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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.

"Senate majority leader to sue over I-960 ruling "--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown is suing Lieutentant Governor Brad Owen, but the suit is really aimed at Tim Eyman's Initiative 960. This Initiative requires any bill that involves tax or fee increases must pass the legislature by a supermajority of two-thirds support. The challenge to this Initiative arose over Senate Bill 6931 that would raise the state tax on liquor sales by 42 cents per liter. The additional funds would go to enforcement of driving under the influence laws and treatment of offenders. It passed 25 yeas to 21 nays. Lt. Governor Owen declared the bill dead because it lacked a supermajority. Senator Brown holds this ruling is unconstitutional because the state Constituion doesn't require supermajorities for this kind of vote. Article II Section 22 of the Washington State Constitution that states: "No bill shall become a law unless...a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor." The lawsuit will go to the Washington State Supreme Court. - 03/03/2008

"Efforts seek to curb painkiller abuse"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
267 Washingtonians died from prescription opiates in the year 2004, and that number will likely keep growing. The increased uptick in patients seeking painkiller prescriptions, as well as the prevalence of drug-sharing, means that more people are taking larger and larger doses of prescription painkillers that can be highly addicting. A study in Thurston County showed that out of 13 people who died of accidental drug overdoses, 11 had been taking medication prescribed to someone else. Dosing guidelines for physicians have changed in response to rampant painkiller addiction, and will be reevaluated again this summer. In addition, the Department of Social and Health Services is working harder to track “doctor shopping,” and Gov. Gregoire’s supplemental budget includes money for an electronic program for pharmacies to track sales of controlled substances. - 03/03/2008

"State sets an ambitious pace for Sound cleanup"--Peninsula Daily News
The Puget Sound Partnership, a new state agency created at the request of Gov. Gregoire, will be working double-time to fulfill its deadlines on cleaning up the Sound. The Partnership, made up of citizens, environmentalists, and politicians, has been given 14 years to clean up the entire Sound, but they only have 183 days to figure out how to do it. The leadership council has decided that ideas should flow democratically from the bottom up, and will encourage community participation and feedback. The state and federal governments have each allocated several million dollars to the cleanup effort, which will include involving the ports--a major source of industrial pollution. The State of the Sound 2007 report shows that while much effort has already gone into the Puget Sound cleanup, much more work remains. - 03/04/2008

"Boeing’s Air Force tanker debriefing Thursday"--Everett Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
With outcries from Senator Patty Murray on their side, Boeing has managed to move the Pentagon debriefing of their tanker decision up to this Thursday. However, analysts say they shouldn’t get their hopes on overturning the decision. Boeing has ten days after the debriefing to file a formal complaint with the Government Accountability Office. A defense report suggested that the winner of the tanker contract, Northrop Grumman-EADS, overshadowed Boeing in several key areas, including mission capability, risk, past performance, cost, and integration. Boeing proposed their smaller 767 tanker to the Air Force, but the Pentagon decided to go with the larger tankers offered by Northrop-EADS. - 03/05/2008

"Coyote Ridge looking for new recruits"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The expansion of the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center in Connell by adding 2,048 medium-security beds to 600 existing minimum-security beds is also adding jobs to Eastern Washington. There's a need for 200 guards by the end of the year. The Department of Corrections isn't just recruiting guards--there's a wide variety of jobs that are required to run a prison. Despite all the hiring some research questions whether rural prisons are a benefit to local economies in the long run. - 03/05/2008

"State urged to increase Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls to $4 this summer"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A citizen advisory committee recommends that the standard toll for the Narrows Bridge rise to $4 in July, instead of maintaining the $3 toll but eradicating the discount for Good to Go participants. With the committee’s recommendation, people in the Good to Go program will still have a discounted toll of $2.75, while other cars without the transponder pay $4. Increasing the standard toll now will mean that the discount will last longer for Good to Go commuters, an idea lawmakers are likely to approve. The state needs $42 million to pay the construction and maintenance bills on the new bridge. Eventually, Good to Go and standard tolls will be equalized in order to generate enough funding. - 03/06/2008

"Tribal police powers bill mired in decades of distrust"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The authority of tribal police departments on Indian reservations is based on tribal sovereignty. However, this sovereignty is limited and leads to issues of jurisdiction when dealing with both non-tribal members and local law enforcement. The Yakama Tribal Police Department has about 20 officers to cover a large reservation with its share of social problems. The Department's effectiveness is further limited by its lack of reciprocal agreements with local non-tribal law enforcment agencies. The Colville Reservation has worked out cooperative arrangements with with local law enforement in north central Washington, and it's worked well. EHB 2476, currently working its way through the Legislature, would give tribal police the same powers and responsibilities of non-tribal police officers. Some opposition has come from law enforcment agnecies in the Yakima Valley over concerns about accountability. - 03/06/2008

"Local group’s bid to save Sonics up to Olympia"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A Seattle investment group made up of four high-powered men is trying to convince the state legislature to approve funding to keep the Sonics NBA team in Seattle. Steve Ballmer, Matt Griffin, Jim Sinegal, and John Stanton are pledging $150 million in private funds to overhaul Key Arena, but they are asking the city of Seattle and Washington state to kick in the other $150 million in their $300 million plan. Seattle leaders have been open to the idea, but state lawmakers seem less so, with only one more week left in the legislative session and several budget items left to discuss. The money for the arena would come from King County stadium taxes. The NBA league owners will meet in April to consider moving the team to Oklahoma City, which Sonics owner Clay Bennett has requested. If the legislature doesn’t approve funding by the end of this session, it will probably be too late to keep the Sonics in Seattle. - 03/07/2008

"Mental health suffers with multiple tours: Army sees spike after third, fourth deployments"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The U.S. Army Medical Department has released a report on the mental health of troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq (an overview can be here; the full report can be found here). Overall unit morale has increased, but individuals show more mental health problems with each deployment they serve in the combat zones. Combat stress has long been recognized under different names--shell shock, Guadalcanal neurosis, combat fatigue, posttraumatic stress disorder. The miliatry has created various programs to help military personnel and their families adjust to the stresses of deployment. - 03/07/2008

"Health clinic for students, low-income closing"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The People's Clinic in spokane is closing due to a lack of funding and the sale of the YWCA Building where it's located. The clinic, run by the Washington State University's Intercollegiate School of Nursing, has been an important source of health care in a city where over 11% of the population lacks health insurance. It has been serving 1,500 students and low-income city residents. - 03/10/2008

"State microbrewers push for sampling in stores, offsite warehouses"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Washington’s small microbreweries have taken a cue from national beer brands and are getting in on the lobbying act. This year they’ve convinced state lawmakers to pass a bill allowing them to provide samples of their wares in grocery stores. The beer-and-wine tasting bill was passed last week, despite some strong opposition. The Washington Beer Commission was formed in 2006 to help the state’s beer craftsmen lobby on behalf of the blossoming industry. There are more than 80 microbreweries in this state, many of whom use Washington-grown hops in their products. All told, microbreweries contribute an estimated $200 million to the state economy. - 03/10/2008

"Sound Transit ridership rose 12.5% in 2007"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
According to a study released by the American Public Transportation Association, last year saw a big increase in the number of people using public transportation in the Seattle area. Part of the upswing can be attributed to the period last August when some lanes of I-5 were closed through Seattle, causing traffic delays and encouraging people to explore other commuting options. The largest increase was in the use the Sounder commuter train running between Everett and Tacoma. Sound Transit officials say the increase was larger than expected, but are hopeful that the trend bodes well for Seattle’s upcoming light rail line, due in 2009. The national average was a 2 percent increase in public transportation use. - 03/11/2008

"Bills fund flood control"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Two bills will likely be approved by the legislature to help areas damaged by this winter’s flooding. One bill, already passed by both houses, authorizes $50 million in flood control to include a study of the Chehalis River basin. The funds match federal monies for an Army Corps of Engineers levy project, which will help put some oversight of the project into the hands of local governments. The second bill authorizes bonds to fund the project, as well as bonds to fund high school skills centers around the state. The hope is that the combination of state and federal funding will lead to greater control of high water in the flood-prone basin. - 03/12/2008

"Study finds 1 in 4 teen girls in U.S. has at least one STD"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A study by staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that a quarter of American teenage girls have a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It was presented at the 2008 National STD Prevention Conference. The CDC compiles national statistics on STDs. The Washington State Department of Health compiles STD statistics for Washington. The numbers are ominous, but interpreting them can be tricky. The program for the National STD Conference says, "The findings and conclusions in these presentations have not been formally disseminated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and should not be construed to represent any agency determination or policy." The introduction to the Department of Health's 2006 report on STD statistics for Washington has a section on "Guidelines to Prevent Misuse of These Data". - 03/12/2008

"Measure adds to rights of domestic partners"--Seattle Times
Gov. Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5336 into law yesterday, granting registered domestic partners an extension of rights. The new law will take effect on June 12, and will give domestic partners the same rights afforded to married spouses in sections of existing state law, including the areas of probate, trusts, community property, guardianship and power of attorney. It will also allow the Secretary of State to dissolve domestic partnerships within the first five years; partnerships older than five years will need to be dissolved in a superior court. Thousands of couples in the state have already registered as domestic partners. Homosexual couples and couples where one partner is 62 years old or more are eligible to be registered. - 03/13/2008

"Feds to consider endangered listing for smelt"--Longview Daily News - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The smelt run on the Cowlitz River isn't what it used to be. In fact, the Department of Fish and Wildlife says 2008 was the second worst smelt run on record. This decline has led the Cowlitz Tribe to request the National Marine Fisheries Service to give Columbia River smelt protection under the Endangered Species Act. The tribe believes that a sediment retention dam, built to control debris from Mount St. Helens, contributes to the degradation of the smelt's spawning beds. - 03/13/2008

"Salmon collapse cancels early fishing"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
It can't happen here, right? The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) has closed early season salmon fishing off the California and Oregon coasts. The PFMC is made up of representatives from California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service and a tribal representative. Its mission is to manage ocean fisheries out to 200 miles offshore. It's closing offshore salmon fishing in its Southwest Region as part of the management plan for salmon. The decision is driven by the collapse of the Sacramento River salmon run. Some people blame oceanic conditions for the decline of the Sacramento run; others blame the amount of water pumped out of the river for irrigation. - 03/14/2008

"Fed takes bold steps to ease crisis"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Federal Reserve announced that it will become a short-term lender of emergency loans to lending institutions, in the wake of Bear Stearns’ collapse and take-over by JP Morgan this weekend. The Fed also cut interest rates on emergency loans from 3.5 percent to 3.25 percent. Despite the Fed’s quick action, the Dow Jones opened low this morning, and markets in Australia, Asia, and Europe also saw plunges. Worries over the economy are increasing as the U.S. dollar continues to nosedive. Many economists predict that U.S. economy will show losses for the first quarter of the year. Those numbers will be available in April. - 03/17/2008

"Supreme Court rules in favor of Washington state primary"--Seattle Times
Secretary of State Sam Reed considers the 7-2 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court a triumph for voters. The ruling upholds Washington’s top-two primary law, which was approved by voters in 2004 to replace the state’s blanket primary. The law has been tied up in the courts since it passed and has not yet been put into practice. The top-two primary will allow voters to send candidates receiving the most and second-most votes in a primary election to the general election, without consideration for the parties to which the candidates belong. This means that it is possible for two candidates of the same party to compete for one seat in the general election. The Republican and Democratic parties say that the top-two primary will substantially hurt political parties. The new law will not affect the state's presidential primary. - 03/18/2008

"Windfall -- Existing transmission lines help make power feasible"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Most of the best locations for wind farms in Washington state are near the Columbia River. This works to the wind farms' advantage because it places them near the transmission lines that serve the dams on the Columbia. The cost of new transmission lines can be from $300,000 to $2 million per mile. The hydroelectric power from dams can also back up the wind farms on windless days. The development of wind farms has also been spurred by Initiative 937 which directs utilities to develop renewable sources of energy. Wind farms are seen as an economic boon to rural communities. New wind farms are being reviewed by Washington's Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council. - 03/18/2008

"Iraqi refugees’ dreams of home begin to fade"--Everett Herald
Everett is home to the state’s largest population of Iraqi refugees, many of whom had hoped that Saddam Hussein’s defeat would mean they would soon be able to return to their homeland. However, now that the war in Iraq has dragged on for five years and the region has become more and more unstable, that hope is beginning to flicker. Many refugees are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and one in five has been a victim of torture. According to psychologists, refugees also suffer from “tourism,” a feeling that one is a perpetual tourist in their adopted country because they constantly hope for a chance to return home. With the violence that has surged in Iraq since Saddam was deposed, refugees’ families have been killed and former homes destroyed. Undoubtedly many refugees will never be able to return. - 03/19/2008

"Lead poisoning nightmare for Tacoma family with three young children"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department declared a family’s rental home in Tacoma uninhabitable because of lead poisoning due to wildcat smelting in the area. However, the decision to close the house may not have come soon enough for the family’s children, who may have brain damage because of lead poisoning. The youngest child has recently been diagnosed with developmental disabilities. The owners of the house were melting down bullet casings and other scraps of metal for lead bars and weights, causing the lead to seep into the soil. The Department of Ecology said they may have to use state money to clean up the neighborhood if a large area is shown to be polluted, but so far the property owner is required to pay for the detoxification of his house and yard. It isn’t yet clear whether the owner should have been required to obtain a pollution permit for his operation. - 03/20/2008

"Troubled Hanford cleanup has state mulling lawsuit"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Hanford Superfund cleanup site in eastern Washington is the nation’s biggest nuclear cleanup project. However, progress on the site has been slow and the Bush administration has recently proposed reducing its budget by one-third. The federal government promised Washington that the project would be completed within 30 years, but as it nears the 20 year mark, less than half of the work has been finished. The revised goal for completion is now 2047. A so-called Tri-Party agreement between the state, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency was formed to insure that many tasks were completed on time, but unless new negotiations between the parties can be worked out, it seems likely that the state will sue the Department of Energy for unsafe storage of nuclear waste. - 03/21/2008

"Free needle exchange use soars"--Peninsula Daily News
Jefferson County Public Health’s needle exchange program keeps growing. With only 506 needles exchanged in the first year, it now exchanges 24,585 needles in 65 clinics throughout the county. Advocates say the program prevents the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, and gives health officials a forum to communicate with drug users about important issues such as HIV testing, drug rehabilitation programs, counseling, and risk reduction programs. National studies have shown that the availability of needle exchange clinics do not increase drug use. The program in Jefferson County also offers “prevention kits,” condoms, and literature about sexually transmitted diseases. About 50 percent of new HIV cases come from intravenous drug users, most of whom have shared needles. - 03/24/2008

"Canadian tribes oppose major dam near Oroville"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
One of the Okanogan County Public Utility District's proposals for a dam on the Similkameen River has run into major opposition from Indian tribes in Canada. The Okanogan Nation Alliance, a group of seven Okanogan tribes, is protesting the high dam option for the proposed Shanker's Bend water storage dam. The high dam option would store the most water at the least cost per acre foot of water, but the reservoir would stretch into Canada and flood two Indian reserves. The Shanker's Bend Storage project is one of the proposals being studied as part of the effort to increase water storage in the Columbia Basin. - 03/24/2008

"Give animal care to private agency, county urged"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A private consultant hired by the County Council is recommending that the county turn over its animal care and control services to a private agency, in light of his findings. His report contends that animals at Kent and Bellevue shelters were left in dirty kennels with no food or water for sometimes more than a day at a time. A citizen advisory committee made similar pronouncements back in September, when they made 47 recommendations for improvement. King County Executive Ron Sims claims the report is overblown, and says that the county has already instituted two-thirds of the recommendations from the advisory group. The consultant’s report says that conditions at the shelters are dismal and inhumane, and that impetus for reform within the council seems to be lacking. - 03/24/2008

"Justices limit powers of president, World Court"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Medellin v. Texas that treaties entered into by the United States and rulings of the World Court (also known as the International Court of Justice) are not necessarily binding on state courts. The case involved a Mexican citizen who was convicted of murder in Texas. He was not given access to aid from the Mexican consulate as required by treaty. The World Court ruled that the Texas courts should review the case, and President Bush ordered Texas to do so. Texas appealed this order and won. The Supreme Court ruling stated that it would take binding language in a treaty or in the Senate legislation authorizing a treaty to make a treaty binding on state ocurts. - 03/26/2008

"Arsonist can seek access to public records, judge ruled"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A King County Superior Court judge ruled that an arsonist who is serving jail time for firebombing two lawyers’ cars cannot be denied his right to seek public records. The arsonist, Allan Parmelee, has filed hundreds of public records requests for information, including photographs, on prison guards, judges, and state troopers, among others. The judge decided that the Public Records Act cannot be applied selectively, so the records that Parmelee has requested which fall under the act will need to be filled. However, the personnel files he has requested are exempt from the law. The Public Records Act does not limit how many requests one person may file. - 03/25/2008

"Census shows solid rise in state’s population"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Washington’s population grew 9.7 percent between 2000 and 2007, totaling about 6.4 million residents by 2007, a report released by the Census Bureau shows. The Tri-Cities, Bellingham, and Olympia metropolitan areas showed the strongest population growth, and the report indicates that the Tri-Cities area is on target to replace Yakima and Bremerton-Silverdale as the state’s fourth-largest metropolitan area. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue is Washington’s largest metropolitan area with 3.3 million residents (half the state population); Spokane is number two at just over 456,000; and Olympia is number three at 238,555. The Seattle metro area’s population grew by 8.7 percent, Spokane’s grew by 9.1 percent, and Olympia’s grew by 15 percent. The metro area showing the smallest growth was Pullman, with 1.2 percent. - 03/27/2008

"Geoduck harvest suddenly in limbo"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A Pierce County hearing examiner has ruled that Taylor Shellfish Farm’s permit on harvesting geoducks has run its five year course and is now expired. The company operates the West Coast’s largest shellfish farm on Case Inlet. The geoduck is a large burrowing clam that is sold in Asia as a delicacy. The company estimates that about 900,000 clams, or several millions of dollars worth, remain to be harvested in their farm at Case Inlet. Pierce County issues permits for shoreline development, including geoduck farms, for five year intervals, with a possible one-year extension. The Taylor Shellfish Farm has had a permit since 2000, but complaints from the community prompted the county to warn the company in August that they would need to apply for a new permit if they wanted to stay. - 03/28/2008

"Storm front extends studded tire season: Could bring six inches of new snow"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Winter-like weather means more wear on the roadways. It's the end of March but the threat of a late season snowstorm has lead the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to extend the legal use of studded tires until April 5. Motorists caught with studded tires on their cars between April 6 and November 1 will face a $101 fine. Studded tires are banned for most of the year because they damage pavement. The WSDOT's goal is to create pavement that will last for 50 years, but it has to develop materials to make it resistant to damage from studded tires. - 03/28/2008

"State promises help with college costs for low-income students"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
If low-income middle school students keep their grades at a 2.0 or higher and have a clean felony record, Washington state has promised to pay for their college tuition. The only other stipulation is that students must be under the free or reduced lunch program when they enroll, and must still be of low-income status when they graduate from high school. The state has set aside $8.1 million for the scholarships so far, but will need to find ways to finance the program after 2013. The College Bound Scholarship aims to keep kids in school who might not otherwise have a chance of affording higher education. Both the University of Washington and Washington State University already have programs in place to help students from low-income families. - 03/30/2008

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