Newsletter: Budgets, Bills, and Daffodils at the Capitol

Friends and Neighbors,

We are quickly approaching the end of the 60-day session at the Legislature. This is a ‘short’ legislative session where we provide funding for unexpected expenses, fine-tune the biennial budgets agreed upon last year, and address time-sensitive policy issues. Bills are passing in both chambers, supplemental operating and capital budgets are being negotiated, and the midnight oil is burning. It is a fast-paced and exciting time at the capitol!

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Senate passes budget to aid wildfire relief, enhance mental-health services, and protect charter schools

"The chamber eventually voted 25-22 in favor of a plan that would add about $34 million to the two-year, $38 billion operating budget adopted last year.

The proposal would direct about $173 million for addressing damage caused by last summer's wildfires that destroyed more than 300 homes and burned 1 million acres, as well as provide more than $54 million to address safety issues at Western State Hospital and aid other mental-health services.

It would also keep charter schools open by supplying them with $6.6 million from the state's Opportunity Pathways Account."

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Permitting on hold for proposed Tacoma methanol plant

"A controversial proposal to build the world’s largest methanol manufacturing plant at the Port of Tacoma has been shelved for 'the next several months,' the company proposing to build the facility said Friday afternoon."

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Senate passes legislation to create school-funding task force

"On a 26-23 vote, the Senate passed legislation that will create a task force to work on school funding issues, while promising to correct funding gaps identified in the Washington State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision by the time lawmakers adjourn in 2017."

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Carol's law passes unanimously in Senate

“Sometimes it takes an appalling case for us to see the gaps in state law,” Dammeier said in a statement after the 49-0 vote. “This bill will ensure we will never have a case like it again, and it should bring closure to Mrs. Selland’s family.”

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Time for new transportation leadership

"The state Senate on Friday rejected the gubernatorial appointment of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, ousting her from the job she has held since shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee took office in 2013."

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Solution to school funding still uncertain

"In the McCleary school-funding case, the court ruled in 2012 that the state is shirking its constitutional duty to cover basic education costs, and must correct the funding problems by 2018. The state is now in contempt of court over lawmakers’ failure to deliver a plan to meet the 2018 funding deadline, with the court imposing sanctions of $100,000 a day.

Yet the plan floated this month by a bipartisan group of lawmakers doesn’t propose how the state should take on the cost of school employee salaries that are being borne unconstitutionally by local school districts, the biggest remaining part of the McCleary decision.

Instead, the bill would create a new task force and hire a consultant to gather more data about the problem, while committing to fixing it all next year."

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Levy reform critical to fully funding schools

"In his new budget proposal, Gov. Jay Inslee asks the Legislature to give beginning teachers a big bump in pay. He’s got the right idea, but he’s passing up an obvious way to finance it – levy reform."

"The obvious solution is for the Legislature to assume all responsibility for paying teachers — as the Washington Constitution demands. That will require shifting some existing levy revenues to the state, which can then distribute them equitably to rich and poor districts, factoring in regional differences in the cost of living."

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China considering pandas for Washington

"Backers of the movement to bring pandas to Washington announced Monday that their letters have received an encouraging response from Chinese President Xi Jinping: He’s having his people look into it."

"Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, called Xi’s letter 'a very positive move toward the prospect of ultimately getting pandas.'"

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Dammeier bill a positive for Pierce County

"Connoisseurs of Pierce County politics enjoyed another plot twist this week when state Sen. Bruce Dammeier said he’s working up a bill that would highlight council Chairman Dan Roach’s accommodating relationship with Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. (Dammeier didn’t put it that way, of course.)

Lindquist has been battling a sheriff’s deputy’s attempts to obtain cell phone information she believes could show that he retaliated against her. He recently appointed two outside attorneys to review his decision to withhold particular text messages sent from his personal phone.

State law says prosecutors should handle county litigation. But County Executive Pat McCarthy argues for an exception; she says Lindquist shouldn’t be allowed to hand-pick the people charged with reviewing his own actions when his personal interests are at stake."

 

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County elected officials prepare for legal collision

"An unprecedented legal spectacle will play out Friday in Thurston County Superior Court, as Pierce County’s elected leaders clash in an argument drawing attention from law junkies throughout the state.

The case has everything: arguments over conflicts of interest, separation of powers, legal misconduct and public disclosure. As many as eight lawyers could appear, all claiming to represent Pierce County in some fashion, and contending that their rivals in court lack the authority to claim the same.

At its heart, the argument involves six text messages written by Prosecutor Mark Lindquist four years ago on his personal phone. Since 2011, sheriff’s deputy Glenda Nissen has been trying to obtain those messages, believing they will prove Lindquist retaliated against her because she criticized him politically."

 

 

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Dammeier Files Bill to Address Attorney Conflicts of Interest

"A state senator seeking to lead Pierce County as its next executive wants to intervene in one of the biggest legal issues facing the county right now: County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, said he is preparing legislation that would allow county governments to seek help from the state attorney general when the county prosecutor is accused of wrongdoing or of having a conflict of interest.

Dammeier said the legislation would apply statewide, but is prompted by the current situation in Pierce County, where County Executive Pat McCarthy has filed suit to try to force Lindquist to step away from a case concerning the disclosure of text messages sent from his personal cellphone."

 

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Voters reject expensive Pierce County headquarters

"Early general election returns pointed to the death of Pierce County’s proposed headquarters with a strong majority of voters rejecting it Tuesday night.

The results punctuated what voters already told Pierce County in the primary election: Don’t build the $127 million general services building."

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Impeachment possible for Troy Kelley

"Unless state Auditor Troy Kelley resigns first, the 2016 Legislature’s first order of business should be his impeachment.

Kelley has faced 10 federal felony charges since last April. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department filed more charges; he now faces 17. They range from large-scale theft to money laundering to tax evasion. All of them impugn his honesty and put the Auditor’s Office — which investigates financial malfeasance — under a cloud."

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Pandas coming to Washington?

"About a third of the Legislature has signed a letter asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to consider loaning Washington state two pandas. [ . . . ] So far, 12 state senators and 31 state House members have signed the letter asking the Chinese president to consider loaning the state pandas, said Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, who has been working to gather signatures for the effort."

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Tacoma families rally to save charter schools

"To chants of 'Save our schools!,' at least 450 kids, parents and charter supporters gathered at Destiny Charter Middle School in the Dometop neighborhood. They pushed back against last week’s state Supreme Court ruling that struck down Washington’s 2012 voter-approved charter law. [ . . . ] Parents at the rally heard from two local state legislators: Sen. Bruce Dammeier and Rep. Hans Zeiger, both Republicans from Puyallup."

 

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Senator Bruce Dammeier running for Pierce County Executive

PUYALLUP… Bruce Dammeier, a Washington State Senator representing Pierce County, today announced his candidacy for Pierce County Executive in 2016.

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Dammeier announces run for Pierce County Executive

"State Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, announced Thursday that he plans to run for Pierce County executive next year and won’t seek re-election to the Senate. Dammeier will face a sitting Pierce County Council member in the race for the top county job."

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Puyallup rampage suspect receives heavy charges

"Prosecutors on Monday filed 17 felony counts, including first-degree murder, against the man they believe went on a rampage last week in Puyallup, killing a 71-year-old resident and terrorizing dozens of others."

 

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Excessive property regulation continues

"The Council’s 5 to 2 approval on Tuesday marked the first major overhaul of the Pierce County Shoreline Master Program since it was created in 1974. [ . . . ] The state said the county must do more to protect Lake Tapps and Spanaway Lake. It said properties there must have 75-foot buffers between the shoreline and any new development or redevelopment."

 

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Suggesting ideas to improve our schools

"Dammeier’s proposal aims to solve a problem identified by the state Supreme Court: Too much money from local school district levies is being used to fund basic education costs, such as school supplies and teacher salaries, that the court says are the state’s responsibility. To address that issue, Dammeier’s plan would reduce local levies to no more than $1.25 per $1,000 in assessed value by 2020."

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Paid for by The Committee to Elect Bruce Dammeier
PO Box 398, Puyallup, WA 98371
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