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

Topic: washington

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August 27, 2014 at 6:04 AM

What it means for schools to lose control over Title I funds and No Child Left Behind waiver

No one should envy school district leaders right now. Many are in the process of sending letters to parents telling them their child’s school is failing to meet adequate yearly progress. Plus, they’ve lost control over a total of nearly $40 million in Title I funds used to help poor students improve reading and math…

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Comments | Topics: Education, nclb, waiver

July 28, 2014 at 6:09 AM

B.C. premier vows sewage treatment for Victoria — someday

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

It took more than a month, but the premier of British Columbia in Canada has finally answered a letter from Washington’s congressional delegation about the million gallons of raw sewage the city of Victoria flushes every hour into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

And somehow that seems fitting, since it has been more than 20 years since Washington started beating the drum about Victoria’s plumbing problems. No one north of the border seems to be in any particular hurry.

The Democratic members of Washington’s congressional delegation wrote B.C. Premier Christy Clark June 13 to urge that the province find a sewage solution “as soon as possible.” Clark’s rather tardy response promises to hold the southern end of Vancouver Island to a requirement that it develop a new sewage treatment plant. But she fails to address the key question. When, exactly? Will she even be in office? Which century?

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Comments | Topics: bc, congressional, poo

June 16, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Influencing lawmakers with free food and booze

Hey taxpayers, are you aware that Washington state lawmakers can each claim a daily allowance of up to $120 when they are in a legislative session? That allotment is supposed to cover three meals, lodging and transportation costs. Chances are pretty slim anyone is getting filthy rich off the practice, and The Associated Press reports it’s still below the $155 per diem allowed for state employees traveling to Thurston County.

The problem is lawmakers don’t have to disclose when they are treated to free meals by outside groups. They get their daily allowance regardless and are permitted to enjoy as much fine dining from lobbyists as they please, so long as those occasions are “infrequent.” Only gifts that exceed $50 are supposed to be reported.

A citizen complaint last summer led the Legislative Ethics Board to take a closer look at the legislative branch’s policies on complimentary food. (Read The Seattle Times’ July 29, 2013 editorial.) The panel advised lawmakers to clarify their own rules. That nudge didn’t lead to action, so the board is taking matters into its own hands.

On Tuesday, June 17, the board will meet in Olympia to consider more defined parameters and seek public comments. Board Counsel Mike O’Connell emailed a PDF file listing the four options under consideration. See the spreadsheet below:

Source: Legislative Ethics Board

Source: Legislative Ethics Board

To avoid the appearance of being influenced by lobbyists with deep pockets and fine dining tastes, lawmakers absolutely should track and reveal when they accept free meals, and lobbyists should do the same.

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Comments | Topics: disclosure, legislature, lobbying

June 9, 2014 at 6:25 AM

How to prevent the next SPU shooting

The picture emerging of Aaron Rey Ybarra is crushingly familiar.YbarraCourt

A young man with documented mental health problems (he was twice evaluated for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization) who’d said he “wanted to hurt himself and others“; who hadn’t seen a mental health provider for months and appeared to be taking his medications sporadically; yet was striving for stability, with a new job and sessions at Alcoholics Anonymous.

The picture still needs to be filled out, and the policies to spin out of this tragedy should include a review of state gun laws. But I read Ybarra’s story as a call for an important mental health reform, largely neglected here in Washington.

Ybarra may have been a good candidate for what’s known as Assisted Outpatient Treatment. It involves court-ordered outpatient therapy, with intensive supervision of a treatment plan that can include housing and other help. Patients have to have a serious illness, including hospitalizations, and often have a history of noncompliance with treatment.

New York has a program, known as “Kendra’s Law,” with about 2,500 people, at a cost of $32 million, according to a New York Times story, but it is estimated by Duke University researchers to save about 50 percent per-patient off state Medicaid costs because patients didn’t go to expensive hospitals nearly as often.

From the Duke study, which included New York and surrounding counties:

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Comments | Topics: assisted outpatient treatment, gun culture, legislature

June 2, 2014 at 6:07 AM

At least some are asking right questions in Insurance Commissioner case

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler

At least some Olympians seem to be asking the right questions about a rather nasty allegation of misconduct in the Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner.  Among them is state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, who plans a hearing June 16 that will put the matter on center stage.

A former Spokane County District Court judge, Padden says he is disturbed at the accusation that has been leveled by administrative law judge Patricia Petersen. She claims her boss in the office threatened her job in order to obtain favorable rulings.

“I just know, from 12 years as a district court judge, that independence is a bedrock principle the entire judiciary should embrace,” Padden says.

Padden is a Republican and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is a Democrat, but the Senate committee’s inquiry is precisely what Olympia should be doing – poking, prodding, exposing facts and dealing with the central issue of the case. If only those who are more directly responsible felt the same way.

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Comments | Topics: insurance commissioner, legislature, mike kreidler

May 23, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Washington needs better data to save sexually exploited kids

How do we protect kids from being sold for sex when we don’t even understand the problem’s true scope? Media reports, law enforcement and advocates often report that between 300 and 500 kids are sexually exploited for commercial purposes every night in Washington state. Unfortunately, that’s a conservative estimate based on a 2008 study done…

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Comments | Topics: csec, sex trafficking, washington

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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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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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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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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Comments | Topics: legislature, prostitution, sex trafficking

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