Friday, January 11, 2013

49th District Town Hall TOMORROW!

Representatives Sharon Wylie and Jim Moeller, and Senator-elect Annette Cleveland will hold a town hall meeting for 49th Legislative District residents this Saturday at the Community Library from 10 to noon. Check out the details in the e-flyer below. For more information, contact Megan Walsh at (360) 786-7924 or

Legislation would OK selling growlers of cider

No, not that kind of growler
State Rep. Sam Hunt has introduced House Bill 1008 to legalize the sale of growlers of cider.
The proposal would give a good many small and medium businesses in the tourism and refreshments industry another attraction for customers. Hunt's legislation is tentatively scheduled for a public hearing in the House Government Accountability & Oversight Committee at 9 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 17, in House Hearing Room E on the first floor of the John L. O'Brien Building on the State Capitol Campus right here in Olympia.
The bill states that folks who already have a license to sell "beer to a purchaser in a container supplied by the licensee or a sanitary container brought to the premises by the purchaser and filled at the tap at the time of sale may similarly sell cider to a purchaser in such a container."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Specialty plates bringing in the bucks

Bill signing for House Bill 1329, 5/3/2011
Back in 2011, Representative Marcie Maxwell partnered with Music Aid Northwest to support Washington students. Maxwell introduced House Bill 1329 to create and sell “Music Matters” specialty license plates to benefit music education programs in our schools. Upon introduction of the bill, Maxwell noted that “We must acknowledge the essential value of music education and continue to promote a well-rounded curriculum for all Washington students”.
Earlier this week, the Everett Herald reported that specialty license plates like “Music Matters” are creating somewhat of a windfall for nonprofit organizations and state agencies. In fact, about $1.9 million was collected from July 2010 to December 2011 according to a report from the Department of Licensing. These dollars go to support a variety of causes aside from music education, including wildlife protection, trail maintenance, and support for law enforcement officers, soldiers, and professional firefighters.
The Herald also reports on the importance of these specialty plates for students at our state's public universities.
But the report only tells part of the story because it does not include plates issued before the law took effect. Among those are the most popular specialty plates on the road -- those for the state's six public four-year universities. Those plates have been generating money for scholarship funds since the mid-'90s.

For some it's a big deal.

Take Washington State University. There were 3,454 WSU plates sold and 18,199 renewed between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, according to Department of Licensing records. That alone brought in more than $500,000 for scholarships.
These figures are just another example of how the state can partner with non-profits entities with successful results. Plus, Washington drivers get to support their favorite causes without cluttering their bumpers- not that we have anything against an impressive display of bumper stickers. You can read the entire piece on specialty license plates over at the Everett Herald’s website. The report prepared by the Department of Licensing will be delivered to lawmakers next week, just in time for the 2013 legislative session.

“I’m in for a whirlwind for sure”

Rep.-elect Monica Stonier
Truer words were never spoken by a freshman lawmaker. That statement was from Rep.-elect Monica Stonier of Vancouver on this week’s edition of TVW’s The Impact.
House Democrats are welcoming nine new members – and one returning member - to our caucus to kick off the 2013 legislative session next week. Check out the video below to see what it’s like for a new lawmaker to get ready for the whirlwind that is the legislative session in Olympia.
You can also hear Rep.-elect Stonier in this week’s edition of the HDC Capitol Ideas podcast.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dock of the bay

Photo courtesy WA State Dept. of Ecology
​With apologies to Otis Redding, it seems unlikely anyone will be sittin’ on this dock of the bay anytime soon. It’s way out in a remote section of Olympic National Park, and the specific site is currently closed to public entry. This particular dock actually comes from Japan: It’s a big hunk of debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan, and it floated across the Pacific and washed ashore late last year.
State and federal officials are on the case. They agreed in a conference call Jan. 7 that the derelict dock should be removed to protect both the park and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
The dock was spotted on the beach on Dec. 18 by a Coast Guard helicopter crew. After repeated attempts in the rugged terrain, a ground crew reached the dock Dec. 21, affixed a tracking beacon and collected samples of marine organisms attached to the structure. Later analysis determined that 30 to 50 of the plant and animal species sampled, including seaweed, mussels and barnacles, are native to Japan but not found in the wild in the United States.
Gov. Gregoire and legislators took steps last summer to prepare for tsunami debris washing ashore. In July, the governor released $500,000 in emergency funds to deal with the issue. The federal government announced it would grant up to $50,000 to each of the five Pacific coastal states to help out.

Washington teachers are at the head of the class!

2013 looks to be another stellar year for Washington teachers! For the fourth year in a row, we have the second-highest number of new National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT) in the nation, according to the Superintendent of Public Instruction. A total of 575 state teachers received certification this week.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the non-profit organization that awards certification, was formed in 1987 to set standards for teachers and to identify the really outstanding ones. According to Harvard University's Center for Education Policy Research, a recent study of the Los Angeles public schools affirm the strong, positive impact of NBCTs. Those researchers found that, on average, teachers with national Board Certification "significantly outperformed peers with the same level of experience."

To receive certification, teachers must submit a four-part portfolio and a six-exercise content and pedagogy assessment. The 10 entries document a teacher’s success in the classroom as measured by the success of his or her students. The portfolio is then assessed by a national panel of peers.

Washington has the 4th-highest total number of NBCTs - 6, 817.  38 of our 39 counties have at least one teacher who has been certified.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What you need to know about GMO

​On January 2nd, proponents of a new initiative to label Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in food products sold in Washington submitted 340,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office – virtually ensuring a spot on the ballot for the 2013 election.
The legislative initiative, titled I-522, would require food companies to label products that contain GMOs. It would also allow citizens to file suit against companies if state officials do not take action after 60 days of being notified of a violation. A similar initiative in California was defeated last year, 51.4 to 48.6 percent.
Supporters argue that consumers have a right to know if GMOs are being used food products. They point to the fact that the health effects of GMOs are not completely known, and that some DNA sequences can come from animals, bacteria, or other non-plant organisms. Some proponents are also concerned that without proper documentation GMO crops may accidently cross-pollenate with their non-GMO counterparts nearby.
Opponents, meanwhile, point to possibility of increased food prices under the new system. The cost of labeling every product that uses GMOs, coupled with the threat of potential lawsuits if companies make a mistake, could drive up prices on a variety of everyday items.
An initiative must have 241,153 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, which I-522 has cleared handily. The initiative will first go to the legislature, where legislators may choose to pass it as if it were a normal piece of legislation. If the legislature opts not to take action, then the initiative is sent to the voters as I-522. If the legislature amends the initiative, then both the original and the amended version are sent to voters as initiatives.
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon can be seen discussing GMO labeling on Fox Business here.

Got broadband?

We sure do. In fact, not only do we have it, we're at the top of the list on broadband infrastructure. That's according to the fresh-from-the-oven TechNet 2012 State Broadband Index. TechNet is a network of CEOs and senior executives that promote the growth of technology-led innovation.
What puts us at the top are high rates of broadband use, a broadband-connected economy and better-than-average network speeds. Other tech states, like California and Utah, trail behind us ranking 5 and 9 respectively.
Upon hearing the news, the Washington State Broadband Office (WSBO), which is part of the Washington State Department of Commerce, issued this press release. It quotes Will Saunders, WSBO program and policy director, on the issue: "The state's ranking reflects state broadband planning going back to 2008 and more than $2.3 billion in public and private investment in infrastructure and training during that period. The study also confirms that we are ideally positioned for economic growth based on this work."
Saunders is right; one of the reasons we're leading the pack in 2012 is that in 2008 the legislature passed SB 6438, regarding high-speed internet services and community technology opportunities. The measure required the then Department of Information Services to come up with a statewide high-speed internet deployment and adoption strategy to:
• develop geographic information system maps and inventories of public and private high-speed internet infrastructure
• address management of proprietary and competitively sensitive data
• spur development of high-speed internet resources across the state
• track residential and business adoption of high-speed internet
• use local technology planning teams to help with internet deployment to disenfranchised or unserved areas.
Access to broadband means your morning paper loads quickly and you can watch the latest viral video in a snap. Being the best at access to broadband means it will be easier for the state to attract and grow companies, which means more jobs.
Graphic courtesy of Technet

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hurt on the job? There's a new provider network for you.

If you get injured on the job, there's a new medical provider network available to you as of this week.

Back in 2011, Governor Gregoire signed legislation that passed both the House and Senate nearly unanimously. This legislation required the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to create a provider network, and for participating providers to adhere to certain standards to ensure injured workers get the highest quality care.

An injured worker's initial medical visit can be to any provider or emergency room, but subsequent visits must be with a network provider in order to be covered by workers compensation.

This change will improve quality of care because providers within the L&I network will be required to have certain credentials and to follow evidence-based guidelines for treating patients. The goal is to help people get back to work as safely and quickly as possible.

It shouldn't be too hard to find a provider within the network - there are currently over 9,300 of them, with more being added each day. This online directory lists all of them, and L&I can also help you find a provider in your area if you aren't sure which one to see.

The Tri-City Herald published an article about this new network today, which you can read here.