► In today’s Olympian — Budget agreement may be days away — Budget writers in the state House and Senate were working into the evening to narrow their differences on a roughly $32 billion two-year operating budget, and leaders talked with a growing confidence that an agreement is near. … Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt says he also wants an agreement on real savings in workers’ comp, but he fumed that House Speaker Frank Chopp, who has been locked into meetings of late, was not available to negotiate on workers’ comp. Hewitt cited eyewitness accounts that Chopp had breakfast at The Spar restaurant with the Washington State Labor Council’s president, who opposes some of the workers’ comp reforms.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Stand was able to reach WSLC President Jeff Johnson this morning, who said, “I’ve never had breakfast with Speaker Chopp in my life. But I’d welcome the opportunity to have breakfast with him, or Sen. Hewitt, or anyone else willing to discuss our efforts to cut workers’ compensation costs while preserving the safety net for injured workers.”
► At TheOlympian.com — Lawmakers return; Gregoire offers workers’ comp idea — The recovery in the stock markets has helped close some of the workers’ compensation fund shortfall, according to L&I. But the agency has argued lower costs in the system also are needed. To do that, Gregoire originally proposed reforms to save more than $700 million in costs over four years. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said his caucus is backing a cluster of improvements to the workers comp system that would save $710 million over four years– including two pieces that Gregoire already signed into law for improving the delivery of occupational health solutions that get workers back on the job sooner.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Senate extends tax incentive to film companies –The Senate Thursday extended a tax break for movies made in the state (which is supported by organized labor), but came one vote shy of extending stadium taxes to fund jobs, the arts and low-income workers housing in King County. (See Sen. Scott White’s column on this today at The Stand.) The bill received 24 yes votes but it needs 25 votes to pass the Senate. The measure could be brought to another vote if one of the 22 lawmakers who voted against the measure switches sides by today.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — At halfway point, special session costs totaled $180,000 — The tab for the first half of the special session reached $180,000 with the single largest expense being for per diem collected by lawmakers. State legislators, who began the extra session April 26, are eligible for $90 a day to cover lodging, meals and other expenses incurred as a result of coming to Olympia to work.
► From AP — Lawmakers’ salaries surviving state budget cuts — Washington state lawmakers are not including their own salaries in widespread budget cuts that are poised to slash pay for other state workers — and possibly teachers. Several proposals that would have led to lower salaries for top state officials have stalled in the Legislature.
► In today’s Kitsap Sun — Morgan Center fate remains unclear as Senate votes to close it — The state Senate voted Thursday to close the Frances Haddon Morgan Center by the end of the year, but the ultimate fate of the Bremerton rehabilitation facility remains in limbo as budget negotiations continue.
► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Herrera Beutler explains stance on budget — Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said Thursday that she stands by her vote for a controversial GOP budget proposal the House approved last month. “My view and my stance hasn’t changed,” she said following an afternoon meeting with business leaders in Longview.
EDITOR’S NOTE: See yesterday’s posting at The Stand that explains how drug companies are rewarding her for supporting Medicare cuts/privatization.
► In today’s Yakima H-R — Ill at ease — hospital talks hit impasse — Becky Krueger loves nursing at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, where she’s worked for seven years. But when her employer asked her to take a pay freeze and accept a less lucrative retirement plan, she decided to take a stand. “We just want to get a package that will attract nurses and keep them at a great place to work,” said Krueger, a member of the nurses bargaining team. After six months of bargaining, contract negotiations have reached an impasse between Memorial’s administration and SEIU 1199NW, which represents 625 registered nurses.
► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Protesters demand better health care, pensions from Emerald Kalama Chemical — Nearly 100 chemical and longshore union workers rally to demand that the company bargain on health-care benefits, pensions and vacation time. The chemical plant’s 72 union workers are working under a contract that expired May 10, according to International Chemical Workers Union Local 747-C. Union members voted 59-1 last week to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike.
► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Hanford avoids most budget cuts — Hanford made it through the budget cuts for the current fiscal year mostly unscathed as the Department of Energy announced Thursday how it would spread reductions across the DOE environmental cleanup complex.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Spokane Public Schools plan forum on budget cuts — Counselors were among the 238 employees who received layoff notices earlier this month. Now, some suggested cuts are being ruled out, such as dismissing counselors, while other options appear closer to becoming a reality, such as reducing salaries for administrators and eliminating instructional coaches.
► In today’s Columbian — Ex-Lightfleet workers partially repaid — L&I has collected $105,477 from Lightfleet Corp. of Camas, allowing the state to deliver partial payments to seven former Lightfleet employees for unpaid wages dating back to 2008. But Lightfleet still owes $112,113 on the unpaid wage claims, plus interest, penalties, and fees, the agency said.
► At HeraldNet.com — Murray, Dems to NLRB: Don’t cave to political pressure in Boeing case — Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., joined nine other U.S. senators in telling the National Labor Relations Board to ignore political pressure in its complaint against the Boeing. Last month, the labor board’s general counsel accused Boeing of illegally retaliating against its Machinists union for strikes in Washington when it picked South Carolina for a second 787 production line. Boeing has denied the allegation. A hearing on the complaint is set for June 14 in Seattle. (Read the senators’ May 19 letter to the NLRB.)
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Boeing threats, greed deserve inquiry (Allan Darr letter) — It is interesting to observe the media whining about Boeing being charged by the NLRB for threatening its union workers. The simple fact is the company did exactly that and is on record. It can’t disassociate itself from its remarks.
► At Politico — AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka puts Democrats on notice — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will use a lunchtime speech at the National Press Club on Friday to push back against the “destructive” austerity narrative driving Washington and urge lawmakers to create jobs, protect pensions and provide health care for everyone. And Trumka suggested that the powerful union is ready to take on anyone — even a traditional Democratic ally, if necessary — who doesn’t join the chorus singing from the labor songbook. “We’ll be less inclined to support people in the future that aren’t standing up and actually supporting job creation and the type of things that we’re talking about. It doesn’t matter what party they come from. It will be a measuring stick,” Trumka said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Also see the May 13 posting at The Stand — Amid attacks, unions declare independence
► In today’s NY Times — Making things in America (Paul Krugman column) — While we still have a deeply troubled economy, one piece of good news is that Americans are, once again, starting to actually make things. And we’re doing that thanks, in large part, to the fact that the Fed and the Obama administration ignored very bad advice from right-wingers — ideologues who still, in the face of all the evidence, claim to know something about creating prosperity.
► In today’s NY Times — The truth about Upper Big Branch (editorial) — An inquiry by the state of West Virginia into the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that killed 29 workers has found the mine’s owner, Massey Energy, “profoundly reckless” in elevating its drive to produce profits above worker safety. Pervasive safety violations — from shoddy ventilation to slapdash control of explosive coal dust — made the mine “an accident waiting to happen,” according to a panel of experts. Serial violators like Massey must face the strongest penalties, and the cynical gaming of safety violations with endless appeals must finally end.
► At AFL-CIO Now — Wisconsin Senate passes bill that could disenfranchise wide range of voters — In a straight party-line vote, it passed a so-called “Voter-ID” bill that could disenfranchise tens of thousands of students, seniors, poor and minority voters.
► In today’s NY Times — GOP blocks judicial nominee in sign of battles to come — The nominee, Goodwin Liu, had (dared to) testified against the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr.
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