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Archives: April 2012

April
11th

Budget doesn’t close Western State Hospital wards

By and large, the budget that went public after midnight today and was approved and sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire a few hours later is not all that different from the Democrats’ last offer a week ago. It avoids major cuts to disability and welfare benefits that Republicans had sought, it doesn’t cut public schools or colleges, and it relies on a $238 million accounting trick.

But there are differences, and here’s a big one for Pierce County: The budget doesn’t call for closing any wards at Western State Hospital.

Six months ago the hospital was

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April
11th

5 that made it, 5 that failed

For tomorrow’s papers, Brad Shannon and I rounded up a few of the major bills that passed this year in Olympia and some that couldn’t make it across the finish line.

First, the top 5 that flamed out, starting appropriately enough with…

FLAME RETARDANTS: Environmentalists couldn’t persuade lawmakers to ban toxic chemicals known as TRIS in children’s products.

STORM WATER: Environmentalists did defeat most of the proposed delays in rules meant to reduce polluted water runoff into the Puget Sound by mandating low-impact development. However,  lawmakers did pass a package of environmental permitting changes, including delays for storm water rules

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April
11th

March tax collections for Washington state are essentially flat (but since “flat” is the new “up” the report is good news)

Just a few hours after the state Legislature approved budget revisions that left a relatively tiny reserve fund, the state’s economic forecast office released a report on March tax collections that contained a relatively tiny amount of good news.

Collections for the last month were up $24.9 million above what was predicted. Combined with actual tax collections from February, collections are up $17.2 million from what was expected the last time the state economic and revenue forecast council released a forecast.

While that amount of money equates to rounding error, it suggests that the current forecast is on track. That

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April
11th

Lawmakers say their goodbyes

It’s not out of the question that lawmakers will have to return this year. A bad revenue forecast this summer or fall could easily wipe out the 1 percent reserve of $319 million that lawmakers left in their budget as a cushion.

But barring that, this morning’s adjournment after an all-nighter was the last hurrah for several long-serving members of the Legislature, including Debbie Regala of Tacoma, Jim Kastama of Puyallup, Mark Miloscia of Federal Way, Margarita Prentice of Renton and Glenn Anderson of Fall City. Kastama, Miloscia and Anderson are running for statewide office.

Others leaving include Jim McCune of Graham

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April
11th

In the fog (smoke?) of war, cigar bars again fail to become law

Supporters of exempting cigar and pipe clubs from the state’s ban on smoking in bars thought they had a chance as the special session of the Washington Legislature was winding down. They’d been able to slap the bill to permit cigar bars in existing bars onto House Bill 2565 that would begin taxing roll-your-own cigarette establishments.

The cigar bar exemption was opposed by anti-smoking forces in the state even after they were promised that proceeds from the steep permitting fees would help restart the state’s smoking Quit Line. Budget cuts had eliminated funding for the Quit Line even though it

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April
11th

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler will seek reelection

It would be his fourth term as the state’s insurance commissioner should incumbent Mike Kreidler win in November.

The former state lawmaker and one-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives said in an announcement this morning that he will make health care reform the centerpiece of this campaign.

“The people of our state have a right to choices for quality and affordable health care,” Kreidler said. “We can’t lose this opportunity to make sure that insurance companies compete on price and quality, not on how well they can avoid people with medical problems.”

Kreidler, a Democrat, was an optometrist in Olympia when he was elected to Congress in 1992. The retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves, Kreidler took a leave of absence from the state Senate to serve stateside during the first Gulf War. He was temporarily replaced in that office by his wife Lela Kreidler.

The only other candidate for the office who has filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission is Republican Martin (Scott) Reilly.

Here is the statement Kreidler’s campaign released this morning: Read more »

April
11th

Senate passes K-12 health benefits bill

Senators moved just after 4 a.m. to try to equalize health-insurance benefits for full-time and part-time school district employees and their families, with a proposal negotiated between Democrats and Republicans that was made public just minutes before the vote.

It passed with the bare minimum majority, 25-20, and was sent to the House over the objections of the state teacher’s union, which made a last-ditch effort against the proposal Tuesday.

Here’s the text of the bill, the last of three so-called reform measures demanded by Republicans. It mandates that school districts meet certain requirements, including making all employees pay a

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April
11th

Gregoire calls lawmakers into all-nighter special session

The Legislature has run out of time, and Gov. Chris Gregoire has called a new special session to finish up work to pass a budget, jobs package and the few remaining bills. Lawmakers have resumed after a two-hour break, and Gregoire said she hopes it all can be concluded overnight.

“No napping,” the Democratic leader quipped.

Legislative leaders from both parties in the House and Senate have agreed to hold the session to one day, Gregoire said. They have agreed to keep the agenda to the supplemental operating and capital budgets, bills needed to implement those budgets and a K-12

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