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Senate votes to remove WSDOT Secretary Lynn Peterson

By | February 6, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Republican-majority Senate voted to dismiss Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson from her position Friday by not confirming her three years after she was appointed to the job by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Lynn Peterson

Lynn Peterson

The Friday afternoon vote was 21 to 25, with Democrats voting to confirm and Republicans, along with one Democrat who caucuses with the GOP, voting to remove her.

Inslee criticized the move, saying it was a display of partisan politics by Senate Republicans. “They engaged in a politically-motivated attack on an eminently qualified woman,” Inslee said in a statement.

Republican Sen. Andy Hill spoke on the Senate floor about his frustration over issues with the new I-405 express tolling lanes, describing the situation as “abysmal.”

“This is a very, very serious decision. But I have no confidence that the agency is in a position to fix the problems they have without a change at the top,” Hill said. 

Sen. Cyrus Habib, a Kirkland Democrat, said problems with tolling and Good to Go passes are the fault of lawmakers.

“Those are not issues created by an administrator,” he said. “Those were issues put in place by us and by our predecessors here in the Legislature.”

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, defended Peterson, saying she stepped up quickly when the I-5 Skagit River Bridge collapsed in 2013. “She made sure that bridge was rebuilt under budget and faster than anyone predicted,” he said.

“It is shameful that this body would consider not confirming such an incredible and tireless champion for mobility and public safety in Washington state,” Ranker said. 

Republican Sen. Don Benton said the Skagit bridge collapse was the fault of transportation department. “Why did that bridge fail? The bridge failed because the department issues oversize load permits without verifying the routes that those oversize loads are going to take,” he said. 

Benton said the vote was “not about a lovely lady who is working over at the Department of Transportation,” but about holding people accountable for competence in government.

Watch TVW video of the entire floor debate here.

Categories: transportation, WA Senate

Rep. Graham Hunt resigns over accusations about his military record

By | February 3, 2016 | 0 Comments
Rep. Graham Hunt

Rep. Graham Hunt

Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting, resigned his seat in the House on Tuesday following accusations that he mislead people about his military experience and embellished his service records.

Hunt said people in his district deserve a representative who can “zealously advocate” on their behalf. “Under the current circumstances, I no longer feel that I can meet these expectations,” Graham wrote in a statement.

The Seattle Times reported in January that Hunt was listing three medals on his official biography that a military personnel center shows no record of him receiving. A doctored photo also appeared on Hunt’s Facebook page that falsely identified him in Iraq. The News Tribune later wrote abut two people who say that Hunt lied to them about details of his military service.

Hunt wrote in his resignation that takes “full responsibility” for any errors. “As I have stated before, I have nothing to conceal, nor have I ever deliberately conducted myself in a manner that compromises my integrity or the integrity of this office. However, the recent speculation of impropriety has taken its toll on my family, my colleagues, and the community,” he said.

House Republican Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen said he believes Hunt’s resignation is in the best interest of the district and Legislature. “Washington House Republicans have high ethical standards and hold each other accountable,” he wrote Tuesday. “While this is a disappointing outcome, we don’t want people to forget that Graham served in the U.S. Air Force and advocated for several causes – including veterans’ issues – during his time as state representative.”

Hunt’s formal letter of resignation was hand-delivered to Gov. Jay Inslee on Feb. 2. Hunt wrote that he hopes for the “appointment process to occur swiftly.” The Pierce County Council and Thurston County commissioners will vote on a replacement to serve out Hunt’s term from a pool of three candidates selected by the Republican party.

Categories: Uncategorized

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Suicide prevention, vaping rules & payroll cards

By | January 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

Legislative Review LogoOn Tuesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we cover a bill that aims to educate gun owners about how to prevent suicide in homes with firearms. The suicide awareness campaign targets places such as gun ranges, gun stores and hunting safety classes.

The show also has details about a bill that would require child-proof packaging on liquid nicotine and impose other rules related to vaping products. Plus, a proposal to eliminate fees attached to payroll cards.

Watch the show at this link.

Categories: TVW

House passes education funding bill, 64-34

By | January 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

The House passed a bill off the floor Monday that requires next year’s Legislature to end the state’s overreliance on local school levies to pay for basic education.

House Bill 2366 also collects data on teacher compensation and local levies, and creates a task force to continue working on the issue before the 2017 Legislature convenes.

Watch TVW video of the floor debate here.

Rep. Matt Manweller

Rep. Matt Manweller

Republican Rep. Matt Manweller voted against the bill, describing one section of the bill as a “poison pill to the extent that it’s a deal killer.”

The section states that “legislative action shall be taken by the end of the 2017 session to eliminate school district dependency on local levies” to fund public schools.

Manweller said that language forces “someone else do the job that we are either unwilling to do or cannot do.”

He said the section was placed in the bill to appease the Washington Supreme Court, which is holding the state in contempt for failing to provide a plan for how it will adequately fund basic education. 

Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said the bill is not about appeasing the court, but about “living up to a promise to a million school kids we made in 2009.”

Sullivan said he supports both the bill and the section language.

“The bill we have before us today puts forward the next promise,” he said. “The promise that we’ll fix a broken school employee compensation system.”

The bill passed with a vote of 64-34, and heads to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration.

Democratic leaders said at a press event Monday that Senate Republicans told them they would not move the bill forward if it contains the section debated on the House floor.

However, Senate Republicans told reporters Tuesday that they are continuing to study the bill.

“We are going to take a look at the legislation as it comes to our caucus,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. “We aren’t shrugging anything off and that narrative is completely false,” he said.

Gov. Jay Inslee praised the passage of the bill, saying the House “vote keeps us moving in the right direction.”

Categories: WA House

Senate passes charter school bill, 27-20

By | January 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

A bill to keep charter schools open in Washington passed off the Senate floor Wednesday over objections from several lawmakers who say the state should be focusing on its McCleary obligation to fully fund public schools.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled last year that charter schools do not qualify for public money from the general fund because they are not “common schools” governed by an elected school board.

“This bill agrees with that ruling,” said Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, the prime sponsor of tvwminidocs2Senate Bill 6194.

The bill changes the definition and funding source of charter schools to comply with the court. Charter schools would no longer be defined as “common,” and they would be paid for by the Lottery-funded Washington Opportunity Pathways Account.

We have to make sure that those kids in charter schools have the opportunity to get the education that everybody does,” Litzow said. “This is one step there.”

Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, also urged passage of the bill, saying it will give certainty to charter school students who want to stay in their schools. “These are real students with real families,” he said. 

Opponents of the bill say the state should not be prioritizing charter schools at a time it is facing an education funding crisis in its public schools.

“We can’t substitute a solution for 1,200 kids in charter schools when we haven’t had a real discussion about how we address the one million kids around the state,” said Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D- Seattle.

Democratic Sen. Bob Hasegawa of Seattle said the bill “sends the wrong message” on the first day of floor action in the Senate. He said charter schools are draining public money to provide a “private benefit to a select few.”

The bill passed with a vote of 27-20 and now heads to the House for consideration.

Watch TVW video of the floor debate here.

Categories: Education, WA Senate

Legislative leaders offer preview of upcoming session

By | January 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

Legislative leaders and Gov. Jay Inslee offered insights to the upcoming legislative session Thursday at the AP Legislative Preview. TVW taped the event — watch the House and Senate leadership panel, education funding panel and Gov. Inslee. Here’s a look at some of the issues they covered:

The accidental early release of 3,200 prisoners:

Republican Sen. Mike Padden, chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, will hold a hearing on Monday at 1:30 p.m. looking into why thousands of prisoners were released ahead of schedule. The House will also hold a hearing next week looking into the technical computer failures that resulted in the early releases.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said the situation was unacceptable. “Letting the governor chose his own people to be independent investigators is questionable. The hearings need to be soon and they need to ask a lot of questions so we get real answers, and not spin,” he said.

Inslee later said he was “disappointed” by that characterization. He said the investigators are professionals with a combined 60 years of prosecutorial experience. “We’re going to make sure employees cooperate fully with these investigators,” he said.

Initiative 1366: 

Voters approved I-1366 in the fall, which cuts the state’s sales tax revenue unless the Legislature imposes a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. House Speaker Frank Chopp said the measure is “clearly unconstitutional.” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Sharon Nelson said she’s “hopeful the courts will take quick action,” adding that lawmakers are not willing to cut $1.4 billion out of the state budget.

Schoesler said Republicans support the initiative, noting that the two-thirds threshold can be met — as it was with last year’s gas tax increase to pay for transportation projects. House Republican Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen said if the court doesn’t make a decision, “you could be looking at a special session” to deal with the issue.

Charter schools:

The Washington Supreme Court ruled in September that charter schools do not qualify for public money because they are not under the control of a locally elected school board. Schoesler said a bipartisan bill will be introduced to address the court’s concerns and keep charter schools open.

Homelessness:

Nelson said the Legislature should declare homelessness an emergency and use $300 to $400 million from the rainy day fund to address the problem. “Drive along the freeway in Seattle and you see tent cities everywhere. We have an emergency,” Nelson said.

Schoesler said any use of the rainy day fund would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, and he would be “hard pressed” to see that vote. “I don’t think homelessness falls into the definition that created it,” he said, adding that the money should be kept in the emergency fund in case of another recession. 

Impeaching State Auditor Troy Kelley:

Chopp and Schoesler both said they do not want to interfere with the federal case against Kelley, which begins in March. “We’re open to taking action, but we need to make sure the action is productive and constructive,” Chopp said.

On the education school funding plan:

A bipartisan workgroup convened to address the Washington Supreme Court’s contempt order against the state is close to finalizing an education funding plan, which will be released within a week.

Legislators said the plan will focus on gathering more data, including how local levy dollars are being spent on education and teacher compensation in each district. “We don’t know what potion of that is for basic education or legitimate enhancements to basic education,” said Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah. “We’ve been guessing up until now. Nobody really knows.”

The plan will make it clear that local levy dollars cannot be used for basic education, he said.

Lawmakers do not agree on a dollar amount that will be needed to fully fund basic education, although Democrats say that number should be at least $3.5 billion. They also do not have a funding source, and say that likely will not be resolved until the 2017 session.

Inslee said he’s “optimistic” about the plan. He said the effort should not just comply with the court order, but also improve education for children in Washington.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Gov. Inslee signs executive order on firearm data

By | January 6, 2016 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order on Wednesday that requires state agencies to review data on gun-related deaths and hospitalizations in an effort to come up with strategies to combat gun violence in Washington.

Inslee said at a press conference that gun violence has become too “commonplace,” citing shootings last year at Seattle Pacific University, which left one dead and several injured, as well as the deaths of five teenagers at Marysville Pilchuck High School.

“It doesn’t need to be this way,” Inslee said. 

The executive order requires several agencies, including the Department of Health and the Department of Social and Health Services, to collect and review data on deaths and injuries from firearms. The agencies are directed to come up with prevention and safety strategies.

The order also directs the Department of Health to begin implementing a statewide suicide prevention plan that focuses on at-risk populations, including schools, veterans and Native Americans.

Inslee also wants to strengthen the state’s background check law approved by voters in 2014 and analyze the effectiveness of current gun laws.

Read the full executive order here.

Categories: Gun control

‘Mariachi Huenachi’ premieres on TVW on Thursday

By | December 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

mariachi 1500x680 web 2-b-1

‘Mariachi Huenachi’ is a new 25-minute documentary premiering on TVW on Thursday, Dec. 31 at 8 and 10:30 p.m.

Students in Wenatchee High School’s Mariachi Huenachi program confront the challenges of poverty, legal status and societal expectations as they strive for better lives for themselves and their families.

The story is part of TVW’s ongoing education documentary series Engaged: Students Becoming Citizens.

Watch the documentary below:

Categories: TVW

Indicted State Auditor Troy Kelley returns to work in Olympia

By | December 8, 2015 | 0 Comments

State Auditor Troy Kelley is back at work in Olympia, a day after four legislators signaled their intent to impeach the indicted official in January.

Kelley has been on unpaid leave since May while facing federal charges of tax evasion, stealing money and lying under oath. Kelley maintains he is innocent of the charges, which are tied to his former real estate services business.

In a written statement announcing his return to work on Tuesday, Kelley said he “will not back down in the face of political pressure and a false indictment.”

Kelley took aim at the legislators who announced on Monday they have filed a resolution to begin impeachment proceedings in January. The auditor says he took the leave of absence “upon the request of the same legislators who are now attempting an impeachment based on the sole fact that I did what they asked me to do — take leave without pay.”

The impeachment resolution filed by two Democrats and two Republicans charges Kelley with abandoning his office, delegating authority to an unelected official and betraying the public trust.  Longtime staffer Jan Jutte has lead the office during Kelley’s absence.

Gov. Jay Inslee‘s spokeswoman, Jaime Smith, called Kelley’s return to work “troubling.” The governor and several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for Kelley to resign.

Smith said the auditor’s office “should remain free from the distractions and drama of Troy Kelley’s legal challenges.” She praised acting auditor Jutte, saying Kelley’s return will “disrupt the very important work she and her team are doing.”

 

Categories: Auditor
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Bipartisan resolution to impeach State Auditor Troy Kelley filed in House

By | December 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

A bipartisan group of House representatives announced Monday they have filed a resolution to begin impeachment proceedings against State Auditor Troy Kelley for charges that include abandoning his office, delegating duties to an unelected staff member and betraying public trust.

State Auditor Troy Kelley

State Auditor Troy Kelley

Kelley has been on an undefined leave of absence since May while facing federal charges of tax evasion, stealing money and lying under oath. He has delegated authority to Jan Jutte, the office’s director of operations.

Republican representatives Drew MacEwen and Drew Stokesbary, along with Democratic representatives Sam Hunt and Chris Reykdal, are sponsoring the resolution to impeach Kelley for malfeasance of office.

“Kelley has left us no other choice but to move forward with impeachment in order to restore accountability to the State Auditor’s Office,” MacEwen said in the press release.

Hunt said the issue “isn’t about guilt or innocence,” but about fulfilling the requirements of the job. “Auditor Kelley has demonstrated he cannot do his job while his personal legal issues continue,” Hunt said.

It would take 50 votes for the House to impeach. The Senate would then hold a trial, which requires two-thirds of the chamber’s members to vote for a conviction and remove Kelley from office.

Categories: WA House
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