1. The Columbian reports that several Republican members of the state's Congressional delegation are asking for a "full study" of the economic impacts of the proposed Columbia River Crossing bridge between Vancouver and Portland, arguing that the $3.5 billion megaproject will kill jobs and cost upstream industrial river users millions of dollars by making the river too difficult to navigate.
The House members include Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA, 3), a longtime, outspoken opponent of the project; Herrera Beutler has advocated for excluding light rail from any Columbia River Crossing project.
US Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) pointed out that the federal government has been studying the bridge proposal for more than a decade, and accused the Republicans of "dragging their feet on this critically important project."
2. The Spokesman Review's editorial page rails against a proposal by state Rep. Matt Shea (R-4, Spokane Valley) to change the way Washington State apportions 10 of its 12 electoral votes, allocating them by Congressional district instead of the current winner-take-all system. Shea argues that the current system, which gave Obama all 12 of Washington'g electoral votes, "cheats voters east of the Cascade Mountains of a voice in presidential voting," in the Spokesman Review's words. Under Shea's system, Romney would have won three electoral votes, Obama nine.
Under the new Republican-controlled state senate regime, anything, apparently, can happen. Including, potentially, a bill that would let employers pay new workers 75 percent of minimum wage for their first 17 weeks on the job.
That's true in Washington, the Spokesman writes. But "a proportional split of the state’s electoral votes makes sense only because congressional districts are drawn by a bipartisan commission that produces a more or less party-blind map. In most other states, legislatures do the work. And most are Republican-controlled right now, and their tortured maps assure party supremacy in as many districts as possible."
3. Under the new Republican-controlled state senate regime, anything, apparently, can happen. Including, potentially, a bill that would let employers pay new workers 75 percent of minimum wage for their first 17 weeks on the job. The subminimum pay rate, euphemistically referred to as a "training wage," got a hearing before the senate commerce and labor committee yesterday, the AP reports. Washington state's minimum wage is currently $9.19 an hour, the highest in the nation.
The Washington Budget and Policy Center says the "training wage" would "undermine economic security for Washingtonians and weaken our economy," providing just 50 percent of basic needs for a family of four, or 92 percent of basic needs for an individual. Those percentages, which represent the cost of living statewide, would obviously be lower for Seattle, where the cost of living is higher than the state as a whole.
4. Advocates for abortion rights packed a hearing this morning on the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require insurers that pay for maternity care to also cover abortions, KOMO reports.
The RPA, which is sponsored by pro-choice Sen. Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island) and moderate Democrat Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens), faces an uncertain future in a senate dominated by conservative Republicans and a health care committee led by anti-choice Sen. Randi Becker, who has sponsored anti-choice legislation in the past.