Friday, May 4, 2012

Friends indeed for secluded senior citizens

Take a look around your town and country. Chances are, says the recent Washington Census, that upward of 10 of every 100 households you see are occupied by senior citizens who are living alone. It's a fact, too, that the senior-citizen population is exploding. Baby boomers among us who haven't OD'd on teeth-whitening treatments or been sent off to that Great Woodstock Revival in the Sky on account of power-yoga mishaps are swelling like nobody's business the ranks of the Matlock-TV set.

Your friendly neighborhood HDC Advance here maintains that most senior citizens, all apologies to Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, don't want to be alone.

State Rep. Jim Moeller in recent years has won widespread public, legislative and gubernatorial support for the writing of laws designed to halt exploitation of senior citizens and other potentially vulnerable men and women. He's worked with a task force of southwestern Washington citizens and other concerned individuals and organizations to build protective standards against that very immoral, criminal behavior. And Moeller along the way has seen all too well the pain that torments folks who live in seclusion, who lack for companionship. Today he welcomes a powerful new ally.

ElderFriends is a Southwest Washington program launching this month, according to its website, "to relieve isolation and loneliness among elders who wish to live in their own homes and remain independent for as long as possible." Single people 65 or older are matched with a volunteer who visits them every week, maybe playing games or sewing together, doing some light cooking, going for a little walk, or perhaps just chatting. The younger friends are not there to do chores or run errands. What the program is about is companionship. It's about something as basic, as fun and as fundamental as friendship.

Here's a Columbian newspaper item -- Program helps seniors who need a pal -- that's chock-full of info about ElderFriends.

Photo credit: Pacian

Continuing his work to strengthen Washington laws protecting vulnerable adults, Moeller in the recent legislative session steered House Bill 2578 unanimously through the House of Representatives. He worked to get House Republicans as steadfastly on board as his own House Democrats. Unfortunately, though, the measure fell victim to Senate Republican shenanigans toward the end of session. Moeller said he'll work to overcome such GOP hijinks in the next Legislature.
His 2012 vulnerable-adults measure would have directed the state Department of Health or health professions boards or commissions to suspend a health-care provider's license if the provider is barred from employment in caring for vulnerable adults based upon a finding of neglect, abuse or financial exploitation of vulnerable adults.

Moeller explained that "there's currently some confusion among employers and the public as to why someone who is prohibited from working unsupervised with vulnerable adults could still have a license from the Department of Health to practice his or her profession. The bill would immediately suspend the person's license until there has been a fair disciplinary hearing with full due-process. The legislation establishes a dependable, consistent standard to strengthen patient safety."

The Legislature in May

Spring has finally arrived, and the Legislature is not scheduled to be "in session" any more this year.

But that doesn't mean legislative work has come to a standstill. Committees will be holding public meetings and work sessions in various locations around the state all interim long.

May, for example, has the House Higher Education committee meeting at South Seattle Community College on Monday the 21st.  And the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee meeting at Sea Tac City Hall on Thursday the 31st.

These off-site hearings give legislators the opportunity to hear from community folks who might not be able to make a trip to Olympia during the regular legislative session.

Of course, plenty of other committees will be meeting in the tradition hearing rooms on the Capitol Campus in Olympia this month, too. 

You can keep track of individual committees - or all committees - by signing up for e-mail notification of upcoming meetings and work sessions.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Town hall meetings -- giving citizens a voice

Reps. Roger Goodman and Larry Springer
taking citizen questions at a town hall
meeting in Kirkland City Hall.
You may have participated in a town hall meeting via telephone.

Town hall meetings with lawmakers now happen in person, over the phone or through the web. People are also using email, Twitter, Facebook and other tools to have a dialogue with their local lawmakers.

This is a new twist on an old idea: bringing citizens together to discuss issues -- or decide things.

Typically, you hear the phrase "New England-style town hall meeting." It's true that small towns in New Hampshire, Vermont and elsewhere holding town hall meetings more than 300 years ago. Every citizen got the chance to talk, debate and vote on issues.

Yet this idea goes back even longer.

It's inspired by the ancient democracy in Athens and the notion that every citizen should have a say. The Swiss towns of Glarus and Appenzell have been Langsgemeinde -- town hall meetings -- for 700 years.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate, from both parties, are embracing modern twists on this old idea. Technology may be improving it. But the notion behind it, that every citizen counts, is as strong as ever.

Rep. Hans Dunshee will be calling constituents in the 44th Legislative District on May 7 at 6PM to host a tele-town hall.

Rep. Tami Green will be hosting her own tele-town hall for the people of the 28th Legislative District on May 9 at 6PM.

Innovation Partnership Zones are in for some new cash

A few days ago, the Department of Commerce, which is charged with enhancing and promoting sustainable community and economic vitality in Washington, announced that there are $13.5 million in the Capital Budget for Innovation Partnership Zones (IPZ) to foster economic growth. 

Anything that fosters economic growth is a good thing, but what are IPZs, anyway?  

The Innovation Partnership Zones program was created in 2007 by the Washington State Legislature to strengthen the connections between research and business, encouraging regions in Washington to fire up their global competitiveness, and create more high-paying jobs.   

It’s been five years and, so far so good, as we have 14 of them!  This session with a measure sponsored by Rep. Phyllis GutiĆ©rrez Kenney, we strengthened them by requiring that they must be part of an industry cluster, which will encourage the creation of more zones that will prompt current and future economic development 

The projects that will receive funding include: 

Tri-Cities Research District - $5 million for a new research and education facility in the heart of the area’s wine country, allowing Washington State to continue to solidify its position as the second leading wine producer in the nation.  

Walla Walla Valley IPZ - $3.67 million for human capital, addressing a shortage in energy technicians in the region who are responsible for maintaining the area’s 5,000 wind turbines.  

Tacoma: Urban Clean Water Technology Zone - $3.6 million for three new labs:
  • Clean Water Innovation Development & Technology Transfer Laboratory.
  • Shared use lab at the Center for Urban Waters to develop new clean water technologies. 
  • Clean Water Technology Aquatic Toxicology Lab to study the effects of pollution and diseases on fish, aquatic insects and bivalves. 

Grays Harbor IPZ - $750,000 to equip the Coastal Innovation Zone R&D Business Incubator Facility to help businesses develop, test and commercialize new products with a heavy focus on reuse of industry byproducts and wastes. 

Bothell Biomedical Manufacturing IPZ - $500,000 for a new incubator space to house companies that design, develop and manufacture biomedical devices.  

For more information on these projects go here.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Completing the supply chain for homegrown aviation biofuels

Rep. Andy Billig
When it comes to supporting cutting-edge aerospace research and technologies, our state is already a leader.  Some of the world's best airplanes are built right here in Washington, and we'll soon add the next-generation 737 to that list.

We're also home to the only U.S. airline actively using aviation biofuel to power its planes.

What we haven't been able to do, however, is refine our own aviation biofuels, which leaves a gap in the supply chain.  Although we grow an abundance of feedstocks here in the Evergreen State, and our research universities have been discovering how to turn them them into aviation biofuels, we've had to rely on out-of-state sources for the refined product. 

But new legislation will foster a regional supply chain for the production and refining of in-state aviation biofuels, keeping us at the forefront of this promising industry.  Rep. Andy Billig, who sponsored the measure, has also just been appointed to the Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Work Group.  Along with a group of stakeholders from the public and private sectors, he'll be helping to further the development of this industry in our state.  And as the industry grows, it will create jobs and ensure large-scale commercial viability of aviation biofuels so more airlines - and the military - will someday use it in to power their planes, too.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Revenue problems – and solutions

In a four-part online series last month, the private, nonprofit Washington State Budget and Policy Center examined the long-term fiscal challenges facing the state – and included a nifty graphic on the current dysfunctional revenue system. 

That graphic highlighted shortcomings in the current system, including its extremely regressive nature, its failure to reflect growth in the state’s economy and the proliferation of open-ended tax exemptions.

Some members of the House Democratic Caucus were ahead of the curve on this. Back in February, several legislators – mostly first-termers – rolled out a reform package that addressed these concerns and more. The Legislature did not approve those measures before adjourning – but the problems remain.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rep. Moscoso and Sen. McAuliffe to hold open house tomorrow

If you live in the 1st Legislative District (portions of northeast King County and south Snohomish County, including areas of Bothell, Woodinville, Mountlake Terrace, and Brier) you can meet with Rep. Luis Moscoso and Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe at their new office open house tomorrow evening. 
To save costs and better serve their constituents, Rep. Moscoso and Sen. McAuliffe are sharing an office in Bothell, right in the Country Village. 
So if you can make it, swing by to check out the new space and spend some time with your state legislators on Wednesday, May 2nd from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. 
1st District office: Country Village, 817 238th St. SE, Suite L, Bothell, WA 98021
Need more info? Call their new office: (425) 398-4212)
To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Seaquist hosting final telephone town hall Wednesday

Residents of the 26th Legislative District may be getting a call from their state representative tomorrow. Rep. Larry Seaquist will be hosting his final telephone town hall forum of 2012 on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

While telephone town halls are not designed to replace in-person meetings, they provide a cost-efficient forum for legislators to connect with and hear from their neighbors. Participants will get an update on how the 2012 legislative session ended and what’s in store for higher education down the road. Participants will also have opportunities to ask questions to Rep. Seaquist during the hour-long call.

Registered voters within these districts will be called when the telephone town halls begin. Those that do not receive a call and would like to participate can call 1-877-229-8493 and enter the ID code “18646.”

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

Rep. Upthegrove honored by Kent Chamber for helping businesses

Rep. Dave Upthegrove
The plight of one Kent restaurant led to new legislation that saves jobs in this South King County city, and helps other businesses all over Washington.  The measure's prime sponsor, Rep. Dave Upthegrove, was one of two recipients of the Kent Chamber of Commerce's "Government Employee of the Year" award this year.

Rep. Upthegrove was motivated to sponsor House Bill 2491 after he was contacted by the owner of a popular locally-owned eatery in his district.  The restaurant happened to be located at a site where a different restaurant - under completely different ownership - had gone out of business. But due to a technicality in state law, the new restaurant was being assessed a 500 percent increase in its unemployment insurance rate - even though it had nothing to do with the previous restaurant's failure!  That's because unemployment insurance rates are based, at least in part, on the number of employees a business has laid off. Since the previous business laid off all its employees when it closed its doors, the new restaurant was being penalized with a much higher rate.

Doesn't make much sense, does it?  Rep. Upthegrove didn't think so either, so he introduced a legislative fix, which the governor will sign into law tomorrow. Thanks to this fix, the Kent restaurant will get some relief on its unemployment insurance rate and won't have to let any workers go. And no other business in our state will have that problem ever again.

In addition to House Bill 2491, Rep. Upthegrove sponsored or worked on several other measures this year to help local businesses and strengthen South King County's economy, which you can read about here.  We congratulate him on his well-deserved award.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Last chance to dig razor clams until the fall!

Photo credit: Lobo
Razor clams on the beach at Twin Harbors have been deemed safe to eat following a round of marine toxin tests, announced the Department of Fish and Wildlife. However, please remember that all other Washington beaches are still closed to razor clam digging.

Interested in joining the dig? Come out to Twin Harbors on May 5 through 7 to join fellow clam lovers on the beach. Digging will take place during low tide as follows:

  • May 5, Saturday  –  6:32AM, -1.5 feet
  • May 6, Sunday  –  7:19AM, -2.1 feet
  • May 7, Monday  –  8:07AM, -2.3 feet

Show up about an hour or two prior to low tide – this is the only beach open for razor clam digging and there will more than likely be a crowd.

Here are some handy rules to keep in mind:
  • Diggers are allowed by law to take up to 15 clams/day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig
  • Each digger’s clams must be in separate containers
  • A valid 2012-13 fishing license is required to participate, except individuals under 15 years of age, who may fish for free

Click here to purchase a fishing license. For more information about the dig, click here.

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

April 30 through May 6 is Air Quality Awareness Week

Off the top of your head, can you name the main contributors to air pollution in Washington state?

Not surprisingly, the answers are motor vehicles, smoke from outdoor burning (including wildfires) and wood smoke from home-heating devices.

Laws have been passed at the state and federal levels in attempts to regulate and decrease the amount of pollution in the air we breathe. However, legislation isn’t the only tool necessary to get the word out about the importance of protecting our air quality. What other tools can we use, you might find yourself wondering.

The answer to that question is: Education. This week, take the opportunity to educate yourself and your community about the importance of healthy air.

Did you know:
  • Vehicle emissions and smoke from outdoor burning both add small, fine particles to our air which are easily inhaled deeply into our lungs. These particles can lead to heart and breathing problems, and in some cases even death.
          Children, asthma sufferers and those aged 65 and up are the
          most at risk.
  • Smoke from burning yard waste contains some of the same chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Just like smoking cigarettes, breathing in the tiny, toxic particles can lead to asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and lung cancer.
          Composting is a great alternative to burning and can be used
          in so many productive, healthy ways. For more information
          on what to do with yard waste, click here.
  • Fine particles polluting our air contribute to approximately 1,100 deaths and about $190M in health care costs annually in Washington, according to a 2009 Ecology analysis.

To read more about Air Quality Awareness Week, click here. Visit the Department of Ecology's website to track the air quality in your area!

To read this post in Spanish, click here.