Morning Fizz

Both Sides Agree on Cuts

By Morning Fizz April 26, 2011

1. As the state house and senate head into the special session in Olympia today to hammer out the budget, there is something both sides agree on: Both budgets assume $100 million in savings from cutting back paid home care hours for long-term health care providers.

Bad assumption. The Service Employees International Union 775, which represents home health care workers, filed final briefs with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week in a case challenging the cuts for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by forcing people who get home care to move into institutions. The case is set for a hearing in June.

Simultaneously, SEIU is also gearing up to run a campaign to reinstate their 2008 initiative (I-1029, which mandated better training—and thus better pay and benefits—for home care workers. It passed by 72 percent.) SEIU has offered to take a 50 percent cut in the training funds as a compromise due to the strapped state budget. So far, the state has not agreed to any deal on funding the initiative's mandates.

SEIU has already sent out a call for a campaign manager and is looking to hit the streets to collect signatures early next month.

[pullquote]SEIU has already sent out a call for a campaign manager and is looking to hit the streets to collect signatures early next month.[/pullquote]

2. Late last week, the legislature unanimously passed a bill that would allow private carriers—corporate vans, charter carrier vehicles, limos—to have access to high-capacity transit lanes.

Transit advocates have worried that the legislation will impede public transit. However, transit agencies say they are assuaged by compromise language that allows them to pull access if they determine the private carriers are interfering with "efficient, reliable, and safe operations of public transit."

3. Columbia City booster-turned-Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith sent a sternly worded "message to the community" yesterday about the future of the Columbia City Cinema (which is perpetually threatened with closure), telling cinema neighbors, essentially, that if the three-screen neighborhood theater closes it will be owner Paul Doyle's own damn fault.

Back in 2010, Doyle expanded the theater, which is housed in a historic former Masonic hall, from one screen to three, triggering new permitting requirements. Among those requirements was that Doyle install a sprinkler system, an upgrade he said was prohibitively expensive.

In the message, Smith wrote:
Some have asked why an old building in a historic neighborhood cannot just be exempted from public safety and code requirements. The building, an old Masonic hall, is a contributing historic structure in the Columbia City Landmark District; however, that designation does not exempt the building from public safety requirements and does not prohibit the alteration of the interior to install sprinklers. We have all heard about tragedies in large buildings that lacked adequate fire protection, and we cannot close our eyes to these important public safety concerns.

4. It's ThinkTank Tuesday. Today, we've got dueling editorials from two high-profile local Democrats, one of whom still signs his emails, “Yes, We Can!”

The pair—state Rep. Marko Liias and former state Rep. Brendan Williams— will be taking up a question that’s been hounding a lot of Democrats these days, and as usual, our hand-picked ThinkTank of fifteen-plus political brains around town will be there to weigh in.

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