YAY: SAFE OLYMPIA
Olympia police have been building bridges to the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community through a program that designates some businesses as havens for anyone getting hurt or threatened on downtown streets.
Chief Ronnie Roberts supports the effort. He gives credit to Sgt. Ren Emerson, the city’s LGBT liaison, for getting things going.
This is an innovation worth watching.
BOO: ONGOING DROUGHT
Despite rain in the past couple of weeks, state officials say drought is not over for either side of Washington. Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon says the state is “carrying a huge water deficit” going into the year’s end.
To overcome the deficit requires a normal snowpack that can begin replenishing over-tapped aquifers and reservoirs.
DOE notes that the U.S. Drought Monitor describes the west side of our state as still in severe drought and the east side in extreme drought. And the forecast this fall is for continued warm and dry weather.
The upshot is that our state and all of us who use water should keep California in mind and plan for the worst next year, too.
Spigots are easier to turn on during wet times than to turn off during drought.
YAY: HEALTH EXCHANGE
The Washington Health Benefit Exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act quit taking premium payments directly last week from consumers and then passing them on to 16 insurers.
Too often consumers who thought they had paid discovered their insurance had lapsed because of technical troubles at the exchange that held up payments to the insurers. Details on how to pay individual carriers are on the agency’s website.
Affected are the remainder of the 164,000 people who signed up for private insurance plans but had not yet begun direct payments. This is a long overdue move.
BOO: RISING HEALTH COSTS
A Kaiser Family Foundation report says health premiums rose 4 percent this year, boosting average annual premiums for single coverage to $6,251 and family coverage to $17,545.
Of that, employees are paying about $1,071 for single coverage and $4,955 for family coverage, according to the 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey done by Kaiser and the Health Research & Educational Trust.
On the bright side, this cost trend is in line with a growth rate of about 5 percent, which health cost trackers have seen since 2005. That is less than half the 11 percent yearly growth seen during 1999-2005.
YAY: $100,000 FINES
The Moody’s credit rating agency says the Washington Supreme Court’s $100,000-a-day fines against the state and Legislature are good for local school districts.
The reason is that the fines create public and legal pressure to put more money into schools, which improves their credit worthiness, according to Moody’s.
More investment by lawmakers is clearly needed. But after being held in contempt of court by the state justices, lawmakers did provide $1.3 billion more in response to court orders this year.