Friday, September 30, 2011

3rd District legislators take their “mobile office” to Spokane’s neighborhoods

This week, Representatives Andy Billig and Timm Ormsby held open office hours at the Corbin Senior Center in Spokane's Emerson-Garfield neighborhood. It was the first of four planned "mobile office" events that the legislators are holding this fall.

Participants came with questions that covered topics ranging from the state's economic forecast, to Spokane road conditions, to funding for Spokane's four-year medical school.

If you missed out on this event, you still have three more chances to meet the legislators at other locations around the district. Upcoming mobile offices are planned for:

Thursday, October 13

West Central neighborhood - Indaba Coffee
1425 W Broadway Ave
4:00 to 5:30 p.m. 

Wednesday, October 19

Hillyard neighborhood - North East Community Center
4001 North Cook Street
12:30 to 2:00 p.m. 

Tuesday, November 1

East Central neighborhood - East Central Community Center
500 S. Stone
5:00 to 6:30 p.m.

In addition, Reps. Billig and Ormsby, together with state Sen. Lisa Brown, have a permanent district office located at 25 West Main Street, where they can meet one-on-one with constituents by prior appointment. The "mobile office" is simply a way for them to be even more accessible, offering constituents a chance to speak with them in an informal environment without having to first make an appointment.

Spotlight on Transportation

At last count, Washington boasted 175,000 lane-miles of highways, or enough to stretch a ribbon of asphalt around the earth at the equator seven times. If you ignore Texas – which is not a bad idea anyway – that puts us just about in the middle of the pack for the states. All that pavement, which doesn't even include the "marine highways" travelled by Washington State Ferries, gives us great freedom of movement and freight mobility. Wherever you want to go, you can get there from here.

But it also gives us the Herculean tasks of maintenance, repair and improvement to take care of all those miles, along with new construction to keep up with a growing population. This week, House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn and the top Republican on her committee, Rep. Mike Armstrong, appeared on TVW's "Inside Olympia" to talk about everything from transit to tolling, rural roadways to urban megaprojects, and the challenges we face as a state if we want to keep Washington moving. 

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

Looking for a career that soars?

This week we saw the first Dreamliner taking off Paine Field on its way to Japan and there are many other 787s in the works. So far there are 50 airlines that want a combined total of 821 Dreamliners.  Boeing, its partners and providers will need a strong, talented and highly skilled workforce to build all these planes.

With these Washington aerospace facts, there will be jobs-a-plenty for many years to come: 
+      Greater Seattle boasts one of the highest concentrations of aerospace firms in the world.

+    Washington's aerospace cluster is represented throughout the production value chain from machine shops to tier I suppliers and one of the two largest commercial aerospace manufacturers in the world.

+    Washington state is home to more than 6,000 aerospace engineers.

+    Washington state is home to final assembly operations for Boeing Commercials' 737, 747, 767, 777 and the new 787.

+    Washington's aerospace industry has the largest concentration of aerospace workers in the U.S. - more than 1/6 of all U.S. aerospace workers are employed in Washington state.

House Democrats feel all those jobs should go to Washingtonians, so this year Rep. Deb Eddy sponsored a bill that created the Aerospace Loan Program (ALP) and they’re accepting applications now.

The program offers education loans for residents seeking training through the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center at Paine Field in Everett.

Students can receive up to $4,800 for 12 weeks of training to enhance their existing job skills or earn certificates in various aerospace production fields. After completion of the program, ALP recipients have up to three years to repay their loans.

For more information:

Read the Everett Herald’s story, Aerospace Loans Available Soon to Students

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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Feds pick Washington for $80M in biofuel grants

Finding ways to move our state off of fossil-fuels from abroad has been a priority for House Democrats for years. In the 2006 legislation written by Rep. Hans Dunshee, the reasons for investing in biofuels are made clear. Here are a couple selected paragraphs from the beginning of the bill (read the whole bill here):
  • Washington's dependence on energy supplied from outside the state and volatile global energy markets makes its economy and citizens vulnerable to unpredictable and high energy prices.
  • Washington's dependence on petroleum-based fuels increases energy costs for citizens and businesses.
  • Washington has abundant supplies of organic wastes from farms that can be used for energy production and abundant farmland where crops could be grown to supplement or supplant petroleum-based fuels.
  • The bioenergy industry is a new and developing industry that is, in part, limited by the availability of capital for the construction of facilities for converting farm and forest products into energy and fuels.
  • The energy freedom program is meant to lead Washington state towards energy independence.
These goals got a shot in the arm earlier this week when the United States Department of Agriculture announced that $80 million in grants for biofuel research will be coming here. The University of Washington will receive $40 million to pursue "sustainably grown woody energy crops to produce biogasoline and renewable aviation fuel," while Washington State University will lead up research in how to "convert closed timber mills into bioenergy development centers."

Grants went to other research efforts in other states, but the fact that $80 million of the overall $136 million is going to Washington is a testament to our research universities and the state's commitment to biofuels.

You can read the whole press release and quotes from many public and private-sector officials on the USDA website.

For even more coverage, you can go to The Seattle Times and CBS News.

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Legislative Committee heads to Okanogan

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will hold a work session tomorrow, Sept. 29, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Okanogan County Courthouse.

“These are difficult economic times and our focus should be not only on creating new jobs, but also on protecting the ones we already have, especially in our core industries like tree fruit growing, mining and logging,” said Rep. Brian Blake, committee chairman and a former logger. “I’m looking forward to getting in-depth information on the current situation, as well as the present and future needs of these basic industries to ensure they continue being strong pillars in our economy.”

Citizens are welcome to attend the work session, but no public testimony will be taken during the meeting. However, written testimony to the committee will be accepted before and after the meeting.

Who: Committee members; invited guest presenters, including regional county commissioners; and the public.

What: House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee work session

Thursday, Sept. 29

Time: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Okanogan County Courthouse, 123 Fifth Avenue North, Room 150, Okanogan

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

A new face in the House

House Democrats are pleased to welcome state Rep. Drew Hansen to the majority caucus.  Drew was appointed by the Kitsap County Commission this week to replace 23rd-district Rep. Christine Rolfes, who moved over to the Senate.  (And we wish Christine well, as she moves into the seat in that chamber vacated by Phil Rockefeller when Gov. Gregoire appointed him to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.)  Rounding out the district’s legislative team is veteran Rep. Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo.

A resident of Bainbridge Island, Drew is an attorney, an active Kitsap community leader, an acclaimed author and a longtime member of the state’s Community Economic Revitalization Board

The new representative has already begun attending budget meetings at the Capitol in preparation for the special legislative session that will commence on November 28.

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

House members meet with aerospace employers in Everett

On the day following the delivery of the first 787 Dreamliner, members of the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee held a work session just outside the main gates of the Boeing facility in Everett to address the stagnant labor market and discuss strategies for providing manufacturing jobs, and the skilled workers, needed to climb out of economic doldrums.

The committee met at the Everett Community College Corporate & Continuing Education Center, where an overview of the employment landscape was provided by the state Employment Security Department. Next, the committee heard from aerospace employers who emphasized the importance of motivating the next generation of aerospace workers, and shared ways they actively promote their industry amongst students still in high school. Replenishing the engineering workforce is a must, as the average age of their current workforce is 58 years old and nearing retirement.

Aerospace training providers from state colleges, apprenticeship programs and private facilities around the state explained their capacity problem - forced to turn away interested students due to lacking state support and partnerships to expand their programs.        

It's an uphill battle in many ways, and one that lacks an Apollo Program or some similar landmark that fueled the dreams and aspirations of the retiring workforce.

"Collaborations between Washington's employers and our state government will be key in providing these career pathways and skilled workers," said Rep. Chris Reykdal. "The grants, facilities, and curricula the state is providing -and hopefully expand further in the future - will make sure our good-paying jobs are filled by our state's students."

The work session ended with a tour of the Everett assembly lines by the attending Boeing staff; a sight that shows in dramatic fashion the sheer magnitude of our state's resources, challenges, and opportunities.

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

Monday, September 26, 2011

House Democrats begin rebalancing process

Governor Gregoire has asked the Legislature to convene a special session in November to address a budget shortfall that is expected to reach nearly $2 billion before June, 2013. However, the House Democratic Caucus is not waiting to start addressing the problem – HDC members met in Olympia today to get a full briefing from House Ways and Means Chair Ross Hunter and begin discussions on options for filling the gap.

During the discussion, members were reminded that:
  • The state operating budget for the last 18 months of the biennium (January 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013) is about $24 billion.
  • 72% of that amount cannot be reduced because it is either constitutionally- or federally- required spending.
  • That leaves about $7 billion in which to find reductions.
Budget writers are keeping all options on the table right now. The hope is that budget writers will reach an agreement prior to the start of special session.

Members will meet again in a couple weeks to get a progress report from budget writers and further develop solutions. Majority Leader Pat Sullivan talks about the process here.

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

Obama's Jobs Plan and its effect on Washington

In an effort to end the economic malaise plaguing the entire country, President Obama recently unveiled a plan to stimulate job growth, which includes investments in every state. "The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working," President Obama stated during his speech at the joint session of Congress.

The plan has five key components:
  • Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow
  • Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America
  • Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs
  • More Money in the Pockets of Every American Worker and Family
  • Fully Paid for as Part of the President’s Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan 
The details of the plan and how it will impact Washington are beginning to make their way to us here. According to White House staffers, the president’s plan could mean $741 million for Washington’s infrastructure, which would support 10,000 local jobs.

The HDC is hopeful the plan can be enacted by Congress soon in order to help put our state and nation’s economy back on solid ground and get people back to work as soon as possible.

You can watch the enhanced version of the President's Address to Congress, which features graphs, charts and other facts that influenced the President's decision making. You can read more and follow the latest development at the White House blog.

American Jobs Act Address Enhanced Graphics
View more documents from White House

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