Archive for Governors Office

Gov. Inslee convenes McCleary workgroup, raises possibility of special session

By | September 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee is convening a legislative workgroup this month focused on McCleary in an attempt to end the state Supreme Court’s $100,000-a-day fine against the state for being in contempt of the court’s order to fully fund basic education.

If the group can reach agreement by late November — when the Legislature returns to Olympia for Assembly Days — Inslee said in a letter to lawmakers that he will call a special session. Regular session begins in January.

Inslee said the workgroup will focus solely on the McCleary decision, saying it is not the “place to debate charter schools.” The state Supreme Court recently struck down a voter-approved law allowing up to 40 charter schools to operate in the state.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Friday his office would file a motion for reconsideration with the state Supreme Court for the charter school case.

Inslee noted that charter schools will remain open for the school year with private funds, adding that he doesn’t believe a special session is needed to address the charter school law.

“I opposed the initiative that created charter schools because I did not believe that public money belongs in schools that lack public oversight and accountability,” Inslee wrote.

“My focus will remain on basic education,” he said.

The McCleary workgroup will meet Sept. 24 in SeaTac and includes members of the four caucuses, including Sen. Doug Ericksen and Sen. Ann Rivers, Sen. Christine Rolfes, Sen. Andy Billig, Rep. Pat Sullivan, Rep. Kristine Lytton, Rep. Chad Magendanz and Rep. Norma Smith.

‘Legislative Year in Review’ recaps the extended 2015 session

By | July 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state Legislature adjourned on July 10 after a record-setting 176 days. In this hour-long edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights of the significant bills that passed — and failed to pass — during the regular and overtime sessions.

Lawmakers narrowly avoided a state government shutdown by passing a two-year operating budget that was signed into law just before midnight on June 30 by Gov. Jay Inslee. But the session didn’t end there. Senate leaders were drawn into an additional week of negotiations after a debate in the chamber over Initiative 1351, a class size reduction initiative passed by voters that came with a $2 billion price tag.

Senate Democrats and Republicans eventually reached a deal to delay implementation of the class size initiative for four years, while also suspending a new high school biology graduation requirement for two years. That agreement allows nearly 2,000 high school seniors who failed the exam this year to earn a diploma.

As part of the overall budget, college students will get a tuition cut and additional money will be funneled into early education and preschool with the Early Start Act.

Lawmakers also passed a $16 billion transportation package funded by a 11.9-cent gas tax increase that pays for projects across the state — marking the first time in a decade the state has made a significant investment in transportation infrastructure.

Also on the show: We recap debate over several bills that passed this year, including an oil train safety measure, an involuntary commitment bill known as Joel’s law, medical marijuana reform, the establishment of a new Washington State University medical school and a gun notification bill known as the Sheena Henderson Act.

Plus, details about the bills that generated heated debate but failed to pass — including the creation of a new type of payday loan, a proposed $12-an-hour statewide minimum wage, restrictions on initiative signature-gathering and eliminating personal exemptions for vaccines.

“Legislative Year in Review” airs at 6 and 11 p.m. every night on TVW through July 19. Or watch the show online below:

Budget leaders discuss compromise options with capital gains tax off the table

By | June 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative budget leaders on Friday said they are getting closer to a budget deal that will avert a government shutdown.

“There is no reason — zero — why we can’t have a budget done in one week,” Inslee said.

State government would be forced into a partial shutdown if a two-year operating budget is not adopted by June 30.

Democrats are no longer calling for a capital gains tax, which Inslee said is because the state is on track to collect about $700 million more in new revenue than expected.

Inslee said he believes closing tax breaks worth between $300 to $350 million will give “both sides big policy wins and produce a responsible, sustainable budget.” The governor pointed to a tax break for extracted fuel as an example of an exemption that should be closed, although he said he doesn’t plan to dictate a list of tax breaks to lawmakers.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said Democrats took the capital gains tax off the table “contingent on the Senate agreeing to a package of tax loopholes that would allow us to make investments that we need to make.”

Democrats are moving to the middle by reducing spending in “critical areas,” Sullivan said, such as mental health and early learning.  “That’s what compromise is all about and we’re willing to do that,” he said.

Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said closing tax exemptions is an option. “We always said we should be looking at exemptions, some are old and not needed anymore,” he said.

Negotiations should be able to move forward quickly, he said.

“We’re looking forward to working over the weekend to close the gaps and get a final agreement,” Hill said.

TVW taped press conferences with Inslee, Democratic and Republican leaders. Find all three videos here.

Categories: Budget, Governors Office

State prepares for partial government shutdown if no budget deal is reached

By | June 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

As the June 30 deadline approaches for legislators to strike a budget deal, more than 25,000 state workers are slated to receive temporary layoff notices and dozens of state agencies are bracing for a potential government shutdown.

Gov. Jay Inslee‘s budget and legal advisers on Thursday laid out contingency plans in case of a shutdown, even as his staff said the governor remains “optimistic” that lawmakers will reach an agreement.

Without a two-year operating budget in place, 30 state agencies would be completely shut down — including the Liquor Control Board, Services for the Blind and Washington State Parks. All camping reservations at state parks would be cancelled, days before the Fourth of July holiday.

Another 25 state agencies would be partially shutdown. The state Department of Social and Health Services, for example, would suspend about two-thirds of its services, including adoption programs, immigrant state food assistance and family support services.

Eastern and Western State Hospitals, the state’s psychiatric wards, will remain operational, as well as child protective services. Medicaid would temporarily continue for several weeks until a federally-mandated termination process begins.

The Department of Corrections will stop accepting new transfers to state prisons, instead asking county jails to hold the offenders. Community supervision of offenders would be significantly scaled back.

The Office of Financial Management has a summary of the potential state agency impacts listed here. The office also has guidance for state employees facing a temporary layoff.

In 2013, legislators also came close to a government shutdown, reaching a budget deal only three days before the deadline.

Director of the Office of Financial Management David Schumacher said his office used contingency plans submitted by state agencies in 2013 as a starting point for the current shutdown preparations.

“This time as we’ve gone through, it’s been much more straightforward,” he said. “A lot of these questions have been wrestled with previously.”

The decisions about which government services will continue during a shutdown are based on a legal analysis of constitutional mandates and federal law, he said. Government services can also continue in case of an emergency or risk to public safety.

Temporary layoff letters will be sent to state employees next Tuesday. Schumacher acknowledged the letters will “generate anxiety,” although he said he doesn’t believe a shutdown will actually occur.

“I do think it is likely that letters will go out on the 23rd. I think would be wildly optimistic to think we’ll have a deal by then,” Schumacher said.

TVW taped the press conference — watch it at this link.


Attorney General will launch separate criminal investigation of Auditor Troy Kelley

By | June 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Tuesday his office is launching a criminal investigation into State Auditor Troy Kelley at the governor’s request.

Gov. Jay Inslee sent the attorney general a letter requesting the investigation, which will focus on Kelley’s decision to hire a longtime business associate, Jason JeRue, for a part-time remote job at the state auditor’s office.

Inslee’s letter said the public deserves assurance that “the work of the office during Mr. Kelley’s tenure was handled properly, particularly as relates to the employment of Mr. Jerue.”

Kelly was indicted by a federal grand jury in April on counts of tax evasion and stealing money. Federal investigators are looking into financial activities related to The Post Closing Department, Kelley’s former real estate transaction business in California. JeRue worked with Kelley at the company.

Ferguson said the state investigation into JeRue’s employment at the auditor’s office is separate from the federal indictment.

“My goal in this investigation will be to provide needed transparency regarding employment of Mr. JeRue,” Ferguson said at a press conference Tuesday.

The investigation will focus on compliance with state law and begin immediately, he said. After the investigation, the attorney general’s office will decide if legal action is required.

“We’re going into the investigation with an open mind,” Ferguson said.

To launch a criminal investigation, the attorney general’s office must receive a request from the governor or a county prosecutor. Ferguson said the governor’s letter late Monday “did not come as a surprise.”

Kelley has dismissed calls for his resignation from Gov. Inslee and several other state officials. The auditor took an unpaid leave of absence in May and designated authority of the office to director of operations Jan Jutte.

Jutte terminated JeRue’s employment on her first day taking control of the auditor’s office. She released a statement Tuesday saying she welcomes the attorney general’s investigation.

Statewide drought emergency declared by Gov. Jay Inslee

By | May 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency on Friday due to “unprecedented” low snowpack in the mountains, where he said glacier lily flowers are blooming in areas where there should be more than 6 feet of snow.

“It’s really unlike anything we’ve experienced. Rain has been normal. What we’ve lacked is snow,” said the governor, who termed it a “snowpack drought.”

Of the 98 snow sites in Washington measured in May by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, 66 sites have little to no snow — with 11 sites “snow-free for the first time ever,” Inslee said.

The lack of snowpack is resulting in historic river lows, and irrigation districts are being forced to tap reservoirs earlier than normal.

Farmers are expected to bear the brunt of the drought. The Dept of Agriculture is projecting $1.2 billion in crop losses due to the drought this year, according to Inslee. To extend water supplies, irrigation districts in the Yakima Basin are turning off water for weeks at a time.

“We are already seeing severe impacts in several areas of the state and conditions are expected to worsen over time,” Inslee said. “Difficult decisions are being made today about what crops gets priority in our vital agricultural region.”

When deciding which crops will get emergency water assistance from the state Dept. of Ecology, agency director Maia Bellon said the department takes into consideration the value of the crop and expense of replanting.

Allowing an annual crop to fallow is less expensive, she said, when compared to perennial crops like pears, cherries and hops. “It is much more expensive to replant a pear orchard,” Bellon said.

Puget Sound residents are unlikely to be impacted by the drought, although officials say they should be mindful of water use. Large municipal water districts in cities like Seattle, Tacoma and Everett have adequate water storage and don’t anticipate shortages, Inslee said.

“Use what you need, no more, don’t waste,” said Ginny Stern of the Dept. of Health.

Watch the press conference below:

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Gov. Inslee signs ‘Joel’s Law’ two years after Joel Reuter’s death

By | May 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

Family members of the mentally ill will be allowed to petition the courts for help getting a relative involuntarily committed, following the signing of “Joel’s Law” by Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday.

The bill is named for Joel Reuter, who was having a mental health breakdown when he was killed in 2013 in a shootout with Seattle police.

Joel Reuter's parents, Doug and Nancy, speak to the media Thursday.

Joel Reuter’s parents, Doug and Nancy, speak to the media.

His father, Doug Reuter, told reporters his son was struggling with an “evil, evil” mental illness, but it was manageable with medication that would have allowed him to go back to work at his job as a software engineer.

Doug and his wife, Nancy, attempted to get their son mental health help dozens of times.

If the bill had been in effect, they say they could have gotten Joel involuntarily committed several months before he was shot. Joel would have turned 30 this month, his parents said.

“For the first time in four decades, families have standing in superior court to get their loved ones the help they need,” Doug Reuter said following the bill signing.

Inslee signed the bill using a glass pen blown by Joel’s father. His parents said they found it in Joel’s apartment in a box labeled “Keep Forever.”

Gun notification bill known as ‘Sheena Henderson Act’ signed into law by Gov. Inslee

By | April 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Sheena Henderson Act into law Tuesday, setting up a notification system for families when police return a confiscated gun back to its owner.

Sheena Henderson’s father, Gary Kennison, said Tuesday the bill was not about taking away gun rights. “It’s giving family members the ability to protect their loved ones,” he said.

Sheena Henderson’s friends say the slain woman might have been able to protect herself if she had been notified by police that her estranged husband, Chris Henderson, had gone to the Spokane Police Department to retrieve his gun. Police had previously confiscated the weapon following a suicide attempt.

The day that Sheena Henderson was shot, “she was going to call and check on the gun on the way to work,” said Kristen Otoupalik, Sheena’s friend who lobbied the Legislature to pass the bill.

But Sheena never called, and Chris Henderson used the gun to kill Sheena and himself at her workplace, Deaconess Hospital in Spokane.

If the law had been in place, “we would have been able to keep her safe longer,” Otoupalik said Tuesday following the bill signing.

Inslee signs the Sheena Henderson bill into law.

Gov. Inslee signs the Sheena Henderson bill into law.

Senate Bill 5381 allows family or household members to request to be notified when police return a firearm to its owner. The notification can be done by telephone, email, text or personal service.

Both of Sheena’s children attended the bill signing on Tuesday, along with several friends and family members.

TVW taped the bill signing ceremony, watch it online here.

Kennison and Otoupalik say they intend to return to Olympia to continue to push for House Bill 1448, which creates a process for law enforcement officers to request mental health evaluations of people who attempt suicide.

The bill passed the House and out of a Senate committee, but was not brought up for a floor vote in the Senate before the end of regular session on April 24.

Gov. Inslee directs state to withhold pay from State Auditor Troy Kelley

By | April 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

State Auditor Troy Kelley will not be paid by the state during his leave of absence to face federal charges, according to a letter delivered to the auditor by Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday.

State Auditor Troy Kelley surrounded by media as he leaves the U.S. District Court after pleading not guilty to 10 counts. (Photo by Venice Buhain.)

State Auditor Troy Kelley surrounded by media as he leaves the U.S. District Court after pleading not guilty to 10 counts. (Photo by Venice Buhain.)

Kelley was indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this month on ten counts, including tax evasion and lying under oath.

Kelley has maintained his innocence and said he will take a leave of absence from his job starting Friday, ignoring calls from Inslee and others for him to resign.

In the letter to the auditor, Inslee wrote that he has directed the Office of Financial Management and Department of Enterprise Services to withhold pay from Kelley “as long as you are not performing the duties of the office you were elected to perform.” Kelley will also be required to maintain health benefits at his own expense, according to the letter.

Inslee also repeated his call for Kelley to resign. “You have lost the trust of the public and the agencies that your office oversees,” he wrote. “I urge you to put the interests of the people of the State of Washington above your own.”

The governor has asked for Kelley to respond in writing by April 29 to explain how the office will operate in the auditor’s absence.

Categories: Governors Office

Inslee criticizes Republican school levy swap proposal

By | April 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

With special session a certainty after the end of the 2015 regular session, Gov. Jay Inslee called on budget negotiators to compromise on revenue proposals to come to an agreement on the state’s 2015-17 biennial operating budget.

However, Inslee criticized a proposal by Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, that would increase funding for schools through a change in the school levy system.

Dammeier’s plan would increase the statewide levy for schools, and would replace local levy money being used for salaries and compensation with state money. Local school levy amounts would be reduced dollar for dollar. The concept is often called a “levy swap.”

Dammeier says the change would be revenue neutral statewide. However, critics, including Inslee and Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, say that Dammeier’s proposal would raise taxes in counties with high property values — such as King County — by up to $500.

Both Inslee and Ranker have capital gains tax proposals to increase state revenue. Ranker unveiled his proposal earlier this month for a 7 percent capital gains tax that would apply to gains higher than $250,000 for single taxpayer (or $500,000 per couple) and would not apply to primary homes.

Inslee called Ranker’s plan more equitable.

“I have a hard time seeing why Republicans want to increase taxes on 50 percent of the people when we could solve this problem by taxing less than 1 percent of the people — and the less than 1 percent of the people are doing pretty well in our new economy that we have,” Inslee said.

Earlier this week at a press conference with other Republican leaders, Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, addressed that criticism of Dammeier’s plan by saying reform of the school levy system will be an ongoing process.

“Sen. Dammeier’s done a great job looking at this at different levels — at the state level, at the school district level, at the teacher level — what does it do for teachers and at the taxpayer level,” he said. “In a state where you do tax reform, it takes that kind of careful analysis to get it done right. And poking at draft one or the original run of the numbers doesn’t help the process.”

However, Inslee said Thursday criticized the notion that people with high-value homes always make a lot of money.

“If we are going to ask people to contribute more for the schools, it’s not fair to put the burden on working people who are struggling to make their house payments,” Inslee said.

Lawmakers in both parties this month said the state needs to focus on levy reform as a way to address the state Supreme Court’s requirements to increase the reliance of basic school funding on the state in the McCleary decision. But Inslee told reporters on Thursday he believed that aim could be reached through raising revenue by other means.

Click through to watch Inslee’s press conference: (more…)