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Train safety | Injured farm workers | Minimum wage hikes | Feel it still

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


The Entire Staff of The Stand is going on hiatus for the remainder of 2017. The site will experience very light posting in these final two weeks, only as major news warrants. We’ll be back on Tuesday, Jan. 2. See you then, and happy holidays!



► In today’s Seattle Times — Train derailment near Olympia: Officials pushed ‘aggressive’ timeline before safety technology was ready — The corridor where an Amtrak train derailed Monday was years in the making. But in recent months, officials were confronting a mix of deadlines. State transportation leaders had long ago envisioned the corridor would be refurbished by 2019, according to state records, but to collect federal stimulus money, construction had to be completed by mid-2017. The state then vowed to open the line this fall. Officials kept that promise, launching the new Point Defiance Bypass route on Monday. But had they waited just a few more months, the service would have included a critical safety feature that automatically slows trains if they exceed speed limits.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Rail safety can’t wait (editorial) — As the investigation and grieving continues, policymakers need to show the public that they’re doing everything possible to improve the safety of passenger rail service. Further delays are simply unacceptable.

► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Radioactive particles found on cars. Hanford workers may have driven 2 home. — Specks of radioactive contamination have been found on eight cars or other vehicles that were parked at the Hanford nuclear reservation’s Plutonium Finishing Plant. Two of the vehicles may have been contaminated before they were driven home by workers during the weekend. The owners of those cars have been offered radiation surveys of their homes.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Port of Seattle shifts direction, picks retired military commander as new leader — Stephen Metruck, a former rear admiral and chief financial officer at the U.S. Coast Guard, will take over at the Port on Feb. 1 with a $350,000 salary.




► In today’s Yakima H-R — State agency faces growing list of complaints from farm workers injured on the job — Sitting in the living room of his Selah home on a recent morning, Jose Luis Mendoza recounted the difficulties he experienced in getting the injuries he suffered in the accident addressed by the state Department of Labor & Industries. He believes doctors could have saved his foot, but L&I chose a less expensive procedure that resulted in his left leg being amputated. His story is among about 400 complaints farm labor advocates have gathered statewide from field and warehouse workers struggling with L&I’s claim process or still suffering from injuries long after their claims had been closed. As a result, many are forced to use food banks and other public assistance to support their families.

► In today’s Columbian — Inslee budget needs work (editorial) — To meet the state Supreme Court’s mandate to fully fund education beginning next year, the governor has proposed using the state’s reserve funds to pay for teacher salaries.  Raiding the state’s Rainy Day Fund must be accompanied by a clear plan for replenishing those funds. As tempting as it is for Inslee to opportunistically point to a carbon tax as the appropriate solution, that tactic is replete with political risk.

► In the News Tribune — Judge rules state can’t enforce Inslee order to cut greenhouse-gas emissions — The state might appeal the decision, but is waiting for the judge’s written order that spells out whether the Department of Ecology can enforce some parts of the rule.




► From AP — Senate moves tax-cut legislation to brink of final passage — Jubilant Republicans pushed on early Wednesday to the verge of the most sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws in more than three decades, a deeply unpopular bill they insist Americans will learn to love when they see their paychecks in the new year. President Donald Trump cheered the lawmakers on, eager to claim his first major legislative victory. After midnight, the Senate narrowly passed the legislation on a party-line 51-48 vote. Protesters interrupted with chants of “kill the bill, don’t kill us” and Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly called for order.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Washington’s U.S. House delegation votes along party lines on Republican tax bill — Voting yes were all the state’s Republican representatives: Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dan Newhouse, and Jaime Herrera Beutler. Nationally, a dozen Republicans broke with the GOP to oppose the measure. No House Democrat voted for the bill, including all six from Washington state.

► In today’s Washington Post — The GOP tax bill was the easy part. The next debate promises to be much uglier. — The Republicans’ tax-cut legislation makes the nation’s already serious debt problem even worse, and sets the stage for a politically fraught debate in coming years about spending cuts, tax increases or both. The debate could touch on some of the most value-laden questions facing the nation — what type of financial security to provide the elderly, what safety net services should be offered to the poor, and how much the government should try to shrink economic inequality.

ALSO at The Stand — Ads warn of GOP plan to cut Social Security, Medicare

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Cathy McMorris Rodgers defends GOP tax reform bill during phone-in town hall — One woman asked if the new bill would lead to the elimination of Medicaid and Social Security, which McMorris-Rodgers staunchly denied, saying “it’s simply not true.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — That’s not what her party leaders are saying. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) said, “You also have to bring spending under control… The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) says he wants Republicans to focus in 2018 on reducing spending on “entitlement” programs, including Social Security and Medicare. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said that House Republicans will soon turn toward “tackling the entitlements.” Entitlements. That’s what some politicians call the Social Security and Medicare benefits that you’ve paid for your entire working life. They are planning to cut those essential benefits that you earned for your health care and basic necessities. Why? So they can pay for trillion-dollar tax cuts for the wealthy.

► In today’s NY Times — GOP tax bill also manages to needlessly screw up the healthcare system (by David Lazarus) — The part of the tax bill that strikes me as most galling, and which has become almost an afterthought amid all the other damage the bill will do, is its incongruous and completely unnecessary repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

► In today’s NY Times — Republicans despise the working class, continued (by Paul Krugman) — The GOP tax plan is remarkably unpopular. According to the latest NBC poll, only 24% of the public thinks it’s a good idea; 63% believe that it’s mainly for the rich and corporations [editor: it is], while only 7% think it’s aimed at the middle class. Republicans think it will become more popular over time; that’s not what happened with previous tax cuts, and as Drew Altman of Kaiser Family Foundation notes, everyone – even Republicans – hates the idea of cutting major social programs to pay for tax cuts, which is exactly what the GOP plans to do.

► From Politico — Confusion and chaos ahead as new tax rules take immediate effect — America’s new tax system will go into effect in just 12 days, and payroll companies are bracing for confusion as they figure out new withholding rules that will affect millions of American paychecks.




► In today’s Washington Post — Democrats unlikely to force DACA vote this week, probably averting shutdown — Democrats are backing away from a pledge to force a vote this month over the fate of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, angering activists but probably averting the threat of a government shutdown at a critical moment in spending negotiations with Republicans and President Trump.

► From The Hill — Labor board burns through Obama-era rules — The National Labor Relations Board is delivering a flurry of wins to businesses now that it has a Republican majority under President Trump. The independent board tasked with enforcing fair labor practices and collective bargaining rights overruled three Obama-era rules last week in a series of 3-2 rulings.

► From AP — House offices paid out $342K in discrimination settlements over 4 years — Newly-released statistics show taxpayers paid more than $342,000 to settle workplace discrimination disputes at House lawmakers’ offices between 2008 and 2012, including nearly $175,000 for eight settlements related to sexual harassment and sex discrimination accusations.




► In today’s USA Today — Minimum wage hikes: 18 states, 20 cities to lift pay floors Jan. 1 — The movement to lift earnings of low-paid workers will gather force in 2018, with a growing number of states and cities raising their minimum wages as high as $15 an hour. The pay hikes have been linked, at least in part, to nationwide fast-food worker demonstrations and demands for a $15 wage since 2012. Those pleas were initially deemed far-fetched. But now California, New York and more than a dozen cities are moving toward that standard by 2022 in a wave that will cover one in five U.S. workers.

EDITOR’S NOTE — In Washington state, with last year’s passage of Initiative 1433, the state minimum wage will increase from $11 to $11.50 on Jan. 1, on its way to $13.50 in 2020.

► In today’s Washington Post — A single vote in Va. House race ends 17 years of GOP control in chamber — Republican incumbent David Yancey had a 10-vote lead over Democrat Shelly Simonds before Tuesday’s recount in a Virginia House district. The flip leaves the chamber split 50-50, forcing Republicans into a rare episode of power sharing.

► In today’s Washington Post — Uber dealt a blow as top EU court rules that it should be regulated like a taxi company — The decision could change the way the rail-hailing service operates across Europe and could pave the way for new regulation of other internet-based businesses.

► In today’s Chicago Tribune — Why are women losing retail jobs while men are gaining them? — A new analysis of government data reveals a surprising disparity: The retail industry, which shed the most jobs last year (54,300), seemed to push women out while offering more opportunities to men.




► Most of the “Top Songs of 2017” lists include this gem by Portugal. The Man. As Rolling Stone put it, “A long-running bunch of rock dudes from Portland suddenly stumble across pop gold with the year’s slickest and glossiest Motown trip.” This single is from the band’s eighth album, Woodstock, which was inspired by frontman John Gourley’s realization that, nearly 50 years after his dad attended that historic music festival, music still has the same mission: “to comment on societal and political unease.” In this song’s case though, the band declares, “I’m a rebel just for kicks/I’ve been feeling it since 1966.” Enjoy!


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