Senators defend birth control
Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reject an attempt by a for-profit company to leave birth control out of its health insurance coverage on religious grounds. Seattle Times D.C. correspondent Kyung M. Song reports that Murray, Cantwell and 17 other senators have filed a friend of the court brief arguing that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act plainly didn't apply to secular businesses. Waiving the birth control mandate for religiously affiliated groups is on hold pending court arguments. — J.C.
Today in Olympia
- Gov. Jay Inslee proposed closing seven tax breaks as a way of raising $200 million to improve public schools. His targets for elimination include tax breaks favoring oil refineries, bottled-water sales and out-of-state shoppers. As the governor's press release noted, he made similar suggestions last year. Our math is rusty but we figure that the half-life of the average tax break in Washington is eons. (Or at least decades: the refinery break dates to 1949.) — J.C.
- Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords told legislators that Initiative 594's proposal for background checks on all gun sales makes sense for public safety. Giffords, who was severely injured in a mass shooting in Arizona, said it would take courage to enact the measure, which will go to voters if lawmakers don't approve it. Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, are gun owners. Crosscut's John Stang will have a full report from the hearing. — J.C.
- An employer would be able to hire teens (14-19-year-olds) as summer employees for as little as the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 an hour) from June 1 to Aug. 31 each year. That's according to a bill filed by Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane. Washington's minimum wage is $9.32 an hour. This measure, which allows the lower summer pay, is the latest in a series of colliding minimum wage bills in Olympia. Democrats have introduced a bill to gradually increase the state minimum wage (to $12 an hour); Republicans have a bill forbidding cities such as Seattle from raising its minimum above the state level. There's also a Republican bill, dormant but still breathing, to create a "training wage" (75 percent of the minimum wage) for workers during their first 680 hours on the job. — J.S.
Copping a deal
Seattle Police officer Christopher Hairston has made a deal that could see assault charges against him dismissed in two years if he has no further issues with the law. City Attorney Pete Holmes' office says dismissing the charges is also contingent on Hairston performing 120 hours of community service and avoiding contact with his alleged victim, John Ross. Ross was taken into custody after he allegedly assaulted Hairston's wife Katherine, a police officer. A 2012 video showed Christopher Hairston "forcefully placing his hands on the face and neck" of Ross, according to a statement from the attorney's office. The SPD's Office of Professional Accountability is also reviewing Christopher Hairston's actions. — J.C.
Just saving his strength, NFL
Seahawks' media shy running back Marshawn Lynch showed up at a mandatory Super Bowl media day — for nearly 7 minutes. Well, okay, 6 minutes and 20 seconds but who's counting besides ESPN — and NFL enforcers of rules that requirie players to talk to reporters? And seriously, hasn't Richard Sherman talked enough for the whole team? — J.C.
Speaking of Sherman: Here's a Stephen Colbert video that seattlepi.com spotted earlier. Best part: His mockery of the idea that calling Sherman a "thug" isn't racist.
Credit: Photo of Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly by John Stang
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