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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.

"New 520 bridge idea: More transit, fewer cars"
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, House Speaker Frank Chopp, and other Seattle politicians submitted a plan to the legislature Monday morning for the 520 bridge that is different than the one the legislature had devised. A legislative work group had voted 10-2 in November to replace the existing 520 bridge with a six-lane bridge with an HOV lane in each direction. The new plan asks for the HOV lane to be converted into a transit-only lane for buses or other types of mass transit. Chopp and McGinn have said that the legislature’s plan does not look toward the future of the area and does not address problems that may arise from increased traffic flow. Neither the legislative plan nor McGinn’s plan clearly define how the project will be paid for. An independent poll showed that 69 percent of area residents preferred transit lanes over HOV lanes. - 02/01/2010

"Lawmakers beef up accountability for online schools"--Wenatchee World
A computer monitor has replaced the schoolhouse for some students in Washington. As more students from Washington's schools opted online learning, concerns grew over the quality of digital education. The Legislature passed SB 5410 in 2009 to address those concerns. The bill set standards for online learning providers. The bill also directed the Superindendent of of Public Instruction to create a Digital Learning Department supporting these programs. This Department has issued a "Review of 2008–09 Online Courses and Programs". This article is part of a series the Wenatchee World has been running about online education programs offered by Washington's schools. - 02/02/2010

"Mixed results in Puget Sound efforts"--The Olympian
The Puget Sound Partnership issued a State of the Sound report that concludes many things are going right with the Sound, but many things still need improving. Among the improvements, shellfish beds have been re-opened for harvesting and 3,800 acres of habitat have been restored. However, population growth means that more agricultural land has been developed and rivers are running higher in the winter and lower in the summer. Clean-up and stabilization efforts in the Puget Sound date back at least as far as 1985, when the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority was founded. Gov. Gregoire wants the Puget Sound Partnership to meet a series of goals in order to restore the sound by 2020. - 02/03/2010

"EPA adds lead rules to painters’ prep work"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Lead is bad for you. It was also widely used in house paint until the late 1970's. Now old house paint is seen as a real hazard, as in lead poisoning. That makes disturbing or removing old house paint dangerous, particularly to children and workers. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued new rules aimed at reducing exposure to lead while repainting or remodeling older structures. These rules go into effect on April 22, 2010. - 02/03/2010

"Road funding source runs low on gas: Fuel-efficiency among factors eroding state’s ability to pay for projects"--Vancouver Columbian
Every time you fill your gas tank in Washington, you're contributing to the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax. This tax is the primary source of funding for state and local highway construction in the state. The state has been collecting this tax since 1921. The revenue from this funding source dropped in 2009 even as the number of registered vehicles grew. Despite the growth in the number of vehicles, the number of miles driven only grew slightly in 2009. One reason for the drop in motor vehicle fuel tax revenues is the improved mileage of vehicles on the road (compare the 2000 and 2010 fuel economy numbers). The improvement in vehicle mileage combined with the slow growth in miles driven has also hurt funding to the Federal Highway Administration, another source of funds for state highway construction. Meanwhile, expensive highway projects are under way or loom in Seattle/the Eastside, Spokane, and Vancouver. - 02/04/2010

"Bill would suspend limits on tax hikes"--Everett Herald
Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would effectively kill Initiative 960, which was an anti-tax initiative passed by voters in 2007, until 2011. Sponsored by Tim Eyman, the initiative requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to raise taxes. Senate Democrats are now looking to do away with the restriction imposed by the law so that they can raise taxes with a simple majority. State law requires legislators to wait two years after an initiative has passed before they can change or repeal the law. Democrats say they need to be able to respond quickly in budget emergencies, such as the one facing the legislature this year. Meanwhile, House Democrats are already working on a bill to close some tax loopholes and require out-of-state businesses to pay Washington state taxes. - 02/04/2010

"Basic education underfunded, judge rules"--The Olympian
A King County Superior Court judge ruled yesterday in McCleary v. State that the state of Washington was not doing its part in funding basic education, and was therefore violating the state constitution. The case was brought to court by individuals and an organization called Network for Excellence in Washington Schools, which argues that Washington relies too heavily on local school district levies, fundraisers, and donations to fund K-12 education. The judge agreed that those sources of funding are not stable, and that the state needs to provide more money directly to schools. The state constitution says that it is the “paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders,” (Article IX, Section 1). Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and Gov. Gregoire have supported the ruling. The state legislature is currently considering bills to reform Washington’s education system. - 02/05/2010

"Link gets national attention, which might mean more money"--Wenatchee World
Link Transit, which serves Douglas and Chelan Counties, won praise and money from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Praise for Link's use of electric buses is nice; $3 million to pay for buses and charging stations is nicer. The money comes the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction Program (TIGGER). This program is part of the Department of Transportation's stimulus funding. Link Transit is also getting $528,864 in grant money from the Washington State Department of Transportation to improve services to people with special needs. - 02/06/2010

"BPA expects revenue drop: Scant snowpack, reduced runoff will cut hydroelectric dams’ output"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
El Nino is back, and the snowpack in the Pacific Northwest is suffering for it. The snowpacks in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are well below average for this time of year. Less snow creates less runoff feeding the Pacific Northwest's lakes and rivers. For the Bonneville Power Administration low runoff translates into less water for generating hydroelectric power. The Northwest region won't run out of power, but it means BPA won't be able to generate revenue by selling surplus power outside of the region. Athough it's not mentioned in the article, El Nino has an effect on salmon, irrigation, and development. - 02/09/2010

"Whatcom County residents gather at Peace Arch to cheer Olympic torch"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Members of the Blaine community and other communities near the U.S./Canadian border watched yesterday as Olympic torchbearers brought the torch onto U.S. soil for the first time in the torch’s 25,000 mile journey across Canada. The torch was passed at the Peace Arch along the border to symbolize the unity between the two countries and to acknowledge the close relationship between British Columbia and Washington state. B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and Washington < a href="">Gov. Chris Gregoire were on hand to celebrate the passing of the torch. The 2010 Winter Olympic Games begin in Vancouver, B.C. on Friday, February 12. - 02/10/2010

"Seattle donors step up to save program aimed at rescuing teen prostitutes"--Seattle Times
A Seattle program aimed at helping teen prostitutes get off the streets was in danger of being axed by budget cuts. However, a combination of private donations and public funding will allow the program to be implemented after all. The city of Seattle came up with $1.2 million in funding, and private donors provided the additional $300,000 needed to launch the rescue shelter. This new rehabilitation program is one of only four in the nation designed specifically for teen prostitutes. It will be run by a Seattle nonprofit called YouthCare, and will provide emergency shelter and transitional housing for teenage girls victimized by the sex trade. - 02/11/2010

"Education reform bill wins Senate approval"--The Olympian
An education bill put forward by Gov. Gregoire passed the state senate unchanged yesterday. Senate Bill 6696 aims to help the state win federal Race to the Top grants by tying student success to teacher and principal performances. The bill also expands the probationary period for teachers, puts forth an evaluation system for principals, adds new ways for teachers to become certified, and proposes a rewards system for teachers who innovate. Washington is one of only ten states that have not applied to receive any Race to the Top grants thus far. The grants are only awarded to states that have put certain standards into place, such as teacher evaluations and incentives for creativity and innovation. - 02/12/2010

"Study: Imported waste would further harm Hanford ground water"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri City Herald
The state Department of Ecology issued a 6,000 page report that ultimately concluded imported radioactive waste could show up in groundwater and drinking water. Much of the radioactivity would not show up until 1,000 or 2,000 years into the future, because of the long half-lives of the radioactive isotopes. Nevertheless, the amount of radioactivity that might eventually make its way into drinking water near Hanford would be 18 times the acceptable amount. Washington voters tried to ban imported nuclear waste with Initiative 297 in 2004, but the law was found unconstitutional. - 02/16/2010

"Senate eases Tacoma Narrows Bridge fines"--Tacoma News Tribune
The state Senate voted Tuesday to pass a bill which would give Narrows Bridge toll violators an 80-day grace period, would let the Dept. of Transportation handle all fines and appeals, and would give all money from fines directly to the state to pay off the loan for bridge construction. Right now, fines and appeals are handled by Pierce County courts, and the county keeps $40 from every $52 ticket. Pierce County courts are against the bill, arguing that the courts already have a system for dealing with traffic violations and provide a neutral ground on which to hear appeals. Supporters say that the grace period and new appeals system would be friendlier to tourists, and would keep tolls down, since the money from fines would all be going directly to the Dept. of Transportation. The state House has yet to vote on the bill. - 02/17/2010

"Gregoire lays out tax plan"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Gov. Gregoire's proposed revenue plan will seek to implement a sales tax on candy, place excise taxes on bottled water and soda, increase the vice tax on cigarettes, and increase the hazardous substance tax on petroleum. Gregoire said she did not want to raise sales or Business and Occupation taxes generally because that would hinder an economic recovery, and she tried to increase taxes only on discretionary items. Refineries and farmers were against the increased petroleum tax, but environmentalists and local government officials were supportive, because the governor had indicated that money raised by the tax would eventually go towards hazardous materials clean-up. - 02/18/2010

"Complete list of schools facing federal sanctions due in coming weeks"--Longview Daily News
The Department of Education will soon be releasing a list of low-achieving schools, which will mean many schools will need to implement mandated improvement options in order to receive federal grants. Options include removing the principal, moving half of the staff to different schools, closing the school, or transforming the management structure of the school. Monticello Middle School in Longview expects to be on the list, and has already notified staff that the principal will be retiring early to meet its improvement option. Officials estimate between 40 and 50 Washington schools will be on the list. Previously, schools not receiving Title I grants did not have to obey No Child Left Behind sanctions, but the rules have recently changed. - 02/21/2010

"Voters to decide on county seat change as petitions verified"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri City Herald
The Benton County Auditor’s Office has confirmed that a sufficient number of signatures were obtained to put a petition to change the county seat on the November ballot. The petition wants voters to approve moving the county seat from Prosser to Kennewick. The man behind the petition, retired Superior Court Judge Staples, says that most of the county’s employees already work in Kennewick. Nevertheless, state law requires the county to complete a financial analysis at least 60 days before the election to let voters know the full extent of the costs involved. Staples brought the issue to a vote in 1984, but voters declined to approve the measure. A sixty-percent majority is required to move the county seat. - 02/23/2010

"Olympia councilman Hyer charged with three drug felonies"--The Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Hyer was formally charged with three counts of selling marijuana yesterday. An informant wearing a wire allegedly purchased marijuana from Hyer twice at his home. All three counts may be enhanced because Hyer lives within 1000 feet of a school zone; each count comes with a maximum six-month jail sentence, each of which could be increased to two years because of the proximity to schools. The councilman is quoted as admitting he sold marijuana, but only to close friends. Hyer had been the Thurston County Democrats’ pick for county treasurer, but that decision may now be in jeopardy. - 02/24/2010

"Obama, GOP clash at summit: 'We have better idea'"--Seattle Times
At the bipartisan health care summit today, President Obama will be acting as a moderator for a discussion between Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The summit is an effort to reach agreement on the health care reform bill currently being considered in Congress. The first Republican to speak, Senator Lamar Alexander, said the GOP wanted much more modest reforms, such as provisions to help those having trouble paying medical bills or premiums. The Republicans have indicated that they do not want to take steps toward universal coverage. Meanwhile, the bill under consideration would require all Americans to have health insurance and would provide subsidies for many who could not afford insurance on their own. The legislation would be paid for through Medicare cuts and tax increases. - 02/25/2010

"Bellingham schools face $2 million in cuts"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
According to the Bellingham superintendent, the school district will need to save at least $2 million next year. Superintendent Sherrie Brown has released a list of 34 suggested cuts, and the district will be implementing at least four of the suggestions in the near future. Those cuts include replacing some early-release days with full days off, and changing the kindergarten program to a full-day, every other day schedule. Brown has also said that budget cuts will probably mean cuts in staff as well. Until the legislature wraps up this year’s session, schools won’t know for sure how much money they will need to save. Cost-cutting remedies under consideration by the legislature include eliminating funding for I-728, cutting the professional-development day, and limiting other class-size reduction funds. - 02/26/2010

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