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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.

"DEA bans sale of synthetic marijuana, active ingredients"--Longview Daily News
On Tuesday, the Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) temporarily banned the sale of products labeled as incense and marketed as Spice, K2, Blaze, or Red X Dawn, as well as the sale of five chemicals used to make the products. The ban will be in place for a year while the DEA and U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services study whether the chemicals, which are used to coat plant material and claim to mimic the active ingredient in marijuana, should be permanently controlled. The chemicals have been assigned to the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act, Schedule 1, which means they have a high potential for abuse, have no accepted medical use for treatment in the United States, and lack accepted safety for use under medical supervision. - 03/01/2011

"State releases initial salmon run forecast; Coho, pink salmon runs look good"--Olympian
State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife officials released initial forecasts for salmon runs in Puget Sound and ocean fisheries on Tuesday. Runs of 5.98 million pinks, 143,450 coho, and 38,000 chinooks are forecast. The announcement started six weeks of negotiations between state biologist s and negotiators, and their tribal counterparts, regarding the upcoming fishing seasons. When the Pacific Fishery Management Council meets in California in early April, “state, federal, and tribal fish managers will set salmon fishing seasons for Washington’s coast, Puget Sound and the rivers that feed the Sound.” - 03/02/2011

“State grant to help with Moxee road construction”--Yakima Herald-Republic
The WA Utilities and Transportation Commission will provide $20,000 toward the $70,000 needed to improve traffic safety at the railroad crossing on Beaudry Road in Moxee. The road leads to both the middle and high schools. The state’s contribution will pay for an intertie between the crossing arms and the left-turn signal on State Route 24 at the intersection with Beaudry Road, which will prohibit vehicles from turning onto the road when the crossing arms are activated. The Ace Hardware distribution center is Moxee is funding the rest of the project. - 03/03/2011

"Government auditors call again for killing the dollar bill"
In a report released today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommends, for the fourth time in 20 years, replacing dollar bills with coins; a move that could save $184 million a year, or $5.5 billion over 30 years. A 2002 GAO survey and 2006 Gallup Poll show opposition to the swtich, but the opposition decreased when citizens were told about the potential savings. GAO says that previous promotions involving dollar coins have not taken hold because the dollar bill was still being produced. Officials from countries who made the change say that the only way to make the transition is to stop producing the bills. With no alternative, resistance tapers off within a few years. - 03/04/2011

"Whatcom County gets nod from EPA for green power purchases"--Bellingham Herald
Whatcom County has qualified for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Leadership Club by buying 6.2 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually. The amount purchased is enough to offset county government’s use of electricity each year and the purchase supports the county’s Climate Action Plan. Since the county is unable to generate its own renewable energy, it buys Renewable Energy Credits from a provider that has the ability to do so. - 03/06/2011

"South Whatcom Fire Authority gets clean audit for 2009"--Bellingham Herald
The South Whatcom Fire Authority received a clean audit from the State Auditor’s Office for 2009. According to the report released last month, the district complied with its own policies and procedures, in addition to state laws and regulations, and there were adequate internal controls in place to protect public assets. The audit examined payroll, conflicts of interest, credit cards, financial statements, asset tracking and adherence to the Open Public Meetings Act throughout 2009. - 03/07/2011

"Carrying guns now OK in county parks"--Vancouver Columbian
Clark County commissioners have amended part of the county code to make it legal to carry guns in parks. The change brings the code in line with state law, which allows firearms to be openly carried in a nonthreatening manner. Discharging weapons, except under certain circumstances, is sill illegal, as is possessing a bow and arrow, crossbow, slingshot, spring- or gas-propelled BB and pellet guns, spears or javelins, "or any other weapon, except in designated target range areas," per chapter 9.04 of the county code. - 03/09/2011

"Budget cuts close Crawford, Peshastin state parks"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Due to a $10 million budget cut prior to this year’s legislative session, two state parks on the east side of the state, Crawford and Peshastin Pinnacles, will not open this season and more closures are possible. While the parks will be closed to the general public, state parks staff will try to accommodate visits by large organized groups, including a group from Fort Lewis that trains on the pinnacles every year and school groups that tour Crawford State Park and explore Gardner Cave, the third-longest limestone cavern in WA. A total of five of the 119 state parks are included in the first round of closures, but funding from local governments will keep two of the three parks slated for closure in Western Washington open. The only park that will close on the west side is Federation Forest State Park. - 03/09/2011

"Use of state's Death with Dignity law rises slightly"--Seattle Times
According to a report released by the Dept. of Health, eighty-seven terminally ill patients requested and obtained lethal doses of medication last year under the state’s Death with Dignity law, compared to 65 between March 5th and the end of 2009. Of the 87 patients, 72 are known to have died, 51 self-administered the lethal doses they were given, 15 died of their underlying diseases, and for 6 deaths it is not know if the medication was taken. Most of the patients had terminal cancer, were white, and had some college education. More than 90 percent of the patients lived in Western Washington, 88% had private or public insurance, and all were between the ages of 52 and 99. The majority died at home and 84% were enrolled in hospice care. No complications from the lethal doses were reported and EMTs were not called for any of the patients that took the drugs. - 03/10/2011

"Caseload forecast gives state budget rare break"--Olympia Olympian
A new caseload forecast that was released on Friday significantly reduced the expected cost of government through June 2013. According to the budget director for Gov. Gregoire, “the forecast in effect cuts $78 million from costs for public schools, Medicaid, prisons and other programs through June and an additional $207 million for the next two-year budget cycle.” Most of the savings is attributed to changes due to health care reform. A monthly report on tax collections was also released on Friday and it shows that collections are down by a cumulative $85 million through early March, compared with the November forecast. - 03/12/2011

"State audit faults Yakima Air Terminal"--Yakima Herald-Republic
According to a state audit of the Yakima Air Terminal, that covers 2007-2009, the terminal has “not effectively controlled costs, causing its financial position to decline and expenses to exceed budgeted proportions.” In 2007 and 2008, revenue outpaced expenses, but in 2009 the opposite occurred. Significant turnover in key financial personnel was deemed to be a factor in the issues noted. In its response to the report, airport mentioned that unforeseen costs and occurrences created budgetary challenges and that internal controls are being reviewed and then replaced or revised as necessary. - 03/14/2011

"US life expectancy surpasses 78, a new record"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A preliminary report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated U.S. life expectancy at 78 years 2 months for a baby born in 2009. Males are expected to live about 75.5 years and females are expected to live about 80.5 years. Life expectancy rose for whites and held steady for blacks, while the infant mortality rate hit a record low of 6.42 deaths per 1,000 live births. Infant mortality rates for black babies did not improve, though. A final report is expected later this year. - 03/16/2011

"Lake Whatcom water quality still slipping, data shows"--Bellingham Herald
Data in the most recent annual report released by the Lake Whatcom Monitoring Program shows that water quality in the lake worsened in 2010. Significant water quality issues were first noted in 1998 and they prompted the WA Dept. of Ecology to place the lake on their list of impaired water bodies. One of the primary concerns is phosphorus-laden runoff that is made worse by human activities in the watershed area. Reducing runoff from existing developments and preventing the increase in runoff that comes from new development is critical given the continued decline in water quality. State, county, and other local officials are all working together to stop the decline in water quality and reverse the damage that has already been done. - 03/17/2011

"State budget shortfall at $5.3 billion"--Olympia Olympian
The $4.6 billion budget hole that Gov. Gregoire bridged with the 2011-2013 budget proposal she released in December has now widened to $5.3 billion according to the revenue forecast released yesterday. An additional $780 million was taken away, but it was reported last week that some state costs are $278 million less than expected, leaving only a $500 million difference. State revenue forecaster Arun Raha says that geopolitical uncertainty in the Mideast and Japan, which has led to higher fuel prices, lower consumer confidence and spending, doubts about manufacturing supply chains in the auto industry, and worries about potential cuts in state agriculture exports, is to blame for the lowered economic expectations. It will be up to lawmakers to decide if the larger budget hole will be filled by new taxes, slashing programs, a combination of both, or other, more creative, budget balancing ideas. - 03/18/2011

"Dumping illegally? You may be spotted on hidden camera"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
The WA Dept. of Natural Resources hopes to step up enforcement of illegal dumping laws by installing hidden cameras at known dump sites on state lands. On the North Olympic Peninsula alone there are 37 household item dump sites, 5 sites with commercial or hazardous waste, and 2 with abandoned vehicles. The fines for illegally dumping nonhazardous materials range from $90 to $500, and citizens are being asked to note and report license plate numbers or descriptions of people suspected of dumping items on state land. Potential camera locations are not being revealed, but DNR has made an interactive map of dump locations found in 2010 available on their website. - 03/21/2011

"Federal report outlines changes at Monroe prison following death of corrections officer"--Everett Herald
After the death of corrections officer Jayme Biendl, and at the request of Gov. Gregoire, a panel of federal prison experts from the National Institute of Corrections investigated the Monroe Correctional Complex and released their findings yesterday. While more than a dozen changes are recommended, including arming some officers with pepper spray and equipping officers with special body alarms, the prison was found to be adequately staffed and hiring more officers was not deemed necessary. Two major areas of concern at the prison are how inmates move throughout the complex and how they qualify for jobs and volunteer positions. It was suggested that prison officials institute reforms in both areas. Now that the federal report is out, the WA Dept. of Corrections officials will begin their own investigation into the night Jayme Biendl died. - 03/21/2011

"HEALTH: State posting radiation levels online"--Pasco/Richland/Kennewick Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
In response to growing public concern about exposure to radiation from Japan's nuclear plants, the WA Dept. of Health is now posting radiation levels, which they have been monitoring for decades, online. So far, "nothing other than normal background radiation levels has been detected." Levels would have to be hundreds of thousands of times higher than current readings before health officials would recommend any response. - 03/18/2011

"Personal income rises in Washington"--Vancouver Columbian
According to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal income in Washington grew to $43,564 per capita in 2010, the 10th highest personal income in the nation and ranking higher than both California (12th) and Oregon (30th). Earnings, property income, and transfer receipts such as income from Social Security and unemployment compensation are all included in the personal income figure. Washington’s personal income rose 2.5 percent in 2010, compared to the national average of a 3 percent increase. Wage and salary disbursements, employer contributions for employee pension and insurance funds, and government social insurance all contributed to Washington’s gain. - 03/24/2011

"Moses Lake regulates begging from vehicles"--Moses Lake Columbia Basin Herald
Under a new Moses Lake ordinance, people can be fined $100 for aggressively begging or soliciting money from people in vehicles. Aggressive begging is defined as begging “with the intent to intimidate another person into giving money or goods.” The ordinance does not outlaw all panhandling because of the potential Constitutional issues that may be involved. - 03/25/2011

"Federal aid for flooding available to 7 counties"--Olympia Olympian
A disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made federal aid available in King, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lewis, Skagit, Skamania, and Wahkiakum Counties for flooding and mudslide damage from storms in January. Damages are expected to be in the millions of dollars. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has also offered support to homeowners and low-income renters forced from their homes and it granted a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures on FHA-insured mortgages on homes of displaced families. - 03/29/2011

"Audit shows Kalama Housing Authority on shaky ground"--Longview Daily News
According to a two-year audit recently released by the Washington State Auditor's Office, the Kalama Housing Authority (KHA) is at risk of losing federal funding. The audit notes that the agency's financial condition "has declined significantly since 2006," with progressively less cash available for operations each year. The KHA's poor financial condition is attributed to frequent turnover in the executive director position, lack of training in U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development(HUD) requirements, and poor monitoring of expenditures by the staff and the Housing Authority Board. In response to the audit, KHA has promised changes in policies and office protocol and implementation of internal controls. These efforts will be aided by a $20,000 grant from the Kalama City Council that will be used for operations and maintenance. - 03/29/2011

"Traffic fatalities in Washington drop to lowest number since 1975"--Everett Daily Herald
2010 saw the lowest number of fatalities on state highways, county roads, and city streets since 1975, the year the state began keeping data. There were 448 fatalities last year, compared to 771 in 1975. The decline in traffic deaths has been attributed to a number of factors, including laws restricting newly licensed teen drivers, safety improvements in cars, better training and tools for emergency personnel, and even the sputtering economy and rising fuel prices. A statewide Target Zero campaign among state transportation, law enforcement, and traffic experts has set a goal of zero deaths on the state’s roads by 2030. - 03/31/2011

"Report: GET program is solvent for next 50 years"--Seattle Times
A state actuary report released Thursday contends that there is a less than 1 percent chance of Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program not being able to meet its financial obligations over the next 50 years. However, the changes proposed by the Legislature in House Bill 5749 could create a less solvent alternative. The actuary says that alternative proposed would have a lower possibility of insolvency, 0.4 percent compared to 0.7 percent for the current GET over 50 years, unless substantially fewer participants are attracted to the new program. If annual purchases of prepaid-tuition units are cut in half, the state could face a financial obligation of up to $15.9 billion. - 03/31/2011

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