Archive for Olympia

Seahawk wide receiver Jermaine Kearse tours Capitol with military kids

By | February 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

It takes someone pretty special to unite both sides of the aisle in Olympia. That someone happens to be Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse.

Kearse visited the Capitol on Monday, along with six children whose parent died during military service. They’re referred to as “Gold Star” kids in recognition of the loss of their parent, and are with the 15 to 1: Jermaine Kearse Foundation.

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The non-profit foundation was started by Kearse last summer as an outreach program for military children in Washington state. Kearse grew up on Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where his father was Army Sergeant First Class David Kearse.

Kearse and the kids were recognized in the House this morning. Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, R- Puyallup, and Rep. Christine Kilduff, D- University Place, thanked the children.

“You are an inspiration to every single one of the members here on this floor,” Stambaugh said. “We just appreciate you for the sacrifice and strength that you have and that you share with your family and your community.”

They also thanked Kearse for being a role model to young people in Washington.

“In addition to be an outstanding champion on the field, he is a true champion off the field” Kilduff said. “A champion of the Gold Star children and for all military children on our state.”

Kearse met with legislators to sign autographs, and later brought the kids to meet with Governor Jay Inslee. Each child gave Inslee an American flag in memory of their parent, which the Governor said he would keep on his desk.

Opponents and supporters of transgender rule rally at the Capitol

By | February 15, 2016 | 0 Comments
Tamara Woodard

Tamara Woodard

Tamara Woodard stood on the steps of the Capitol on Monday holding a sign saying, “Pedophiles and children molesters outnumber transgender people 15:1.” She said as a “user of bathrooms,” she disagrees with a new state rule allowing transgender individuals to the restroom or locker room that matches their gender identity.

More than 300 activists from both sides of the transgender bathroom debate showed up on the steps of the Capitol on Monday in support and protest of the rule.

The Senate failed to pass a bill last week that would have repealed the rule. 

The Washington State Human Rights Commission adopted the rule in December. Woodard says the commission kept it from the public.

“People didn’t know about the rule because they were hiding it,” Woodard said. “They didn’t expose what they were doing.”

She said that there has to be some standards for restroom use. Opponents of the rule say they fear sex offenders will take advantage of the rule to get into bathrooms to abuse women and children.

Ryannah with the Gender Justice League

Ryannah with the Gender Justice League

Supporters of the rule held their own rally on steps. Ryannah with the Gender Justice League spoke on behalf of the transgender community in favor of keeping the rule.

Ryannah, who declined to give her last name, said she’s a survivor of sexual and physical abuse. As such, she said she deserves the same rights as anyone else.

“If you identify as a transman, you should be able to feel safe while using the restroom,” she said. “We should be able to feel safe as a community.”

Ryannah said that the bill protects more than her gender identity.

“This bill would not just affect me as a transwoman but the intersections that come with me,” she said. “As a person of color and as a person who is perceived as a larger more intimidating person.”

Categories: Olympia, TVW

Prefiled bills: Charter schools, ‘Redskins’ mascot, abortion funding and fireworks ban

By | January 6, 2016 | 0 Comments

With the legislative session beginning Monday, more than 70 bills have been prefiled in the House and Senate on topics ranging from public health to mascots. Here are some highlights so far.

Keeping charter schools open
Two state Senators from Spokane, Democrat Andy Billig and Republican Michael Baumgartner, are co-sponsoring a bill that would keep charter schools open following a September ruling by the Washington Supreme Court that deemed charter schools unconstitutional. The bill, SB 6163, addresses the court’s concern that charter schools are not under the control of a locally elected school board. The bill creates charter school districts within existing local school districts, making the charter schools accountable to an elected board and eligible for state funding for basic education. However, charter schools would still have some independent authority in managing their budget, staff and curriculum. Currently there are eight charter schools in Washington.

Banning “redskins” as a public school mascot
Democratic Rep. David Sawyer of Tacoma is the primary sponsor for HB 2306, a bill that would prevent Washington public schools from using the term “redskin” in the names of any organizations or clubs, or as the school or athletic mascot. The bill says the word is a “disparaging racial reference to Native American” that has no place in public schools. Currently, the only school using the word is Wellpinit High School in Wellpinit, Wash., a small town in the center of the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Restricting public funding for abortions
On Dec. 7, Republicans filed House Bill 2294, an act restricting the use of public funds for elective abortions. Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, is the primary sponsor, along with 19 Republican co-sponsors. The bill prevents the state from providing “benefits or services” for abortions, unless medically necessary. It also bans the state from distributing grants or funds to “any organization that provides elective abortions or is affiliated … with any organization that provides elective abortions.”

Summer fireworks ban
If HB 2310 is passed, Washington residents will have to forget the fireworks for Fourth of July. In an effort to prevent fires this summer, the bill prohibits “the sale, purchase, use, and discharge of consumer fireworks” from June 1 to Sept. 30 this year, with the bill expiring on Oct. 1, 2016. The bill would also ban unnecessary burning outdoors without a permit from June 1 to Sept. 30. Democrat Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, a firefighter from Sequim, is the primary sponsor of the bill.

Accommodating pregnant women in the workplace
If passed, Senate Bill 6149 would require employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to pregnant employees. For example, the employer must provide more frequent bathroom breaks, provide places for the employee to sit, allow time off to recover from childbirth and temporarily modify work schedules or job duties. The bill’s primary sponsor is Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent.

Increasing the smoking age
At the request of Attorney General Bob Ferguson, SB 6157 would increase the legal age from 18 to 21 for purchasing tobacco and vapor products, including e-pipes and e-cigarettes. Democrat Rep. Tina Orwall and 16 co-sponsors have signed on to the companion bill in the House. Ferguson attempted to raise the smoking age last year, but the bills failed to pass. Some cities, including New York City have increased their smoking age to 21, and recently Hawaii became the first state to raise the age to 21.


Governor Inslee proposes new teacher pay raises paid for by closing tax breaks

By | December 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

New teachers in Washington would garner higher salaries under a proposal introduced Thursday by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

Governor Jay Inslee News Conference

Governor Jay Inslee unveils his 2016 supplemental budget proposal.

In his 2016 supplemental budget proposal, the governor would raise the starting salary for teachers to $40,000. The estimated cost is $80 million dollars next year, and $100 million every year after that.

To pay for the raises, Gov. Inslee wants to close or alter four “outdated” tax breaks.

Refund the state portion of sales tax to nonresidents: Shoppers from states with no sales tax, like Oregon, would have to apply for a state sales tax refund on purchases in Washington. No longer would the discount be applied instantly. Saved over three years = $79.3 million

-Repeal the sales tax break on bottled water: Saved over three years = $82.9 million

-Limit the real estate excise tax exemption (REET) for banks: Connected to foreclosed properties. Saved over three years = $106.7 million

-Repeal the use tax exemption for extracted fuel: Claimed by the state’s oil refineries. Saved over three years = $58.6 million

“Having a classroom teacher to teach algebra right now is more important than some oil industry tax break that ended up getting done 20 or 30 years ago that doesn’t even apply anymore,” Gov. Inslee said during a press conference.

Washington is struggling to find qualified teachers and substitutes, according to a recent survey by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Association of Washington School Principals. Of those responding, 45-percent say they could not fill all classroom teacher positions with fully certified teachers who met job qualifications.

Retirements, hiring freezes and economic uncertainties that have discouraged students from choosing a teaching career, and new teacher burnout are cited as reasons why. Research shows half of beginning teachers opt out of the profession in the first five years, many blame low pay and a lack of support. To address that, the governor’s plan allots $5 million for mentors.

The minimum teacher salary would be raised by $4,300 starting next school year. That increase is in addition to the 4.8% cost-of-living adjustment already worked into the current budget. Teachers with more experience, along with administrative and classified staff, would also get a raise of at least one-percent.

This proposal is only one part of the changes Gov. Inslee would like to make to the state’s current two-year $38 billion budget.  

Washington brought in another $245 million in new revenue since the budget passed, but the Governor says costs have gone up. Separate from the teacher salary plan, his proposal includes $700 million in additional spending to pay for increased Medicaid caseloads, urgent mental health care needs, and to cover the costs of fighting last summer’s wildfires. One million acres and hundreds of homes burned in what’s considered the worst fire season in state history, costing Washington nearly $180 million.

For mental health care, Governor Inslee proposes spending an additional $137 million, both in state and federal money. The money would be spent on new programs, hiring more doctors and nurses at state psychiatric hospitals, and community-based housing and recovery services.

“We know we have to do more for mental health in this state. We have urgent short-term needs, but we also need to take a long view on how to build a stronger mental health system,” Gov. Inslee said.

Governor Inslee’s supplemental budget sources that addition $700 million from fund transfers from the state’s Budget Stabilization Account, which would leave close to $1 billion remaining in reserves.

Republicans quickly responded to the Governor’s proposal. Senate Budget Chair Andy Hill sent an email saying it does not balance over four years. “Unfortunately, as has become a yearly tradition, the governor continues to offer plenty of ways to spend taxpayer dollars, but fails to provide a sustainable way to pay for it,” wrote Sen. Hill.

In the House, Republican budget writer Rep. Bruce Chandler wrote, “The 2015-17 biennial budget was signed into law less than six months ago. Significant policy additions – outside of emergency caseload adjustments – are better suited for the deliberation and scrutiny of a 105-day session during budget-writing years.”

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Bryant

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant criticizes Gov. Inslee’s 2016 supplemental budget proposal.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant appeared on the steps of the capitol to say while Washington does need to do more to recruit and retain teachers, it should be done in the existing budget. “This is the governor who said he would not do anything that would take the state in the wrong direction if elected, and that passing new taxes would take the state in the wrong direction, and yet for four out of four years he has continued to propose new taxes,” said Bryant.

When asked about critics who say he’s proposing “new taxes,” the governor argued this is a “modest” and “reasonable” proposal. “Our tax code is infested with the barnacles that are encrusted on our ship of state of these loopholes that corporate lobbyists have come down here year after year, decade after decade, and they have carved out these special little deals for their special little interest, and they never get reviewed. Even though the industry changes hugely and the needs of our state change hugely, they just remain,” said Gov. Inslee. “We have to realize as the needs of our state change and the industries change, this is the best way to finance the education of our children.”

The governor did receive support from House Democratic Majority Leader Representative Pat Sullivan. In a written statement he said, “The governor has given us a good starting point for discussion. While some legislators may have other ideas on how we reach these goals, his priorities are on target.”

The governor’s budget adjustment suggestions will be considered when the 2016 legislature convenes for a 60-day session starting January 11th.

To read the supplemental budget proposal and highlights:

Watch the Governor’s news conference here:

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.