Friday, April 29, 2011

Washington’s clean energy future began today

In front of hundreds of people including representatives from the business, labor, and environmental communities, as well as legislators from both sides of the aisle and local elected officials, Governor Gregoire put her signature on Senate Bill 5769, setting a timetable to transition our state away from coal.

There was no better place to take this historic action than at the Trans Alta power plant in Centralia, with the company's CEO and employees present. In fact, Trans Alta President & CEO Steve Snyder declared it was the beginning of "…a new energy future."

Senate Bill 5769, sponsored by state Sen. Phil Rockefeller and shepherded through the House by Environment Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Upthegrove, is the culmination of several years of hard work to find a win/win solution that benefits both family-wage jobs and the environment. In remarks before the bill signing, Sen. Rockefeller said, "I've never seen such collaborative work evolve in this fashion."

Making a special guest appearance at the bill signing was House Speaker Frank Chopp, who came to show his support for the bipartisan measure. It was Speaker Chopp who put the idea for the bill on the table several years ago, and whose behind-the-scenes support helped it pass its final hurdles in the House.

The bill will make the plant in Centralia one of the cleanest coal-fired plants in the nation within just two years. By 2025, it will have transitioned away from coal, and toward new, cleaner energy technology. The timetable allows for both the necessary time and resources for an orderly shift to a greener future, and gives the local community greater economic certainty during this shift.

(Photo: Governor Gregoire with House Speaker Frank Chopp and Thurston-Lewis-Mason Labor Council president Bob Guenther after signing SB 5769 in Centralia today - courtesy Washington State Senate)

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.

Parents: add this to today's to-do list

If your child needs health insurance and you plan to enroll them in an individual health care plan, tomorrow's your deadline.

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner is reminding parents that, thanks to federal health care reform, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage children with pre-existing conditions. What they can do, however, is have a designated open enrollment period. And that period ends tomorrow.

So if your child isn't covered under an employer-provided plan and needs insurance, you need to enroll them now or wait until the next open enrollment period begins in September.

Budget back-and-forth officially in play

Though there hasn't been any floor action in the House this week, there has been a lot of work underway. As reported yesterday by the Bellingham Herald, House Ways & Means Chair Ross Hunter sent a budget counter-offer to the Senate.

Now we wait for a response.

For earlier coverage on differences in the House and Senate budget proposals, see here and here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Responsible, thoughtful, sustainable

Those are the three words used by House Ways & Means chair Ross Hunter to describe the House budget proposal.

In one of his newest blog posts, Hunter debunks the argument that because revenues are up our budget problem isn't actually a problem and shows how spending per capita is actually at 1987 levels.

You can read more of Hunter's thoughts on the budget here.

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A quiet Monday on campus

As you've heard, the Governor has called for a special session to begin tomorrow.

Legislators head home Friday to take a breather before hunkering back down to finish the 2011-13 operating budget and passing the dozens of bills required to implement the budget.

As outlined in the Governor's special session proclamation, the Legislature also needs to approve a new capital budget and will likely continue discussion on workers comp, higher education, and some transportation-related bills.

As for today, most of the people on campus are staff taking advantage of the business-casual atmosphere while members phone in from their districts. Tomorrow, it's back to suits, ties and marathon meetings. We'll keep you posted.