December 12, 2013 at 11:27 AM
The state Employment Security Department estimates that 25,000 jobless workers in Washington will lose their unemployment benefits after Dec. 28, when the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program ends.
Congress began the program in July 2008, during the recession, and has extended it 11 times in the past five years. But a budget agreement recently reached in Congress does not include another extension.
Since the program began, $6.3 billion in benefits have been paid to more than 450,000 unemployed workers in Washington. Workers received up to 63 weeks of unemployment benefits in this state, including 26 weeks of regular benefits and 37 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation. After Dec. 28, only regular benefits will be available for most Washington workers.
Roughly half the unemployed workers affected live in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
December 11, 2013 at 1:56 PM
Seattle Mayor-elect Ed Murray today named more members of his leadership team, including two deputy mayors and two administrators to oversee the city’s work on police reform and waterfront development.
Murray said he was hiring people with skills in collaboration and innovation.
“These are highly capable individuals who are ready to bring their energy, experience and expertise with them on day one of my administration,” Murray said.
The mayor-elect also said he would announce his process for searching for a new police chief soon after he takes office Jan. 1.
“I don’t have the keys to the place yet,” Murray joked, but said that with Mayor Mike McGinn’s 20/20 plan for police reform expiring in November, he would develop new strategies for implementing the changes in the force mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice. One of the new appointments announced today was former Seattle City Councilwoman Tina Podlodowski, a former chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee and a member of the Community Police Commission, to lead the city’s police reform efforts.
December 11, 2013 at 10:02 AM
Gun-rights groups have given more than 18 times as much money to Washington state politicians as gun-control groups over the past two dozen years, according to a new report.
Groups including the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners Action League of Washington have given more than $1.35 million to Washington state and federal candidates since 1989, according to the report from the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation. Groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence have given about $75,000 to candidates.
The report shows that 72 percent of the Second Amendment groups’ money went to state candidates, the rest to federal candidates. The gun-control groups have done the reverse, donating just 21 percent to state candidates.
Washington state residents seeking to enact more restrictions on guns have been trying to fight back this year. The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, formed last December, actually spent more on lobbying the Legislature than the NRA last year.
But in terms of election spending, the gun-rights groups still have the edge.
December 10, 2013 at 5:14 PM
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray says the budget deal she and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan announced Tuesday will “restore trust that had been lost by people across the country that we could function as a Congress and as a democracy.”
In an interview with The Seattle Times shortly after a news conference announcing the deal, Murray, the Senate’s Democratic budget chair, said while the deal is far from perfect, it will ease some of the effects of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration and avert the threat of a government shutdown for the next two years.
The budget framework sketched by Murray and Ryan would relieve $63 billion in sequester cuts, avoiding a new round of reductions that were scheduled to hit defense and non-defense programs alike in January.
The agreement amounts to small measure of progress toward compromise in an ideologically divided Congress that has earned record-low public approval ratings. Murray had been involved in previous efforts, including co-chairing the 2011 “super committee” that failed to reach agreement on long term deficit reduction, and last year’s failure to halt automatic spending under sequestration.
While the Murray-Ryan deal would avoid a government shutdown, it did not address long-term deficit reduction or tax reforms. Murray said she’d insisted that closing corporate tax loopholes be part of the deal, but had to drop that to win agreement from Ryan. Democrats also dropped a late push to make extended unemployment benefits part of the deal. For his part, Ryan backed off of cuts he wanted to make to entitlement programs.
Murray said if Congress can take the baby step of passing this short-term agreement, it could lead to progress on those larger issues in the future — despite partisan differences.
“I think one of our goals is to reestablish the trust of the American people that a Congress that is governed by two parties can find a way to find compromise and put a bill forward,” Murray said. “If we can get this done… we’ll show a pathway.”
President Obama called Murray from Air Force One on his way home from the Nelson Mandela memorial service to congratulate her on the agreement, the senator’s spokesman said.
The sight of the political odd couple of Murray and Ryan jointly announcing the deal Tuesday seemed unlikely given the rancor of the past few years.
In Seattle last month, Murray said she believed Republicans would be motivated to avoid another government shutdown. But she questioned whether Ryan would be willing to compromise. “There is in my mind a curiosity about whether Paul Ryan can come to the table and be a negotiator or whether Paul Ryan is going to be the guy who wants to go to his caucus and say, ‘I can be as conservative as everybody else here,’ ” she said at the time.
But on Tuesday, Murray was singing Ryan’s praises. “The Paul Ryan that showed up was the adult in the room who knew that our country needed certainty,” she said.
Ryan already is facing blow back from conservative Republicans angry that the budget deal would increase overall discretionary spending for the next year to $1.012 trillion — higher than the proposed House budget level of $967 billion (but lower than the Senate budget proposal of $1.058 trillion).
In Washington state, some conservative groups were already mobilizing against the budget pact.
Nansen Malin, director of the state chapter of Americans For Prosperity released a statement urging the state congressional delegation to vote down the plan. “Washington State cannot afford another trillion-dollar backroom deal, and Americans for Properity activists will be letting our delegation know that a deal with yet more spending and more revenue is unacceptable,” she said.
But some Republican leaders have indicated a willingness to stiff-arm the GOP’s most-conservative wing and back the deal.
Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Spokane, called the proposal “a step in the right direction on the path toward economic security for hardworking Americans” in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “While this deal includes modest budgetary reforms, it is another positive sign that deficit reduction can be achieved by making real spending cuts and reforms without raising taxes.”
December 10, 2013 at 3:57 PM
The state Senate majority caucus congratulated itself Tuesday for surviving a year and vowed to pursue legislation that did not pass last session, including changes to K-12 education and workers compensation.
The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus was born a year ago when Democratic Sens. Rodney Tom, of Medina, and Tim Sheldon, of Potlatch, announced they’d caucus with Republicans, giving the GOP control of the chamber.
Tom and other leaders said their caucus, during the session that starts Jan. 13, will take up measures such as a bill that would allow school districts to lay off employees based on job performance, instead of seniority.
The caucus also wants to resume efforts to change the state workers compensation system. Last session the caucus pushed legislation that would let workers settle compensation claims for a lump-sum amount rather than pursuing a lifetime disability pension or other benefits – an idea strongly opposed by labor.
When asked about meeting a state Supreme Court mandate to increase funding for education, Tom, the Senate majority leader, said during a news conference it’s all about prioritizing spending within existing resources. “We should never have a conversation that we need new revenue for education,” he said.
Caucus leaders would not speculate on the prospect of completing a transportation tax package before the session starts. The GOP-led caucus has been negotiating with Democrats, who control the House and governor’s office, for months.
December 9, 2013 at 5:40 PM
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will raise campaign cash next year for Democratic gubernatorial candidates across the country as the new finance chair for the Democratic Governors Association.
Inslee was named to the leadership post Monday at a DGA meeting in Washington, D.C., according to his campaign’s political director, Tracy Newman.
The appointment puts Inslee in a position to repay his fellow Democrats for their aid in his election last year. The DGA poured nearly $5 million into negative TV ads against Inslee’s Republican rival, Rob McKenna, during Washington’s 2012 gubernatorial race.
The perch also should give Inslee deeper ties to national Democratic donors should he seek a second term in 2016. The group raised more than $50 million during the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Inslee was one of three rookie governors named to leadership posts, according to POLITICO. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was re-elected to a second term as DGA chair.
“The governor is excited about this opportunity to help his colleagues across the country,” said Newman, who was with Inslee in D.C. on Monday. Inslee’s air fare and other expenses were being covered by the DGA or his campaign funds, not taxpayer dollars, she said.
Inslee’s predecessors, former Govs. Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire, each served as DGA chairs.
While in D.C. Inslee also is expected to attend the first White House meeting of a climate change task force of state and local leaders established last month by President Obama. He is expected to return to Washington state Tuesday.
December 6, 2013 at 5:11 PM
Democrats and Republicans clashed Friday during a meeting of the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup, created by the Legislature to recommend ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
The Legislature in 2008 passed a law calling for the state to reduce total greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035, and to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
The climate panel, created at the request of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, has been meeting since May to try to hash out recommendations to the governor and the Legislature. There are two Republicans and two Democrats on the panel. Inslee is a nonvoting member.
At Friday’s meeting Inslee tested the waters on whether to recommend that the Legislature adopt a cap on carbon pollution “with binding limits and market mechanisms,” a topic he’s broached before.
“My view is the committee ought to recommend that we do take action … that inaction is not an option,” Inslee told the panel, adding later ,“In order to achieve a binding, successful program of carbon-pollution reduction, our state needs a cap … We cannot allow unlimited spewing of carbon dioxide into our air and eventually into our water. That may be the single most important thing that we can achieve for the state of Washington.”
When Inslee asked other members of the panel how they felt about his ideas, Republicans weren’t happy.
Both Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, and Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said the state needed to look at the potential economic impacts of such proposals before moving ahead.
“I will not support a policy that I don’t know what the economic impacts on Washington state are going to be,” Short said.
Inslee pressed the matter, saying at one point, “I’m wondering about our ability … to reach consensus if we have several members who want to make recommendations and several who do not.”
Short snapped back that “What I really resent, governor, is you intimating that we don’t care … I just really resent being put into a corner today, governor.”
The debate devolved from there. Ericksen eventually asked for a short recess for everyone to cool off. They later agreed to adjourn, and come back for more discussions on a broad spectrum of ideas at the next meeting.
The panel has two more meetings scheduled, including a public hearing on Dec. 13.
December 4, 2013 at 10:48 AM
A new report suggests that Washington state should fight drunken driving by increasing penalties and establishing random sobriety checkpoints.
But another idea floated after a high-profile tragedy last spring, banning repeat DUI offenders from buying alcohol, was nearly universally dismissed.
The 2013 Washington Impaired Driving Work Group delivered the 152-page report Monday. The 33-member group, created by the Legislature this year, was made up of lawmakers, lawyers, police officers, state-agency officials, advocates, victims’ families, treatment providers, ignition-interlock manufacturers and experts.
The group considered 11 specific ideas for reducing DUIs, ranking them according to overall support and where they should fall on the state’s priority list (the most supported ideas were not necessarily seen as top priorities).
The top three priorities, according to the report, all related to penalties: The group wanted to increase penalties for drivers who refuse to take a breath or blood test (top priority; supported by 79 percent of group members), strengthen mandatory minimum prison sentences and fines for repeat offenders (second priority, 72 percent) and make DUI a felony before the fifth offense, as it is now (third priority, 85 percent).
The report noted that Washington is the only state where a DUI becomes a felony on the fifth offense.
It is a felony on the second offense in four states, the third offense in 21 states and the fourth offense in 18 states. Six states don’t have felony DUIs.
Lawmakers this year considered making DUI a felony sooner, but did not take action, in part, because the move was seen as too expensive.
Making the change would “heighten the awareness and communicate the seriousness of DUI,” said group member Kim Sauer, of the state Liquor Control Board, in the report.
The most surprising aspect of the report may have been the high level of support for sobriety checkpoints, which exist in 38 states but are seen as violating the state constitution.
The checkpoints, which would stop drivers even if they have done nothing wrong, were ranked as the fourth priority and supported by 82 percent of members.
“I think the research has shown that this should be a priority,” said member Dan Schulte, a group member whose parents were killed and whose wife and infant son were critically injured when they were struck by a drunken driver in Northeast Seattle in the spring.
Not everyone in the group agreed.
“I like them,” Tom McBride, of the state association of prosecutors, commented in the report, ”but do not see how they survive state constitutional privacy protections.”
The most supported of the 11 ideas, promoting and monitoring the use of alcohol-sensing ignition interlocks, was endorsed by 97 percent of group members. But it was ranked as only the 10th priority.
That put it just ahead of the least-supported policy on the list, the alcohol bans for repeat offenders. That idea got just 18 percent support.
Group member Brad Fralick, of the interlock manufacturer Consumer Safety Technology, was blunt in the report: “This is laughable,” he said. “Even if you could limit purchasing this does nothing to stop the consumption or driving after consuming.”
December 4, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Local Democratic activists met Tuesday night to fill vacancies in a couple of Seattle-area legislative seats.
Ed Murray’s election as Seattle mayor last month left his 43rd Legislative District state Senate seat up for grabs.
State Rep. Jamie Pedersen will slide over to that position, as he ran essentially unopposed at a meeting Tuesday night of the 43rd District Democrats. Hundreds of Democratic precinct-committee officers gathered in a South Lake Union meeting hall for the vote.
Under the state constitution, legislative vacancies are filled via appointments by the local county council, which must choose a replacement from the same political party from a list of three names submitted by the local party organization. In practice, the Metropolitan King County Council typically picks the top choice from the list forwarded by the party.
So as a formality, the council will have two other names to choose from besides Pedersen, but both those alternative “candidates” made it clear Tuesday night they back Pedersen and have no intention of serving.
Pedersen, an attorney, was elected to the state House in 2006 and has served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
After Pedersen’s selection, the real drama Tuesday night was over the appointment to fill Pedersen’s state House seat.
After a couple rounds of voting, the nod for that position went to Brady Walkinshaw, a program officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Walkinshaw is Cuban-American and gay, living on Capitol Hill with his partner, who works for the state Department of Natural Resources.
Walkinshaw bested Scott Forbes, the chairman of the 43rd District Democrats, and Cristina Gonzalez, a budget analyst for King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office. While all three names will be sent to the County Council, party etiquette says the runners-up will back Walkinshaw as the first choice.
The 43rd District runs through the liberal heart of Seattle (including Capitol Hill, Fremont, Wallingford and the University District) and at last night’s meeting of nearly 200 precinct-committee officers (PCOs), the three candidates sounded virtually identical calls for new tax revenue for schools, strengthened civil-rights protections for minorities and increased transit funding.
Forbes called it a choice between “an excellent progressive candidate, an excellent progressive candidate, and an excellent progressive candidate.”
So it came down to who had rallied enough PCOs to show up on a Tuesday night to vote. And Walkinshaw, who repeatedly boasted of his many endorsements from party leaders and state legislators, including Pedersen, won the ground game.
Meanwhile, in the 33rd Legislative District south of Seattle, Democrats selected Kent City Councilmember Elizabeth Albertson to fill the state House seat being vacated because of Dave Upthegrove’s election to the Metropolitan King County Council.
The 33rd District covers Kent, SeaTac, Des Moines and Normandy Park.
All the appointees will serve one year and will have to stand for election to full terms in 2014.
December 3, 2013 at 1:54 PM
Turns out, there is a mayor’s school, or at least a crash course, and Seattle mayor-elect Ed Murray plans to attend.
Harvard’s Institute of Politics will hold a three-day session on leadership and policy for more than 20 incoming big-city mayors Wednesday through Friday.
“I’m looking forward to visiting the Kennedy School at Harvard to hear from experts and from those who have some experience in the mayor’s seat,” said Murray in a statement. “I”m also looking forward to meeting and establishing relationships with my fellow mayors-elect who will soon take the mayor’s seat for the first time. It should be a very useful, productive experience.”
The Seminar on Transition and Leadership for Newly-Elected Mayors is co-sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is held at the Kennedy School of Government. The new mayors will attend sessions including transitioning from campaign to City Hall, finance and administration, jobs and the economy, public safety, education and technology.
The sessions will be led by top academics, policy experts and politicians.
Outgoing mayor Mike McGinn frequently said on the campaign trail in his failed reelection bid that there is no mayor’s school and he had to learn on the job.
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