Friday, September 12, 2014
► In today’s Seattle Times — Legislature in contempt, gets reprieve to try again on school aid — For the first time in history, the Washington Supreme Court has held the Legislature in contempt for failing to obey a court order. The action comes as the court struggles to enforce its 2012 McCleary decision, in which the justices ruled that lawmakers were underfunding the state’s public schools. In a unanimous order handed down Thursday, Washington’s top court said the state “is engaged in an ongoing violation of its constitutional duty to K-12 children” and it “has known for decades that its funding of public education is constitutionally inadequate.” The ruling ramped up the pressure on the Legislature yet another notch ahead of the court-imposed 2018 deadline to come up with significantly more state money to cover things such as smaller class sizes and school materials. But the justices also gave lawmakers a reprieve: They will hold off punishing lawmakers to see whether they hammer out an acceptable school-funding plan in the 2015 legislative session.
► From KPLU — Railroad workers reject BNSF plan to have single-employee train crews — A union representing railroad conductors and switchmen has rejected a plan from BNSF Railway to operate some freight trains with a single employee. Many union members said the proposal raised serious safety concerns. BNSF runs important routes throughout the Pacific Northwest, from British Columbia to Portland and across the country.
► In the P.S. Business Journal — Metro transit workers reject second contract offer, prepare for arbitration — King County Metro Transit workers (ATU Local 587) are preparing to enter into what is likely to be months of arbitration with the county after soundly rejecting a contract offer that would have frozen wages for two years.
► In the P.S. Business Journal — Long era of union Boeing security guards nearly over in Washington — A 58-year tradition of unionized Boeing security guards who are company employees is gradually ending, as the company slowly replaces these workers with people from a company-wide contractor. Currently guards working for Allied Barton are taking over at two security gates at company properties on Boeing Field, while the union workers at those gates are moved north to Everett. The union workers, represented by Security, Police And Fire Professionals Of America, Local 5, also called SPFPA LOCAL 5, are on a contract that expires in 2017.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Zombie politics shaping state Senate race — There’s more than civic pride riding on Friday night’s premiere of “Z Nation,” the zombie-apocalypse TV show filmed and produced in Spokane. It’s also become the symbolic centerpiece of Democratic state Senate challenger Rich Cowan’s pitch as the candidate with the best economic development résumé. Cowan’s studio, North By Northwest, is producing the 13-episode SyFy network series, which has brought the equivalent of about 200 full-time and mostly union-scale jobs to Spokane, as well as hundreds of other part-time opportunities. “What’s great about doing a series like ‘Z Nation’ is it’s sustainable,” said Cowan, who co-founded the studio in 1990 and has been a key force in drawing Hollywood productions to the Inland Northwest for more than two decades. “The majority of these jobs include pension and health care benefits.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Cowan is running against Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-6th), who has sponsored legislation to make Washington a so-called “right-to-work” state, to create a sub-minimum wage for teenagers, and to require people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are actively looking for work also to do community service in order to receive their unemployment benefits. Baumgartner is the guy who got just 39% of the vote in his ill-advised 2012 run against Sen. Maria Cantwell. The same guy who 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.” Similar to the State Supreme Court, The Entire Staff of The Stand™ holds Sen. Baumgartner, specifically, in contempt.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Rep. Hans Dunshee deserves re-election (editorial) — Dunshee, as chairman of the House’s Capital Budget committee, has demonstrated the ability to work with Republicans, having negotiated a capital budget in the House, only to have it fail in the Senate. Dunshee also points to potential areas of bipartisan agreement in transportation reforms. Dunshee, in part because of his 20 years in the House, has the knowledge, connections and experience the Legislature needs.
► In The Hill — GOP Senate’s first 100 days — Republicans are putting together an agenda for the first 100 days of 2015 in case they win control of the Senate. Authorizing the Keystone XL oil pipeline, approving “fast-track” trade authority, wiping out proposed environmental regulations and repealing the medical device tax top their list.
EDITOR’S NOTE — If this happens, will there be 41 Senate Democrats who feel strongly enough about Congress abrogating its responsibility to debate and affect U.S. trade policy that they will filibuster fast track? At the risk of sounding pessimistic, probably not. In the meantime, Americans will continue to seek some transparency so somebody besides the corporations invited to participate in the secret TPP talks gets to see what’s in it before Congress rubber-stamps it.
► In The Hill — Elections poised to expand ACA — Democrats running in five highly competitive governors races this year have vowed to expand Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act if they are elected, something that could result in 1.7 million new people getting covered. The dramatic stakes in the governors’ races come even as Democrats are fearful they could lose the U.S. Senate, leaving President Obama playing defense over the final two years of his presidency against a Republican Congress.
► At AFL-CIO Now — California passes paid sick days law but home care workers left out — Six and a half million California workers will now have access to paid sick days, thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Workers will be able to earn three paid sick days a year. Unfortunately, home care workers were excluded from the final bill.
► From Reuters — Tesla’s huge tax break is official — Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a package of bills on Thursday to provide $1.3 billion in tax breaks and other incentives for Tesla Motors , putting a bow on the deal for the electric car company to build a massive factory in the state.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Nevada’s impossible Tesla gamble (by Jon Talton) — With deindustrialization, poorly executed trade deals, a hollowed middle class and immense corporate power, this costly game is unlikely to stop. Yet combined with tax dodging and policy bought in D.C. by major corporations, it is hurting American competitiveness and the national interest, gutting our future. It is also deeply unfair to the majority of companies that can’t buy tax breaks. This is crony capitalism at its worst.
► From Politico — Democrats’ whopper of a strategy flop — President Obama and his Democratic allies hoped to capitalize on the recent wave of companies ditching the U.S. to slice their tax bill as a populist issue to fire up the progressive base and bash Republicans as slaves to corporate interests. So far, rather than becoming the political whopper that Democrats dreamed of, the issue has turned out to be pretty much a massive dud.
► From AP — Pregnant worker protections urged — More than 120 members of Congress urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to recognize that pregnant workers are entitled to reasonable accommodations such as light duty, saying it’s needed to ensure that expecting mothers are not forced out of their jobs.
► A MUST-READ in today’s NY Times — Video nation (by the reliably incisive Timothy Egan) — We are roused to action by cruel realism, but only if it looks and sounds authentic. Reasoned calls to our better angels are no longer enough
► On this day in 1966, NBC aired the first episode of The Monkees television show. Inspired by the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night, this sitcom about a fictitious L.A. rock’n’roll band was an instant hit and propelled this song, their first single, to No. 1 on the pop charts. Modeled after the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” — complete with “no, no, no” answer to the Fab Four’s signature “yeah, yeah, yeah” — this was the closest thing to a protest song the tamed-for-TV band was ever able to sneak past the producers. It refers to Clarksville, Tenn., near Ft. Campbell, Ky., the home of the 101st Airborne Division that served in the Vietnam War. The singer has been drafted and is phoning his best girl to urge her to take the train to come see him for one last night together before he is deployed in the morning, because “I don’t know if I’m ever comin’ home.”
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.