1. The Seattle City Council will vote on the head tax on Monday. Here's what happened last week:
- In a Thursday evening announcement, Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed a smaller employee hours tax that would cut revenue down by half, sunset the tax in five years with an option for renewal, and prioritize emergency services over building affordable housing.
- Four council members supported Durkan's alternative, but neither side was willing to budge when they voted in the finance committee—leaving a divided city council back to where it started, a $75 million tax with five council members' support. That's enough votes to pass but not enough to override a veto.
- Labor-backed Working Washington wrote to attorney general Bob Ferguson asking him to charge Jeff Bezos with a felony over his threat to halt Amazon construction in response to the head tax. Ferguson in response said there was no legal basis for a lawsuit.
- A report from the consulting firm McKinsey and Company estimated that King County needed $360 million to $410 million to solve the homelessness crisis.
- More than 130 businesses signed a letter opposing the head tax. Meanwhile, a coalition of labor groups sent a letter to the council supporting the tax.
Mayor Durkan's head tax:— Hayat Norimine (@HayatNorimine) May 11, 2018
1. reduces tax revenue by half, cutting from $500 per employee per yr to $250 (so $38m a year in revenue)
2. sunsets tax in 5 yrs w/option for renewal, putting at risk the "ongoing" revenue councilmembers wanted
2. The Seattle City Council voted on Monday to authorize a $1.6 billion expansion of the Washington State Convention Center. With the project given the go-ahead, the city will receive more than $80 million in public benefits—$30 million toward affordable housing, 8 percent of hired businesses owned by women or minorities, and 19 percent of hired workers from disadvantaged zip codes.
3. King County Council approved a measure that provides prepaid postage on ballots returned by mail. Starting as soon as the upcoming primary and general elections, King County voters won't have to pay for postage for their ballots. After successfully testing out the prepaid postage in Shoreline and Maple Valley, King County Elections hopes to increase voter turnout countywide.
4. Seattle City Council members voted unanimously to extend the statute of limitations to file a harassment claim. People will now have a year and a half to file a harassment claim with the city. The decision comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Council member Lisa Herbold headed the legislation that extends time to file a harassment claim from 180 days to a year or a year and a half, depending on the type of complaint, and also explicitly lists "racial and sexual harassment" as a form of discrimination.
5. King County is suing five major oil companies saying they downplayed the effects of climate change on the county. BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell were all named in the Superior Court lawsuit.
The complaint alleges that the oil companies were aware of the effects of global warming but still produced huge quantities of fossil fuels knowing they would only negatively effect the environment. The county hopes that if the lawsuit is successful it can impose major new costs on the industry.
6. Washington House Democrats voted to suspend state representative David Sawyer from chair of the Commerce and Gaming Committee, following an investigation into allegations of harassment and inappropriate behavior toward women. Leadership said the investigation led to credible findings that Sawyer created a hostile work environment. Sawyer has said he still plans to run for re-election.
7. Seattle has collected more than $4 million from the tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. The new tax took effect January 1 and is estimated to bring in $14.8 million within its first year. The money generated from the tax will be used on healthy food programs, early learning programs, community college scholarships, and administrative costs. The city of Seattle is paying a team at the University of Washington to conduct research on the effects of the tax.
8. President Donald Trump nominated former chief deputy in the state attorney general's office, Brian Moran, as the next U.S. attorney for Western Washington. Before working a the business-law firm Orrick, Moran worked for the attorney general for 15 years. The Senate will need to confirm him. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell didn't tell The Seattle Times whether they planned to support him.
9. Washington state lawmakers responded to Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. After calling it one of the worst deals, Trump finally pulled the plug from the Obama-era negotiations that promised to lift UN sanctions in return for international oversight and restrictions on the country's nuclear program.
Republicans applauded the decision; Democrats condemned the move and said it puts the U.S.'s relationships with its allies in jeopardy, while also risking further instability in the Middle East.
10. Washington state's Department of Licensing director, Pat Kohler, resigned on Thursday. Her stepping down comes five months after news broke that the DOL shared information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, aiding in efforts to deport undocumented immigrants in violation of the governor's executive order last year.
Community organizations have been calling for her removal since The Seattle Times in January reported that the DOL routinely shared residents' personal information with ICE. Kohler's resignation letter, however, made no mention of the controversies surrounding her leadership and said the death of her brother led her to reevaluate priorities.