Political Buzz

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Archives: Sep. 2011

Sep.
9th

Employment Security to cut 390 positions

Olympian business reporter Rolf Boone has a story for Saturday’s morning paper that lays out the details, including a first round of layoffs that would start Oct. 21.

In a nutshell, Employment Security commissioner Paul Trause told agency workers in an email this week that the agency plans a 16 percent budget cut.

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Sep.
9th

66 legislators now agree to cut own pay

Seven more Washington lawmakers have asked to waive 3 percent or more of their pay. That brings the total to 66 and now includes both top budget writers in the House – Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, and Republican Rep. Gary Alexander of Thurston County, the ranking minority member.

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Sep.
9th

Corrections secretary says he will ‘reassign’ Stewart after ethics report


Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner said today he would “reassign” Communications Director Belinda Stewart as an investigation proceeds into her work for nonprofit groups on state’s dime.

Warner said he would also rewrite agency policies, beef up ethics training and suspend all use of state resources on three nonprofits that have special dispensation under DOC rules.

The Executive Ethics Board today found cause to believe Stewart committed violations of state ethics laws. The board’s report is above. Key findings:

  • Stewart “may have violated ethics laws when she used state resources including her time, her staff’s time, state computers, state vehicles and the state electronic mail system far in excess of the de minimis (negligible) use rule to further the agenda of” three nonprofits.
  • Stewart drove state vehicles to prisons in Belfair and to Eastern Washington to teach classes for DOC employees on behalf of her nonprofit, the National Association of Women in Criminal Justice. She also drove state cars to Seattle or Tacoma at least four times for meetings of another group, the Faith Based Re-Entry Coalition.  Read more »

Sep.
9th

Political Buzz now using Facebook commenting

Something’s changed on Political Buzz: You now use your Facebook account to post comments.

The News Tribune debuted Facebook commenting on Biz Buzz five months ago. Many news organizations have made the switch, with some using Facebook comments across their entire websites.

Based on their experiences and our own Biz Buzz experiment, we think that trading the anonymity of WordPress comments for a system that is tied to commenters’ real names will help raise the level of conversation. Too often, we hear from readers who say they would participate in the comments section if it weren’t for the name-calling

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Sep.
9th

Ethics board finds violations likely in case of Department of Corrections’ Belinda Stewart


Belinda Stewart

Meeting behind closed doors today, the state Executive Ethics Board talked about allegations against a Department of Corrections administrator who worked on behalf of nonprofit groups on state time.

When the board emerged, it voted 3-0 to declare there is “reasonable cause” to believe ethics laws were violated in the case.

A more than 20-page report explains the findings and the board expects to release it this afternoon. The board will ask for a response from the target of the investigation, DOC Communications Director Belinda Stewart.

State Sen. Mike Carrell, who filed one of the complaints against Stewart, sent a letter today to new Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner asking him to fire Stewart.

The ethics board has the authority to fine Stewart but not to dismiss her.

The department said it would make a statement after reviewing the report.

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Sep.
9th

House Democrats want jobs package for potential special session

In addition to a balance of taxes and cuts, House Democrats also want some kind of job-creating legislation if there’s a special session this year, Majority Floor Leader Tami Green said.

One possibility is bonds for school renovations, Green said. That kind of borrowing would require a vote of the people.

Bonds for energy-efficient retrofits of schools would be a redux of last year’s referendum that voters rejected — except that it wouldn’t include the bottled water tax that was part of that measure’s funding source, which Green said would help its prospects. So would the lack of

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Sep.
9th

House Democrats eyeing tax vote for spring ballot

As they wait for details of the revenue forecast, lawmakers are divided on whether to return to Olympia right away or hold off until January.

Opinions don’t divide along party lines.

Senate Democrats are eyeing the possibility of a November or December return, while Senate Republican leaders are lining up behind Sen. Joe Zarelli, who says more time is needed to figure out a plan that can pass bipartisan muster.

In the House, Democrats don’t agree with their Republican counterparts on much — certainly not on the budget that passed this winter with no GOP votes — but

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