Friday, December 9, 2011

Boating association honors Upthegrove for championing copper paint phaseout

Applying copper-based biocides to the underside of boats and other marine vessels helps keep the growth of algae and barnacles in check. But these “anti-fouling” paints  leach copper into our waterways that is toxic to aquatic life, and are extremely costly for boatyards to clean up.
That’s why lawmakers passed a bill last session to begin transitioning away from copper-based anti-fouling paints to other effective but less toxic alternatives.  The bill was a great example of the business and environmental communities coming together in order to protect Washington’s “Evergreen Legacy” – in this case, our precious waterways and marine life - as well as our small businesses.
Yesterday, the Northwest Marine Trade Association – which represents 640 small businesses across Washington – gave its “Legislator of the Year” award to Rep. Dave Upthegrove for his leadership on the bill.  Rep. Upthegrove was the bill's House sponsor, and as chairman of the Environment committee helped ensure its smooth passage.  In his acceptance speech to the NMTA, Rep. Upthegrove noted that Puget Sound has played a large role in his life going all the way back to his childhood, when he and his brother would play at Seahurst Beach in Burien.  His district is also home to boatyards that benefit from cleaner, safer marine vessel paints.
You can read the press release about his award here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

The jobs are coming; now we need the workers

Thousands of Boeing jobs will stay in Washington thanks to a deal struck by Boeing and union leaders last week, then ratified by workers on Wednesday.  It’s an exciting development for the state, as the 737 MAX orders have piled up to 700 airplanes already.  Some big orders and more reasons to celebrate might also be in the works.

With all those good jobs staying and coming into the state, House Democrats want to ensure they are filled by Washington workers.  So we are moving quickly to help train workers for aerospace jobs now and in the future.  Within the next week, we will hear these bills:
  • Provide $1M for the Aerospace Training Student Loan Program The loan program was created to break down financial barriers for workers to receive training for aerospace jobs.  With this investment, loans will train workers for jobs ready now, then be paid back into the fund to keep connecting workers with jobs.
  • Establish Aerospace Training Pathways in Middle and High School Building on the last year’s Launch Year legislation, this will encourage school districts to adopt Project Lead the Way, an innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum, that can combine with aerospace technical courses. 
  • Strengthen Teacher Math and Science Standards More rigorous math and science standards for students entering teacher preparation programs will be set by the Professional Educator Standards Board.
  • Give Higher Education Credit Equivalencies Just as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses in high school become college credit, Project Lead the Way courses would have credit equivalencies at our community, technical and four-year universities. 
Here is a press release with more information.

To read this blog in Spanish, click here.

Helping veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injuries

Our veterans don't simply put their lives on hold for our country. In many cases, these men and women who volunteered to stand in harm's way for us put their very lives on the line
Tragically and all too often, however, a huge need goes unanswered for some of these injured warriors now struggling mightily to endure traumatic brain injuries (TBI). 

These injuries are very difficult to treat and manage because afflicted individuals might actually feel some kind of normal on the inside. And yet, they have to work terribly hard carving out a new life and overcoming severely curtailed physical abilities on the outside.
Aimed at strengthening services for combat veterans as well as other people enduring TBI is House Bill 1614, which was passed and signed into law earlier this year. 
The Washington TBI Strategic Partnership Advisory Council is working with the Department of Social and Health Services to develop and monitor a statewide, comprehensive plan addressing the needs of TBI patients.
A recent Seattle Weekly article -- "VA Staffers Say They Can't Meet Demand for Soldiers' Mental Health Care" (Dec. 8, 2011) -- reveals a dreadful canyon, the vast ravine between services needed and services received. The Obama administration notes that more than 30,000 troops will be coming home from Afghanistan by the end of next year. 
That's wonderful news in anybody's book, and especially wonderful when joined up with thousands of their comrades in arms coming home from Iraq. The huge question looms, though: Are we, and most pointedly, is the Veterans Administration prepared for the enormous and inevitable population of trauma and PTSD cases?

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hunter’s school funding reform draws notice

Ross Hunter has rolled out his sweeping proposal to reform the school levy equalization program in a couple of settings, and it’s beginning to attract media attention
He went public with it Nov. 19 in a speech to the Washington State School Directors’ Association, and the Ways and Means Committee he chairs held a work session on the concept Dec. 7. 
Hunter’s plan would provide budgetary relief for the state without hurting school districts, and ideally tap future economic growth more effectively. So far, he has not introduced a bill incorporating the proposal.

To read this blog post in Spanish, click here.

Texting while driving: a growing danger

Quite possibly as dangerous as driving drunk
A new national report says Driving While Texting – which some experts say is as dangerous as drunk driving – went up 50 percent last year.
Some key numbers from the report, which you can read here:
  • 18 percent of drivers said they’ve sent texts or emails while driving
  •  Half of drivers aged 21 to 24 said they’ve texted while driving
  •  At any giving time, almost 1 percent of drivers are texting
According to the Associated Press story, other places in America saw reductions in this behavior by drivers after new laws were passed.
Pilot projects in Hartford, Connecticut and Syracuse, New York showed a reduction after a public education campaign was coupled with police enforcement.
Driving While Texting dropped by a third in Syracuse.
It was cut by 57 percent in Hartford, Connecticut.
Here in Washington state, we responded by passing a law banning texting while driving.
It will be interesting to see how our state’s latest numbers compare to the national report.
The AP story quotes a spokesman for the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Jonathan Adkins, as saying enforcement is the best approach: "It is clear that educational messages alone aren't going to change their behavior. Rather, good laws with strong enforcement are what is needed. Many drivers won't stop texting until they fear getting a ticket. The increase shows what an uphill challenge distracted driving remains."

To read this blog post in Spanish, click here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

SR 520 tolling—Will you be Good To Go?

Breaking news: Tolling on the 520 bridge will start Dec. 29. Being prepared can save you money, time and peace of mind. 
Tolling the current bridge while building the new one will slash public costs and help keep future tolls low, but it will also add traffic to SR 522, I-5, I-90, and I-405 as commuters explore alternative routes. That’s why our state’s Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and local communities are making a massive effort to smooth the transition by giving travelers more tools and choices that you should you know about.

Know your tolling choices. You can always drive your vehicle across the bridge and have a bill mailed to you automatically, but having a GoodToGo! sticker will save you $1.50 each trip—and it works on every tolling facility in the state! The web page makes it easy to get a sticker and offers great tips. Be sure to check out the SR 520 Tolling Video.

Understand bargain tolling. You can get deep discounts for crossing the 520 bridge during non-peak hours. The SR 520 Toll Rates web page gives you an idea of how much you can save.

Know your transit options. Metro and Sound transit are adding nearly 130 bus trips each day to routes that go around or cross the 520 bridge. Metro’s Getting across the 520 Bridge web page offers great tools for finding transit and ride-sharing alternatives to regular tolls, including expanded Cross-lake bus routes and schedules and a handy Eastside Park and Ride Map (PDF).
Know your traffic conditions.  Drive smart and save time with up-to-the-minute traffic info from WSDOT’s Seattle Area Traffic page, or Dial 511 Travel info, and Twitter feeds.

As House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn puts it, “Knowing your choices, planning ahead, and allowing some extra time to reach your destination will go a long way toward making the transition to tolling as easy as possible.”
To read this blog post in Spanish, click here.

Want help selling your stuff in the rest of the world? You got it!

Our state is still facing financial challenges, but two recent announcements show Washington has a brighter future to look forward to.

Last week we heard that Boeing’s 737 MAX will be built in Renton and today we have great news for businesses that want to sell their products abroad.

Back in June of 2010, Governor Gregoire announced the Washington Export Initiative to increase the number of companies exporting their goods and services, and up the total export sales out of Washington. The state initiative complements the National Export Initiative, President Obama’s plan to double the nation’s exports by 2015. After 16 months of hard work by the Department of Commerce, the $1.6 million Export Washington program for small businesses was launched yesterday.
While small businesses make up about 95 percent of all Washington businesses, only 4 percent are currently exporting. This new program will grow that figure by helping open up international markets for about 100 Washington companies and generate $58 million in new export sales.

For more information on this program and how it can help your business, read the Department of Commerce press release.

To read this blog post in Spanish, click here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Frank Chopp talks protests, budget, Boeing and more

TVW’s Inside Olympia sat down with House Speaker Frank Chopp to run through current state issues.  They touched on a lot, and I bet you can guess what subject Chopp is “ecstatic” about.

(Note:  If the video below doesn't play, you can also see it at this link)

To read this blog post in Spanish, click here.

Taking the bounce out of borrowing

Because of a provision in the state constitution, the downturn in state revenues in the Great Recession also has severely crimped the legal ability of the state to borrow money – money that might be used for stimulus projects at a time when the economy could use a boost. But last week, a state commission recommended changing the constitution so the borrowing limitation isn’t tied quite so tightly to recent revenue fluctuations.
The current rule sets the state’s debt limit at a percentage of the annual average of general revenues in the previous three years.  The commission, whose membership includes Rep. Hans Dunshee of Snohomish, would calculate the average based on the previous six years, reducing the impact of busts (and booms) and making for a smoother ride from highs to lows. The commission recommended some other changes, too, designed to improve management of the state debt.

The Crosscut web site has written about the issue and the commission posted its report online.

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

National Governors Association: State governments are feeling the squeeze

The National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers released a report today confirming most state legislatures are still facing difficult economic situations.

The Fall 2011 Fiscal Survey of States shows overall general fund spending by state legislatures are still at pre-recession levels. While revenues have declined, demand for core government services like education, transportation, and public safety continues to increase putting states in a difficult position.

Washington is feeling the pinch too. Despite cutting over $10.5 billion from the state’s general fund budget in the past three years, we are facing another $2 billion budget deficit.
The governor laid out two different plans to address the budget shortfall – an all-cuts budget and an alternative plan that would “buy back” some of the cuts with a temporary sales tax increase. The new revenue would restore about $411 million in cuts to education, $42 million for long-term care and developmentally disabled services, and $41 million in public safety.
The Legislature held public work sessions this week to discuss the governor’s proposals.

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.

Election turnout up, but still low in off-year

The Washington Secretary of State reported this week that “turnout” in the Nov. 8 election came in at just under 53 percent of all registered voters (the SOS puts “turnout” in quotation marks because the election was conducted entirely by mail, a process designed in part to encourage voting).

That rate of participation was 6 percentage points higher than Secretary of State Sam Reed predicted – but it’s still, of course, barely more than half of all registered voters. And when the 1.94 million ballots cast are compared to the state’s total voting-age (18 and over)  population of 5.14 million, the participation rate drops to about 40 percent.*

Off-year elections without races for president or governor, like the one Nov. 8, yield relatively low participation rates. In the last presidential election, in 2008, turnout reached close to 85 percent – although, again, the percentage of participation among the voting-age population would be considerably lower.

*Those numbers yield a rate of under 38 percent, but the Census figures for the 18-and-over population include non-citizens not eligible to vote, so the turnout of the eligible voting-age population would be somewhat above that percentage.

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.