Under the Dome for Feb. 27

February 27, 2010 

Good morning. Today is Saturday, Feb. 27, the 48th day of the 60-day legislative session.

TODAY

 • The League of Women Voters will hold its “Olmsted Legacy at the Capitol” event from 10 a.m.- 1 p.m. in the Columbia Room.

 • The Sierra Club will hold a “Coal Free Washington” event at the Tivoli Fountain on campus from noon- 3 p.m.

 • The Ways and Means Committees for both the House and the Senate get under way at 9 a.m. to consider bills that have fiscal effects. The committees are holding hearings and approving bills ahead of Monday’s deadline to pass bills from the opposite chamber.

 • The Senate panel quits by 11 a.m. to allow a Senate floor session and action on a supplemental transportation budget and possibly an operating budget. The transportation bill was held up Friday because Republican Sen. Dan Swecker of Rochester, who collaborated on the budget, was not available.

COMING UP

The operating budget bill was on its way to passage Friday in Senate Ways and Means. Senate bills to raise revenues are not expected to come up for committee action until Tuesday at the soonest.

The House committee is working on Senate bills that have fiscal effects. The full House comes into session at noon Sunday. Action is planned on Senate bills; it was not clear when the House would vote on its operating budget.

FROM THE POLITICS BLOG

The House approved its version of reform at the state Department of Printing, agreeing to shave some costs and move the 150-year-old agency under the Department of Information Services.

The floor debate mirrored a battle hinted at all session between the Democratic majority and Republican minority over how the state is – or isn’t – changing the way it does business. Efficiencies proposed by Rep. Zach Hudgins, D-Tukwila, would standardize its envelope-making function and answer Gov. Chris Gregoire’s call to move the agency under DIS.

But the majority Democrats didn’t secure their 60-36 vote for House Bill 2969 until after Republicans tried to add more efficiencies and complained Democrats were avoiding hard choices on government reform.

“Where are the sacred cows hiding that the governor wants to slay? This is not low-hanging fruit,” Republican Rep. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale said. “When do we start addressing our budget shortfall with making common-sense solutions instead of simply saying raise taxes and drive more jobs out of the private sector?”

Ericksen wants to allow more “contracting out” of print work to the private sector.

The bill could save up to $3 million, and Democratic Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia defended the agency, saying it already farms out $10 million a year in print work to the private sector.

“So this is not something the print shop does to take away jobs from the private sector. It’s a very good cooperative process, and I think we ought to maintain that,” Hunt said. “It does also add a competitive feature. Without the print shop, we would not have the cost comparison and ability to have these options in our print shop …”

HB 2969 passed after Republican Rep. Mike Armstrong of Wenatchee tried, but failed, to pass an amendment that went further than sponsoring Rep. Hudgins wanted. Armstrong wanted to eliminate the print shop’s right to add a 5 percent markup to printing jobs, and Rep. Kelli Linville, the Democrats’ top budget writer, said she supported it.

As passed, HB 2969 lets the agency add a 5 percent charge to jobs it farms out to the private sector.

Democrats crossing over to vote against HB 2969 were Reps. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, Troy Kelley of Tacoma and Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor; Republicans voting for it were Reps. Tom Campbell of Roy, Mike Hope of Lake Stevens and Jim McCune of Graham.

Tom said in a recent Olympian article that voters want to see more changes to government operations, and that is why he was backing Senate Bill 6867 to abolish the print shop. He also wants to merge the Department of Natural Resources with other agencies including Fish and Wildlife and state parks to save $10 million.

BUDGET EFFECT ON SENIORS EXPLAINED

Elder-care lobbyist Jerry Reilly is featured speaker March 9 at the next meeting of the Democratic Study Group at Panorama, the Lacey retirement community.

The 1:30 p.m. event is open to the public, regardless of political affiliation. Reilly is a former executive director of the Washington Health Care Association and a former assistant secretary at the Department of Social and Health Services.

For more information, call Bob Walker at 360-438-5973.

Reilly, who is part of the Rebuilding Our Economic Future Coalition that favors tax increases, has said the House budget proposal outlined early this week is less harmful to seniors than a Senate plan. But he said both budgets would lead to the gradual phase-out of adult-day-health funding that lawmakers cut last year; that cut has led to loss of mobility and health for elderly people who used day-health programs, according to Reilly’s Eldercare Alliance.

And Gary Weeks of the Health Care Association said the Senate measure is “pretty devastating to nursing homes” because it would reduce the Medicaid payment to homes to $157 a day – below the nearly $170 paid today and well below the $190-a-day average cost. The House plan would cut rates by a smaller amount.

The association backs a “provider fee” that would let the state pool more money for nursing care and receive a larger federal match, which in turn could lead to better payments to nursing homes for care of Medicaid patients, Weeks said.

LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS

South Sound lawmakers say a draft House transportation budget has money for local projects, including $750,000 added in the House Transportation Committee to pay for an environmental assessment of the Belfair “bypass” project on state Route 3 in Mason County.

Democratic Rep. Fred Finn of Thurston County sought the change and said in a news release the money will “keep the momentum going” on the project. He also said the Department of Transportation will hold the first of two community events to discuss the project from 4 to 7 p.m. March 17 at North Mason High School.

Republican Rep. Tom Campbell of Roy said he secured $500,000 for a traffic signal at state Route 7 and state Route 702 in the 2nd Legislative District in Pierce County. He said it will save lives and support jobs.

Compiled by Brad Shannon, staff writer

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