Senate committee passes education funding bill with different deadline than House version

By | January 29, 2016 | Comments

The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee voted to advance an education funding bill Thursday that has a different deadline than a version approved by the House.

The Senate bill passed on a on 5-4 vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.

Watch TVW video of the executive committee here.

Earlier this week, the House passed an education funding bill that matches recommendations from a bipartisan task force. That bill requires the 2017 Legislature to come up with a way to end the state’s overreliance on local school levies.

The Senate committee on Thursday passed its own version of bill, amending it to change that deadline to 2018.

Read the amendments here.

“It’s disappointing to me that we have now adopted an amendment on this bill that not only wasn’t agreed to, but wasn’t even discussed in a bipartisan way,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, who voted no on the revised bill.

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said the amendment is part of a process that can be messy. “As we move forward, we shouldn’t forget where we came from,” she said, adding that the Legislature has met every deadline it has set.

“There’s still a long way to go to get it done, but I am firmly committed to the idea that one way or another we are going to get this done,” she said.

Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, said it’s typical to go “back and forth a while to make sure we have an agreement in both bodies on both sides of the aisle.” He said he’s confident the Legislature will meet the 2018 deadline.

Litzow noted that the House amended its version too.

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said the amendments made by the House were bipartisan, while the Senate amendment is a “really big deal.”

“The underlining bill that we had before us was a carefully crafted piece of legislation that kept everybody at the table,” she said. “This amendment significantly weakens it. Many of us have been uncomfortable with the weakness of the underlining bill and this just takes it one step further in terms of lowering the bar.”

Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, voted yes on the bill, saying the changes are “quite negligible.”

Senate Early Learning & K12 Education Committee

Senate Early Learning & K12 Education Committee

He said he’d prefer to be voting on a solution to the levy problem this year. “This is a far cry short of where we should be at this point,” he said.

The bill now moves to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

At a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee said that he remains “optimistic” that lawmakers will come together to fund public schools. He said that it is imperative that the Legislature finds a solution in 2017.

“The requirement is that the money be there for our schools in the 2017-2018 school year,” he said. “That is the date, the IOU if you will, to our children and to accomplish what needs to be done in the 2017 session.”

He added that he understands “that this is a heavy lift for legislators” and that he’s “undaunted.”

Categories: WA Senate

Hundreds attended public hearing on transgender bathroom bill

By | January 28, 2016 | Comments

When Kathryn Mahan was five-years-old, she knew she was different than other boys. She eventually joined the Army to leave town because she said she was treated like a “freak.”

“It was awful,” she said. “I just wanted to follow the rules and be a good kid, but they taught me to hide by ridiculing me and lecturing me.”

Mahan said she “couldn’t hide it” any longer and became transgender five years ago. She asked lawmakers to consider her situation and not let Senate Bill 6443 pass.

The bill would reverse a rule enacted by the Washington State Human Rights Commission in December. That rule requires public buildings to allow transgender individuals to use restrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with.

“If you pass this bill, it will be possible for anyone who doesn’t like me to harass me while I’m using the bathroom,” Mahan said.

Supports of the bill–wearing stickers that say, "keep locker rooms safe."

Supports of the bill wait to testify. They’re wearing stickers that say, “Keep locker rooms safe.”

Supporters of the bill say the rule should be reversed because it opens the opens the door to pedophiles and traffickers in women’s restrooms and locker rooms.

Kaeley Triller Haver told the committee she’s a rape survivor, and locker rooms were already hard for her to go into. Now, she’s even more worried about deviant men that could use this rule to “declare their right based on gender identity.”

“There’s not a single place of public accommodation in the state where I can now be free of this concern,” she said.
“I’ve spoken to hundreds of other survivors who tell me I’m not alone.”

Michael Gordon, a detective who specializes in sexual assaults, said that locker rooms are vulnerable places that sexual predators can take advantage of women and children.

He said if the rule isn’t repealed, bathrooms could become a “feeding ground” for predators.

Prime sponsor of the bill Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said that he believes parents have a right to expect that their children will go into a bathroom or locker room shared by other children of the same gender. He also said the Human Rights Commission rule has too many flaws.

“An issue of this magnitude needed more public discussion,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a statewide rule like this.”

Nearly 300 hundred people signed in to testify. Senate Commerce and Labor Committee chairman Michael Baumgartner said that was the most people he’s seen sign in to testify issue in his six years in the Legislature.

An equal number of supporters and opponents testified on the bill during the time Baumgartner allotted for the hearing. (more…)

Categories: WA Senate

House passes Breakfast After the Bell program, 69-28

By | January 28, 2016 | Comments

The House passed a bill off the floor Wednesday that requires certain schools to provide students with breakfast after the beginning of the school day.

Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington, said the bill is unnecessary and thinks there are better ways to spend the $2.6 million needed to implement the program. He said he has visited schools in Kent and Auburn that are running their own breakfast programs without a cost to the state. In Auburn, students are “eating away and doing their assignments” he said.

“Everyone knows that our kids need to be fed,” Hargrove said. “The question is, is this the bill to do it?”

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.13.02 PMRep. Sharon Santos, D-Seattle, voted yes on the bill and addressed concerns about the cost.

She said the bill is paying for grants for “cash-strapped” schools that wish to implement the Breakfast After the Bell program, but cannot afford it otherwise.

“This is one small way the state can say we can help you fulfill the promise we have collectively made to our students,” she said.

The bill passed 69 to 28. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Watch TVW video of the floor debate here.

Categories: Education

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Suicide prevention, vaping rules & payroll cards

By | January 27, 2016 | Comments

Legislative Review LogoOn Tuesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we cover a bill that aims to educate gun owners about how to prevent suicide in homes with firearms. The suicide awareness campaign targets places such as gun ranges, gun stores and hunting safety classes.

The show also has details about a bill that would require child-proof packaging on liquid nicotine and impose other rules related to vaping products. Plus, a proposal to eliminate fees attached to payroll cards.

Watch the show at this link.

Categories: TVW

Sex trafficking survivors push for bill they say would help victims start over

By | January 27, 2016 | Comments

Stephanie Harris was working as a prostitute for two years before she met the man who would become her pimp. He wouldn’t let her eat or go home until she met her quota for the day. Sometimes, she was left on Aurora Avenue in Seattle for 16 to 18 hours at a time.

“After I left my pimp, I really did attempt to clean up my act,” Harris told lawmakers at a hearing of the House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. She turned herself in to police and faced charges that had accumulated during her time on the streets.

“But I found what was happening is I couldn’t find a job, I couldn’t get an apartment,” she said. “I had a kid that I was trying to fight and get back, but those charges just didn’t look good for me.”

Harris asked lawmakers to pass House Bill 2668, which would allow people to vacate their convictions if they can show their crimes were a result of being a victim of trafficking or being compelled into prostitution. Once a court vacates a conviction, it no longer shows up on a criminal record.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, said the proposal builds upon a bill signed into law two years ago allowing a person to vacate prostitution convictions if he or she was a victim of trafficking.

Orwall said that she’s heard from both private attorneys and those working at the city and county levels that they’ve had trouble moving forward on that 2014 law.

“We are back again today because a lot of the survivors have tried to use this new law and have ran into some problems,” Orwall said. “So we thought we would try and see what we could do to make this usable.”

Survivors of trafficking testified in favor of the bill on Tuesday.

Amber Walker and Jeri Moomaw testifying.

Amber Walker and Jeri Moomaw testifying.

Because of her criminal convictions, Amber Walker said she has encountered several barriers while trying to rebuild her life. She said traffickers used drugs to “enslave” her.

“When I was in the life, I certainly wasn’t getting drugs through charity. They were given to me in exchange for my body. I was introduced to drugs by my traffickers to keep me under control,” Walker said.

Walker said that many of the people that trafficked her for sex also trafficked her to sell drugs. “They said I looked innocent and that police will never suspect me,” she said.

Jeri Moomaw is a trafficking survivor and now works with Washington Engage, an anti-human trafficking nonprofit. She says one of the hardest things is getting reintegrated into regular life.

“It’s really sad to get a call from a fellow survivor who is doing amazing, that’s crying and crying saying, ‘I can’t get a job that pays a living wage because of my convictions,’” she said.

Moomaw said she would also like to see a change in the process required to vacate a conviction. Right now, if a survivor is trying to vacate their prostitution conviction they must fill out a form re-telling their “trauma.” She thinks that filing out an affidavit should be the only requirement.

“I found out that the form that has you line out all of your trauma is public record,” she said. “So potentially somebody could attain that public record and that could end up on Google.”

Heidi Sargent, assistant city prosecuting attorney with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, said the office in recent years has shifted the emphasis on prosecuting those who are buying sex.

But still, she says the office recognizes there is a lot of prostitution-related crime besides prostitution itself.

“We haven’t gotten to the point yet of addressing that and that would be a difficult thing to do,” she said. “We find that [the bill] is very good step forward and would remove some very serious barriers and would help break the cycle.”

As for Harris — she hopes that the bill will help people like her older sister leave prostitution.

“If you talked to my sister right now she would say,’what’s the point? I’ve been in over half my life, look at this list of charges.’ She’s been under the control of pimps since she was 14. So why get out now,” Harris said though tears.

All of those who testified Tuesday were in support of the bill.

Categories: Courts, Criminal Justice

House passes education funding bill, 64-34

By | January 26, 2016 | Comments

The House passed a bill off the floor Monday that requires next year’s Legislature to end the state’s overreliance on local school levies to pay for basic education.

House Bill 2366 also collects data on teacher compensation and local levies, and creates a task force to continue working on the issue before the 2017 Legislature convenes.

Watch TVW video of the floor debate here.

Rep. Matt Manweller

Rep. Matt Manweller

Republican Rep. Matt Manweller voted against the bill, describing one section of the bill as a “poison pill to the extent that it’s a deal killer.”

The section states that “legislative action shall be taken by the end of the 2017 session to eliminate school district dependency on local levies” to fund public schools.

Manweller said that language forces “someone else do the job that we are either unwilling to do or cannot do.”

He said the section was placed in the bill to appease the Washington Supreme Court, which is holding the state in contempt for failing to provide a plan for how it will adequately fund basic education. 

Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said the bill is not about appeasing the court, but about “living up to a promise to a million school kids we made in 2009.”

Sullivan said he supports both the bill and the section language.

“The bill we have before us today puts forward the next promise,” he said. “The promise that we’ll fix a broken school employee compensation system.”

The bill passed with a vote of 64-34, and heads to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration.

Democratic leaders said at a press event Monday that Senate Republicans told them they would not move the bill forward if it contains the section debated on the House floor.

However, Senate Republicans told reporters Tuesday that they are continuing to study the bill.

“We are going to take a look at the legislation as it comes to our caucus,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. “We aren’t shrugging anything off and that narrative is completely false,” he said.

Gov. Jay Inslee praised the passage of the bill, saying the House “vote keeps us moving in the right direction.”

Categories: WA House

Tribes push for bill they say would give them better dental access

By | January 26, 2016 | Comments

Several tribal members asked lawmakers Monday to pass a bill that would allow dental health aides to treat patients on tribal land. The measure is opposed by some dentists who say the aides may not have sufficient education or training.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here.

Members from the Squaxin Island Tribe, Colville Tribe, Makah Tribe and Suak-Suiattle Indian Tribe testified in support of Senate Bill 5159 at a hearing Monday of the Senate Health Care Committee.

The bill was compared to a program in Alaska that trains and certifies dental health aides to practice limited dentistry under the supervision of a dentist within the tribe. Some aides can practice off-site, or away from the dentist.

The dental aides are “certified to practice without the direct supervision of a licensed dentist for procedures such as oral exams, preventative dental services, simple restorations, stainless steel crowns, and x-rays,” according to the bill.

The certification requires a high school diploma, graduation from a two-year educational program and a 400-hour clinical preceptorship under the supervision of a dentist.

The prime sponsor of the bill, Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, criticized the “long continuous process” of the bill, saying this was the eleventh time he has brought the bill to the Legislature.

“We are in dire need of access to the tribe throughout Washington State,” he said. “We took a hard look at the Alaska model, and the Alaska model is working. I find it difficult to understand why there’s so much opposition for Washington State over the years.”

He emphasized that the dental aides would not be working on their own, but under the supervision of a dental team and dentists. He said that a tribe in Swinomish “had to invoke their tribal sovereignty and start a program.”

But not all tribes have that ability. “There are some tribes that lack resources so they wouldn’t be able to do it by themselves,” McCoy said.

Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, said that the Alaska program makes sense because there is great distance between patients and dental care.

“The Washington reservations don’t have that distance that’s required and my concern comes back to a liability issue,” Angel said. “If a problem came up does the liability then come back to the tribe or to the dentists?”

McCoy responded saying it would be structured so aides are working in a medical facility of the tribe, which has medical director.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 4.33.43 PMBrian Cladoosby, Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe said the reason that this bill is necessary is because of federal 2010 legislation.

“The Indian Health Care Improvement Act was passed, providing health care for tribal members across the nation and the American Dental Association snuck a sentence in that bill,” Cladoosby said. “That one sentence said if any tribes in lower 48 want to have a therapist program, they have to come and get the blessing from Olympia.”

Cladoosby talked about the importance of recognizing sovereign nations and the treaty of the Swinomish Tribe.

“I’m a sovereign nation and I would hope that each and everyone of you here would recognize my sovereignty and I hope each and everyone of you here would recognize that for me to have to come here year after year –this is my sixth year now — coming saying ‘please give us this program,’ it is not right,” he said. (more…)

Categories: TVW, WA Senate

Local cities could regulate guns in certain public places, under proposal

By | January 22, 2016 | Comments

DSC_0802Hundreds of people turned out Thursday to testify at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on a series of gun-related bills, including one that would allow local jurisdictions to restrict guns in public places.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here. 

Washington is an open-carry state where people are allowed to carry firearms in public without a concealed-pistol license. House Bill 2460 would give cities, towns and counties the authority to regulate firearms in public parks, recreational facilities, libraries and transit facilities.

The prime sponsor of the bill, Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, D-Seattle, said the bill aims to protect kids from gun violence in public places.

“These are places that are receiving public dollars,” he said. “They are places where kids learn and play, and they are places where I believe that local authorities…ought to be able to make these decisions where we have so many kids working, playing, studying.”

Seattle attorney Jamie Clausen organizes events and rallies, and says there are few events where she does not see an armed person. “There may be communities where that’s welcomed, but it’s not welcomed in my community,” she said.

She said there needs to be a balance between the First Amendment right to free speech and public assembly with the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, asked Clausen if she thought it would have been better if an armed person was at was there to protect Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat when she was shot at a rally.

To which Clausen replied, “I don’t know which you are talking about, but I know when Gabrielle Giffords was shot there was a person there with a firearm who jumped on the person they believed was the assailant and at the last minute decided not to shoot, only to discover they jumped on the wrong person.”

Her reply drew applause from the audience, many of whom were wearing orange shirts to represent gun control groups.

Other supporters said the bill could help end the stalemate over guns.

“I think that this bill make a lot of sense because in Washington, we are not the same in every city, we have different communities,” said Melinda Barnes, who leads a gun safety organization called “Safety Now.”

Several of the people who testified against the bill said it would only confuse people about where they can legally carry a firearm in Washington.

“What this bill is going to do, is it’s going to make it very difficult for someone like me to teach,” said Paige Biron, an instructor with Pink Pistols, a group that teaches firearm safety and concealed carry classes for the LBGT community.

“Currently I tell my students that they can’t carry in these five places and that works. But what am I going to do now?” Biron asked.

Washington Arms Collectors executive director Phil Shave said the bill would create a “checkerboard of firearm laws.” He said that it would be so complex that compliance by law-abiding public would be impossible —  turning state laws on firearms “into a chaotic mess.”

Brian Judy with the National Rifle Association said that this bill was an “attack on law abiding citizens” that could “strip them of their ability to provide a means of self protection in these public places.”

“Urban environments are where crimes are the highest and where law abiding citizens are most likely to find themselves in situations where self defense is necessary,” Judy said.

Two more panels testified in support and in opposition to the bill.

Categories: Gun control

Carbon tax initiative receives enough signatures to reach Legislature

By | January 22, 2016 | Comments

An initiative that would put a tax on carbon emissions from fossil fuels in Washington has received enough certified signatures to reach the Legislature.

Initiative 732, backed by a group called Carbon WA, would implement $25 per metric ton tax on carbon emissions from fossil fuels, gasoline and natural gas. Supporters claim it would be revenue neutral because it also reduces the state sales tax by 1 percent and cuts the business and occupation tax for manufacturers. The initiative would fund the Working Families Rebate for low-income families.

That initiative was certified on Tuesday, despite having the highest signature error rate in “at least 25 years,” according to David Ammons, the communications director at the Office of Secretary of State. A random 3 percent check of the 363,126 signatures submitted revealed a nearly 28 percent error rate, Ammons said.

To reach the Legislature, an initiative needs at least 246,372 signatures. Legislators may either pass the initiative as-is or put it on the statewide ballot to be voted on this fall. They may also decide to send it to ballot with their own legislative alternative.

I-732 drew attention in December when a state analysis done by legislative staff shows the “revenue neutral” proposal would cost the state $675 million over four years. Carbon WA said they expect the initiative to be revenue-neutral or possibly revenue-positive — either way, they said it won’t cost the state money. The group issued a response to the analysis, which they said corrects problems in the report that made the results appear revenue-negative.

Smoking age would rise to 21 in Washington under proposal by attorney general

By | January 21, 2016 | Comments

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is pressing for legislation that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21.

“Let’s be blunt,” Ferguson said at a press conference Wednesday. “Cigarettes are too easy to get if you are a teenager. This legislation will save lives.”

In both House Bill 2313 and Senate Bill 6157, anyone who sells tobacco products to a person under 21 would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

Washington Secretary of Health John Weisman said there is “no single policy that the Legislature could adopt this session that would do more to protect the health of our kids.”

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High schooler Sarah Stewart speaks at the press conference.

Sarah Stewart, a senior at Mercer Island High School, said at the press conference that she worries about the health of her younger classmates.

“On my 18th birthday I was messaged by lower classmen that asked me how much it would cost to go pick up a vape pen for them,” Stewart said. “People will always do it right? The difference is, if you raise the legal age to 21 you are decreasing youth access.”

She said that cigarettes are generally “not as cool” as vaping because people know the negative health impacts. “But cigarettes are easier and cheaper to get,” she said.

Rep. Tina Orwall, D–Des Moines, is sponsoring the House bill. She said both her parents died from tobacco-related diseases. Meanwhile, her teenage son sees tobacco use every day because “these hookah pens are all over the school,” she said.

Watch TVW video of the press conference here.

Immediately following the press conference, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee held a public hearing on the House bill. Although the majority of those who testified were in support of the legislation, several retail store representatives came out against the proposal. (more…)

Categories: Attorney General, TVW