Pat McCarthy addresses debate over free tickets for lawmakers at U.S. Open

By | June 16, 2015 | Comments

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy says she believes the “hullabaloo” over legislators accepting free tickets to the U.S. Open has dissuaded some lawmakers from attending the golf championship, but she hopes the dozen lawmakers who did accept the offer will go back to Olympia to educate their caucuses.

“The twelve that accepted are bipartisan and from the House and Senate. They can be the proselytizers of how great an event it is,” McCarthy said.

Pierce County invited 45 legislators to watch the competition and attend a three-hour briefing on the tournament’s economic impact. The briefing was designed to meet a Legislative Ethics Board rule allowing legislators to accept the free ticket if official business was involved, but the county drew strong criticism for closing the briefing to the press.

McCarthy said legislators need to take in the entire experience.

“You can’t just do a PowerPoint presentation. You have to see it. The magnitude of it is so huge and so important for the state of Washington,” she told TVW’s Anita Kissee of “The Impact” during an interview this week.

McCarthy said the tournament will bring $8 million “into the state coffers that wouldn’t be there” without the U.S. Open.

The Impact” this week looks at the state investments that helped to make Chambers Bay appealing to the U.S. Golf Association and goes in-depth on the statewide economic impact of the event.

The show will air Wednesday, June 17 at 7 & 10 p.m. It includes an extended interview with McCarthy and others.

House again passes bill to eliminate high school biology test graduation requirement

By | June 11, 2015 | Comments

The state House passed a bill Thursday to remove a biology test from the state’s high school graduation requirements in an effort to provide diplomas to nearly 2,000 students who did not pass the test this year.

The class of 2015 is the first class required to pass the biology test or an alternative to graduate.

“This is so much bigger than a biology test,” said Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater. He said the state loses out on $370,000 in lifetime earnings each time a student fails to obtain a high school diploma.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, spoke against the bill, saying the state should not back away from its school reforms.

“I’m worried that as we retreat from some of these requirements, we’re not holding students accountable,” Orcutt said. “Accountable for learning, accountable for preparing themselves to be ready to go into the world and be successful.”

House Bill 2214 passed 83 to 6, and now heads to the Senate. The bill also passed during the first special session, but did not advance in the Senate before the Legislature adjourned for the second special session.

Republican Sen. Steve Litzow, who chairs the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, released a statement saying the bill is “not a good lesson for our children.”

“Lowering standards is a poor excuse for a decades-long failure to create an education system that works for everyone,” Litzow said.

Earlier in the day, Reykdal and Rep. David Taylor held a press conference to draw attention to the issue. High school student Jesus Celes from Franklin Pierce School District is one of the 2,000 students who did not pass the biology exam this year.

“Not only for me, but for my classmates, we all work hard and just to see this thing holding us back is heartbreaking for me,” Celes said.

Watch the press conference below:

Categories: Education

New $3.5 billion proposal aims to reduce reliance on local school levies

By | June 11, 2015 | Comments

Paying competitive salaries for teachers and school employees would be the full responsibility of the state — not local school districts — under a new bill introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators on Thursday.

The proposal would cost $3.5 billion over four years starting in 2018, and would not move forward without a dedicated revenue source attached. Lawmakers at a press conference Thursday say an agreement on the price tag shows a significant step forward, but work still needs to be done to find a way to pay for it.

School districts across the state are currently using a large chunk of their local property tax levy money to pay salaries — as much as 70 percent of local levy dollars in some districts.

Senate Bill 6130 aims to reduce that reliance on local levies to address concerns raised by the Washington Supreme Court in the McCleary decision, which ruled the state was not meeting its duty to fully fund basic education.

The bill changes the definition of basic education to include competitive, market-based statewide salaries for school employees. The salaries would be reviewed periodically.

However, the salary provisions would only take effect if a revenue source is enacted by January 1, 2018 that generates enough money to pay for the increased salaries. The bill says that the state budget should not be cut to make up the additional revenue.

“The average teacher in Federal Way is paid $10,000 less than a teacher in Auburn next door,” said Sen. Bruce Dammeier. He said the bill is an attempt to make a “rational system that works across Washington,” with the goal of providing an equal education for all students.

Sen. Christine Rolfes said some teachers would receive salary increases under the bill, while other school districts would still have to use a portion of levy dollars to make up the difference. All school districts would see a “significant increase” in funding under the bill, she said.

The bill is scheduled for a public hearing Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. TVW will carry the hearing live at this link.

Legislators at the press conference Thursday acknowledged the bill was unlikely to advance during the current special session. The press conference will be posted at this link.

Categories: Education, TVW

Today on TVW: House floor action, school finance reform bill

By | June 11, 2015 | Comments

TVW is covering several items today — live, taped and webcast. Here’s the roundup:

10:30 a.m. Thursday: Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, and Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, will hold a press conference about House Bill 2214, which is scheduled for a vote Thursday afternoon. The bill aims to fix problems with high school assessment requirements. TVW will tape this press conference and it will be available online at this link later.

11 a.m. Thursday: A bipartisan group of lawmakers will hold a media briefing on a new bill that addresses property levies and school finance. TVW will live webcast this briefing (if we can) at this link. If TVW cannot go live, it will still be taped for television later.

11 a.m. Thursday: The state House will come to the floor and is expected to go into caucus. They will return to the floor about 1 p.m. on Thursday to run several bills. Watch live on TVW or at this link.

1 p.m. Thursday: Senate Government Operations is holding a public hearing on district-based elections. This will be webcast-only at this link.

1:30 p.m. Thursday: The Senate Ways and Means committee is holding a public hearing on the new school finance reform bill. TVW will live webcast this hearing at this link. On television, TVW will either be live with this hearing or the House floor.


Categories: TVW

Attorney General will launch separate criminal investigation of Auditor Troy Kelley

By | June 9, 2015 | 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.

TVW wins Northwest Emmy Award

By | June 8, 2015 | Comments

Lars Peterson, Christina Salerno and Brett Hansen

TVW won an Emmy Award from the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on Saturday for a one-hour special about drones in Washington state.

Flight Plan: Charting a Course for Drones in Washington” won in the politics and government special program category.

Those awarded the Emmy include producer and writer Christina Salerno, photographer and video editor Lars Peterson and photographer Brett Hansen.

TVW was nominated for three Emmy awards this year.

Since 1999, TVW has won a total of five Emmys for its work covering public affairs issues in Washington state.

Categories: TVW

Barry Massey set to be released in 2016

By | June 4, 2015 | Comments

Barry Massey, who was 13 at the time he and a co-defendant murdered a Steilacoom shop owner, will be set free in early 2016. Massey’s release comes on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled it was unconstitutional for juveniles to be automatically sentenced to life without parole.

Massey, who was the youngest person in the U.S. to receive a sentence of life without parole, will be released in February after serving almost 30 years in prison, according to a decision released Thursday by the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.

The board made the unanimous decision after seeing “noticeable and dramatic change” in Massey’s behavior, according to board chair Lynne DeLano. She spoke on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” with host Austin Jenkins. The interview airs Thursday, June 4 at 7 & 10 p.m.

“In his hearing, you could see this is not the 13-year-old who killed that man. It was a brutal murder, but this is not the same 13-year-old. This is a man who has changed his life around,” DeLano said.

TVW taped the board’s March hearing to consider Massey’s release.

In 1987, Massey and Michael Harris shot and stabbed Steilacoom Marina owner Paul Wang during a robbery of the store. Harris was 15 at the time of the crime.

The board is also releasing two other offenders who were juveniles when they were convicted. David Cobabe was convicted of attempted murder, burglary and assault charges. Niguel Jones was convicted of murder and assault.

On ‘The Impact:’ Special session update, plan to reintroduce grizzly bears

By | June 3, 2015 | Comments

On tonight’s edition of “The Impact,” fill-in host Jennifer Huntley gives an update on the second special session, which began last week after lawmakers adjourned the first special session without a budget deal.

Rachel La Corte of the Associated Press and Jordan Schrader of The News Tribune are guests on the show to discuss what’s next for divided state lawmakers.

Plus, Mark Miller of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Department discusses the controversial plan to consider reintroducing grizzly bears in Washington state. Agencies involved in the effort are hosting a series of public meetings to explain the process and take public comment. Details about those meetings are available at this link.

“The Impact” airs on Wednesday, June 3 at 7 & 10 p.m.

Categories: TVW

House Democrats come down on new revenue in latest budget proposal

By | June 1, 2015 | Comments

House Democrats on Monday released a revised $38.4 billion budget proposal that calls for about $550 million in new taxes, down from the $1.5 billion in taxes they sought in their March budget proposal.

The two-year operating budget proposed by Democrats remains about $640 million apart from the no-new-taxes budget proposal released last week from mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said the latest Democratic offer is a “substantial compromise” that moves toward the Senate on several items.

“We reduce our spending substantially and we reduce our revenue package by two-thirds,” Sullivan said during a budget briefing with reporters.

Lead budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter said Democrats are reducing by $207 million the amount allocated to school districts to buy health care benefits, although he cautioned that could change as talks with legislators continue.

Democrats on Monday highlighted where they spend more in their budget than Republicans, including $168 million in human services, $150 million for teacher cost-of-living pay raises, $114 million for early learning and $50 million for mental health.

To pay for the increased spending, Democrats are calling for a capital gains tax of 5 percent on the profits of sales of stocks and bonds that would raise between $500 and $600 million in new revenue for the state. The tax would affect about 32,000 residents.

Senate Republicans have maintained the state does not need new taxes to meet budget and education spending obligations. The $37.9 billion budget proposal released last week by Senate Republicans increases spending in several areas compared to their March budget, including paying the full cost of negotiated pay raises for state workers.

Watch the Democratic press conference at this link. The budget is scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday at 11 a.m., which TVW will air on television and at this link.

Hunter said legislators also plan to consider a bill this week that addresses school levies and teacher compensation. The bill is not yet scheduled for a hearing — we’ll update this with the TVW link once it is.

Full budget documents are available here.

Categories: Budget, Democrats, TVW, WA House

No budget deal on final day of special session; second special session starts Friday

By | May 28, 2015 | Comments

On the final day of the first 30-day special session, Senate Republicans publicly released their latest budget offer, which they say addresses several concerns raised by Democrats.

Democrats, meanwhile, say they will release their budget counteroffer on Monday.

The latest GOP budget proposal increases spending on higher education, state parks, drought relief and wages for caregivers in assisted living facilities. It adds $66 million to pay for collectively bargained state employee pay raises, contingent on a bill requiring contract negotiations to be open to the public.

Republicans also back away from a plan to move marijuana money into the general fund, instead keeping it in a dedicated account and distributing funds to cities and counties.

Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said Thursday the state is on track to collect nearly $500 million more in revenue than forecasted at the start of session for the two-year budget cycle.

“We believe that is a significant amount of money,” he said. “Enough money to get out of town and finish a budget.”

Republicans maintain the state does not need to raise taxes to meet budget and education spending obligations. Hill said the budget offer demonstrates that his side is “showing movement and showing compromise.”

The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted the GOP budget bill out of committee on Thursday.

House Speaker Frank Chopp said on Thursday the Republican budget offer falls $50 million short on mental health funding for critical programs and issues.

Democrats are calling for $115 million more in funding for early learning, Chopp said, and they want to fund teacher cost-of-living pay raises at the same level as state workers.

“It’s a cost of about $154 million to provide teachers with the same COLA we’re providing state employees, and I think that’s the fair thing to do,” said House Democratic Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan.

Democrats plan to release their latest budget offer on Monday, followed by a public hearing on Tuesday. “We are working toward a common-sense middle ground on the operating budget,” Chopp said.

TVW taped the Republican and Democratic media availabilities on Thursday — videos will be posted online here.

With no budget deal in place at the end of the first special session, Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday called a second special session to begin on Friday at 9 a.m.

Categories: TVW