Good morning. Today is Saturday, Feb. 20, the 41st day of the 60-day legislative session.
Town hall: Democratic Rep. Brendan Williams of the 22nd Legislative District will hold a town hall meeting beginning at 4 p.m. today at The Mark, a restaurant at 407 Columbia St. S.W. in Olympia. Williams said he will take questions and talk about the legislative session, including his hope to blunt cuts to programs by raising revenues.
Campaign kickoff: Olympia Democrat Denny Heck will formally kick off his campaign for Congress today with events in Vancouver and at the Olympia Farmers Market.
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Heck, the TVW co-founder and wealthy investor who was a chief of staff for then-Gov. Booth Gardner, is running in the 3rd District. He is one of nine candidates in a field that exploded after U.S. Rep. Brian Baird said he would retire this year.
Heck’s Olympia event begins at 4 p.m., and Marsha Tadano Long, a former state director of General Administration, will be the emcee.
Two other candidates from Olympia are running – Democrat Cheryl Crist, who ran in 2004 and 2008 and wants to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan; and Republican David Castillo, a former federal agency appointee under President George W. Bush who works as a financial planner.
Other Democrats in the race are state Sen. Craig Pridemore of Vancouver, state Rep. Deb Wallace of Vancouver and Hispanic activist Maria Rodriguez-Salazar of Clark County.
Other Republicans in the race are state Rep. Jaime Herrera of Camas, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers; Jon Russell, a Washougal City Council member and operator of health clinics; and David Hedrick, a former Marine from Camas with ties to the Tea Party movement.
TOXIC SUBSTANCES TAX CLEARS FIRST HURDLE
A bill tripling the tax on toxic substances including oil products and pesticides moved closer to a vote in the House, winning approval from majority Democrats in the House Capital Budget Committee on Thursday.
House Bill 3181 now goes to the Rules Committee before being pulled to the floor for a vote. The bill would raise the 0.7 percent tax set by citizen initiative in 1988 to 2 percent, generating an estimated $225 million a year.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has put the tax proposal on her list of preferred taxes, directing nearly $150 million of it into the state general fund to help bridge the $2.8 billion budget gap.
Senate Democrats plan to take a vote Monday to concur with changes made to the bill amending Initiative 960, in effect suspending a two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases. Substitute Senate Bill 6130 was amended by the House and needs agreement from the Senate before going to Gov. Chris Gregoire for signing.
Both chambers appear to have difficulty agreeing on a tax package to pay for education, health care and human services programs that otherwise would be cut.
House Democrats say they will release their operating and capital-construction budget proposals Tuesday; hearings on both measures are scheduled for 6 p.m.
Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, said her operating budget plan does not include details about how to raise revenues. Linville is the chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which will hear House Bill 2824 at 6 p.m. Monday in O’Brien House Hearing Room A.
Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, will hear his capital budget plan, House Bill 2836, at 6 p.m. in O’Brien Hearing Room C.
The Senate had been expected to release its budgets first, but Democrats are not releasing their budgets until Tuesday or Wednesday. The Senate is expected to include a detailed tax proposal with its measures.
Dunshee said his budget would have to suspend about $500 million in previously authorized construction projects if lawmakers do not produce new revenues on the operating side, the result of complicated state debt-limit rules.
The last of seven health care forums is set for Tuesday evening at First Christian Church at 701 Franklin St. S.E. in Olympia.
Speaking at 6:30 p.m. in the sanctuary will be Walt Bowen of the Washington Senior Lobby and Dennis Mahar of the Area Agency on Aging.
The event is sponsored by almost a dozen faith groups. For more information, call Don Carlson, the organizer and moderator, at 360-456-8331.
Monday is the 10th yearly “diabetes day” at the Capitol, according to Republican Sen. Jerome Delvin of Richland.
The event sponsor is the American Diabetes Association. Delvin said in a news release that he has founded a diabetes caucus that meets for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Monday in O’Brien Hearing Rooms A, B and C. Caucus members include Republican Rep. Bill Hinkle of Cle Elum, Democratic Rep. John Driscoll of Spokane and Democratic Sen. Rosa Franklin of Tacoma.
AID FOR BOEING TANKER FIGHT
Gov. Chris Gregoire will join a coalition of governors Monday in Washington, D.C., to push to secure an Air Force contract for refueling tankers that uses Boeing Co. aircraft.
“Awarding the refueling tanker contract to Boeing will provide work for 40,000 to 50,000 people all across the country at a time when the national economy is still struggling mightily,” Gregoire was quoted as saying Friday in a news release. “Boeing has a long history of making great tankers and is ready to start with these today. Boeing has the facilities, the technical expertise and the experienced work force to get the job done.”
The Democratic governor said in the release that she also is leading efforts to form the coalition with Govs. Mark Parkinson of Kansas, Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Chet Culver of Iowa, John Baldacci of Maine, Jay Nixon of Missouri, Ted Kulongoski of Oregon and Gary Herbert of Utah. The Pentagon’s request for proposals is expected to be released Tuesday, according to the Governor’s Office.
COURT GOES TRAVELING
The state Supreme Court will hit the road again, hearing arguments in three cases Monday and Tuesday at the Mount Vernon campus of Skagit Valley College, the Administrative Office of the Courts announced Friday.
The trip is the first under new Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, following a decade-long practice of holding court hearings around the state as a way to make the court’s actions more visible and understandable to the public.
The court typically holds its traveling sessions three times a year. On this trip, it plans forums with students and to visit classrooms.
Cases scheduled to be heard include one that deals with a police search of a vehicle after the driver exited and locked it, one dealing with citizen initiative powers to block the use of fluoride in Port Angeles, and one deciding under which circumstances the violation of a domestic violence no-contact order is a criminal offense.
MORE FEDERAL HEALTH CASH
Washington is getting $86 million more in temporary federal help for health care under the federal stimulus effort, Gregoire’s office said this week.
The aid is not cash; it’s a reduction in what the state must pay as its share of Medicare Part D costs for residents who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.
The extra payments became a requirement after the federal prescription-drug bill passed in 2003 as costs formerly borne by Medicaid were shifted to the national program.
The state also expects to get about $435 million in federal aid for Medicaid related programs, but Gregoire said this week that she is putting that money into her budget as reserves, swelling that contingency amount to $512 million.
She is taking that approach because Congress has not yet authorized the aid or put ink to paper pledging delivery of the funds, she said.
Compiled by Brad Shannon, staff writer