Friday, September 16, 2011

Attention returning veterans: Puget SoundCorps wants you

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a bill creating the Puget SoundCorps within the Washington Conservation Corps. This new subgroup of the WCC will provide paid job opportunities for youth and returning military veterans on projects to help restore the health of Puget Sound.

Now, the state Department of Ecology and the Department of Veterans Affairs have put out a joint press release encouraging returning veterans to apply for the first SoundCorps crew, which is forming now. Not only do veterans receive wages for working on SoundCorps projects, but they also receive a $5,550 AmeriCorps Education Award that can be used to pay off student loans or toward future tuition expenses.

Youth and returning veterans are two groups that are having a particularly difficult time finding jobs in the current tough economy. State Representative Steve Tharinger, who sponsored the original legislation, hopes the chance to work on Sound restoration projects will help launch conservation and natural resource-related careers for those currently looking for work.

The DOE announced last month that it would be hiring 245 people for one-year WCC positions that will begin in October. 

To read this blog post in Spanish, please go here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

State Bar Association award hails Moeller’s work toward stronger protection for vulnerable citizens

Much-needed standards passed and signed into law earlier this year will build sturdier security for senior citizens and other people potentially at-risk of abuse and exploitation. These legislative victories were championed by state Rep. Jim Moeller, who emphasized that his goal is "assuring a safer world for our vulnerable population."

Moeller will receive the 2011 Distinguished Service Award from the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) Elder Law Section. This year's Bar Association recognition is being presented to Moeller for "his tireless service as sponsor and supporter of the legislation implementing the recommendations" submitted by the Guardianship Task Force of the State Bar's Elder Law Section.

Karen I. Treiger is an attorney with the law firm of Thompson & Howle who is active with the task force. Ms. Treiger said that Moeller is distinguished for "his ongoing tremendous commitment to the vulnerable adults of our state. He sponsored our WSBA Elder Law Section's guardianship legislation this year in Olympia, and then he worked very hard to get it passed and signed by the governor. Representative Moeller works with many stakeholders who share a commitment to ensuring the safety and happiness of senior citizens and other vulnerable people."

Key vulnerable-adult legislation passed this year includes:
  • House Bill 1494 establishes needed standards for agencies that refer citizens to social-help programs and services.
"The majority of referral agencies do a good job matching senior citizens with appropriate services," Moeller said. "Fortunately most of the time, there's no problem at all. But yes, there are those agencies that fall way short of meeting their responsibilities, sometimes endangering the health and well-being of very vulnerable adults."

Moeller explained that the new law requires a disclosure form including "clear and cogent information acknowledged by the senior citizen about what the agency does and doesn't do, and directions for making a complaint to the Attorney General. An intake form to assist with a proper referral (i.e., information on any medical conditions, special diets, behaviors or cultural needs) would also need to be completed."
  • House Bill 1053 implements recommendations from a 2009 report delivered by the WSBA Elder Law Section's executive committee guardianship task force. Recommendations carried out in the new law direct that:
    • Lay guardians will receive free training, which will be available online from the state Administrative Office of the Courts or superior courts.
    • Expiration dates will be set for letters of guardianship.
"A serious problem also addressed in the legislation is the fact that it's been very difficult to determine the number and status of guardianships in Washington," Moeller said.
  • Senate Bill 5042, which includes directions outlined in House Bill 1104, adds what Moeller calls "very important and much-needed teeth" to current laws on the books to protect vulnerable adults. The measure will:
    • Prohibit either wrongful control or withholding of a vulnerable adult's property (and it spells out exactly what constitutes financial exploitation).
    • Require the Department of Social & Health Services to provide a statement of rights to vulnerable adults whose cases are under investigation.
    • Provide standards for the department to work with federally recognized Native American tribes to investigate abuse or financial exploitation that has taken place on tribal land.
The new standard expands the definition of "financial exploitation" beyond just the illegal or improper use of a vulnerable adult's property. The proposal would include in the law's definition the illegal or improper control over or withholding of property.

Moeller has worked with a task force of southwestern Washington citizens and other concerned individuals and organizations to create protective standards, including this year's meticulous effort against exploitation.

State revenues continue to decline

Citing the "fragile aftermath of the Great Recession." the Executive Director of the the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council delivered some bad news today: the revenue forecast is now $1.8 billion less than it was when the 2011-13 was written just months ago.  And, Dr. Arun Raha continued, it doesn't look like things will turn around any time soon.

Dr. Raha made these points during his presentation:
• Every time our state has looked like it would break out of the malaise, it has been sucked right back in.

• The gridlock in Washington DC and the instability of the European markets are affecting our recovery.

• It appears that we are at best in for an extended period of muddle-through – slow economic and job growth, high unemployment, and weak confidence. The risk of a double-dip recession too has increased.

• Consumer confidence is headed back down, as are sales expectations and small business optimism.

Representative Ross Hunter, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and a member of ERFC, noted that budget leaders are already combing through the budget again. "This is a serious problem and it demands a serious response," he said. " We're working on that response now, and we have months of work still ahead of us. I am ready to work with all members to solve this problem."

The full ERFC report can be found here.

To read this blog post in Spanish, please go here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Washington & Microsoft Launch Statewide IT Academy

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and Microsoft today officially launched Washington’s new statewide Microsoft IT Academy. The web-based academy will ultimately offer cutting-edge job skills and certification in more than 700 public high schools, skills centers and other locations across Washington.

Washington is only the second state to create statewide learning opportunities through the Microsoft IT Academy program. The training and certification will be provided free to high-school students.

Earlier this year, lawmakers set aside $4 million of the new state budget to make the statewide Microsoft IT Academy a reality for 2011-2013. The state’s investment is expected to reap an estimated $30 million in products and services.

The Microsoft IT Academy includes training and skill certification in numerous Microsoft products and in advanced topics, such as programming, Web development and database development.

At the official launch of the program, which was celebrated at Ingraham High School in Seattle, Dorn said that within 10 years three out of every four jobs will require some technology skills.

“The Microsoft IT Academy is a game changer,” Dorn said. “It will put our state at the nation’s forefront in education.”

Want to learn more? Take a look at today’s OSPI press release.

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.

We're Number 1! (Again!)

For the ninth year in a row, Washington state’s 12th-graders led the nation in SAT scores for states where more than half of eligible students took the tests. According to the College Board, the percentage of students tested is important because generally the more kids who take the test, the lower the state score.

Since just about the turn of the century, though, Washington has bucked that trend. The Class of 2011 had a combined average score in reading, writing, and math of 520 – higher than all states in which at least 30% of students took the SAT. New Hampshire just missed the tie with a combined average score of 519.6, and our good friend Oregon scored 513.

The OSPI has more information here.

To read this blog post in Spanish, please go here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What district are you in?

The long-awaited draft maps from the redistricting commissioners were released today and, as expected,  there are some similarities between them. But there are some big differences, too.

The commissioners now begin the process of negotiating their way to a final product. For the next month, though, the Redistricting Commission will be taking public comment on the draft plans so this is your chance to be heard!

Here are the maps:
Commissioner Dean Foster
Commissioner Tom Huff
Commissioner Tim Ceis
Commissioner Slade Gorton

Higher education tour coming to Spokane, Ellensburg and Tri-Cities

Members of the House Higher Education Committee will be arriving in eastern Washington cities next week. Meetings at WSU-Riverpoint in Spokane and Central Washington University in Ellensburg will focus on bringing those community perspectives to the state’s higher education leaders.

Rep. Larry Seaquist is chair of the committee going on The Educating Community Chautauqua Series. “It’s time to talk about how we want our state to look as we recover from this recession,” Seaquist said.

“Without question we need to be better educated, from more apprenticeships to more degrees, in order to compete in a changing world economy.”

The WSU-Riverpoint discussion on September 20 will have a focus on what’s called pipeline issues, like student transfer and transition problems.

At Central on September 21, access for underserved communities will be a key topic.

Members are also invited to a non-committee meeting at WSU-Tri Cities and Columbia Basin College on September 22. “By moving the conversation from the capital to the community, I think we can make significant progress to improve our state’s higher education system. For the committee members especially, this is the chance to put faces to the decisions we make in Olympia.”

The series will continue in October at Seattle University and Skagit Valley Community College, then in November there will be a culminating meeting for the series at South Puget Sound Community College.

Press and media are welcome to attend the series meetings. Contact Rep. Seaquist’s office for more information.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Moscoso and Frockt lead community volunteer challenge

Last week Reps. Luis Moscoso and David Frockt, along with dozens of their constituents from the 1st and 46th legislative districts and staff from neighboring districts took on Food Lifeline’s “Food Repack Challenge” to fill the shelves of local food banks.

Food Lifeline, the largest hunger relief organization in Washington state, hosted the challenge at its Shoreline Volunteer Center on Thursday, September 8th to kick off Hunger Action Month.

By the end of the event, volunteers had sorted and repacked a combined total of nearly 6,700 pounds, which will provide more than 6,000 nutritious meals for hungry people in their communities.

Food Lifeline's mission is to end hunger in Western Washington by engaging communities and mobilizing resources. Last year, Food Lifeline delivered more than 24 million meals to hungry people through its network of nearly 300 food banks, meal programs and shelters.

To learn how hunger-relief programs fared this year in Olympia, go to Food Lifeline’s 2011 State Legislative Session hunger relief program results.

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.