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Archives: March 2013

March
28th

UPDATE – Inslee’s budget outline upholds worker contracts, suspends COLAs for teachers – overall adds $660M-plus for worker compensation

Public sector workers in state government agencies got a boost from Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget outline Thursday, which proposes to honor contracts with some two-dozen worker unions while also raising taxes to pump $1.2 billion in new spending into K-12 public schools. All told, Inslee’s outline supports an increase in employee compensation of more than $660 million – if pay for private home care workers hired through the Medicaid program is included.

On the other hand, Inslee calls for a suspension of Initiative 732 for the third straight budget cycle, canceling cost-of-living raises for teachers. The Washington Education Association criticizes that

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March
26th

Questions raised about lawmakers doing ‘Columbo’-style detective work on ethics allegations

PETER FALK
Peter Falk, aka “Columbo”

Washington’s insufficient protections for ethics whistle blowers create a “chilling effect” on state employees, Executive Ethics Board director Melanie DeLeon told lawmakers today.

“If you want to file a complaint against your supervisor, you feel like you’re going to be retaliated against,” she said after talking to the House Government Operations and Elections Committee. “So they don’t. They don’t file it.”

But criticism emerged today of the fix suggested by Sen. Mike Carrell. His proposed overhaul of ethics laws passed the Senate 47-0 and escaped scrutiny from Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget office, which now says it has noticed some problems.

Among them is a provision letting elected officials keep files secret on their own personal investigations of wrongdoing. The agency said it would encourage separate investigations by politicians parallel to official probes.

A newspaper lobbyist agreed that’s not the role of elected officials. ”You’d be out there in a sort of ‘Columbo’-esque way trying to figure out what happened,” Rowland Thompson told lawmakers.

“I do have an old raincoat,” joked the committee chairman, Rep. Sam Hunt.

Carrell, a Republican senator from Lakewood, did his own sleuthing in a case that inspired the bill. Read more »

March
22nd

State treasurer adds voice in opposition to pension changes that could put more workers in 401(k)-style plans

State Treasurer Jim McIntire is lining up with many of his fellow Democrats in opposition to a Senate plan to alter Washington’s state-government pensions. McIntire voiced his opposition to using a 401(k) or defined contribution plan in an op-ed column Friday in the Seattle Times.

One proposal from Republican Sen. Barbara Bailey is voluntary, letting new state hires opt in if they prefer to go to the more flexible approach that offers fewer guarantees in old age. But McIntire argues there is no problem to solve and that employees are not demanding the new option:

If

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March
18th

Federation of State Employees recalls fights, agreements with Booth Gardner

Here’s what the Washington Federation of State Employees had to say on its website Sunday about Booth Gardner, whom the union backed for governor in 1984 but not when he ran for re-election in 1988, according to the post. Gardner died Friday night.

The union lauded him for settling a lawsuit that led to higher pay for female state workers, while also recalling his fights with the union over collective bargaining, raises and health care:

Gov. Booth Gardner, who died Saturday (March 16) at the age of 76, is being remembered as a humble guy who never flaunted his

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March
15th

Washington law on minimum wage looking like template for U.S. reformers

A Stateline.org news report this morning suggests that the Washington’s approach to setting the minimum wage – now the nation’s highest at $9.19 an hour – is a model for other states going forward. The report by Pamela Prah says 10 states are looking at increases and some are using an index tied to inflation that would keep the minimum rising over time.

That is exactly what Washington voters approved in 1998 by approving an initiative sponsored by the Washington State Labor Council. As Prah wrote:

“Indexing is certainly the trend in the states,” says Jen Kern, the minimum

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March
13th

Senate approves bill requiring wellness incentives, penalties for state workers

A controversial wellness bill for state employees passed the Senate on a divided vote of 28-21 Wednesday afternoon. Senate Bill 5811 requires financial incentives including premium price breaks or higher premiums to encourage employees to achieve wellness goals.

The vote came just hours before a 5 p.m. cutoff for passing policy bills off the House or Senate floors. The Washington Federation of State Employees had criticized earlier versions of the bill from Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who had wanted to strip workers of their collective bargaining rights on health benefits.

The amendment offered on the

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March
13th

Gov. Inslee reappoints Olympia veteran Kaleen Cottingham to lead state Recreation and Conservation Office

Gov. Jay Inslee named another Olympia veteran to serve in his Cabinet. The state Recreation and Conservation Office announced the reappointment of Kaleen Cottingham today in a news release. Cottingham has been at the agency that awards grants for recreation and salmon recovery since 2007 and worked previously for the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control and Shorelines Hearings Board.

The news release from agency spokeswoman Susan Zemek is here:

Governor Reappoints Cottingham to State Recreation, Conservation and Salmon Recovery Agency

OLYMPIA – Governor Jay Inslee has reappointed Kaleen Cottingham as the director

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March
12th

Inslee names new leaders for Agriculture and Health agencies; retains Bette Hyde at Dept. of Early Learning

 

Gov. Jay Inslee continued to fill out his cabinet with three appointments announced this morning. He is keeping Bette Hyde as director of the Department of Early Learning, while replacing Agriculture director Dan Newhouse with Bud Hover, who is an Okanogan County commissioner and has a ranch in Winthrop.

The Democratic governor also is replacing retiring Health Secretary Mary Selecky – the longest serving current agency leader who began her public health career in Colville – with another local, public health director, John Wiesman, who is in charge of Clark County’s public health agency.

In replacing Newhouse with

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