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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.

"Custom license plates for music education aided by Port Ludlow woman"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
Gov. Gregoire is expected to sign a bill today that approves the sale of specialty license plates proclaiming “Music Matters.” The plates will cost $40 extra the first year and $30 for each additional year, with the money going to Music Aid Northwest, a statewide organization that consists of musicians who support music education. Music Aid Northwest will distribute the money to scholastic music programs across the state that request aid. The plates will also be available for sale as a fundraising tool and in that case, the money raised would go to directly to the district. - 05/03/2011

"Washington state under review for Title IX compliance"--Bellingham Herald
The U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating the WA Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) regarding the agency’s compliance with Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs and activities that receive federal funds. Since November 2010, the Office for Civil Rights has received more than 125 complaints alleging that school districts across WA, including all 7 of the districts in Whatcom County, are violating the law by not providing enough sports offerings for girls when compared with offerings for boys. During its review, the Office for Civil Rights plans to look at whether OSPI is meeting Title IX requirements and “whether it is ‘perpetuating discrimination’ by supporting school districts that don’t comply with the law.” A completion date for the investigation has not been announced. - 05/04/2011

"Kids' mental health legislation OK'd"--Eatonville Dispatch
A bill that adds additional facilities to the list of those who must notify parents of their right to seek mental health treatment for their children, even if the children don’t give their consent, passed the Legislature and was sent to Gov. Gregoire for her signature last week. Under the current law, only evaluation and treatment facilities are required to notify parents of their right to seek treatment for their children, but soon hospital emergency rooms and facilities with inpatient psychiatric services for minors may have to do the same. Failure to comply with the new law could result in civil penalties. - 05/05/2011

"GAO predicts Hanford costs will rise if Yucca is closed"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report on the potential impact of the Dept. of Energy’s move to shutdown the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository. The report focuses primarily on the impacts on Hanford and five other sites with used nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste that was supposed to go to the facility. Uncertainty over future plans for the fuel and waste makes it difficult to project potential costs, but increases may be substantial. Hanford alone faces the possible construction of three additional storage facilities for vitrified high-level waste, at an estimated cost of $100 million each, plus fuel storage costs of $6 million per year. - 05/06/2011

"Clark County wetland bank clears final hurdle"--Vancouver Columbian
The Columbia River Wetland Mitigation Bank, the first certified wetland mitigation bank in Clark County, cleared its final hurdle last week when Habitat Banc NW won approval to sell the first eight wetland credits. Over the next 10 years, as work is done to turn the site into a fully functioning wetland, a total of 50 credits will become available to developers, including local governments and public utilities. Credits purchased from the bank are meant to offset destruction of wetlands elsewhere and each credit represents the restoration of approximately 3 acres of wetlands. Buyers of the first eight credits include the City of Vancouver, the Port of Vancouver, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railyway (BNSF). - 05/08/2011

"FEMA delivers flood news to Thurston County residents"--Olympia Olympian
At an open house last night, Thurston County residents had an opportunity find out if their property is inside or outside the flood plain according preliminary digital flood insurance maps released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If the new maps are adopted early next year, 342 properties that are currently in the flood zone will be removed and 100 properties that are not currently in the flood zone will be added. According to FEMA, “the new digital maps do a better job at locating properties and…projections now match the topography.” - 05/10/2011

"Gregoire says she'll sign bill letting schools set tuition"--Seattle Times
Governor Gregoire has said she will sign a bill into law that gives the state’s five public universities, and The Evergreen State College, the ability to set their own tuition for 4 years, starting with the fall 2011 session. The bill also allows higher tuition rates for more expensive programs, like those involving work in laboratories. To help offset the burden of increased tuition rates, financial assistance will be provided on a sliding scale to students from families who earn 125 percent or less of the state’s median family income, which is currently about $97,500 for a family of four. Also, in response to the University of Washington’s (UW) decision to decrease in-state freshman enrollment this year in favor of increasing enrolment for out-of-state students who pay nearly 3 times as much tuition, the bill sets the UW’s in-state freshman enrollment at a minimum of 4,000 students staring in the 2012-13 academic year. - 05/10/2011

"State tightens rules for parents seeking to exempt kids from immunizations"--Everett Daily Herald
Under a new law that was signed by Governor Gregoire on Tuesday, immunization exemption certificates must be signed by a health care professional, not just a parent. Currently parents can sign the certificate if they object to immunizations for their children on medical, religious, or philosophical grounds, but the new requirement means that parents will have to meet with a doctor before deciding whether or not to exempt their children. The new law does not apply to those who belong to a church with teachings that do not allow a medical professional to treat a child. Washington is one of only 8 states that allow parental signatures on the certificates and one of 20 that allow an objection based on philosophical reasons. - 05/11/2011

"Governor signs bills instituting state park fees; will Fort Worden have exemptions?"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
Beginning July 1, visitors to state parks and recreational lands owned by state agencies will have to pay $10 per visit or purchase a $30 annual Discover Pass for their vehicle. The fine for not displaying a pass in the front windshield will be $99. Exemptions to the pass requirement are still being worked out, despite the fact that the bill creating the pass program has been signed by governor, but one that is certain is that campers who have paid fees for overnight stays will not have to purchase passes. Any exemptions must be approved by the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), the Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, and the Parks and Recreation Commission. The passes are expected to bring in more than $64 million every two years, with 84 percent going to a special state parks fund and the rest split evenly between DNR and Fish & Wildlife. - 05/13/2011

"National award given Port Angeles aviation mechanic"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
A Port Angeles aviation mechanic’s nearly 50 years of work has been recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award was given to Jerry Weiler on Saturday, earning him a place among the 1,550 others who have received the award since the agency’s creation 53 years ago. The award was named after the first mechanic in power aviation. - 05/16/2011

"Audit: Nooksack Valley School District to improve oversight on absentee reporting"--Bellingham Herald
A state audit of the Nooksack Valley School District for the 2009-2010 school year found significant “deficiencies in the design or operation of internal controls over major federal programs” with regard to tracking student attendance. During a one month period alone, 81 absences in the district’s 3 elementary schools that should have been recorded as “unexcused” by teachers were recorded as excused. According to the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or No Child Left Behind, “school districts should have unexcused absence rates of 1 percent or less at elementary and middle schools.” If a district does not accurately record attendance, it does not make “Adequate Yearly Progress” under the law. In response to the audit the district is changing the default in its attendance software from excused to unexcused, with the change to excused only being made after confirmation from a parent or guardian and a check that the absence meets district policy. - 05/17/2011

"State's jobless rate drops to 9.1 percent"--Seattle Times
In April there were more than 307,000 unemployed people in Washington, with around 217,000 receiving unemployment benefits. The unemployment rate for the month was 9.1%, down from 9.2% in the month before and 9.8% a year ago. The rate is slightly above the national average of 9.0%. The month saw growth in the construction, professional and business services, manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade, transportation, education, information, and health and financial activities industries. Federal, state, and local governments, and the leisure and hospitality sector, lost jobs. - 05/18/2011

"Audit finds minor error in Mount Baker schools money oversight"--Bellingham Herald
A state audit of the Mount Baker School District for 2009-10 school year found “material weaknesses” related to the oversight of how federal funding for special education was spent. The district was found to have spent $54,731 more than they should have, due to a lack of understanding of federal limits and a lack of internal controls. The district mistakenly thought that the maximum funding level was instead a minimum level, and spent accordingly. However, the money was used appropriately according to auditors. The district agrees with the audit findings and has revised calculations for the 2010-11 school year to ensure compliance with federal guidelines. - 05/19/2011

"New fed rules to protect Puget Sound orcas"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
As of last Monday, recreational vessels, including kayaks and whale watching boats, must stay 200 yards away from Puget Sound killer whales. The previous requirement was 100 yards and the doubling is meant to help protect the orcas. Government and research vessels, commercial fishing boats and cargo vessels traveling in established shipping lanes are exempt from the new rules. - 05/23/2011

"Violent crime up in county for second year"--Vancouver Columbian
Preliminary crime data released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shows that both violent and property crime rates in Vancouver grew last year. The total number of violent crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, rose from 656 in 2009 to 671 in 2010, while reported property crimes increased from 5,944 to 6,544. Nationally, violent crimes decreased 5.5% and property crimes fell 2.8%. Final numbers will be released later this year. - 05/23/2011

"Medical-marijuana proposal abandoned; dispensaries now 'clearly illegal'"--Seattle Times
Efforts to massively overhaul Washington’s medical marijuana law have failed. A bill was passed during this year’s legislative session that regulated dispensaries and growers, created a central patient registry, and provided arrest protection, but a partial veto by Governor Gregoire, in response to harsh criticism from federal prosecutors, did away with many of those provisions. The law that takes effect in July will allow 45-plant collective gardens for the first time, but it also undercuts the legal defense used by dispensaries. It will leave cities with the decision to crack down on, or tolerate, the dispensaries that already exist. According to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, as of July 1 the dispensaries will be illegal. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a champion of the overhaul efforts in the legislature, has said that she will raise the issue again next year. - 05/24/2011

"Legislature works out last-minute compromise to keep Yakima Valley School open"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Legislation that will allow current residents to stay at the Yakima Valley School is on its way to Gov. Gregoire for her signature. The school will no longer be open to new admissions, but the developmentally disabled residents already living there have the option of staying for the rest of their lives and the facility will still offer respite and crisis stabilization services. Once the resident population is down to 16, from its current 81, the state can turn the school’s campus into a smaller community living facility. The bill also closes a similar facility, the Frances Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton, and directs the state to create a task force to examine the best ways to serve the state’s developmentally disabled residents in the future. - 05/25/2011

"Castle Rock schools reprimanded for meal program bidding process"--Longview Daily News
A recent state audit found that the Castle Rock School District did not competitively bid some school breakfast and lunch purposes and did not properly verify that a vendor was in good standing. According to school officials, district employees did not realize that purchases outside of a contract were subject to the bid requirement and supervisors were not aware they needed to verify a vendor’s standing with the state. The district discovered the problems itself at the beginning of the current school year and has implemented training and other safeguards to prevent them from happening again. - 05/26/2011

"Truancy Board points students in the right direction"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Thanks in part to the creation of a Community Truancy Board, truancy petition filings in the county have dropped from 421 during the 2008-2009 school year to 231 the following year. During the 2009-10 school year 437 students were referred to the board, which is an alternative to juvenile court. The board gives students who have missed school an opportunity to change their behavior before a truancy petition is filed and involves parents in the process. Students and parents are educated about truancy laws and the consequences of violating them, before they meet with a volunteer to set goals to change behavior. Under the law, schools may take legal action, including referral to a Community Truancy Board, after 5 unexcused absences in a month and the school must file a truancy petition with the juvenile court after 7 unexcused absences in a month, or 10 in a year. - 05/30/2011

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