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    Rushing to the doors, lawmakers help homeless, take chance on losing school aid

    Lawmakers approve homeless bill, vets' tuition break but fail to agree on other hot issues.
    Washington's Capitol seen from across Capitol Lake.

    Washington's Capitol seen from across Capitol Lake. Photo: Aidan Wakely-Mulroney

    As a host of bills died as the Legislature rushed to adjournment, lawmakers approved a hotly fought measure to help the homeless.

    Large majorities in the Senate and House voted late Thursday to extend a $40 home-sales record fee, which is used to help low-income and homeless people with rent in public and private housing.

    The bill sponsored by Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, keeps the $40 fee to 2019, guaranteeing the funds through most of the decade. The fee had been scheduled to be phased out over four years, dropping in $10 steps annually beginning next year to disappear in 2018.

    Besides extending the $40 fee, the bill requires 45 percent of the proceeds to be spent on private rentals, and an audit of the program by July 1, 2015. Also, the state Commerce Department is to convene a stakeholders group to make recommendations on long-term funding of the program by Dec. 1, 2017.

    "When you look at this $40, it seems so small compared to a $380,000 home," said Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island. Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, said, "I've never figured out why it took so long for this bill to pass. ... This issue of homelessness is something we cannot turn our backs on."

    Thursday's bill passage settled a brouhaha that began Feb. 27, when Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard and co-chair of the Senate Financial Institutions Committee, blocked a House bill to protect the home-sales recording fee. She did not explain her reasons at that time.

    Faced with bipartisan anger, Angel last week expressed concern about a lack of appropriate data from the state Department of Commerce and asked Gov. Jay Inslee to appoint a task force to study homeless funding. Inslee said Commerce had provided the appropriate data, that a task force was not needed and that the bill can be revived. Angel voted for the revised bill on Thursday.

    Among the other hits and misses on Thursday:

    • The Senate never voted on a teacher-evaluation system needed to protect the state from the possible loss of federal funding a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Senate Majority Caucus Coalition leaders did a vote count and had only 19 supporters -- the same number they had when conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats combined to defeat an earlier version of the bill 30-19. The Washington Education Association hated the proposed evaluation system. Inslee wanted the second attempt at passing the bill because the feds could block the $40 million in aid under the No Child Left Behind Act.

    "This is an absolute rejection of what the governor said we needed to get the waiver" from the No Child Left Behind requirements, said Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island. Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, contended that there is a chance that Washington can convince the feds to provide that waiver anyway. "We still have one of the best evaluation systems in the nation," she said.

    This leaves everyone wondering: What will the feds do? Gov.Jay Inslee will make another attempt to get the the federal goverment to cut Washington some slack on this matter, but he was pessimistic at midnight about the state's chances of doing so.l

    • House Democrats and the Senate failed in a joint effort to mesh the medical and recreational marijuana regulatory systems into one network. House Republicans stopped the effort because it lacked provisions to send some marijuana tax revenue to local governments to deal with pot-related issues. House Democrats contended the data did not exist yet to map out such allocations in state where marijuana is newly legal. The House Republicans, who make up more than a third of that chamber, held a trump card since recreational marijuana became legal under an initiative. A two-thirds majority in each chamber is needed to change any part of the recreational marijuana initiative during the first two years after the referendum passing.

    Medical marijuana is largely unregulated in Washington. The feds want Colorado and Washington to regulate both types of marijuana to show enough good faith in controlling pot. Rep. Eileen Cody, D- Seattle and House Democratic point person on the issue, said it is now unknown how the feds will react to a lack of medical marijuana regulations.

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    Posted Fri, Mar 14, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    I guess if teachers are flush enough that they're willing to turn down 40 million federal dollars so they can avoid being evaluated, we can vote "no" on future school levies with a clear conscience because they're obviously already getting enough money to pay for the bang-up job they do preparing students for the real world.

    Posted Mon, Mar 17, 10:09 a.m. Inappropriate

    Wow! Nearly all of the slanders and lies all in one place! How convenient.

    The teachers are not turning down $40 million. First, it is unlikely that the federal government really will cancel the waiver. Second, the state didn't even spend all of the money last year. Third, this is a microscopic part of the education budget. Fourth, the money will still come and will still be spent on educating children, but districts won't have as much control over how it is spent.

    Teachers are not flush. No one goes into teaching to get rich.

    Teachers are not avoiding evaluati on. Teachers get performance evaluations every year. This change in the law, if passed, would have required the use of a very poor measure of teacher effectiveness. It would have made the evaluations worse, not better.

    You can vote how you like for school levies, GuiltyBystander - it's not as if you have been for them until now. This issue has nothing to do with school levies.

    And, yes, teachers are doing a bang-up job of preparing students for the real world. Our students have the highest average SAT scores among any state with our level of participation in the test.

    Funny how the facts have no impact on your opinion. Perhaps that's because it is built on a belief system, not information.


    Posted Fri, Mar 14, 9:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    Federal education money is a loss leader for the feds to leverage one dollar of federal money to control ten dollars of our state money.

    Like the other states who have maintained state control of education, this is the direction of the future for successful states.

    Posted Fri, Mar 14, 2:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    Regarding the $40 fee for home sales to help the homeless.
    This is an important cause. Lets fund it out of the general fund and cut something less important out of the general fund.


    Posted Fri, Mar 14, 9:58 p.m. Inappropriate

    Or you can see the "waiver" for what it was - bullying by Sec. Duncan. WA state has one of the better teacher evaluation laws but it is new. We would change it just for Duncan before we even see how it is working? And consider, Duncan never said the waiver was guaranteed if the law was changed.

    I'll bet Duncan will saber-rattle some and then give at least a partial waiver.


    Posted Sat, Mar 15, 5:56 a.m. Inappropriate

    We don't have a funding problem for education, we just had the Legislature pass EHB 1287 and the Governor will sign to grant all off reservation properties owned by the Tribes, property tax exemptions. Millions of dollars back to the Tribes. All taxpayers in every community that has or will have Tribal owned properties just had their property taxes raised to pay for it. Where in the Washington State constitution does it say it is the paramount duty of the State to grant Tribes gaming monopolies, rebate gas taxes, exempt non-reservation properties from property taxes and allow Sovereign Nations to purchase our politicians through campaign donations? Is it the Gregiore Amendment?


    Posted Tue, Mar 18, 11:45 a.m. Inappropriate

    Cameron is right that tax exemptions are spending and should be seen as such. That goes for all tax exemptions.


    Posted Tue, Mar 18, 1:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    Cameron is right that tax exemptions are spending and should be seen as such. That goes for all tax exemptions.


    Posted Wed, Mar 19, 9:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    The Legislature (actually, the Senate) did NOT help the homeless. What they did was continue already-in-place legislation for another 4 years but pluck at least 45% of the funding out and give it to for-profit landlords. Under the House bill, all funding would have continued going to help projects to house and serve homeless people. Under the Senate's bill, which became law, only half. But we know that there are no more needy people in Washington state than for-profit apartment owners (and no more well-funded lobbyists than the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound). Disgusting.


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