Friday, December 16, 2011

And the winner is…

Washington wins up to $60 million in early learning grant money

UPDATE: Washington has won the full $60 million grant award.

Washington is one of nine states that will share $500 million in early learning grant money from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.
Washington will receive up to $60 million as part of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant. The Race to the Top grant program challenged states to enact reforms that would increase access to high-quality early learning programs for children in low-income families.
Rep. Ruth Kagi, who chairs the House Early Learning & Human Services committee, heard the good news straight from Governor Gregoire this morning.
“This is truly the result of a collective effort by people across the state who have kept a focus on the importance of early learning,” Rep. Kagi said. “It started years ago with the Legislature’s creation of the Early Learning Advisory Council and Washington Learns, and is very promising for the future of education in our state.”
House Democrats championed a number of reforms that have improved early learning in Washington. These reforms, and our continued commitment to ensuring all kids are ready for school, put us in an excellent position to receive Race to the Top funding. A few of the recent reforms that helped push our application to the top are:
  • Implementing the successful WaKIDS program statewide by the 2014-15 school year. WaKids brings parents, teachers, and early learning provides together to help young children transition into public schools.
  • Developing early learning guidelines.
  • Strengthening measurement tools that track student progress from preschool to college.
  • Enhancing professional development opportunities through awards and incentives for early learning providers.
"This Early Learning Race to the Top grant is a huge win for Washington's families, schools, and communities," said Rep. Marcie Maxwell, Deputy Majority Leader for Education & Opportunity. "Quality preschool and full day kindergarten experiences are the smartest program and dollar investments we can make."

For more information about Washington’s Early Learning Plan, click here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cow power: Clean energy and money for farmers

How can you turn a nasty, expensive problem into a huge winner?

Local dairy farmers spend tons of time, energy and money cleaning up the manure generated by their cows. It’s a hazard to human health and the environment if you do it wrong, and it’s just plain costly when you do it right.
But as this KIRO 7 story shows, you can turn cow pies into cow power.

Photo: KIRO TV
Dairy farmer Brian DeGroot told KIRO 7 he spent up to $3,000 a month disposing of all the manure produced by his dairy cows. Even a single dairy cow can produce a heck of a lot of that stuff.

What a feat of human ingenuity. A giant, stinky problem will now be transformed into clean energy and cash.

This is an amazing story of creativity. It’s a win for farmers, a win for jobs and a win for the environment.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Legislature adjourns for the year

The 2011 second special session of the legislature has adjourned sine die as of around 4:00 p.m. this afternoon.

During the 17-day session, legislators made progress towards closing a projected $2 billion shortfall in the state operating budget.  A "down payment" of nearly $500 million in cuts and savings was agreed upon by both the House and Senate earlier this week, and both chambers passed the measure.

There is clearly more to be done, but this is an important step forward. Budget writers will continue to work on an agreement to close the remaining shortfall clear through to the regular session slated to begin January 9.

Additionally, legislators passed a handful of other bills during this special session that will help Washingtonians affected by the tough economy.  One measure will help military families who relocate to our state by allowing for expedited professional licensing of military spouses.  This will enable qualified people to enter our workforce, and support our active-duty servicemen and -women by ensuring that their spouses can more easily find employment in our state.  Another bill makes an important technical fix to last year's Foreclosure Fairness Act in order to ensure that homeowners and financial institutions will continue to have access to required mediation services.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Leading planners name Springer “2011 Legislator of the Year”

Rep. Larry Springer
The future is now.  No one knows better than the American Planning Association (APA)  that our future depends on what our leaders do today.  That’s why the HDC is proud that the Washington Chapter of the APA recently named Rep. Larry Springer as its “2011 Legislator of the Year.”
As announced in the Redmond Reporter and other news outlets, Springer was honored for his leadership on new laws that help local communities save tax dollars and plan for better futures.
The award announcement especially highlighted Springer’s leadership for the homeless and for cost-effective reforms that help local governments maintain parks and facilities, undertake annexations, conserve open space, and build infrastructure for jobs and economic development. 
Jill Sterret, President of the APA Washington Chapter, put it this way, “As a former mayor of Kirkland, well known for its good planning, his long record of public service shows his understanding of and commitment to the principles of good planning.”
The APA’s Legislator of the Year award is a good reminder that Larry Springer not only serves the 45th District, he helps businesses, workers and communities across our entire state in his role as Deputy Majority Leader for Jobs & Economic Development in the people’s House.
Congratulations, Larry Springer!

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Washingtonians are recycling more than ever

The Washington State Department of Ecology announced in a press release today that our state’s recycling rate increased to 49 percent last year – its highest rate ever.  In fact, that puts us within reach of the 50 percent goal set by the legislature in 1989 (the nationwide average was 34 percent in 2010).
In recent years, legislators have passed bills promoting more participation in recycling among local jurisdictions and within state government, and expanding the types of materials that can be recycled in our state.  For example, in 2009 a bill that moved all state agencies toward using 100 percent recycled paper was signed into law. The following year, a product stewardship program for recycling mercury light bulbs cleared the legislature, as well as a bill to give local governments more flexibility to encourage recycling and meet waste-reduction goals in their communities.  It is hoped that these measures can help push our state to the 50 percent – or higher – mark.
Ecology maintains an excellent consumer website with recycling resources and information.  It also staffs a toll-free hotline (1-800-RECYCLE) Mondays through Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to provide people with information about where to recycle particular items or where the closest recycling facility is located.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Boeing/Machinists deal is a big deal for Washington’s credit rating

The good news just keeps pouring in! Over the past few weeks we’ve learned that:
All of these are evidence that our economy—while still struggling, is recovering slowly but surely.
After hearing back in August that Standard & Poor’s had downgraded our nation’s credit rating, we are proud to hear that our state’s credit rating is in good shape, according to Nicole Johnson, Moody's Investor Service Senior Vice President.
Photo:  Machinists News Blog
In her report dated December 12, Johnson stated that the deal between Boeing Company and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union, which secures thousands of jobs and provides union members a bonus that could boost sales tax collections, is credit positive for Washington state.
Moody’s rating for Washington is Aa1, which is defined here as “Obligations rated Aa are judged to be of high quality and are subject to very low credit risk. The modifier 1 indicates that the obligation ranks in the higher end of its generic rating category.”
The newly ratified contract will enhance economic stability throughout the entire state. Johnson’s report highlights that the manufacturing sector in Washington accounts for 9.3% of all private sector jobs, and that, of those, the ones that include Boeing machinists are a substantially bigger part of the state’s economy: the durable goods manufacturing component that includes aerospace is 71.4% of all Washington manufacturing jobs compared to 61.3% nationwide.
Also worth noting is that Washington has regained the 5,000 Boeing aerospace jobs that were lost during the recession and the sector is expected to grow as the company increases production (to fill these orders and  these, and these) over the next several years.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Aerospace jobs are well-paying, with an average hourly wage of $37.57 compared to $23.32 for all manufacturing workers. In Washington, Johnson states in her comment, spending from those high wages have a multiplier effect that contributes to the overall strength of our state’s economy.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Budget down-payment clears House this evening

By a vote of 86-8, the House of Representatives took the first big bite out of the budget deficit today with the approval of HB 2058.  The measure now heads to the Senate for approval there.

More information on the plan is available here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Wanted: Energetic and enthusiastic students to serve as legislative pages

House pages Myah Dawkins and Ty'zhuan Lewis
serving as flag bearers
The House and Senate are now accepting applications for the Legislative Page Program. Due to limited space, interested students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.
While spending a week in Olympia, pages receive a hands-on and interactive civics lesson at the state legislature. Pages perform a wide variety of tasks such as presenting the colors, running messages, and during debates on the House and Senate floors. Students also spend a few hours a day learning about state government in the page school.
“I really encourage students and their parents to consider this,” said Rep. Larry Seaquist. “This is a great way for school-room study of history and democracy to come alive.  Our pages really enjoy this week in the House.”
To serve as a legislative page, a public, private, or home school student must: 
  • Have permission from a parent or guardian
  • Have permission from school
  • Be sponsored by a current member of the House of Representatives or Senate
  • Be at least 14 years of age and not have reached his or her 17th birthday
Click here and here to watch videos about the legislative page program.
Additional information about the House page program can be found here. Click here to visit the Senate Page Program website.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Calling all 45th District residents…

Feeling a bit disconnected from your state legislature these days?  Wish you could talk directly with your state representative?
Well, if you live in the 45th Legislative District, you’ll be able to participate in a live telephone town hall with state Rep. Roger Goodman tomorrow evening.
Rep. Goodman will be calling households in his district at about 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 14.  To participate in the live town hall, simply stay on the line when you get the call.
During the hour-long event, participants will have the opportunity to ask Rep. Goodman questions and speak directly with him.
Telephone town halls are another way for legislators to communicate with and receive feedback from their constituents.  While they are not a replacement for live town halls in the district, they do provide a way for more people to participate.  In fact, over 6000 constituents participated last month in a telephone town hall hosted by Rep. Ross Hunter in the neighboring 48th Legislative District.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

House Democrats welcome Rep. Pollet!

Rep. Gerry Pollet
Last week a new face joined the House Democratic Caucus: Rep. Gerry Pollet. Rep. Pollet was appointed to the House of Representatives by the King County Council, following Rep. David Frockt’s appointment to the Senate and the untimely death of our colleague and friend Sen. Scott White.
A thirty-year resident of Seattle, Gerry is Executive Director and co-founder of Heart of America Northwest, a 16,000 member organization dedicated to environmental clean-up. Gerry also teaches at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.
Gerry arrived in Olympia just hours after being sworn in by the King County Council, and has been busy getting up-to-speed with special session.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

House boosts Kittitas County solar project

A bill to give a financial lift to a major solar power project near Cle Elum won easy approval in the House Monday.
The bill, by Rep. Deb Eddy of Kirkland, doubles the renewable energy credits for power from the Teanaway Solar Reserve. That should significantly help backers obtain construction financing for the project, which will create jobs in Kittitas County.
“The entire electrical system is in the midst of a transformation,” Eddy said.  “The introduction of wind power into our grid was only the beginning.  The Teanaway project will bring utility-scale solar generation into the Washington mix, helping raise the profile of this renewable.”
The 80-9 vote for HB1365 sends the measure to the Senate. A similar Eddy bill cleared the House in the 2011 regular session but died in the Senate, as discussed in a June article in The Daily Record in Ellensburg.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Budget hearing at 3:30 today

A bipartisan plan to close nearly one-fourth of the projected $2 billion state budget gap was set for a hearing Monday in the House Ways and Means Committee.
The bill, by Chair Ross Hunter of Medina, spells out $480 million in cuts and savings in the 2011-13 biennial budget, which was initially adopted by the Legislature last spring. Since then, the economy’s sluggish growth has resulted in official forecasts that revenues will fall $2 billion short of what’s outlined in the budget, plus necessary reserves.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.