Friday, February 18, 2011

Rep. Reykdal talks with local business owners

Here's Rep. Chris Reykdal talking with local business owners about the impact of government regulations, taxes, economic development, and closing tax loopholes.

Lawmakers honor Japanese-American internees

Today, lawmakers in the House recognized the Japanese-American internees and World War II veterans from Washington state for their sacrifice and patriotic loyalty during their relocation and internment sixty-nine years ago.

“We must remember our past,” said Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, the only Japanese-American woman in the Washington state Legislature.

Santos spoke about what it means to be an American and the importance of upholding the Constitution. “We must remember that it is our responsibility to ensure each one of us upholds our end of checking unlimited power,” Santos said.

Rep. Bob Hasegawa spoke about the value of community and Americans’ shared belief in liberty and justice for all.

“As we move forward and take this time to reflect, I would like us to think about what happened, the guarantees of liberty and justice for all and the guarantees that we all have inalienable rights,” said Hasegawa. “Let us move forward as a legislative body to try and learn those lessons, that we all are people of good conscience, that we do not judge each other, and that we do our best so that we are all treated equally.”

Please click here to read House Resolution 4627, sponsored by Reps. Santos and Hasegawa.

One budget bill down, a bigger one yet to come

The House and Senate this morning voted out the early action savings bill to trim an additional $242 million for the budget and put us on track to be in the black the rest of the 2011 budget year. The agreement came after several weeks of negotiations between House and Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle.

The Senate passed the bill on a strongly bi-partisan vote of 37-10. The House voted on partisan lines at 55-41.

The Governor signed the budget bill this afternoon with her eye already towards the next budget challenge - bridging a $4.6 billion shortfall for the next biennium. She wrote:

"As I sign this appropriations bill, the 2011 legislative session is a little more than one-third complete. Many issues of critical importance to our state must still be addressed. I commit to working with you to craft a timely and responsible budget for the 2011-13 biennium."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

WA Whiteboard: Liias on moving the state off of coal power

Rep. Marko Liias explains his proposal to make Washington the first state to become coal-power free and significantly reduce pollution:

Keeping Washington safe from oil spills

Here in Washington, we pride ourselves and count ourselves lucky to live in such a beautiful place, with a great quality of life along Puget Sound. But as we saw last April in the Gulf of Mexico, one spill could devastate all we have for, a lifetime.

There may not be drilling platforms off our coast, but more than 4,000 vessel transports and 15 billion gallons of oil regularly travel to and from ports of call in the Northwest Straits & Puget Sound each year. Five large refineries receive tanker-loads of Alaskan oil hundreds of times annually.

Unlike the Gulf of Mexico, Puget Sound is a confined body of water, meaning an oil spill here cannot easily disperse into the open ocean. It’s estimated a significant oil spill could cause $10.8 billion in economic losses and affect 165,000 jobs in Washington, as the Puget Sound ports in Seattle and Tacoma together form the second-largest harbor in the country for container traffic.

And that doesn’t even account for the ecological damage and devastation of marine life. Such a spill could easily eliminate salmon runs and our resident orca populations.

Reps. Christine Rolfes, Zack Hudgins, and Dave Upthegrove are doing something about it. Check out the video.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

House and Senate reach agreement on early action savings bill

The House and Senate today reached agreement on an early action savings bill that cuts an additional $242 million from the state's budget.

You can read about it in the Olympian here or check out the Senate's summary of the budget agreement. A three-page summary comparing the budget agreement with original proposals from the House, Senate and Governor is here.

The budget bill is being written up tonight and should be finished tomorrow morning. The House expects to vote on it Friday.

UPDATE: The budget bill is now available online.

If the primary is secondary . . . what’s the point?

You say you’re thinking about throwing a party to celebrate the 2012 Washington presidential primary? Might be a good idea to wait a little while before you send out those invitations. If Rep. Sherry Appleton’s House Bill 1324 makes it to the governor’s office, Washington would take a pass on the 2012 ritual – and save an estimated $12 million in the process.

But wait; wouldn’t that keep our state from having a say at the national Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions? How about all those funny hats and balloons – wouldn’t we miss out on all that? Not really. The last time the state parties were legally bound by the results of our state’s presidential-preference primaries, Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, Sir Mix-A-Lot was topping the charts with “Baby Got Back,” and Johnny Carson ruled the late-night airwaves. A change in the law in 1995 gave the state parties the option to ignore the primary results and choose their respective delegates at precinct caucuses. They’ve done so in varying degrees ever since.

“If it doesn’t have any relevance,” Appleton asks, “why are we doing it? I’d rather put that $12 million into education, or health care, or services for vulnerable people. Twelve million dollars can go a long way,” she added. “It might seem like a small amount when we’re working on a budget that totals in the billions, but if you put human faces on that $12 million, it becomes a big deal.”

The bill – which Appleton points out would only cancel the 2012 presidential primary, and wouldn’t be a permanent kill – got mixed reactions in a public hearing Wednesday morning in the House State Government & Tribal Affairs Committee. They’ll give the bill a “do pass” or “do not pass” recommendation within a few days.

Tax exemption hard to close? There's a BRAC for that

Rep. Larry Seaquist, a former battleship captain and Pentagon strategist, doesn’t bring many military strategies out in the Legislature, but he thinks one might work to better fund education. He's introduced House Bill 1980 to develop a Washington state version of the successful federal Base Closure and Realignment Commission, otherwise known as BRAC.

The tax priorities realignment commission, using public hearings, would identify tax exemptions which could be closed in favor of funding specific education-improvement objectives. Seaquist on the proposal:
Tax exemptions are intended to create economic benefit for someone, education creates economic benefit for everyone. For the first time, my bill provides a way for all our citizens to participate in setting priorities about how best to climb out of this recession.

You can read more about Seaquist's proposal in the bill or the press release.

In the House Wednesday

There will be a joint session of the Legislature on the Senate floor today at 11:30 to honor all former state legislators who passed away during the last two years.

Otherwise, House floor activity is limited to a pro forma session. In committees, we offer:

8:00 am HHR A Judiciary
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1649 – Concerning reciprocity and statutory construction with regard to domestic partnerships.
2. HB 1526 - Addressing tenant screening under the residential landlord-tenant act.
3. HB 1728 - Requiring businesses where food for human consumption is sold or served to allow persons with disabilities to bring their service animals onto the business premises.

8:00 am HHR E State Government & Tribal Affairs
Public Hearing:
HB 1324 – Canceling the 2012 presidential primary.

1:30 pm HHR E Local Government
Public Hearing:
HB 1818 – Authorizing the publishing of legal or official notices within an online database.

1:30 pm HHR B Technology, Energy and Communications
Possible Executive Session:
HB 1841 - Addressing management and consolidation of state information technology.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Polar bear at the Capitol

It's Environmental Lobby Day in Olympia today, and one of the environmental community's top priority bills had a hearing this afternoon.

House Bill 1825, sponsored by Rep. Marko Liias, addresses the biggest source of energy-sector emissions in the state: coal-burning power plants. More specifically, the bill would speed up the decommissioning of the state's only coal-fired power plant, which is located in Centralia.

"Coal burning is a technology of the past," Rep. Liias said, testifying in support of his bill before the House Environment Committee this afternoon. "The reality is that the coal plant will transition."

Liias' bill does the following:

  • Transitions the plant off of coal as early as 2015, and no later than 2017, which is ahead of the already-established date of 2025 for decommissioning.
  • Provides $94 million in infrastructure funding to Lewis County, so the plant's host community can begin a fair and planned economic transition.
  • Creates a model for strengthening local communities while transitioning beyond coal to the clean energy economy of the future.

As expected, today's HB 1825 hearing drew scores of supporters and opponents, including one very large polar bear. Although observed walking around campus, the polar bear did not testify.

What's happening in the House Tuesday

The House floor session is pro forma today, so no caucus or votes on bills. All the action is in committee:

8:00 am HHR A Education Appropriations & Oversight
Public Hearing:
HB 1814 – Preserving the school district levy base.
HB 1815 – Preserving the school district levy base.

8:00 am HHR C General Government Appropriations & Oversight
Public Hearing:
SHB 1294 – Establishing the Puget Sound corps.

10:00 am HHR A Agriculture & Natural Resources
Public Hearing:
HB 1340 – Regarding the unlawful hunting of big game.

10:00 am HHR D Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
Public Hearing:
HB 1820 – Implementing the blue alert system.
HB 1874 - Addressing police investigations of commercial sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking.

1:30 pm HHR C Business & Financial Services
Public Hearing:
HB 1558 – Addressing the foreclosure crisis in Washington state through the creation of alternative mortgage financing based on shared appreciation.

1:30 pm HHR B Environment
Public Hearing:
HB 1825 – Strengthening local economies by reducing emissions from coal-fired power generation through decommissioning.

3:30 pm HHR A Ways & Means
Public Hearing:
HB 1735 – Creating clean water jobs through storm water pollution funding.
HB 1796 – Concerning recreation access (fees) on public lands.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Today starts the 6th week of the legislative session, and with committee cut-off just a few days away, St. Valentine's Day celebrations must give way to public hearings and executive sessions. Enjoy!!

1:30 pm HHR B Health Care and Wellness
Public Hearing:
HB 1561 - Requiring payment for critical services rendered by out-of- network providers in network hospitals

1:30 pm HHR D Higher Education
Possible Executive Session:
1. HB 1822 - Establishing the first nonprofit online university.
2. HB 1666 - Implementing the higher education funding task force recommendations.
3. HB 1795 - Enacting the higher education opportunity act.

1:30 pm HHR A Judiciary
Public Hearing:
1. HB 1113 - Modifying provisions relating to prior offenses for the purposes of felony driving or being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.
2. HB 1167 - Expanding provisions relating to driving or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
3. HB 1556 - Increasing the penalties for first-time offenders of driving or being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.
4. HB 1789 - Addressing accountability for persons driving or being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.
5. HB 1646 - Increasing penalties for vehicular homicide and vehicular assault.