Friday, October 28, 2011

How Enron is helping Washington businesses today

Remember Enron? Back in the day – 2001 – the Texas-based energy holding company served as the poster child for the evils of capitalism, thanks to scandals that involved accounting fraud and manipulation of the market for electrical power. Enron has since lost its spot in the hall of shame to Wall Street, but payback from its role in the manufactured energy crisis continues to benefit Washington businesses.
On Oct. 27, company and government officials held an open house to inaugurate the $1.6 million energy-efficient cooling system at WaferTech, a semiconductor manufacturer in Camas. More than $1 million for the project came in a grant from Clark Public Utilities via the Bonneville Power Administration. WaferTech put up $352,000, another $120,000 came from federal stimulus money – and $100,000 was provided in a grant from the Washington State University Extension Energy Program in Olympia.
That grant  from WSU was part of the money the extension program received from the state’s $9 million settlement with Enron in 2009, the result of a multistate legal action against the company for market manipulation. The settlement cash was a rare windfall for the WSU operation, extension program industrial services manager Christine Love said, and much of that money has been distributed to companies such as WaferTech in incentive grants for energy-saving projects.

Local, state, national leader celebrated for his community works

"All politics," observed a shrewd Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives now gone to his reward, "is local."
For talking about Washington State Rep. John McCoy, you might tweak ol' Tip O'Neill's proverb just a tad to read, "Leadership always starts locally." Rep. McCoy in a few weeks will be honored with the Pearl Capoeman-Baller Civic Participation Award from The Potlatch Fund. This local, state and national trailblazer will join other esteemed recipients of recognition in the 2011 Annual Potlatch Fund Gala, which is set for Saturday, Nov. 19, in Seattle.

"I'm so humbled and so very honored to be receiving this recognition," Rep. McCoy said. "Truly, I will accept this award on behalf of the multitude of folks in our communities who go the extra mile every day to make ours a better, safer, healthier place to call home."

A Tulalip Democrat who represents the 38th Legislative District, Rep. McCoy chairs the House Technology, Energy, & Communication Committee, and he sits on the House Education Committee and the House State Government & Tribal Affairs Committee. He also chairs the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators. He's an active member of the Environmental Management Roundtable, the Labor and Economic Development Committee, and the Communications, Financial Services & Interstate Commerce Committee for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Snohomish County lawmaker has championed an expansion of broadband across the state as a way to get everyone connected. He has also pushed to expand Washington’s renewable energy portfolio and create incentives for alternative energy, such as biomass and solar. Around his community, McCoy is active with the United Way, the Native American advisory boards for the National and Snohomish County Boys and Girls Clubs, the advisory board for the Cascade Land Conservancy, and several other philanthropic community-support groups.

Formed in 2002, Potlatch is a foundation and leadership-development organization serving Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. Potlatch strives to develop and empower Native leadership, and see to it that the wisest use is made of tribal resources.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Remembering Scott White

The HDC would just like to share some of our favorite photos of Scott White, as we mourn his passing.

The service for Senator Scott White will be held at 1:00 PM on Sunday, November 6, 2011 in the Meany Hall Theater located on the University of Washington Campus in Seattle. Meany Hall is located near the intersection of 15th Avenue NE and NE 40th St.

Scott leaves behind his wife Alison and two young children, ages 3 and 5. Memorial gifts may be directed to the college education funds for Scott and Alison's children. Donations may be sent to:

Scott White Memorial Fund
PO Box 95675
Seattle, WA 98145-5675

Or at any Wells Fargo Branch:
Account Number: 1559550528
Routing Number: 125008547

That’s Outstanding!

“Outstanding Legislator of 2011”– That’s a phrase that would be music to any lawmaker’s ears, but when it comes from the state’s military vets, there’s an extra-special ring to it.  Rep. Sherry Appleton was notified a few days ago by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Governor’s Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee that she would be honored with that title, bestowed annually as one of several Outstanding Service to Veterans Awards. 

Sherry, who was first elected to the House in 2004, was recognized for her years of often-behind-the-scenes work on behalf of the state’s nearly 700,000 military veterans.A statement issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs described her as “a long-time supporter of veteran initiatives and friend to veterans throughout the state.  She has supported many veteran bills, including one to provide property tax relief to disabled veterans.”

Sherry comes by her concern for veterans naturally:  Her late husband, Ron Appleton, was a distinguished Vietnam veteran, and the Kitsap County district she represents is in the heart of one of Washington’s largest concentrations of military bases, active-duty personnel, and veterans from every branch of the service.  In Olympia, Sherry is vice chair of the House State Government Committee& Tribal Affairs Committee, which deals with veterans’ issues in the Legislaturehe and her fellow honorees will take part in the annual Veterans Day parade in Auburn Nov. 5, and will be recognized at an awards ceremony after the parade.

Governor announces ‘dreadful’ budget options

Governor Gregoire held a press conference this morning in which she outlined her preliminary choices for cuts to the state budget in order to address a $2 billion shortfall.  She also presented alternative budget cuts that, together with her preliminary choices, add up to a total of $4.2 billion in budget reduction options, which she described as “dreadful.”

You can find links to complete information about the budget reduction alternatives here.  
Some of the governor’s preliminary choices will be included in her 2012 Supplemental Budget proposal, which will likely be released just before Thanksgiving.

The cuts are being proposed as a result of the September revenue forecast, which showed that state revenue collections were down $1.8 billion from what had been anticipated when lawmakers passed a two-year state operating budget last spring.  At today's press conference, the governor noted that the state has already cut the budget by $10.5 billion in the past, and that only about one-third (or $8.7 billion) of the current budget is eligible to cut.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan released this statement today in response to the list of proposed budget actions.

More budget information can be found on our website.

Statement from House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan regarding Governor Gregoire’s list of possible budget actions

Here's House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan on Governor Gregoire’s list of possible budget actions:
“Ways and Means Chair Ross Hunter and the rest of our budget team have been going through the same process the Governor and her staff have, and I think the numbers she released today confirm that there are no quick, easy ways to meet the challenges this lingering recession is throwing our way.  You can point to any cut on her list and identify people in every community of our state who are going to be hurt by it.
The public is counting on us to act deliberatively and responsibly, keeping in mind not only the short-term effects on individuals and families, but also the possible long-term effects on the future of our state and our chances for an economic recovery.  What kind of a state do we want to have coming out of this crisis?
That said, it is our intention to approve a balanced budget as quickly as possible.”

Washington’s Ag industry going strong

Washington’s agricultural production in 2010 was $7.93 billion and it looks like this healthy trend will continue in 2011.
Washington farmers produce about 300 crops annually and we rank first in the nation for production of ten crops including apples, in fact, about half of all U.S. apples are grown in our state. The apple industry alone was valued at $1.4 billion last year.
But other important Washington products also increased in value:
  • Milk had a production value of $950 million (39% increase from 2009)
  • Wheat, $925 million (56 % increase)
  • Cherries, $367 million (59 % increase)
That’s not all the good news for Washington farmers, who will be seeing new trade opportunities and lower tariffs on U.S. goods now that President Obama signed free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

And on the subject of lower fees, last Friday Mexico canceled the last of the tariffs it had imposed on American goods in 2009. You can read an HDC Advanced post from July to learn how that tariff war with Mexico finally reached its end.

You can also check out this AP story to learn more about how well our Ag industry did in 2010 and what we can expect this year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Remembering Alex Deccio

House Democrats were saddened to learn of the passing yesterday of Sen. Alex Deccio, whose leadership for the people of Yakima and Washington spanned more than three decades.
While Democrats and Sen. Deccio, a Republican leader, were often on different sides of issues, we respected his leadership, his willingness to listen to all sides of public questions and his unflagging dedication to principle. Countless lives in Washington are better off because of Sen. Deccio’s leadership on health care and prescription drugs.  Indeed, many Washingtonians are alive today because of Sen. Deccio’s early, courageous and effective commitment to AIDS treatment and prevention. 
If there is ever a Washington State edition of Profiles in Courage, one of the chapters must surely be titled “Alex Deccio.”  House Democrats join our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate in honoring the memory and mourning the loss of Alex Deccio, a Washington leader who will be missed.

Washington blazes trail by linking child development science to better public policy

Our state is #1 yet again.

This time, it's in the area of early childhood development. Earlier this week, the governor's office issued a press release announcing Washington's selection as the first "Innovation State" in the nation by the Early Childhood Intervention Partnership (ECIP), which is affiliated with the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. This means we'll be collaborating with ECIP's Frontiers of Innovation initiative to develop innovative strategies for improving outcomes for vulnerable children. These strategies will be evidence-based and grounded in the emerging science of early childhood development research.

It's no wonder we're leading the way. After all, our own Rep. Ruth Kagi, who chairs the House Early Learning and Human Services committee, has been involved with ECIP for several years now. She was one of eight individuals from around the country selected to help guide the launch phase of ECIP.

Here in the Legislature, Rep. Kagi has pushed for policies that reflect what researchers have long known – that a child's emotional and cognitive development are closely intertwined, and the more effort we put into early learning and developmental screening, the better the educational – and emotional – outcomes for children. This year, Rep. Kagi successfully championed House Bill 1965 all the way to the governor's desk. It authorizes a public-private partnership to support community-based efforts to prevent and address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The effect of ACEs on children can be lifelong, as she argues in this Seattle Times guest column.

Thanks to this new collaboration, there will be more good news to report in the coming months about specific proposals that will have positive impacts on childhood development in our state. 

Photo:  Retired admirals and generals join House Early Learning and Human Services Chair Rep. Kagi in advocating for the importance of early learning at the Mission: Readiness event back in March 2011.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

State employment - and employee costs - dropping

A recent article in The Olympian and News Tribune by Brad Shannon takes an objective look at all the rhetoric about state workers and spending. It finds that, despite a growing state population, the percentage of spending on state employees is down.

Not up.


In 2002, the state spent 20.5 percent of the budget on state workers in higher-ed and general government. By this June, that had dropped to 18.2 percent.

Why is it down?
  • Fewer state workers. Many have been laid off, or positions have gone unfilled.
  • Pay cuts to remaining state employees.

Here’s another way The Olympian compared the numbers: total spending on state workers is about $2.7 billion. The budget shortfall is about $2 billion. Read the story here.

Town Hall Reminders from Kristine Lytton

Anacortes legislator Kristine Lytton will be hosting a series of roundtables and town hall meetings in the weeks to come, beginning with a discussion Tuesday night focused on efforts to increase our state’s energy conservation. That's followed by an education roundtable in Anacortes Wednesday, Oct. 26th. That discussion will focus on the general state of Education in Washington, as well as what to expect from the coming 2012 legislative session.

“The budget is going to pose many challenges for our communities and the state. I value the opinions of my constituents and look forward to hearing from them on their vision for the future of our state,” said Lytton.

Kristine invites all those interested in a general discussion of state government to join her at any one of the venues. Trending topics include education, fostering new ‘green’ jobs, the idea of an investment bank run by the state to fund local projects, as well as a general overview of the state budget situation.

Here are the upcoming dates and details:

  • Tuesday, October 25, 6:00—Transition Fidalgo & Friends Seventh Generation Supper Anacortes Senior Center, 1701 22nd Street 

  • Wednesday, October 26, 5:30—Anacortes Education Roundtable School District Boardroom, Anacortes Middle School 2nd Floor, 2202 M Avenue 

  • Saturday, October 29, 1:00—Orcas Island Mobile Office Orcas Firehouse, 45 Lavender Lane, Eastsound 

  • Monday, October 31, 11:00-12:30—Burlington Mobile Office Burlington Library, 820 East Washington Avenue 

  • Wednesday, November 9, 4:00—Friday Harbor Education Roundtable Friday Harbor Middle School Commons, 85 Blair Avenue 

  • Wednesday, November 2, 1-3—Mt. Vernon Mobile Office Skagit Democrats Office, 300 A First Street 

  • Monday, November 14, 2-3:30—Bellingham Mobile Office The Firehouse CafĂ©, 1314 Harris Street 

  • Monday, November 21, 11:30-1:30—Bellingham Mobile Office Whatcom Democrats office, 215 West Holly Street, Suite B-27

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hard times are hitting our heroes and heroines the hardest

A good many veterans, for all the kowtowing, bumper-sticker-patriotism, are getting the shaft.

Yes, these very men and women who we justly salute as our nation's champions, in theory, are too often treated like chumps, in reality. Take, especially, veterans of the U.S. battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. They're finding it far harder than veterans of earlier wars to make the shift back into civilian life, very much including the finding of a job. Veterans who’ve left military service during the past 10 years have an unemployment rate of 11.7 percent, according to recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's way above the overall jobless rate of 9.1 percent.

Disheartening enough by itself, this unemployment report fits all too well with a recent Pew Research Center survey. The survey says that a good many veterans feel that their military years made them better people, enriching their character, maturity and self-confidence. But more than 40 percent of these men and women who served in the past decade said the transition back to civilian life was arduous. And that's almost twice the rate of veterans who served before them.

You might want to check out this article, Veterans’ unemployment outpaces civilian rate, in the Oct. 16, 2011, Washington Post.

Earlier this year in Olympia, the Legislature approved several measures of keen interest and importance both for veterans and active-duty servicemen and servicewomen, and for their loved ones:

Veterans and other interested folks are always encouraged to review information and resources at the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. The office is located at 1102 Quince St. S.E. in Olympia. The mailing address is P.O. Box 41150/Olympia WA 98504, and the phone numbers are 360-725-2200, 1-800-562-0132 (toll free), and TDD 360-725-2199 (for hearing-impaired folks).

A message from the wife of Senator Scott White

Senator White’s wife, Alison Carl White, has issued the following statement:

"Scott’s family and I wish to express our appreciation for the outpouring of support we have received since learning of his passing. He was a tremendous husband, father and public official, and we are deeply moved by the nobility and honor with which his professional accomplishments are remembered. We are consoled by the support of friends, colleagues and our community. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated."

Donations can be made to the Wedgewood Elementary PTSA, EarthCorps, or to the Scott White Memorial Fund, an education fund for his two children, which has been established at Wells Fargo:

Scott White Memorial Fund
PO Box 95675 Seattle, WA 98145-2675
Account Number: 1559550528
Routing Number: 125008547

A public service will be held later this week. Please respect the family’s wishes for privacy at this time.