Wednesday, July 17, 2013
OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
► In today’s NY Times — Senate reaches agreement to avert fight over filibuster — Senate leaders reached an agreement on Tuesday to preserve the filibuster in exchange for confirmation votes on President Obama’s stalled nominees, ending, at least for now, months of partisan warfare that threatened the stability of several federal agencies and a generation of procedural traditions.
► In The Hill — Union lawyer, labor board counsel nominated to NLRB — President Obama nominated two new members to the National Labor Relations Board late Tuesday. Obama picked Nancy Schiffer, a former associate general counsel to the AFL-CIO, and Kent Hirozawa, chief counsel to NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce, to be members of the labor board. Part of that compromise to avert the “nuclear option” — a Senate rules change that would allow for a simple majority vote on nominees — was the president withdrawing the nominations of Sharon Block and Richard Griffin to the NLRB.
► At TPM — NLRB nominees at crux of fight — Two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board were both the problem and solution to the Senate’s flirtation with a major change to its age-old rules.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Anyone surprised that the agency enforcing the nation’s labor laws was at the crux of this battle simply isn’t paying attention. Ahead of their obstruction of consumer, environmental and other policies, is the Republican effort to nullify labor laws on behalf of the powerful corporate interests. They don’t have the power to change America’s laws granting the freedom to unionize without harassment or retribution from employers, but they have done — and will continue to do — everything in their power to block those laws’ enforcement.
Meanwhile, business columnists are already bemoaning the prospect of “more regulation” from the NLRB. Of course, any regulation at all is “more” given a boardless agency unable to enforce the laws it exists to enforce.
► In today’s NY Times — The Senate clings to the filibuster (editorial) — There is always another crisis to come. That’s why it’s regrettable that Mr. Reid and the Democrats didn’t vote to change the rules for this Senate and for a future one controlled by Republicans. They should have stood up for the principle that simple-majority votes should determine confirmation of executive appointments, not a 60-vote threshold that gives minority parties a veto over a president’s team and that was unintended by the Constitution.
► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Hanford workers reject contractor offers — Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council workers decisively voted down offers from five Hanford contractors Tuesday. As part of a recent memorandum of understanding with contractors, HAMTC agreed to put the offers to a vote and to remain neutral as workers considered the proposed collective bargaining agreement. HAMTC and the contractors have been negotiating for 18 months. With the offers voted down, negotiations are expected to resume immediately.
► In today’s Bellingham Herald — PeaceHealth making cuts to close $130 million budget gap — Cost-cutting measures being looked at by PeaceHealth include voluntary furloughs and early retirement, reducing travel, not filling vacant positions that don’t deal directly with patient care and prioritizing those vacant positions that do, curbing overtime, and consolidating the number of contractors for services such as linens and food. Layoffs weren’t ruled out. (Also see coverage today in The Columbian.)
► From AP — BPA administrator replaced amid hiring probe — The newly appointed administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration has been replaced in the midst of an inspector general’s investigation into allegations that veterans were not given proper preference in hiring, and managers may have retaliated against employees cooperating with the investigation.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Report on pay gap adds fuel to Seattle mayor’s race — The city of Seattle pays men 9.5% more than women, according to a report by Mayor Mike McGinn, who promised to launch a task force. But rival candidates for mayor quickly called for action, not another study.
► In today’s NY Times — Washington, Oregon cities try to evade political jam to build a bridge — Intertwined, competing urban identities are central to what comes next for the Columbia River Crossing, a $3.4 billion bridge-replacement project of new highway ramps, traffic lanes and light rail linking Portland to Vancouver, Wash., that was supposed to resolve a traffic choke point. The old plan, after more than 20 years and tens of millions of dollars’ worth of studies, was killed last month by the Washington State Senate after the Republican-dominated majority coalition declined to vote on financing it.
Then, almost without missing a beat, local leaders picked up the ball. There is a pattern in this, reflected across the nation, say planners, economists and academics: cities are taking the lead. As recession and government downsizing have squeezed federal and state options, and partisan stalemate politics have crippled some state capitals, local leaders have pushed the front lines of change, if only by necessity.
► In today’s Seattle Times — State readying to sign up 1 million uninsured — Washington is ahead of most states in its effort to implement its health insurance exchange, but for the people on the ground, in counties large and small, Oct. 1 suddenly has become very near and the challenges very real. That’s the date everything must be ready to go, including the online marketplace to buy coverage beginning in 2014, as well as all the people now being trained to assist the first wave of approximately 1 million uninsured in Washington.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Tax advisory vote might not mean much, but its costs a lot — This fall, Washington taxpayers could pay about a quarter-million dollars for the chance to weigh in on tax policies that have already become law. The nonbinding tax advisory votes have taken place here only once before. They result from a Tim Eyman-sponsored initiative — approved by voters in 2007 — that sends any action by the Legislature deemed a tax increase to the next November’s ballot.
► In today’s Olympian — Moody’s Investors says $1B for K-12 education is ‘credit positive’ for local schools — The recent legislative session did nothing to lift a “negative outlook” on Washington state government’s fairly good credit rating. But the Legislature’s decision to put nearly $1 billion of new money for K-12 schools may help some local school districts on a case-by-case basis.
► In today’s Olympian — Inslee’s promised Lean push gets preview; details due in August — “Results Washington” is still a month or more away from going fully public, but Inslee chief of staff Mary Alice Heuschel outlined a few elements of the plan Tuesday during a seminar on government management and efficiency in Olympia. She indicated the approach would be broader than Gregoire’s Government Management Accountability Program by encompassing all of state government.
► At TPM — More approve of Moral Monday protesters than N.C. Legislature — Asked which they had a higher opinion of, 47% of voters chose the protestors while 41 percent chose the General Assembly, a new poll finds. The protesters have been gathering, and often getting arrested, at the state capitol each week to oppose the state’s GOP policymaking.
► In The Hill — Bipartisan House immigration group weighs when to unveil plan — After more than four years of secretive talks, the seven remaining members of the group do not want to put out their 500-page proposal only to see it immediately swatted down by conservatives who want an opportunity to first vote on measures strengthening border security.
► In today’s NY Times — Health plan costs for New Yorkers set to fall 50% — New York State residents who buy health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year, and supporters of the health care overhaul credit the online purchasing exchanges the law created.
► From PBS News Hour:
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