Fall 2011- News
Legislators clash over special session - Dec. 9, 2011
OLYMPIA — House Republicans plan to release their budget proposals Monday, even as some Southwest Washington members say passing any budget in the special session will not be achievable.
The Legislature has had minimal floor activity in the two weeks since the special session, began but House Republicans hope to move the process forward with their proposals, said Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center.
“I’m very optimistic,” Rivers said. “Hopefully it’ll be a good place where we can find places we can rally together.”
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Higher Education Financial Aid in Peril - Dec. 8, 2011
OLYMPIA — Higher education financial aid programs may suffer with or without state cuts, leaving college students with fewer options.
“They’re not decisions any of us would say we want to do. But in the scope of bad decisions, it has the least impact, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.
The purpose of the meeting was to review the State Need Grant and State Work Study program, which is in danger of being suspended under the governor’s budget proposal.
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House OKs bailout for Wenatchee agency - Dec. 6, 2011
OLYMPIA — The state House is moving ahead with a plan to pull a Wenatchee-area agency from default and seize tax dollars if local jurisdictions fail to repay the dues.
The 56-33 vote on Monday came after lawmakers approved an amendment that would require a public vote on any tax increases in the local jurisdictions.
Republican Rep. Mike Armstrong of Wenatchee said it will be difficult for local officials to secure voter approval of the taxes, and he believes the terms of the rescue plan are too onerous. Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter said the plan makes it clear to bond markets that officials will make good on debts.
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Sales jolly for Christmas Tree Farmers - Dec. 4, 2011
OLYMPIA — Clark County Christmas tree farms continue to supply the world with holiday decor as sales stay strong despite economic downturn.
“It’s a rule of thumb that generally Christmas tree sales are up in a down economy because people aren’t traveling as much, which reflects the importance of family and friends,” said Bryan Ostlund, director of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association.
According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Christmas trees are the state’s 22nd highest-value agriculture commodity, with a production value of $43 million in 2010, making it the sixth-largest Christmas tree producer in the nation.
While 22 of Washington’s 39 counties grow Christmas trees, Clark County is the second-biggest harvester in the state and provides 15 percent of Washington’s Christmas trees.
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Local legislators meet and talk about the Columbia River Crossing - Dec. 2, 2011
OLYMPIA — Local legislators expressed varied concerns about the Columbia River Crossing project during an informal meeting Friday.
Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said she hoped the meeting would be the first of many to get participants “singing off the same sheet.”
However, legislators were singing off a few different sheets, with concerns rising about design and funding for the project.
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Local Lawmakers, BPA grapple with energy oversupply; Dec. 1, 2011
OLYMPIA — Oversupply of renewable energy is expected to continue affecting Clark County and Washington, with no clear solution on the horizon, according to Bonneville Power Administration officials.
With wind energy farms expanding in the Columbia River Gorge, the federal power marketing agency has struggled with the issue of energy oversupply.
The power glut was particularly evident last spring, as runoff from an abundant snowpack reached hydroelectric generating facilities at the same time wind turbine production was peaking. Unable to handle all of the power, BPA ordered some of the wind turbines shut down, angering their owners who were hoping to capitalize on their investment in green energy.
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Economy: "Not happy times" - Nov. 19, 2011
OLYMPIA — Clark County’s economy is similar to the state’s overall situation, but worse, according to experts who spoke at the state’s annual economic symposium Friday.
“We’re just bouncing along the bottom right now, hoping that things won’t get worse,” said Scott Bailey, Southwest Washington’s regional labor economist for the Employment Security Department.
“It’s grim. We have high unemployment and low job growth,” he said. “We could be heading into a recession nationally; it’s not happy times.”
While the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.2 percent to 9 percent Thursday, Clark County’s unemployment rate remains higher, at more than 12 percent, according to estimates by the Employment Security Department. Read the entire story
Legislator says branch campuses may be at risk without revenue increases - Nov. 11, 2011
OLYMPIA — Higher education leaders say closing university branch campuses will do more harm than good to communities like Vancouver.
With the governor proposing a 15 percent cut to state funding for higher education, state Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, has begun to face the harsh reality and consider the options, which may include closing branch campuses.
“It’s a conversation we’re going to have to have if things continue the way they have been going,” Haigh said. Read the entire story
Housing group gets $705,000 grant - Nov. 3, 2011
OLYMPIA — A Vancouver nonprofit housing organization is receiving $705,500 from the state to construct a new affordable housing project, bringing jobs to Clark County.
The new complex, Cherry Park Apartments, will provide 14 units for physically disabled residents. It will be built near Northeast 62nd Avenue and Fourth Plain Boulevard. The project was made possible through Columbia Non-Profit Housing, an organization that provides affordable housing in Clark and Cowlitz counties.
Julie Ellithorpe, the development consultant for the project, said there is an incredible need for this type of housing in the Vancouver area. Of the 4,425 households on the waiting list for low-income housing at the Vancouver Housing Authority, 32 percent claim to be disabled or in need of special accommodations, according to Steve Towell, community relations for the organization. Read the entire story
Western Washington polling shows support for privatizing liquor sales - Oct. 31, 2011
OLYMPIA — Western Washington voters are showing support for the initiative to privatize liquor, despite anti-privatization ads appealing to voters’ sense of community safety.
Officials fear state budget cut impacts - Oct. 27, 2011
Costco’s record-breaking contribution of $22 million may be paying off. Fifty percent of Western Washington voters outside Puget Sound — including Clark County — favored the initiative compared with 44 percent opposed, according to a poll released Monday by the University of Washington. Read the entire story
OLYMPIA — Clark County legislators and education leaders reacted to the governor’s budget cut proposals with concern.
Jobs for grads program expands statewide - Oct. 25, 2011
Gov. Chris Gregoire released a list of budget cuts for legislators to consider as the special session nears. While Clark County legislators appreciated her efforts, some said her suggestions could be devastating. Read the entire story
OLYMPIA — Clark County schools are seeing results from joining a national program to help students graduate, pursue higher education and get jobs. The program is now being rolled out statewide after being piloted in Clark County.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn announced the official launch of the Jobs for Washington’s Graduates program Thursday. The program assists high school students at high risk for dropping out by identifying graduation barriers. JWG is the state’s chapter of the Jobs for America’s Graduates program. The state is a full-fledged participant this year after a successful pilot program in 2010-2011. Read the entire story
$3 billion Columbia River bridge project gets skeptical response in Olympia - Oct. 18, 2011
OLYMPIA — Funding remains up in the air for the Columbia River Crossing, as the state commissioners in charge of finding the money for megaprojects expressed concerns about the project at a meeting Tuesday. Read the entire story
Redistricting options narrowed to two maps - Oct. 14, 2011
OLYMPIA — Clark County’s legislative redistricting options were narrowed Friday with the release of two revised draft plans.
Each new map is a compromise between the two Republican commissioners, Slade Gorton and Tom Huff, and the two Democratic commissioners, Tim Ceis and Dean Foster. Read the entire story
Redistricting comments received - Oct. 12, 2011
OLYMPIA —Comments about Southwest Washington redistricting were received Tuesday as the redistricting commission wrapped up the month-long public comment period on 2011 redistricting plans. The commission received 239 unique comments from more than 686 people during the public comment period, according to Bonnie Bunning, executive director of the Washington State Redistricting Commission Read the entire story
Districts consider placing cameras on school buses to catch illegal passers - Oct. 10, 2011
OLYMPIA — Clark County school districts are considering installing video surveillance on school buses in hopes of keeping kids safe and catching unsafe drivers. A law passed in the 2011 legislative session allowed school districts to voluntarily install video cameras on buses, making it easier to catch drivers neglecting school bus stop signs and passing illegally. Read the entire story
New ideas sought to keep state moving in transportation - Oct. 9, 2011
OLYMPIA — Clark County residents are invited to tell state officials about their transportation priorities and how to pay for them. The Washington State Transportation Commission is conducting a statewide survey asking citizens what they think about the transportation system, what their transportation priorities are, and how their needs should be funded. Read the entire story
Clark County mom featured at Olympia early childhood education event - Oct. 7, 2011
OLYMPIA — Like other state programs, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program is likely to take some major budget cuts as the state continues to fall short of project revenues. But Thursday night was a time to look back at its success, even as it faces an uncertain future. Read the entire story
Effort to fight construction tax fraud has skeptics - Oct. 5, 2011
OLYMPIA — A state and federal effort to fight tax fraud in the construction industry has raised skepticism among some who wonder how effective data sharing will really be at rooting out rule-breakers.
Some businesses are cheating by treating their employees as independent contractors or simply not reporting them at all, which allows them to avoid paying unemployment taxes and workers’ compensation insurance, according to the state Department of Labor & Industries.
These companies can then offer their services at lower prices because they’re saving money on L & I taxes. Read the entire story
Over-the-counter cold medicines may take longer to buy than a prescription - Sept. 28, 2011
OLYMPIA — A new electronic tracking system for certain over-the-counter cold medicines will go into effect Oct. 15, though a Vancouver-based pharmacy director fears it could be more time-consuming than filling a prescription.
The Washington State Board of Pharmacy has adopted new rules that will replace written logbooks of sales of pseudoephedrine, a decongestant that can be used to make methamphetamine. One popular brand of the drug is Sudafed.
Federal law limits sales of the drug to less than 3.6 grams per day and nine grams within 30 days. Washington began placing medicines containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter in 2006, and requiring buyers to fill out a paper form.Read the entire story
Law quashes local payday lenders - Sept. 25, 2011
OLYMPIA — Payday lending offices in Clark County have decreased since the state enacted a law curbing predatory lending, which a new report says has saved millions of dollars for Washington residents.
The law went into effect Jan. 1, 2010. It offers access to a strong repayment plan and an eight-loan limit that is only available in Washington.
“Other parts of the country may have good repayment plans but they don’t have that loan cap,” said Marcy Bowers, director of the Statewide Poverty Action Network. People in other states aren’t eligible or may not know they are eligible for a repayment plan, while Washington makes it immediately available after customers take out an eighth loan. Read the entire story
Governor calls special session - Sept. 22, 2011
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire will be asking for budget-cutting authority and $2 billion in spending reductions from legislators called to the 30-day special session beginning Nov. 28.
“We need to get a budget done well before Christmas and we need to get it done in one special session,” Gregoire said Thursday. “I want to commence implementation Jan. 1, because you delay a day and the toll gets bigger.” Read the entire story
Clark County students gain an edge in technology through Microsoft - Sept. 22, 2011
OLYMPIA — Three Clark County schools were selected to participate in a pilot program by Microsoft, preparing students for a technology-driven workforce.
Camas High School, Clark County Skills Center and Union High School are offering the Microsoft IT Academy program, giving students the opportunity to get hands-on experience with the latest Microsoft software.
The program includes hundreds of Web-based courses on concepts ranging from computer basics to high-level programming. Read the entire story
New boundaries could give 15th District Latino majority - Sept. 18, 2011
OLYMPIA — East Clark County could find itself as part of Washington’s first “majority-minority” legislative district under a statewide redistricting proposal released last week.
The proposal, whose new boundaries for the 15th Legislative District would give Hispanic voters more clout, has raised the eyebrows of at least one Clark County observer.
“Certainly I’m in favor of a minority-majority for the Yakima district, since they have a high population of Latinos living there,” said Ed Cote, Democratic national committeeman from Vancouver. “I’m not sure that’s true for eastern Clark County.” Read the entire story
Transportation task force wants to get information moving - Sept. 13, 2011
OLYMPIA -- Members of Gov. Chris Gregoire's transportation taks force have set out to inform the public on how transportation affects the local workforce. Read the entire story
College savings plan hikes price nearly 40% - Sept. 9, 2011
OLYMPIA — Parents investing in their child's future will find the price is higher as the Guaranteed Education Committee voted unanimously to increase the unit price nearly 40 percent GET is a prepaid college tuition plan whose customer base is parents and grandparents. The program works on a unit system, where 100 units represent one year of tuition. Read the entire story
Legislators asked to "do no harm" to local governments - Sept. 6, 2011
OLYMPIA — News of possible additional cuts to the state budget has cities like
Vancouver worried the state will shift more costs to local governments.
With the threat of a special legislative session, Vancouver has an overriding message to
send: Do no harm.
Mark Brown, who has been a municipal lobbyist for Southwest Washington for the past
10 years, said he is fearful that state shared revenues will be at risk and the Legislature
will push more services down to the local level without providing the resources to do
them. Read the entire story