Friday, February 4, 2011

The Honored Guard

It’s National Guard Day at the state capital today, an opportunity for Legislators, visitors, and staff to honor the service and sacrifice the men and women of the Guard give to our state every day. Led by Major General Timothy Lowenberg, the citizen soldiers and airmen of The Washington National Guard are dedicated to the mission of safeguarding lives and property in Washington State.

With more than 100 uniformed men and women in attendance, the House passed a resolution in their honor. It was sponsored by Rep.Troy Kelley of Lakewood, who represents Joint Base Lewis McChord and Camp Murray. Rep. Kelley served for seventeen years in the U.S. Army Reserve, and he is currently a member of the Washington National Guard.

We also approved a measure, prime-sponsored by Rep. Chris Hurst, that will allow active service members deployed overseas to receive and return their ballots via fax and e-mail.

WA Whiteboard: Liias on the need for transit

Rep. Marko Liias lays out why good transit service benefits not just those on the bus or train, but all commuters.

Liias’ Congestion Reduction Charge proposal is House Bill 1536, currently scheduled for a hearing Feb. 9 in the House Transportation Committee.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What's up in the House Friday?

The House will honor the National Guard on the floor tomorrow with a formal resolution, and also with the passage of HB 1000.

This measure will allow our men and women in the armed services deployed overseas to receive and return their ballots by fax and e-mail.

In hearings, we have:

8:00 am HHR E Local Government
Public Hearing:
HB 1478 - Delaying or modifying certain regulatory and statutory requirements affecting cities and counties.

8:00 am HHR B Technology, Energy & Communications
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1606 - Concerning minimum renewable fuel content requirements.
2. HB 1571 - Limiting regulation of electric vehicle battery charging facilities.

1:30 pm HHR A Education
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1443 - Continuing education reforms.
2. HB 1470 - Regarding access to K-12 campuses for occupational or educational information.

1:30 pm HHR C Environment
Public Hearing:
HB 1489 – Limiting the use of fertilizer containing phosphorus.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lawmakers discussing levy equalization in evening work session

Challenges to enhance educational opportunities for property-poor districts continue as lawmakers move forward in one of the most fiscally challenging times in our state’s history.

Tonight, members of the House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee will discuss levies and levy equalization during this evening’s work session at 6 p.m. in House Hearing Room A in the John L. O’Brien Building on the Capitol Campus in Olympia.

The work session schedule for tonight includes the following:
1. Overview of levy and levy equalization.
2. Overview of Other States School Funding Sources.
3. Levies and Levy Equalization Differences in School Districts.
4. Update on the Local Levy Workgroup.
5. Timber Excise Tax and Timber Revenues.
6. Public comment.

Washington: A smart state. And a very good state for business, too.

The hits just keep on coming for our Pacific Northwest corner. And when it comes to big-time hits in the form of praise for the way we do things here in Washington? Well, we take a back seat to no one!

Yes, Washington – our very own good old Evergreen State – has collected plenty of plaudits over the years from an array of academic, business and economic-development quarters. As a matter of fact, you might just want to check this Forbes site for the latest lowdown on how high up we stand in business rankings. But the very latest recognition comes from the Milken Institute, “an independent economic think tank whose mission is to improve the lives and economic conditions of people in the U.S. and around the world.” Milken’s 2010 State Technology and Science Index says we’re an impressive No. 6 among all the states.

State Rep. John McCoy, who chairs the House Technology, Energy & Communications Committee, said the new Technology and Science Index “reflects our commitment to building the type of academic and economic infrastructure we need to compete – and to win! – in the 21st century.” McCoy explained that these meticulous Milken ratings evaluate what Washington and other states are doing “in terms of creating high-quality, high-paying jobs and companies that will endure in the decades to come.”

This Milken ranking is based on almost 80 indicators, including our research hubs, industry clusters, and favorable business-tax and regulation policies. Chock-full of kudos for Washington, the complete title of this recent report is “2010 State Technology and Science Index: Enduring Lessons for the Intangible Economy.”

The top states are singled out for their estimable handling of “increasing pressure to nurture their own innovation assets in order to grow and sustain diverse economies for the future,” according to the laudatory report. “These top-ranked states have successfully invested in and are leveraging the tech and science assets that are the engines of 21st century economic growth.”

Senate to hear their version of early action budget bill today at 3:30 -- updated

Last week the House passed an early action budget bill that takes another step towards balancing the current year budget (a separate problem from the $4.6 billion 2011-13 budget).

Today at 3:30, the Senate Ways & Committee will take up the bill and Senate leaders are proposing some changes. A three-way comparison of the Governor's original proposal, the bill as passed the House and the proposal by the Senate is here.

Some of the changes proposed by the Senate include:

  • K-4 class size reduction $16.7 million less
  • Reduce Higher Education funding by $22.5 million more
  • Eliminate the Disability Lifeline cash grant and just maintains a small housing stipend
  • Reduce all non-represented employees salaries by 3% beginning April 1
  • Reduce the Children’s Health Plan by decreasing eligibility levels

Update: House Ways and Means Chair Ross Hunter issued this statement late today:

“I am happy to see this proposal from the Senate today. It’s crucial that we act swiftly to close the current budget gap, and this is the next step in that process.

“The Senate chair kindly shared his budget plan with me earlier today, and Rep. Gary Alexander and I will be going through it carefully, line by line. I look forward to passing an early action bill as soon as possible.”

Proposed changes to high school assessments spark discussion in Olympia

Teachers, parents, principals and superintendents shared passionate testimonies on high school assessment bills during Tuesday's House Education Committee.

Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos’ House Bills 1412 and 1410 brought forth proposals to change requirements for high school math and science assessments. Amidst harsh budget realities and a continued strain on education funding, State Superintendent Randy Dorn requested the legislation to make sure the assessment system in Washington is “aligned and fair” for students.

House Bill 1412 allows students in the classes of 2013 and 2014 to pass one end-of-course (EOC) math exam instead of two in order to help transition to future assessment requirements. As for House Bill 1410, it postpones the science assessment graduation requirement until the class of 2017 to allow for more time and funding for implementing science requirements.

Rep. Christine Rolfes’ House Bill 1330 also sparked conversation around further adjustments to the assessment system. The proposal to eliminate the use of statewide assessments as a high school graduation requirement was brought forth by Rep. John McCoy’s House Bill 1463.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Expanding the use of DNA to solve more crimes

Thanks to better technology and falling costs in recent years, the use of DNA in addressing public safety challenges has increased. In 49 states, DNA collection is required for convicted felons.

Now some lawmakers in Washington want to join the 24 states that also require DNA collection at arrest for violent felony crimes and sex crimes. The hope is that offenders can be caught earlier in their criminal progression, since studies show that many criminals are serial offenders. Rep. Jeannie Darneille, sponsor of HB 1369, and other supporters think this practice will lead to reduced rates of criminality, resolution of cold cases, and lower investigation costs.

This afternoon, Rep. Darneille was joined by Sen. Karen Fraser, the sponsor of the companion bill in the Senate, and other supporters at a press conference following hearings on both bills. They were joined by Jayann Sepich, a public safety advocate from New Mexico who started a national campaign for arrestee DNA databases in honor of her murdered daughter Katie Sepich, along with King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist, Rep. Christopher Hurst, Grays Harbor County Sheriff Mike Whelan and others.

Read more about the legislation here.

Busy day in the House

Committee action galore today, plus a pair of media events. Oh, and it's Potato Day!

Representatives Larry Seaquist and Reuven Carlyle will hold a media availability at noon in the John L. O’Brien Building, Conference Room 114 to introduce the Higher Education Opportunity Act which deals with tuition-setting authority.

Representative Jeannie Darneille and Senator Karen Fraser will have a press conference to discuss HB 1369/SB 5240 (collecting DNA at arrest to keep offenders from progressing to more violent crime and to lower investigation costs) in Room B/C, John A. Cherberg Building at 1:15 pm.

8:00 am HHR B Health Care & Wellness
Public Hearing:
1. Concerning oversight of licensed or certified long-term care settings for vulnerable adults.
2. HB 1494 - Concerning elder placement referrals.

8:00 am HHR A Education Appropriations & Oversight
Work Session:
Overview on higher education and early learning by committee staff.

10:00 am HHR A Labor & Workforce Development
Public Hearing
1. HB 1511 - Promoting efficiency in Washington State Ferry system through personnel and administration reform
2. HB 1512 - Concerning Washington State Ferry personnel and projects

10:00 am HHR D Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1333 – Addressing motorcycle profiling.
2. HB 1369 – DNR upon arrest

10:00 am HHR B Technology, Energy & Communications
Public Hearing:
HB 1422 – Authorizing a forest biomass to aviation fuel demonstration. project.

1:30 pm HHR B Business & Financial Services
Public Hearing:
HB 1356 – Restricting the interest rates of credit cards.

1:30 pm HHR A Education
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1412 – Regarding mathematics end-of-course assessments.
2. HB 1410 – Regarding science end-of-course assessments.
3. HB 1330 – Adjusting high school assessments as graduation
4. HB 1463 – eliminating the use of statewide assessments as a high school graduation requirement.

1:30 pm HHR C Environment
Public Hearing:
HB 1186 – Concerning requirements under the state’s oil spill program.

3:30 pm HHR B Transportation
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1098 – Concerning automated traffic safety cameras.
2. HB 1099 – Concerning automated traffic safety cameras.
3. HB 1279 – Concerning traffic safety at certain intersections and on certain streets.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Carlyle's Higher Education Opportunity Act

Rep. Reuven Carlyle announced his Higher Education Opportunity Act today on his blog, which he will formally introduce Tuesday. Tomorrow at noon, Carlyle and Rep. Larry Seaquist will be available to the press to talk about Carlyle's bill, higher education funding, and other issues coming up in their Higher Education Committee.

Carlyle on his proposal:

House Higher Education Committee Chair Rep. Larry Seaquist, Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Rodney Tom and I are working together to attempt to deal openly and genuinely with the complex reality of decreasing state appropriations and rising tuitions.

It is easy for some to criticize this new reality. The challenge is to deal with it openly and explore new models and approaches that can help us find a more viable, stable and equitable structure in today’s era of scarcity.

Unfortunately, the trend in the Legislature is to reduce funding for the institutions of higher education under the operating assumption that they can continue to absorb the cuts without measurable or meaningful consequences for students, faculty, families and supporters. The trend of decreasing state support and increasing tuition seems virtually unstoppable. The question is not whether this trend will continue but how we can get a handle on the negative consequences for the middle class and more intelligently manage this structural shift.

You can read his full post, along with details about his proposal, at his blog:

Details of the media availability:

Who: Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, and Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, the vice chair and chair of the House Higher Education Committee
When: February 1, 2011 at 12:00 p.m.
What: Media availability to discuss The Higher Education Opportunity Act, introduced by Carlyle
Where: John L. O’Brien Building, Conference Room 114 – located inside the entrance to Hearing Room E

Got insurance?

Health insurance, that is.

If you have been uninsured for at least six months and have a pre-existing condition, you may well qualify for a new health insurance option – without a waiting period.

The Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan-Washington State (PCIP-WA) is the temporary federal high risk pool created as part of the new federal health reform law, the Affordable Care Act.

In order to receive insurance through the temporary high risk pool program, an individual must meet the following criteria established by law. Eligible individuals must:

• Be a citizen – an enrollee must be a resident of Washington, a citizen or national of the United States or lawfully present in the United States;
• Be uninsured - an enrollee must have not been covered under creditable coverage for the previous 6 months before applying for coverage; and
• Have a pre-existing condition - an individual must have a qualifying pre-existing condition or a denial letter from an insurance carrier or a letter of acceptance with a reduction or exclusion of coverage for the pre-existing condition.

Find out if you qualify.