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Archives: March 2011

March
31st

Labor to Legislature: close loopholes for a ‘moral budget’

The Washington State Labor Council and allies are marching on the state Capitol next week in a wave of rallies that speak to a growing militancy against state budget cuts.

The events are part of labor’s demand that state lawmakers close tax exemptions and special rates for industries and businesses that aren’t proven to produce jobs. Here’s labor’s demand letter sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire and lawmakers on March 17.

Read full post.

March
31st

History museums in less danger from budget writers

Just how they’ll do it is far from certain. But it’s becoming clear that budget writers are moving closer to keeping the state history museums open.

House budget vice-chairwoman Jeannie Darneille said she expects the spending plan being developed by House Democrats to incorporate her proposal to preserve the museums, which would merge them with other cultural programs and pay for them by raiding money for a planned construction project.

A vote planned for Friday will give a first reading of how much support that idea enjoys.

But even if it falters, Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed, an

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March
31st

Sen. Regala out on health-related absence, says she’s OK

An illness kept Sen. Debbie Regala away from Olympia Wednesday and today, but the state senator said today by phone from Tacoma General Hospital that she is doing fine.

Regala, D-Tacoma, was hospitalized Tuesday evening and said she expects to go home as soon as tonight. She could be back at the Legislature as early as Friday.

She preferred to keep the specifics of her illness private but said that “everything’s OK” after receiving medical care.

UPDATE 4:53 p.m.: Regala said she’s back home and will be in Olympia in the morning.

March
31st

Sen. Carrell to hear from constituents by phone

Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, will host a telephone town hall meeting with constituents today at 7 p.m.

Many homes in the 28th Legislative District — which includes University Place, Fircrest, DuPont and Steilacoom and parts of Lakewood,  Tacoma and Joint Base Lewis-McChord — will receive a call. Others can call in toll-free to (877) 229-8493, then press access code 15388.

Carrell’s office said in a news release:

During the hour-long event, participants may learn about the 2011 legislative session and share their thoughts and questions with the senator.

March
31st

State’s pre-paid tuition program is strong, report finds

A proposal in the state Legislature to change Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition program lost some momentum Wednesday when the State Actuary released report saying the pre-paid tuition program has a slim chance of running out of money.

The results of the report featured prominently in a House Ways and Means Committee hearing this morning on the Senate Bill 5749, a proposal that would reform GET in an effort to keep it from becoming a financial liability to the state, and they led some state representatives to argue that creating a new “GET 2” won’t be necessary.

“My conclusion is that, A, the GET program is in great shape and, B, that GET 2 is not a good idea,” said Rep. Larry Seaquist, chair of the House Higher Education Committee after hearing the results of the study.

Though he voted to pass the proposal out of his committee last week, Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, said now that he had seen the report he planned to work with the prime sponsor of the bill, Sen. Lisa Brown, to make some minor changes to GET management, but leave most of the existing program as it is.

According to the report, the existing GET program, which allows people to buy credits at today’s prices that are guaranteed to cover future tuition at the state’s most expensive university, has a 0.7 percent chance of requiring a state bail-out over the next 50 years. Under a worst-case scenario, though, the program could cost the state $4.6 billion.

The changes to the program, proposed in Senate Bill 5749 would probably reduce the amount that GET units would appreciate over time. Rather than guaranteeing that 100 units would be worth a year of tuition at the most expensive state university, GET units would appreciate based on a weighted average of all state college and university tuition increases.

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March
31st

Hearing pits cultural programs against each other

At a hearing today on a plan that aims to save the history museums in Tacoma, Spokane and Olympia by merging them with other cultural and arts programs, critics focused on the plan’s potential effect on the State Library.

The library would be consolidated into the new Department of Heritage, Arts and Culture under Rep. Jeannie Darneille’s bill. It would be funded in part by money that otherwise would be set aside for future construction of a new building to house the library and history-related programs.

Library supporters said it’s working well in its current home, Secretary of State Sam Reed’s office, and shouldn’t move to a new agency. Some also worried about snatching money from the planned building on the Capitol Campus, the Heritage Center.

The audience at the hearing was full of patrons of the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, a part of the State Library that serves the blind.

Among the users of the downtown Seattle braille library’s 459,000-item collection is Greg Jack of Olympia, who has used it since he was a boy growing up in Spokane. Jack checks out several books a month, both audiobooks that he downloads and braille books that come by mail. Just now he’s reading Typee by Herman Melville. Read more »

March
31st

Morning update: Day 81

Today the first hearing and committee vote are planned on HB 2033, a proposal that would preserve funding for the state history museums in Tacoma and Spokane by transferring funds that would have gone to construction of a library and Heritage Center on the Capitol Campus, and by consolidating several state programs into a Department of Heritage, Arts and Culture.

The bill is in the House State Government Committee this morning. Gov. Chris Gregoire cut funding for the museums in her biennial budget proposal.

Elsewhere:

  • The same committee is due to hear and vote on HB 2035, which would allow private printers to compete with the state printer for state agency’s printing jobs. In the Senate, a bill has been introduced that would eliminate the state printer altogether, SB 5523, but it has not come up for a floor vote.
  • House Ways and Means is to vote on SB 5073, which would license medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington and set up a registry for medical marijuana patients. Read more »