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Congress dithers, USPS postpones, health care hope…



► At AFL-CIO Now — Republicans vote big cuts to unemployment insurance — House Republicans voted (234-193) to cut more than in half the number of weeks jobless workers can collect unemployment insurance benefits next year. The bill also extended the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans not by raising taxes on millionaires as democrats have proposed, but by cutting pay for public employees, cutting preventive health services, reducing premium assistance for low- and middle-income individuals buying health insurance, and raising premiums for many Medicare beneficiaries.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Voting “yes” were Republican Reps. Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers (pictured below), and Reichert. Voting “no” were Democratic Reps. Inslee, Larsen, Dicks, McDermott, and Smith.

► In today’s NY Times — House passes extension of payroll tax cut — Defying a veto threat from President Obama, the Republican-controlled House passed a bill that the Democratic majority in the Senate vows to reject.

► In today’s Seattle Times — No sales tax deduction in House bill — The far-reaching tax measure passed by the House on Tuesday does not contain a provision dearly important in Washington state — allowing residents of seven states without state income taxes to deduct sales taxes on their federal tax returns.

► At — 85,000 in state expected to lose unemployment benefits— “It’s particularly difficult to shut off benefits in the middle of winter, when there are fewer jobs available than in the summer,” says state ESD Commissioner Paul Trause.

► In today’s Tri-City Herald — 2,000 in Tri-Cities face loss of jobless benefits

► From Yahoo! News — Millions set to lose jobless benefits: ‘I’m very scared,’ says one — Amid the various policy debates, it’s easy to lose sight of the human side of the issue. The sheer scale of the population affected, for one thing, is magnified by record levels of long-term joblessness.

TAKE A STAND! –Tell Congress to extend jobless benefits now!




► In today’s Olympian — Approval of $490M budget gap bill paves way for special session to end— The state House overwhelmingly approved what many called a “partial down payment” on the state’s $2 billion budget gap tonight. Approving the $480 million bill sets up the Legislature for adjournment of its special session Wednesday.

► More coverage in today’s Spokesman-Review.

► In today’s Olympian — Task force says state needs billions for transportation— A task force convened by Gov. Chris Gregoire has recommended the state raise an additional $21 billion over 10 years to spend on roads, bridges, buses, ferries and other transportation needs.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Teacher evaluations need overhaul, says Gregoire — Offering a blunt assessment of the state’s failure to get rid of struggling teachers, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday proposed a tougher statewide evaluation system aimed at weeding out ineffective educators.

► In today’s Olympian — After redistricting breakthrough, more maps due Friday — A break-through is near on new political maps outlining Washington’s 49 legislative districts.




► In The Hill — Post Office closures delayed until May to buy time for Congress — The U.S. Postal Service announced Tuesday that it would not close facilities until May 15, giving Congress five months to complete an overhaul of the cash-strapped agency’s operations. The agency has said that it was examining whether to close up to 3,700 local post offices and 252 mail-processing facilities, but USPS decided to implement a moratorium on that front after a group of senators expressed concern that the closures could eliminate as many as 100,000 jobs.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Workers, customers in Snohomish County sound off on postal woes (Julie Muhlstein column) — “We take things for granted,” said Arlington’s Liz Martin, 58. “Until it’s gone, we won’t really realize the impact.”




► From AP — 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage under health care reform — The number of young adults lacking medical coverage has shrunk by 2.5 million since the new health care overhaul law took effect, according to a new analysis to be released Wednesday. That drop is 2 1/2 times as large as the drop indicated by previous government and private estimates from earlier this year, which showed about 1 million Americans ages 19-25 had gained coverage.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Uninsured? Help is on the way(Danny Westnet column) — What was downplayed in news coverage (of the growing ranks of uninsured in our state) was what we need to do to start fixing this problem. Which is: nothing. Nothing? Yes, in fact if we succeed in doing absolutely nothing — by no means a sure bet — the vast majority of these 1 million uninsured will get access to health coverage. And here’s the kicker: the rich will pay for much of it! Just as the street protesters have been demanding. That’s because the federal health-care reform law, passed by Congress last year but not due to take effect until 2014, mostly taxes the top 1 or 2 percent to pay to expand health coverage for the poor and lower middle class.




► In today’s News Tribune — 100 firefighters, police officers in Tacoma set to be laid off get reprieve— The City Council unanimously approved a plan Tuesday to delay proposed public-safety layoffs amid ongoing negotiations with labor unions.

► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Judge nixes ILWU supporters’ attempt to dismiss trespassing charges— A Cowlitz County District Court judge has rejected motions from 45 union longshoremen and supporters to dismiss criminal trespassing charges stemming from two September protests at the EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview.

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Labor deal a disservice to city’s new leaders (editorial) — The city’s structural deficit wasn’t eliminated with this deal, so the cuts are coming – one way or another. All the council did was limit future options.




► In today’s NY Times — With port actions, Occupy Oakland tests labor leaders— Occupy Oakland has cast itself as the true champion of America’s workers, creating a potentially troublesome rift with the Occupy movement’s sometime allies in organized labor. Several labor leaders criticized Monday’s plan to disrupt the ports, which cost many longshoremen and truck drivers a day’s pay. And union officials were irked by Occupy Oakland’s claim that it was advancing the cause of port workers even though several unions opposed the protests.

► At — Port protests hit some workers’ paychecks— As a result of Monday’s protests at the Port of Seattle, between 60 and 80 union workers didn’t get paid, a union official said.

► At AFL-CIO Now — Top economists call for higher taxes on mega-rich — Massive tax cuts targeted to the wealthy, along with the decades-long soaring level of executive pay, stock options and bonuses have given the top 1% an even greater share of the nation’s wealth. The economists say that share of the wealth has led to greater influence for the affluent and helped retain their impenetrable shield against tax increases.

► From Time — Time Person of the Year: The Protester— “Massive and effective street protest” was a global oxymoron until — suddenly, shockingly — starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester once again became a maker of history.




► In today’s NY Times — Aid for child care drops when it’s needed most — With states under pressure to cut their budgets and federal stimulus money gone, low-income working parents are facing a paradox. Just when they have to work longer hours to make ends meet, they are losing access to the thing they need most to stay on the job: a government subsidy that helps pay for child care.




► At Huffington Post — The American Dream: The forgotten leading actor (by Robert Borosage) — No major social reforms succeed in Washington, D.C., without strong union support and mobilization. If we are once more going to succeed in making banking boring, raising taxes on the rich and investing in areas vital to our future, building a new foundation for growth, the resistance of entrenched corporate lobbies will be overcome only with popular mobilization, to which unions will be essential. And now, as the president stated, that defining moment is on us. The spark was lit in Madison, Wisconsin, when students and farmers joined public workers demonstrating to protect their basic right to organize and bargain collectively. Occupy Wall Street turned that into a conflagration. As this fight intensifies, labor unions and the workers that they represent — reduced in membership, short of funds, savaged by their enemies and too often ignored by their friends — will by what they do or what they fail to do make a fundamental difference in what kind of society we build out of the ruins.


The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 9 a.m. These links are functional at the date of posting, but sometimes expire.

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