Northwest News

Northwest Public Radio is a participant and contributor in the Northwest News Network (N3), a collaboration of public radio stations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Our reporters bring a regional perspective to coverage of Northwest states' government, environment, economy, and other news of widespread interest to residents of the Northwest. Regional news on Northwest Public Radio is a part of Morning Edition every weekday morning, and All Things Considered in the afternoons.

Washington state Rep. Paul Graves is proposing to end the cloak of secrecy around legislative emails, calendars and other records. The move comes as media outlets, including public radio, have sued the Legislature over public records.

Orondo School District

Orondo, Washington, lies on the Columbia River between Chelan and Wenatchee. Its population fluctuates with the growing season as migrants work surrounding fruit orchards.

This small town’s school district has the largest percentage of homeless students in the state. For the 2015-2016 year, nearly half of the 156 students in Orondo were in a state of homelessness.

Ismael Vivanco is Orondo’s superintendent. He thinks Washington’s definition of homelessness translates differently when applied to migrant communities like his.

VISITOR7/WIKIMEDIA-TINYURL.COM/J6O4LKN

Nearly 20,000 people have been removed from Washington’s Medicaid rolls for ineligibility. The purge happened after the state stepped up efforts to verify residency and income levels.

Over the summer, Washington’s Health Care Authority experimented with using the research firm LexisNexis as an additional way to check the residency status of Medicaid recipients. Based on that, 64,000 accounts were flagged.

WIKIMEDIA-TINYURL.COM/YC44O4SR

Recreational marijuana may be legal in Washington and Oregon, but police continue to bust illegal pot operations that aren’t licensed by the state.

The latest numbers from the Washington State Patrol show that 89 illegal marijuana grow operations were shut down in Washington in the past year. Some were indoor grows, most were outdoor.

ASHLEY GROSS/KNKX

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is asking the legislature to pass new laws in hopes of addressing the opioid epidemic. He says one of his proposals would create new limits on how many pills doctors can prescribe.

"We'd limit it to seven pills for adults, three for those under 21. Other states are doing this, red states, blue states, purple states, we should do it as well," Ferguson said.

But, of course, there would be exceptions. Cancer patients and others suffering from chronic pain would get a break. Ferguson says his intent is to prevent overprescribing.

Washington and Oregon are making contingency plans in case Congress doesn’t reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which is for low-income families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife is offering its own version of retail therapy this Black Friday: Skip the mall and go fishing instead.

The state is offering tight lines rather than long lines, says Steve Thiesfeld, who manages the Washington’s inland lakes program. That is DFW’s pitch, and Thiesfeld says it works. 

Will James / KNKX

In Burien, a city council incumbent is conceding defeat. Debi Wagner served for four years. She trails challenger Jimmy Matta by nearly 400 votes.

Matta and one of his running mates are set to become Burien’s first Latino council members after a charged race that revolved in part around immigration and crime.

COURTESY KARLA SALP / WASH. STATE DEPT OF AGRICULTURE

Teams of technicians from the state Department of Agriculture are scouring neighborhoods this month for egg masses laid by gypsy moths.

They’re targeting places where they trapped high numbers of the invasive species this summer, such as one area near Graham, in Pierce County.

Shallow, active earthquake faults are being discovered all over Oregon and Washington state. Collectively, these may present a higher risk than the better known offshore Cascadia subduction zone.

Update: Nov. 21, 2017

U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown sentenced defendant Darryl Thorn on Tuesday to a year and a half in federal prison followed by three years supervised release for his role in last year’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Following prison time, Brown ordered Thorn be released to a halfway house for up to 90 days.

In March, a jury found Thorn guilty of conspiracy to impede federal officers as well as carrying a firearm in a federal facility. Both are felonies. Brown also found Thorn guilty of two misdemeanors: trespassing and tampering with vehicles and equipment.

 

Original story, Nov. 20, 2017:

Two defendants who participated in last year’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are set to be sentenced in federal district court this week. 

The defendants had a variety of roles during the occupation.

Alleged TriMet Killer Jeremy Christian Denied Bail

Nov 20, 2017
Multnomah County Sheriff's Office / Associated Press

The man charged with killing two people while on-board a light rail train in Portland has been denied bail. Multnomah County Judge Cheryl Albrecht has denied bail to Jeremy Christian, the man accused of murdering two people in May while riding a light-rail train in Portland. Albrecht signed the order Friday, but it was made public Monday.

Police are investigating the apparent murder of an inmate Sunday night at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton.

How much is your vote worth? It depends where you live. 

In Washington’s 45th district east of Seattle, moneyed interests paid close to $180 for each vote in just one race this year. 

BBC

It’s a unique problem: How to dispose of human waste on Mount Everest? The mountain’s climatic conditions and high altitude has baffled engineers. But a group of Northwest researchers has possibly found a solution.

Don Ryan / AP

President Donald Trump has nominated Billy Williams to be Oregon's top federal law enforcement official in the state. Williams has been serving as the districts’ Interim U.S. Attorney since 2015.

The White House announced Williams along with other nominees for U.S. Attorney in districts across the country.

Don Ryan / Associated Press

 

The federal government approved plans on Friday for a controversial transmission line that would cross public lands in eastern Oregon into southwestern Idaho.   

The Bureau of Land Management decision means that Idaho Power will now have right-of-way on federal lands for the 300-mile project.

Idaho Power officials called the decision a “significant milestone” for the Boardman to Hemingway project. The transmission line will span public, private and state lands.

Markus Schreiber / Associated Press

Washington will soon have nearly $113 million to spend on cleaner transportation technologies. The money comes from the national settlement with Volkswagen, after it admitted to installing illegal software in some diesel cars to cheat on emissions tests. The state department of Ecology was charged with creating a spending plan, which is now out for public comment. Air quality program manager Stu Clark said they’re looking for ways to leverage the spending and leapfrog to cleaner technologies that would last for 50 or 100 years.

A section of Washington state highway south of Spokane will be renamed to honor the victim of a school shooting earlier this fall.

A 13-mile stretch of State Route 27, which runs past Freeman High School, will have official signage marking it as the Sam Strahan Memorial Highway.

Austin Jenkins / NW News Network

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that a former prison inmate turned honors law school graduate can sit for the bar exam. The surprise decision late Thursday came after a morning hearing in the unusual case. 

WASHINGTON DEPT. OF NATURAL RESOURCES

Officials with the company that spilled nearly 160,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound in August say there has been no evidence the spill has done damage to the sound.

State officials agreed with that assessment at a legislative hearing in Olympia.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is one of the government watchdogs monitoring the cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation. But recently the EPA’s Hanford office has shrunk in half.

In response to recent reports about sexual harassment at the Washington state Capitol, a state Senate committee voted Tuesday night to require all senators and staff to take annual sexual harassment training.

The vote by the Senate’s Facilities and Operations Committee was unanimous.

Washington state lawmakers will likely have to come up with an extra $1 billion for schools when they convene in January for the 2018 session.

The Washington Supreme Court issued a unanimous order Wednesday that said the state is not on track to fully fund public schools by a court-imposed deadline of September 1, 2018.

October's California wine country wildfires damaged more than 30 wineries. Now, the Northwest wine industry and wine drinkers are stepping up to with their wallets to help.

The statewide unemployment rate in Washington again touched a record low of 4.5 percent in October. That's according to the Washington Employment Security Department, which has been tracking the number since the mid-1970s.

Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has agreed to pay a $1,000 civil penalty to the state of Oregon for ethics violations. Kitzhaber agreed to the penalty after a review by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.

U.S. Forest Service

Burn scars left after major wildfires can look pretty bleak.  But take a couple million steps back and you’ll find those fires aren’t keeping up with the natural filling-in of forest vegetation.

New research out of Oregon State University makes the case that considering the big picture is important to our understanding of fire in our region.

WSDOT/FLICKR

Beginning next year, Washington state Senators and Senate staff will be required to take annual sexual harassment training. The Senate’s operations committee unanimously approved that requirement at a meeting Tuesday night.

Republican state Senator Joe Fain told his colleagues there needs to be immediate action to address the workplace climate at the Capitol.

Peter Miller

The western monarch butterfly is disappearing.

With its distinct orange-and-black wings, the monarch is one of America’s best-known butterflies. But for the past few decades, their numbers have dropped, threatened by climate change, pesticides and habitat loss.

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