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    The Daily Troll: Who's paying Bertha's bills? Oly's education homework. Are GMOs irrelevant?

    Plus Russell Wilson's favorite books and Sen. Ericksen goes nuclear.

    Kick your horses, legislators.

    Washington legislators aren't doing enough to ensurethat  the state adequately funds K-12 public education. That's the ruling laid down before a crowning 2014 legislative session today by the State Supreme Court, according to an article by the Tacoma News Tribune's Jordan Schrader. The court said that though the Legislature took "meaningful steps" last year when it allocated an additional $1 billion to K-12, members are still not on target to adequately fund public education. The 2014 legislative session kicks off on Monday. Sounds like lawmakers have their work cut out for them. — B.A.

    Update 9:00 p.m. Seattle Top Story talked to state schools Superintendent Randy Dorn about the impact of the court order.


    Whose bill is Bertha's?

    No one in the Inslee administration or the Legislature has firm answers about who will pick up the tab for the Bertha tunneling mess on Seattle's waterfront. At an Associated Press media briefing on the upcoming legislative session, Gov. Jay Inslee said that for now it's more important to maintain good relations with the contractor and focus on fixing the problem, instead of sorting through blame. Then he expressed confidence that the state won't face extra costs. House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn said that the "design-build" nature of the project means the contractors should bear the costs -- "if we have written our contracts right."

    That might make us feel better -- if we hadn't just read Knute Berger's story on the state Department of Transportation's role as "the gang who couldn't drill straight." Clibborn did say flat out that Seattle won't get stuck with cost overruns, noting that the contract language about those benefitting from the project is impossibly vague. Expect differing opinions on that matter to get a good hearing. Robert Mak of Seattle Top Story was at the briefing sessions and has a great taste of the flavor of the discussion among legislators. — J.C.


    GMO Nihilism

    Grist's Nathanael Johnson, who has spent the last six months researching GMOs for the publication, weighed in on his research today with a resoundingly nihilistic reflection. It would make no difference, he says, whether all GMOs were outlawed or all were allowed.  His disaffectation aside, another of Johnson's main points is a good one and one we watched derail Washington's GMO labeling initiative last fall: GMOs are neither universally good nor universally bad — despite powerful narratives to the contrary on both sides.

    But where Johnson — and in fact the Yes on 522 campaign — fell short is by stopping there. A constructive conversation about GMOs needs to start by addressing their possibilities and risks in real terms: By proposing a set of regulations that would embrace the potential of genetically engineered food, while also guarding against its dangers. — B.A.

    Sen. Ericksen goes nuclear

    State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R- Ferndale, was so excited about his nuclear energy bill that he pre-filed it on Wednesday, a full five days before the legislative session starts. Ericksen's bill would create a taskforce to study whether to expand nuclear power in Washington as part of an effort to mitigate carbon emissions and climate change. Ericksen is one of two Republican members of Gov. Jay Inslee's climate change panel, which has split drastically along party lines in terms of how to deal with the issue. Ericksen's bill would give the proposed bipartisan taskforce until Dec.1 to make recommendations. A public hearing is tentatively set for next Thursday in Olympia. — J.S.

    What does Russell Wilson read?

    Seahawks golden boy (and quarterback) Russell Wilson talked with ESPN yesterday about some of his top book picks. MyNorthwest.com has immortalized them in slideshow form today. There's nothing too surprising there — inspirational football book, another inspirational football book, inspirational God book, another inspirational God book — but the fact that one of Wilson's picks is New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees' "Coming Back Stronger" could be a subtle jab at the team he'll be going up against this weekend at home: I've done my homework and I know how you think. Come and get it.  — B.A.

    Joe Copeland is political editor for Crosscut. You can reach him at Joe.Copeland@crosscut.com.

    John Stang covers state government for Crosscut. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.

    Berit Anderson is Managing Editor at Crosscut, where she follows tech, culture, environment, media and politics. Previously community manager of the Tribune Company’s Seattle blogging network, her work has also appeared in YES! Magazine and on the Huffington Post, Geekwire, Q13Fox.com and KBCS 91.3 radio. She served as Communications Director at Strategic News Service, a weekly newsletter that predicts global trends in tech and economics, and Future in Review, an annual tech conference which gathers C-level executives to solve global problems. You can find her on Twitter @Berit_Anderson or reach her at berit.anderson@crosscut.com.

    Bill Lucia writes about Seattle City Hall and politics for Crosscut. He can be reached at bill.lucia@crosscut.com and you can follow him on Twitter @bill_lucia.

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    Posted Thu, Jan 9, 5:54 p.m. Inappropriate

    Well, if the greeners want less fossil fuels, they should get behind Rep. Ericksen's bill.

    Bet they don't as that is not their REAL agenda.

    And the Supremes and ed reform (read money) They can scream "not good enuf" all they want, but they sound just like an old girlfriend who did the aame. Never tell you where the goalposts are, just chant, not good enough. I 86ed the GF and would like to do the same with the Supremes. At least she was better lookin'.


    Posted Thu, Jan 9, 9:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    Looks like this Crosscut article about those crazy kids who manage our pet megaprojects is destined to become a classic.


    Could be relevant for another ten years.


    Posted Fri, Jan 10, 10:18 a.m. Inappropriate

    I hope Ms. Clibborn is going to voluntarily pick up the tab for the tunnel cost overruns because the law as it stands allocates that risk to Seattle taxpayers. I think we're getting a preview of the [losing] arguments that will be made in the inevitable lawsuit before the courts tell us what we already know--the law is clear and unambiguous, Seattle taxpayers are on the hook. At which point I'm definitely moving.


    Posted Sat, Jan 11, 6:02 a.m. Inappropriate

    Seattle taxpayers are on the hook.

    Nope. What the state statute says is that if a LID is formed the Seattle-area property owners benefited by the WSDOT projects can be assessed for WSDOT's costs over $2.8 BLN.

    Want some details about that unique statute (technically it was an amendment sponsored by Judy Clibborn to ESSB 5768, at the behest of Frank Chopp). Months after all the hearings on ESSB 5768, Clibborn's amendment with its cost-shifting provisions was introduced (on April 22, 2009):


    Here is that law, as enacted; ESSB 5768 is codified as RCW 47.01.402(6)(b):

    ( http://www.apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=47.01.402 ).

    A local government with LID-forming authority now is perfectly free to form a LID for the purposes of paying the amounts over $2.8 billion that WSDOT racks up. No vote of the people would be required, and no change in state law would need to be made if, say, the Port of Seattle commissioners decided to do that. They could use its existing statutory authority (RCW 53.08.050) to form a new LID and begin the assessments as soon as WSDOT says it’ll need additional money beyond the $2.8 billion cap. Those assessments would start going out to hundreds of property owners, the ones that Lloyd Hara deems have properties that have increased assessed values due to the projects.

    The democrats who cooked this up apparently still don't want the public to know what's going on though. They still are playing stupid about it in their press releases.


    Posted Sun, Jan 12, 7:11 a.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks for the cites, crossrip. I'll look them up. That said, and not yet having read the statute(s), I fully expect some kind of drive to make all of us responsible for the cost overruns. I can easily think of several arguments that could be made that all properties somehow "benefit" from the tunnel.


    Posted Fri, Jan 10, 1:04 p.m. Inappropriate

    RE: Bertha cost overrun buck-passing...it's worthy to note the same State Senate Majority Leader who signed off on the legislation approving the tunnel is now the mayor of the city where said tunnel is being (occasionally) dug. Ed Murray will make sure everyone in the state pays for this. Count on it.

    As for GMOs, I voted against 522 because A) it cherrypicked grocery stores to require the labeling while restaurants were essentially given a free pass and B) there is no empirical evidence that GMOs have harmed people who've consumed food with them...yet. Keep up the research and the next time similar legislation is submitted, make EVERY food provider comply with it.

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