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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.

"More aid could be on the way for jobless"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Gov. Gregoire and senate Democrats want to give $45 more a week to unemployed individuals by using the state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund. There is about $4 billion currently in the fund, and legislators estimate it could last for about 15 months under the plan. The Association of Washington Business is against using the fund for more unemployment benefits, arguing that if the state runs out of money it will have to raise unemployment insurance rates for businesses, or cut unemployment benefits altogether. With so many people in Washington in danger of being laid off, both sides think there will be an increase in the state’s unemployment rate in the coming months. - 02/01/2009

"Study shows E. Washington wells in deep trouble"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
Central Washington wines are nowhere as well aged as some of the well water. These wells, often used for irrigation, are drawing on 10,000 year old water from the last ice age. According to a recent report from the Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Area, these oldest aquifers are not being renewed--in short, the deepest, most expensive wells are going to run dry. "Legislative dispute surfaces over water use by dairies, feedlots", a story that ran in the Yakima Herald-Republic on January 29, 2009, deals with some of the pressure on these aquifers--the growing battle over the use of water resources by the cattle and dairy. Traditionally dairy farms and feedlot industries have had unlimited access to water. The ever-increasing pressure on Washington's groundwater supplies has led to 3 bills being introduced in the House of Representatives. HB1509 broadens the defintion of stock watering to include task such as dust control. HB 1091 would limit a dairy or feedlot to 5,000 gallons of ground water a day for stock watering. HB 1489 would give a dairy or feedlot up to 15,000 for stock watering. The Department of of Ecology, which is responsible for ground water, would prefer that the legislature settle this controversy. - 02/02/2009

"Sims picked for HUD; successor debate begins"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
King County Executive Ron Sims was appointed to be the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development by the Obama administration. If his appointment is approved by the U.S. Senate, he will be in charge of the federal agency’s $39 billion budget and 8,500 employees, but will leave a hole at the head of the county council. Some members of the council would like to see a “caretaker” appointed to the executive position until next November’s election. The caretaker would have to agree not to run for the office in November, but not all members think this option is the best. County Councilman Larry Phillips is the only announced candidate for the upcoming election. - 02/03/2009

"State must provide reports on crashes, judge rules"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled that the state must release accident statistics it has gathered for Montlake Bridge in Seattle. The data had been requested by a bicyclist who had been badly injured while riding over the bridge, but the state patrol had refused to provide the information unless the man signed a waver saying he would not use the data to sue the state. A federal law says that accident data collected by a state in order to procure federal funds for road safety improvements does not have to be released to individuals who are suing the state. The judge in this case ruled that the Police Traffic Collision Reports requested under the Public Records Act are not part of the data collected by the state for the sole purpose of receiving federal funds, and should therefore be released. - 02/04/2009

"Local prison expansion on front line of fight against gang violence"--Walla Walla Union Bulletin - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Washington State Penitentiary has a new unit designed to control gang violence. There are fewer inmates in these units, and there's less movement allowed among the inmates. Already there has a reduction in gang violence among members of the white supremacists, Crips, Surenos, and Nortenos housed there. This unit is similar to Arizona's Security Threat Group Program. The Tri-City Herald also had an article, "Unit keeps high-risk prisoners segregated", about this gang unit, complete with a photo gallery. - 02/04/2009

"Ag census shows rise in Benton, Franklin values"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The 2007 Census of Agriculture is showing that farming is flourishing in Benton and Franklin Counties. (Data from other Washington counties or the state as a whole can be found by using this interactive map.) The Census of Agriculture is conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture every 5 years to gather comprehensive information about American farms. - 02/05/2009

"Wind-turbine business propels Port"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Port of Vancouver, Washington is having a good year despite the economic recession. According to its 2009 Port Re:Port, the Port is doing great business handling wind turbines and towers. It looks as if wind power equipment will continue to be a strong part of the economy. On the national level, wind power is being pushed by the U.S. Department of Energy. On the state level, I-937, passed in 2006 to kickstart investments in renewable energy, mandates that 15% of the electricity obtained by large utilities should be generated by renewable sources by 2020. Wind power equipment also gets a sales tax break. However, "Lawmakers poised to reshape green energy initiative", an article in Longview Daily News, reports that Washington state legislators are looking at I-937 and wondering if its goals are unrealistic during a recession. Bills such as House Bill 1133 and Senate Bill 5840 would change the requirements and calculation of renewable energy requirements. Environmentalists are wary of modify ing I937. - 02/06/2009

"Bill would allow insurance to offer pay-as-you-drive plan"--Seattle Times
Legislators are planning to introduce a bill that would encourage consumers to drive less and to drive more safely. The legislation would allow insurance companies in Washington to charge drivers based on the number of miles driven, rather than a flat rate. The plan would be optional but would require drivers to install a wireless device on their car that would upload information on miles driven and driving habits directly to the insurance company. The device would be able to measure how often you brake suddenly and accelerate quickly, both of which would determine how much you pay, as well as the times of day you tend to drive. The senate committee on Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance will probably hear the bill in the next few weeks. It is part of an overall strategy by the legislature to convince consumers to drive less in order to counteract global warming. - 02/06/2009

"Law sparks boundary wars: Neighbors can acquire title to another’s land by using it over time"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
If regular possession is nine-tenths of the law, then after 10 years adverse possession can be ten-tenths of the law in Washington. Adverse possession means that if a person takes over a portion of a neighbor's property and continually occupies it and makes improvments on it for a certain period of time, than the occupier can claim the land. Under RCW 7.28 that period of time is 10 years. At that point the original deed to the land is a moot point as several property owners in Clark County have discovered to their chagrin. (Not that anybody can practice adverse possession of public lands.) Washington's current laws can be traced back to the early laws of the state. HB 1479, a bill introduced in this year's legislative session, would curtail adverse possession. - 02/09/2009

"Patrol, wildlife agency could merge under cost-cutting proposal"--Tacoma News Tribune
One of Gov. Gregoire’s plans to downsize state government includes merging the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s enforcement officers with the Washington State Patrol. The chief officer of the state patrol says the wildlife enforcement officers would still have their own unit, and would not be expected to take over the duties of a state patrolman. However, the director of the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife worries that a merger would mean more time spent on writing traffic citations (which they already do to an extent), and a severing of the relationship between officers and agency biologists. This proposal is one of many that Gregoire unveiled today to cut costs and reform government in the face of a faltering economy. - 02/10/2009

"Gregoire urges purge of state bureaucracy: Governor seeks to eliminate 154 boards, committees"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Washington state encourages citizen participation in government by having 470 advisory boards and committees. Members of these groups get a chance to voice their opinions and sometimes a per diem to cover committee or board related meals, travel, and lodging. Now the Governor is recommending that 154 of these groups be eliminated. That still leaves over 300 advisory boards, committees and commissions. The Governor is recommending that some of these, such as the agricultural commissions, be kept, and urging agencies to review others. Legislators have also drafted bills to consolidate or eliminate many boards and commissions. - 02/10/2009

"Less water, more heat forecast for state"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sixty-four scientists contributed to a new report to the legislature which outlines the effects climate change will have on the state’s environment and human health. The report predicts that farmers will see fewer fruit crops, but possibly more wheat. In addition, weather systems will change such that snowpacks will be smaller, but rainfall will be heavier. That eventuality has many side effects on ecologies throughout the state, and may negatively impact the survival of salmon. In addition, climate change may also mean more frequent intense storms, similar to the ones the state has experienced over the past few winters, although disagreement on that likelihood remains. Hotter, drier summers may mean greater forest growth, which in turn means a greater chance of forest fires. A higher number of heat-related deaths in populous areas such as Seattle are also predicted. - 02/11/2009

"Stimulus bill includes $3 billion for state's infrastructure"--Longview Daily News - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
According to Senator Maria Cantwell, the stimulus package passed by the Senate would be a boon to Washington's sagging economy. She sees this plan pumping $2 billion into Medicaid and $3 billion into infrastructure projects that translate into nearly 80,000 jobs. These provisions are in the Senate version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which passed the Senate on February 10. The Senate version is significantly different from the House of Representatives version of that act which passed on January 28. Now the selected members of the House and the Senate have formed a conference committee to agree on a version of the bill for Congress to vote on. The major differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill can be seen in this chart. - 02/11/2009

"BPA seeks 9.4 percent rate increase"--Longview Daily News
Electricity could become more expensive if the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is allowed to raise its rates by 9.4%. This leaves local utilities like the Cowlitz Public Utility District holding their breath since the BPA is the largest power supplier in the Northwest. BPA gave four reasons for raising rates. Dam maintenance and operating costs are up. Operating costs are also up for the nuclear Columbia Generating Station. Protecting salmon runs on the Columbia and Snake Rivers is becoming more expensive. Climate change is also a contributing factor: less snow>less water behind dams>less power to sell to utilities. Regardless of the reasons, the end result will likely be more expensive electricity for homes and businesses. - 02/12/2009

"Court says vaccine is not to blame for autism"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The U.S. Court of Claims has ruled that vaccinations do not cause autism, in spite of the more than 5,000 parents who have claimed otherwise and sought damages from the U.S. government. The court said that the plaintiffs were not able to demonstrate through scientific evidence that ingredients in vaccines, particularly thimerosal, a mercury-based ingredient, were responsible for causing autism in children. The parents were seeking damages through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Three different theories of how vaccines could have caused the disease were presented to the court, but none of them proved strong enough to persuade the judges. Some individual claims regarding thimerosal will still be considered by the special court. - 02/12/2009

"When the Hood Canal Bridge sank 30 years ago"--Peninsula Daily News
During a storm that produced hurricane-force winds of 80-120 mph, the western half of the Hood Canal Bridge sank into the water thirty years ago today. Fortunately no lives were lost, but the replacement bridge took three years to build and cost $143 million. This summer, the state department of transportation will be replacing the aging eastern half of the bridge, at a price tag of $477 million, and the Hood Canal community will once again face the inconvenience of long commutes brought on by the lack of a usable bridge across the water. This time, however, WSDOT estimates the replacement will only take about six weeks. - 02/13/2009

"Corridor waits on funds: Legislators hope stimulus aid goes to work long in progress"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The stimulus package has been signed into law. Now the jockeying for money begins. Both the Governor and Spokane area legislators are pushing to get funding for the next stages of the North Spokane Corridor. This stretch of road has been in planning since 1946 and under construction in stages since 2001. it would create a high speed route from I-90 to north of Spokane. Currently that drive takes time and patience. It may also take patience to see that project completed since the state isn't getting all the money it wanted. - 02/17/2009

"Teen's death triggers policy review at Fort Lewis"--Seattle Times
After a 16-year-old girl was found dead on the base Tuesday, Fort Lewis authorities are investigating how the girl and her friend, who was hospitalized, came to be on the post at all. Officials at the army base say that civilians are allowed on the base as long as they are accompanied by someone with Department of Defense ID. However, anyone aged 16 or older is supposed to provide identification. Visitors to soldiers’ barracks are supposed to abide by stricter regulations: according to Ft. Lewis policy, no minors are allowed in the barracks unless they are with a parent or guardian, and visitors are required to leave by 2 a.m. Anecdotal evidence from community members suggests that teenage girls are often allowed onto the base and into the barracks, despite those policies. No cause of death has been released. - 02/18/2009

"More kids qualify for meal assistance: School program helps struggling families"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
One of the sad indications of the current financial crisis is the rising number of children qualifying for free and reduced priced school meals. The Spokane Public School District has seen the number of new applications for this service increase from 3,500 last school year to 5,800 this school year. Family income must be no more than 200% of the federal poverty level to qualify. This program gets support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National School Lunch Program which was started after studies of World War II draftees showed the relationship between being physically unfit and poor childhood nutrition. - 02/18/2009

"DOT’s use of Narrows bridge toll funds under fire"--Tacoma News Tribune
The Department of Transportation wants to use funds collected from Narrows Bridge tolls to finance movable barriers to be placed between the two bridges on each end. WSDOT also wants to use bridge tolls to create a noise wall on the Gig Harbor end. Officials who approved the projects say that they are within the scope of the new Narrows Bridge construction, which is what the tolls are supposed to be used for. Sen. Derek Kilmer has introduced bills to the legislature that would further restrict how WSDOT could spend toll money, and require WSDOT to get legislative approval on any improvement projects on the bridge. Kilmer has also sponsored two other bills concerning Narrows Bridge tolls. WSDOT has yet to decide if they will raise the bridge toll this summer or wait until 2010. - 02/19/2009

"Recession likely to widen state's budget gap"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The state’s chief economist for the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council has given the legislature an estimate of about an $8 billion expected deficit between now and 2011. Although the official revenue forecast won’t come until March, the early forecast was requested in order to get legislators serious about making cuts to the next biennial budget. The 2009-11 budget is set to go into effect this July. The council says that Washington will probably see up to 90,000 people become unemployed as of June; meanwhile, consumers fearful of the economic downturn have stopped spending money, which means that sales tax revenues, which the state depends on for funding, have dropped dramatically. The legislature may need to consider raising taxes, but will try to make program cuts before that happens. - 02/20/2009

"State sending $1 checks to Washington's needy"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The state Department of Social and Health Services is sending out $1.00 checks to residents signed up to receive food stamps. The checks will qualify needy residents for a federal program that will allow them to receive up to $30 more a month in food stamps, and will also qualify them to receive energy bill assistance from the federal government. Though postage and printing will cost the state about $250,000, officials say the checks could bring $43 million in federal funds to those most in need, so the money spent is worth it. The extra federal funds have become available through the federal stimulus package passed by Congress. Residents do not need to deposit or cash the check in order to receive the federal benefits. - 02/22/2009

"Debate follows closing of state-run school for disabled"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
One of the proposals for cutting state spending is to close the Yakima Valley School, a state-run residential habilitation center that serves people with developmental disabilities. The plan has its supporters and its detractors. People who want to close Yakima Valley School point to the cost of running a nursing facility that offers a range of programs to its residents. Also, the conventional wisdom among many advocates for the developmentally disabled is that the residents would be better off living with their families or in nursing homes or in some sort of supported living arrangement. A 2002 report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee recommends closing some of the state's institutions for the developmentally disabled. Advocates for the School point to the specialized knowledge that the staff has in serving severely and profoundly individuals. They also point to the value of services offered there such as respite care. Insitutions such as the Yakima Valley School are subject to rigorous federal standards. - 02/23/2009

"Murray seeking millions from spending bill for Clark County projects"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
It's good to have a powerful Senator when the government is handing out money. Another way to put is that the economic stimulus package could be very, very good to Clark County. The Columbian identifies $44,100,500 that will benefit Clark County. To be fair, by far the largest part of that money--$34 million--is for dredging the Columbia River. This project will be a regional benefit to Idaho, Washington, and Oregon businesses and agriculture. On the other hand, the Yakima Herald-Republic reports in its article, "Stall stimulus: There's little in it for city of Yakima", that officials in Yakima are disappointed that Yakima County is only getting $3.7 million. Yakima alone could use $10 million. With stimulus projects slated to occur across the country, one hopes oversight occurs, too. - 02/24/2009

"State courts unfair to men, minorities, UW study alleges"--Seattle Times
A study conducted by UW sociology professors on behalf of the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission shows that court fees and fines vary widely between members of different races, between different geographic areas of the state, and among the types of crime committed. The report says that fines for the same crime can be different by as much as thousands of dollars from county to county. In addition, Hispanics are given higher fines than non-Hispanic whites, and men are often fined more than women. Drug convictions also tend to garner higher fees and fines than violent crimes. The study calls for an overhaul of the courts’ fine system, as well as implementation of a statewide legal debt database. - 02/25/2009

"Tri-City jobless rate hits 9 percent "--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
Washington state's unemployment numbers for January 2009 have been released and they're not good for the Tri-Cities area. Unemployment for the area has risen to 9% from 6.5% a year ago. The downturn in the housing market and the end of construction work at the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center caused a sharp rise in unemployment among the construction trades. It's hoped that additional money in the federal budget for nuclear waste cleanup will translate into jobs. - 02/25/2009

"Home prices holding in Spokane"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Home sales are down in Spokane, but when compared with the rest of the Northwest, things could be worse. Winter weather and rising unemployment dragged down an already sluggish housing market. The market was particularly slow for new homes, especially when compared to January 2008. The Spokane market for new homes reflects national trends - 02/26/2009

"U.S. jobless claims tally tops 5 million mark"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Workers who have been laid off from their jobs and are filing for unemployment benefits rose to a total of 5.1 million people, according to numbers reported by the federal Department of Labor. One year ago, only about 2.8 million people had claimed unemployment benefits. The department says that the new number is the largest proportion of Americans receiving benefits for more than one week since 1967. The national unemployment rate is currently at about 7.6 percent, while the state unemployment rate is 7.8 percent. Workers who have been laid off can contact the state Employment Security Department for information on unemployment benefits. - 02/26/2009

"Web video of workers starts Dept. of Labor and Industries probe"--Seattle Times
Rain City, a concrete contractor for the Point Ruston development complex, is now under investigation by the state Department of Labor and Industries, as well as federal labor authorities, thanks to a YouTube video. The video features three Spanish-speaking workers who say that they were given badges indicating that they had received contaminated-area training when they had neither received training nor been given instructions in Spanish on how to protect themselves. They also were not warned about potential exposure to arsenic. Rain City has been fined $35,000 by Labor and Industries for flouting safety regulations, and has been accused of firing one of the workers in retaliation, for which they are being investigated by the federal government. The “urban village” being developed on Point Ruston stands at the former site of the smelting company Asarco. - 02/27/2009

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