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Archives: 2013


PEBB outlines employee health rates for 2014 that show a few small premium increases

State employees may get another dose of good news soon. The Public Employees Benefits Board received a briefing Wednesday on what 2014 health-insurance premiums could look like for current and retired employees, and the news is pretty good.

A few plans show rates going up slightly and a few go down. The PEBB, which is made up of representatives of personnel offices, unions and retirees, is scheduled to adopt the new rates schedule [pages 5-10] on Wednesday, July 17. Employees can enroll for coverage  in the fall.

The premium news comes as

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Gov. Inslee announces 20 recipients of manager-leadership awards in state government for 2013

Gov. Jay Inslee named 20 new winners of the yearly Governor’s Award for Leadership in Management on Tuesday.

The first-year Democrat singled out the employees from agencies across state government – whom he inherited from his predecessor, Chris Gregoire – during a luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion. The employees’ cited work ranged from reform of state procurement laws to innovations in a water permit, help for workers displaced by the state’s privatization of liquor stores in 2011, efforts in corrections and welfare programs, and staffers drawing up state budgets.

In a  news release that listed  the award recipients, Inslee said:

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UPDATE – Ex-Ecology worker rapped by audit for giving 85 hours of free massages to co-workers on taxpayers’ dime

The state Executive Ethics Board plans to investigate a new audit finding that a former Department of Ecology spill responder misused state resources, giving nearly 85 ½ hours of free massages to fellow workers last year while being paid by the state.

Auditors looking into a whistleblower complaint found the employee, who worked until April in Ecology’s Bellevue office, had given the massages in an agency wellness room as she worked to meet training requirements for her certificate in that field. The employee also used office computers to set up appointments and sent 406 personal messages on state email – including

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Officials say cost of government shutdown preparations was borne by staffers, not taxpayers

Threats of a government shutdown were a distraction and caused anxiety for a lot of state employees last month, but state officials say they doubt the Legislature’s logjam on a budget added real costs for taxpayers. ”I don’t think there would be an actual cost,” state budget director David Schumacher said in an interview, adding that it unquestionably added to the workload of top staffers in state agencies. “It just kind of filled up a lot of time they could have been working on other things.”

No tally of costs is planned because, as Schumacher put it, it would add just

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Director of performance audits leaving for consulting, Volcker group

The director of performance audits at the state auditor’s office, Larisa Benson, is leaving this month after five years to become a consultant. Using voter-approved powers, Benson’s group dived into ways to improve state printing, liquor stores, K-12 school benefits and more.

Benson will do consulting work for governments as part of The Athena Group while also working locally on behalf of a national group, the Volcker Alliance. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker set up the national organization this year. It’s a think tank that will make recommendations on government performance.

The director of the alliance, Shelley Metzenbaum, will talk about its

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Inslee signs tech-spending bill that is stripped of contracting out language

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law Wednesday that aims to bring more security and results from the state’s estimated $1 billion a year outlay for information technology and services.

I’ve written a print story about Senate Bill 5891 for print editions of The Olympian and News Tribune. One high profile element of the bill requires state agencies and universities to have IT security plans and gives the state’s relatively new chief information officer, Michael Cockrill, a leading role in setting standards for that security.

The legislation also creates a purchasing pool for technology projects, lets smaller pilot projects bypass

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UPDATE – Budget deal to use ‘pilot projects’ to let some part time employees get healthcare via Obamacare exchange

Senate Ways and Means chairman Andy Hill says the handshake budget agreement reached with the House negotiators at 10:40 a.m. Thursday does not force part time state or K-12 employees into the Obamacare health exchange to get their health coverage.  Instead, the goal is to try pilot projects that a limited number of unions could opt to consider, Hill said.

The Republican budget writer spoke shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee announced the budget agreement in a minute-long press conference.

Labor unions including the Washington Federation of State Employees had been strongly opposed to any mandatory push that created a two-tier

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State workers in ‘wait-and-see’ mode as layoff warnings go out

As state employees began receiving notices Monday that they could be furloughed starting July 1, worry and uncertainty prevailed at many offices.

Some state workers remained optimistic that lawmakers would pass a budget in time to avoid any temporary layoffs, while others expressed frustration that the Legislature, which is in the middle of a second 30-day overtime session to finalize a two-year spending plan, still hadn’t completed its work.

Should lawmakers fail to pass a budget before June 30, a government shutdown will begin July 1, completely closing 34 state offices and partially shutting down 24 others, state officials said last

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