Friday, July 24, 2009

Stay cool.

With some scorchers predicted to hit Washington over the next week or so, Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Morris has a list of tips to help beat the heat without getting beat up by high energy bills.

Check out the list here.

What do new car owners and breast-feeding mothers have in common?

They both will benefit from new state laws going into effect on Sunday.
This Sunday, Washington state law will recognize breastfeeding in public as a mother’s civil right. Gaining statewide support, Rep. Tami Green introduced House Bill 1596 last session, which passed unanimously in the House and Senate.
“This new law will eliminate one more obstacle that women are faced with day in and day out,” Green said.
Under the current law, women in Washington cannot be arrested for indecency while breastfeeding. However, these women are not protected from being asked to leave public places and feed their children in a bathroom or another private establishment.
“I’m proud to say that both women and children statewide will benefit from this legislation. Breastfeeding is one of the healthiest options for children within their first year of life, and we should make it easier for mothers to do what’s best for their babies.”
The bill protects a woman's right to breastfeed in a place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement. This includes places such as shopping malls, restaurants and even hospitals. Women will be able to file a complaint with the state’s human rights commission in response to discriminatory treatment.
As for people purchasing a car, one of the last things you want to worry about when you get behind the wheel is whether or not your new prized possession will go kaput before you even make it home.
The Motor Vehicle Warranty Act, also known as the state's "Lemon Law," establishes the rights and responsibilities of consumers, dealers, and manufacturers when new or nearly new vehicles are defective. Unfortunately, this act hasn’t been substantially changed in about two decades. That’s why Rep. Alex Wood prime sponsored House Bill 1215, which clarifies and updates the act by providing additional options to consumers who have purchased faulty products.
An important feature of the new law is that a basis for claims is added for two or more serious safety defects, or life threatening malfunctions, that occur within a 12-month period.
Here’s what the Motor Vehicle Warranty Act currently establishes as a basis for claims:

  • a vehicle with a serious safety defect that the manufacturer has unsuccessfully attempted to repair at least two times;
  • a vehicle with some other substantial defect that the manufacturer has unsuccessfully attempted to diagnose or repair at least four times; or
  • a vehicle that has been out of service for 30 cumulative calendar days with at least 15 of those days occurring during the warranty period.

New requirement will help preserve paper mill jobs

Among the many bills going into effect on July 26 is one that will require all state agencies with 25 or more employees to switch to 100 percent recycled office paper by the end of this year. That means printers and photocopiers will be stocked with recycled paper only. Additionally, agencies will have to develop and implement a plan to reduce overall paper usage by at least 30 percent within a year.

The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Lynn Kessler, who represents Washington’s 24th Legislative District. The district is home to pulp and paper mills that provide good family-wage jobs, including one mill that produces 100 percent recycled paper using a certified “green” manufacturing process.

Not only will this new requirement give a boost to recycled paper manufacturers, it also enables the state to “walk the walk” when it comes to conserving resources and reducing waste. The state Department of Ecology and the City of Seattle already use 100 percent recycled paper, and not only are they experiencing some cost savings, they are also discovering that recycled paper is no more likely to jam a printer or copier than regular paper.

Of course, Murphy’s Law still dictates that no matter what kind of paper you use, the photocopier will jam when you are in a hurry.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Health care reform in Washington, D.C. will matter here in Washington state

Health care reform in Washington, D.C. will matter here in Washington state. Today, the state House and Senate health care committees met jointly to discuss national health care reform efforts and hear from business leaders, health care providers, citizens and others to understand the potential impacts of proposed reforms.

These reforms will matter to taxpayers, because health care costs are eating a bigger and bigger piece of the state budget.

It’ll matter to workers and business owners, since rising health costs are hitting the bottom line and taking more out of our paychecks.

And it will matter to doctors, nurses and health care workers, all struggling with a system that seems to get more complicated every year.

In 2007, Governor Gregoire's Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs and Access reported that:
  • There are roughly 593,000 Washingtonians without health care coverage, including 73,000 children. Young adults and employees of small businesses represent a sizeable portion of our uninsured. (Note: Since the 2007 report, Washington state has committed to covering all kids with our Apple Health program.)
  • The annual increase in insurance premiums for small businesses in Washington is greater than the increase in wages or gross business income, some years by a factor of five.
  • The state spends an estimated $4.5 billion on health care, up from $2.7 billion in 2000. This $2 billion increase means that the share of the state budget going to health care has increased from 22 percent in 2000 to 28 percent today.
Washington isn't the only state struggling with the health care issue and it's why so many people are eager to see Congress take swift action. With nearly every state struggling to balance their budget in the wake of the recession, the health care issue continues to be a costly exercise in patience and hope.

If more people get coverage, that will reduce costs, because people without health insurance tend to show up in the only place that will take them: the emergency room, which is the most expensive possible option. Those costs get passed to taxpayers and hospitals.

A number of reform bills are moving through Congress, and nobody knows what the final law will look like. The goals are to cover more people, simplify the system and reduce costs. You can track the progress of reform efforts here and send your thoughts to your federal representatives.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The don't-miss meeting of the day!

The Joint Legislative Accountability and Review Committee is meeting in Olympia today.

The committee's titillating agenda includes:

A look at the preliminary report on the Evaluation of the Accuracy of Capitol Project Estimates.
(Basically comparing state agency capitol project cost estimates to final actual costs. We want to know whether we're doing a good job budgeting for big projects. The report says we are, about 3 out of 4 times.)

Review of the final report on Medicaid Prescription Drug Purchasing Performance Review. (Do preferred drug lists save money? This review suggests yes.)

Discussion of preliminary reports on the Tax Preferences Performance Audit. (Washington has 580 state tax exemptions, deferrals and whatnot. Should any of them be repealed or revisited? That's the question this audit tries to answer. And the answer tends to be "no" more than "yes.")

Status update on Implementation of State Auditor I-900 Recommendations to the Legislature.
(Initiative 900 directs the State Auditor to conduct performance audits of state and local governments. This status report provides details about legislative implementation of those audit recommendations.)

Doesn't this all sound intriguing? Tune in to TVW starting at 10 to watch!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New state law emphasizes ‘top-notch Puget Sound science’

When it comes to restoring the health of Puget Sound, what it really all comes down to ensuring sound science.

“We want to emphasize accountability and top-notch Puget Sound science in our work toward restoring and maintaining the health of this great natural resource,” state Rep. Fred Finn said today in noting that his House Bill 1997 will become the law of the state of Washington on July 26.

The measure requires that the Puget Sound Science Panel must create and implement a selective, top-quality scientific process for peer review of monitoring and research. The science panel provides advice to the Puget Sound Partnership, the agency responsible for restoring the Sound.

The legislation limits expenditures from the Puget Sound Scientific Research Account to research programs and projects selected through a process that has been developed and supervised by the panel. Finn explained that the bipartisan measure, which was unanimously passed by both legislative chambers, seeks to align use of the research account with the priorities of the panel.

David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, said that the new state law “addresses accountability and science – both fundamental to our mission to restore and protect the Sound. This legislation puts the review of science where it belongs – in the hands of scientists – and confirms that the research process must be independent and rigorous. It also establishes a process for accountability for the Science Panel, whose members provide critical advice to the Partnership on recovering Puget Sound.”