Morning Fizz

Stepping Out of His Usual Role

By Morning Fizz April 27, 2011

1. After Joseph Backholm, Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, blamed unwanted pregnancies on "character issues" at a state senate hearing yesterday, committee chair Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle) took the mike to "step out of his usual role" as mediator to shoot down claims made about contraception and pregnancies among poor people.

Murray flatly stated "we are spending more because of the issue of poverty," and "the statistics show again and again a correlation between contraception and fewer sexually transmitted diseases."

[pullquote]"The statistics show again and again a correlation between contraception and fewer sexually transmitted diseases."—Sen. Ed Murray.[/pullquote]

The ways and means committee was hearing testimony on Sen. Karen Keiser's (D-33, Kent) legislation to raise the threshold for providing family planning services to 250 percent of the poverty line, up from 200 percent—from $3,700 a month for a family of four to $4,600.

According to the staff report, the bill would net savings of at least $4.5 million. The savings, which became the subject of intense debate during the hearing, would come from the state having to pay for fewer unintended pregnancies for the population that would now get services they didn't have before, like contraception.

Sen. Joe Zarelli (R-18, Ridgefield) and Backholm both questioned the assumption that providing more contraception would actually save money. They argued the state's Take Charge program didn't have a track record of lowering pregnancy costs over the last ten years.

Supporters of the legislation, including some representatives from Planned Parenthood, countered that claim and said that there were a host of issues at play, including medical inflation, which has raised the cost of pregnancies altogether.

2. State Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne) was the only Seattle representative to vote last week against the senate transportation budget (which, as we noted yesterday, includes funding for two major Seattle transportation projects, a transit priority lane on NE 45th St. and renovation funding for King Street Station). We asked Carlyle why he voted against the budget, which he joined just eight other representatives in opposing. Here's what he had to say:
While I genuinely appreciate the impressive work of Chair Judy Clibborn, my ‘no’ vote on the transportation budget was a small protest against two line items that I feel are bad technical and financial strategies:  First, a $40.1 million ($53 million total) appropriation for new, premium radios for the Washington State Patrol and, second, $10.8 million for a proprietary, custom time sheet IT application for Washington State Ferries and other agencies.  Neither of these expensive line items had an independent second opinion or analysis.  They are representations of why we spend $1.9 billion of our $32 billion budget on technology with what I consider inadequate oversight.

Finally, I was disappointed that the regional mobility grants were not distributed in a manner more consistent with congestion relief that would have more effectively benefited Seattle and King County.

As we noted yesterday, two Sound Transit grants, one that had been rated by the Washington State Department of Transportation as the best spend, were cut and scaled back.

3. And one more update from Olympia: Yesterday we flagged a trio of controversial bills that had bogged down during the regular session, but are likely to take center stage during the 30-day special session as bargaining chips to pass the budget.

In all three instances, they are bills being pushed by the more-conservative senate on the liberal house. We've since had a chance to talk to Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Bellevue) the co-sponsor of one of the bills—an "ed reform" bill that would prioritize teacher evaluations over seniority when it comes to layoff decisions.

Tom, who's co-sponsoring the bill with Republican Sen. Joseph Zarelli (R-18, Ridgefield), says the bill is on the "short list" of priorities for the conservative senate. Noting the house's resistance to the bill, Tom said: "A lot of pressure is going to build on the house as the days wear on. There needs to be some give and take for us to pass a budget and get out of town."

As for the substance of his bill, he said: "If you do need to make layoffs, why in the world would you get rid of an excellent teacher who just happens to be in their second year, as opposed to a teacher that's on probation?"
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