The state's budget gap grew today with a report saying some key services will cost an extra $300 million. That's primarily because of more use of Medicaid services than expected, according to Associated Press. Lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee have essentially put off doing anything about 2013-15 budget decisions until today's report and a much more important revenue forecast next Wednesday.
School hiring freeze
Seattle Public Schools said this afternoon that it is imposing a partial hiring and spending freeze. The announcement mentions uncertainty around the amount of education money and federal budget cuts. The district says an anticipated $2.5 million in savings from the freeze will help close a potential $18 million shortfall for the coming school year's budget.
The hiring portion of the freeze applies to "non-critical" positions. The district separately said it is searching to fill a vacant position of regional executive director overseeing Southeast Seattle, where a number of the district's underperforming schools are.
Ovarian cancer and the night shift (added at 5:11 p.m.)
A study done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has found a possible link between ovarian cancer and working a night shift. The study also said women who consider themselves night owls may have less risk of cancer from working a night shift.
The study, just published in the Britain-based Occupational Health and Medicine journal, found a 24 percent increase in the risk of developing an advanced case of the cancer among those who had worked night shifts. The risk of developing an early stage cancer went up 49 percent. The authors, led by Dr. Parveen Bhatti, said the link to night-shift work occurred in statistically significant numbers among women aged 50 and above.
A news release said the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers work that disrupts the body’s normal sense of time a cause of cancer. Researchers have long suspected a link between night-time exposure to light and increased risk of breast cancer.
Bike club leader pedaling away
Cascade Bicycle Club Exeuctive Director Chuck Ayers announced today that he is leaving, and a national search will look for a replacement. He says the club's membership recently surpassed 15,000 and its influence is growing, but it's "the right time" to move on.
Only in Seattle would that be real political news — OK, maybe in Portland, too. But remember that an attempt by the club's board to ease out Ayers a few years ago indeed led to an ouster: a member-driven recall election that removed most of the board. His message seems to aim at heading off any to-the-barricades reaction, writing, "Though this may be a surprise to you, I have been thinking about this transition for a while." We trust that's true: The club's emphasis under Ayers on all-around environmental and economic sustainability is admirable.
The Herald in Everett's editorial board today called for a state initiative to require background checks for all gun sales. Some gun-control advocates have already signaled they might run an initiative in the wake of the failure of the House Democrats to close the gun-show loophole. Seattle Democratic Rep. Reuven Carlyle sees one last chance for legislative action: Members are holding town hall meetings in their own districts this weekend. Until members of both parties have a chance to hear the reaction of soccer moms to inaction on guns, he says, "it is a little early" to jump to an initiative.
Health survey: Pot up, tobacco down
A new student survey shows the state's high school students are more likely to smoke pot than tobacco. And that's before the legalization of marijuana hits with full force, as AP reports. New state Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Kevin Quigley noted that alcohol use was declining, but said many young people feel they need greater support in making smart choices. More than a quarter of students from 12 to 17 years old said they had been so sad they dropped their usual activities for two weeks or more. And a sixth had considered suicide. A fact sheet on substance usage results has some tips for adults.
Coal port delay
Worried about a rejection, the company behind a proposed coal export facility in Boardman, Oregon, has reluctantly agreed to wait until Sept. 1 for a state decision on a permit application, The Oregonian reported this afternoon. Ambre Energy also finally agreed to respond to state Department of Lands requests for more information related to the effects of exporting coal for burning overseas. Writer Scott Learn said that port developer Ambre hopes its facility is small enough to get a quicker review than those proposed for Bellingham and Longview.
Tom McCall anniversary in Oregon
Speaking of Oregon, Crosscut writer Floyd McKay will speak next Thursday at an Oregon Historical Society panel discussion honoring the 100th anniversary of former Oregon Gov. Tom McCall's birth. McCall, a Republican, helped define the Northwest's national reputation for independent, progressive thinking with early concerns about growth and the environment. A few years ago, McKay wrote a Crosscut article about how the Nixon administration's placing of deadly chemical weapons in Oregon transformed McCall from a cautious administrator to an activist — just as the first Earth Day celebrations occurred. Details on the event are here.
Seattle film in PBS contest
Seattle filmmaker Eric Becker's short film, "Honor the Treaties," follows the story of fellow Seattle artist and photographer Aaron Huey, who spent seven years photographing the violence and suffering of life on South Dakota's Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation. At some point in his experience, Huey turned from journalist to activist and joined up with prominent street artist Shepard Fairey to create a campaign honoring the people of the Lakota tribe. Now the film has made it into the PBS Online Film Festival and viewers can vote for their favorite among 25 short films through March 22.
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