Archive for March, 2012

Gov. Gregoire signing Healthcare Exchange bill, dozens of others today

By | March 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire is scheduled to sign more than two dozen bills this morning, including one that will help the state implement President Obama’s federal healthcare reform. Gregoire has been refusing to sign the vast majority of bills into law as a way to pressure lawmakers to get the budget done. She eased up her position earlier this week, though, saying budget writers were making some progress.

A number of the bills are tied to the supplemental transportation budget, including:

HB 2660: Imposes a $100 annual fee on electric vehicles, which supporters say is a way to recoup lost revenue from gas taxes that the owners of electric vehicles don’t have to pay. General Motors opposed the fee in a letter to Gregoire, saying the electric vehicle market isn’t strong enough to support new taxes or fees yet.

SB 6150: Raises fees for a driver’s license from $25 to $54 starting in July 2013. The license will be good for six years instead of the current five, and it will use new facial recognition technology to identify drivers.

Later in the day, she’s signing the Heathcare Exchange bill at a Group Health clinic in Olympia. The bill prepares the state for compliance with federal rules when they go into effect in 2014, laying out the process for creating a healthcare exchange — or a marketplace where state residents and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance.

A complete list of bills she’s signing can be found here.

Watch the latest Inside Olympia right here

By | March 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

Host Austin Jenkins interviews Rogers Weed, Director of the state Department of Commerce, and other experts on efforts to attract business to Washington.

Categories: TVW

Third alternative proposed to fix budget hole – could it break impasse?

By | March 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

Republicans and Democrats have been locked at an impasse in budget negotiations over two main sticking points: Republicans want to skip a pension payment, while Democrats would prefer to push back payments to school districts into the next budget cycle.

Jordan Schrader of The News Tribune has a story today about a proposed third alternative that could potentially break the logjam. The idea would keep $238 million in sales tax revenue collected from local governments in the state’s general fund longer, giving the state a boost in its cash flow every month. Read more about it here.

Although Gov. Chris Gregoire has said she put a third alternative on the table, she’s previously declined to say what it is. Earlier this week, Gregoire said the two ideas put forth by Republicans and Democrats had become so “toxic” that they needed a fresh proposal.

Categories: Budget

Watch last night’s edition of The Impact

By | March 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

Host Jessica Gao takes a look at the liquor privatization initiative, and gets an update on the budget negotiations from Gov. Gregoire’s budget writer Marty Brown.

Categories: TVW

Unemployment rate drops to 8.2 percent

By | March 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

February’s labor statistics came out today and things improving: The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent in February, down from 8.4 percent in January.  It’s the lowest unemployment rate since January 2009, when it was 7.7 percent.

The state added about 4,200 jobs last month. The biggest uptick was in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 2,500 jobs. That was followed by the construction, retail and transportation sectors.

Still, about 288,000 people were unemployed and looking for work in February. And about 197,000 claimed unemployment benefits, according to the Employment Security Department.

Categories: unemployment

Gov. Gregoire says Washington state will appeal Plan B ruling

By | March 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday the state will appeal a judge’s ruling that Washington state cannot compel pharmacies to sell emergency contraceptives such as Plan B.

Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia and two other pharmacists first brought the suit in 2007, arguing that they should not have to dispense Plan B or other emergency contraceptives because it is against their religious beliefs. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton issued a ruling last month saying the state’s rules violate the constitutional rights of the pharmacists.

Gregoire said in a statement she fully supports the decision to appeal the ruling.

“Any decision that puts patients at risk by delaying or denying them lawful and lawfully prescribed medications should be carefully reviewed by a higher court,” Gregoire said.

Lawmakers call attention to ‘attack’ on women’s healthcare rights

By | March 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

Several legislators held a press conference today to draw attention to what they say is an attack on women’s healthcare rights in the budget proposed by Senate Republicans and three moderate Democrats.

“This budget moves us backwards,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Seattle. The budget proposal includes a 27 percent cut in family planning grants, which help provide reproductive health education and services. It also reduces funding to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, Nelson said.

They called for the revival of a bill requiring insurers to cover abortion services. It passed the House with a 52-46 vote, but when Republicans took control of the Senate floor using a procedural maneuver earlier this month, the bill was essentially killed — along with other non-budget bills that hadn’t yet come up for a vote.

“We must shine the light on this attack on a woman’s right to chose, ” said Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. Jinkins said she believes there are enough votes for the bill in the Senate, and she wants to see it called to the floor during special session.

The group also celebrated the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s federal healthcare reform, or the Affordable Care Act. The Legislature passed a bill during regular session that helps the state implement the act, which the governor is slated to sign on Friday,  said Sen. Karen Keiser.

Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday that budget writers are making significant progress, and she may be open to signing more bills into law. Last week, Gregoire said she wouldn’t sign the vast majority of bills — or veto them altogether — if lawmakers didn’t make progress on budget negotiations. Since then, she’s slowed her bill signing ceremonies down to a trickle.

Categories: Budget, Healthcare
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Judge upholds liquor privatization initiative – watch the ruling here

By | March 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

A Cowlitz County judge reversed his previous ruling on a voter-approved liquor privatization initiative, allowing for implementation to continue.  Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning ruled the initiative had two subjects, rendering it unconstitutional.  On Monday, he changed his mind.

“While nobody likes to say that they are wrong, and I think judges least of all, I think I was previously,” said Warning.

Watch his entire ruling below.  Then, on Wednesday, tune into The Impact for my interview with the director of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, who updates us on progress toward implementing I-1183, even as this Cowlitz County case is appealed to the State Supreme Court.

You can watch The Impact Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on TVW.


Governor: ‘No budget, no bills’

By | March 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire is continuing to pressure lawmakers to strike a budget deal by refusing to sign the vast majority of bills into law. Or, as she put it: “No budget, no bills.”

Gregoire said budget writers met this morning, but there doesn’t appear to be any movement on what have been the two biggest sticking points: Democrats want to delay about $340 million in payments to school districts by a day, pushing it into the next budget cycle. Republicans want to skip a $140 million pension payment.

Gregoire said those two issues have become so “toxic” that she’s put a third alternative on the table. She declined to say what her suggestion was.

Gregoire signed nearly a dozen bills Monday, saying she doesn’t want to hold up bills that citizens worked hard to pass. But the vast majority of bills will remain unsigned to send a message to legislators and lobbyists, Gregoire said.

Gov. Gregoire set to sign nearly a dozen bills today

By | March 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire is slated to sign nearly a dozen bills this afternoon at 1:30 p.m.  Among them is SB 6384, which allows people with developmental disabilities who are enrolled in employment training programs to get access to community services, like independent living and life skills training.

Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, criticized the governor for removing the bill from her schedule last week along with 50 others, saying the developmentally disabled community shouldn’t have “bills held hostage just because the governor hasn’t gotten her way on the budget.” Gov. Gregoire threatened last week to veto or hold off on signing bills until lawmakers struck a budget deal.

She’s also signing the collaborative schools bill, or HB 2799, which pairs six low-performing elementary schools with colleges of education. The colleges will create a teacher training lab for the school — similar to medical residency programs — under the bill, which was introduced to the Legislature at the request of the governor.

Also on the docket: SB 5991, which strengthens the state’s mandatory child abuse reporting laws. Spurred by the Penn State sex abuse scandal, the bill requires that all university employees report suspected child abuse to their supervisors. Administrative, academic and athletic department employees must report suspected abuse directly to law enforcement.