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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.

"Pentagon plays down resistance to gays on front lines"--Seattle Times
According to a survey released by the Pentagon this week, two-thirds of troops predict little impact on the military’s ability to fight if gays are allowed to serve openly. However, those that do see an impact are troops performing combat arms duties. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that the concerns expressed by combat troops “do not present an insurmountable barrier to successful repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” but the study suggests that an “abundance of care and preparation” is needed before personnel policy is changed. Senate Democrats hope to push for a vote on the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” later this month. - 12/01/2010

"State film incentives in peril"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
A report issued by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee recommends that the state renew the 4-year-old Motion Picture Competitiveness Program, which has an annual price tag of $3.5 million. The program has helped pay for dozens of movies, television episodes, and commercials, keeping almost 800 people employed in the process. According to the report, through 2009, companies that received $8.4 million in incentives through the program spent $36 million, indirectly generating another $36 million in economic activity. They also paid $837,000 in sales tax. In addition, the incentives have kept Washington competitive with other states for movie and television production. When the state’s law was passed in 2006, only 18 states offered some kind of film or television production incentives and now 44 do so. - 12/02/2010

"State grant cutbacks to affect four agencies from Neah Bay to Port Townsend"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
The state Health Care Authority has decided to suspend monthly grant payments to three dozen organizations representing 214 clinics statewide for six months beginning January 1. The suspension translates into a cut of half of the contracted amounts for the fiscal year from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011 and will save the state about $5.3 million. The money may be reinstated if the legislature approves a supplemental budget, but in the meantime, four agencies on the North Olympic Peninsula will be impacted by the suspension: Clallam Bay Medical Clinic, Jefferson Healthcare hospital, the Makah tribe, and Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP). While the reduction will result in a cut in dental services from OlyCAP, Jefferson Healthcare says there will be no reduction in their services or staff, they will just be more efficient. - 12/03/2010

"Possible changes to city tree rules target pruning, topping"--Vancouver Columbian
The Vancouver Urban Forestry Commission’s recommended changes to the city’s tree conservation ordinance will be considered at the City Council meeting tonight. The changes are meant to clarify what is meant by “to destroy a tree” and “proper maintenance of a tree.” Those who destroy a tree can face a $250-per-tree fine, although that option is usually reserved for repeat offenders or extreme cases. Language is also being added that emphasizes the city’s commitment to education above imposing fines. The ordinance applies to all trees that would require a permit to be removed; generally those greater than six inches in diameter. - 12/06/2010

"Port Townsend could lose Salish over budget woes, ferries chief admits"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
In his address to the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, State Ferries chief David Mosley announced that service cuts are necessary and that the promised second ferry boat for the Port Townsend-Coupeville (Keystone) run might not arrive as scheduled, or at all. A handout passed out at the meeting outlined service cuts that add up to $14 million and all but one of them require cutting back sailings or reducing capacity, except the Port Townsend-Coupeville route, which stands to lose an entire boat. The MV Salish, now under construction and scheduled to be the second ferry on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route, may be moved to the San Juan Islands as part of the proposed cost savings. The cuts depend upon the actions of the Legislature. - 12/06/2010

"Regence’s rate hike request rejected"--Vancouver Columbian
Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has rejected requests by The Regence Group to increase the rates of three individual health insurance plans: Regence BlueShield, Asuris Northwest Health, and Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon. A 3.7% increase was requested for the first two plans and a 4.9% percent increase was requested for the third. In October, Kreidler accepted rate hikes of 16.4% for Regence BlueShield, 23.7% for Asuris Northwest Health, and 15.4% for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon. Health insurers are allowed to file a rate change for their individual health plans only once a year, with a few exceptions. Additional rate changes are allowed if a plan is required to offer new benefits and in November, Regence asked Kreidler to allow a second rate increase for its three subsidiaries’ individual health insurance plans in response to changes connected to federal health care reform. Kreidler rejected the request, disagreeing with the rate amount Regence said it needed to cover all health conditions of the children they enroll. - 12/08/2010

"Auditor: Washington state Parks Commission wasted millions of dollars on project"--Seattle Times
According to a whistleblower report released by the State Auditor’s Office this week, the state Parks and Recreation Commission wasted millions of dollars on water and sewer work at Fort Flagler State Park near Port Townsend, spending over $7 million on work that should have cost much less. Between 2000 and 2009, the project evolved from a $140,000 job to replace a recreational-vehicle sewage dump and drain field to a multimillion dollar project to replace the park’s entire water and sewer system. The auditor’s office found, in part, that “the Commission did not monitor or enforce the terms of the contracts, did not hold contractors liable for failed systems…authorized change orders that appeared to be outside the scope of the original project and failed to ensure a construction contractor met safety requirements.” State Auditor Brian Sonntag has called the situation one of the most egregious cases of wasteful spending his office has ever seen. - 12/08/2010

"Airborne emissions policy draws fire"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency is feeling pressure from both the diary industry and citizens as it considers adopting a new policy to reduce airborne emissions from the county’s 72 dairies. The proposed policy, which was drafted by a committee made up of agency staff, an agricultural professor, and representatives of the dairy industry, would require dairy operators to adopt practices that reduce emissions of dust, ammonia, and other compounds that can affect breathing and pose an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Critics have decried the lack of public involvement in the creation of the policy and have argued that a public hearing should be held on the proposal before it is adopted. Public comments were accepted through Thursday, but the agency’s executive director has said that a public hearing isn’t required for a policy that will start as a six-month pilot program, followed by an evaluation. The policy is scheduled for adoption in February. - 12/09/2010

"OSPI develops new model policy on harassment, bullying"--Yakima Herald-Republic
In accordance with Substitute House Bill 2801, which was passed by the 2010 Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has developed a new model policy on harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools. The policy provides an outline for prevention and intervention, a detailed process for filing a bullying incident report, and shortened timelines for responding to complaints. Districts are required to adopt, at a minimum, the new model policy and Washington State School Directors Association, Office of Education Ombudsman, Association of Washington School Principals, school districts, and others. - 12/09/2010

"Bellingham council approves updates to 20-year growth plan"--Bellingham Herald
The Bellingham City Council has approved seven zoning and policy language updates to the city’s twenty-year comprehensive plan. The amendments include everything from rezoning land off West Bakerview Road for retail development to updating language in the Puget neighborhood plan. Other changes impact the Mt. Baker, Happy Valley, Guide Meridian/Cordata, York, and Silver Beach neighborhoods. - 12/13/2010

"State strengthens 'move over' law on roadways"--Vancouver Columbian
Beginning January 1st, a new state law takes effect that adds more teeth to an earlier law from 2007 that requires drivers to slow down and, if possible, move over a lane when they see emergency vehicles or tow trucks on the side of the road. The new law creates emergency zones around officials and tow truck drivers who must work alongside the road, and, as with construction zones, fines will double for drivers who speed or fail to move over. Driving that endangers emergency workers will also become a gross-misdemeanor crime, with violators facing possible jail time and a mandatory 60-day suspension of their driver’s license. The first 90 days after the law goes into effect will be an education period for drivers who troopers pull over for the violations. - 12/15/2010

"Dicks introduces bill giving some Olympic National Park land to Quileute tribe"--Port Angels Peninsula Daily News
Congressman Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday that, if passed, will transfer 772 acres of Olympic National Park land to the Quileute tribe. The bill provides 280 acres at the south side of the reservation in LaPush to the tribe to develop so it can move its school and other organizations to higher ground, away from flood and tsunami zones, and it transfers 492 acres at the northern end of the reservation to resolve a longstanding boundary dispute of more than 50 years. The bill does not resolve a dispute over who owns Rialto Beach, which is part of the park, but the bill will ensure that access to the beach, as well as to Second Beach, is available. - 12/17/2010

"Puyallup looks to revitalize River Road with help from state"--Tacoma News Tribune
The City of Puyallup's plan to revitalize 60 acres off River Road has qualified for the Local Revitalization Financing program. The program, which was adopted by the state legislature in 2009, allows cities, counties and port districts to create revitalization areas and make improvements in those areas by issuing bonds to cover the upfront costs. The state helps with the debt load by essentially contributing part of the state sales tax from the community and the community must match the amount. Potential projects along River Road include redesigning the road into more of a boulevard, with landscaping, benches and lighting, and adding pedestrian and bicycle connections to the Riverwalk Trail. The goal is a more attractive, walkable area with a mix of homes and businesses. - 12/20/2010

"State gets 10th congressional seat; population up 14%"--Seattle Times
According to the first release of data from the 2010 Census, Washington’s population grew 14.1% during the past decade to 6,724,540 people, enough for the state to gain a 10th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Following a long trend, Western and Southern states gained seats, while states in the Northeast and Midwest lost them. Beginning next month, Washington’s bi-partisan Redistricting Commission will redraw political boundaries for the state’s 10 congressional and 49 state legislative districts so that each congressional district represents about 672,000 people and each legislative district represents 137,200 people. The new congressional district is also certain to be located in Western Washington, with some predicting that it will be carved out of the south Puget Sound area currently covered by the 3rd, 8th, and 9th districts. The new political map must be approved by at least 3 of the 4 members of the Redistricting Commission by the end of 2011. - 12/21/2010

“Obama signs 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal”--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
President Obama signed a new law today that will allow gays to serve openly in the military for the first time in history. The law repeals the 17-year-old policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” that resulted in more than 13,500 people being discharged from the armed services. The issue of reinstating those discharged under the policy was addressed in a study by the Pentagon, with the conclusion that those discharged on the basis of homosexual conduct should be considered for re-entry, assuming they qualify in other respects. The repeal of the policy does not go into effect immediately, as additional steps must be taken first. Troops are still vulnerable to being discharged until Pentagon officials complete mandatory implementation plans and the president, defense secretary, and chairman of the joint chiefs certify to lawmakers that the move won’t damage combat readiness. Some believe implementation could happen in a matter of months. - 12/22/2010

"A 'simple' fix for ferry system proposed"--Everett Daily Herald
According to a report by the Passenger Vessel Association that was delivered to the governor on Tuesday, Washington State Ferries needs stable funding and less political interference to become a better operation. The report compares Washington’s ferry system, the largest in the nation, with five other systems in the U.S., plus the BC Ferries system in British Columbia, lays out advantages and disadvantages of each operational model, and then considers what would be required for Washington to convert to each one. The underlying message to the governor appears to be to keep it simple: “put oversight of ferries into the hands of an independent board and get out of its way to improve things.” - 12/22/2010

"County unveils bold vision for parks' future"--Longview Daily News
The Cowlitz County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board adopted an ambitious 15-year parks plan earlier this month that is meant to guide how the county expands parks facilities in the coming years. Proposed projects include restoring Harry Gardner Park to its pre-Mount St. Helens-eruption condition, creating areas in the county for Frisbee golf, an off-leash dog park, and parks for BMX and extreme mountain biking, the building of an indoor sports complex, and more. Cost estimates are not included in the plan and the parks board acknowledges that finding funding for the projects may be difficult, but the new plan does allow the county to apply for more grants that can be used to supplement parks projects. The previous parks plan had not been updated since the 1990s. - 12/25/2010

"Auditors suggest improvements to Samish Water District payment handling"--Bellingham Herald
An audit of the Samish Water District covering 2007-2009 did not include any findings or serious problems, but the State Auditor’s Office did issue a management letter to the district, essentially warning them of problems that, if ignored, may become findings in the future. The problems surround the way payments are handled, with the district not logging payments into any type of system or keeping them in a secure area while they are being held until the minimum $5000 deposit amount is reached. Although the district also did not restrict access to funds or segregate job duties, meaning one employee performs tasks that should be parceled out among different employees, no evidence of theft was found. The district is pleased with the audit has no problems with implementing the recommendations it makes. - 12/28/2010

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