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Tuesday 25 Feb, 2014

The That sinking viaduct feeling. Olympia tense over budget. Sen. Benton squawks at fellow Republicans.

Cleaning up at La Conner

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

The Department of Ecology finished raising all six sunken boats from a La Conner marina fire Tuesday afternoon, according to spokesperson Lisa Copeland. Those boats, plus another destroyed one, will be barged away and examined by investigators looking into the Friday afternoon fire that caused an estimated $1 million worth of damage. So far, Ecology officials say the fire caused no harm to wildlife. — C.H. 

More liquor sticker shock

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

The problem with rising liquor prices is back. According to the Department of Revenue, two years after the 2011 Initiative 1183 vote, we saw an 11 percent hike in the cost of booze. And we could see another spike at bars and restaurants, according to Associated Press. Why? Because I-1183 didn't allow for distributors to offer volume-based discounts to bar and restaurant owners. The Puget Sound Business Journal says prices could climb as much as 15 percent if the Legislature doesn't make changes in the law. The question hanging over our heads: How much are we willing to pay for that martini? — H.W.

Today in Olympia: Republican vs. Republicans 

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

Washington Senate Deputy Majority Leader Don Benton, R-Vancouver, scolded 14 House Republicans, including their leader Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish, for voting yes on a bill to tighten regulations on signature-gathering for initiatives. The bill is opposed by Mukilteo initiative promoter Tim Eyman. The House passed that bill 71-26 on Feb.17. It would require signature gatherers to register with the Washington Secretary of State. "I am deeply disturbed by your 'yes' vote on the Democrats' House Bill 2552  …," Benton wrote to his fellow Republicans on Tuesday. "HB 2552 is one of the most oppressive Big Government anti-initiative bills they've ever tried. And you voted for it!" The bill is now in the Senate Government Operations Committee, where Benton is vice chair.  — J.S. 

Dems seek more ed dollars

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

Senate Democrats unveiled a plan to put an extra $101 million into educational improvements as a way to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling and revive cost-of-living raises for teachers. Crosscut's John Stang reports that Dems would raise the millions by ending five tax breaks for businesses; we'll post a full story shortly. The Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has a budget proposal with considerably less for education and no provision for teacher raises. Budget impasse, anyone? — J.C. 

Bertha and the Viaduct: Closer than ever?

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

The Washington State Department of Transportation advises citizens to chill about reports that the Alaskan Way Viaduct is settling farther into the ground. The sinking was anticipated in the planning process for boring the tunnel that will replace the nearby viaduct, WSDOT said in a statement Tuesday. Monitors detected ground settlement of as much as .4 inches, which is "well within" the limits set by engineers. And the department said it can do more to shore up the viaduct if need be. We hope. — J.C.

Monday 24 Feb, 2014

The Holdengate continued. Senate stiffs teachers. Preparing for a transit election.

Seattle's boom

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle's is adding population at a faster pace than its neighboring cities in suburban King County, The Seattle Times reports. Incredibly, notes the paper's FYI Guy Gene Balk, this is the first time Seattle has outpaced its neighbors in a century. The new census estimates cover the years 2010-2012.

Floating a gondola idea in Kirkland

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

In an effort to speed up mass transit improvements, the City of Kirkland is considering gondolas — a relatively low-cost option that could be up and running much more quickly than light rail, according to The Seattle Times. (And so much more romantic.) The comprehensive article by Alexa Vaughn notes that the unexpectedly high costs of Portland's gondola system initially scared some Kirklanders, but Oragon's difficulties were deemed an exception. If nothing else, the gondola idea could keep radio talk shows gainfully employed. On KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, Dori Monson immediately proclaimed, "This is the stupidest idea ever," suggested that we all get out of our cars and trains and gondolas and lose weight by walking. 

Metro Transit rescue

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

Members of the King County Council were holding a meeting this afternoon to discuss an April 22 public vote on a rescue for Metro Transit, which faces a possible 17 percent cut in services, and local roads. The measure would ask for public approval of a .1 percent sales tax and a new $60 annual fee on vehicles. The agenda for the Transportation Benefit District provides for a possible vote, but the council has until March 7 to get the measure on the ballot.

stiffs teachers

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus unveiled a supplemental budget of $96 million on Monday afternoon. One key addition, according to Crosscut's John Stang, is $38 million for improving education but nothing for teachers. Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed $200 for education, including cost-of-living raises for teachers. John will have a full report shortly. 

Budget proposal

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

Holdengate

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle Police have reinstated a misconduct finding against the officer who threatened Stranger editor Dominic Holden. At a hastily called press conference, Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey said he had "sent the wrong message" to the public when he dropped the original misconduct finding. Mayor Ed Murray, who had supported Bailey's initial reversal, sent out a statement saying "the buck stops with me." He said he directed Bailey to reinstate the finding, which goes on the officer's record, but he praised Bailey at length. Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com called the misstep "the new administration's first major embarrassment." Murray has been on the job since Jan. 1. A lot of critics thought then-new Mayor Mike McGinn's first stumble was the mid-January 2010 press conference where he announced plans for a seawall replacement without getting City Council members lined up to support him. So, Mayor Murray, join the club.

Friday 21 Feb, 2014

The Police controversy tweeting up. Inslee ponders bump in minimum wage. Railroads accept oil train precautions.

Oil by rail

at 4:14pm by John Stang

Railroads agreed Friday to voluntary measures that would improve the safety of oil train shipments. The measures include reducing speeds, stepping up track inspections and installing advanced braking systems on trains carrying 20 or more cars of crude oil. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen praised the agreement, but said that more safety improvements are needed. He plans to meet with officials from cities and counties along Washington's rail corridors this week to hear their concerns. Seattle City Council held a hearing on oil train issues Friday afternoon. Here's our earlier story on cities' concerns. — J.C.

Ferries steeled for fuel savings

at 4:14pm by John Stang

You remember those three 64-car state ferries that tilted slightly to the side in their normal state, which was a bit embarrassing. To straighten two of them up ( the Salish and the Kennewick),  the Washington State Ferries poured tons of granular steel shot. Since then, both have worked better. According to reporter Jerry Cornfield of The Herald, the average fuel consumption on both vessels dropped from 83.7 gallons per hour in late 2012 to 71.7 gallons per hour in late 2013. That decline means $233,000 in savings over six months. The Chetzemoka is the next ballast candidate. — J.S. 

Is Inslee serious about minimum wage for state workers?

at 4:14pm by John Stang

Gov. Jay Inslee acknowledged Friday that he might at some point consider raising the minimum wage for workers employed on state contracts. That casual trial balloon was launched in response to a reporter's question at a Friday telephone press conference. Inslee said he might consider that approach, along with other possibilities, months down the road. Right now, a $12-per-hour-minimum wage bill by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, is still stalled in the state House. Inslee is in Washington, D.C. , meeting with President Barack Obama, the nation's governors and several cabinet secretaries on a variety of subjects. The governor said Obama told him that his own underlying philosophy on minimum wage is that raising it would mean more spending by workers, which would benefit businesses. — J.S. 

Murray can't tweet police problem away

at 4:14pm by John Stang

Updated at 5:47 p.m.Mayor Ed Murray held a press conference Friday afternoon in an attempt to defuse mounting questions about police discipline decisions by his interim police chief, Harry Bailey. Murray said that Bailey had changed one disciplinary decision, substituting additional training for the punishment of a day without pay. Earlier, in response to questions on Twitter, Murray tweeted that Bailey was making an individual decision in the case of the officer who threatened to come to the Stranger's offices to harass news editor Dominic Holden. Responding to a message from Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com, Murray released a letter from Bailey telling top officials that retraining would be "far more productive" than punishment. Mid-afternoon, The Seattle Times' Steve Miletich reported that City Councilmember Tim Burgess has written a pointed note to Bailey.  — J.C.

Thursday 20 Feb, 2014

The 'McPoverty' protests spread across city. AG won't defend OR marriage ban. Viaduct traffic plummets.

Juvie records bill

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

A bill to keep the records of juvenile offenders confidential in most cases will go to a hearing at 10 a.m. Monday before the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee. Under the bill by Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, a juvenile's court file would be kept confidential, except in cases of serious violent offenses, sex offenses, first-  and second-degree assault of a child and several other categories. Washington is one of the few states that makes minor juvenile offenses public records — and even sells them — which often makes it difficult for reformed offenders to find jobs and housing. The House passed the bill 96-0. Crosscut has been covering this issue with stories here and also here. — J.S.

Unionizing part-timers at Seattle U.

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

The Service Employees International Union 925 said Thursday that non-tenure faculty at Seattle University are seeking to form a union. It's the latest in a series of efforts by increasingly large numbers of part-time or temporary faculty at public and private institutions to win greater protections and better wages. Seattle University has a statement on its website expressing concerns about union representation but detailing steps it has been taking to improve conditions for faculty.— J.C. 

Marshawn Lynch about to plea

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch will plead guilty to reckless driving and prosecutors will drop a charge of driving under the influence, according to media reports. His agent tells USA Today that Lynch could have beaten the DUI charge but didn't want to go through a trial. — J.C. 

Don't weep for Bertha

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Sightline's Clark Williams-Derry reports that traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct has dropped drastically since the state started its (currently stopped) tunnel project. He suggests four likely reasons for the decline (48,000 trips over three 3 years), including people moving to buses and a general decline in car traffic through downtown. There's also some shifting of vehicle traffic from the viaduct to I-5 and downtown streets. And because of delays associated with construction, some people have started consolidating trips, creating — bonus! — more efficient use of roads and cars. Williams-Derry's conclusion: "Seattle can survive, and even thrive, without a viaduct or a tunnel." So, if Bertha has reached her final resting place, as some skeptics fear, maybe that's not so bad after all. — J.C.

Courtesy of Sightline  

Police punishment reversed

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey told The Seattle Times on Thursday that he erased a one-day suspension for an officer who had threatened news editor Dominic Holden of The Stranger. Bailey said the officer, who reacted when Holden stopped to watch police surround a man at the International District transit station, will instead receive additional training. Holden told The Times that the department has plenty of opportunities to improve training for the officer and others. King County recently fired a deputy who threatened to arrest Holden for taking pictures from the sidewalk, which is legal. — J.C. 

Oregon AG just can't defend marriage discrimination

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Oregon's attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, has told a federal court that she cannot defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage. As Joel Connelly describes it on seattlepi.com, her statement, filed Thursday, is "one more serious jolt" to the walls blocking full marriage equality. Rosenblum framed her decision in rather dry legal terms, saying Oregon's 2004 constitutional ban on gay marriage "cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review." But since there's always a certain political risk in failing to defend a voter-approved provision to state law, her decision could also be seen as an act of conscience. — J.C. 

'McPoverty' protest

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Activists took the $15 minimum wage campaign to local fast-food restaurants on Wednesday, calling for a boycott of places that pay workers less per hour. At a downtown event near the McDonald's at 3rd and Pine, some 50 to 60 marched, waving signs calling for a $15 per hour minimum wage in the city. "Supersize our wages now!" Socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant told the crowd, adding "We want more candidates who support workers and their needs." Other "Boycott McPoverty" events were held during the morning at Wendy's, Burger King and McDonald's outlets from Lake City to Ballard and Mount Baker. A late afternoon event was scheduled for West Seattle. — H.W. 

Wednesday 19 Feb, 2014

The New limits on pot profits. Burglars on film. Wyoming lawyers up to fight for coal port access.

Burglars on camera

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Everyone wants to go viral, right? Except maybe the burglars who broke into the Federal Way home of Chris Beaver, who had recently installed a camera and sound system to watch and talk to his two pugs while he was at work. KIRO-TV reports Beaver's cell phone signaled him that there was activity inside the house; when he looked at his phone, he expected video of his pugs at play. Instead, a strange man and woman were ransacking his house. Fortunately, when the pair headed out with their haul, a crowd of Federal Way officers was waiting. — J.C.

Broadband: Portland scores

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Seattleites hoping for local installation of the Google Fiber Internet service — or any other high speed broadband service — may be out of luck. The company announced 34 U.S. cities as possible sites for expansion, but Seattle wasn't one of them. Among the chosen were nine metro areas, including Portland, our neighbor to the south. The company hopes to bring the service to some of the areas by the end of the year. So, why not Seattle? Geekwire reached out to Google and got a vague statement about needing to "concentrate our efforts on just a few areas for now." — M.C.

Today in Olympia

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

  • A Senate oil transportation safety bill might be revived in the next three weeks before the current legislative session ends. Senate Republican Leader, Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said Wednesday that the bill — which failed to make a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline for a floor vote — could be resurrected. Maybe as an amendment to another bill. On Tuesday, the Democratic-controlled House passed its own oil-transportation safety bill, which is now in the Senate. The House bill confers more regulatory power on the state than the Republicans want. — J.S.  
  • State Rep.Janéa Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, moved her name from the "maybe" column to the "for sure" column Wednesday, announcing her candidacy to run for the 4th District congressional seat. Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck and Franklin County farmer Clint Didier are also officially Republican candidates to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings. In addition, former Washington Agricultural  Director Dan Newhouse, state Sen. Sharon Brown of Kennewick, Gavin Seim of Ephtrata, and Kennewick attorney George Cicotte are exploring Republican candidacies. Independent Josh Ramirez is alson considering a run. — J.S.

You're suing Washington?

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Wyoming might take Washington state to court in order to get its huge coal exports to Washington's ports. The Associated Press reported that the Wyoming Legislature has $500,000 in its draft state budget allocated for coal train legal fights. Washington is currently debating coal train and coal port issues. Montana has also threatened legal action, alleging that the Washington environmental review process could interfere with federal control of interstate commerce. — J.S. 

Pot growth 

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

The passage of I-502 and the legalization of marijuana will finally start to produce revenue for Washington state in mid-2015. A report released by the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council on Wednesday predicts that the recreational marijuana market will bring close in to $190 million over the next four years, with $51 million expected in the first biennium. Crosscut's John Stang will write about the impact on the state budget. — M.C.

Pot limits

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Potential pot growers in Washington may have to change their plans. The Washington State Liquor Control board has imposed new restrictions on the amount of marijuana that can be grown in the state. Growers now get just one license — as opposed to the three previously allowed — and production has been limited to just 70 percent of what growers had been promised, according to seattlepi.com. To put it in perspective, growers who had applied for three licenses with a total of 90,000 square growing feet are now getting one location of 21,000 square feet. Those who have already heavily invested in space for the new recreational marijuana market could be looking at huge financial disappointments. — M.C.

Tuesday 18 Feb, 2014

The MSFT's cup runneth over. Olympia in overdrive. Seattle FBI shakeup.

Electronic Ferry tolling

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

A new Department of Transportation study recommends using Good To Go passes to automate payments for ferry fares. The Good To Go system is already being used for automated tolling on the 520 floating bridge, Highway 167 and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, according to The Herald. Though the study said pre-paid Good To Go passes could be in use throughout the ferry system by 2018, the Legislature will determine whether to go ahead with the plan. — J.C. 

Microsoft giving record

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

Microsoft employees gave a company-record of $113 million to non-profits in 2013, a total that includes the company's matching contributions, according to GeekWire. More than half of the money — $59 million — went to charitable organizations in Washington state, Executive Vice President Brad Smith said on a company blog.  — J.C.


Source: Microsoft

FBI agent shuffle

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

A veteran agent will step in to run the FBI's Seattle office after special agent Laura M. Laughlin suddenly retired on Monday, a federal holiday. The Seattle Times reports that Carlos L. Mojica is serving as acting special agent in charge of the office, which oversees FBI operations throughout the state. Mojica, who joined the FBI in 1997, had been the senior assistant special agent for the Seattle office. Laughlin, who was approaching mandatory retirement later this year, has an ongoing sex discrimination suit against the bureau. — J.C.

Yesterday in Olympia

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

  • The House voted in favor of a bill that would limit the amount of medical marijuana a patient could grow or possess, set up a registry of patients and require licenses for medical retailers. Two somewhat similar Senate bills are also in play, which means the Legislature may well try to reconcile the three bills this session.
  • The House widely approved a bill by Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, to regulate the use of drones by state and local government agencies. With a few exceptions — emergency, training situations & wildlife monitoring, among them — the bill would require a court-issued warrant for legitimate drone use.
  • The Senate unanimously passed a bill by Sen. Steve O'Ban, R-Pierce County, that would provide kids, including foster kids, with an attorney in family court matters after the child's parents have had their parental rights terminated. Currently, standards for providing attorneys for kids vary widely across the state, a problem Crosscut has covered through its Kids@Risk series.
  • Pro wrestling ain't real, but it is theatrical. Which is perhaps why the House passed a bill introduced by Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, that would commission a study of whether theatrical wrestling should continue to be regulated and assessed fees as boxing and mixed martial arts events are. None of the 14 nay voters indicated whether they actually thought pro wrestling is real. — J.S.

Today in Olympia

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

  • It's called the "knockout game," and has been a staple on cable television news. One person smacks another at random on the street and runs away. Though some have called the supposed trend a hoax, the Senate passed a bill by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, Tuesday to make the "knockout game" a 3rd Degree Assault. Nine Democrats voted against the bill on the grounds that this type of assault is already a crime. — J.S.

Arraignment in nightclub arson 

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

Musab Musmari, the suspect accused of setting fire to Capitol Hill's Neighbours, a gay nightclub, on New Years Eve, pleaded innocent in a hearing today. During the arraignment, Judge Patrick Oishi barred Musmari from contact with the nightclub or any of its employees. Musmari is currently in jail in lieu of $1 million bail, according to Capitol Hill Seattle blog. The fire was quickly put out by a patron and an employee, but an estimated 700 people were in the club at the time. — J.C. 

Monday 17 Feb, 2014

The A rush on Congress. Much ado about mountains. A wing for Everett.

Big climbing loss

at 3:26pm by Joe Copeland

Renowned mountain climber and Seattle resident Chad Kellogg died in a mountaineering accident in South America on Friday. According to The News Tribune, Kellogg was climbing Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia – a region that spans both Argentina and Chile – when a dislodged rock fell and struck him.Kellogg is known for being the first person to climb Mount Rainier in fewer than five hours and the first to make a round-trip climb of Alaska’s Mount McKinley in less than 24 hours, among other major mountaineering accomplishments. Kellogg was 42. — M.C.

,

at 3:26pm by Joe Copeland

would require a defendant to pay for part of the attorney's costs if the individual's income goes above the eligibility level for free assistance at any point during the case. The bill faces uncertain prospects in the House of Representatives. — J.S.

  • Washington's House unanimously sent three marijuana- or hemp-related bills to the Senate on Monday. One was a bill by Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, to set up fines for youth under 21 illegally entering marijuana establishments, possessing marijuana or using fake identification. Rep. Matt Shea, R- Spokane Valley, introduced a bill to allow Washington farmers to legally grow hemp, a type of cannabis that does not pack the THC oomph of marijuana. Hemp is used for textiles, paper and other industrial purposes. The third bill, introduced by Rep Vincent Buys, R-Lynden, would have the state to study whether hemp can be used as feed for farm animals. "A vote for this is a vote for happy chickens, happy cows and ultimately a happy farm family," Buys said.
  • Today in Olympia

    at 3:26pm by Joe Copeland

    • Washington's Senate voted 27-20, mostly along caucus lines, Monday to tighten the eligibility of criminal defendants for free legal aid. The bill, by Sen. Tim Sheldon, D- Potlatch

    Lockers for homeless

    at 3:26pm by Joe Copeland

    Seattle City Council members Bruce Harrell and Sally Bagshaw are exploring how to provide storage lockers to homeless people. The goal: to give them someplace to keep their things AND make downtown streets a little less unsightly. Bagshaw told KIRO Radio that she believes having a storage spot could let the homeless make a better impression on potential landlords and employers.In a recent guest post on The Slog, Harrell and Bagshaw (Disclosure: Bradley Bagshaw, Sally's husband, is chair of Crosscut's board) wrote that the idea is already used in cities, from Portland to Lisbon. For security reasons, people would likely be required to have a caseworker helping them address their problems. They said they hope to work with Mayor Ed Murray to set up 100 lockers this year. — J.C.

    Boeing wings assembly

    at 3:26pm by Joe Copeland

    Boeing is ready to make an announcement that it will build the wings for its new 777X in Everett, The Seattle Times reports. The announcement of construction of the new plant could be made as early as Tuesday. The decision could have longer-range implications for Everett, as well. The paper says that developing skills with composite materials could give Everett an advantage when it comes to future decisions about where to build other Boeing airliners. — J.C. 

    Mountains: Disruptive advance

    at 3:26pm by Joe Copeland

    The weekend's winter storms closed both Stevens and Snoqualmie for parts of Monday morning, and snow and ice continued to slow traffic on U.S. 2 and I-90 well into the afternoon. Traffic disruptions aside, the snow was good for ski resorts and those looking for outdoor sports (as long as avalanche dangers were heeded). Even better, the outlook for salmon, farmers' irrigation water and electrical-power supplies took a sudden turn from gloomy to fine. Meteorologist Cliff Mass ended a blog post by saying, "We are on track to have a normal mountain snow pack by the end of the week!" — J.C. 

    4th District congressional rush

    at 3:26pm by Joe Copeland

    The rush is on to replace Republican Congressman Doc Hastings in central Washington's 4th Congressional District. Former pro football player and U.S. Senate candidate Clint Didier scheduled Monday press conferences to make a statement related to the race in what is sure to be a crowded Republican field. In addition, Kennewick attorney George Cicotte announced a run on Monday, according to the Tri-City Herald.The paper also counts five other Republicans running: state Sens. Sharon Brown (Kennewick) and Janéa Holmquist Newbry (Moses Lake); former state Agriculture Director Dan Newhouse; Brad Peck, a Franklin County commissioner; and Gavin Seim of Ephrata, an artist and filmmaker. Josh Ramirez, who works for a company that deals with Hanford waste issues, has announced as an independent. Democrats have said they also want to field a strong candidate. — J.C.

    Friday 14 Feb, 2014

    The Bertha handlers chomping at bit. Gay deprogramming law. Ridesharing rules debated.

    First black teacher

    at 4:10pm by Floyd McKay

    Funeral services will be held Saturday for Shirley Walthall, a remarkable leader in education and community affairs for decades. An obituary in The Herald recounts her dynamism and the positive effects she had on those around her (clear on any first meeting) but also powerfully shares something that many of her admirers might have forgotten or never known. Walthall, who was just 72 when she died last week, was the school district's first black teacher. Her positions in the school district included serving as principal at the school where she first taught. — J.C.   

     

    at 4:10pm by Floyd McKay

    Crosscut profiled Holmquist Newbry, a 39-year-old Republican from Moses Lake who easily wins elections in her district. She has served 12 years in the state House and Senate. She has recently criticized the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus for not holding public hearings prior to its quick, surprise passage of the state DREAM Acot to help high school graduates whose parents are undocumented immigrants. She has pushed bills to lower the minimum wage for workers during their first 680 hours of employment. — J.S. 

    Today in Olympia: Education bill approved

    at 4:10pm by Floyd McKay

    • A bipartisan measure on the implementation of the McCleary education ruling passed the Washington Senate 45-4 Thursday. In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ordered that teacher-student ratios in grades K-3 be improved, the number of credits to graduate high school be increased to 24, and the number of annual instructional hours in grades 9-12 be increased to 1,080. Republicans and Democrats are feuding over the teacher-student ratio issue. However, a bill by Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, and Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, easily sailed through the Senate to implement the 1,080-hour requirement starting in the 2015-2016 school year, and to put the 24-credit requirement in place by 2019. Currently, those requirements vary by school district. The bill now goes to the House. — J.S. 
    • Janéa Holmquist Newbry, a conservative member of the Washington Senate, will form an exploratory committee to see she wants to try to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Doc hastings in east-central Washington's 4th Congressional District .The conservative Hastings has announced his impending retirement after 20 years in Congress. Last year,

    Coal port debate

    at 4:10pm by Floyd McKay

    Whatcom County officials Friday afternoon posted the draft contract for environmental review of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, language that the developer, SSA Marine, has had under review since Dec. 12. The contract reflects an earlier announcement that its scope would include rail traffic throughout Washington, and a full health-impact study. It also revealed that state and county officials would not consider job or tax benefits from the project; both have been major talking points for terminal supporters.

    The contract also referenced a permit issued to SSA in 1997 for a much-smaller terminal to export grain, potash and other products, but not coal; this was listed as the developer’s fallback plan if the large project is scrapped. — F.M.

    Conversion on gay conversion 

    at 4:10pm by Floyd McKay

    The state House passed a bill Thursday to outlaw the so-called gay conversion therapy, sending it to the Senate for consideration. One encouraging sign for supporters was the bill's whopping 94-to-4 approval by the House. And, as Publicola points out, Republican Rep. Richard DeBolt of Chehalis gave a powerful speech about how listening to people share their experiences with the practice brought him to support the outlaw measure. "As a Christian person, I can't stand by and idly watch somebody be put through … a torturous practice," he said. (Publicola has embedded the speech.) — J.C.

    Ridesharing rules of the road

    at 4:10pm by Floyd McKay

    A Seattle City Council committee backburnered some of the big decisions on new ridesharing rules, including whether to limit the number of vehicles operated by app-based services like Lyft and Uber. The services hate the idea, and threaten to leave town if limits are imposed. City Council, however, can't even get data from the ridesharing services that would let the Council evaluate whether and what sort of limit might make sense. Crosscut's Bill Lucia will report on the developments. — J.C. 

    Pot rules clarified 

    at 4:10pm by Floyd McKay

    Under new federal guidance, some big banks won't be comfortable accepting deposits from legal marijuana businesses. Small- and medium-sized banks can probably fly under the radar since Attorney General Eric Holder is making prosecutions a low priority. According to The Seattle Times, the industry's main lobbying group wants Congress to rewrite the laws in a way that protects big banks from pot-related prosecution. But an unidentified Treasury official tells The Times that banks have room to make individual decisions about how they handle pot industry deposits. — J.C.  

    Bertha: No plan yet

    at 4:10pm by Floyd McKay

    The state and Seattle Tunnel Partners stopped just short of saying construction crews will have to dig 60 feet down to repair the tunnel boring machine that remains stuck on, er, under the waterfront. In an update Friday, the state said STP expects to have a final plan and schedule for repairs to the machine's main bearing. Even without a final decision, however, STP will begin designing how exactly the shaft will connect to Bertha. — J.C. 

    Thursday 13 Feb, 2014

    The Transportation progress? Hastings seeks energetic replacement. Help for the homeless.

    Comcast über America

    at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

    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. 

    Today in Olympia: Homeless kids in school

    at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

    • 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. 

    Ramping up homeless efforts

    at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

    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. 

    No Doc in the House

    at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

    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. 

    Transportation package: Half agree

    at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

    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. 

    Wednesday 12 Feb, 2014

    The Coal ports energized. A new look for downtown Seattle. Seattle likes a $15 wage.

    Bellevue arts boost?

    at 4:19pm by Joe Copeland

    The long-discussed Tateuchi Center for performing arts in downtown Bellevue could get a boost from city government. According to the Bellevue Reporter, the City Council is considering whether to become a partner in the development. And, yes, partnership could include city funds. Councilmember Kevin Wallace says voters should have a say on that. — J.C.

    Joe Wells with the tusk he found

    at 4:19pm by Joe Copeland

    /Jeff Estep photo courtesy of Transit Plumbing

    Tusk-tusk

    at 4:19pm by Joe Copeland

    Construction workers found what is believed to be a tusk from an Ice Age mammoth while working at a site in South Lake Union Tuesday. A Transit Plumbing employee discovered the tusk while the company was working on a private project. According to The Seattle Times, since the tusk was found on private property, it’s up to the landowner to decide what to do with it. However, paleontologists at the Burke Museum have offered to excavate the tusk and provide scientists to study it. Christian Sidor, curator of vertebrate paleontology, calls this a “rare opportunity to directly study Seattle’s ancient natural history.” — M.C.

    Look who's ridesharing

    at 4:19pm by Joe Copeland

    Spotted Wednesday afternoon outside City Hall at a Lyft rally sporting a fuzzy, pink mustache on his jacket: savvy public affairs strategist (and former Ed Murray campaign consultant) Sandeep Kaushik. He stood by as the rideshare app's cofounder, John Zimmer, took questions from reporters. Kaushik, asked if he is working with the company, said yes. A city council committee could vote Friday on a package of rules that restricts the number of rideshare drivers allowed to operate in Seattle. Lyft and other ridershare companies oppose limits. — B.L.  

    $15 freight train

    at 4:19pm by Joe Copeland

    A strong majority of Seattle voters are in favor of a $15 minimum wage, according to a newly reported poll. The Stranger’s Slog says the poll, which was conducted by EMC Research in January, found that the 68 percent of likely voters supported a minimum wage hike. There are strong feelings among many of the supporters, too: 35 percent of those surveyed said they “strongly support” the proposal; 14 percent “strongly oppose.” The Stranger's Goldy notes that the measure wins support with every demographic, except Republicans (yes, there are some in Seattle). Update 5:12 p.m.: The poll was apparently conducted on behalf of supporters of a higher wage. — M.C.

    Downtown redesign

    at 4:19pm by Joe Copeland

    A landscape architect's ideas for redesigning the Pike-Pine corridor could transform the central downtown. The Seattle Times reports that tall shrubs would eventually be gone from east-west streets to ensure views, a retail corridor would be created and sidewalks would become uniform. What, no crazy patchwork of differing overhangs? The plan was created for the Downtown Seattle Association. The city planning department has already accepted most of the ideas, developed by Shannon Nichol of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol. Oh, and before activists start chaining themselves to any existing shrubs, Times writer Sanjay Bhatt notes that the city would continue to plant trees on north-south streets. (This item has been updated since it first appeared.) — J.C. 

    Coal ports push forward

    at 4:19pm by Joe Copeland

    Plans for a coal port at Longview received a boost Wednesday morning with the start of an environmental impact statement. The state Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County said the most detailed study will be of local environmental and health issues, but some attention will be paid to the statewide effects of increased pollution, including from climate-changing greenhouse gases. The study of global warming contributions was enough to provide some cheer to environmentalists opposed to sending coal to China. Ambre Energy, owner of the proposed Millennium terminal in Longview, has also received an Oregon state water-quality permit for a coal port it wants to build in Boardman. Crosscut's Floyd McKay reports on the developments here. — J.C.

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