Friday, February 11, 2011

Taking an electric slide back in time

Electric vehicles have been a popular topic for the last several years in the Legislature, and these high-tech vehicles are starting to hitting the road now.

However, one presentation given during today's session on electric vehicles, in the Technology, Energy and Communications Committee, asked the members to think back more than just a few years:

A representative from the Avista Corporation (previously known as Washington Water Power) brought up this article from 1913 to point out that this is an issue they, and many others, were working over 100 years ago. (you can see that presentation and others in the Electronic Bill Book, which we previously covered here).

PBS has a great timeline of electric vehicles, where they point out that these vehicles were doing pretty well in 1900, when "electric autos represent[ed] about one-third of all cars found on the roads of New York City, Boston, and Chicago."

Credited with a lot of advancements in history, an event in 1908 led the abandonment of electric vehicles for almost 100 years: Henry Ford and the Model T

It's FRIDAY!!!

There's no floor action planned in the House today, but committees are very busy - the cut-off for bills to pass out of policy committees is next Thursday. Expect a real flurry of extra-long hearings and executive sessions leading up to that deadline.

For today, we have this:

8:00 am HHR B Technology, Energy & Communications
Work Session:
Preparing for the large-scale deployment of electric vehicles.

1:30 pm HHR D Early Learning & Human Services
Public Hearing:
HB 1549 – Requiring notification to schools regarding the release of certain

1:30 pm HHR A Education
Public Hearing:
HB 1524 – Recognizing the international baccalaureate diploma.
HB 1669 – Regarding the educational opportunity gap.

1:30 pm HHR C Environment
Work Session:
Oil spills program overview.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rep. Reykdal on the impact of unemployment benefits for local business

We catch up with Rep. Chris Reykdal at his local Tumwater bowling alley to talk about the benefit of unemployment insurance for laid-off workers. Chris spent some time there with the owners and operators talking about state government, its effect on the local economy, and what we can do to help small businesses like theirs survive tough times and thrive in the better ones.

And no, he doesn't go bowling in a suit. That would be weird.

What's happening in the House Thursday?

There's no floor action today, but plenty of excitement in the committees!

8:00 am HHR A Education
Public Hearing:
HB 1163 – Concerning harassment, intimidation, and bullying prevention.

10:00 am HHR B Health Care & Wellness
Public Hearing:
HB 1363 – Regulating tanning facilities.

10:00 am HHR A Judiciary
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1564 – Concerning the right to control the disposition of human remains.
2. HB 1652 – Regarding electronic impersonation.

10:00 am HHR D Higher Education
Public Hearing:
HB 1792 - Concerning the University Center of North Puget Sound.

1:30 pm HHR A Education Appropriations & Oversight
Work Session:
Overview of Running Start Program.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

House gives businesses a break and workers a bump

The House today passed part of Governor Gregoire’s priority legislation, a $300 million tax break for state businesses and added benefit and training opportunities for laid-off workers.

“With an Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund of $2.5 billion, it became very clear that we needed to do something that benefits the businesses that have paid into it, and the workers who are unemployed,” said Rep. Mike Sells who Chairs the Labor and Workforce Development Committee and sponsored HB 1091. “We’re One Washington, we’re working together and we’re going to do what we can in this House to move this economy forward.”

The key components of the legislation:

  • The bill caps unemployment insurance rates for 90% of employers, especially small businesses that haven’t experienced any layoffs, keeping the rates at 2010 levels. This reduction could mean hundreds less in taxes per employee in 2011.
  • For those struggling to find work, the bill makes training programs more accessible, allowing more workers to learn new skills and build better resumes for their job search in high-demand fields.
  • With some adjustment to the formula for calculating claims, Washington’s unemployed workers will qualify for the extended benefits passed by the majority Democrats in Congress during the lame-duck session in December.
  • Workers who are laid off for the rest of 2011 will receive a $25 bump in their weekly benefits.
“Members of both sides of the aisle worked hard together for the past couple of weeks to make a better plan. We took a good idea that started out as a temporary tax decrease for businesses and a small increase for workers and we made it better,” said Rep. Larry Springer “We worked together and recognized that there’s not an employers’ Washington and there’s not a workers’ Washington, there’s just One Washington. We decrease taxes, we increase benefits and we come out with a win.”

“Every $1.00 paid in unemployment benefits returns $1.64 to the local community,” said Sells. “So this will strengthen local economies and increase activity for businesses in every community in the state.”

Advanced Placement scores and participation rate continue to rise in Washington

According to the College Board’s sixth annual “AP Report to the Nation,” nearly 30 percent of Washington students in the class of 2010 took at least one AP exam. The number of students scoring a three or greater increased by 4.2 percent over the past five years, placing Washington at 10th in the nation.

Click here to view the press release from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

What's happening in the House Wednesday?

The members of the House will be on the floor at 10:00 this morning, but what, if any, bills will be considered is not decided yet. Stay tuned for updates!

There's plenty of action in the committees, though:

8:00 am HHR C Community Development & Housing
Public Hearing:
HB 1661 – Providing cost-saving measures and allocation of vouchers for low-income housing.

8:00 am HHR D Higher Education
Work Session:
Financial Aid Programs.

8:00 am HHR E State Government & Tribal Affair
Public Hearing:
HB 1668 – Concerning signature gathering.

1:30 pm HHR A Agriculture & Natural Resources
Public Hearing:
HB 1610 – Water resource management.

3:30 pm HHR B Transportation
Public Hearing:
HB 1536 – Providing a congestion reduction charge to fund the operational and capital needs of transit agencies.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One lost fishing net, a whole lot of damage

Following up on his legislation to strengthen the Derelict Vessel Removal Program, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon has introduced a bill to go after derelict fishing nets.

Right now a state program asks commercial fishing boats to report fishing nets lost in the water. Since 2003, though, only two nets were reported, and one of those nets picked up by the Northwest Straits Initiative had done considerable damage. Lost in Port Susan Bay, bordered by Camano Island, the group estimated in the 23 weeks it was left in the bay, it killed 1,800 birds, 450 salmon, 11 harbor seals and 16,900 crabs.

Fitzgibbon on the problem:
Commercial fishing is a significant part of our state’s past and future, as is our clean and healthy environment. In the best interest of all parties, we need to reduce the number of nets out there killing fish and wildlife that no one will ever see on their kitchen table.

You can read Fitzgibbon's release on House Bill 1717, and much more at the Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Project.

(Image from

WA Whiteboard: Seaquist on falling higher-education attainment

Rep. Larry Seaquist, chair of the Higher Education Committee, talks about the need to drastically increase educational attainment in our state.

Tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. the committee will have a public hearing on The Higher Education Opportunity Act, one bill attempting to address the attainment problem, among others.

In the House Tuesday

The House is not on the floor today, but we have plenty of committee excitement!

Tuesday 2/8/11
8:00 am HHR C General Government Appropriations & Oversight
Work Session:
Department of Information Services – Agency budget overview, proposed consolidations, and move into new office building and data center facility.

10:00 am HHR A Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1550 – Regulating the production, distribution, and sale of cannabis.

1:30 pm HHR B Business & Financial Services
Public Hearing:
HB 1733 – Requiring notice of the transfer of information by consumer reporting agencies to third-parties outside the United States.

1:30 pm HHR D Early Learning & Human Services
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1741 – Regarding temporary assistance for needy family’s benefits.
2. HB 1782 -- Regarding constraints of expenditures for WorkFirst and child care programs.

1:30 pm HHR A Education
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1607 – Providing a limited exemption from school day and hour requirements in order to mitigate state funding reductions.
2. HB 1546 – Authorizing creation of innovation schools and innovation zones in school districts.

1:30 pm HHR C Environment
Public Hearing:
HB 1721 – Preventing storm water pollution from coal tar sealants.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A 12-year-old pitches 4 reasons the blue heron should be state bird

Yes, it's a busy year with major budget issues to sort out. But sometimes even our Ways & Means Chair gets pitched an idea that might seem an unimportant matter to most of us but means the world to at least one person.

In this case, that one person is Eva. She's a 12-year-old student from Bellevue who wrote to Rep. Ross Hunter that it's time we pass the title of "State Bird" on to the blue heron. She wrote:

Dear Representative Hunter,
Two years ago in 2009, I made a proposal to change the state bird from the Goldfinch, to the Great Blue Heron, however the deadline for introducing new bills had already occurred. I would like to renew my argument in hopes it will not be too late for the 2011 session:
  1. I see the goldfinch on some occasions, but I think the Great Blue Heron is more common.
  2. No other state has the Great Blue Heron. Two other states (Iowa and New Jersey) have the goldfinch for their state bird.
  3. The Great Blue Heron is found all over Washington, it would be the bird for the entire state, not just part of it.
  4. The goldfinch became the state bird in 1951; it is probably time to change it.
Please reconsider this proposal,

Thus, HB 1817 was born, with sponsors from both sides of the aisle and both sides of the state. Hunter says these kinds of bills provide an excellent civics education for students like Eva for only take a few minutes of a legislator's time.

The bill, however, isn't without some controversy. Hunter has heard from lifelong birdwatchers who argue that the Goldfinch is not only an asset to the entire state, it also provides a special "ornithological lesson about supply and demand" because the Goldfinch waits to nest until later in the season than most birds when the seeds they eat are more plentiful.

(Photo: Mike Baird on Flickr)

What's happening today?

The House will be on the floor at 10:00 to run a Suspension Calendar and a couple floor resolutions. There is also lots of committee activity this afternoon.

Monday 2/7/11
1:30 pm HHR B Health Care & Wellness
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1560 – Concerning the health insurance partnership.
2. HB 1740 – Establishing a health benefit exchange.
3. HCR 4404 -- Continuing the Joint Select Committee on health reform implementation.

1:30 pm HHR D Higher Education
Work Session:
Office of Program Research staff presentation: Governor’s proposed budget and tuition setting.

1:30 pm HHR A Judiciary
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1591 – Expanding protections against workplace harassment in anti-harassment protection orders.
2. HB 1626 – Modifying harassment provisions.

1:30 pm HHR E State Government & Tribal Affairs
Public Hearing:
HB 1720 – Re-organizing and streamlining central service functions, powers, and duties of state government.

3:30 pm HHR A Ways & Means
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1083 – Addressing postretirement employment of members of the Washington state retirement systems.