Writings and observations

seaweed
 

Sugar kelp, or Saccharina latissima, is native to Puget Sound. The University of Washington will be working with the Bainbridge Island-based Puget Sound Restoration Fund to see whether growing seaweed could help combat ocean acidification in Puget Sound waters. (photo/Mego Huang, University of Washington)

 
The Washington Legislature is nearing the constitutional end of its regular session, with a lot of business concluded but the big question – what to do about state budget and revenue – still hanging in the balance between the House and Senate.

Spring finally arrived in a big way around Oregon last week – almost everywhere. The cover picture this week shows one of the exceptional areas (in the Wallowa Mountains) but across much of the state sun and warmer temperatures, into the upper 60s, tended to prevail.

Hanging in the balance last week and surely one of the top topics of the week to come: Will Governor Otter call a special session to pass a bill blocked in the House earlier this month, which would give Idaho access to national child support collection organizations? Prospects for passage in the House remained unclear last week, as did Otter’s plans.

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cormorants

 
The double-crested cormorant is a waterbird associated with inland waterways as well as on the coast. They catch fish by swimming and diving, and nest in trees, cliffs and on the ground on predator-free islands. Cormorants are protected by international treaty and federal law. (photo/Department of Fish & Game)

 

Spring seemed to arrive in the Northwest in mid-March, but the end of the month pulled it away in favor of resumed colder temperatures. Given April’s history, that could last a while.

As the Idaho Legislature seemed to be moving toward an adjournment early in April, many of its members seemed to pull back on quick and easy resolution of the remaining financial issues (especially transportation). The spring groundhog says: Look for another week, or maybe two or beyond, of this.

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Yakima
 

Yakima City Manager Tony O’Rourke recently made a presentation to the Downtown Yakima Rotary Club about the proposed Yakima Central Plaza. Click on the link below to see the PowerPoint that was created for the presentation, which includes information about the origins of the plaza concept, how a design for the plaza was developed, and the return on investment the plaza is intended to provide. (image/City of Yakima)

 

Conflicting budget pictures are about to engage in the ring at the Washington Statehouse, as talk rises that one legislative session this year won’t be enough.

In Oregon, public school budget numbers were released last week by legislative leadership, and appear likely to run through the process. That may well drive the rest of the budgeting process in what’s now looking like a relatively low-key session, about halfway through its run.

Idaho legislators came close last week to resolving most of the key remaining issues at the statehouse – teacher pay and education funding (a committee budget bill has been approved), highway funding and several smaller-bore topics. Will they be able to adjourn for the year by the end of this week? Less than likely, but possible if they move efficiently.

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Friday Harbor
 
Measurements were collected from the dock at Friday Harbor Labs, which also is used for experiments that simulate future ocean acidification levels. Water was also collected from the pumphouse, the small brown building in the background on the left. (photo/J. Meyer, University of Washington)

 

The Washington legislature is reaching its cutoff points; by the end of this week, Washingtonians should have a clearer idea of what will be up for final action and what won’t. In Oregon, the legislature has slowed its pace a little, and may cool a little more this week as Republicans return from their pair of unofficial annual gatherings.

Idaho legislators have been hoping to aim for session shutdown by the end of next week, but that’s looking increasing unlikely amid battles over highway funding and teacher pay.

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outside waiting

 
People who use e-cigarettes, own and work at vape shops, gather outside the Multnomah Building before the March 5 board meeting, at which new county rules on vaping were adopted.

 
The Oregon Legislature has begun to kick out a number of pieces of legislation, including some major measures on subjects ranging from motor-voter to clean fuels. It’s beginning now to look as if a busy session lies ahead.

More ‘shot heard ‘round the world’ quotes emerged last week from Idaho legislators, which may give leadership all the more incentive to try to shut down before the end of March (as is the current plan).

In Washington, the legislature is hitting its relative frenzied peak, with lots of legislation scrambling for position before the series of cutoffs hits and wipes out most of the prospects.

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Kitzhaber

 
Governor John Kitzhaber on January 12, about a month before he would announce his resignation. (photo/Office of the Governor)

 
The resignation of Governor John Kitzhaber completely preoccupied Salem and much of the rest of Oregon last week. (It became a national and international news story.) Next: What happens as new Governor Kate Brown takes office and develops a new administration?

In Washington, the legislature has gotten down to business – which is to say, questions of money. Transportation and education budgets were the subject of negotiations last week, and more will emerge this week. By the end of this week, it may be clear whether one legislative session will suffice, or more will be needed.

The most long-range significant event of last week in Idaho may have been the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on the St. Lukes and Saltzer merger, which may set major guidelines for health care administration in the state – or, guidelines that might be addressed by law. The implications are far reaching; news coverage of the case was much less so.

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animal

 
Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) on February 4 introduced The AWARE Act to ensure that farm animals used in agricultural research at federal research facilities be included in the definition of “animal” under the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act ensures that certain minimum standards of humane care are adhered to in federal and private research facilities. However, the Act defines “animal” in a way that egregiously excludes farm animals used in agricultural research. Blumenauer and Fitzpatrick spoke with leaders from the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) at a press conference. (photo/Representative Blumenauer)

The Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss was duly reported around the state Sunday evening and Monday morning, and then quickly dropped. (What Seahawks?) Some advocates, however, pointed put that overall the team had played two spectacularly sucessful seasons in a row, and a Super Bowl return in 2016 does not seem an unreasonable prospect.

Oregon’s political picture was upended last week with the continuing difficulties of Governor John Kitzhaber – a press conference that went awry, a subsequent call for his resignation from the Portland Oregonian and later a couple of recall proposals. The pressure is not likely to let up in the week ahead.

In Idaho, school broadband concerns – and the growing probability of a shutdown of school broadband in the state – took front stage last week. Elsewhere, the legislature began moving toward budget-setting, which may be a closely related topic.

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barney football

 
Barney, male harbor seal at the Seattle Aquarium with a Seahawks football. The aquarium said, “Our harbor seals (Barney, Q and Siku) got another fumble return and touchdown pass practice in today before the big game this weekend.” (Photo/Seattle Aquarium)

 

We’ll have a little more about the Super Bowl in next week’s Washington Briefing, but the basics are well enough known already: The Seahawks lost a competitive game after what was called the “worst play ever” called by their coach, resulting in the New England Patriots taking control of the ball at a critical moment.

Elsewhere around the three states, legislatures get into full swing – now in Oregon as well as in Washington and Idaho – with financial and other decisions in play.

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gun

 
Tactical Export Strategies has organized 13 Idaho recreation-technology (rec-tech) companies to create a complete and functioning firearm from Idaho-made products. This firearm will be on display at the 2015 Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (S.H.O.T) Show in Las Vegas at the Sands Expo Center January 20-23, 2015, in the Idaho Commerce booth (booth 2943).  (Image/Idaho Department of Commerce)

 
The Oregon Ducks’ loss at the national championship level stung, and it may not have been exactly the right note on which to launch the Oregon Legislature and re-swear in (for the fourth time) Governor John Kitzhaber. But the timing was fixed. A large portion of the governor’s combination inaugural and state of the state speech is in this edition along with a commentary on its unusual content.

The Washington Legislature launched last week, with much of the attention going to the governor’s state of the state address; much of it is reprinted in this edition. A pile of legislation was introduced as well, and some samples are referenced in the state section.

As per usual, the Idaho Legislature hasn’t immediately roared into action – things move a little slower in the first couple of weeks – but a lot of attention went to the governor’s state of the state address. A large chunk of it is reprinted in this issue, along with part of the Democratic response.

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Newhouse
 
The Northwest’s newest member of Congress, Dan Newhouse (third from left) of Washington’s 4th district, is sworn into office by House Speaker John Boehner. (photo/Office of Representative Newhouse)

 
Here comes the legislature – over the next week.

That means different things in the three states. In Washington and Idaho, the legislatures kick off into full regular sessions starting today, with governor’s state of the states among the leading early activities (today in Idaho, tomorrow in Washington. In Oregon, a pro forma organizational session will be held today and tomorrow, with a speech from the governor (combining inaugural and state and the state), but the full legislative session won’t begin until February 2.

In the next Briefings you’ll find full reports on the governor’s address, the early legislation filed and early statements and policy moves.

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