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With the country slowly digging itself out of recession, some of his legislative priorities buried under Washington's partisanship and his approval ratings at some of their lowest levels, President Obama called for "a year of action" during his fifth State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head during a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, testified in support of Initiative 594 in Olympia on Tuesday. The initiative would require background checks for most gun sales and transfers, even those between individuals.

“Now is the time to come together, be responsible, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting; fight, fight, fight” Giffords said.

AP Photo

Someday in the not-too-distant future, social service programs here in the Northwest could get funding from Wall Street.

The idea is gaining traction across the nation. Goldman Sachs already funds preschool slots in Utah and a youth intervention program in New York.

A proposal to pilot “pay-for-success” bonds in Washington got a hearing Monday before a legislative committee.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

Washington’s ethics boards should define how often lawmakers can dine out at lobbyist expense, according to nearly a dozen state senators who’ve signed onto a proposal that would direct legislative and executive ethics panels to clarify the rules for lobbyist-paid meals.

mSeattle / Flickr

Washington’s minimum wage would rise to $12 an hour by 2017 under a proposal from Democrats in the state House. The measure introduced Thursday would phase-in the $2.68 increase over three years.

Freshman Democrat Jessyn Farrell of Seattle is the prime sponsor.

You’ve heard of Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and other issue advocacy groups that don’t have to disclose their donors. They are transforming American politics.

These political nonprofits also exist at the state level. But much of this activity is coming from the left, not the right. And instead of TV ad campaigns, the work is largely happening online and on the ground.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The secretary of state's office has officially certified one gun-related initiative to the Legislature and is starting review of signatures on another.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman certified the results for Initiative 594 on Wednesday. That measure would require universal background checks on all firearm sales in Washington. Nearly 347,000 signatures were submitted for the initiative, far more than the minimum requirement of 246,372.

Taylor Winkel

More than 500 members of Washington’s Muslim-American community marched at the state Capitol Monday to urge senators to pass the Dream Act.

The rally in support of the bill, which would make undocumented students eligible for financial aid, also marked the fifth annual Muslim Lobby Day.

Wash. Lawmakers Mull Banning Pit Bull Bans

Jan 16, 2014
Taylor Winkel

Payette County, Idaho bans pit bulls. Medford, Oregon is considering a ban of its own. But some Washington state representatives want to ban the bans.

Dog lovers dominated a Thursday hearing on a measure that would block local ordinances that prohibit specific breeds.

AP Photo

More than 20 environmental groups have joined together with a common priority this short legislative session: close what they say is a huge loophole benefiting big oil companies.

The Environmental Priorities Coalition includes big names like the Sierra Club, American Rivers, Fuse and the Cascade Bicycle Club. They don’t always see eye to eye on things, but when it comes to oil companies and the state tax structure, they’re all sure something’s not quite right.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Glitches that kept tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients from re-enrolling this fall continued to trip people up in December, though the state agency that runs Medicaid said the problems are being fixed.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is calling for a hike in the minimum wage as well as cost-of-living increases for teachers. Those were two of the Democrat’s key policy proposals in his State of the State speech Tuesday.

But Republicans lawmakers quickly shot down the ideas.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

It wasn’t all pomp and circumstance. The opening day of the Washington Legislature included something rare for the first day of session: a floor vote.

The Washington House voted Monday to give college grant money to low-income high school graduates who are in the country illegally. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Washington lawmakers convened Monday for what could prove to be the most partisan session in a decade. Control of the Washington Senate is up for grabs this fall, and both sides will be looking for political advantage over the next 60 days.

Currently, a coalition of 24 Republicans and two breakaway Democrats hold a three-seat advantage. Democrats think they have a shot at winning back the majority in November.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Gov.  Jay Inslee says he will continue to push for a gas tax package in the 60-day session that starts Monday. But a key transportation leader in the State Senate signaled last Thursday that prospects for a deal may be dimming.

Nearly a decade has passed since the last gas tax increase passed in Washington. Now leaders on both sides of the aisle agree another multi-billion dollar roads and transit package is needed.

But the details are the topic of heated debate in the state Capitol. A dozen negotiating sessions this fall ended with promises to resume talks this month.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A diverse group of people have signed up for private health insurance on Washington's state-run exchange, but officials say they still need more young people on board. 

As of Jan. 2, some 71,205 people had enrolled in private plans on Washington's health insurance exchange, a good deal less than the goal of 130,000. But Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka said it’s still on the low end of the expected range.

AP Photo

A Washington state senator says if 401(k) plans are good enough for Boeing machinists, they should be good enough for those who hold elected office.

Republican John Braun on Wednesday said he will introduce legislation to end pensions for all elected officials in Washington.

Louie Balukoff / AP Photo

Sen. Paull Shin has announced his immediate resignation from the Senate following a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle’s new Mayor Ed Murray and city council member Kshama Sawant promised to work to improve the city as they took their oaths of office on Monday.

Hundreds gathered to watch the city’s first gay mayor and first modern-day Socialist council member, who were among several city leaders sworn into office during a public ceremony.

Stephen Brashear / AP Photo

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman is kicking off the new year with a new initiative. 

Eyman's new ballot proposal aims to resurrect the requirement that tax hikes get a two-thirds majority in the Legislature or be referred to the people. And this time, Eyman has designed a hammer to get the Legislature to act.

AP Photo

As many as 2,000 people are expected to attend the inauguration of the city's first gay mayor and its first modern-day socialist council member at City Hall today.

Both candidates were officially sworn in during a private ceremony on Jan. 1. Today's ceremonial event is open to the public, and takes place in the City Hall lobby at 3:30 p.m.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

Five Republican state senators did not violate Washington ethics law when they accepted dozens of free meals from lobbyists earlier this year, according to a ruling made public Friday by Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board.

However, the board added the situation raises “serious questions” and an “enforceable” rule is needed.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says it’s time for a discussion on raising the state’s already highest-in-the-nation minimum wage. The Democrat’s comments Thursday come in the wake of a vote in the city of SeaTac and a new push by Seattle Mayor-Elect Ed Murray to raise the local minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The governor stopped short of calling for a $15 statewide minimum wage.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle’s incoming mayor has convened a task force to study boosting the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, and he has asked incoming socialist city council member Kshama Sawant to join.

Mayor-Elect Ed Murray said he believes it is a necessary step toward tackling economic inequality, but he also insists he is not prejudicing the outcome of the committee. In addition to Sawant, his 23-member task force includes business interests, organized labor and community groups.

Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee’s hopes for a gas tax package agreement before the end of the year have been dashed. The Democrat announced  Wednesday evening that with no deal at hand, talks are over for now, but will resume in January.

Inslee made his announcement flanked by House and Senate transportation leaders. It follows a dozen negotiating sessions in recent weeks. Among the roadblocks to agreement: a dispute over whether to put sales tax proceeds from transportation projects back into transportation instead of the state’s general fund.

Austin Jenkins

More prison beds, but no cost-of-living raises for school teachers were the two takeaways after Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday proposed a modest update to the state’s two-year budget.

Associated Press

The Seattle City Council could move one step closer to using its power of eminent domain as a way to curb foreclosures. 

The council is looking to create a committee to explore eminent domain and two other principal reduction programs, namely lease swapping and setting up a municipal land bank, as tools for struggling homeowners.

Associated Press

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holes said he is working on ways to accommodate “marijuana tourists” who might face barriers to partaking in legal pot.

Holmes pointed out to a Seattle City Council committee that rules banning consumption in public, which he supports, could make it harder for out-of-towners to participate. Most of those people would presumable stay in hotels, where smoking is banned.

“We need to recognize that tourists coming to this state to sample wines, to sample Washington marijuana, to sample any of the attributes of this destination city, that we accommodate them somehow,” he said.

Associated Press

Washington lawmakers will soon get clearer guidance on when it’s appropriate to accept free meals from lobbyists.

The state’s Legislative Ethics Board on Tuesday wrapped up a months-long review of lobbyist-paid meals. The move followed our investigation earlier this year into lawmakers who regularly dine out at lobbyist expense.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Congressional negotiators reached a modest budget agreement Tuesday to restore about $63 billion in automatic spending cuts from programs ranging from parks to the Pentagon, with votes expected in both houses in the next several days.

Officials said the increases would be offset by a variety of spending reductions and increased fees elsewhere in the budget totaling about $85 billion over a decade, leaving enough for a largely symbolic cut of more than $20 billion in the nation's $17 trillion debt.

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