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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.

"Lobbying is big business in state: Washington is sixth in U.S. for spending"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Lobbyists are paid to influence legislation, and they are very busy in Olympia. $43 million was spent lobbying state government in 2006. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Washington ranks sixth among the 50 states in terms of money spent lobbying state government. The Public Disclosure Commission is the state agency that tracks money spent lobbying state government as well as campaign finances and the personal finances of state officials and candidates. Laws on lobbying in Washington state can be found in RCW Chapter 42.17. - 07/02/2007

"Neglected forest roads championed"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Neglected and storm-damaged forest roads have become an ongoing problem. They're often impassable, wash sediment into streams needed by fish, and sometimes become streambeds themselves. This has been a problem for the last ten years as major storms continue to hit Washington. There is a $300 million backlog of repair work needed for forest roads and every year adds another $8 million to road repair or closure that needs to be done while the Federal government is cutting funds to do this needed work. Members of Washngton's Congressional delegation have written the Secretary of Agriculture asking for more money be spent on these roads. - 07/02/2007

"Waning support for international trade decried"--Seattle Times
Senators Murray and Cantwell were not optimistic about America's attitude toward foreign trade when they spoke at the Annual Senators' Conference held by theWashington Council on International Trade. Fears of outsourcing American jobs and foreign competition for oil have created a backlash against free trade agreements. One symptom was the quiet expiration of the President's Trade Promotion Authority, or "fast track" authority for reaching trade agreements on June 30. Washington state relies heavily on foreign trade as a source of jobs. - 07/03/2007

"Fire that charred 155 acres now contained"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) Fire season is here. A wildfire in Stevens County threatened homes, but fortunately it appears to have been contained before any homes were destroyed. The blaze was fought by fire fighters from the Stevens County Fire District (which has also institutued an outdoor residential burning ban due to dangerous conditions), the Department of Natural Resources (which averages 90 reports of new fires around the 4th of July), and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as aerial tankers from Canada. A recent article from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, "Timber owners feel sting of last year's wildfire", gives an idea of what's involved with recovering from a wildfire. - 07/03/2007

"Initiative targeting undocumented immigrants shy of signatures"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Backers of Initiative 966 appear to be running out of time to get it on the election ballot in November. This initiative would "...prohibit illegal aliens from receiving public benefits unless mandated by the federal government." So far backers have only gathered 120,000 signatures out of the 220,000 signatures they need to qualify I-966 for a public vote. The right to citizen-backed initiatives is enshrined in Article 2 Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution. The procedures for filing and verifying initiatives are laid out in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Chapter 434-379 and are the responsiblity of the Elections & Voting Division of the Office of the Secretary of State. - 07/05/2007

"Couples get more rights in 2 weeks"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Senate Bill 5336 will take effect on July 22 and give certain domestic partnership rights to unmarried heterosexual couples who are at least 62 years old and over same-sex couples. The rights cover medical and end of life issues. (A brief summary can be found here). Couples will be able to register in person or by mail starting on Monday, July 23 at the Corporations Division of the Office of the Secretary of State. The Corporations Division has information on frequently asked questions about registering for a domestic partnership. - 07/05/2007

"Heat weighs on businesses"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Washington Department of Labor and Industries has introduced new regulations to protect outdoor workers from heat-related illnesses. These rules require employers who have workers exposed to outdoors heat to train them in the signs of heat stress, provide them with sufficient water and breaks to less heat stress, and make it easy for emergency medical personnel to treat workers suffering from heat-related illnesses. Washington Administrative Code (WAC) sections 296-62-095 through 296-62-09570 took effect on June 18, 2007. Some employers are not happy with these new regulations that were written after two workers died from heat stroke in 2006 (one incident is described here). - 07/06/2007

"Tiresome task -- clearing 2 million tires near Goldendale"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Old tires are a problem--they're not biodegradable, they're a home a mosquitoes and vermin, and they can be a vicious fire hazard. That's why it's illegal to dump tires in Washington state. The state charges a $1 tax on each new tire sold. The money goes to the Waste Tire Removal Account that funds projects like the $870,000 project to shread or recycle 1,000,000 tires near Goldendale. Tires have been piling up there for 18 years. The Department of Ecology has issued a Request for Proposal for further cleanup of tire piles in Eastern Washington. - 07/09/2007

"6-part plan in works to fix sinking viaduct"--Seattle Times
As the Alaska Way Viaduct sinks in the fill it was built on, the Seattle and Washington state scramble to do something about it. This effort is complicated by the fact nobody can agree on what to do with the viaduct. The Washington State Department of Transportation will undertake a series of repair projects to keep the viaduct safe until a final decision is reached on its fate. - 07/09/2007

"Feds favor culling elk herd near St. Helens"--Longview Daily News - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Elk herds in the Mount St. Helens National Monument have outgrown their food supplies. The resulting lack of forage has led to elk die-offs in the winter. The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to allow hunting that would eventually reduce the size of the herds from 12,500 elk to 10,000 elk over a 5 year period. The special hunting licenses would go to graduates of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife 's master hunter program. - 07/10/2007

"Cost of 2 wars getting steeper: $12 billion spent a month -- and Iraq yet to meet a goal"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has issued two grim reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An analysis shows the financial costs of the wars has risen to $12 billion a month. Another study done by CRS finds that the Iraqi government is not reaching benchmarks set for national reconciliation set by the American government and the Iraqis. - 07/10/2007

"Old ferries' care found lacking"--Everett Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Vessels start showing their age after 80 years of use. The Coast Guard has ordered the Washington State Ferries to make detailed inspections of its four Steel Electric class ferries. The ferries in this class were built in the 1920s and rebuilt in the 1980s. Decades of exposure to salt water has weakened their hulls, and a 6 inch crack was found in the Klickitat's hull this spring. The Klickitat was pulled from service and repaired. More information on Washington State Ferries can be found here - 07/11/2007

"Tree fruit producers meet in Royal City: Workshop covers incentive payments beginning in 2008"--Moses Lake Columbia Basin Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP)is a federal program that "...that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals." Washington State University's Grant and Adams Counties Extension office is giving a workshop on EQIP incentive payments to orchard growers for using integrated pest management methods. These practices will become more important as commonly used pesticides are phased out. EQIP is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture"s Natural Resources Conservation Service. - 07/11/2007

"Not all communities see anti-gang law as best response"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Cities in Yakima County are looking at the best way to control gang activity. Sunnyside and Union Gap (see Chapter 11.08) both have anti-gang ordinances on the books. Other towns such as Yakima are considering having their own anti-gang ordinances. Some towns, including Prosser and Grandview, aren't currently considering anti-gang ordinances. Their decision is based on a feeling that existing lawscould be used to control gangs. There is also the fact that most gang members are juveniles and wouldn't feel the full weight of the law. There is interest in Yakima County having a county-wide anti-gang ordinance. There is also hope that the legislature will pass state-wide anti-gang laws. - 07/12/2007

"U.S. gives Iraq mediocre report card"--Seattle Times
The administration issued an interim report to Congress on progress in Iraq as required by Public Law 110-28. The report measured progress or lack thereof in 18 areas of military and political activities in Iraq. The report found satisfactory progress in 8 areas, unsatisfactory progress in 8 areas, and 2 areas were a toss up. Now it's up to the White House and members of Congress to argue how the report should be interpreted. A final report report will be issued in September. - 07/12/2007

"Suit yields $1.9 million in damages"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
600 farm workers in the Yakima Valley have been awarded $1.9 million by a Federal District Court in a lawsuit against Global Horizons, a labor contractor, and two farms. The workers were displaced by workers from Thailand, who were brought in as H-2A guest workers, a program for importing temporary agricultural workers when local farm workers are unavailable. The local workers were fired for not reaching productivity goals they weren't told about. The Thai workers' paychecks had deductions for Washington state income tax--and Washington doesn't have a state income tax. The lawsuit was brought on the workers' behalf by the Columbia Legal Services. Global Horizons is also being fined for not producing court ordered evidence. - 07/13/2007

"Sheriff asks for federal money: Congressional panel hears plea"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Send lawyers, infrastructure, and money. Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo testified on the need for more resources on the U.S.-Canadian border in a House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security hearing. Whatcom County is a major entry point on the U.S.-Canadian border and catches the burden of dealing with large scale smuggling. - 07/13/2007

"Snags could delay King County's switch to all-mail ballots: With '08 target, fear is agency's load too great"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The 2008 elections are already putting a lot of pressure on the King County Elections Division. It hopes to redeem itself after its controversial performance in the 2004 elections. It's planning to move its headquarters this year while preparing an all-mail voting system for Washington's largest county in next year's election. New balloting equipment--yet to be purchased--is needed for an all-mail voting system. Oh yes, and a new Superintendent of Elections needs to be selected. All of this is covered in a report by the Citizens' Election Oversight Committee, a permanent group created by the King County Council. - 07/16/2007

"Insurers spending big bucks to kill law: Disputed measure hikes lawsuit payouts"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) The insurance companies and the trial lawyers have the public's best interests at heart--that's why they're bitterly fighting over Referendum 67. This referendum, based on Senate Bill 5726 that was passed and signed by the Governor this year, makes insurance companies liable for triple damages when a claim is unreasonably denied (a brief summary can be found here). Each side accuses the other of greed. Trial lawyers are funding a group called "Approve 67"; insurance companies are funding "Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates", an anti-Referendum 67 group. The referendum process allows legislative acts be brought to a public vote before they become laws. - 07/16/2007

"Fire crews wary of wind"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Wind is complicating efforts of firefighters to contain the Heaven Hills Fire Complex. The complex is made up of four fires caused by lightning. They have burned almost 50,000 acres in the Prosser area. According to forecasts from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, there is a chance of more thunderstorms over the next few days, but the Haines Index is showing low probability of extreme fire danger. - 07/17/2007

"Firefighters get weather help: 'Extreme' dryness still poses major threat, however"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) The news is good in the sense that it could be worse. Weather conditions have moderated in the Inland Northwest with cooler temperatures and weaker winds. The fire danger is still rated as "Extreme". (The rating is based on the National Fire Danger Rating system). Governor Gregoire has proclaimed a statewide wildfire emergency due to the fire danger. Today the Pasco Tri-City Herald reports that "Animal habitat up in smoke at Hanford Reach National Monument". A 20,000 acre fire in the steppes of the Hanford Reach National Monument is threatening endangered species such as the pygmy rabbit. Old growth sage, important to many creatures, is being lost at a dangerous rate. - 07/18/2007

"Al-Qaida ally forecast to hit America next"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
According to a National Intelligence Estimate, "The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland", Al-Qaida has regenrated itself and remains a potent despite the Global War on Terror. The White hass has issued a response outlining progress that has been made in fighting Al-Qaida. - 07/18/2007

"Health help for kids: State expands subsidized insurance program to more families"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Washington state will provide health insurance to all children under the age of 19 whose family income is no more than 2 1/2 times the federal poverty level. The eligibility level will rise to 300 per sent of the povery level by 2009. Depending on a family's income, the insurance will either be free or subsidized by the state. The need for this program was driven by the estimated 72,000 uninsured children in Washington in the period 2003-2005. This expansion of the existing programs for insuring low income children will take effect on July 22 and will be administered by the Department of Social and Health Services. - 07/19/2007

"State in need of more social workers to keep track of children, officials say"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Make no mistake--the Children's Administration of the Department of Social and Health Services is glad to gaining 388 more social workers in the 2005-2009 period. The only problem is that they could use more social workers. Although the average caseload has dropped from more than 25 cases per social worker in 2005 to 21 cases, the recommended number is is no more than 12 cases per social worker. A glimpse of the problems faced by the Children's Administration can be found in a 2006 factsheet issued by the Child Welfare League of America. - 07/19/2007

"Keeping tabs on sex offenders is daunting task: Detectives tracking rapists, molesters often are overworked"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
It should have been easy for police to find Terapon Adhah, a Level 1 sex offender, since convicted sex offenders in Washington are required to register with local police. This law has been on the books since 1990 and local police are required to verify the offender's address. There are weaknesses in the system. Adhah moved without notifying police. Verifying addresses is a labor intensive and time consuming task for local police. A Washington Institute for Public Policy report in 2006 says that a large number of convicted sex offenders don't register and these are the ones with the highest recidivism rate. (More WSIPP reports on sex offenders can be found here.) The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs maintains a list of Level II and Level III registered sex offenders. The Department of Corrections has a frequently asked questions page about registration and notification requirements for sex offenders. - 07/20/2007

"House panel near vote on farm bill "--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture has passed a farm bill that dramatically increases support for fruit and vegetable farmers. The bill also increases spending on conservation and biofuel while tightening the rules for grain and cotton subsidies. You can find a press release about the farm bill here. The farm bill is still in the early stages of the appropriations process. The bill still has to go in front of the whole House of Representatives where it can be amended. After the final House farm bill is approved, it still must be reconciled with the Senate farm bill and eventually signed or vetoed by the President. - 07/20/2007

"DOE to cut Washington Closure's pay"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Department of Energy could reduce payments to Washington Closure Hanford, a contractor at the Hanford site, by $1,000,000. The company has failed to produce an updated Integrated Safety Management Plan despite a history of accidents and falsified reports. The plan is part part of a safety management system that is required by Department of Energy policy. The penalty was recommended by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. - 07/23/2007

"Trade battle outcomes to span state"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Foreign trade is the lifeblood of Washington's ports and many of its industries. Foreign competition has hurt some of Washington's industries and cost some workers their jobs. Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is a federal program for retraining workers who have lost their jobs or income to foreign imports. There is also a Trade Adjustment Assistance program for farmers and fishermen. Washington State University's extension program is the TAA contact point for fishermen and farmers. The Washington Employment Security Department handles TAA services in Washington state. - 07/23/2007

"States move to minimize damage from subprime loans"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) Subprime mortgage loans offer people with poor credit history a chance to buy a home. The loans often come with low introductory payments, high fees, and eventually much higher loan payments. The foreclosure rates on subprime mortgages and the subsequent collapse of subprime lenders are a national concern. The Department of Financial Institutions is working to limit the damage in Washington. It is following new national guidelines on subprime lending practices. The standards apply to banks, mortgage lenders, and mortgage brokers. The Department of Financial Institutions also has information on how to avoid foreclosure. - 07/24/2007

"Dead farmers got subsidies"--Seattle Times
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid dead farmers millions of dollars for crops subsidies, disaster relief, and conserservation practices. In some cases, farmers were paid years after they died. A new Government Accountability Office report describes how this has happened. The highlights of the report can be found here. - 07/24/2007

"GAO report questions DOE review of Hanford vit plant bills"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Trust can be expensive. A new Government Accountability Office report criticizes the Department of Energy's oversight of invoices submitted by Bechtel for work and materials used on construction of the Hanford vitrification plant. Bechtel submitted monthly invoices in 2005-2006 that were usually in the $20-30 million range. The invoices had very little detail. Bechtel also had very loose control over equipment inventories. The GAO report notes that Bechtel and the DOE have improved their oversight procedures. Still the DOE says there's no need to criticize its oversight in 2005-2006. A summary of the report can be found here. - 07/25/2007

"On the edge of wetness? Researchers see spits, beaches disappearing under global warming"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
Port Angeles, along with the rest of Washington's coastline, could lose familiar landmarks and beaches as seawater rises due to global warming. Ecosystems will have to adapt to these changes as well. These changes are forecast in Sea-level Rise and Coastal Habitats in the Pacific Northwest", a report issued by the National Wildlife Federation. Although the National Wildlife Federation is a non-government organization, its report closely follows forecasts made by the Department of Ecology and the University of Washington. - 07/25/2007

"House panel OKs contempt citations: Confrontation over attorneys heightens"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) Congress and the White House are heading toward a collision in a game of Constitutional chicken over executive privilege. The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted to issue contempt citations to Presidential aides who cited executive privilege when they refused to testify in front of the Committee. The White House laid out its claim to executive privilege when refusing a similar request from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Congressional Research Service recently released an analysis of Congress's contempt powers - 07/26/2007

"Court upholds ban on voting by felons: Ex-cons must pay fines, costs before regaining rights"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
(Registration may be required to read this article. State Library cardholders can access articles in back issues via ProQuest.) The Washington State Supreme Court ruled in Madison v. State that ex-convicts must pay whatever legal financial obligations they owe before they can regain their right to vote. Justice Alexander, Johnson and Chambers dissented. The Washington State Constitution in Article VI Section 3 states: "All persons convicted of infamous crime unless restored to their civil rights and all persons while they are judicially declared mentally incompetent are excluded from the elective franchise." The plaitiffs argued that they fulfilled all their sentence requirements except paying fines they couldn't afford. Thus, the state was discriminating against them based on income. The majority of the court argued that the possibility of losing voting rights came with the decision to commit a felony. - 07/27/2007

"Treating ‘meth mouth’ strains jail budgets: County releases some inmates for dental work"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
One sign of methamphetamine addiction is a mouth full of rotted teeth. The chemicals in meth and behaviors associated with meth mean that teeth are among the first to go. Since meth addicts end up in jail, the public often get saddled with bills for major dental work. The Whatcom County Jail now spends over $22,000 a year on dental work for inamtes. The dentist at the Washington State Reformatory has treated 2,000 cases of meth mouth. The Vancouver Columbian reports in "Baird bill would treat 'meth mouth'" that Representative Brian Baird has introduced House Bill 3187 in Congress that would direct funds to jails and prisons for meth mouth related dental work. The article points out that the Washington State Department of Corrections spends $5 million on treating meth mouth. - 07/27/2007

"Needed: an extra $350 million for rail, highway projects"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Washington state needs to improve its transportation system for its ports to remain competitive with other West Coast ports. The Washington State Department of Transportation earmarked $350 million for freight mobility improvements. State agencies such as the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board decide where the money goes for these improvements. The problem is that the money was going to come from a controversial tax on containers going through Washington's ports (the bill was amended from creating a tax to creating a study group). That tax died in the legislature in the face of sharp opposition from the ports, the Governor, and trading partners such as Alaska. The tax was seen as an incentive for shippers to use ports in other states and Canada. - 07/30/2007

"New twist in sign battle: Is billboard giant behind new ads?"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Are billboards protected by the Constitution? Clear Channel Outdoor thinks so and cites the First Amendment. The city of Tacoma thinks the billboards are an eyesore and passed an ordinance for their removal in 1997. The ordinance gave billboard operators 10 years to remove them and make money from them in the meanwhile. This process is known as amortization. The ten years will be up on August 1. Clear Channel says 10 years is not enough time to make up for the loss of income from the billboard removal. Now instead of ads, many of their billboards carry the message "Constitutions Matter". According to a finding by the Government Accountability Office in 2004, amortization is usually a legal way to compensate the owners of billboards slated for removal. It cites the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. - 07/31/2007

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