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Topic: washington

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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 14, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Video: Workers struggle with loss of federal unemployment benefits

Corrected version

Unemployment is not an easy topic to write about. Much of the focus in media coverage is on faceless numbers and reports. Too often, Republicans and Democrats twist those figures for political purposes, sometimes accusing the jobless of abusing government assistance and refusing to better themselves. The naysayers forget the unemployed are real people struggling to raise families and make ends meet. The challenges they face are vastly different from one another, too.

Nearly 2 million Americans are struggling with long-term unemployment, which means they have not been able to find work after receiving a total of 26 weeks of state jobless benefits. Since 2008, Congress has kicked in emergency assistance at the 27-week mark to help these workers pay their bills as they continue to look for work. In December, Congress failed to extend this important lifeline, profoundly affecting the lives of people who are used to working, paying taxes and contributing to their local economies.

Calvin Graedel and Nichole Clemens are among the nearly tens of thousands of long-term unemployed Washington residents who stopped receiving temporary assistance after Dec. 28.

Watch their stories below.

Graedel, 60, worked as a regional sales manager until he lost his job in November 2012. Though he did well, saved his money and  invested in retirement, finding work has been anything but easy. He recently shared his story with us from his West Seattle home, which he is planning to put on the market this month:

Clemens, 36, worked as a medical-records clerk until March 2013. The single mother of two daughters says she was making $16 an hour. She feels the longer she has gone without work, the harder it has become to get an interview. She shared her story from an apartment in Kent, where she is behind on rent.

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0 Comments | More in Video | Topics: congress, federal unemployment extension, poverty

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 18, 2014 at 6:25 AM

How the death penalty can bankrupt a county

At a meeting of Washington state county administrators last year, Jim Jones said one budget-busting scenario provoked the biggest wave of anxiety among the budget officers: a death penalty murder prosecution.

Jones, the Clallam County administrator and then-president of the Washington County Administrative Association, told me that five counties said the same thing: “If we had a death penalty case, and had to pay $1 million (in legal costs), we’d go bankrupt.”county death penalty

In an editorial calling for the repeal of the death penalty, The Seattle Times editorial board cited the enormous cost of capital punishment. Counties, with the duty of paying for courts, front much of the cost. The most comprehensive study comparing the cost of death and non-death sentence murder cases estimated the difference at $1 million – including the costs of lifetime incarceration. Counties have to pay for multiple top-end, death-penalty-qualified lawyers, experts, investigations and trials that stretch weeks, if not months.

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0 Comments | Topics: criminal justice, death penalty, politics

January 30, 2014 at 6:07 AM

Kenneth Bae’s family attends SOTU, seeks more help

Good on Washington’s congressional delegates for meeting this week with Kenneth Bae’s family. Here’s a link to the editorial board’s Monday editorial calling on officials in D.C. to keep up their efforts to help free the former Lynnwood resident and American tour operator from a North Korean prison, where he has been locked for nearly 15 months.

Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, his mother, Myunghee Bae and his son, Jonathan Bae, have spent the last several days raising awareness of Bae’s plight in New York City and in the nation’s capitol. On Tuesday, Chung and the elder Bae attended President Obama’s State of the Union address as the guests of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, and U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.

If you’re just learning about Bae’s case, watch Chung talk about her brother with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell below:

On Tuesday, the family met for the first time with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (Scroll down to read their official statement after the talk.) One day later, both Larsen and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sent press releases to the media promising they will continue to advocate on the family’s behalf. Murray said she will keep pressuring top U.S. State Department officials “to engage the North Korean government directly and bring Mr. Bae back to the United States.”

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0 Comments | Topics: congress, kenneth bae, north korea

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

January 3, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Poll: Which Washington state gun control initiative do you support?

Washingtonians have a history of confronting controversial issues head-on through ballot measures.

A protestor holds American flags during a demonstration in favor of gun regulation outside of the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 4, 2013 in Houston, Texas. More than 70,000 peope are expected to attend the NRA's 3-day annual meeting that features nearly 550 exhibitors, gun trade show and a political rally.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A protestor holds American flags during a demonstration in favor of gun regulation outside of the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 4, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Voters in recent years have affirmed same-sex marriage and legalized recreational marijuana. This past November, the city of SeaTac’s electorate raised the minimum wage for airport workers to the highest level in the nation.

On deck: Gun control. Not just one initiative. Two!

Expect the dueling measures to spark a passionate, attention-grabbing and expensive debate, which will begin during the legislative session and likely extend through the November elections. Here’s Seattle Times reporter Brian Rosenthal’s latest news story on the signature-gathering process. The secretary of state’s office reports both initiatives have more than enough signatures to qualify for a place on the November ballot.

Initiative 594 would require background checks for all sales. Initiative 591 would limit mandatory checks to sales by licensed dealers and prohibit government officials from removing guns from citizens without due process.

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0 Comments | Topics: elections, gun control, initiative 591

November 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Updated: Lamenting Washington’s lower voter turnout

Really, Washington? I know ballots are still being counted, but the latest results as of Saturday evening indicate a 46 percent voter turnout in this year’s elections — statewide and in King County. As Seattle Times news reporter Jim Brunner pointed out in this Friday news story (when state turnout was reported at 44.5 percent and King County turnout was 47 percent), we’re seeing the lowest voter participation numbers in a decade.

The author's ballot tracker results via King County's website. (Thanh Tan)

The author’s ballot tracker results via King County’s website. (Thanh Tan)

Washington voters are not exactly living up to their reputation as the 13th most active electorate in the nation in 2012 with a 65 percent voter turnout rate, according to this March 2013 report in The Washington Post’s ‘The Fix’ blog.

Clearly, there’s a disconnect between voters and the issues, and that’s too bad. People either don’t care or don’t believe they have a voice in the democratic process.

Or maybe they agree with British comedian Russell Brand, who delivered a stinging criticism of voting (seen in the video below) in an October interview with BBC’s “Newsnight.”  It went viral on the Internet. I suspect that’s because many subscribe to his view that he never votes “out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit from the political class that’s been going on for generations now.”

Brand is always charming, but there’s just no excuse to not vote. Citizens are still responsible for putting good — and, yes, sometimes very bad — people in public office. Indifference allows those bad apples to stay in power.

Here in Washington, counties send those ballots right to our mailbox. Each name printed on those sheets of paper has the power to change the way we live.

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0 Comments | Topics: elections, kshama sawant, politics

November 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM

I liked those tax-advisory votes

(William Brown / Tribune Media Services)

(William Brown / Tribune Media Services)

I don’t share the media cynicism about the five tax-advisory questions the people of Washington voted on last week. Media folks are parroting politicians, and politicians have motives that are different from those of ordinary people.

It’s true that the advisory votes don’t determine anything. The tax is in effect already. If the people vote “Repeal,” the tax is not repealed.

Why have a vote, then? To tell the voter, who hasn’t been paying attention to this stuff, that there have been tax increases. How many people knew that there had been five such increases, or tax breaks erased, in the 2013 legislative session? Not one in 100 knew this. Three of the five changes were tiny taxes and four applied only to a few people. Still, they were increases that added up to hundreds of millions of dollars over 10 years, and the Voters Pamphlet told citizens about them.

“They made people think. How can that not be good?” says Tim Eyman. The advisory votes were last defined and put into law in Eyman’s Initiative 1185, which voters supported in 2012. The other part of 1185 was the rule that the Legislature required two-thirds of both houses to raise taxes, or a simple majority plus a vote of the people. The Washington Supreme Court nullified that part. The advisory votes are all that’s left of this measure to slow down tax increases.

Initiative 1185 includes a part of the Voter’s Pamphlet that lists the legislators and how they voted on tax increases. For example, in the 26th district, you could see that Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, and his challenger, Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, had voted “Yes” on the three little increases. They had voted “No” on the increase in the telephone tax, a fairly substantial increase that affected a lot of people. On the retroactive enactment of an estate tax, a big increase to a small group of people, Schlicher had voted “Yes” and Angel had voted “No.”

Was that worth knowing? Maybe it was, if you were in the 26th district.

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0 Comments | Topics: advisory votes, initiative 1185, taxes

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