Transportation package: Half agree
The state Senate Majority Coalition Caucus presented a new transportation package Thursday built around an 11.5 cents per gallon increase in the state gasoline tax. Leaders of the Republican-dominated coalition only managed to muster support from 13 of their 26 members. But coalition leaders say their package will provide the basis for negotiations on an overall plan with the Democratic-led House and Gov. Jay Inslee. Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom suggested that final agreement on a transportation package is still possible by the end of the current legislative session (March 13). Others sounded less optimistic. House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn said the Senate majority needs to resolve its own differences. Crosscut's John Stang is reporting on the developments. — J.C.
No Doc in the House
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, a conservative Republican, announced Thursday that he's retiring from Congress this year, opening the way for a fall election fight over his seat in the Yakima area. Hastings' 4th Congressional District generally swings Republican, though not necessarily in a particularly libertarian way: State data show the district went for Mitt Romney by a large margin in 2012 and against gay marriage (Referendum 74) and marijuana legalization (Initiative 502). One name already mentioned (by Politico) as a possible replacement for Hastings is Republican state Sen. Curtis King, who has co-chaired the Transportation Committee and works well with fellow co-chair Sen. Tracey Eide, a Democrat. The district's last Democratic congressional representative? Gov. Jay Inslee, whom Hastings beat in 1994. Hastings, 73, said "it is time for voters to choose a new person with new energy." — J.C.
Ramping up homeless efforts
Pointing to a sharp increase in the number of people sleeping on the street or in vehicles, United Way of King County said Thursday that it and other groups are increasing their efforts to get people into housing. United Way is putting some $550,000 of "crisis response" money into efforts to use shelters more effectively, increase the number of shelter beds (especially in some parts of King County outside Seattle) and move homeless people into permanent housing much more rapidly. United Way said the city of Seattle, King County and other groups are also spending more money to help the homeless. The One Night Count in late January found 3,123 people on the streets. That's up 14 percent since last year. — J.C.
Today in Olympia: Homeless kids in school
- Washington's Senate passed a bill Wednesday to better track homeless children in schools. The bill, approved 48-0 in the Senate, now moves on to the House. Seattle Democrat Sen.David Frockt's measure would require school districts to survey their homeless students every other year and report survey results to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The reports are supposed to include numbers of homeless students; what programs they are in; academic performance; standardized test scores; graduation rates; and absenteeism. Frockt said there are roughly 31,000 homeless kids in the state's schools — a number that is on the rise. — J.S.
Comcast über America
Mayor Ed Murray is smoking hot about the Comcast merger with Time Warner, saying he is "very troubled" by the news, hopes federal regulators will block the merger and wants to strengthen cable competition. He raised the possibility of the city ending Comcast's local franchise when it comes up for renewal in 2016 if local needs aren't well served. The Slog praises Murray's stance, also noting that Comcast was a big contributor to Murray's 2013 mayoral campaign. — J.C.
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