Political news

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Many people in Washington state are reacting with excitement to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and reinstated the right for gays and lesbians in California to marry. 

City of Pacific

Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday in the recall election of Mayor Cy Sun in the tiny town of Pacific. It’s a story that almost sounds like a sitcom about small-town politics gone awry. 

The Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to shut down the homeless encampment known as Nickelsville, and to set aside $500,000 to help residents transition.

The encampment has been dug in for two years at a site in West Seattle, and the council vote means this summer will be its last. The money will go to providing to provide housing and services to the more than 100 campers who live there.

Washington prisons would stay open, but much of the state would not if there’s a government shutdown. Governor Jay Inslee met with his cabinet Wednesday to begin contingency planning if there’s no budget by the end of the month. That’s the start of the new fiscal year.

“We’re not talking about opening the prison doors because there are clear federal mandates from the federal constitution and federal laws to provide for folks that are in our care and custody,” says Nick Brown, the Governor’s attorney.

There were dramatic developments in Olympia overnight. Governor Jay Inslee held a midnight bill signing to amend Washington’s estate tax. The move means the Department of Revenue will not begin to issue refund checks Friday morning to the heirs of some multi-million dollar estates.

The state of Washington was about to embark on a months-long process of refunding an estimated $140 million to more than 100 estates. This was the result of a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. The money would have come out of a fund dedicated to public schools.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Homeless residents of a large Seattle tent city warn that closing down their camp will have dire consequences, while city council members left the door open to keep the camp dwellers together.

About 125 residents make their home at the West Seattle site known as Nickelsville. Advocates told members of a city council committee Wednesday that many of those tent dwellers will die on the streets if the city moves forward with threatened evictions September 1st.

Wikimedia Commons

Over his decades in public life, former Gov. Albert Rosellini helped bring Washington into the modern era, burnishing his reputation as one of the state's most effective leaders.

But FBI officials who scrutinized Rosellini's activities in the 1960s saw something else. They questioned his political associations and probed a series of allegations that Rosellini was corrupt. The Seattle special agent in charge once wrote to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that Rosellini was "a thorough scoundrel."

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle voters will likely get a chance to consider a new way to elect the city council. Supporters of a district-elections amendment delivered 10 boxes of petitions to the city clerk, containing 46,633 signatures – more than enough to grab a place on the November ballot.

Gabriel Spitzer / Flickr

Seattle officials want to break up the two-year old homeless encampment called Nickelsville, but residents there say that would just cause a new tent city to spring up somewhere else.

Seven city council members sent a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn Monday calling for Nickelsville to shut down by Sept. 1. The camp, made up of more than 100 homeless people, is about to begin its third summer parked near the Duwamish River in southeastern West Seattle.

The state auditor says the Seattle Center hasn't done a good job of making sure people pay at three city-owned parking garages. 

The three garages took in almost $5 million in revenue last year that went into the Seattle Center budget. State auditor Troy Kelley says he doesn’t have an estimate of how much money the Center may have lost out on, but he says his team found a lot of problems with record-keeping at the garages – one on Fifth Avenue North, one on Mercer Street and one on First Avenue North. 

Washington’s overtime legislative session ends at midnight on Tuesday. But there’s still no agreement on a state budget for the next two years.

Over the weekend, the mostly Republican senate majority passed a revised version of its own spending plan, along with a trio of controversial policy measures.

The three policy bills are not new, the Senate passed them during the regular session. The difference is two of them now have referendum clauses, meaning voters would get the final say.

The Washington Senate’s coalition caucus has reclaimed its majority status. Republican Steve O’Ban was sworn in Wednesday. He fills the seat of the late Mike Carrell who died last week during treatment of a pre-leukemia condition.

O’Ban’s appointment was fast-tracked in order to restore the mostly Republican coalition’s one vote majority during final budget negotiations.

City of Portland

Five years after Seattle had to get rid of its free-standing public toilet structures, Mayor Mike McGinn wants to give it another go, this time with a new design. 

Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

With the state Legislature back in session for a 30-day extra inning, Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday narrowed his agenda to three key items: the budget, a roads-and-transit funding package, and a crackdown on impaired drivers.

Two Washington state lawmakers are defending their frequent dinners with lobbyists. The meals show up in monthly reports filed with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

State Rep. Marcus Riccelli is a freshman Democrat from Spokane. On four occasions from January through March, he dined out with Michael Temple, a lobbyist for the state’s powerful trial lawyers association.

When asked Riccelli about those dinners, Riccelli joked, “I’m an Italian kid. I have a big appetite.”

Austin Jenkins

In the first three months of this year, lobbyists in Washington state spent more than $200,000 on entertainment. Much of that money was spent to wine and dine state lawmakers during the just-concluded 105-day session.

The spending begs the question: What are lobbyists and their clients getting in exchange for picking up the tab?

The 2012 election was the most expensive in history, but there remain some gaping holes in our knowledge about who paid for what. The Securities and Exchange Commission is considering a proposal to add more transparency in future elections, but it won't happen without a fight.

With just one day before the end of session, Washington lawmakers appear to be making little progress toward the ultimate goal of a final budget agreement.

Leaders in both the House and Senate seemed to resign themselves Saturday to the prospect of an overtime session, with the regular 105-day period coming to an end Sunday night. A spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee said that no decision had been made on when a special session may start.

As an icon of the American conservative movement in the 1980s, it would have been difficult to find a more unlikely figure than Britain's Margaret Thatcher, who died Monday following a stroke.

Thatcher became prime minister in 1979, a full year and a half before Ronald Reagan became president. She hailed from a country seen as a hopeless bastion of socialism by conservatives, many of whom, like Reagan himself, were strongly invested in the idea of American exceptionalism.

Oregon shoppers in Washington would pay sales tax and bottled water would be taxed under a proposal from Governor Jay Inslee to raise $1.2 billion in additional money for public schools.

Inslee, a Democrat, proposed Thursday to end or modify a dozen tax exemptions, extend two expiring tax hikes, and cut back by 25-percent a favorable tax rate that many businesses enjoy.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

For decades, police officers in Washington have been able to obtain false driver licenses for undercover work. But this quasi-secret program inside the Department of Licensing only recently came to light.

It turns out the confidential ID program was never approved by the Legislature. Now two state lawmakers are calling for more oversight to prevent possible abuses.

As a street cop in the early 1980s, Mitch Barker went undercover to work drugs and vice. The Washington Department of Licensing helped him assume a fake identity.

President Barack Obama has named veteran Secret Service agent Julia Pierson as the agency's first female director.

Pierson, a 30-year veteran of the agency, currently is its chief of staff.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday that Washington has a closing window of opportunity to replace the bridge carrying Interstate 5 over the Columbia River, warning that failure to act would "start that erosion process in our economic competitiveness."

Speaking with Southwest Washington business and government leaders, the governor said the opportunity for more than $1 billion in federal funding won't be available for at least another decade.

Gov. Jay Inslee says that passing a transportation funding package this year must be a priority for the Legislature.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Inslee said he is concerned that momentum for passing such a plan has been dissipating.

Assault weapons ban is gun debate's first casualty

Mar 19, 2013

The prospects of an assault weapons ban emerging as part of any post-Newtown gun control law looks highly unlikely after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opted not to include it in a Democratic proposal to be offered on the Senate floor in coming weeks.

"My understanding is it will not be [part of the base bill]" to be introduced on the Senate floor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said after meeting with Reid on Monday, according to Politico. "The leader has decided not to do it."

A coalition that controls the Washington state Senate is vowing to increase funding for higher education by $300 million.

Senate leaders declined Tuesday to explain how they would pay for the proposal. Lawmakers already face more than a $1 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget cycle and are separately under court order to expand funding for K-12 education.

Hopes for a rosier budget outlook in Washington are dimming. Expected savings in Medicaid haven’t materialized. And many state lawmakers expect this week’s quarterly revenue forecast to show a downward slide. Add to that, a Supreme Court ruling that requires more funding for schools.

In response, Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to announce soon a list of tax “loopholes” ­— as he calls them — he wants to eliminate to fund schools. But closing tax exemptions is easier said than done.

Alan Cordova / Flickr

The Washington House of Representatives has approved a measure giving young illegal immigrants eligibility to state college financial aid.

The House approved the so-called "Washington Dream Act" on a bipartisan 77-20 vote. They amended the bill on the floor to open college aid to all young illegal immigrants.

Timur Emek / DAPD

Washington state senators are looking to safeguard the social media passwords of workers and job applicants.

Chris Grygiel / Associated Press

Port of Seattle commissioners voted Tuesday for a sevenfold pay raise to $42,000 a year, about the same as a Washington state legislator.

Port spokesman Jason Kelly says Commission President Tom Albro proposed the pay hike to make the job more attractive to applicants. The vote ties commission salaries to the pay of state lawmakers.