1. The New York Times shines the spotlight on Washington state's troubles withe the Hanford nuclear reactor plant, where six tanks are currently leaking radioactive material. Sequestration, the automatic federal budget cuts that went into effect earlier this month, could mean furloughs for thousands of Hanford employees, which could, in turn, put the environment at risk. 

The NYT (using phrasing so tortured that we suspect the reporter spent too much time with Gov. Jay Inslee on his "hard-hat tour" of Hanford), writes that "Nature might, in the end, bat last at Hanford, in deciding whether the land can ever be healed, but in the meantime government policy and spending decisions are running the bases."

Image via Inhabitat.com.

2. Under a bill passed in the state house yesterday, Washington state residents age 16 and 17 could be automatically pre-registered to vote (when they turn 18, of course) when they get their drivers' licenses, the AP reports. The bill is effectively an extension of 1993's "Motor Voter" law, which required state governments to allow qualified residents to register to vote when they applied for or renewed their licenses.

(Great idea, but how about all government IDs, not just drivers' licenses?) 

3. Sequestration—the automatic federal budget cuts that started taking effect March 1—could cost Washington state $83 million over the next seven months, the News Tribune reports.

Those cuts could include furloughs for more than 16,000 civilian workers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and another 16,000 Navy employees in the Northwest, plus cuts to preschool for low-income children; K-12 education for kids in poor parts of the state; and foster care spending, among many other federally-funded state programs. 

4. The Puget Sound Business Journal reports on a dilemma for state Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44): The Army veteran (he served in Iraq and Kosovo and is an active member of the Army National Guard) supports legislation that would create a new kind of high-interest payday loan. The military opposes such loans (and, in fact, places a 36 percent cap on interest rates for short-term loans to military personnel) because they say it forces borrowers into a spiral of debt. 

5. On his blog, city council member Tim Burgess articulates his argument against Mayor Mike McGinn's decision to lower parking rates (and reduce the hours when rates are charged) in Chinatown. McGinn and council members are sparring about whether the mayor made a political decision to lower parking rates in Chinatown after neighborhood businesses complained, as we reported yesterday.

Burgess writes: "Ifwe’re going to make changes at all this year, we should adhere to the data and lower parking meter rates in up to 13 neighborhood business districts. ... The 2010 [parking] policies are a smart way to manage our on-street parking resource—especially to encourage the availability of spaces in our neighborhood business districts which our retail business owners want—but they must be applied consistently and fairly."