a flurry of calls from constituents who are just now being hit with the tab. She found that the costs to vehicle owners just wasn't adding up.

Now, Eddy is co-sponsoring two bills heard in the House Transportation Committee this afternoon. The first eliminates the mandatory replacement rule and reduces the plate replacement fee to $2 (the actual cost of manufacturing the plate). The second bill eliminates the $20 fee for keeping the same plate number.

"I joined Rep. Herrera on this bill because, while there are good reasons, maybe, for these charges,it is the number one complaint that we get about the Department of Licensing," says Eddy. "We lose in goodwill whatever we may gain in luminosity. Rep. Herrera and I are going to be asking for solid evidence to refute or defeat this bill, not just assertions about 'safety'.”

Standing-room only at basic ed funding hearing

At last night's public hearing on HB 1410 (you know, that basic ed funding bill that will enact the most sweeping changes in our K-12 system in nearly 30 years), 120 people packed the hearing room to testify, with 13 in opposition.

It was an amazing sight. Even more amazing were the passionate pleas from parents, teachers and others who clearly want to see the Legislature do right by our state's kids.

You can check out the full hearing for yourself at, but here is a particularly poignant clip of Rep. Kathy Haigh, who chairs the committee, inviting Rep. Pat Sullivan to speak about the bill.

Sullivan is one of those legislators that doesn't usually like being in the limelight. But you wouldn't know it by listening to his candid, heartfelt words here.

Today's Hot List

10:00am in Technology, Energy & Communications
Work Session: Vehicle electrification

Public Hearing: HB 1481 – Creating jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by supporting development of electronic vehicle infrastructure and electric vehicles.

10:00am in Judiciary
Public Hearing: HB 1131 - Concerning restroom access to employee restrooms in retail stores. Mike McCready of Pearl Jam fame to testify.

1:30pm in General Government Appropriations
Work Session: Increasing the efficiency, effectiveness and/or exploring areas for additional cost savings within the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Ecology and the Department of Agriculture.

1:30pm in Health and Human Services Appropriations
Public Hearing: Increasing the efficiency, effectiveness, and/or exploring areas for additional cost savings within Long-Term Care (DSHS) and Developmental Disabilities (DSHS) programs.

3:30pm in Transportation
Work Session: Construction industry and climate change; Alternative fuels corridor study; Sustainable street design

Public Hearing:
HB 1367 - Eliminating the license plate retention fee
HB 1368 - Modifying the requirement to periodically replace license plates.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One step closer to equality for all

House and Senate Democrats today unveiled plans for broadening domestic-partnership rights. At a noon press conference, bill sponsors Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle) and Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle) introduced this year’s legislation, which builds on two previous years of legislation in 2007 and 2008.

At a press conference on the Capitol Campus, the legislators outlined how their bills would close the remaining equality gaps in state law for domestic partners. If enacted, the legislation would ensure that registered domestic partners receive all of the state law rights and responsibilities of married spouses.

Pedersen says, “This year’s legislation will finish the important work we started in 2007 to ensure that all committed couples in this state are afforded the same rights and responsibilities.”

Next up? Hearings on the bills. Pedersen’s bill will be heard by the Judiciary Committee, likely next week.

Read more about HB 1727 and SB 5688, or read the press release.

Today's Hot List

8:00am in Local Government & Housing
Work Session: Report to Legislature – Land Use and Climate Change Advisory Committee.

Noon in Senate Hearing Room 4
Press Conference featuring Reps. Jamie Pedersen, Marko Liias, and Jim Moeller: HB 1727-Expanding benefits and rights in domestic partnerships

1:30pm in Education
Public Hearing: HB 1356 – Providing for career and technical education opportunities for middle school students.

1:30pm in Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Public Hearing: HB 1385-Modifying provisions related to sexual misconduct by school employees (remember the recent story about the Hoquiam teacher and 18-year-old student?)

6:00pm in Education Appropriations
Work Session: Basic Education Finance Task Force report.

Public Hearing: HB 1410 – Creating a comprehensive system of public education programs, finance and accountability (the BIG basic ed funding bill)

6:00pm in General Government Appropriations
Public Hearing: Increasing the efficiency, effectiveness and/or exploring areas for additional cost savings within the State Parks & Recreation Commission, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Puget Sound Partnership.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hudgins signs 2-year deal with House fiscal committee

During a whirlwind round of mid-session trades on the House Floor yesterday, the 40-year-old right-hander from Tukwila, Zack Hudgins, was sent to the General Government Appropriations Committee and expected to fill a state budget clean-up position.

The exchange for Hudgins involved a three-way trade with the State Government & Tribal Affairs filling the hole left in their line-up with the tough veteran Rep. Chris Hurst out of Enumclaw, and sophomore Rep. Marko Liias from Mukilteo moving to fill Hurst’s spot on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Liias has also been called up to the Rules Committee.

In a player-manager role, the fourth-termer Hudgins also serves as House Majority Floor Leader, helping to coordinate the floor lineup each day.

Hudgins says he’s thrilled to be returning to a fiscal assignment. “I’m happy to be chosen to join the GGA committee. I hope to bring my skills and expertise to an especially important budget process this year.” The scouting report on Hudgins suggests he’s been a stickler when it comes to wise use of taxpayer dollars, citing his aggressive pursuit of greater accountability of operations at cross-town rivals, the Port of Seattle.

This year’s expansion committee, House General Government Appropriations, oversees 78 government agency budgets, dealing with funding of general government, natural resources and corrections programs and agencies, and makes funding recommendations to the Ways and Means Committee.

All members are to report immediately to their new assignments and are expected to serve out the remainder of their term in their new roles. Sources familiar with the negotiations report none of the members expect to receive pay raises.

Tim Probst talks about what 'service' means to him

Newly-elected Rep. Tim Probst spent some time recently talking about why service matters, here in the Legislature and at home:

(Click image to link to video)

Capitol Press Corps grows by one (cat)

Joe Turner, the News Tribune's man in Olympia, reports at his blog, Political Buzz, about a cat who has claimed a chunk of the capital campus as his stomping grounds, including the press corps' digs.

Nice to see the press corps add another correspondent to its ranks, as Bob the Cat now has his own blog. Here's hoping the corps expedites his press credentials for full access to the Legislature. Can't wait to see him wearing one of those press badges on his collar at the next presser.

Here's Bob the Cat's blog, A Cat's Eye View of the Statehouse.

Today's Hot List

10:00am in Education
Public Hearing: HB 1075 – Enacting the interstate compact on educational opportunity for military children.

1:30pm in Health Care & Wellness
Public Hearing: HB 1123 – Reducing the spread of multidrug resistant organisms (MRSA).

1:30pm in State Government & Tribal Affairs
Public Hearing: HB 1051 – An increase in veterans’ access to the state and federal assistance programs.

3:30pm in Ways & Means
Public Hearing: HB 1694 - The Early Action Savings Bill will save $640 million before the end of the current 2009 budget year (ending June 30)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Memo to our National Guard: Thanks...

Members of the state’s National Guard were the focus of Monday’s House floor session. A resolution and three bills were passed supporting the military.

With all the National Guard does for our state, members expressed as best as they could their gratitude for their service. Here is State Rep. John Driscoll honoring guard members:

The House passed the resolution, as well as three pieces of legislation.
- House Bill 1034, which aims to allow the public greater use of National Guard armories. (State Rep. Dawn Morrell)
- House Bill 1049, opening local relief funds to National Guard veterans. (State Rep. Christine Rolfes)
- House Bill 1050 seeks to adjust the veterans’ scoring preference criteria, to allow all members called to active service eligible to receive the scoring boost. (State Rep. Troy Kelley)

For more information:
WA House takes moment to honor National Guard, help veterans

And from The Advance's trips out with the National Guard:

It's Jeff Morris Day in the TEC Committee

And it's not even his birthday.

It was, however, a day chock full of Morris bills in the committee: four of his proposals were given public hearings. Among them, an interesting bill that would create a new sustainable-energy trust for the state.

The voluntary program would allow the Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development (CTED) to offer low-interest loans to private home and commercial-building owners for energy-efficient or renewable energy improvements. In return, property owners who opt for the loans would pay back the costs for the improvements as part of their property taxes over a 20-year period.

The improvements cover a wide range of materials, devices, and systems, from storm windows and doors, automatic heating or air conditioning systems, to solar panels, wind energy, and even biomass and geothermal energy systems.

Read more about the proposal here.

It only took him six years…

Rep. Ross Hunter ran for the Legislature in 2002 in large part because he wanted to fix the state’s education funding system.

He’s almost there.

A bi-partisan group of legislators from the House and Senate came together today to talk about HB 1410 and SB 5444, two bills that, if enacted, would result in the most significant changes to our state’s education system since the 1970s.

The legislation follows on the heels of an 18-month effort by the Basic Education Funding Task Force on which House Democratic members Rep. Hunter and Rep. Pat Sullivan (who is prime sponsor of HB 1410) were members.

Niki Sullivan from TVW has a nice write-up of who said what and what the legislation will do. You can see the legislation for yourself here, or read an easy, four-page summary here. The bills will be heard this week in both chambers and you can expect a packed house of parents, students, teachers and education advocates.

While there are still a lot of people left to convince, apparently, Rep. Hunter’s and the group’s plans for our education system won over one youngster in the crowd who presented him with a portrait after the press conference titled “Ross Hunter, czar of the world.”

Today's Hot List

Monday 1/26/09
12:15 Bi-partisan press event on Basic Education Funding legislation
Featuring Reps. Pat Sullivan, Ross Hunter and Dave Quall

1:30pm in Technology, Energy & Communications
Public Hearing: HB 1007 – Creating a sustainable energy trust.

1:30pm in Judiciary
Public Hearing:
HB 1148 – Protecting animals from perpetrators of domestic violence

HB 1150 – Providing civil remedies for damages to a companion animal

3:30pm in Ways & Means
Work Session: Report and Recommendations of the Basic Education Finance Task Force.