1. Challenging party orthodoxy, two Yakima area Republicans—Reps. Charles Ross (R-14, Naches) and Bruce Chandler (R-15, Granger)—have signed on to Democratic state Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-11, Tukwila) Washington state DREAM Act bill,which would allow children of undocumented immigrants to apply for state-based financial aid.
No Republicans in the senate have signed on to the senate companion bill.
2. Speaking of bipartisanship, a crew of legislators from both parties packed into the governor's mansion last night including Democrats (Speaker Frank Chopp, Reps. Cindy Ryu, Gael Tarleton and Sens. Jeanne Kohl Welles and Ed Murray) and Republicans (Reps. Hans Zeiger, Linda Kochmar, Jan Agnel, and Drew MacEwen) to support the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, the state's major conservation program.
The program needs about $90 million, but has been slashed during the recession; Gov. Chris Gregoire tried to kill it in 2011, but legislators gave it $42 million. This year, on her way out, Gregoire had it at $65 million in her budget. Notably, Rep. Zeiger (R-25, Puyallup) was advocating for the full $90 million at last night's shindig, hosted by Trudi Inslee. Gov. Inslee's policy director and liaison to the legislature, former ecology director Ted Sturdevant, spoke.
"To improve the mental health of Washington's citizens and increase the occurrence of happiness by considering mental health and happiness implications when designing, building, and maintaining the transportation system."
3. In response to a Democratic bill that would have the Washington Department of Transportation include "health" as a transportation planning goal, Rep. Jay Rodne (R-5, N. Bend), who thinks the mandate is Big Brother social engineering from nannying liberals, has offered a gotcha amendment.
His tweak? Enforced happiness.
He writes in his amendment: "To improve the mental health of Washington's citizens and increase the occurrence of happiness by considering mental health and happiness implications when designing, building, and maintaining the transportation system."
4. Good news for transit advocates (and the environment): According to Commute Seattle, a joint project of the Downtown Seattle Association, King County Metro, and the Seattle Department of Transportation, the number of downtown commuters who get to the city by modes other than driving alone is now two-thirds, slightly up from last year and 16 percent higher than in 2000.
Of all commuters, 43 percent get to downtown Seattle via transit, Commute Seattle's latest survey finds.
5. In slightly less cheerful news, a new report from the city's Office of Housing concludes that as income inequality in Seattle has risen (the shares of lower-and higher-income Seattle residents have both increased as the number of moderate-income households has declined), the number of households considered "severely cost-burdened"—defined as those who spend more than 50 percent or more of their household income on housing—remains stubbornly high: More than 29,000 renters spend more than half their income on rent, and of those, more than 75 percent have "extremely low incomes"—$20,800 for a two-person household.