Archive for WA Senate

First step in impeachment proceedings of Troy Kelley introduced in House

By | May 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

Two state representatives filed a resolution Tuesday to begin the process of impeaching State Auditor Troy Kelley for “malfeasance of office,” which they say includes the abandonment of his office and illegally delegating authority to an unelected official.

Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, and Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, introduced the resolution at a press conference Tuesday that calls for the indicted auditor to resign. If Kelley refuses, the resolution creates a committee of six members of the House to begin drafting articles of impeachment.

“All of this lies squarely on the shoulders of Troy Kelley,” MacEwen said. “It rests squarely with him and the resolution rests with him.”

However, the resolution looks unlikely to advance to a vote on the House floor while negotiations on the budget are ongoing.

House Speaker Frank Chopp said in a statement released just before Tuesday’s press conference that “now is not the time” for impeachment proceedings, adding that House Republican Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen agrees.

Chopp said impeachment proceedings would be a “major distraction from the more pressing and time-sensitive challenges” facing the Legislature as it negotiates a two-year operating budget.

Stokesbary said he remains optimistic there will be time during the special session to vote on the resolution. “I think it is possible to handle multiple things at once,” he said.

TVW taped Tuesday’s impeachment press conference — watch it online here.

Kelley is taking an undefined leave of absence from his position as auditor 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.

It takes 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.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said at a media availability on Tuesday the resolution is a step to explore “whether you really have a case.”

“If the majority in the House is willing to look into it, I think a resolution to study it is better than taking the next step,” Schoesler said.

The Republican media availability is posted online at TVW here. Members also answered questions about budget negotiations, saying they are continuing to go through the House and Senate budgets line-by-line to identify differences.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said they expect to spend another day going through the budgets, then he believes the next step is up to the House. “Are they willing to pass a tax package they’ll vote for and then allow us to frame a box that we can sit down and negotiate with?” he said.

The House has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday on a proposed capital gains tax, and a hearing Thursday on a cap-and-trade plan that would raise $500 million.

Special session update: Budget briefings, cap-and-trade proposal forthcoming

By | May 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

Budget writers met this week for two days of budget “briefings,” but have yet to resolve more than 1,000 differences between the budgets passed by the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican majority Senate, according to Democratic legislative leaders.

“Going through each section of the budget, going through where the differences are, where the decisions have to be made — that’s what is happening right now,” House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan told reporters on Thursday.

The Legislature began a 30-day special session on April 29 after adjourning regular session without a two-year operating budget in place.

House Speaker Frank Chopp said there remains “major differences” between the two budgets, highlighting a difference of $450 million more in the Democratic budget for K-12 basic education than the Republican approach.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said Democrats don’t have the money for the $450 million expenditure. “They can spend it, but they can’t pay for it,” he said at a Republican media availability.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle are pushing to get an early revenue forecast update to see if the state will collect more revenue.

Waiting for June 17, when the revenue forecast is scheduled to be released, is “just too late,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island. (more…)

Latvian Ambassador’s message to Olympia: ‘Europe is not only five countries’

By | May 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

Latvia’s ambassador to the United States made his first-ever official visit to Washington state’s Capitol late last month with a message for state leaders: Latvia is an independent country, free from Russia’s grip and eager to trade.

andrisrazans

Latvian Ambassador Andris Razans and President Barack Obama.

“Europe is not only five countries,” Ambassador Andris Razans told TVW during his visit to Olympia. “There are other countries in Europe – smaller, but with great potential, great opportunities.”

Part of the former Soviet Union, Latvia was under Russian occupation from 1940 to 1991. In the more than 20 years since, the small country of barely more than 2 million people has grown into its independence, now serving in the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the leadership role that rotates among 28 member countries.

Now, for the first time, the Baltic state is reaching out to Washington state as part of a larger effort to encourage trade with other nations. “Our problem is we have been hidden behind that double Berlin wall from during Cold War times – a small wall in Berlin, a huge Soviet border in our case,” he said. “That’s past, that’s history, I think now it’s really important to engage.”

Promoting trade

Razans was in Olympia to promote the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a controversial proposal that would create the world’s largest free-trade zone between the EU and United States.

The deal would merge regulatory standards, allowing the two economic superpowers to trade freely and in higher volumes, covering nearly half of the world’s gross domestic product. Razans said it’s a win for both sides. “It will determine development in the next decade, not only on our side of the Atlantic, but here as well,” he said.

But the proposal has faced opposition on both continents. Critics worry the proposal would undermine democracy, allowing big business to take legal action against laws that threaten free-trade or lead to smaller profits – laws like minimum wage.

Washington’s role

Washington state has a role in the economic relationship between the two continents, Razans said. “Washington definitely is among that states that do trade with Europe in very big volumes, with great companies and products every European kid knows,” he said.

That’s part of what Razans told Washington’s Lt. Gov. Brad Owen during his visit to the state, which included a tour of the Boeing Co. and meeting with University of Washington students.

He said it’s part of a new effort for Latvia. “We come from 50 years of situations where nobody really tried to develop our exports,” he said. “I’m trying now to understand as Ambassador where we have these intersections.”

One of the products Razans hopes Latvia and Washington will intersect: wine. “We are not the greatest nation on Earth at producing wine,” he said. “Latvian wine is undrinkable, I think. It’s just for fun and personal pleasure. Washington is a great wine-producing state.”

Latvia can offer music in return. “Latvia definitely punches high, high, high above our weight in music,” he said. “Among the top ten opera stars these days, top four or five are Latvians. Out of 2 million people, is not that bad.”

Washington leaders have not voiced concerns about the international trade agreement, Razans said, but supporters in the EU face one powerful opponent: Russia.

Latvia’s neighbor that occupied the country for more than half a century has been “financing and working against this deal,” Razans said. He said Russia is behind campaigns and non-governmental organizations that aim to “make sure there is no agreement between Europe and the United States.”

Russia’s threat to Latvia

Russian military activity is increasing in the Baltic region, and after the country’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, some say that could have troublesome implications for Latvia. The country is made up of 26 percent ethnic Russians – more than Ukraine.

But Razans said the threat is exaggerated. “We don’t have a direct military threat,” he said. “When I read that we might be the next target, I think it’s stupidity at a high level, it would be the same thing to say one country has quite many Muslim population, it doesn’t mean that all will fight in Syria or Iraq in ISIS.”

Russia has impacted Latvia’s political and trade relationships in the past, but now, his country is part of the EU and things are different, Razans said. That’s what he hopes Washington leaders will come away with after his visit.

“I wish that they put a pin on European map with the name Latvia,” he said. “Latvia might look small on a map, but if you take into account that we are part of the EU internal market, it’s not that small at all.”

Latvia will serve in the six-month rotating EU presidency until July, when Luxembourg will take over.

Watch an edited portion of TVW’s interview with Razans below:

Special session begins, House passes recreational marijuana bill

By | April 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature began its 30-day special session at noon on Wednesday, four days after lawmakers adjourned the regular legislative session without passing an operating budget.

The Democrat-controlled House and the Republican majority Senate remain at odds over whether the state needs new revenue as part of the operating budget that funds the state for the next two years and puts additional money into public schools.

Lawmakers are also expected to take up a transportation package and legislation related to school levy reform during the special session.

On Wednesday, the House began special session by passing several bills off the floor. Among them is House Bill 2136, which makes several changes to the state’s legal marijuana market and streamlines taxes.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said the bill “updates and modernizes and reforms” a number of provisions in Initiative 502, the ballot measure that legalized marijuana.

City or county bans on pot stores would be subject to a public vote during the general election under the bill.

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, urged members to reject the proposal. “There are communities that voted no this when the initiative was before them, and they are still voting no today,” he said. “They do not want this to be part of our society.”

The bill passed 70 to 25. Carlyle said negotiations with the Senate are ongoing.

Washington’s regular legislative session ends; special session to begin April 29

By | April 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature gaveled out of the 2015 regular session Friday – two days earlier than the 105-day regular session was scheduled to end, but still weeks or more away from a budget deal.

split2Late in the session, lawmakers said they’d need more time to reach an agreement on how to fund the state for the next two years. The Democrat-led House and GOP-controlled Senate are still far apart on the basics.

House leaders say more revenue is needed to fully fund education and more as the state faces Supreme Court sanctions after an unprecedented court ruling. But the Senate is sticking with a no-new taxes proposal.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced a 30-day special session beginning April 29. The two chambers will have to make some concessions to find an agreement, he said.

“It is time to compromise and for all of us to compromise,” he said during a press conference earlier in the week. “I understand I won’t be getting everything I proposed, and I have told lawmakers they each need to now starting moving towards each other’s position. The House is going to have to find a way to reduce spending and the Senate will have to add revenue.”

Both sides will also have to compromise on a $15 billion transportation plan. The House and Senate agree state projects should be funded with a nearly 12-cent gas tax increase, but they’re stuck on the details.

The special session can adjourn before the full 30 days if they reach a deal. If not, Inslee can announce another special session to give lawmakers more time.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Ban on aversion therapy for minors stopped from advancing on Senate floor

By | April 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

A bill that would have banned aversion therapy for minors — including electric shock and ice baths — was stopped from moving forward on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Bill sponsor Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, tried to bring Senate Bill 5870 to the Senate floor for a vote in a procedural move, but Senators declined to continue considering the bill, 22-27.

Opponents of aversion therapy say it has been used often to try to convert gay teenagers to straight.

“I am appalled that the Republican majority killed legislation to protect kids from electric shock, ice baths, and other physical and emotional abuse, simply because they’re gay. We need to end conversion therapy once and for all,” Liias said in a prepared statement.

The bill originally passed the Senate unanimously in March, after references calling out sexual orientation change efforts were removed from the bill language. Then the House added talk conversion therapy into the ban.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, urged members to vote against Liias’ procedural move to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“I believe this bill is significantly different than when it left this body and is still what we call a work-in-progress,” he said.

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Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | April 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

Watch highlights from Wednesday’s floor debate in the House and Senate on this 15-minute edition of “Legislative Review.” Plus, the public weighs in on the proposed $3.9 billion capital budget, which pays for construction projects around the state.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Cutoff deadline: What’s alive, what stalled

By | April 8, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature is nearing the end of the 105-day legislative session, and this week marked one of the last major deadlines for lawmakers. Tuesday was the cutoff for fiscal bills to pass out of committee in the opposite chamber. Here are a few bill that stalled, and a few that are still alive after the deadline.

STALLED:

Distracted driving: A proposal to update the state’s distracted driving law for the first time since 2007 — before the iPhone was released — stalled in the House Transportation committee after passing in the Senate.

Senate Bill 5656 would have made it a crime to hold a phone while driving. Holding a phone to your ear and texting while driver have been banned since 2007, but it’s still legal to update your Facebook status, check your email and plan your route behind the wheel.

Payday loans: Washington payday lenders will continue operating under the state’s current rules after a bill to overhaul the state’s lending system missed Tuesday’s deadline.

Under current law, customers can borrow up to $700 from payday lenders, no more than eight times per year. The short-term loan comes with a $95 fee. Senate Bill 5899 would have allowed lenders to offer loans with longer terms and higher interest, but it never got a vote in the House General Government committee.

Minimum wage: A push to increase the statewide minimum wage to $12-an-hour stalled this session after the Republican chair of a committee refused to put the bill up for a vote.

House Bill 1355 would increase Washington’s minimum wage by more than $2.50 in four years. It passed in the House, but Senate Commerce and Labor committee chair Sen. Michael Baumgartner did not give the bill a vote in committee.

“I’m not going to put people out of work in eastern Washington just to placate the egos of some extreme liberals in Seattle,” Baumgartner said of his decision.

Washington has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $9.47.

Boeing tax breaks: The plan to tie Boeing’s tax breaks to the size of its Washington workforce never moved out of a House committee.

House Bill 2147 responds to a decline in Boeing jobs after the legislature in 2013 approved as much as $8.7 billion in tax incentives for the aerospace giant. It would have required Boeing to employ more than 83,000 workers for the full tax break and reduce or revoke the tax break if enough jobs are lost.

Smoking age: Washington’s legal smoking age appears it will stay the same after a proposal to raise the age requirement to 21 for tobacco and vapor products missed Tuesday’s deadline.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested the bill to require Washington residents to wait to buy cigarettes until age 21, the same requirement for alcohol and marijuana. Opponents said 18-year-olds are old enough to go to war, so they should be able to buy cigarettes, too.

ALIVE:

E-cigarettes and vaping: The state House is poised to vote on regulations for Washington’s growing e-cigarette and vapor industry after a bill was voted out of committee Tuesday.

House Bill 1645 requires licenses for vapor stores, prohibit sales to minors and requires child-proof packaging and warning labels. A 95 percent excise tax on all products was part of the original bill, but that proved hard to move past some lawmakers and was not part of the bill that moved out of committee. Vapor advocates said nearly doubling the price would force smokers to stick to traditional cigarettes.

The bill passed out of the House Appropriations committee and now moves to the floor for a vote.

Uber and Lyft: Ride-share companies could be required to provide $1 million liability insurance to their drivers, under a bill headed to the House floor, but only when a customer is in the car.

Senate Bill 5550 would have created an entire framework to regulate the companies, but that proved hard to move past other lawmakers. Now the measure focus on what sponsor say is most important right now – insurance.

The proposal cleared a House committee and moves on the floor. If it passes, it will have to head back to the Senate for approval.

Oil trains: As Washington prepares for more crude oil shipments, a bill to improve railway safety standards is advancing.

Senate Bill 5057 requires rail lines to come up with oil spill response plans, and increases the per-barrel oil taxes to help pay for cleanup. The measure passed out the House Appropriations committee on Tuesday.

Mental health: A bill to require more training for police officers on how to deal with the mentally ill is headed to the House floor.

Senate Bill 5311 would provide as many as 40 hours crisis intervention training to officers. It’s one of the ways lawmakers are responding to needs within the state’s mental health system.

The measure was voted out of House Appropriations on Tuesday.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

State Senate passes budget, modifies class size initiative

By | April 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state Senate passed a two-year operating budget off the floor Monday, along with a bill that sends a class size reduction initiative back to the voters in an effort to save the state money.

Republican lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill introduced the $38 billion budget Monday, saying it focuses on education and mental health without raising taxes.

“This budget balances without job-killing manufacturing tax increases,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

Several Democrats spoke against the budget, saying it falls short on state worker pay raises and other issues. The Senate budget gives state workers up to a $2,000 pay raise over two years, instead of the salary increases negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement with the governor’s office.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said that amounts to a “hidden tax” on state workers.

“We’ve hidden the tax on state employees and community college employees and state patrol,” said Keiser. “They all had the assurance that when the economy improved we would make things right for them. But that promise is now broken as well.”

The budget passed along caucus lines, 26 to 23, with the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus in support and Democrats opposed.

The Senate also passed a bill that modifies Initiative 1351 and sends it backs to voters to ask whether they agree with the change. The initiative adopted by voters last year required smaller class sizes in all grades at a cost estimated around $4 billion through 2019. It did not come with a source of funding.

“It’s pretty clear at this point that it’s not affordable,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, speaking in support of changing the initiative.

The bill only pays for smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.

Opponents of the bill argued that voters knew what they were doing when they passed the original initiative.

“Washington state has the 47th worst class sizes in the nation. And that’s why the people rightfully sent us to Olympia with a mission to correct that challenge,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo.

The bill passed 27-22.

The House previously passed its budget. Both sides must negotiate a final budget plan.

Watch the highlights from both Senate floor debates, as well as discussion over a controversial payday lending bill, on Monday’s 15-minute edition of “Legislative Review” below.

Budget debate highlights on weekly ‘Legislative Review’ wrapup

By | April 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

Watch highlights from the Senate and House floor debate over the budget on this 30-minute weekly edition of “Legislative Review.” Plus, highlights from several other bills debated in the Legislature.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. The 30-minute weekly edition airs Friday evenings and throughout the weekend.

Categories: TVW, WA House, WA Senate
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