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On Other Blogs Today: Coal Trains, Drive-Thrus, and More

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By Erica C. Barnett January 28, 2013


1. The Washington state Department of Ecology now expects as many as 50,000 comments on the proposed Cherry Point coal terminal in Bellingham, the Bellingham Herald reports. If it's built, the terminal will be the loading dock for as many as 18 mile-long coal trains from Wyoming every day, each carrying thousands of tons of coal bound for China.

According to the Herald, comments opposing the project have ranged from concerns about pollution from coal dust to complaints about global warming produced by the expansion of coal use in China to worries about the traffic jams that could result when cars and freight traffic have to wait for the mile-long trains to pass through rail crossings. 

2. Speaking of global warming: Starbucks has seen huge profits from its drive-through-only locations, Nation's Restaurant News reports, and plans to expand its drive-through business by more than 750 locations over the next five years. Company CEO Howard Schultz called the drive-through model "a highly profitable format" that Starbucks plans to continue expanding in the future. 

3. As Obamacare moves forward, the state is trying to decide whether to fully expand Medicaid to cover 250,000 currently uninsured low-income residents, the Olympian reports. The expansion would be funded by the federal government for the first three years; after that, the state would be responsible for paying health-care costs for its poorest citizens. Currently, single adults are ineligible for Medicaid, which only covers people who are elderly, disabled, or who have kids.

4. The Seattle Times reports that Washington state Republicans met in Ocean Shores this weekend to lick their wounds, regroup, and try to come up with a winning strategy for future elections. Although the GOP did take control of the state senate (with the help of  two dissident conservative Democrats), they fared poorly at the state and (obviously) national level, and some soul-searching was inevitable.

The Republicans' strategy, however, has less to do with their unpopular message, and more to do with framing that unpopular message in a more palatable package. "Among other ideas, speakers and attendees urged the party to frame its message in a more positive way, develop strategies for getting core voters to the polls, and reach out to minorities who have sided with the Democrats," the Times reports.

That strategy seems doomed to failure as long as the Republicans' platform remains hostile to women, LGBT people, racial minorities, and people who need government help, not charitable handouts (at the conference, the party also rolled out a special GOP fund to "help the needy") to get by. 

5. On his blog, Seattle state Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36) urges his fellow legislators to exercise caution when coming up with a scheme to tax marijuana sales after the passage of I-502, the marijuana-legalization initiative.

Given that the implications of the new law are totally unknown—for example, will low licensing and application fees encourage big, out-of-state companies to come in and dominate the new marijuana market?—Carlyle suggests that the legislature, with a two-thirds vote, put off implementing I-502 for up to a year. 

"This would give the [state Liquor Control Board], legislators and stakeholders sufficient time to create a system that is well regulated, sufficiently taxed and economically efficient and based solely on the broad public interest," Carlyle writes.

"In this case, given the profound international implications to marijuana taxation, the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law and we should double down to get it right."


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