Friday, March 11, 2011

Reminder: Town Halls scheduled throughout the state this weekend

We know you've had it marked in your calendar for months so maybe the reminder is unnecessary. Tomorrow is Town Hall Saturday. Many of our members are hosting town halls in their districts (with the exception of one this afternoon and another next weekend). You can check out the schedule here.

Tell them what's on your mind, get the latest news on what's happening this session, and hear what your neighbors have to say.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WA Whiteboard: Keeping Students on the Path to Success

Rep. Marko Liias explains how education legislation he supports can help students stay on the path to success:

Post-recession economy? Look no further than our college campuses

Round two begins at 10 a.m. in the Higher Education Committee on how potential budget cuts will affect universities and colleges. Yesterday's session focused on the state's four-year institutions. You can read the troubling reports here and here.

Committee Chair Larry Seaquist:

If you want to see our post-recession economy, look no further than our college campuses. Opportunities in the global workplace will require specialized skills and greater levels of education, and our colleges and universities are the ones preparing our state.

Today's hearing focuses on the Community and Technical Colleges and can be viewed on your local TVW channel, or online.

Yesterday's hearing is archived, also at TVW:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Skills are the source of Seattle’s strength."

Here’s an interesting and encouraging NY Times article written by a Harvard economics professor about Seattle, its resiliency throughout economic downturns, and exceeding national growth trends, due in part to concentrating smart people in a dense city.

Here’s an excerpt:
As Boeing scaled back its Seattle employment, the city floundered. By 1971, a much-discussed billboard read “Would the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?”

But there was a crucial difference between Seattle and Detroit. Unlike Ford and General Motors, Boeing employed highly educated workers. Almost since its inception, Seattle has been committed to education and has benefited from the University of Washington, which is based there. Skills are the source of Seattle’s strength.

Over the last three decades, human capital has become increasingly linked with urban growth outside the Sun Belt.
The ability to attract skilled people was intimately tied to the success of Seattle’s star companies, such as Amazon; Nordstrom’s, whose strategy of empowering employees was more feasible because those workers were skilled; Starbucks, a coffee chain founded by educators; and Microsoft, which depends on a steady supply of smart software engineers. (Disclosure: I serve on the domestic advisory board of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.)

A great paradox of our age is that despite the declining cost of connecting across space, more people are clustering together in cities. The explanation of that strange fact is that globalization and technological change have increased the returns on being smart, and humans get smart by being around other smart people.

Dense, smart cities like Seattle succeed by attracting smart people who educate and employ one another.

Today's House happenings

We will convene on the floor at 10:00 this morning with a possibility of some bill action.

In the meantime, please to enjoy the following sampling of committee offerings:

8:00 am Community Development & Housing
Public Hearing: SB 5403 – Authorizing local improvement district funding to benefit innovation partnership zones for the purposes of economic development.

8:00 am Higher Education
Work Session: Policy impacts of budget cuts on Baccalaureate Institutions.

1:30 pm Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
Public Hearing: SSB 5168 – Reducing maximum sentences for gross misdemeanors by one day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

House reaches cut-off, Democrats maintain focus on budget, key priorities

Yesterday's 5 p.m. cut-off deadline to get House bills out of the House narrowed down the amount of live legislation. However, House Democrats successfully got out several key measures that balance our near-term economic challenges with long-term priorities in education, jobs and the environment.

House Speaker Frank Chopp:
Managing our way to economic recovery and responsibly balancing the budget is our most urgent challenge this session. But we are also protecting those things that have made Washington a state where families want to live and businesses want to grow – a state with strong schools, good jobs, safe communities, and unparalleled natural beauty.

Read more here: House Democrats maintain focus on budget, key priorities.

Here's a list of all the bills passed out of the House and Senate so far.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rep. Troy Kelley cracks down on illegal Internet lending fraud

Rep. Troy Kelley introduced a measure to protect consumers statewide by helping prevent out-of-state Internet payday lenders from doing business illegally in Washington.

“We have made great strides to protect Washington consumers throughout the past several years,” Kelley said. “If out-of-state Internet payday lenders want to do business here, they must abide by our rules.”

Today, unlicensed Internet payday lending is deemed a gross misdemeanor and a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. However, prosecutors rarely take up misdemeanor cases that cross state lines. Kelley’s House Bill 1805 cracks down on those illegal out-of-state lenders by making unlicensed payday lending an unranked class B felony and raising the bar on enforcement. Licensed payday lenders are not impacted by the new measure so it means business as usual for payday lenders who choose to abide by the current law.

“This is a new tool to better enforce our current laws,” Kelley said. “A few of these illegal lenders are out of the country, and I think they are beyond our reach. However, others are just beyond our borders, and we must do what we can to stop them.”

Click here to read more about Kelley’s House Bill 1805 and other efforts to protect consumers.

Major cutoff deadline is today at 5

It’s House of Origin cut-off today, and floor action is scheduled to begin at 9:00 this morning. This is the last day to pass any non-budgetary House bills.

Cut-off is officially at 5 p.m. meaning no further bills can be brought to the floor after that time. Debate, however, can continue so we're likely to go a little late.

You can see which bills are still on the floor calendar (though not all of them will come up for consideration).