Lawmakers announce departure from Olympia

By | September 8, 2015 | Comments

Two Democrats announced their departure from the Legislature this month, while a senior Republican is seeking a second elected office.

Starting today, Rep. Ross Hunter takes over as the director of the state Department of Early Learning, which received an influx of new money from this year’s state budget amid a push for more early learning and preschool programs.

Hunter was the lead Democratic budget writer in the House, chairing the House Appropriations Committee. He is a 13-year veteran of the Legislature.

Hunter will discuss his new role, which pays $150,000 a year, with “Inside Olympia” host Austin Jenkins on Thursday, Sept. 10 at 7 & 10 p.m. on TVW.

Another veteran Democrat, Sen. Brian Hatfield of Raymond, is leaving the state Senate for Gov. Jay Inslee‘s office, where he will be the sector lead for rural economic development.

Hatfield, who has served in the Legislature for 19 years in both the House and Senate, was most recently the ranking member on the Senate Agricultural & Rural Economic Development committee.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Pam Roach is seeking a second elected position on the Pierce County Council. Washington law doesn’t ban elected officials from holding more than one office, and Roach told The News Tribune she is not ruling out holding both positions.

Roach has represented the 31st district in the Senate for 25 years.

Categories: Election

Committee to consider moving up the date of the presidential primary

By | August 7, 2015 | Comments

Secretary of State Kim Wyman wants to move up the date of Washington’s presidential primary to March 8, 2016, one week after “Super Tuesday” when a dozen states hold primaries or caucuses.

The state’s current presidential primary is held on the fourth Tuesday in May.

Wyman is convening a Presidential Primary Committee next week to consider the change. The committee includes representatives from the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as leaders of the four legislative caucuses.

Any change in the primary date must be made before Oct. 1 in the year before the primary and requires six votes of the committee.

TVW will live webcast the meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 1:30 p.m. at this link. It will be broadcast on television at a later time.

Wyman requested a bill during the 2015 legislative session that would have moved the primary to the second Tuesday in March and required political parties to use the primary results when allocating delegates. The bill passed out of the Senate, but did not get a vote in the House.

Highlights from the National Conference of State Legislatures

By | August 7, 2015 | Comments

TVW taped several sessions at this week’s National Conference of State Legislatures in Seattle. These will air Aug. 7-9th at 9:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. each day on TVW. Or watch the sessions anytime online:

Medical and recreational marijuana: This session, moderated by state Rep. Roger Goodman, addresses legal issues associated with marijuana authority and enforcement as states move forward with medical and recreational marijuana policies.

U.S. Supreme Court Roundup: An overview of recent decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court that have implications for states.

Police Body Cameras: An official with Seattle Police discusses the department’s body camera pilot program. Other panelists focus on the benefits and drawbacks of body cameras, as well as public confidence in policing.

Affordable Care Act: State experts discuss Medicaid options, market-based health insurance approaches and alternatives, as well as what’s happening next with state health exchanges.

Medicaid System Reforms: Legislators and Medicaid officials discuss ways to reform Medicaid to make it more efficient. State Sen. Randi Becker is a panelist.


Today on TVW: Puget Sound Partnership, Results Washington, JLARC

By | July 29, 2015 | Comments

Here what we’re covering live today, July 29, on TVW:

9:30 a.m. July 29: TVW is taping the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council meeting. It will be live webcast at this link, airing on television at a later date.

10 a.m. July 29: The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee is meeting to discuss several items. TVW is live on television and webcast. The Initiative 900 subcommittee is meeting again at 1:30 p.m. That meeting will be live webcast at this link.

10:30 a.m. July 29: TVW will live webcast Gov. Jay Inslee‘s Results Washington meeting, which will discuss increasing state contracting for small, minority, women and veteran-owned businesses. The meeting will be live webcast at this link.

Categories: TVW

‘Legislative Year in Review’ recaps the extended 2015 session

By | July 15, 2015 | Comments

The state Legislature adjourned on July 10 after a record-setting 176 days. In this hour-long edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights of the significant bills that passed — and failed to pass — during the regular and overtime sessions.

Lawmakers narrowly avoided a state government shutdown by passing a two-year operating budget that was signed into law just before midnight on June 30 by Gov. Jay Inslee. But the session didn’t end there. Senate leaders were drawn into an additional week of negotiations after a debate in the chamber over Initiative 1351, a class size reduction initiative passed by voters that came with a $2 billion price tag.

Senate Democrats and Republicans eventually reached a deal to delay implementation of the class size initiative for four years, while also suspending a new high school biology graduation requirement for two years. That agreement allows nearly 2,000 high school seniors who failed the exam this year to earn a diploma.

As part of the overall budget, college students will get a tuition cut and additional money will be funneled into early education and preschool with the Early Start Act.

Lawmakers also passed a $16 billion transportation package funded by a 11.9-cent gas tax increase that pays for projects across the state — marking the first time in a decade the state has made a significant investment in transportation infrastructure.

Also on the show: We recap debate over several bills that passed this year, including an oil train safety measure, an involuntary commitment bill known as Joel’s law, medical marijuana reform, the establishment of a new Washington State University medical school and a gun notification bill known as the Sheena Henderson Act.

Plus, details about the bills that generated heated debate but failed to pass — including the creation of a new type of payday loan, a proposed $12-an-hour statewide minimum wage, restrictions on initiative signature-gathering and eliminating personal exemptions for vaccines.

“Legislative Year in Review” airs at 6 and 11 p.m. every night on TVW through July 19. Or watch the show online below:

Senate reaches deal on Initiative 1351, high school biology exams

By | July 8, 2015 | Comments

Senate Democrats and the Majority Coalition Caucus have reached a deal on two key education issues that pave the way for the Legislature to adjourn the third special session.

The agreement reached Wednesday morning suspends the state’s high school biology graduation requirement for two years, according to a press release.

About 2,000 students failed the biology test in the first year it has been required to graduate high school. The Democrat-controlled House three times passed House Bill 2214 eliminating the graduation requirement, but the measure was not taken up by the Republican-majority Senate.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Democratic Rep. Chris Reykdal, said in a statement the deal is “excellent news” for the thousands of students who can now attend college or pursue careers. “I’m happy for the 2,000 seniors who will receive their diplomas, but this compromise only delays a serious problem that must be fixed,” he said.

A new bill suspending the requirement for two years must pass both chambers.

The Senate also agreed to delay Initiative 1351, a class size reduction measure passed by voters last year that is estimated to cost $2 billion in the current budget cycle. The budget signed on June 30 by Gov. Jay Inslee does not include funding for the measure. Without action by the Legislature, it would leave a $2 billion hole in the operating budget.

The House passed House Bill 2266 suspending Initiative 1351 for four years until 2019. Several Senate Democrats voted against the bill in a 5 a.m. floor debate, and it failed to garner the two-thirds majority required to alter an initiative.

The Senate will meet Thursday afternoon to vote on the biology exam bill and the measure delaying Initiative 1351, as well as “any other bills necessary to complete its work,” according to the caucuses.

TVW will carry the debate live.

Categories: Budget, Education

On TVW today: Bill signings, Senate Democratic press conference

By | July 6, 2015 | Comments

TVW will air the following events live today, Monday July 6:

2 p.m. Monday: Senate Democratic leaders Sen. Sharon Nelson and Sen. Andy Billig will hold a press conference to discuss the third special session. TVW will air it live on television and on the web at this link.

3 p.m. Monday: Gov. Jay Inslee will sign the Early Start Act into law at a bill signing ceremony. TVW will air it live on television and on the web at this link.

3:30 p.m. Monday: Gov. Jay Inslee will sign nearly 30 bills into law, including a bill to reduce college tuition and several transportation-related bills. The full bill list is here. TVW will webcast the event at this link.

Categories: TVW

Legislature stalled over Initiative 1351 debate

By | July 1, 2015 | Comments

The state Legislature is stalled over a bill that would delay implementation of Initiative 1351, leaving a $2 billion hole in the budget signed Tuesday night by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Voters approved Initiative 1351 last year requiring smaller class sizes in K-12 grades, but the measure did not come with a funding source attached. It is estimated to cost $2 billion in the first two-year budget cycle, and billions more in subsequent years.

House Bill 2266 suspends the initiative, delaying its implementation by four years until 2019. It passed out of the House with a vote of 72-26, with supporters noting that the operating budget funds smaller class sizes in grades K-3 when it is shown to have the most impact.

Because it alters an initiative, the bill requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers to pass.

The bill reached the Senate floor around 5 a.m. Wednesday after lawmakers in the chamber pulled an all-nighter.

Several Senate Democrats spoke in opposition to the bill, saying they believe the Legislature should phase-in Initiative 1351 rather than suspend it.

“We’re completely punting,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle. He said if the Legislature doesn’t do anything about the initiative this year, he has “serious doubts” it will ever be implemented.

Sen. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland, also spoke against the bill, saying the Senate was meeting at 5:30 a.m. to “undo the will of the people.”

Budget writers argued that the bill is necessary to balance the budget approved after six months of negotiations by both chambers.

“If we can’t pass this bill, we have a $2 billion hole we have to fill,” said Sen. Andy Hill, the lead Republican budget writer. Failing to pass the bill puts the budget at risk, he said, and it is “not the way we do things around here.”

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said a failure to pass the bill threatens other services. “You are playing Russian roulette with the social safety net next session,” he told members.

The Senate voted 27-17 on the bill, failing to garner the necessary two-thirds majority required for it to pass. The Senate adjourned until noon Friday.

The Spokesman-Review reported that some Democratic members may consider changing their votes if the Senate Republican majority approves a bill passed by the House that eases a rule requiring high school students to pass a biology test in order to graduate. About 2,000 students have failed the test this year and are not expected to graduate. It’s the first year the test has been required.

Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement Wednesday praising the budget, and urging lawmakers to finish their work.

“There is one important operating budget item to resolve – when and how to implement last year’s Initiative 1351, which would cost an additional $2 billion that was not provided in the budget the Legislature passed,” he wrote. “I believe it is important for the Legislature to find a solution that results in a balanced budget sooner rather than later. We are so close. I encourage legislators to complete their work.”

Watch the Senate floor debate on the bill below:

Categories: Budget

Gov. Jay Inslee signs compromise budget into law

By | June 29, 2015 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the two-year operating budget into law late Tuesday night, just before the midnight deadline that would have forced a partial state government shutdown.

“It’s forward-thinking, it’s responsible and it’s fair. It’s taken a long time to get here, but the final result is a budget that does respond to the fundamental needs of the people of the state,” Inslee said as he signed the document around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Watch the bill signing here.

The budget passed out of both chambers on Monday. The Senate voted 38-10, while the House voted 90-8.

The compromise budget spends $38.2 billion over the next two years, reduces K-3 class sizes, gives teachers a total 4.8 percent pay raise through 2017, slashes tuition by 20 percent at four-year regional universities and by 15 percent at the University of Washington and Washington State University.

An outline of the agreement was announced by Inslee and legislative leaders on Saturday afternoon, but details were not released to the public online until Monday afternoon.

Among the highlights:

-An additional $1.3 billion will be spent in K-12 education to meet McCleary obligations, including smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, all-day kindergarten and fully funding maintenance, supplies and operating costs.

-$173 million for pay raises for state workers, fully funding collective bargaining agreements.

-$153 million for pay raises for teachers. Combined with a cost-of-living pay raises, that will amount to a 3 percent raise for the 2015-16 school year and a 1.8 percent raise for the 2016-17 school year.

-Colleges and universities will see varying tuition cuts. The state’s two research universities, UW and WSU, will get a 15 percent tuition cut. Four-year regional universities such as Western Washington University or Evergreen State College will get a 20 percent cut. Community and technical colleges will get a 5 percent reduction. The tuition cuts will be phased-in starting with a 5 percent reduction this year.

-An increase in revenue of about $200 million will come from repealing tax breaks, increasing certain fees and transferring lotto funds. The budget repeals a tax break for software manufacturers, eliminates a preferential business and occupation tax rate for royalty income and increases Dept. of Revenue late fee penalties.

-A decrease of about $35 million in revenue will come from extending or reinstating several tax breaks, including one for food processors and another tax break for data server farms.

-$134 million will go to early learning, including expanded preschool, funding the Early Start Act and child care eligibility changes.

Read the budget overview here for more highlights.

Categories: Budget

Budget agreement reached, third special session begins Sunday to finalize deal

By | June 27, 2015 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative leaders from the House and Senate announced Saturday afternoon they have reached a budget agreement that will avoid a government shutdown, although a third special session is required to finalize the deal.

Without divulging any numbers, Inslee said the budget takes a takes a “significant step” in funding K-12 schools and makes “historic investments” in early childhood learning.

Teachers and state workers will receive the first cost-of-living pay raise since 2008, the governor said.

The budget also “eases the burden” of rising tuition at the state’s colleges and universities, Inslee said. Tuition was one of the remaining sticking points between the GOP-led Senate and House Democrats. The Senate called for a 25 percent tuition cut, while the House proposed a tuition freeze. Inslee did not release the compromise figure.

State parks will also get enhanced funding in the budget.

“If you have a reservation at our state park system for next weekend, two good things will happen,” Inslee said. Parks will get additional money to “keep the roofs from falling down” at the picnic shelters, he said, and people won’t have to worry about a government shutdown cancelling their Fourth of July plans.

State government would be forced into a partial shutdown if a budget is not adopted by June 30. Inslee said he is confident that will not happen.

The second special session officially ended Saturday, and a third special session will begin Sunday.

“Hundreds of important but minor details” have yet to be resolved, Inslee said. Legislative leaders say they plan to have the budget details made public within 48 hours.

Lead Democratic budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter said the budget is likely to pass out of both chambers on Monday evening.

“We feel very strongly this is a great budget,” said House Speaker Frank Chopp.

Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said the budget meets the priorities laid out by his caucus this year, which proposed a no-new-taxes approach.

The final agreement does close some tax breaks, while extending other tax preferences that will result in a net gain of revenue for the state.

“It’s part of the compromise,” Hill said.

TVW taped the press conference. Watch it below.

Categories: Budget