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Washington State News Archive

Below are archived news items for the current month. To view a previous month, choose it from the list below.

"National debt grows $1 million a minute"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The national debt is reportedly growing by roughly $1 million a minute, which works out to about $30,000 worth of debt for every person currently living in the United States. The national debt is the accumulation of each year’s budget deficits, which has risen from $5.7 trillion in 2001 to $9.13 trillion today. The national debt could become a crisis if interest on foreign loans increases, or if a major economic downturn impinged on the ability to make the interest payments. Currently, the national debt equals 65 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. The Congressional Budget Office has updated its report on the budget and economic outlook. - 12/03/2007

"President's plan to slash counterterrorism budget could affect Tri-City programs "--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
First responders--police, fire departments, and emergency medical services--in the Tri-Cities are waiting to see what White House budget cuts will do their budgets. The White House is proposing to drastic cuts in programs such as the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Grant Program. The money from these grants can be used by local governments to buy equipment, hire staff, and get training for responding to emergencies. The Emergency Managment Division distributes this federal grant money in Washington state. - 12/03/2007

"Rescue work continues in flood-ravaged Southwest Washington"--Seattle Times
Two people have been killed, 80,000 homes are without power, a 20-mile stretch of I-5 is closed, and Gov. Gregoire has declared a state of emergency as Monday’s storm damage takes a toll. Several areas of western Washington saw flooding and mudslides, including areas in Seattle, Olympia, Centralia, and various places in Lewis, Thurston, Mason, and Grays Harbor counties as a result of torrential rain. The city of Aberdeen is essentially isolated due to flooded roads, and areas of Centralia are being evacuated. 300 National Guardsmen have been called up to help with rescue efforts. The Chehalis, Skokomish, Satsop, Bogachiel, and Elwha rivers are expected to see record flows, while the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, and Tolt rivers are also expected to flood. The weather forecast for the rest of the week shows lighter rain. - 12/04/2007

"Funding, feuding put flood project on hold"--Seattle Times
In 2003, state lawmakers approved a funding package that would have set aside $30 million to stanch flooding of the Chehalis River. Flooding has caused I-5 closures in 1990 and 1996, and yet again after this winter’s storm. However, the two cities affected most by the river, Centralia and Chehalis, have been unable to come to an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers about what needs to be done. The corps proposed building a series of dikes to contain the river, but the cities, who would be tasked with maintaining the dikes, argued that they wouldn’t do enough to protect homes and businesses in the area. Funding also remains an issue, since the Department of Transportation has since found other uses for the $30 million, and the Army Corps of Engineers is awaiting funding approval from Congress. - 12/05/2007

"Yahoo execs 'extremely concerned' over tax deferral finding"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Yahoo is not yodeling with joy over losing a tax break for its new data center in Quincy. The Washington State Attorney General issued an opinion that data centers do not qualify for a tax break offered on the construction and equipping of manufacturing plants. The opinion supports a decision made by the Department of Revenue. The unexpected costs could keep Yahoo from expanding its operations in Quincy. According to "Yahoo! opens with a yodel in Quincy", an article that appeared in the Moses Lake Columbia Basin Herald on Dec. 4, 2007, Yahoo was attracted to Quincy because of cheap, rewable power, the quality of life, and tax breaks. So much for the tax incentive. Expect this issue to go the legislature next year. - 12/04/2007

"Permit unlikely for protest"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A Tacoma man who is upset about illegal immigration and the political stalemate over immigration laws is planning a protest at the state capitol in Olympia. He says he plans to burn a Mexican flag in protest over illegal immigration. The General Administration office said they would allow the burning as protected free speech, but the man would first need to get a burning permit from the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency. An ORCAA official said they were unlikely to grant the permit, since burning flags emit toxic chemicals. - 12/06/2007

"Fundraising scam alert issued"--Everett Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Secretary of State Sam Reed joined Attorney General Rob McKenna to urge citizens to thoroughly research charities before donating money. A report released by the Secretary of State’s Office found that professional fundraisers kept 48 percent of the money they raised in the state, which is less than last year. However, the two officials noted that scam artists will be on the rise with the latest natural disaster in Southwest Washington. People can check out charities by using the Charities database at the Secretary of State website, and they can also research charities and businesses with the Better Business Bureau before they donate money. The Secretary of State’s office also publishes a brochure on giving wisely. - 12/07/2007

"County veterans' effort nets national attention"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A veterans' benefit program that started in Clark County could be a model for similar programs in other states. Representatives from the federal Administration for Children & Families are studying how the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Veterans Project uses the Public Assistance Reporting Information System (PARIS) to locate the best benefits package for low income veterans. DSHS can use PARIS to search across state and federal agency records when somebody applies for benefits. Veterans often get a better set of benefits from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs and the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs than they would through DSHS administered Medicaid programs. Getting veterans off Medicaid saves the state money. - 12/09/2007

"Driver’s license passcard nearly ready"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The state Department of Licensing will be rolling out optional enhanced driver’s licenses in January that will allow Washington state residents to cross the border without a passport. Citizens can apply for the passcards in person at their local driver’s licensing office, although initially they will only be available from 11 DOL offices. The card will cost $15 more than a normal license, will take between one and two weeks to process, and will not replace a passport for air travel, but will allow travelers crossing the border to Canada on foot or in a car to cross without a passport or birth certificate. A new law going into effect January 31, 2008, called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, will require proof of legal U.S. citizenship or residency whenever one re-enters the country. - 12/08/2007

"Panel weighs easing old crack sentences"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Supreme Court rulings have the Sentencing Guideline Commission voting today on retroactively reducing sentences for crack offenses. Until new guidelines went into effect in November, there was a disparity in them that called for longer sentences for crack cocaine offenses than for those of white cocaine powder. The majority of people in jail for crack offenses are black, while powder cocaine offenders are mostly white. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that judges in two cases were right to mandate shorter sentences for crack cocaine offenses than those formerly recommended by the sentencing guidelines. 19,500 inmates could have their sentences reduced by a retroactive measure. - 12/11/2007

"Illegal drug use by teens down: Prescription painkiller pills remain popular"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The White House was pleased to announce that illicit drug use is down among teenagers. It is not an across the board drop in drug abuse. While marijuana and methamphetamine usage has dropped, abuse of prescription drugs such as OxyContin and vicodine is holding steady. The information comes from a federally funded study by Monitoring the Future at the University of Michigan. - 12/12/2007

"Worst contamination from Harbor Island Superfund site will go to landfill"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
In an effort to keep the Puget Sound as clean as possible, the Port of Seattle commission has voted to dump the most contaminated PCB soil from Harbor Island in a landfill instead of into Elliott Bay. Although state and federal regulations would have allowed the port to dump into the bay, the commission members felt that would be going against the reputation of the port as eco-friendly. Some members of the commission voiced concerns that dumping into a landfill would not be any more environmentally advantageous, and would cost more in time and money. King County has agreed to share the costs of dredging the soil and hauling it to a landfill. - 12/12/2007

"Gregoire announces plan to monitor sex offenders"--Everett Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Gov. Gregoire announced a new public safety plan,/a> that she will submit to state legislators for funding approval. The plan would set aside $8.2 million to track sex offenders, $5 million of which would go towards a grant program that would allow local law enforcement to conduct in-person visits with the offenders. Some money would also go towards satellite tracking of offenders and an automatic email system that would notify residents when a sex offender moved into their neighborhood. Gregoire said that many of the plans are as yet unproven, but that they are needed to keep Washington on the leading edge when it comes to public safety. - 12/13/2007

"AG would curb guns for some mentally ill people"--Seattle Times
Attorney General Rob McKenna says that state law doesn’t go far enough when it comes to disallowing mentally ill people from buying guns. The current law disqualifies people from purchasing guns if they have been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution for at least 90 days. However, a report by the AG’s office suggests there are several gaps in the background-check system that could accidentally allow a mentally ill person to own a gun. Court clerks sometimes do not submit court orders to the Department of Licensing, and the Department of Social and Health Services does not always know about everyone who has been referred by courts for treatment. McKenna wants to make gun ownership stricter by banning people from buying guns who have been involuntary committed for mental health treatment for as few as 14 days. - 12/14/2007

"Cities report more people seeking aid"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Some cities are seeing an increase in homeless families with children using emergency shelters and people seeing emergency food aid. These findings are in a published by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (a press releaese about the report can be found here). Seattle is one of the cities in the survey. The increased demand on emergency housing and food stamps aren't reflected in recent reports on the chronically homeless by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and household food security the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The difference in findings of these various studies might, in part, be caused by the different ways the data was collected. - 12/17/2007

"Catastrophe feared as oceans grow acidic"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
As the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide, they are becoming more and more acidic. The acidity will have an adverse effect on marine life, particularly in the colder North Pacific. The oceans are currently about 30 percent more acidic than they were two hundred years ago, and scientists fear the ever-increasing acidity may permanently alter the ecosystem as marine animals on the lower end of the food chain begin to die off. Democratic Washington senator Maria Cantwell has co-sponsored a bill to create an ocean acidity research and monitoring program. A buoy off the Washington coast, called Ocean Station Papa, is currently being used to track oceanic acidity. - 12/18/2007

"Gregoire wants $5.9 million per year for tribal water help"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Governor Christine Gregoire announced a plan to pay the Colville and Spokane tribes $5.9 million to allow water to be pumped out of the Lake Roosevelt. The state will pump out up to 43 billion gallons of water a year to fill shortfalls of water in the Columbia Basin. The water will be used for irrigation, communities, salmon streams, and drought relief. Lake Roosevelt is the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam whose original purpose was to provide irrigation water for Central Washington. - 12/18/2007

"State puts off drawing line around dirty air"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Tacoma is the only city in Washington that fails to meet new Clean Air Act standards for soot. But the Department of Ecology and county officials and business leaders can’t agree on where to draw boundaries for the areas that need to be improved. The department would like to see pollution clean-up efforts in most of Pierce County’s urban growth area and outlying suburbs, while other leaders want the grants to concentrate on areas like the South End, Parkland and Spanaway. The EPA regional office in Seattle said it will most likely extend the Department of Ecology’s deadline for drawing the air-quality map. - 12/19/2007

"Study calls for more DOE employees"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A report by the National Academy of Public Administration, a Congressionally chartered organization, calls for for more staff to manage the cleanup of defense-related nuclear waste at Hanford and other sites. The report and its appendices, requested by Congress, describes how the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management cut staffing by nearly 50% over the last 6 years because it believed it would be "going out of business" as waste sites were cleaned up. The problem is that remaining sites such as Hanford pose complex and technically difficult challgenges. Meanwhile managers at Hanford's Office of River Protection weren't in the loop for decision making and other managers in the Richland Operations Office were diverted from managing by requests from Department of Energy headquarters. - 12/19/2007

"State acts on abuse cases at women’s prison"--Seattle Times
A recent lawsuit filed by four inmates at the Washington Correctional Center for Women is unveiling a history of sexual misconduct at the prison in Purdy. The acting secretary of the Department of Corrections has hired independent consultants to look into several allegations of misconduct at the prison. In 1999 a state law was passed that made sexual contact illegal between inmates and prison staff, while a federal law requires investigations into individual incidents of sexual relationships. The large number of complaints about sexual misconduct arising from Purdy has encouraged DOC to put seven staff members on paid leave, and the department may also try to hire more female staff. - 12/20/2007

"Wave-energy firm granted a license for Makah Bay project"--Seattle Times
British Columbia company Finavera Renewables has just received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin harnessing wave-energy in Makah Bay to produce electricity. If Finavera is able to obtain all the necessary environmental permits and funding from investors, it will be the first company in the world to begin producing wave-power. The company says it will be able to produce enough electricity to power 150 homes near the bay. Finavera will first need to prove that the equipment used to generate power and transmit the electricity to shore won’t harm wildlife or entangle debris. FERC released a new policy statement in November saying it would distribute licenses for hydrokinetic energy on a conditional basis. - 12/21/2007

"Work release value argued"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy found that convicts who participated in work release programs were 3 percent less likely to be convicted again after release from prison. The study’s author said that the decreased recidivism rate saved tax payers $2,300 for each convict who went through a work release program. However, critics of work release programs said that the study did not look closely enough at the number of crimes committed by those who were re-convicted, which might serve to erase any savings gained by those who did not commit more crimes. The DOC plans to double the number of work release programs in the state, but opponents say the programs are just a way to avoid building more prisons. - 12/24/2007

"Leavenworth gets federal grant for Amtrak stop"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
While the federal Office of Managment and Budget is no fan of Amtrak, local supporters are delighted to get funding for a new railroad passenger station in Leavenworth. Amtrak will schedule stops on its Empire Builder route to serve Leavenworth. It's hoped that Amtrak service will be a boon to Leavenworth's tourism trade. The station will be funded by a mixture of local, state, and federal funds. - 12/22/2007

"Feds ready census packet for farmers"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Where do statistics come from? Often it takes thousands and thousands of people filling out forms. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking farmers and ranchers to fill out Census of Agriculture report forms this winter. The Census of Agriculture, taken every 5 years, attempts to survey every American farm and gather information on topics like crops, farming practices, and income. Census information about agriculture has been gathered since 1840. The USDA has been refining its Census of Agriculture reports to improve the quality of the gathered information. The Census Bureau conducted the Census of Agriculture prior to 1992. - 12/26/2007

"DNR to pursue urban forest land"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The state commissioner of public lands is proposing new legislation that will inventory Washington’s urban forests, and would create a standardized cataloging system for urban forests. The hope is that the bill would encourage cities to plant more trees, which help absorb greenhouse gases, control stormwater, and provide habitat for birds. The environmental lobby is also pushing to make decreasing greenhouse gases part of the Growth Management Act. - 12/25/2007

"Pls no txting n drving, thx"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Starting January 1, the fine for text messaging from any wireless device while driving will be $124. Texting will be a secondary offense, meaning that a police officer will have had to pull someone over for another infraction before a ticket will be issued. The fine could go up to $175 if the texter caused an accident. Starting in July of 2008, talking on a cell phone without using a hands-free device will also be against the law, and that offense will carry a $124 fine as well. Washington will be the first state to enact a ban on text messaging, but joins several other states banning the use of cell phones while driving. Violations of either law will not be noted on an individual’s driving record. - 12/27/2007

"EEOC allows health benefits shift at 65"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that employers can reduce health benefits for retirees who have turned 65 and qualify for Medicare. This decision was posted in the Federal Register. The EEOC made this decision in response to a court decision that said retirees who qualify for Medicare were entitled to the same amount of health benefits as younger retirees. It seen as a way to protect health benefits for reitirees. Remember they're called health "benefits" because companies are not required to provide health coverage to retirees--and these benefits are expensive. The Government Accountability Office has testified to Congress about the dwindling amount of health coverage available to retirees. - 12/27/2007

"$555 billion federal spending bill includes $300,000 more for Olympic National Park"--Peninsula Daily News
In contrast to previous years when little funding has been available for the state’s national parks, 2008 will see a bump in funds. Olympic National Park has been slated to receive about $300,000, which will most likely go towards filling vacant seasonal and permanent positions. The park has had to cut many of its seasonal ranger positions because of a budget shortfall, but hopes to reinstate some of those this year. They also hope to put some money towards maintenance and visitor center operations. Some money from the President’s Centennial Initiative may also be earmarked for the Olympic National Forest, but spokespeople for the park have yet to hear how much funding, if any, the park might receive. - 12/28/2007

"House members spent $20 million on mailings"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
To you it may be junk mail, but to your Senator or Representative in Congress it's an "official business" mass mailing with the postage paid for by the public under Congress' franking privilege. Both the Senate and the House have rules prohibiting the use of franking for campaign literature, but franked mailings can be useful public relations. Some members of Congress spend over $100,000 on franked mail, but others--particularly those with very secure seats--don't send out any mass franked mailings. Congress started regulating the franking privilege after its excessive use in the 19th century. The House of Representatives has a Franking Commission. - 12/28/2007

"Issue of drugs and pain strikes a nerve"--Yakima Herald Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
There is a debate about how to best treat chronic pain. People racked with chronic pain run the risk of addiction if treated with prescription drugs such as opioids (morphine, oxycontin, etc.). Washington is the only state with guidelines on maximum doses of opiods for sufferers of chronic non-cancer pain. The recommended doses fall below what victims of chronic pain often take. The guidlines are based on a study of the use of opioids by people getting workers' compensation in Washington. It showed a dramatic increase in opioid use by the people in the study. Treament of chronic pain is complicated by the small number of doctors who specialize in pain management. - 12/31/2007

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