Washington Ledge

For the first time, the Washington state Senate has passed a version of “Joel’s Law.”

Washington lawmakers are approaching the halfway mark of their 105-day session. Hot issues include marijuana, mental health, oil trains and cap-and-trade.

The congressional wrangling over immigration policy -- which threatens to cut off Homeland Security money later this week -- is spilling over to the Washington State Capitol in a fashion.

Washington lawmakers are in contempt of court over school funding. But it’s a couple of non-funding issues that could create a partisan rift.

Three Washington state senators received a boost in their per diem last month, despite previously saying they wouldn’t take a raise in their daily allowance.

Paid sick leave and a boost in the minimum wage are among the top priorities of organized labor in Washington state this year.

On the eve of the Super Bowl, Washington state lawmakers are considering whether to legalize fantasy sports contests.

Gas prices have plummeted, but Washington’s gas tax could soon go up.

Nearly two years after public radio and the Associated Press investigated lobbyist-paid meals for Washington lawmakers, the issue is still a topic of discussion in the legislature.

Public utility districts in Washington have the right to place power lines through state trust lands. That was the decision from the Washington Supreme Court.

Oregon could leapfrog Washington to have the highest state minimum wage in the country if the Democratically-controlled legislature approves a proposed increase.

It’s the end of week two of Washington’s legislative session. Already more than 1,200 bills have been introduced.

Washington State University

Two Spokane lawmakers submitted bill’s Wednesday to change a nearly century-old state law regarding medical schools.

Republican Senator Michael Baumgartner and Democratic Representative Marcus Riccelli introduced the bills to help Washington State University create its own medical school. The bills would amend a 1917 state law that allows only University of Washington to operate a medical school, and caps the amount of students at 120.

Riccelli’s measure has 60 co-sponsors from the House, which makes a super-majority.

Colin Fogarty / Northwest News Network

Washington voters barely approved it in November. Now backers of an initiative to reduce class sizes are preparing to mount a new campaign. They have to convince lawmakers to fund the new law.

Initiative 1351 orders the state to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through 12th grade. The specific class size targets come from the state’s Quality Education Council.

But achieving them could require 25,000 new teachers and support staff over the next four years. Some lawmakers have called the initiative a “budget buster.”

Sales of small, camera-equipped drones are soaring. Aside from air safety issues, these remotely-piloted aircraft can raise privacy concerns if they fly uninvited over your backyard or past your bedroom windows.

In the years before Washington and Oregon legalized recreational pot for adults, thousands of people were convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Guns are allowed in the Washington state Capitol, but state law makes it illegal to carry a firearm in a manner designed to intimidate.

A popular gift now for Chinese New Year is a box of red apples from Washington. But Northwest shippers say a labor dispute at West Coast ports is jeopardizing that lucrative overseas market.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said the state is at a crossroads and it’s time to reinvest.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Washington Governor Jay Inslee urged the state legislature to assess a fee on carbon polluters.

The Democrat Tuesday used his state of the state speech to push for his proposed carbon emissions reduction plan.

“We have a moral obligation to act. Our moral duty is to protect a birthright. Future Washingtonians deserve a healthy Washington,” Inslee said.

Inslee’s plan drew applause from Democrats. But Republicans appear cool to the idea.

Brianhe / Wikimedia

Washington Governor Jay Inslee is likely to propose a more than $1 billion revenue package when he unveils his proposed two-year budget next week.

That’s according to the governor’s budget director who briefed reporters Tuesday at the Capitol.

Washington is expected to take in nearly $3 billion more in taxes over the next two years. Even so, the governor’s budget office anticipated a nearly $2.5 billion shortfall. A school funding lawsuit and cost of living raises for state and K-12 employees are two big ticket items.

Brennan Linsley / Associated Press

The city of Vancouver, Wash., already has two retail marijuana stores with another on the way. At some point, it’s possible the city could have as many as six.

“That’s what our future looks like,” said Vancouver Councilman Jack Burkman. “We’re going to have a number of these.”

He said increasing the prevalence of pot in the city is certain to have a cost.

“We don’t know what all those impacts are but we believe there are going to be impacts on police. There’s going to be impacts on education,” he said.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington’s new background check law for person-to-person gun sales and transfers takes effect Thursday. The law puts federally-licensed gun dealers in the role of conducting the checks. But one Thurston County gun store owner says it’s not a role he’s comfortable with.

At Private Sector Arms owner Don Teague shows me some of the guns he has on display. “This right here in AR-15/M4, this is here is an AK-47 variant,” Teague said.

Northwest News Network

For the third time this week there are calls to protect workers from hazardous vapors at Hanford. This time from Washington’s congressional delegation. 

This letter is the capper on two other announcements over Hanford’s tank vapors.

Workers said fumes from 56 million gallons of radioactive waste are sickening them.

First Washington state announced it would sue the federal government unless a new plan for action was devised. Then a day later, a coalition of citizens said they would sue too.

Washington State University

This January, Washington State University plans to ask lawmakers for permission to open a medical school in Spokane.

The question is will the University of Washington oppose that effort? It currently runs its own prominent medical school.

WSU President Elson Floyd said his goal is to avoid what one lawmaker has termed the “Apple Cup of medical schools.”

“We are in the process now of negotiating those things so it’s my hope that we’ll be able to present a unified front to the legislature as we go forward next year,” Floyd said.

Colin Fogarty / Northwest News Network

Washington’s budget outlook is suddenly $2 billion in the red largely because of a class size reduction measure just approved by Washington voters.

That initiative adds to an already challenging budget picture when lawmakers convene in January.

“I think we have a significant problem here and we have work to do,” Democrat Ross Hunter said. He’s the chief budget writer in the Washington House.

Hunter believes additional tax revenues will be needed to balance the next budget. Senate Republican budget chair Andy Hill disagrees.

Wikimedia

Political campaigns and committees in Washington have spent nearly $70 million so far this year. That includes statewide initiatives and legislative races.

So where’s all the money going? It’s everything from address labels to Zipcar rentals.

The single biggest category of spending this year is campaigns contributing to other campaigns. Political money has a tendency to move around a lot before it actually gets spent on something tangible.

Washington Secretary of State

Election 2014 is just over three weeks away.

Ballots will soon be arriving in mailboxes in Washington and Oregon where the election is all vote-by-mail. Idaho voters still go to the polls, but about a quarter of Gem State ballots are cast absentee.

Washington state elections director Lori Augino said her office predicts 62 percent turnout for the November election.

Piutus / Flickr

The Washington Education Association has taken in $1.5 million this year, making it the head of the pack when it comes to money raised by political action committees.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

It’s a showdown between the state of Washington’s legislative and judicial branches. The Supreme Court will consider Wednesday whether to penalize the state for not complying with a 2012 ruling on school funding. 

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