Political news

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A bill intended to prevent health care providers from trying to convert gay people under age 18 has passed the state House.

House Bill 2451, which passed on a 94-4 vote, would make it an act of unprofessional conduct to try to change the sexual orientation of a patient under 18. That would include efforts to change behaviors, gender expressions or to reduce sexual or romantic attractions toward people of the same sex. 

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The members of the mostly-Republican majority in the Washington Senate say they want to jumpstart negotiations on a gas tax package to fund roads and transit in Washington state.

They unveiled a revised funding proposal Thursday, but also acknowledged they don’t have the votes to pass it.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings will retire at the end of the year, he announced Thursday.

Political watchers are already speculating on who might run to replace the long-time representative. The district is considered strongly Republican, so a Democratic upset is unlikely.

Hastings served two decades as south-central Washington’s Republican congressman. 

“I turned 73 last Friday, and one more term, I would have been nearly 76, so I just thought this was the right time,” he said.

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Oregon lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday on the latest version of a plan to fund a new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River.

The hearing even drew testimony from lawmakers on the Washington side of the river.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber says if the Legislature doesn't act by mid-March, he'll pull the plug on the project for the foreseeable future.

Washington state could do a better job when it comes to assisting families who’ve adopted children from foster care, according to a report by the state auditor's office. 

That’s especially the case for families who’ve adopted children with special needs or those who have been diagnosed with emotional or physical problems, the office found.

Austin Jenkins

The state of Washington could soon become the fourth in the nation after California, Texas and New Mexico to allow the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for state-funded college financial aid.

The idea has now passed both the Washington House and Senate. But allowing undocumented students to compete for these limited dollars is still a thorny issue for some, especially since the program is already seriously underfunded.

James Hall Photography

Advocates plan to rally in Olympia Tuesday in what’s become an annual push for immigrant and refugee rights.

More than a dozen groups plans to make some noise on the Capitol steps and meet with lawmakers on several key issues: restoring previously-cut funds to food aid and job training, and investing in better English-language learner services in public schools.

Dead air, garbled transmissions and poor reception are just some of the problems with the Washington State Patrol’s new state-of-the art radio system. The $40 million conversion to digital technology is behind schedule, and having technical problems.

For most of us, our smartphones have become our figurative lifelines. For state troopers, their literal lifeline is still the two-way radio. When the radio doesn’t work that’s a problem. We first reported on doubts about this project in March of 2012.

Michael Baumgartner's website

Washington lawmakers may be tired of the state Supreme Court telling them how to do their job. At least one bill targeting the court is in front of lawmakers this session. 

The Legislature is under mandate by the State Supreme Court to increase state funding for education. Last year, the court told lawmakers to spend more, and lawmakers responded by upping education funding by $1 billion. Then a month ago, the court gave them even more specifics where the spending should go.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.