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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.

"Microsoft, OSPI reach deal on IT Academy"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Under a tentative agreement between the WA Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Microsoft, over 300,000 students in the state would have access to Microsoft training through a statewide high school IT Academy. The academy will provide students, teachers, and administrators with training through online courses and official Microsoft materials, as well as certification in a number of IT subjects. The price tag for the academy is $2 million and the agreement requires legislative approval. The IT Academy will be the topic of a work session in the House Education Committee on Tuesday. - 04/04/2011

"Yakima bans sex offenders from pools"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The Yakima City Council voted Tuesday to invoke a little-known state law and ban Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders whose crimes involved children from the city’s pools. The 2006 law gives “cities and other “entities” such as schools, libraries and day-care centers the right to ban, or trespass, certain sex offenders from pools, parks, playgrounds and any other public or private facility with the primary purpose of educating or caring for children.” Violating the law is a Class C felony. There are 100 sex offenders within city limits and in the Upper Valley who qualify for the ban. Process servers will make notifications in person, while a detective who is already tracking sex offenders will add notifications and updating the list on a quarterly basis to his workload. This is believed to be the first time that the law is being systematically applied in the state and city officials are not sure if it will attract a civil rights challenge. - 04/05/2011

"More than $300K stolen from state, clients at Frances Haddon Morgan Center"--Bremerton Kitsap Sun
An audit by the WA Dept. of Social and Health Services’ Office of Operations Review and Consultation has found that nearly $305,000 has been stolen from the state and clients at the Frances Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton. $212,000 was stolen from residents, $57,661 was stolen from the gift and welfare account, where donate money is kept, and $35,094 was stolen from an account used to cover emergency needs at the center. Inadequate and flawed accounting practices are being blamed for the theft and one financial analyst from the center has been fired. The Bremerton Police Department is investigating the case and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle may review it because some federal money was involved. - 04/07/2011

"State: Community college students have a tough time getting into public universities"
According to a report released by the WA Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB), the number of college students transferring from community and technical colleges to four-year universities increased 13 percent between 2005 and 2009, but their destination is shifting from state-subsidized schools with lower tuition to private or for profit schools with higher tuition. According to an HECB statement, “During the 5 year period ending in summer 2010, the number of students transferring from community and technical colleges to public baccalaureate institutions increased only 1.3 percent, while the number of students transferring to private baccalaureates increased 36.9 percent.” While the majority of transfer students are still being educated at public universities, dwindling slots stemming from state budget problems are expected to result in further-reduced access to public universities in the future. - 04/11/2011

"Audit: Seattle's rates for water, sewers among nation's highest"--Seattle Times
According to a city audit of Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), Seattle water customers are paying higher wastewater-treatment rates than other large cities in the U.S., but the city has little control over rates due to a nonnegotiable 45-year contract with King County to provide sewage treatment. The audit found that up to three-fourths of the $187 million collected from ratepayers is being spent on wastewater-treatment services provided by the county. In addition, it was found that Seattle customers pay $34 more per year than they would if King County calculated what it charges the city differently, in a way that would have new users paying more than existing customers. The audit also found that the city may be losing money “ because it doesn’t adequately monitor wastewater use at major construction sites and doesn’t have a good system to collect delinquent-renter accounts totaling more than $1 million.” - 04/11/2011

"State board: Ferndale urban growth area too large"--Bellingham Herald
On Monday, the WA Growth Management Hearings Board ruled that a Whatcom County urban growth ordinance that added 476 acres of urban growth area to Ferndale and 17 acres to Birch Bay did not comply with state law. According to the board, restoring the growth area in Birch Bay was ok, but the county overestimated the land Ferndale needs to grow and designated an urban growth area that’s too large. Rather than invalidating the whole ordinance, the board opted to give the city and county a chance to re-evaluate their available-land analysis. Changes are due August 8th and a hearing is scheduled for September 28th. - 04/13/2011

"New law turns threatening police into felony"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
Governor Gregoire will sign a bill today that makes it a felony to threaten police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, crime victim advocates, and corrections officers. The new law takes protections currently afforded to judges and extends them to other criminal justice participants. In response to concerns about the law being used against someone who is intoxicated or agitated, language was added stating that “the fear from the threat must be a fear that a reasonable criminal justice participant would have under all circumstances,” and that threatening words don’t count as harassment if it’s apparent “the person does not have the present and future ability to carry out the threat.” A December 2009 incident involving threats against a Kennewick police officer prompted the Kennewick Police Chief and Benton County Prosecutor to start trying to change the law. - 04/14/2011

"New law gives foreclosure help"--Olympia Olympian
Thanks to a bill signed Thursday by Governor Gregoire, help may be on the way for some homeowners facing foreclosure in the state. The new law, which goes into effect in July, gives homeowners “more time, more counseling and third-party mediation with their lenders before they lose their homes.” Homeowners who are already going through the foreclosure process may also benefit from the new law, so long as their houses have not been sold by the time the law goes into effect. With the new law, Washington becomes the third nonjudicial foreclosure state to pass a mediation law. - 04/15/2011

"Legislature OKs bill closing DUI fatality sentence loopholes"--Tacoma News Tribune
A bill that broadens the prosecution of felony driving under the influence (DUI) passed the Legislature on Thursday and is on its way to Governor Gregoire for her signature. According to the bill, any sentencing enhancements for DUI vehicular homicide are required to be served in full. Currently, prisoners can earn good behavior credit for up to one-third off their sentences, including enhancements. - 04/17/2011

"State agency rules Ki-Be teacher faced discrimination"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) has ruled that the Kiona-Benton City School District discriminated against one teacher and interfered with the rights of eight others at Ki-Be Elementary last year. The nine teachers were subject to interference with their rights and employees and one was moved from the elementary school to the middle school because of her union activities. The district has been ordered to give the moved teacher her old job back, publicize the commission’s decision, and to tell the commission how it will prevent further interference with employee rights. - 04/19/2011

"Report: US national lab needs more cyber controls"--Seattle Times
An audit by the U.S. Energy Department found that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of the federal government’s top science labs, failed to set up adequate cyber security controls for classified information. The audit concluded that “without improvements the weaknesses identified may limit program and site-level officials’ ability to make informed risk-based decisions that support the protection of classified information and the systems on which it resides.” A spokesperson for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the administration within the Energy Department that runs the lab, has said that no classified information was compromised and a written response to the audit from a top ranking administration official states that “the general recommendations made by the IG were already in place.” - 04/19/2011

"Blaine school audit finds problem with special education funds"--Bellingham Herald
A state audit of the Blaine School District covering the 2009-2010 school year has found that the district received nearly $51,000 in federal and state funding for special education that is should not have received. Steps are being taken to return the money, though. Districts are allowed to apply for extra special education funding partway through the year if costs exceed available funds. The Blaine School District applied for and received $50,888 that was later determined to be unnecessary. The audit found that “the district didn’t comply with federal and state regulations in returning the money in a timely manner” and “district officials should have used more accurate data when applying for the Safety Net funding.” District officials disagree with the audit findings and the issue will be followed-up on during the next audit. - 04/21/2011

"New law will enhance state oil spill response"--Olympia Olympian
On Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of the BP well rupture in the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Gregoire signed into law a bill that enhances Washington’s oil spill response program. The new law authorizes the WA Dept. of Ecology to create additional rules for tanker companies to follow and to add to the equipment they have to pay for so they’re ready to respond to spills. The law also requires the department to enact rules to “improve the state’s vessel of opportunity system, or network of private boats that can respond to a spill, and develop a system for coordinating spill-response volunteers.” All the new rules will be tailored specifically to our state and will recognize that fast reaction times are necessary, as spills reach shore much more quickly here than elsewhere in the U.S. - 04/21/2011

"Gov. signs bill to up campaign finance disclosure" - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A bill aimed at improving transparency so voters know who is sponsoring campaign materials has been signed into law by Gov. Gregoire. The new law lowers the dollar threshold for reporting contributions, requires that the names of political action committees (PACs) include their sponsors, and strengthens the criminal and civil penalties for violations. The bill was prompted by a the actions of a consulting firm who, during November’s election, used a large number of PACs to obscure the source of campaign funding. - 04/22/2011

"Audit of Spokane County assessor’s office finds late appraisals"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
A state audit covering the years 2008 and 2009 found that the Spokane County Assessor’s Office undervalued properties and added over 100 new construction projects to the tax rolls an average of 7 years late. Auditors did not find any untaxed properties and they were unable to determine how much revenue was lost due to the late appraisals. The slow appraisals were blamed, in part, on staffing shortages and policies not to inspect incomplete construction with a value of less than $50,000 or constructions less than 40 percent complete. - 04/26/2011

"New law benefits medical students"--Yakima Herald-Republic
A bill banning exclusive contracts between hospitals and medical schools was signed by Gov. Gregoire late last week. No hard of evidence of exclusive contracts exists, but there has been enough hearsay about them that Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences pushed for the new law in an effort to make sure their students have plenty of options for their clinical rotations around the state. The bill passed the House unanimously and the only no vote in the Senate was a mistake according to the senator who cast it. - 04/26/2011

"New law requires impounding of DUI cars for 12 hours"--Tacoma News Tribune
Starting in July, law enforcement officers will be required to impound the vehicle belonging to the person they arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs for 12 hours. The new law was prompted by a 2007 drunk driving accident involving a driver who had been arrested for drunken driving earlier the same day. The goal is to make sure people sober up before they have access to a vehicle again and there are provisions for situations where the car that’s impounded belongs to someone other than the intoxicated individual. - 04/28/2011

"Program for homeless gets $51,500 grant"--Vancouver Columbian
A Vancouver program for the homeless is one of 11 in the state awarded U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Supportive Housing Program grants totaling more than $2 million. Community Services Northwest, an organization that provides integrated mental health, addiction treatment and housing services, received $51,578. The goal of the federal grants is to reduce long-term or chronic homelessness in America. - 04/29/2011

"Farmers now required to have a license for 'bird bangers'"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Farmers and others who want to use explosive pest control devices (EPCD), or ‘bird bangers,’ now need to have a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). To get a license, fingerprints, photo identification, and a criminal background check are required and upon licensure the user must keep the cartridges locked inside a flame-proof vault, where they must be signed out for every use. Violations of the federal law will result in penalties as high as 10 years in prison. The law has actually been in place since 2002, but the ATF chose not to enforce it for end-users until now. Retailers have been abiding by the regulations since the law was passed. - 04/30/2011

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