Friday, January 18, 2013

In case you missed Wednesday's Inaugural Ball...

Governor Jay Inslee celebrated his inauguration with about 3,000 people at the Governor's Ball Wednesday night at the state capitol in Olympia. The Governor's Ball is a tradition that dates back to 1853 when Washington was still a territory.

There were several entertainers displaying their talents, including a 16 piece Big Band, a string quintet, and Bharatanatyam dancers. Attendees were treated to a delicious array of Washington food and beverages prepared by over 360 chefs from several culinary schools from around the state.

We leave you this Friday afternoon with some of our favorite pics from the event. You can also go to our Facebook page to see more. Unless otherwise credited, photos are by Linda Barnfather.
The Governor's Inaugural Ball was held on Wednesday, January 16
Governor Jay Inslee at the Inaugural Ball
Ballgoers congregate in the capitol rotunda
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (l) and Majority Whip Kevin Van De Wege
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon with House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan
Ice sculpture at the Inaugural Ball (photo by Andy McVicar)

Read this story in Spanish here.

Meet the new member: Steve Bergquist

Rep. Steve Bergquist on Opening Day
This year, nine new House Democrats took the oath of office.

To introduce you to these new faces, we're doing a series of Meet the New Member posts.

You can read the first one here: Meet the new member: Gael Tarleton
Steve is a public school teacher, union member and small business owner from Renton.

He's a proud fourth-generation resident of the 11th District who graduated from Hazen High School and got his bachelor's degree from UW and his master's degree from WWU. His wife, Avanti, is a doctor at UW and Seattle Children's Hospital.

Steve answered our questions during the first week of session.

Question: Is there a moment, or an image, you'll remember most from your first day as a lawmaker?
Answer: Signing my oath of office, at that moment, the reality truly hit that I now represent the 11th district and all of the responsibilities and hard work ahead of me.

Q: What inspired you to run for office?
A: When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to come down to Olympia as a senate page for Senator Margarita Prentice.

During this time I was inspired to get more involved in politics which led to my attendance at Evergreen Boys State, which is a mock government. I then attended the University of Washington and majored in Political Science and History then received my Masters in Teaching at Western.

As a teacher and small business owner in the 11th district, I felt my experiences in those areas and as a fourth generation 11th district resident would be an asset to the legislature and my community.

Q: What bills are you working on?
A: Quite a few. One in particular would give 16 & 17 year olds the opportunity to preregister to vote at the Department of Licensing.
I have already had the opportunity to lobby different high school classes that have come to Olympia to visit. Every student has embraced this bill and I hope they will now help me get it passed into law.

Q: What is the most difficult part about being a legislator?
Realizing that your schedule during session is completely filled from 8 a.m. 8 p.m. just about every weekday with committees, caucus meetings, floor sessions, receptions, and constituent relations -- and not being able to figure out how to squeeze in time to eat.

Q: If we peeked at your iPod, who would we see?
A: Don't have one.

Q: Imagine being governor for a day, and able to pass any legislation. What problem would you fix?
A: Fully funding basic education. We need to give every student in our state a chance to succeed.

Click here to visit Steve's website
Read this story in Spanish here.

Meet the new member: Gael Tarleton

This year the HDC welcomed nine new members- and one familiar face- to the House of Representatives. The newly-minted lawmakers come to us from across the state and bring a wide variety of valuable experience to Olympia.
In an effort to better acquaint our readers with the newest faces around town, we’ll be rolling out a series of “Meet the New Member” posts in coming weeks. First to step up to the plate: Representative Gael Tarleton of the 36th legislative district.
Gael comes to the HDC from the Port of Seattle, where she served as a commissioner since 2007. Gael also works as a strategic advisor for the Institute for National Security Education and Research at the University of Washington.
She began her career as a senior defense intelligence analyst for the Pentagon, working on security issues affecting ports across the country and other critical facilities. After a decade working at the Pentagon, Gael ran two international subsidiaries of a Fortune 500 company in Russia.
Gael took some time this week to answer some of our most pressing of questions:
  • HDC: Is there a moment, or an image, you’ll remember from your first day as a lawmaker?
  • GT: Taking the oath of office and then immediately getting to work in our committees on behalf of the people.
  • HDC: If you could be any West Wing character, who would it be?
  • GT: Always sympathized with CJ – she knew how to deliver the bad news and to help families deal with bureaucrats.
  • HDC: The House and Senate are interesting places with their own language. Which words and phrases baffled you until somebody explained them -- are you itching to drop a few bills in the Hopper, carpet bomb a senate bill with amendments on second reading and push the nuclear button by moving to the Eighth Order of Business?
  • GT: Never heard a military reference I didn’t understand J - but the difference between “blue slips” and “pink slips” still not clear.
  • HDC: What inspired you to run for office?
  • GT: To help create a more sustainable, fair economy and livable neighborhoods
Another fun fact about Rep. Tarleton- She was the youngest person ever to receive in public the Director of Central Intelligence’s “National Intelligence Medal of Achievement” for recognition of her exceptional contributions to protecting vital national interests.
Welcome to the House, Rep. Tarleton! We look forward to your exceptional contributions here in Olympia.
Rep. Tarleton and Sen. Nick Harper check out the new voting system in the House ahead of Gov. Jay Inslee's inaugural address

Read this story in Spanish here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Liquor Control Board holding public forums on new marijuana law implementation

The Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB), which is responsible for implementing Initiative 502 and regulating recreational use of marijuana, has announced that they will hold six public comment periods around the state.
Voters approved I-502 with 56 percent of the vote in November's election. While it laid out some specific provisions – including legalizing possession of up to one ounce of marijuana as well as details of a state licensing scheme – many details were left up to the LCB to decide.
Now, they are seeking to hear from citizens on how to best fill in the gaps.
“This is an opportunity for the public to meet the Board and staff involved in implementation, learn about our role in implementation, and to provide testimony,” LCB Chair Sharon Foster said in a statement.
The first public hearing will be in Olympia on the evening of Tuesday, January 22. Here is the full list of statewide public hearings:
  • Tuesday, January 22
WSLCB Headquarters, Conference Room 201
3000 Pacific Ave SE, Olympia, WA 98501

  • Thursday, January 24
Seattle City Hall, Bertha Knight Landes Room
600 Fourth Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

  • Thursday, February 7
Clark College, Vancouver, Foster Auditorium
1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver, WA 98663

  • Tuesday, February 12
Spokane City Hall, Council Chambers
808 W Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane, WA 99201

  • Tuesday, February 19
Skagit Valley College, Mt. Vernon, Theater
2405 East College Way, Mount Vernon, WA 98273

  • Thursday, February 21
Yakima City Hall, Council Chambers
129 North Second St, Yakima, WA 98901

Read this story in Spanish here.

Tissues, tea and TLC

This morning the State Capitol, engulfed in a dense freezing fog, looked like a scene from an old scary movie. It is really cold out there. 

While our winters are not as extreme as those in Minnesota or North Dakota, they are severe enough to give us our fair share of black ice on the roads, make our sidewalks very slick and let the flu virus run rampant. More often than not, the first two issues are successfully overcome by paying more attention behind the wheel and while walking, but dealing with the flu takes a lot more work. 

Nobody knows for certain why winters lay a welcome mat for the flu virus. One theory says it's because people are in closer proximity to each other due to the cold weather, according to another one it's because the virus is more stable when the air is cold and dry, and yet another theory suggests that the virus thrives in dry, warm (70 to 80 degrees) conditions, which is the usual room temperature when it's cold out. 

While scientists continue trying to figure that one out, we'll continue stuck with flu seasons during the fall and winter months. Fortunately, experience over time has taught us more effective ways of treating it.

It's not too late to get a flu shot
Wednesday's Yakima Herald editorial points out that the flu is not a common cold, so it should not be taken lightly. According to the Center for Disease Control and our Department of Health, the best protection against the flu is the flu vaccine. If you have not gotten it, go to the DOH's Flu Vaccine Finder to find out where it's available. It's not too late. 

Influenza is a serious ailment that has already claimed the lives of seven people in our state. Let's do our best to take care of ourselves and keep that figure from crossing the two-digit threshold. 

How is the rest of the country faring? 

Not all the states in the nation track flu deaths, of the ones that do, the highest number of fatalities as of January 15 is 27 in both Minnesota and Illinois, followed by 23 in Pennsylvania, 22 in South Carolina, 18 in Massachusetts, 17 in North Carolina, 15 in Indiana and 14 in New Hampshire.

Take a look at this snapshot of influenza activity in all 50 states for more information.

Read this story in Spanish here.

Cake, coffee, and a courtly celebration

Washington State Temple of Justice
The justices of the state Supreme Court – who now, for the first time ever, include more women than men – will take a break Friday from deliberating the fate of the two-thirds rule for legislative tax increases and other weighty matters to throw a party: They are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Temple of Justice, their neoclassical home on the state capitol campus.

The party starts at noon with welcoming remarks and a brief presentation on the building’s history from the justices. They’re serving cake and coffee, and offering tours of the building starting at 2 p.m. The event is open to the public.

New York architects Walter R. Wilder and Harry K. White won the 1911 competition to design the state capitol and associated buildings. The Temple of Justice opened first, on Jan. 15, 1913, for the inaugural ball of Gov. Ernest Lister. The Insurance Building, Legislative Building (state capitol), Cherberg Building and O’Brien Building followed over the next 28 years. A sixth building included in the original plan was never built.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lawmakers at the judge's table

Legislators reported for what promises to be a 105-day marathon of constituent meetings, committee hearings, and floor action on Monday. Considering the long months ahead, it would be easy to understand why a representative would want to spend the weekend before session relaxing at home with their family and friends.

Not the case for Representatives Sam Hunt, Chris Reykdal, and Dave Upthegrove.

The three lawmakers spent Saturday, January 12th judging the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution civic education contest. High school students participated in the statewide competition held at the capitol campus in Olympia.

Tahoma High School earned first place, while Evergreen and River’s Edge took home the second and third place honors. Tahoma High will advance to the national finals in Washington, D.C. this April.

Despite their busy weekend schedules, we can confirm that all three lawmakers were able to catch the heartbreaking Seahawks defeat on Sunday. Although, we're not sure we would call that a relaxing morning kicking around the house.

Reps. Chris Reykdal (center) and Dave Upthegrove (right) judge students' knowledge of constitutional issues. Photo courtesy of Marcia Swanson.

Rep. Sam Hunt (center) checks his notes during the competition. Photo courtesy of Marcia Swanson.

Read this story in Spanish here.

School without walls, fixed schedules or group pacing gets top ranking

Have you seen TV ads of an online school that uses people as billboards? Some of them are kind of geeky, but its enrollment in our state has quadrupled in 18 months. So, geeky or not, they're getting the word out: Western Governors University offers affordable online bachelor's and master's degrees to working adults.
There are still some skeptics out there who don't believe in getting a degree online; they may just change their minds with last week's news that the Kirkland-based SR Education Group, which rates online colleges and universities, said Western Governors University is the nation's top-performing online school.

SR Education Group, started by a former Microsoft executive, created the ranking of online higher-education institutions using a combination of measures such as reputation among alumni, affordability, and graduation and retention rates.
WGU was founded in 1997 by the governors of 19 Western states. In 2011, led by former Seattle Representative Phyllis GutiƩrrez Kenney, and Reps. Larry Seaquist and Eric Pettigrew, the Legislature passed a bill to create a partnership between Washington and WGU that:
  • Meets a key state need for affordable education in high-demand fields.
  • Opens a wide window of opportunities for full-time workers, dislocated workers and other underserved adult learners who would otherwise not have a chance to get a degree.
  • Offers the best of nontraditional opportunities — high quality, affordability, and flexibility.
All at absolutely no cost to Washington taxpayers.

A 2009 survey of employers in states that already had WGUs and who have hired WGU grads found that:
  • 98 percent of employers rated employees with degrees from WGU as "excellent" or "good."
  • 90 percent of employers consider WGU grads' preparation for the workforce either "good" or "excellent."
  • 91 percent said they would be willing to hire additional WGU graduates.
  • 81 percent of employers said they would recommend hiring WGU graduates to their associates.
  • 79 percent of employers indicated that they noted a higher level of individual learning ability in WGU graduates.
  • 82 percent rated WGU graduates higher than other employees in terms of self-motivation and direction.
Check out the Online College Rankings Report.
Read the story in the Seattle Times.
Visit the WGU Washington website.

Read this story in Spanish here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This is the legendary Hopper, where bills are born

Staff at the Code Reviser's office stamp a bill after it's put in the Hopper
You’ll hear lawmakers talk about “dropping a bill” or “putting a bill in the Hopper.”
This is what that actually means. Staff at the Code Reviser’s Office take draft legislation from lawmakers, stamp it and make sure the text is in the proper format to turn into possible law. That’s tougher than it sounds, because the staff must look up what possible changes any legislation makes to all possible existing laws, then cross out words, sentences or entire sections of existing laws and show exactly what would replace them.
You can learn about any proposed legislation this session by going here.

Read this story in Spanish here.

More scenes from opening day in Olympia

It's been about 24 hours since legislators took the oath of office yesterday. Here are just a few of our favorite shots from opening day action...
Reps. Roger Freeman and Dawn Morrell rise for the the oath of office (photo by Linda Barnfather)
Rep. Jamie Pedersen discusses gun control legislation with KIRO's Essex Porter
Reps. Joe Fitzgibbon (l) and Marcus Riccelli gather in the rotunda prior to taking the oath of office (photo by Linda Barnfather)
Speaker Chopp makes a few last-minute updates to his opening day speech
(L to R) Seatmates Reps. Kevin Van De Wege and Steve Tharinger, along with Rep. Derek Stanford following opening day ceremonies (photo by Linda Barnfather)

Read this story in Spanish here.

Citizen-lawmakers get to work

The founders of Washington state wanted part-time lawmakers instead of full-time politicians, so they set up the House and Senate to only meet during the winter, and to have citizen-lawmakers who'd get their work done and go back home to work as farmers and firefighters, teachers and nurses.

More than 100 years later, our state still has citizen-lawmakers like Rep. Tami Green (D-Lakewood), who works as a registered nurse when she's not in Olympia serving as the Majority Floor Leader.

Here's Rep. Green on the first day of the 2013 session:
Photo by Linda Barnfather

And here she is on her last day of work a nurse, before coming down to Olympia:
Rep. Tami Green on her last day of work as a nurse before the beginning of the 2013 legislative session

Read this story in Spanish here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Opening Day!

Speaker Frank Chopp gives his Opening Day speech
No, we don't mean baseball is back. But your legislature is!

The gavel fell at noon today in the House of Representatives, calling into session the 63rd Washington State Legislature. All 98 members took the oath of office, administered by Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen.

Frank Chopp was re-elected Speaker of the House and delivered his traditional opening day speech. Also re-elected were Speaker Pro-Tem Jim Moeller and Chief Clerk Barbara Baker.  Tina Orwall was elected Deputy Speaker Pro-Tem, as well.

House committees began their schedule of meetings at 1:30, and the agendas were not easy, first-day-of-school stuff: the new Finance Committee receiving an update from the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council and the Appropriations Committee held a public hearing on Governor Gregoire's budget proposal.

*** UPDATE *** Our website is currently down, so the link to the Speaker's opening day speech won't work. We'll update this post when the service provider has our site back online. You can also watch the speech on TVW below.

*** UPDATE 5:54 p.m. *** We're back up. Thanks for your patience.

Read this story in Spanish here.

49th LD town hall video available online

 If you missed Saturday's 49th Legislative District Town Hall Meeting, don't feel left out!

CVTV covered it from start to finish, so get in on the conversation with Reps. Sharon Wylie, Jim Moeller, and Senator-elect Annette Cleveland. It may take a little bit to load, so please be patient.

Read this story in Spanish here.