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March 6, 2014 at 6:04 AM
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.
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: (more…)
February 18, 2014 at 6:25 AM
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.”
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. (more…)
January 30, 2014 at 6:07 AM
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.” (more…)
January 17, 2014 at 6:00 AM
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.
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. (more…)
January 3, 2014 at 6:00 AM
Washingtonians have a history of confronting controversial issues head-on through ballot measures.
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. (more…)
November 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM
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.
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. (more…)
November 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM
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. (more…)
October 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM
I greet with some consternation the Washington Supreme Court ruling that police officers’ license to search people extends to their purse, even if the purse is not on their person but nearby.
Long story short. Police arrested a woman in 2009 who was a passenger in a car with stolen license plates. The officer handcuffed her and placed her in the back of the cruiser and then returned to the car and searched her purse, finding methamphetamine.
A Yakima County Superior Court judge ruled the meth couldn’t be used at trial because the officer didn’t have a warrant to search her purse. A state appeals court agreed. But the state’s highest court Thursday reversed the lower courts, saying that because the purse was in the woman’s lap when she was arrested, it was an article of her person under the long standing “time of arrest” rule.
The upshot: In the eyes of law enforcement, I am my purse. Search one, search the other. I was afraid this would happen one day.
First, I admire anyone who would not give up seconds after trying to search through my over-sized purse. I’m leery about sticking my own hand in there. I have found old lunches in my purse. I once cut my finger on a knife stored next to a dehydrated grapefruit I forgot to eat. I routinely lose small objects, keys, etc., in the inner folds of my purse. On a positive note, when I recently forgot a canvas bag at the grocery store, my purse worked just as well. So now police can search me and it.
Justice Debra Stephens, writing for the majority, said that in the Yakima case, the purse was initially on the woman’s lap and thus should be considered part of her person. Justice Mary Fairhurst disagreed, arguing that these kinds of searches are meant to protect officers from any hidden weapons or prevent someone from destroying evidence.
But once the woman was handcuffed and sitting in the police cruiser, there were no security concerns that would justify searching her belongings without a warrant.
This case was not a slamdunk. At a hearing on a motion to suppress the meth as evidence, it was argued that it was obtained in violation of the woman’s Fourth Amendment protections against “unreasonable” searches and seizures. Indeed, the trial court conceded that “[t]he facts here fall slightly outside of being completely on point with” two past precedent setting cases, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Arizona v. Gant ruling and the high court’s own ruling in State v. Valdez.
A 5-4 decison means the court was clearly conflicted. What’s your take on the court’s ruling?
October 9, 2013 at 6:00 AM
A European perspective on the shutdown
On Tuesday, our editorial board met with Joao Vale de Almeida, the first European Union Ambassador to the United States. On tour to promote U.S.-European relations, he expressed surprise House Republican leaders are holding a vote on a federal budget hostage unless Obamacare is repealed.
“People in Europe sometimes have trouble understanding your health care debate particularly after legislation was passed,” de Almeida says. “(President Barack Obama) was reelected and the Supreme Court ruled. In Europe, healthcare is much less controversial and ideological, so it’s unlikely to risk the functioning of the government.”
He acknowledges the recession has forced European countries to adjust their welfare programs, but “I still realize America spends more on health care than we do with less results.” (Sad, but true. Check out The Huffington Post’s visual charts based on 2013 OECD health data.)
As this map by The Atlantic shows, those nations that offer universal coverage accept a basic notion: the health care gap can only be narrowed when more people are covered.
Washingtonians embrace Obamacare
The Associated Press reports more than 9,400 people signed up for health coverage following the Washington Health Plan Finder‘s launch on Oct. 1. The Washington Post added to the news story by praising the site’s usability:
There are an additional 10,497 people who have submitted applications for health coverage through the marketplace but are not actually enrolled, meaning they have yet to pay their first month’s premium. All told, that’s about 20,000 people who have taken a step toward signing up for coverage in Washington. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 960,000 people there without insurance — but we are only seven days into a six-month open enrollment period.
This is a great start. Now, can we count on Washington’s Republican House delegates to accept reality (Obamacare is here to stay) and convince their caucus to pass a funding bill to reopen the federal government?
Lamentably, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, continues to deliver old, tired talking points to the press. Here’s a short clip posted Tuesday on the House Republican Conference chairwoman’s Facebook page:
“We’re elected to govern. We’re elected to make the tough decisions, and yet the president and the Senate Democrats want to take the easy way out,” she said Tuesday. “That’s not acceptable to us. That’s not acceptable to the American people.”
Tell us, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, how is it acceptable to repeal or delay a law thousands of Washingtonians clearly want? Is placing their health and the nation’s financial credibility at risk really worth it?
July 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Our Independence Day editorial doesn’t mince words. Now is the time for the U.S. House to give full consideration to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform package, S. 744.
Remember how Latinos overwhelmingly supported Democrats during the 2012 elections? Afterward, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., called on the GOP to “modernize” and be more inclusive of minorities. Now is her party’s chance to do something substantive, and it’s stalling…
Some politicians might be too caught up in their own self-interests to take timely action. The Wall Street Journal reports only 38 of 234 House Republicans nationwide represent districts where Latinos represent 20 percent or more of the population. Those representatives have nothing to lose by stalling.
An overhaul of the system is long overdue and should include a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living and working in the shadows, including roughly 230,000 undocumented immigrants in Washington state.
Here’s a link to that Wall Street Journal report cited in the editorial. If you’re looking for an easy-to-read, concise breakdown of what’s in the Senate’s bill, I suggest reading this summary by the Migration Policy Institute.
Here’s an Associated Press interactive on U.S. immigration policy, including a searchable listing by state showing how senators voted. Washington senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell both voted for passage.
The bill isn’t perfect, but it’s a start. The process of becoming a full-fledged American will be anything but easy. (more…)