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Posts tagged as “Washington”

Reading: WA’s initiatives

From a notice by David Ammons of the Washington Secretary of State's office:

FYI: As WA lawmakers prepare to open their session on Monday, the people’s process of writing laws by initiative got its start Friday.

By mid-afternoon, 24 proposals with the Secretary of State’s Elections Division, including 13 from initiative activist Tim Eyman. His measures deal with making it tougher to raise taxes in Olympia, bringing back $30 car tabs, express lane tolls, and other issues.

Kurt Ludden of Seattle filed seven initiatives, dealing with medical marijuana, and the initiative process. Other sponsors submitted measures dealing with a single-payer health insurance system for Washington, grandparents’ visitation rights, and faculty carrying handguns.

The process of filing is easy — pay a $5 filing fee and submit the proposed wording. History shows, however, that usually only a few actually make the ballot. It takes 246,372 valid signatures of registered Washington voters — and the Elections Division recommends bringing in at least 325k to cover duplicate and invalid signatures. The deadline this year is July 8.

Initiatives are sent to the state code reviser for review as to form, and then on to the attorney general for a ballot title. Ballot titles can be challenges by sponsors or foes in court. After all that, it is up to sponsors whether to actually print up 20,000 or more actual petition sheets for signature collection. Many sponsors do not take that final step, and many do not gather enough signatures to qualify.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Kim Wyman has provisionally certified two initiatives to the Legislature as the Elections Division begins the signature-verification process. They are I-732, dealing with carbon taxes, and I-735, petitioning for a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on campaign fundraising.

The charter school regs

A guest post from Liv Finne of the conservative Washington Policy Center, on new rules about charter schools by Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.

They say that if you want to make an announcement that won’t be noticed, post the notice on an obscure website and schedule the hearing the day after a holiday weekend. That’s just what Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn did when he issued his plan to impose 119 pages of administrative rules on public charter schools and the families that support them.

Superintendent Dorn targets families at nine new charter schools set to open this fall in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Highline, and Kent. The Dorn Rules will hurt these families and those that will eventually attend up to 31 other charter schools in the future.

Washington’s voter-passed charter school law is so popular with parents that space limitations have forced the new schools to place hundreds of students on waiting lists. Young teachers in particular are flocking to take exciting new jobs at charter schools because of the freedom they provide educators to design and implement lessons that help many hard-to-teach students succeed.

Superintendent Dorn wants his charter school restrictions approved by this Friday, May 29th, which is light-speed in the world of government. It is interesting that the education bureaucracy will take years to implement a reform bill passed by the legislature, but blocking families from charter schools takes only weeks.

The Dorn Rules would cut funding to charter schools (WAC 392-121-299) compared to what is provided under the charter school law (RCW 28A.710.220(2)), impose hiring quotas, (WAC 392-127-004 and 006), reject their budgets (WAC 392-123-0795 and 080 and 095), restrict how they serve special education children, transitional bilingual children, and other categorical program funds (WAC 392-122-910), and limit the types of bonuses they provide their teachers (WAC 392-140-973 and 974).

Superintendent Dorn is well known for his opposition to letting families access charter schools. In 2012 he fought passage of the state’s break-through charter school law, lending his name to the “No on Initiative 1240” campaign.

As a top defender of the traditional public school monopoly, Superintendent Dorn seems to view charter school parents as a threat. He certainly represents the status quo, and he now appears to be working to weaken the growing popularity of these new public schools in Washington.

The Dorn Rules also represent a significant power grab by a state regulatory agency. Superintendent Dorn says his supervisory role over public schools should give him the power to impose cuts and restrictions on charter schools and the families they serve. This is not true, however. As state superintendent his power is limited. He is supposed to fairly deliver state and federal funds to school districts and to charter schools according to the law, and to report on how well Washington children are learning. The Dorn Rules go far beyond what the law allows, and deny basic educational rights to children who attend charter schools.

An accurate reading of the statute shows Superintendent Dorn is misusing his regulatory power to prevent parents from choosing an authentic charter public school for their children. The obvious purpose of the Dorn Rules is to force innovative charter schools to conform to the traditional and restricted public school model, which are exactly the kind of school from which so many Washington families are trying to escape.

Baird out; competition in the 3rd?

3rd district
Baird

Brian Baird

To this point, just one Northwest U.S. House district has had the look of being seriously competitive next year - the Idaho 1st. Add one more as of today: The Washington 3rd.

That is because Democrat Brian Baird, who has held the seat for six terms, says he won't run again. Baird has developed into an entrenched officeholder, even when he seriously ticked off his base over Iraq and was threatened with a strong primary contest (which didn't really materialize). He has held more than 300 town hall meetings and has worked the district hard. He probably could have won re-election easily. But, with him out, you can't say the same about Democratic chances for holding it.

Not that they can't; but that it's by no means a given, a win that should be taken for granted. Baird's own wins have masked the reality of the 3rd, which is that it is as it has been, a competitive area. Baird's last four wins have been landslides, over 60%, but he won the seat in 1998 with 55%, and narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Linda Smith in a close race the election before. Smith held the seat two terms, and before that Democrat Jolene Unsoeld held it for three.

There are solidly Democratic bases here, in central Vancouver, in Olympia and in the old union areas along the Pacific coast. But the Vancouver suburbs, which hold a lot of the population, are mixed or lean Republican, and many of the rural districts are very Republican. Cowlitz County in the middle of the district leans Democratic slightly but can go either way. The region's state legislative delegation is a real mix, from fairly liberal members to some quite conservative.

There's a real conservative streak in many of the nominally Democratic areas. For example, all of the counties in the 3rd except for Thurston County (that would be Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Skamania, Wahkiakum and Pacific) voted in favor of Initiative 1033, the Tim Eyman tax/budget measure on the ballot last month, while it got only 42% of the vote statewide. And that same group of counties, six of the 3rd's seven, voted to reject Referendum 71 - taking the conservative side on the "everything but marriage" domestic partnership measure, while it passed the state with 53.2%. Yes, a Republican could win here.

Expect some candidates in both parties to materialize soon. With the better mousetrap, either party could take this district.

This seat ought to jump toward the top on the priority list for both parties.

WA: The unlimited unregulated

Jeff Kropf

In Washington, certain kinds of wells for certain uses such as domestic, stockwater and some manufacturing and noncommercial, can be drilled and used without a permit. A 1945 state law established that, and limited water extraction to 5,000 gallons per day. A 2005 state attorney general opinion, however, concluded that "the first proviso to RCW 90.44.050 makes it plain that groundwater withdrawals for stock-watering are exempt from the permit requirement, and that the exemption is not limited to withdrawals of less than 5,000 gallons a day." Withdrawals for stock water, in other words, could virtually be without limit.

That's the water backdrop for Easterday Ranches' plan to double the size of its 30,000-head of cattle feedlock northeast of Pasco. Easterday has obtained a water right (approved June 11) from the state Department of Ecology for controlling dust and for cooling cattle, a transfer the former Pepiot water right, to the location near Eltopia (north of Pasco). But it also plans to drill a well to water the cattle, probably drawing more than 5,000 gallons daily.

That in turn has led to a counter-reaction. On June 30, a group of local farmers (including a group called Five Corners Family Farmers) and several environmental groups (including Earthjustice and the Sierra Club) filed a lawsuit at Olympia to challenge the state's interpretation of the well law. From their release: (more…)

WA: 867,000, no insurance for you

Kreidler

Mike Kreidler

Only a number, maybe, but what ought to be a big number: 876,000, the number of people in the state of Washington who by year's end are expected to have no health insurance.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler talked (timely, given the health talk going on in the other Washington) about how his office came up with the estimate. After that, there was a piece of sort-of good news from the state Health Care Authority, that earlier reports about tens of thousands of residents being dropped from the state basic health plan will not materialize. None of that affects the 876,000 estimate, though.

uninsured

Kreidler chart

What this will establish immediately beyond more hand-wringing isn't clear. But maybe it provides a little more impetus to the state's congressional delegation as it considers where to land in the emerging health care policy battle. The commissioner himself seemed to acknowledge as much in his statement - some reliance on solutions coming from a couple time zones away.

From Kriedler's release: (more…)

Over-value

How much is something worth? goes the old question. However much someone will pay, goes the traditional answer - except in recent years, as we know, in the case of the housing market, where prices ran up massively higher than people (viewed in aggregate) were able, at least, to pay; an increasingly, willing, too.

Washington and Oregon were among the relative latecomers to the mass housing price rampup, and they apparently are a little slower than some to slide back down. They have been sliding down, but indications are that they have a ways to go.

The consulting firms IHS Global Insight and The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. today released studies indicating which housing markets around the country remain most overvalued, and Washington and Oregon are high on the list.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer pulled out the numbers and said that of 330 metros analyzed, Seattle ranked 35th in the country, although "The report put the average house price at $366,500 in the Seattle area, down 1.6 percent from the previous quarter. Wenatchee and Longview were third and fourth on the overvalued list, with Bend, Ore., Bellingham and the Portland area (including Vancouver) seventh, eighth and ninth. Others in the top 26 were Mount Vernon (18th), Spokane (20th), Yakima (23rd) and Olympia (24th), in Washington, and Eugene (12th), Salem (16th), Corvalis (25th) and Medford (26th), in Oregon. The Tacoma area was 31st."

Cranking up on candidate filing

Next week, we see who file for local government offices up for election this year (and legislative spots that need filling). Next week is candidate filing time.

A few points of interest, as Secretary of State Sam Reed's office points out:

For the second time since the U.S. Supreme Court last year upheld the Top 2 Primary system adopted by citizen initiative in 2004, the Declaration of Candidacy form will allow candidates to self-describe their political preference, but this will not mean that the person is nominated by or supported by a party.

The form candidates submit will allow up to 16 characters to provide the name of the party a candidate prefers. Candidates cannot include profanity or imply or state that they are nominated or endorsed by a political party or that a party approves of or associates with them.

The regulations don't rule out candidates trying to wedge in additional information about themselves, such as "Anti-war Dem" or "Pro-life G.O.P", "Evans Republican" or "Jackson Democrat." But Reed, the state's chief elections officer, said he hopes candidates will simply list the actual name of a political party and not try to cram in personal or political information.

Words of candidate wisdom

Learned the hard way.

Scanning a where-is-he-now article (Seattle Times, May 4) about two-time Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi - the hook was a new job he's taking back in his old field of real estate - a quote jumped out.

Rossi said he's "unplugged" from political activities, and gave indications he's planning to tend to business rather than politics for some time to come. Occasionally, he said, he fields a call or visit from someone (Republicans presumably) thinking of running for office, seeking his counsel.

Rossi: "I try to find out why they're running. I tell them the only reason to run is to be in the right place at the right time to do some public good. I tell them if you want to see your name in the newspaper, I can guarantee you it'll be surrounded by words that you don't like."

One gay rights status report

As legalized same-sex marriage advices in a few more jurisdictions, there's a read from Washington state well worth the review, coming from the opposition side. (Hat tip on this to the Seattle Times' Danny Westneat.)

It comes from the conservative pastor Joe Fuiten, of Cedar Park Church at Bothell, long active on social issues and strongly opposed to same-sex marriage. That hasn't changed. But his take, and that of others of like mind, on how to react to the social changes underway around the country certainly seem to have changed.

The immediate trigger is the newly-passed state legislation providing redefinitions for domestic partnerships, making them closely (not exactly ) equal to marriage. Fuiten is among those who disagree with it, and considering campaigning for a referendum in which voters would, prospectively, overturn it. Fuiten emailed a number of his counterparts around the state asking, is this is a battle we want to, or should, get into? The replies make for fascinating reading.

There were 34 responses, which Fuiten summarized: "Out of that group, six people have said, yes, we should definitely run a Referendum, three people offered conditional support, and over 25 people said, 'DO NOT RUN a REFERENDUM'."

Westneat called Fuiten and asked, after seeing and considering the responses, that question. The response: "It's dumb to try to repeal it. We'd lose. We'd set our whole cause back."

Once again, changing wind.

A non-comdemnatory entity

court

A notable opinion out today from the Division III Washington Court of Appeals, on the subject of public and semi-public power over private property. Anyone concerned about the extent of government powers of eminent domain might look at it with some relief.

We've long looked askance at the proliferation of quasi-governmental entities; our general view has been that a bright line is better, that something should either be governmental or should not. Maybe this decision will offer a little encouragement along those lines.

Spokane Airports, et al v. RMA, Inc. d/b/a Spokane Airways, et al concerns an airport-related condemnation. The background is a little bureaucratic, but hang in for the conclusion. (more…)

When and what, but not if

They've adjourned in Olympia, right on the razor edge of completing business. Had seemed highly questionable whether they'd be able to push through a budget in time for Sunday adjournment, but they did. The speed and determination near the end was a little impressive.

Does the legislature need to return in a special session? Evidently the views on that are mixed, among legislators notably. But the governor's quote was that she plans to meet with leaders “to determine when the Legislature will reconvene.”

When, not if.

Out of fuel, for now

brown

Lisa Brown

It was the probability that income taxes in Washington would get only so far before the plug was pulled, as it was today by the Senate Democrats. The income tax - even this version applying only to those with annual income of a quarter-million dollars or more - is just a tough sell in Washington, and doesn't have "the legislative support to move forward at this point."

The immediate news article notes that the proposal is "politically risky," which makes the sponsorship interesting. The key figure behind it, and publicly, is Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and at this point maybe the single most likely entrant into the 2012 gubernatorial race.

That suggests the issue won't go away, and Brown's comment on the subject from a couple of weeks ago suggests the form it might take.

Opponents to a modest income tax on the most affluent in our state have been vocal and vociferous. Because they can’t argue about what the proposal is, they focus on the specter of what it might become. In the past, this has been a prescription for the status quo, preserving a tax system that is more unstable and less fair than the people of Washington deserve.

Fortunately, there are also those rising to voice support. I have heard in recent days from religious leaders and representatives of higher education faculty as well as from individual citizens from all over the state, who are pleased that this conversation is taking place.

In the end, I predict that any proposal, whether this session or in the future, will go to voters. I hope and trust that with an open dialogue about the modest costs to those who can afford them and the tremendous benefits to everyone else, that common sense and the common good will prevail.

Will the income tax actually be a major piece of the debate in 2012?