Archive for Olympia

Bills face first policy cutoff

By | February 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

It’s nearly half-way into the 105-day session and time’s up for Washington state lawmakers to pass non-budget bills out of committee.

Feb. 20 was the first policy cutoff of the session and the end for many of the more than 2,200 bills introduced so far this year.

Lawmakers are still considering an increase to the state’s minimum wage, a push to make it a crime to hold a phone while driving, a bill to require doctors to notify parents when a teen seeks an abortion, a push to remove personal belief as a vaccine exemption. The full list of bills that made out out of committee by the policy cutoff deadline is here.

Stalled bills include a push to discourage minors from vaping, an effort to abolish the state’s death penalty, a bill to make it a crime to secretly record video at a farm and a proposal to end Daylight Savings in Washington.

Gov. Jay Inslee last week signed the first bill of the session, adding nearly $218 million to the 2013-2015 operating budget for natural disasters, court payouts and other unexpected costs.

Bills with a fiscal note have until Friday to receive a committee reading. The next deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin is March 11.

Categories: Olympia, WA House, WA Senate

On ‘The Impact:’ New lawmakers in Olympia

By | January 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

When the Washington State Legislature convenes next week, it will be a day of firsts – not just for freshman lawmakers, but for state history. The state Senate will welcome the Legislature’s first Indian immigrant lawmaker and, over in the House, the youngest woman elected since 1936.

TVW sat down with the lawmakers to discuss the upcoming session ahead of opening day.

When Seattle Democrat Sen. Pramila Jayapal takes the seat left by recently-retired Sen. Adam Kline, she’ll become first Indian immigrant and the only woman of color in the Senate.

Jayapal is known for her work as a civil rights activist and founder of OneAmerica, the state’s largest immigrant advocacy organization.

She’s representing one of the most diverse districts in the state and bringing along “a set of perspectives that desperately need to be represented in Olympia,” she said.

Rep. Melanie Stambaugh is the youngest women elected to the state House since the 1930s, but said she’s not worried about a lack of experience.

The 24-year-old Puyallup Republican beat five-term Democratic Rep. Dawn Morrell in one of the election’s biggest upsets.

“No one can have enough experience to be sitting in this seat,” she said. “I take it as a great opportunity, being young and not having a bias of thought that I understand everything.”

This week’s edition of “The Impact” features interviews with the two freshman lawmakers — watch on Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 7 and 10 p.m.

Former state leaders mobilize to save sinking USS Olympia

By | November 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

The USS Olympia fought in two major wars, carried home the body of the Unknown Soldier and is one of the last surviving Navy ships of its era.

Now, it’s in danger of sinking into the Delaware River and will be sent to the scrapyard unless supporters can raise millions of dollars to save it.

A group in Washington is stepping up to help save the vessel and by doing so, they hope to make amends for what they say is more than 100 years of neglect by its namesake.

“I think it is almost disgraceful that we as a state have not taken more pride in this vessel that is named after our state’s Capitol, and it is in this kind of condition without us taking any steps to help out,” said former Secretary of State Sam Reed, one of several prominent state leaders lending their names to the effort.

The USS Olympia is at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, where it is falling into disrepair. A spokesperson for the museum said they are doing what they can to raise money to repair the ship — including hosting private events and ghost tours on deck — but it isn’t enough.

The ship’s steel hull is rusting and needs to be replaced, at a cost of $7 million. It will cost another $3 million to replace its leaking wood deck — and the costs go up from there.

The Washington Friends of the USS Olympia, or FOTO, formed to support the fundraising effort. Leaders include Reed, former governors Dan Evans and Chris Gregoire, former Secretaries of State Ralph Munro, former Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and retired U.S. Navy admiral Tom Hayward.

The USS Olympia was the Navy’s most modern warship when it was first commissioned in 1895, said FOTO’s secretary Les Eldridge. It’s now the oldest steel-hulled ship still afloat.

It served as the flagship under Cmdr. George Dewey, and helped win the first victory of the 1898 Spanish-American War at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines. The USS Olympia also escorted convoys during World War I, and was tasked with returning the body of the Unknown Soldier from the battlefields of France. It was decommissioned in 1922.

Washington state financed a silver tea service for the ship back in the early 1900s that is now on display at the Governor’s Mansion, Eldridge said.

“That’s the last thing we’ve done for her in 114 years,” Eldridge said. “And we’ve never done anything else to support her. So we’re trying to make amends.”

Watch a segment about the ship on “The Impact” below:

State approves coverage for transgender people

By | October 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

Healthcare plans for state workers will soon include benefits for transgender services, including gender reassignment surgery.

The state Public Employees Benefits Board voted unanimously at a special meeting Wednesday to cover benefits for gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person doesn’t believe their gender identity conforms with their birth gender.

Starting January 1, 2015, all health care plans administered by the state board will include benefits for “covered non-surgical health care services, covered prescriptions, and covered surgical services for the treatment of gender dysphoria.” The board administers healthcare plans for state employees, their family members and retirees.

Kathryn Mahan of Puyallup has been a government employee for 28 years, and told the board she plans to take advantage of the transgender services next year.

After the meeting, she said the board’s decision was “life changing.” Without coverage, surgery would cost $20,000. “I never thought this would be possible,” Mahan said.

Board members said they were pleased at how quickly the services will be covered. Transgender advocates first approached the board in the spring. “There was a lot of interest in the transgender benefits,” said PEBB division director Lou McDermott.

Categories: Olympia, State agency news

Legislative Year in Review

By | March 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

On this special one-hour edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights from the 2014 session — from opening day to Sine Die. The show includes debate over issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, gun control, abortion insurance bill, death penalty, mental health, teacher evaluations, taxing e-cigarettes and the supplemental budget. Plus, a quick wrap-up of several of the bills that passed this year. Watch the show below:

Lawmakers aim to keep invasive species out of Washington’s waterways

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington lawmakers want to make sure invasive species do not infest the state’s waterways.

Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson (right) and aquatic invasive species coordinator, Allen Pleus (left) pose with zebra mussels.

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that will address invasive species through an “integrated pest management” approach. It passed unanimously in the Senate and with a vote of 97-1 in the House.

The legislative action comes after zebra mussels, an invasive species from Russia, were spotted in Lake Powell, bordering Utah and Arizona. Zebra mussels multiply quickly, deplete water nutrients, clog pipes and take away natural resources from native species.

“This is a biological wildfire. What’s worse is that we don’t see the one that’s underwater,” said Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson at a previous Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the issue.

Senate Bill 6040 aims to manage invasive species by reinforcing monitoring checkpoints, providing technical assistance to environmental groups and giving a portion of tax revenues to prevention efforts. It will also conduct education and outreach programs to inform the public about the issue.

Supporters, including Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, said that the bill is critical to deal with the threat of invasive species more effectively and offers organizations more tools in case of emergency situations.

However, a funding source to implement these measures is not included in the bill.

During a Senate Floor Debate Thursday, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, said that the bill only establishes a policy because the House “stripped” the funding account leaving lawmakers to address the issue “next year.”

The governor’s signature is the final act needed for the bill to become a law.

Live in Olympia: TVW’s Sine Die show starts at 8 a.m. Thursday

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington’s legislative leaders will adjourn the 2014 session Thursday, unless a special session extends the deadline. But before they go back to their districts TVW will air back-to-back live interviews with more than 20 lawmakers starting at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Anita Kissée reporting live from the capitol rotunda for TVW's special edition mid-session show Feb. 18.

Anita Kissée, host of The Impact, will sit down with Gov. Jay Inslee, House Democratic Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan and House Republican leader Rep. Dan Kristiansen

Other guests include Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island. The lawmakers will talk about a range of issues from education to the capital budget to the environment.

Plus, Austin Jenkins, host of TVW’s “Inside Olympia” and reporter for the Public Radio Northwest News Network, and Brian Rosenthal, a state government reporter for The Seattle Times, will stop by to talk about some highlights from the past 60 days and what to expect when the election process begins.

Coverage will be here on the blog, and you can watch live on TVW or via webcast.

Homeless fees, veteran tuition bill can be considered after Friday’s deadline, legislative leaders say

By | March 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Legislative leaders in the House and Senate signed a joint letter that releases two bills from Friday’s cutoff deadline, allowing the bills to be considered up until the final day of session.

Friday at 5 p.m. is the deadline for lawmakers to consider policy bills and send them to the governor’s desk for his signature. Only bills related to the budget or taxes are allowed to be considered after Friday’s deadline.

Senate Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, House Speaker Frank Chopp and House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan all signed a letter Friday saying two bills are not subject to the policy deadline.

One proposal would allow veterans and active duty military members to get in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to establish residency. The House and Senate have each passed a separate veteran tuition bill, but lawmakers are reportedly stalled over which chamber should get credit.

The second measure would make permanent a real estate fee that was set to expire in 2015. It helps fund homeless transition and housing programs. Advocates rallied at the Capitol this week in favor of the measure.

In the letter, the legislative leaders said: “The veterans’ tuition bill is designed to provide education opportunities for our veterans. The document recording fee provides targeted funding for vulnerable citizens who are struggling with homelessness. House and Senate leadership is in agreement that these issues are not subject to today’s cutoff, and we look forward to delivering this important legislation to the governor before Sine Die.”

The final day of session is Thursday, March 13.

Categories: Olympia, Public Policy

Lawmakers, advocates rally at Capitol to save homeless service fees

By | March 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

When Mindy Woods lost her apartment to a black mold infestation she also lost her pet-sitting business.

With no family nearby, Woods, a single mother, resorted to couch-surfing with her teenage son who has Type 1 diabetes. Turns out, finding a refrigerator for his insulin was one of the biggest challenges.

“I couldn’t live out of my car,” said Woods. “I needed a hand up, not a handout.”

It wasn’t until Woods found the YMCA’s program Pathways for Women that she felt a more stable life was in sight.

Woods is among thousands of homeless people, who turn to homeless services in times of desperation.

Many of these services depend on on “document recording fees” for the majority of funding. These fees come from homebuyers, who pay $40 during real estate transactions, that fund about 60 percent of programs that transition a homeless person into shelters and more stable housing. It pays for emergency and transitional shelters, rental assistance and supportive services.

In 2006, a law passed mandating these fees until 2015. House Bill 2368 would make these fees permanent. It passed out of the House on Feb. 13, but never came up for a vote in the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee.

Bill critics, including Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, have previously said the fee has increased too much from the original $10 surcharge in 2005. Also, opponents object to taking immediate action because the charge would not decrease until the summer of 2015.

Now, lawmakers and homeless organizations are trying to resurrect the bill before the gavel drops in six days. Senate Democrats attempted to bring the bill up for a vote using a procedural motion called “Ninth Order” on Feb. 28 but did not have enough votes.

The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance brought homeless advocates to the capitol to ring a gong 5,043 times to represent the 5,043 unsheltered homeless people recorded during the most recent “one night count.” The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma, along with other supporters attended a press conference to bring attention to the bill.

Sawyer said this is a bill about “moral consciousness.”

More than 30,000 students are homeless in Washington, which is nearly 50 percent higher from a few years ago.

Also, Gov. Jay Inslee raised concerns about the rising number of homeless students and voiced his support of the bill at a press conference Thursday and said it “does not make sense” to decrease support for homelessness.

“The myth that this isn’t needed is beyond me,” said Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma. “Now is the time to finish this debate from taking homeless people hostage.”

E-cigarette bill passes in House Finance committee

By | March 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

An e-cigarette

The House Finance Committee approved a tax increase on electronic cigarettes in a narrow 7-6 vote on Tuesday.

The amended bill would tax tobacco substitutes, including e-cigarettes, at 75 percent, down from the original bill’s 95 percent tax. Also, under an amendment, the liquid nicotine solutions would be tax-free if prescribed by a doctor as a way to quit smoking.

At a previous hearing on the tax, dozens of ex-smokers and vapor shop owners testified against the bill. They argued that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to tobacco and it has helped many to quit smoking.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat up a liquid that can contain nicotine. Users inhale vapor instead of smoke.

Bill supporters say they are concerned about the safety of the products and the way it is advertised to teens. E-cigarettes have doubled in popularity among teenagers between 2011 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s a sensible thing from a health perspective and for our children,” supporter Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, said.

Opponents are concerned that a tax increase would discourage former smokers from switching to the healthier tobacco-free alternative and shut vapor businesses down.

Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, objected to the bill, describing it as a “tax bill,” and said the bill “has nothing to do with safety and health.”

Watch the full discussion on TVW’s video here.