Friday, March 27, 2009

Rep. Green celebrates Red Hat Day in Olympia

Today, Rep. Tami Green (D-Lakewood) celebrated the joy of aging and showed her support for empowering women at all stages of their lives.

“It’s exciting to go through this journey of aging,” Green said. “The older I get, the less I worry about what others think of me and the more I worry about what I think of me.”

Sponsoring House Resolution 4641, she recognized Red Hatters throughout Washington State.

The Red Hat Society is a social organization for women over age 50. The mission of the Red Hat Society is to gain higher visibility for aging women and to reshape the way they are viewed by today's culture.

The age 50 and over women of The Red Hat Society wear elaborately decorated red hats with purple dresses and clothing, while the junior postulants wear pink hats and lavender clothing.

Dawn Morrell discusses House Democratic efforts to support our troops

House Democrats are honoring Washington’s National Guard not just with words, but with legislation and programs that are designed to serve the men and women who serve us and who defend our flag and freedoms. Rep. Dawn Morrell was recently honored to receive a flag flown by Washington’s 81st Combat Brigade team at Camp Ramadi, which is in the heart of Anbar Province in Iraq .

The flag, along with images from our National Guard in Iraq, were sent by Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Grenon in appreciation of Morrell’s support of the Washington National Guard and Reserves. Morrell expressed her appreciation for the honor—and for our troops—in a recent video update.

House budgets coming next week

With four weeks left in the session, it's time for the 2009-2011 budgets to be released. The House transportation budget will be unveiled by Chair Judy Clibborn next Monday at noon in House Hearing Room A, followed by the operating budget on Tuesday. Ways and Means Chair Kelli Linville will roll out that proposal at 10:00 a.m., also in HHR A.

Details are still sketchy, but given the dismal economic situation our nation is suffering, nobody is expected to be very pleased with the budget plans.

Today's Hot List

Not too many public hearings to advertise today. Today is House Policy Committee Cutoff, so committees are scrambling to vote out non-budget-related bills.

NTIB bills (bills necessary to implement the budget) are not subject to today's deadline.

1:30pm in Finance
Public Hearing: HB 2320 - Revising the tax code to ensure that products transferred electronically, and the gross income derived from such products, will continue to be subject to sales, use, and business and occupation taxes in a manner that complies with the streamlined sales and use tax agreement. (This is a revamped version of Rep. Ross Hunter's bill to update the tax code related to digital downloads.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today's Hot List

So you're wondering why the hot list below is so short, right? Committees are actually really busy today trying to pass bills out before tomorrow's House Policy Committee cutoff. So most committee have a long list of bills planned for executive session (meaning a committee vote) today and tomorrow.

But there is one really interesting public hearing this morning that voters might be interested in...

8:00am in State Government & Tribal Affairs
Public Hearing: SB 5599 – Approving the entry of Washington into the agreement among the states to elect the president by national popular vote.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Some song and dance (without the dance) at ed hearing today

Rep. Pat Sullivan sat before the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee today to once again make his pitch for an overhaul of the state's basic education funding structure. Ninety people, mostly parents, teachers and students, drove to Olympia to testify on the legislation.

In proper bi-partisan fashion, he was joined by his Republican colleague, Rep. Skip Priest. Priest provided a rather memorable, and entertaining, explanation of why now is the time to fix our system. That short but perfectly executed performance has earned Priest a cameo spot on our caucus blog.

Rep. Morrell elected as Chair of HDC

Representative Dawn Morrell of Puyallup was elected chair of the House Democratic Caucus this morning. The position has been vacant since the death of Rep. Bill Grant in January. Grant, a wheat farmer from Walla Walla, had held the position since 1993.

Morrell was elected caucus vice-chair last December, and has served as acting chair since the first day of the 2009 session. She is a critical care nurse at Good Samaritan hospital in Puyallup, where she has worked since 1984.

“I am deeply honored by the confidence shown me by my fellow caucus members,” said Morrell. “I look forward to leading this group of hard-working legislators who care so deeply about our state.”

Today's Hot List

8:00am in Judiciary
Public Hearing: SSB 5531 – Modifying provisions relating to consumer protection act violations.

1:30pm in Commerce & Labor
Work Session: Briefing on multi-state lottery games. (Relates to SB 6103)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Happy Exxon Valdez Spill Day

What better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill than with a bill signing?

Gov. Chris Gregoire this afternoon signed into law a measure that would establish a permanent, year-round tug to respond to vessels in distress.
Rep. Kevin Van De Wege and Sen. Kevin Ranker worked with a broad coalition to develop and pass the legislation.

The tug, to be funded by the maritime industry, will be stationed at Neah Bay and respond to emergencies, such as vessels in danger of spilling fuel. Since 1999, state taxpayers have picked up the tab for a tug, which has come to the rescue of dozens of vessels. More than 15 billion gallons of oil travel through the Strait of Juan de Fuca each year, highlighting the potential for a potentially catastrophic spill if something were to go wrong.

In fact, just a few weeks ago in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the tug responded to a distress call from a vessel with a fuel capacity of over 474,000 gallons.

Lawmakers and stakeholders point to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound, which happened 20 years ago today, as evidence of the devastation brought on by oil spills and how important emergency-response resources are to mitigating them in the future.

Today's Hot List

Lots of committee action today. Here are a few highlights. For a complete list, check the daily schedule here.

8:00am in Health Care & Wellness
Public Hearing:
SSB 5360 – Establishing a health-care collaborative grant program.
SSB 5436 – Concerning direct patient-provider primary care practice arrangements.
SSB 5891 – Establishing a forum for testing primary care medical home reimbursement pilot projects.

8:00am in State Government & Tribal Affairs
Public Hearing: SSB 5035 – Improving veterans’ access to services.

10:00am in Commerce & Labor
Public Hearing:
SSB 5613 – Authorizing the Department of Labor and Industries to issue stop work orders for violations of certain workers’ compensation provisions.
E2SSB 5850 – Protecting workers from human trafficking violations.
ESSB 6035 – Concerning retrospective rating plans (this is "the" retro bill).

10:00am in Education
Public Hearing:
SSB 5248 – Enacting the interstate compact on educational opportunity for military children.
E2SSB 5941 – Regarding a comprehensive education data improvement system.
SSB 6016 – Regarding educator training to enhance skills of students with dyslexia.

1:30pm in Education Appropriations
Possible executive session: ESB 6048 - Concerning the state's education system

1:30pm in Financial Institutions & Insurance
Public Hearing: SSB 5400 – Regulating reverse mortgage lending practices and debt collections.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Deb and Dave talk education

Rep. Dave Quall (fondly called "Coach" by many in Olympia) chairs the House Education Committee. Rep. Deb Wallace chairs our House Higher Education Committee.

The two of them took some time last week to chat about education, how K-12 and higher ed overlap in many ways, and how the two of them are tackling critical education issues in light of the state's budget challenges.
You can listen here.

Their conversation is one of many in a series of Capitol Ideas podcasts. Capitol Ideas is a way to let House Democrats chat informally and personally about their work in Olympia.

Today's Hot List

It's the Monday before policy cut-off (Friday, 3/27) so members will be scrambling to push bills out of policy committees in time to consider on the House floor. If there's a bill you're particularly interested in, keep a close eye on it this week.

As for today, members will be on the floor and in caucus at 10 today. Committee action includes:

1:30pm in Judiciary
Public Hearing:
ESSB 5967 – Prohibiting unfair practices in public community athletics programs by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex.
ESB 5810 – Concerning foreclosures on deeds of trust.
E2SSB 5688 – Expanding the rights and responsibilities of state registered domestic partners.

1:30pm in Community & Economic Development & Trade
Public Hearing: SSB 5899 – Providing a business and occupation tax credit for qualified employment positions.

1:30pm in Technology, Energy & Communications
Possible Executive Session:
E2SSB 5854 – Reducing climate pollution in the built environment.

1:30pm in Health & Human Services Appropriations
Possible Executive Session:
ESSB 5746 – Modifying juvenile sentencing provisions.
ESB 5519 – Competency and evaluation procedures for individuals with mental illness charged with crimes.