Saturday, March 7, 2009

House Chamber is quiet today

The House worked late into the night on Friday, but is not passing bills today. However, the place is still buzzing with members and staff working on last-minute amendments, negotiations, and strategies to get all the House bills over to the Senate by Thursday's deadline.

On Monday, our committees will begin hearing bills the Senate is passing over to us right now, and our bills will go through the same process over there. Ah, Democracy!

Friday, March 6, 2009

House Democrats approve "Apple Health for Kids"

The House Democrats and a handful of House Republican freshman legislators voted this evening to expand access to health care for kids in a new program called “Apple Health for Kids.”

The legislation, HB 2128, defines the next steps that will help achieve the law’s two primary goals – all kids in the state having health coverage by 2010, and improving the overall health of the children of our state - by focusing on the health outcomes of children and simplifying the administrative procedures health care providers and facilities must follow.

“Nearly 96 percent of children in the state currently have health care coverage, while that sounds like a great number, that leaves about 75,000 kids uninsured,” said Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor), the bill’s sponsor. “Many of these kids are eligible; their parents just don’t know it. This bill gets rid of the guesswork.”

Today's game plan

After wrapping up a loooong day of floor action yesterday at 10:30 p.m., House members will be back on the floor at 9:30 for more. Expect to see lots of coffee cups dotting their desks.

We'll keep you posted when we know more details. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Giant baby bottle visits Olympia to support toxic ban

House members today passed HB 1180, a bill lawmakers have been referring to as the "baby bottle bill."

The bill seeks to ban the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles, sippy cups and other children’s food containers.

The Washington Toxics Coalition traveled to Olympia today with dozens of members and a very large bottle to a rally in support of the bill. They report that "BPA is a synthetic sex hormone that research links to health effects, including cancer, miscarriage, obesity, reproductive problems, and hyperactivity... Research also shows exposure to BPA puts girls at an increased risk of breast cancer."

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson sponsored the bill, which the House just approved 76-21. HB 1180 now heads to the Senate, and we'll see whether the Toxics Coalition has to bring the giant baby bottle back for round 2.

Up with Reports!

Feeling that empty feeling not knowing what's in the state Auditor's Community Colleges of Spokane Whistleblower Report, No.1000606 ?

Hungry for the report on the Strategy to Improve Immunization Rates in Washington?

Well, consider this your Nutri-Brain bar.

Starting now, all reports to the Legislature will be available online at:

You may not be aware of this, but there are a lot of people generating a lot of information, which helps direct a lot of policy in this state. Granted, these reports rarely read like a Chuck Pahlaniuk novel. But there are a lot of interesting and important documents that your legislators request and rely on, produced by the experts in the field. So peruse the news.

Editor's Note: I spelled Chuck Pahlaniuk without even looking. What? I am Jack's wonkiness.

Lots of students ask for a little budget love

Hundreds of community and technical college students organized by the Council for Unions and Student Programs came to Olympia today to press lawmakers to make affordable and accessible higher education in Washington a priority.

Rep. Deb Wallace, who chairs the House Higher Education Committee, and Rep. Reuven Carlyle spoke to the students and reinforced that education is one of the most important investments we can make.

They've been working hard to minimize budget impacts to colleges but admit it's a tough year. With only half the session down, there's still a lot of work to do until anyone knows how much budget love our colleges will get.

The complete line-up of legislative town halls on March 14

Many of our members are planning to head back home on March 14 to spend time in their districts talking to constituents.

Here's a list of House Democratic town halls:

Reps. Alex Wood and Timm Ormsby of the 3rd LD
1:00 p.m. at Northeast Community Center - 4001 N Cook St, Spokane

Rep. John Driscoll of the 6th LD
9:00 at Spokane Falls Community College - 3410 W Fort George Wright Drive (Student Union Building, Rooms 133/134)

Rep. Bob Hasegawa of the 11th LD
11:00 a.m. at Sea Mar Community Health Clinic Care Center - 1040 S. Henderson St, Seattle

Reps. Deb Wallace and Tim Probst of the 17th LD
11:00 a.m. at Firstenburg Community Center - 700 NE 136th Ave, Vancouver

Rep. Brendan Williams of the 22nd LD
1:00 p.m. at the state capitol - John L. O'Brien Building, House Hearing Room A

Reps. Sherry Appleton and Christine Rolfes of the 23rd LD
9:30 a.m. at Kingston Fire Station - 26642 Miller Bay Road NE, Kingston
1:30 p.m. at Olympic High School - 7070 Stampede Blvd NW, Bremerton (Forum room)

Rep. Larry Seaquist of the 26th LD
9:00 a.m. at the Norm Dicks Government Center - 345 6th St, Bremerton
11:00 a.m. at the Givens Community Center - 1026 Sidney Ave, Port Orchard
2:00 p.m. at the Key Peninsula Civic Center - 17010 South Vaughn Road
4:00 p.m. at Gig Harbor High School - 5101 Rosedale St NW, Gig Harbor

Reps. Jeannie Darneille and Dennis Flannigan of the 27th LD
10:00 a.m. at Family Investment Center at Salishan - 1724 East 44th, Tacoma (Room 102-103)

Reps. Tami Green and Troy Kelley of the 28th LD
1 p.m. at Pierce College Ft. Steilacoom - 9401 Farwest Drive SW, Lakewood (Cascade Building, Room 332)

Reps. Dave Upthegrove and Tina Orwall of the 33rd LD
1:00 p.m. at Kent City Hall Council Chambers - 220 Fourth Avenue South

Reps. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Eric Pettigrew of the 37th LD
1:00 p.m. at Garfield Community Center -2323 E Cherry S, Seattle

Reps. Judy Clibborn and Marcie Maxwell of the 41st LD
9:30 a.m. at Hazelwood Elementary - 7100 116th Ave SE, Newcastle
1:30 p.m. at Enatai Elementary School - 10615 SE 23rd St, Bellevue

Speaker Frank Chopp and Rep. Jamie Pedersen of the 43rd LD
1:30 p.m. at Seattle First Baptist Church - 1111 Harvard Avenue, Seattle

Rep. Hans Dunshee of the 44th LD
10:00 a.m. at Lake Stevens School District Admin Bldg, Room A, 12309 22nd St NE
1:00 p.m. at Mill Creek City Annex, Small Community Room, 15720 Main Street

Reps. Larry Springer and Roger Goodman of the 45th LD
11:00 a.m. at Redmond City Council Chambers, City Hall - 15670 NE 85th St, Redmond

Reps. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney and Scott White of the 46th LD
1:00 p.m. at Meadowbrook Community Center - 10517 35th Ave. N.E. (Corner of 35th & 105th, near Nathan Hale High School)

Reps. Ross Hunter and Deb Eddy of the 48th LD
10 a.m. at Chinook Middle School - 2001 98th Ave. NE, Bellevue
Focus on basic ed funding

Reps. Jim Moeller and Jim Jacks of the 49th LD
10 a.m. at Clark County Elections/Auto Licensing Building, Conference Room 226 - 1408 Franklin Street, Vancouver

Have you subscribed to our newsfeeds?

So, you’re dialed in to The Advance, our awesome blog. And you follow us on Twitter. But are you subscribing to our RSS feed (now new & improved!)?

Our newsfeed:

Our Capitol Ideas podcast feed:

Because you can’t get enough of us.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Transportation stimulus projects approved by House and Senate today

To create jobs as soon as possible, the Legislature wasted no time in passing legislation today that appropriates $341 million in federal stimulus funds for transportation construction projects, expected to generate 3,300 jobs across the state.

House Bill 1978, sponsored by Rep. Judy Clibborn (Mercer Island), was approved by the House in a 67-28 vote this morning, before being sent to the Senate, where it passed 45-4 this afternoon. It now goes to the Governor’s desk for approval, expected Thursday afternoon.

“A vote today is a vote for jobs,” Clibborn said on the House floor. Since half of the funds must be obligated within four months and the rest within the year, legislative leaders expect it to provide an immediate economic boost. In addition to creating jobs, the projects on the list address congestion, improve safety and preserve roads.

The state’s $341 million isn’t the only federal stimulus money coming to Washington. Local jurisdictions are directly receiving $151 million for road use and $179 million for transit. Also on the table is $18 billion in federal grant money for which the Washington State Department of Transportation can apply. HB 1978 directs WSDOT to apply for as many grants as practically possible.

Governor Gregoire is expected to sign the bill tomorrow afternoon.

House will resume floor debate at 2:30

We are at ease right now for the lunch break and a meeting of the Rules committee where members will select the next batch of bills to move to the floor calendar. While getting a bill to the floor calendar is not a guarantee that it will be voted on by the full House, it certainly is a good indicator -- only a handful of bills each session get as far as the "green sheet" and die there.

Health care focus on floor today

Members have just convened on the House floor. Looks like today will be the day for numerous health care bills including:
1460 Critical access hospitals
1647 Hospital care administrative procedures
2117 Basic health plan
2014 Tamper-proof prescription pads
2128 Children’s health coverage

This is in addition to a couple health care-related bills run yesterday such as Rep. Liias' HB 1138 (the restroom access bill that Pearl Jam's Mike McCready testified in favor of) and HB 1308 regarding organ transplants.

All-day floor action will continue

Today the House will continue with all-day floor action starting at 10. No signs yet how late we'll go, and there are still dozens of bills to work through. We'll keep you posted once we have a better idea of which bills will be up first.

In the meantime, a few House committees are meeting this morning, including the Community & Economic Development & Trade Committee which is discussing the Green Economy Jobs Initiative.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The House is back at it

Back on the Floor after caucus and a lunch break. Very soon we will run a package of consumer protection bills including the following:

1011 – Prohibits a government or business entity from remotely reading an identification device using RFID technology that they did not issue. Builds upon our successful efforts last year that made it a Class C felony to scan another person's identification device remotely for the purpose of fraud or identity theft without that person's knowledge and consent.

1140 – Strengthens the Mobile Home Dispute Resolution Program by creating informal and formal dispute-resolution procedures. As the Attorney General has always emphasized, the purpose of the dispute resolution process is to avoid legal fights and punitive actions whenever there is a hope of resolving issues agreeably. We all have the same goal here.

1215 – Strengthens and expands our state’s “Lemon Law” for people who purchase a new or nearly new vehicle and experience two or more serious safety defects in a year.

– Reverse mortgages are one way older homeowners can borrow against the equity in their home. In today’s tough times, we expect more seniors will look to these useful, but complex and sometimes expensive, loans to help them financially. HB 1311 ensures we have a thoughtful framework for regulating reverse mortgage lending practices in our state so seniors and their heirs aren’t stuck with an enormous tab.

1683 – Stiffens punishment against those who violate terms of the Consumer Protection Act.

1816 – Allows cellular phone customers to request their number not be included in a directory database. This opt-out option ensures cell phone users can keep their contact information private if they choose.

2013 – Self-service storage facilities are a fast-growing industry. Many consumers, however, don’t realize their belongings are not insured from theft or damage unless they purchase their own insurance. HB 2013 allows the owner of a self-service storage facility to offer self-service storage insurance, an easy and convenient way for customers to become educated about their options and, if they choose, to protect their belongings.

All-day floor action starts today

The last day to pass non-budget House bills to the Senate is next Thursday, March 12. So today the action moves from the committee rooms to the House floor as hundreds of bills are discussed, dismissed, picked-apart, and passed.

The House will convene at 10:00 a.m. and will run into the evening. No word yet on how late members will work, but we'll keep you posted right here as the day progresses.

First up on the agenda this morning:
HB 1596 – Woman’s right to breastfeed
HB 1789 – Offender release dates
HB 1824 – Concussion mgmt/youth sports
HB 1825 – Growth mgmt act
HB 1826 – Foreclosure sales
HB 1841 – College & university boards
HB 1326 – Pacific sardines

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fiscal bills face cutoff in the House

Today is the last chance for non-budget fiscal bills to clear their respective committees, so there is no action planned for the House floor. However, you can expect a real flurry of activity in both the Finance and Ways and Means committees.

Starting at 8:00 am, the House Finance Committee will vote to send up to 40 bills to the Rules committee -- the last stop for measures before being considered on the floor.

At 1:30, House Ways and Means will start what is likely to be a very long night. Here is the agenda for today:
Public Hearing:
SHB 1412 - Concerning health benefit plan coverage of neurodevelopmental therapies.
SHB 1560 - Regarding collective bargaining at institutions of higher education.
HB 1774 - Excluding certain state forest land revenues from the basic education allocation. (If measure is referred to committee.)
SHB 1776 - Changing school levy provisions.
HB 1799 - Reducing the release of mercury into the environment.
SHB 1914 - Regarding community and technical colleges' maintenance and operations funding. (If measure is referred to committee.)
2SHB 1944 - Regarding the development and field testing of a statewide kindergarten assessment process. (If measure is referred to committee.)
HB 2041 - Concerning student transportation funding. (If measure is referred to committee.)
HB 2291 - Exempting the agricultural commodity commissions from certain administrative cost reductions.
SHB 2295 - Concerning the organization of the department of social and health services. (If measure is referred to committee.)
Bills referred to committee.
Possible Executive Session:
HB 2267 - Protecting the collective bargaining rights of certain exempt employees.
HB 1329 - Providing collective bargaining for child care center directors and workers.
SHB 1701 - Authorizing the department of information services to engage in high-speed internet activities.
SHB 1747 - Reducing climate pollution in the built environment.
HB 1940 - Requiring that school district and educational service district employees' basic benefits be determined and administered by the state health care authority.
HB 1953 - Allowing department of fish and wildlife enforcement officers to transfer service credit.
HB 2052 - Delaying the implementation of the health insurance partnership.
SHB 2106 - Improving child welfare outcomes through the phased implementation of strategic and proven reforms.
HB 2107 - Regarding the delivery of early learning home visitation programs.
SHB 2167 - Providing flexibility in the education system.
SHB 2239 - Concerning the creation of a student loan program with a dedicated revenue source.
HB 2245 - Clarifying public employees' benefits board eligibility.
HB 2287 - Requiring state agencies to use one hundred percent recycled content paper.

Bills previously heard in committee.