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

Topic: Washington State Legislature

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October 14, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Charts: Wake up and fund public health, prevention services

“When public health is effective, the public isn’t thinking about it,” says Metropolitan King County Council member Joe McDermott, head of the panel’s budget committee this year. It’s true. Prevention is not sexy. Fewer people care when the system works. However, the Ebola scare sweeping the world should be a wake-up call. Why wait for an…

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Comments | Topics: ebola, family planning, funding

September 18, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Can the Ray Rice domestic violence incident lead to more survivors?

If there’s a bright side to the domestic violence saga of NFL player Ray Rice, it might be that thousands of people took to social media to tell the world about #WhyIstayed and #WhenIleft. The dialogue fueled more awareness and much-needed discussion surrounding domestic violence, but how about more use of hashtags like #WhyIstopped or…

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Comments | Topics: domestic violence, NFL, Ray Rice

September 3, 2014 at 5:50 AM

McCleary showdown: Two messages from the Washington Supreme Court

Washington State Supreme Court (Seattle Times Photo/Ken Lambert)

Washington State Supreme Court
(Seattle Times Photo/Ken Lambert)

Latest Times coverage of Wednesday’s McCleary hearing: Court hears arguments in McCleary school-funding case.

As the McCleary case becomes a showdown Wednesday afternoon at the state Temple of Justice, reading the mood of the state Supreme Court isn’t easy.  There seem to be two messages coming from the court of late.

The first message is the tough-talking one the court has sent to the Legislature and the governor’s office, in its formal court orders. The other is unofficial – the kinder, gentler explanation justices have offered as they have met with The Seattle Times editorial board this election season. Washingtonians might hope the latter is true. 

The court is overseeing implementation of its decision in McCleary v. State of Washington, which held that the state needs to beef up spending on K-12 education by the 2017-18 school year. On Jan. 9, at a point when the state is about a quarter of the way to the goal, the court declared lawmakers hadn’t made enough progress, stepped up the schedule and said lawmakers needed to change their procrastinating ways. The court directed them to come up with the rest of the multi-year, multi-billion-dollar plan to fund the K-12 schools, pronto. Lawmakers balked.

So the court issued an equally high-handed order on June 12, demanding that the other two branches answer for their failure in court Wednesday at 2 p.m. Lawmakers are supposed to explain, among other things, why the court should not impose contempt sanctions, impose big fines, order the passage of specific bills, or shut down the school system entirely. This message seems to trample on the idea that the court is just one of three separate and roughly equal branches of government, each of which deserves a bit of leeway to do its job, and requires the respect of the other two.

Justices presented the argument rather differently as they passed through The Seattle Times offices for endorsement interviews. Four are up for election this year. Three of them say they want to remind lawmakers that time is running out — there are only three sessions left — and if hauling the governor and Legislature into court seems a bit harsh, it is the only way they can do it. “I honestly don’t think anybody really wants to see us create a constitutional crisis where the court oversteps its boundaries,” said Justice Mary Yu, who is running for a seat on the court after being appointed earlier this year. 

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Comments | Topics: mcleary, supreme court, Washington State Legislature

April 22, 2014 at 6:09 AM

At long last, Washington lawmakers draw the line on tuition

 

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

You have to love what just went down at Central Washington University. Administrators offered a demonstration of college-and-university-level thinking when they figured out a way to raise tuition, even though a tuition freeze is in effect.

Then angry legislators jumped up and down and made a few screeching noises, and that was the end of that. The smart guys lost. But the even smarter ones won, and it represents a most-welcome sea-change in the Legislature’s thinking.

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Comments | Topics: central washington university, college, higher education

March 21, 2014 at 11:53 AM

A bipartisan push to save state research funding

Democrats in the state House and Senate are asking Gov. Jay Inslee to veto a portion of the state budget, even though nearly all voted for the budget.

They seek to preserve funding for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, a public-private partnership which has used money from the tobacco settlement to seed research. The final budget agreement cut $9.8 million from the fund, a compromise down from the Senate’s earlier proposal to drain $34 million and effectively close it entirely.

In a letter to Inslee, 17 Democrats and one Republican (retiring state Rep. Mike Hope of Lake Stevens, who voted no on the budget) rightly argue the Life Sciences Discovery Fund has shown a strong return on investment.

Funded by Tobacco Settlement money, LSDF has produced a nearly 8:1 return on Washington’s investment, including over $396 million in additional funding and more than $67 million in health-care cost savings.

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Comments | Topics: Washington State Legislature

January 23, 2014 at 6:25 AM

Pay for performance coming to Washington social services?

Across the globe, an unlikely pairing is cropping up. Private investment capital is being tapped by cash-strapped public human services agencies to boost prevention programs. If the prevention programs produce cost-savings, investors get a cut.

Money goes in to a prevention program. If it works, investors are rewarded. / IMAGE COURTESY OF SOCIAL FINANCE

Money goes in to a prevention program. If it works, investors are rewarded. (Image courtesy of Social Finance)

This “pay for performance” model, also called social impact bonds, is cutting-edge stuff, still theoretical. It was pioneered in the U.K. in 2010 to cut criminal recidivism at the Peterborough Prison. Although that data isn’t in yet, it has, as a Los Angeles Times editorial last week described, “become the talk of the financial and nonprofit worlds, and now governments, nonprofits and financiers are clamoring for a piece of the social impact bond action.”

New York is trying it to reduce recidivism for Rikers Island inmates. Massachusetts is trying to save money on emergency care by providing housing for the chronically homeless. Utah and Santa Clara, Calif., also have projects.

It now may be on the way to Washington state.

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Comments | Topics: human services, Washington State Legislature

January 17, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Patty Murray leads as Washington lawmakers stall on Dream Act

Impeccable timing.

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced the IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2014, a measure that would provide states more money to help low-income kids pay for college tuition, regardless of their citizenship status. As The Seattle Times’ Kyung Song reports in this news story, Murray suggests paying for the $750 million cost by increasing student visas fees for international students.

If Congress agrees to pass Murray’s bill, the money would certainly help students in her home state. Look at the chart below, which shows how many of the state’s lowest-income students over the years have been served or turned away by the State Need Grant program.

Source: Washington Student Achievement Council, 2013 Roadmap Report

Source: Washington Student Achievement Council, 2013 Ten-Year Roadmap Report

Washington state could qualify for federal funding because it provides in-state tuition rates to all students, including the undocumented. So let’s encourage Congress to pass Murray’s legislation.

The timing is interesting because in Olympia, the state Legislature is considering the Washington State Dream Act, which would allow undocumented students to apply for the State Need Grant program. The Seattle Times editorial board published an editorial Friday supporting the effort, which sailed through the House within hours of the session’s start on Monday. HB 1817 is currently stuck in the Senate Higher Education Committee. Chairwoman Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, should give it a hearing and advance it to the floor.

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Comments | Topics: dream act, financial aid, patty murray

December 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Washington Democrats felled by booze and gambling

The Michael Walter King story reads like a Shakespearean tragedy: Golden boy lands his dream job as executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. Two years later, he’s cleaning restaurants and living in a “sober house.” Democrats lose their majority in the Washington Senate. Then a judge sentences him to 25 months for embezzlement.

(Read The Seattle Times’ initial account of what happened in this February story by Andrew Garber and Brian Rosenthal. Reporter Jim Brunner followed up on the investigation in September. And here’s Sara Jean Green’s Tuesday report on King’s sentencing.)

Michael Walter King, the former executive director of the now defunct Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, was remanded into custody after he was sentenced to 25 1/2 months after pleading guilty last month to eight counts of theft, admitting he embezzled up to $330,000 in campaign contributions to fuel his alcohol and gambling habits. Defense attorney Lyle Tenpenny is at right. (Photo by Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times)

Michael Walter King, the former executive director of the now defunct Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, was remanded into custody after he was sentenced to 25 1/2 months after pleading guilty last month to eight counts of theft, admitting he embezzled up to $330,000 in campaign contributions to fuel his alcohol and gambling habits.
Defense attorney Lyle Tenpenny is at right. (Photo by Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times)

Washington Democrats must be kicking themselves. If they’re not, they really should be. Don’t politicos hang out together in bars just as much as they do in board rooms? How did no one question King’s absences from work? Or that he perhaps drank a little too much during happy hour?

Humans tend to do a good job at hiding their vices. King had no prior record. Clearly, he knew he had a problem when he reportedly confessed his transgressions to an associate.

The sad irony is Senate Democrats didn’t lose their majority during the 2013 legislative session because of failed legislative policies per se. They simply didn’t pay enough attention to the guy handling their campaign money, and that mistake may have cost them dearly.

Several sources say the $330,000 or so King spent to fuel his habits could have been funneled into some critical races. The most notable election, of course, is former state Rep. Tim Probst’s failed attempt in 2012 to unseat conservative Republican state Sen. Don Benton in the Vancouver area. Probst lost by 78 votes. That outcome set the stage for two Democratic senators, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, to join with Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus.

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Comments | Topics: michael king, washington democrats, Washington State Legislature

November 22, 2013 at 3:25 PM

Cold reception for Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to bid out state mental health system

UPDATE: At right is the Department BH timelineof Social and Health Services’ timeline for opening the mental health system to competitive bidding (click on it to expand). It includes a long window for public comment and an even longer phase-in process. From what I’m hearing from providers, consumers and lawmakers since this original post, the public comment period is going to be rough.

ORIGINAL POST, Nov. 22, 3:25 p.m. – A sharp exchange Thursday between Gov. Jay Inslee’s human services director and the longest-serving state senator was a preview to an upcoming Legislative debate about Inslee’s plan to open Washington’s outpatient mental health system to competitive bidding.

Testifying before a Senate committee, Kevin Quigley, secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services, unveiled Inslee’s plan (here’s a one-pager on the plan) to respond to federal pressure to reconfigure the mental health system beginning in 2016.

DSHS Secretary Kevin Quigley

DSHS Secretary Kevin Quigley

Inslee’s proposal calls for the state, beginning as soon as next April, to open the state’s mental health and substance abuse treatment services to competitive bidding, likely drawing interest from private managed care firms. Bids would be accept by region. One potential model could include physical health care in the bidding as well.

If this sounds dry, think of it this way: Inslee is talking about one of the biggest privatizations of state services ever, with at least $750 million a year in spending and care for 135,000 severely ill people at stake.

And he wants lawmakers to do it this Legislative session.

That’s going to be a tough sell, given the reception Quigley got Thursday.

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Comments | Topics: Jay Inslee, Jim Hargrove, mental health

October 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Another school shooting shifts the conversation to gun control, but for how long?

UPDATE: One of the two people killed in the Nevada middle school shooting was a teacher who stepped in to protect his students. This Huffington Post story has the details. The teacher’s death may renew ridiculous suggestions by the National Rifle Association that teachers should be allowed to carry a gun or at least have one handy in…

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Comments | Topics: barack obama, children, democrats

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