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1. Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, currently being investigated about allegedly conducting an affair on the public dime, has a history of being creative with what he does on public time.
Three years ago, we reported on the ad he cut for a local sports drink company—"I have a very stressful job ... I also work out once a day ... so, what I put in my body matters."
2. The Sound Transit board voted unanimously in favor of a proposal that would add $24 million to the agency's budget to start planning a light rail extension to Federal Way. Last year, Sound Transit announced that because sales-tax revenues were falling short, the agency would no longer be able to get rail to Federal Way on the adopted timeline. Sound Transit now hopes to fund the extension with a combination of federal funds, state money, and, potentially, new local revenues.[pullquote]That sanguine storyline fell apart in a hearing in the senate transportation committee yesterday when environmentalists came out against the 520 bill. [/pullquote]
3. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has reportedly been assuring lawmakers that the environmental community backs a brand new bill that would allow the state to sidestep an environmental challenge (under the state Shoreline Management Act) to the construction of a new 520 bridge across Lake Washington.
That sanguine storyline fell apart in a hearing in the senate transportation committee yesterday, with opponents from the environmental groups such as Futurwise and the Washington Environmental Council lining up to argue that the legislation---which lets construction go forward while the challenge is still unresolved---sets a precedent for letting the state violate environmental law.
WEC lobbyist Mo McBroom told committee chair and sponsor Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-10, Camano) that if the state sets aside the Shoreline Management Act in this case, it will inevitably do so again in the future. "Our concern with this bill is the precedent that it sets and what it could mean for future projects and shoreline health across Washington State," she said. Eventually, "there will be very little incentive to actually comply with the Shoreline Management Act."
Proponents argued that the current bridge is a safety risk and that 520 construction will create badly needed jobs. WSDOT Director Paula Hammond testified that the state's "concern, first and foremost, is for the safety of the people who travel on this facility" as well as "critical jobs ... during this difficult time of the recession [that] could be lost." She estimated that delaying the project for a year would cost the state "somewhere in the neighborhood of 165 million."
No Seattle legislators have signed on to either the senate or house 520 bill, which has a follow-up hearing today in the house transportation committee.
4. As a followup to its lawsuit against the state Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS) for scaling back hours, home care workers with the Service Employees International Union 775 have staged sit-ins (five members were arrested this week in Vancouver) at DSHS offices around the state.
The health care union says DSHS illegally made a unilateral emergency decision to scale back the number of hours home health care workers can claim, specifically preventing providers from paying employees for time spent doing off-site laundry service and running errands for clients who live 45 minutes or more from a grocery or drug store.
Yesterday they hit Seattle. “Cutting home care hours below what clients are assessed to need puts their health at risk and could eventually force them into more expensive nursing homes," says SEIU spokesman Benton Strong.
During the last three years of budget cutting, in-home personal care services have been cut by $311 million, resulting in more than 46,000 elderly and disabled adults losing up to a quarter of their monthly hours of care. As budget talks move forward in Olympia, both the house Democrats and Republicans have rejected Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to cut another $28 million from home care services.
5. During yesterday's senate committee hearing on the reproductive parity act, which would require insurers that provide maternity care to also cover abortions Gellart Dornay, a Mercer Island mortgage banker with nine kids argued that he shouldn't have to provide abortions because they violate his beliefs and are unnecessary. (Unnecessary if you want to have nine kids, we guess.)
Our favorite part: When he says that if he was required to provide coverage for "nonessential or voluntary medical procedures" (abortions), he would choose to cut off all medical coverage to all 150 of his employees---none of whom, he adds, have come to him and asked him to cover abortions. Gee, we can't imagine why women who need abortions wouldn't confide in a guy who thinks women go to the drive-thru abortion clinic at nine months for funsies.