The Stand

Triple overtime, sequestration hurts, filibuster-busters, TPP vs. democracy…

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

 


STATE GOVERNMENT

 

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Transportation is focal point heading toward 2014 session — Washington’s weary lawmakers may be steered into another special session this fall if House and Senate leaders can bridge their differences on a multi-billion-dollar transportation funding plan. The governor isn’t ruling out the option. And a leader of the Senate’s ruling coalition suggested it might be possible in November when lawmakers will be in town for scheduled meetings.

baumgartner-michael► In the P.S. Business Journal — The South is winning: Could Washington become a ‘right-to-work’ state? — A few in Washington are now contemplating changes that once seemed unthinkable: revamping the state’s union-friendly labor laws, and possibly even changing the state constitution to allow Washington to lure aerospace companies with direct investments. In May, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) introduced a bill to make Washington a right-to-work state.

EDITOR’S NOTE — “A few” in Washington? Baumgartner’s “right-to-work” (for less) bill had zero co-sponsors. This is a guy who got just 39% of the vote in his ill-advised 2012 run against Sen. Maria Cantwell. A guy who also believes women shouldn’t be allowed to have abortions in instances of rape, and when asked about it, told a reporter to “go f— yourself.” A guy who’s up for re-election next year for a seat formerly held by a Democrat.

ALSO at The Stand — The truth about ‘right-to-work’ in Oregon

► In today’s Olympian — Senate leader suggests fines to speed work — Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (D-Medina) said he plans to introduce legislation next year that would fine lawmakers $250 each for every day they go past the allotted length of the legislative session. Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) says maybe Sen. Tom should simply “do the work during session, especially if you have the power to influence the work, which he does.”

► In today’s News Tribune — Legislative tax-loophole addicts fall off the wagon, again (by Peter Callaghan) — I’m Washington state. And I’m a loophole-aholic.” And so begins another round of post-session soul searching by a state addicted to tax loopholes. It knows it has a problem; it has admitted it is powerless; it has repeatedly turned itself over to a higher power. Because of 600-plus exemptions and loopholes, Washington state exempts more of the economy from taxation than it actually taxes. It pledges not only to stop feeding its addiction but to make amends by repealing some of the hundreds of loopholes created during past binges. Then, when it falls off the wagon yet again, it is wracked with guilt and self-loathing. It turns out that the higher power it turned itself over to is the Olympia business lobby.

 


LOCAL

 

above-the-law► At Slog — Survey: Seattle employers are ignoring city’s paid sick leave ordinance — A study released Monday by the University of Washington shows that a majority of Seattle employers were noncompliant with the city’s Paid Sick Leave ordinance when the progressive law went into effect last September. The law, which applies to more than 11,000 local employers, most of whom have fewer than 50 employees, was designed to discourage employees from working while sick by not monetarily penalizing them for missing work. The report notes, “Among employers who know about the Ordinance and do not currently offer paid leave, only four in ten plan to change their policies.”

► In today’s News Tribune — Tacoma picket addresses longshore medical benefits — Some two dozen active and retired Longshore Union workers Monday picketed the Tacoma offices of the Pacific Maritime Association to put the association of waterfront employers on notice of what the longshore workers say are major flaws in a new medical benefits payment system.

► In today’s Oregonian — Boeing subsidiary InSitu to break ground on new production plant — Boeing Co. subsidiary InSitu Inc., which makes unmanned aircraft for military customers, will break ground Wednesday on a new production facility in Bingen, Wash.

 


AUSTERITY

 

repeal-sequestration-washington► In today’s Huffington Post — Sequestration pushes Head Start to the precipice — Sequestration was meant to hurt people just like Rhonda Reynolds and her daughter Bella, and Head Start teachers Misty and April. The policy’s designers made a bet in the summer of 2011 that a deficit-reduction cleaver that decimated defense and harmed the most vulnerable would be abhorrent to Republicans and Democrats alike. They lost the bet. Sequestration went into effect on March 1, 2013, after lawmakers failed to agree on a replacement.

In Washington, the conventional wisdom has sometimes held that sequestration’s harms were oversold. Dire warnings of massive job loss never came true, while government programs used budget gimmickry to keep operating. But outside the Beltway, the perception of sequestration is sharply, viscerally different. Budget cuts have resulted in fewer meals for seniors, less financial aid for scientific research, poorer natural disaster preparedness and more expensive treatments for cancer patients.

► In today’s Washington Post — Defense workers speak out against furloughs — We’ve heard politicians argue about the budget-cutting sequester that led to this ridiculous situation. Now let’s hear the voices of the workers. We asked several Defense Department employees how the furlough affects them and their work. Here’s some of what they told us.

► In today’s News Tribune — Line will be open to talk to officials about cuts — Col. Charles Hodges and U.S. Rep. Denny Heck will be available to the public for a dial-in teleconference Tuesday at 7 p.m about Puget Sound area Defense cuts. The toll-free call-in number is 855-246-7045, ext. 21849.

► U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-6th) issued this statement Monday regarding local furloughs:

Every day that Congress doesn’t work on a balanced, long-term budget plan to stop the across-the-board cuts is another day that folks around the country — like the thousands of folks in our region who begin unpaid furloughs this week — have to cover for Congress’ dysfunction.  These men and women and their communities shouldn’t have to pay because Congress won’t work together.  I’ll continue to work with both parties to pass a budget and end the reckless policy of sequestration once and for all.

► In today’s Washington Post — OMB shrinks its budget deficit forecast — The Office of Management and Budget said the deficit this year is expected to be $759 billion — $214 billion less than it had forecast in April. (Sequestration cuts account for $43 billion in deficit reduction.) It’s the latest piece of evidence that the nation’s budget deficit, which exploded after the recession began in 2007, has become less of a short-term problem.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Why are we doing this?

 


THE COST OF WAR

 

cost-of-war► From Reuters — U.S. considers speeding troop withdrawal from Afghanistan — President Obama is committed to wrapping up U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but the United States has been talking with officials in Afghanistan about keeping a small “residual” force there after next year. Now, the relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai is fraying, and a full military pullout from Afghanistan like the one from Iraq has been transformed from a “worst-case scenario” to an option “under serious consideration in Washington and Kabul,” the NY Times reports.

EDITOR’S NOTE — So far in 2013, 75 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, about three each week, for a total of 2,249 since 2001. (See the Washington Post’s Faces of the Fallen to learn about who these soldiers were, including the 55 who were Washington state residents.) Union delegates at the Washington State Labor Council’s 2011 Convention approved a resolution supporting “a significant drawdown of military personnel from Afghanistan… setting a firm end date for total withdrawal as soon as that can be accomplished, but in no event later than the 2014 timeline previously announced by President Obama.”

 


NATIONAL

 

No-NLRB-No-Voice► In today’s NY Times — Democrats plan challenge to Republicans’ filibuster use — In a move that could bring to a head six months of smoldering tensions over a Republican blockade of certain presidential nominees, Senate Democrats are preparing to force confirmation votes on a series of President Obama’s most contentious appointments as early as this week. If Republicans object, Democrats plan to threaten to use the impasse to change the Senate rules that allow the minority party wide latitude to stymie action. Democrats are still strategizing over how best to proceed, but the nominees they have talked about putting forward first are those for vacant seats on the National Labor Relations Board, the government entity that has become a major source of contention in the fight over confirmations between the White House and Senate Republicans.

► In today’s Washington Post — Pension proposal would let cities, states privatize plans — Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has devised a way for states and cities to exit the pension business. It involves a tax-law change that would enable governments to turn their pension plans over to life insurers.

► In The Hill — Pilots union faults NTSB for releasing too much info on Asiana crash — The Washington, D.C.-based Air Line Pilots Association said it was “stunned” at the “unprecedented” amount of information that has been made available to the public.

wall-st-rules► In today’s Seattle Times — Happy birthday, Dodd-Frank, toothless Wall Street reform (by Jon Talton) — In the aftermath of the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression, we didn’t get a 21st century Glass-Steagall, an update of the Depression-era legislation that protected us for decades until its gradual weakening and then final repeal in 1999. We didn’t stop the dangerous derivatives game. The Too Big To Fail banks got bigger. The banksters got away with it. As MIT economist Simon Johnson says, the big banks have “downside protection.” In other words, when things are going well, they get the upside as profits and compensation. When things crash, they know Uncle Sam will bail them out. Are you strong enough to blow out those three birthday candles, Dodd-Frank? If not, the corporate lobbyists will do it for you with a wave of their hands.

► In today’s Washington Post — U.S.-E.U. trade talks open amid new criticism from labor, environmental groups — “We caution against unwarranted optimism. There are significant risks” in the negotiations, said Celeste Drake, a trade analyst with the AFL-CIO, including demands by Europe for U.S. states and cities to drop “buy America” or other local purchase provisions.

 


TODAY’S MUST-READ

 

corporate-flag-trade► At Labor Notes — Secret TPP would void democracy — Congress will soon debate whether to “fast-track” a trade deal that would make job-killers like NAFTA look puny. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would give corporations the right to sue national governments if they passed any law, regulation, or court ruling interfering with a corporation’s “expected future profits.” They could also sue over local or state laws they didn’t like. The TPP would cover 40 percent of the world’s economy.

Existing laws and regulations on food safety, environmental protection, drug prices, local contracting, and internet freedom would all be up for challenge. And the decision-makers on such suits would not be local judges and juries; they’d be affiliated with the World Bank, an institution dedicated to corporate interests.

 


The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.

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