Friday, November 4, 2011

Washington's Zackery Lystedt law inspires other states to protect student athletes

We’ll never know for sure how many traumatic brain injuries are being prevented by the Zackery Lystedt law that Washington state lawmakers passed unanimously in 2009.  But we do know our state law is having an impact nationwide. 

The Zackery Lystedt law (a.k.a. EHB 1824) required school districts to raise awareness of the dangers posed by traumatic brain injuries and barred student athletes who are suspected to have a head injury from practicing or playing in games until a health care professional clears their return.  Reps. Marko Liias, Eric Pettigrew, and Pat Sullivan were co-sponsors of the measure.

Today’s national AP story on how New laws on concussions protect student athletes reports that Washington’s Zackery Lystedt law has already served as an inspiration and/or template for laws in 31 other states, with more apparently on the way.

Bob Colgate, the assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Associations told the A.P. that awareness of the risks has spread nationwide “among states, the NFL, NCAA and youth football leagues after Washington's state legislature adopted its Zackery Lystedt Law in 2009,” and “the law has served as a template for state legislation.”

Saving even one student athlete from a life-long tragedy is important. The Zackery Lystedt law will save many.  To learn more about this issue, visit the National Conference of State Legislature’s page on Traumatic Brain Injury Legislation. The TVW video of the original House Education Committee hearing on HB 1824 shares the personal story of the athlete who inspired a national movement:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Investing in our communities with tax-dollar funded jobs

Detractors of state government sure love talking about how our government can't create jobs, only inhibit job growth. But, as the Seattle Times reports today, maybe they should check with the residents of Aberdeen, who are more than happy to welcome state-funded jobs constructing the components of a 520 bridge replacement, which have replaced the dwindling timber industry jobs in the area. Smart investments of tax dollars are bolstering new industries in high-demand fields, and bolstering communities hard hit by the recession.   

"In a county that has limped along with a 13 percent unemployment rate, one of the highest in the state, the $367 million contract to build the pontoons — some as long as a football field and weighing 11,000 tons each — is pumping new life into a once-thriving timber town that fell on hard times and stayed that way for years.

The pontoon project will produce 300 union-wage jobs over several years. While it's not the only burst of recent good news for Aberdeen, it's clearly the most visible...
The project has meant nothing but good news to Aberdeen.
"The restaurants are ecstatic to have them here," Mayor Bill Simpson said. "People always knock down Grays Harbor County, but I see it as a booming area, doing better and better all the time."
Merchants agree.
"It's bringing a lot of smiling faces," said Dave TerBush, who works for Home Depot. "It's all positive for the harbor. We've been discovered."
Added Deanna Russell, owner of Teri's Steakhouse, which opened about a year ago downtown: "It has done nothing but boost the economy, a real plus to the community."
Our own representative, Dean Takko from Longview, is also quoted with regards to the booming business at the nearby port, which is exporting Chryslers and biodiesel made in America. "If you would have told me five years ago we'd be exporting cars to China out of Grays Harbor, I would have said you're crazy. It's huge. The biodiesel plant is running at 100 percent capacity."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rep. Kelley: Jet lag for JAG

During the interim, like a lot of legislators, Rep. Troy Kelley is traveling out of district – in his case, far out of district.

He’s spending two weeks in Korea performing reserve military service. A major and judge advocate general who is transferring from the Army Reserve to the National Guard, Kelley is focusing on administrative law issues on this trip, his fifth to Korea in 18 years. On previous trips to Korea, he has worked on international law and provided legal assistance to soldiers, helping them with tax and family law issues and other legal matters.

Kelley, whose 28th District in Pierce County includes part of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is stationed at Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul while in Korea. He flew to the Far East Oct. 23 on a military plane, stopping en route on northern Honshu Island in Japan – where, he said, signs of the March tsunami were still evident.  He’s due to return Nov. 5.

First of four public meetings on Tacoma Smelter Plume cleanup slated for tonight

The state Department of Ecology has scheduled four public meetings over the next several weeks in order to gather public input on its cleanup plan for the Tacoma Smelter Plume.

The first meeting takes place tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Point Defiance Elementary School cafeteria in Tacoma.

A former copper smelter in the Tacoma area spewed arsenic and lead into the air for nearly a century.  These emissions were deposited in soils throughout King, Pierce, Kitsap and Thurston Counties, creating an environmental and public health hazard.  Arsenic and lead both pose serious health risks to people, particularly children.

In 2005, state Rep. Dave Upthegrove sponsored legislation requiring playground soils in areas exposed to industrial pollution be tested for toxic contaminants like arsenic and lead, and that those contaminants be removed from the soil.  As a result of this measure, soil from many playgrounds and day cares in areas affected by the Tacoma Smelter Plume has been cleaned up and made safe again for children to play in.

The remaining public meetings are scheduled as follows:

Nov. 9, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., McMurry Middle School Cafeteria, Vashon Island

Nov. 16, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Curtis High School Cafeteria, University Place

Dec. 6, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Des Moines Activity Center, Des Moines

The DOE's draft cleanup plan can also be viewed online here, and public comments will be accepted by email and postal mail through December 20, 2011, at the address provided at the link.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Get your GET credits starting today!

Washington’s prepaid tuition program opens to new participants today, so it’s a good time to think about giving GET (Guaranteed Education Tuition) credits this holiday season.
The current price for one GET unit is $163 dollars.  In September of this year, the unit price increased from $117 dollars.  The program explains the cost increase and the reasons behind it in this Q&A document.
Even at the new, increased, price, GET credits are still a worthwhile investment, especially since tuition at Washington’s public colleges and universities is expected to continue to rise.  Last spring, state legislators gave Washington’s four-year colleges tuition-setting authority, while also increasing financial aid for low- and middle-income students.  This past summer, the University of Washington’s Board of Regents approved a 20 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduates.  Financial aid for in-state undergraduates at the school was also increased by 45 percent.
The state’s community and technical colleges raised tuition by 12 percent for the 2011-2012 school year.