Friday, June 8, 2012

Confused by new liquor prices?

There’s been a lot of news coverage surrounding the price of liquor this week. Did prices go up? Did prices go down? Are Washingtonians fleeing to the Oregon border to find the cheapest booze? While the long-term effects of liquor privatization remain to be seen, we can clear up some confusion regarding the new and not-so-new taxes and fees you’re seeing at the check-out stand.

Say you are picking up a ten dollar pint at your local grocery store. The taxes that you’ll pay are the same that they were under the state-run system.
    20.5% retail sales tax= $2.05
    .473 liters= $1.78 prorated liter tax

Here’s where things get tricky. Initiative 1183 adds two new fees: a distribution fee and a retail fee.
    10% distribution fee= $1.00
    17% retail fee= $1.70

These fees differentiate Initiative 1183 from Initiative 1100, which was defeated back in 2010. I-1100 raised concerns that revenue to state and local governments would dive, and therefore put public safety at risk. This time around the fees were included and Initiative 1183 was approved with nearly sixty percent of the vote.

So let’s do the math:
  • $10 bottle
  • $2.05 retail sales tax
  • $1.78 prorated liter tax
  • $1.00 distribution fee
  • $1.70 retail fee
  • $16.53 - Grand total

That’s an awful lot of math for a person to do on their fingers and toes. Under the previous system, state-run liquor stores posted the after-tax price. According to Representative Gerry Pollet, private distributors should follow suit.

“The public shouldn’t have to bring a calculator to know the actual price for liquor under our new law,” said Rep. Pollet. “The liquor taxes are much higher than the grocery-store-standard sales tax and it’s deceiving for shoppers.”

Rep. Pollet made his case for full disclosure of after-tax-and-fee prices on KOMO 4 Wednesday.  You can check out the interview below.

The Seattle Times has a price comparison on their website here. So far, price differences range from 10% cheaper to 34% more expensive compared to the state liquor store prices.

UPDATE: Many retailers will include the additional fees in the shelf price of the product and some may not. Be sure to check your receipt for a breakdown of any added taxes and fees.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Photo credit: Culligan1984 via Wikimedia Commons

College Bound scholarships deadline approaching

There’s still time for junior high students to sign up for a College Bound scholarship.
The College Bound Scholarship Program is a commitment to 7th and 8th graders whose families are unable to pay for college. A College Bound Scholarship covers annual college tuition and a small book allowance.
For eligibility, at least one of these requirements must be met:
  • Student is eligible for the federal free- or reduced- price lunch program. 
  • Student’s family receives basic food/TANF benefits. 
  • Student is a foster youth. 
  •  Student’s family meets the income standards (check out the income chart here)
But hurry,the scholarship deadline is June 30. For more information and a link to the online application, click here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Another great Washington teacher recognized for being . . . great!

Congratulations are in order for Meridian High School educator extraordinaire Steven Lawrence. Steven, who has taught at the Bellingham school for nearly two decades, is Washington state’s History Teacher of the Year for 2012.

That’s no small feat. With nearly 1000 middle schools and high schools in the state, and with (presumably) at least one and sometimes several history teachers in every school, that’s a big history pond. And if, as we here in the Democratic caucus believe, Washington has the best public-school teachers in the country, then Steven Lawrence was just named the best of the best. Without a doubt, the man knows his history. Not only can he tell you the difference between the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution, he can do so in a way that engages and expands young minds. And that’s one definition of a great teacher.

Steven’s award, which is sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the History Channel and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, carries with it an honorarium of $1000, as well as an archive of history books and educational materials that will be presented to the school. He is also now included in the exclusive 50-member group that will produce the National History Teacher of the year in the fall of 2012. We wish him the best.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Bye-bye HEC, hello SAC

Photo credit:  University of Washington
In an effort to turn out more college grads in Washington state and bring about other improvements in higher education, the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board will give way at the end of the month to a new oversight organization, the Student Achievement Council.
The council was created in the 2012 legislative session by House Bill 2483, sponsored by House Higher Education Committee Chair Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor. That bill followed up on Senate Bill 5182, passed in 2011, which abolished the HECB. The “HEC Board” has been around since 1985.
Critics of the board said it was too passive and its mission too vague. The new council is expected to focus more intently on increasing student success, including the earning of more college degrees or postsecondary certificates. To do that, it will recommend goals to the Legislature and governor, identify potential resources to tap and encourage promising innovations.
The council will be made up of nine members appointed by the governor, including one nominated by the presidents of the four-year public universities, one from the community and technical college system, one from the state K-12 superintendent’s office, one from the state’s private colleges, a student and four from the general citizenry.
The 2012 bill also sets up a joint legislative committee on higher education to review the council’s work and suggest legislation.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Suicide prevention training law goes into effect

Starting tomorrow, June 7, Washington will become the first state in the nation to require mental health professionals and other frontline care providers to receive training in suicide assessment, treatment and management.

ESHB 2366, also known as the Matt Adler Suicide Assessment, Treatment and Management Act of 2012, was sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall after hearing Adler’s widow tell the story of her young husband taking his life leaving her and their two small children behind.   

Orwall said that although health professionals are licensed by the state to protect the public, not all clinicians receive suicide prevention training. 

The new law requires mental health professionals, social workers and occupational therapists to receive six hours of training every six years, as part of their continuing education requirement, starting in 2014.  

Read Orwall’s full press release here.

Watch the King 5 story:

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Quelling swelling rate of opioid addiction

Maybe we're climbing out of a nightmare. Just maybe we're leaving the hellacious plague that is the falling into the wrong hands and showing up on the wrong agenda of painkilling drugs. Yes, as Sisyphean an undertaking as the casual observer might mock it out to be, the hard work of combating prescription-painkiller abuse is indeed showing some trace of triumph. So notes a recent Olympian newspaper editorial (Encouraging signs opioid overdose rate is on the decline, 5/29/2012).

Ladies and gentlemen, here please to partake of, if you will, a little back story.

The time, winter 2010. The place, Olympia. The setting, that year’s legislative session. A successful measure I prime-sponsored directed five statewide organizations to adopt new rules on chronic, non-cancer pain management.

Here's the op-ed, in its entirety.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

FREE access to state parks this Saturday!

Fort Flagler State Park, photo courtesy Wash. State Parks
Since 2011, parking your vehicle at any Washington state park requires purchase of either a Discover Pass or a day pass.  This year, the Legislature made the Discover Pass more user-friendly by allowing it to be transferable among two vehicles.  That change is already in effect.
But the original 2011 legislation creating the parking fee also established certain days of the year when no pass would be required at all.  These “free days” enable everyone – including those who perhaps can’t afford to purchase a Discover Pass – the ability to enjoy our state parks and all that they offer.
This Saturday, June 9, is one of those “free days.”  It also coincides with National Get Outdoors Day, an annual event – now in its fourth year – to encourage healthy, active outdoor fun. 
A complete list of 2012 “free days” at Washington state parks can be found here.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Claim your treasure!

Lose something?

A utility or rent deposit, maybe?  Those savings bonds your grandparents gave you for every birthday when you were a kid?   Well, it’s possible the Washington State Department of Revenue can help you out. 

According to their website, a record 108,441 Washington residents found $46.5 million in lost property during the last fiscal year alone!  Some of that property includes unclaimed paychecks, utility deposits, bank accounts, contents from safe deposit boxes, and life insurance proceeds.

DOR says they now have more than $817 million in unclaimed property in their database and that as many as 3 million people may own some part of that.  To find out if any of it belongs to you, check the database at

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.

Help on the way for some laid-off workers in WA

If you happened to visit a grocery store over the weekend, then you probably couldn’t help but notice the newest item in stock: hard liquor. Back in November voters approved Initiative 1183 which privatized liquor sales, meaning that supermarkets and mass merchants can sell hard liquor for the first time in our state’s history. While this may mean greater convenience for the consumer, it also meant that a couple of hundred state liquor store employees lost their jobs.
Quite fortunately, last week the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a $1.5 million National  Emergency Grant to Washington. The dollars will provide re-training and re-employment assistance to the liquor store employees, as well as laid-off workers at the Washington State Department of Corrections, Employment Security Department, Parks and Recreation Commission, and other state and local agencies.
You can learn more about the grant here.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.