Friday, June 1, 2012

Go fish!

Photo courtesy WDFW
You’ve got two weeks till Father’s Day and you’re scratching your head and biting your nails as you try to come up with a great gift idea. Quit worrying, we’ve got you covered: take dad on a fishing adventure!
Dads and fishing go together like peanut butter and jelly, relish and pickles, rock and roll! And the 5,000 triploid rainbow trout the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will be stocking in 14 lakes just before Father’s Day weekend are bound to make it an unforgettable experience for you and your dad, and anyone else who joins in the fun.
According to the WDFW, who know this kind of stuff, the triploid trout average one-and-a-half pounds each and they can grow to trophy size because they are sterile and spend their lives feeding, not reproducing. The 5,000 new trout are in addition to about 42,000 triploids stocked in 117 lakes across the state earlier this year.
So get dad a license and check out all the places where you and dad can catch some of the extra big fish stocked to celebrate Washington fathers.
Fishing licenses can be purchased here or by telephone at 1-866-246-9453; or at hundreds of license dealers across the state.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Reps. Tharinger and Van De Wege ensure President Obama hears rural business concerns, too

Small business owners on the Olympic Peninsula, along with civic and Tribal leaders, had the opportunity this week to share feedback on the economy with those who have President Obama’s ear – members of the White House Business Council.  Specifically, two representatives of the U.S. Small Business Administration came to Clallam County this week for roundtable discussions organized by Representatives Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege
Calvin W. Goings, a former Washington State Senator, is now an Assistant Associate Administrator with the SBA.  He and Jennifer Clark, an SBA Regional Advocate for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, listened to the concerns of Clallam small business owners as they navigate the economic recovery. 
While the business owners represented many different sectors of the economy – retail, food production, real estate, hospitality and manufacturing, to name a few – they seemed to uniformly agree that the major hurdle facing small businesses right now is lack of access to capital.  Tightening of the credit market nationwide means many small businesses can’t expand or hire new employees, even though they want to. 
Their concerns will be relayed, unfiltered, to the Obama Administration by Goings and Clark.  With half of all American workers employed by small businesses, and two-thirds of all new jobs created in small business, we’re pretty sure the President will take these concerns very seriously.  Additionally, these roundtables provided the unique perspective of rural business owners from outside the I-5 corridor, where recovery is proceeding, albeit more slowly than in urban centers.
The SBA is a small federal agency with a big economic impact.  It helped small businesses across the country save $12 billion last year.  Here in Washington, the SBA has helped to provide 5,000 loans (representing $2 billion) to small businesses since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed in 2009.

(Photo, from left:  Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, SBA Assistant Associate Administrator Calvin W. Goings, Clallam County business owner Bret Wirta, and Rep. Steve Tharinger at the May 30 White House Business Council roundtable in Sequim.  Photo courtesy of Linda Barnfather.)

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Keep yourself au courant of helpful resources as we launch infrastructure-construction season

Even as the umpires a couple of months ago called "Play ball!" to blast off another baseball season, so the motorists had best be obeying "Slow down!" calls with the arrival of this equally fresh and important new "season." Yes, folks, spring and summer hours and temperatures signal full speed ahead of another fine construction season for highways, byways, bridges and other pieces of the infrastructure here in the Evergreen State.

Photo: A construction crew pours concrete courtesy of WSDOT
House of Representatives Democrats in the recent legislative session championed the drive to launch millions of dollars in projects, which translates into thousands of good-paying jobs in most every one of Washington's 39 counties. That in mind, it's a capital idea for hundreds of interested businesses to keep themselves up-to-date on construction-project news from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). The WSDOT Contract Advertisement and Award Office is a particularly valuable website. Companies small, medium and large will find a veritable treasure-trove of information at Contractor Resources. Here's a website for current projects that might just be of interest both to specific contractors and to plain old everyday folks.

You have but to click links in the "Bid History Reports" section of that last website to get your hands on data for specific, statewide projects recently advertised. There you'll find nuggets of valuable information ranging from the names of low bidders to the status of bids. (Now remember: A low bidder isn't a sure thing to receive the WSDOT contract. Other issues might come into play before the department actually awards a contract for the work.)

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Busy week for high-profile court cases

Three significant court rulings were issued this week – two here in Washington and one at the federal level.

Initiative 1053: Supermajority Tax Requirements
Approved by voters in 2010, the Tim Eyman-sponsored I-1053 imposed a two-thirds supermajority requirement on all legislation that raises taxes. A group of HDC lawmakers joined a coalition in support of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the measure by stating the initiative violates Article 2, Section 22 of the state constitution.

Passage of bills. No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the member elected in each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.

At issue is whether the majority requirement in this section is merely a minimum requirement or both a minimum and maximum requirement. The coalition successfully argued the latter according to King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller. The judge did note, however, that a two-thirds majority threshold to raise taxes could be imposed, but such a change would require an amendment to the state constitution. Constitutional amendments require two-thirds support in both the House and Senate and a simple majority vote of the people.

You can read more about this story here and here. This case will likely be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Washington State Supreme Court
Liquor Privatization
The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the voter-approved I-1183 that privatized liquor sales in Washington. Opponents of the initiative argued that it violated the state’s “single subject” rule that requires a legislative bill or public initiative contain only one subject.  (This rule, for example, prevents sponsors from including farm subsidies in an education reform bill.)

The court ruling clears the way for private retailers to begin selling liquor as early as tomorrow, June 1. More on this story can be found here and here.

Same-Sex Marriage
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled today that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, also known as “DOMA,” is unconstitutional. The ruling has been stayed pending a possible ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in a similar case, but is nonetheless a major victory for marriage equality advocates.

Washington lawmakers enacted a state-version of DOMA in 1998. Those provisions have largely been rolled back over the last 14 years. During the 2012 legislative session, bi-partisan majorities in both the House and Senate approved SB 6239 giving full marriage rights and benefits to same-sex partners. The bill was signed by the governor, but will likely be on the ballot in November as a referendum to the voters.

You can read the courts’ decisions here:
I-1053 tax decision
I-1183 liquor decision
DOMA decision

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

ACA repeal could have serious consequences in Washington

Everyone’s speculating on what the U.S. Supreme Court will decide next month about the federal  Affordable Care Act  (ACA).  But you don’t need to speculate about what the court’s decision could mean to Washington State or your local county.

A new report issued Tuesday by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler shows that repeal of the ACA could have dramatic and dire consequences for workers, businesses, families and senior citizens across Washington. The new report—What's at stake: The Affordable Care Act in Washington state. A county-by-county analysis—documents that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed in its entirety, the loss would:

• Cancel a 2014 expansion of Medicaid that would provide coverage to 328,000 currently uninsured Washingtonians.
• Eliminate subsidies that are scheduled to begin in 2014 that would help an additional 477,400 uninsured Washingtonians to afford private health insurance.
• Cancel the phase‐out of the prescription‐drug “donut hole” that is inflating the costs of prescription medications for more than 1 million Washingtonians on Medicare.

The report also shows many of the 5.8 million currently insured Washingtonians could be whacked if the court strikes down key ACA provisions that are currently in effect, such as the measure’s ban on lifetime dollar limits for health benefits, the ban on deductibles or co-pays for preventive services, and the provision of tax rebates for small businesses and expanded coverage for early retirees.

So there is no need to ask who will be affected by the forthcoming Supreme Court decision. Everyone in Washington will be affected … for better or worse.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Free culture for military families

And we don’t mean yogurt, although those cultures are supposed to be good for you too. We’re talking about the other kind, the one you find in museums.

In the summer of 2010 the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense launched a program to offer free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day all the way through Labor Day.  Now in its third year, more than 1,500 museums in the United States have joined the Blue Star Museums program. 

This year’s Blue Star Museums offer began on May 28 and will end on September 3, 2012, so you’ve got three months to visit the 30+ participating museums in our state!

Museum of Glass
Local Blue Star Museums include Tacoma Art Museum, Museum of Glass, Seattle Art Museum and The Museum of Flight. For the list of ALL participating Washington Blue Star museums, please go here.

Active-duty military personnel and up to five of their immediate family members are eligible for this offer, which is valid for all military branches—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, active-duty National Guard and active-duty Reserve members.

For more information, visit the Blue Star Museums website.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Photo credit: Deathgleaner via Wikimedia Commons

Rep. Probst hosts town hall Sat., June 2

Rep. Probst
Rep. Tim Probst of Vancouver looks forward to meeting constituents from his 17th Legislative District at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 2, in a town hall meeting in the district. Rep. Probst will discuss the issues that matter most to the community and will be happy to answer questions about state government and his work in the Legislature. The meeting will take place at the C-Tran Transit Center, 3510 SE 164th Ave., Vancouver.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Get your GET units before the price jump

Photo credit:  Chris Moncus via Wikimedia Commons
In 2003, a full year of tuition and fees for an undergraduate student at the University of Washington was $4,863. Today, that cost has more than doubled to $10,223. However, that same $10,223 tuition bill could have been paid in full for only $5,700 through the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program.
GET was created in 1998 to help families save for college. Participants buy GET units at today’s prices, which can be applied toward college expenses down the road. One GET unit equals one percent of a full year’s college tuition and state-mandated fees.
In 2003, GET units were $57 each. Those who purchased 100 GET units back then would have saved over $4,500 this year in tuition and fees at the UW.
GET units today are $163, but that price is about to change. That price is good for current participants and those who sign up before May 31. Once this year’s program ends on June 30, the GET program administrators will adjust the price to reflect current tuition trends. The unit price has risen over 60% since 2009 as a result of steep increases in college tuition in recent years.
If you’re thinking about a college savings plan, now is a good time to look into the GET program before the unit price goes up. You can find more information on the GET website here.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Welcoming veterans back to school

So far 23 institutions of higher education throughout our state have pledged to do all they can to support veterans returning to school.  More than 60,000 military people are stationed in the state of Washington. For them, whose jobs are to risk their lives protecting the rest of us, this is one small way to say thanks.

In the fall of 2009, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the state Department of Veterans Affairs upholding her commitment to help veterans and their families succeed in their higher education goals.  Along with the governor, the MOU was also signed by top representatives from the Higher Education Coordinating Board, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, The Evergreen State College, the Washington Association of Community and Technical Colleges, and St. Martin’s University representing the Independent Colleges of Washington.

The MOU ensures that colleges, universities and training facilities promote a culture that supports and understands the unique needs of veterans and their family members.

Three colleges and one university got on board within a couple of months of the original signing, then twelve more made the commitment in 2010, five last year and two so far this year, with a third scheduled to join the others in June. Find out who’s on the list here.

You can read the Seattle Times’ story on the latest one to follow suit, Seattle Central Community College, which signed the MOU just last week.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Photo: United States Department of Veterans Affairs