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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: legislature

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March 17, 2014 at 6:28 AM

Washington transportation committee co-chairs, allies turn against each other

An experiment in bipartisanship that began with so much promise a year ago totally crumbled in the final hours of this year’s legislative session.

State Sens. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, and Curtis King, R-Yakima, co-chair the Transportation Committee (2013 Instagram photo by Thanh Tan)

State Sens. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, and Curtis King, R-Yakima, co-chair the Transportation Committee (2013 Instagram photo by Thanh Tan)

Let’s turn the clock back to March 27, 2013. On that day, I wrote a column, “State Senate Transportation co-chairs break new ground as political foes — and allies.” I’d gone down to Olympia to learn more about one of the rare political partnerships that emerged from the formation of the Majority Coalition Caucus. The buzz in the capitol at that time was that state Sens. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, were showing it was possible for a Republican and a Democrat to co-chair a committee and get things done.

Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Though other Democrats rejected the coalition’s offers to lead committees, Eide surprised her colleagues by accepting the co-chairmanship with King.

“I trust him explicitly,” she said, citing their experience together crafting budgets and serving on committees. 

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0 Comments | Topics: curtis king, legislature, tracey eide

March 12, 2014 at 6:20 AM

Another important mental health reform… gets delayed

Doug Reuter is most likely leaving Olympia Wednesday morning a frustrated man.

Doug and Nancy Reuter (Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times)

Nancy and Doug Reuter (Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times)

He and his wife Nancy moved to Olympia from Texas this winter to lobby the Legislature on a mental-health reform bill they believe would’ve saved their son’s life. The Joel Reuter bill, as it’s become known, passed the House 96-0, due in large part to their amazing advocacy.

It simply would allow family members to seek judicial review if a mentally ill loved one is denied emergency psychiatric hospitalization. Right now, there is no means to contest a denial by the gatekeepers of involuntary commitments. As Doug Reuter points out, supposedly progressive Washington ranks 49th in the nation for community psychiatric beds, and is an outlier on this issue too. Forty-five other states already allow judicial review, which the Reuters used to get their son help in Arizona.

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0 Comments | Topics: legislature, mental health

March 11, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Legislature passes bills to fight sex trafficking

With just two more days left in the legislative session, state lawmakers have found the political will to unanimously pass three bills to help combat sex trafficking. One other foster-care bill is still in play and deserves consideration before Thursday’s adjournment.

As mentioned in previous Opinion Northwest blog posts and Seattle Times editorials, legislative action is necessary because hundreds of children are forced to sell their bodies every night. Some get caught up in the life for years before they are able to find help. Foster kids without a permanent home are especially susceptible to pimps and their false promises of clothing, shelter and love.

Here’s the status of several trafficking-related bills measures as of Tuesday morning: (Note: The status of each bill is subject to change.)

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0 Comments | Topics: foster care, legislature, sex trafficking

March 6, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Updated: Time running out for state Legislature to pass anti-sex trafficking bills

Updated 3:31 p.m. on March 7:

Bills are moving through the Legislature quickly. I’ve revised information throughout this post, which was originally published Thursday morning. Check back after the weekend for more updates.

Original:

As the Washington Legislature nears its March 13 deadline, now is the time to track and review efforts to end sex trafficking.

Yes, this is a statewide crisis. In the Seattle-King County area alone, the most recent studies suggest hundreds of children as young as 11 years old are being sexually exploited for commercial purposes. Organizations such as the Center for Child & Youth Justice and YouthCare are building new models to identify and treat these sex workers as victims, not criminals.

Below, watch video of StolenYouth’s Jan. 29 forum at Town Hall to understand how advocates are responding to the problem.

This year in Olympia, lawmakers took up several measures to strengthen the state’s laws against trafficking. So far, two bills outlined below have passed both houses. Lawmakers should make sure several other measures get to the governor’s desk before time runs out. They must maintain the state’s position as a leader in combating sex trafficking through strong legislation.

Here’s a rundown of several bills related to sex trafficking and their status as of Wednesday:

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0 Comments | Topics: legislature, prostitution, sex trafficking

February 11, 2014 at 6:25 AM

How to get bankers to pay to reduce prison recidivism

The notion of inviting venture capitalists into the state human services system sounds, I’ll admit, a bit creepy. When I heard that notion was floating around the 2014 Legislature, my thoughts went to the private prison industry and its dismal race-to-the-bottom practices.

MA pay for success

Pay For Success project (Source: Commonwealth of Massachusetts)

But as Tuesday’s Seattle Times editorial suggests, the notion, in HB 2337, deserves a second look. So-called “social impact bonds” are racing around public-policy circles, embraced by the left (the Center for American Progress write-up) and from the libertarian right (Reason Foundation’s write up).

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0 Comments | Topics: legislature, nonprofits, prison

December 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Poll: How should King County fund Metro public transit?

King County officials are weaving their way through some gnarly political traffic.

Should they cut Metro transit routes despite growing ridership? Or convince voters to raise taxes and car tab fees? If the Legislature doesn’t pass a transportation package that lets them do this, will they have to resort to an old law that allows them to go it alone, but raise less revenue?

Photo by Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times

Photo by Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times

Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom outlines the region’s pending bus funding crisis in this news side story. Here’s one of the big reasons folks are so wary of inching toward 10 percent sales tax per $100 spent by consumers:

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), the poorest fifth of Washington state households pay 17 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the richest fifth pay less than 7 percent. Those are statewide averages, so the disparity grows in urban Puget Sound, where transit sales taxes are higher.

“(In) a state that is already clearly the most regressive in the nation, amazingly you’d have localities where it is more regressive,” said Matt Gardner, ITEP executive director.

“In fairness, there aren’t a lot of other choices available to lawmakers in Washington,” said Gardner.

Lawmakers appear no closer to a transportation deal, so it’s understandable why officials are antsy to get something before voters in 2014. Cuts are slated to begin next summer. By the time the next legislative session begins in January, the political waters may be too charged for lawmakers to vote on increasing taxes and fees. And even if the state legislature does pass a transportation package that includes local options for counties, a possible referendum may delay implementation of the law till after the November 2014 elections — a less-than-ideal scenario for transit planners.

So let’s get a sense of what readers think about the county’s Plan A and Plan B. Click below the jump to vote in our poll. As first reported in Lindblom’s story, here is The Seattle Times’ description of those two options:

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0 Comments | Topics: king county, legislature, metro

November 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Saving the children at Childhaven

Cheryl Mason and her husband John (older couple on bottom row)  adopted seven children who came to them as foster children receiving services at Childhaven. Their children are now successful adults starting their own families, underscoring Childhaven's powerful role helping abused or neglected children grow into healthy adults. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Cheryl Mason and her husband John (older couple on bottom row) adopted seven children who came to them as foster children receiving services at Childhaven. Their children are now successful adults starting their own families, underscoring Childhaven’s powerful role helping abused or neglected children grow into healthy adults.
(Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Many in philanthropy and social services were caught off guard by federal Medicaid officials recent decision to cut off funding to Childhaven, which provides child care and therapy for abused and neglected children. Childhaven would lose $4 million a year, the combined total of the 50-50 match between state and federal Medicaid dollars — nearly half its revenue. Federal officials should reconsider.

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0 Comments | Topics: child abuse, children, Education

February 25, 2013 at 7:00 AM

In defense of the Washington Senate’s rogue Democrats

My column in Monday’s Seattle Times newspaper expresses disappointment in the Washington State Democrats’ recent tactics against rogue state Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon. Democrats take pride in making room for everyone — unless you’re a fiscally conservative state senator named Rodney Tom or Tim Sheldon. “Call out Tom and Sheldon for the traitors that…

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0 Comments | Topics: democratic party, democrats, legislature