Wednesday, March 27, 2019
► In today’s Seattle Times — ‘Making Amazon look bad’: The unique and welcome way Microsoft is getting Amazon’s goat — In this era of corporations using blackmail and threats to win sweetheart tax deals, Microsoft is making waves at the state Capitol in Olympia with a far more unusual demand. Tax us more, the company is telling lawmakers. “I don’t know if I’ve heard of this happening before; it’s not ringing any bells,” said Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Is.), when I asked if a big business has ever come to the state Legislature proposing a sizable tax on itself to help pay for a government program. The bill is this year’s big push in higher education. It would pour about a billion dollars over the next four years into a “workforce education account,” to be spent on more financial aid as well as more degree slots in high-demand subjects such as computer science, engineering and nursing.
The premise now is to put a surcharge on businesses that benefit the most from a highly skilled workforce. That means high-tech of course, as well as professional services firms. “Our model is the old apprenticeship programs used by electricians and plumbers,” Hansen said. “Amazon was surprised to be included in such a public ‘hey, let’s do this’ by Microsoft,” said Rep. Gael Tarleton (D-Seattle), who said she heard that lament directly from an Amazon lobbyist. Well, I’ll be damned: A corporation outflanking the competition not by threatening to move or fleecing the taxpayers for subsidies, but by doing good! What in the world will become of us if that catches on? Well played, Microsoft — for your company, and for the state. Your move, Amazon.
ALSO at The Stand — WSLC applauds House Democrats’ budget plan
► In today’s Columbian — Senate Democrats release two-year transportation budget — Democrats in the state Senate have released their two-year transportation budget, proposing $9.9 billion in spending on areas that broadly mirror a counterpart proposal in the state House. The budget includes money to begin electrifying the state’s ferry system, jump-start planning on a replacement for the I-5 Bridge across the Columbia River, and make a start on a multibillion-dollar court order over salmon spawning barriers.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Lack of redundancies on Boeing 737 MAX system baffles some involved in developing the jet — Even some of the people who have worked on Boeing’s new 737 MAX airplane were baffled to learn that the company had designed an automated safety system that abandoned the principles of component redundancy, ultimately entrusting the automated decision-making to just one sensor — a type of sensor that was known to fail. Boeing’s rival, Airbus, has typically depended on three such sensors. “A single point of failure is an absolute no-no,” said one former Boeing engineer who worked on the MAX, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the program in an interview with The Seattle Times. “That is just a huge system engineering oversight. To just have missed it, I can’t imagine how.”
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Southwest Air sees $150M hit from grounding of Boeing 737 MAX — Combined with bad weather and contract negotiations, 9,800 flights will be canceled.
► From the AP — Southwest 737 MAX makes emergency landing in Orlando — The FAA says it appears the emergency was not related to anti-stall software. No passengers were on board.
► In today’s NY Times — After Boeing crashes, sharp questions about industry regulating itself — The practice is already coming under scrutiny from Congress, and lawmakers are likely to press the FAA’s acting administrator on Wednesday when he appears at a Senate hearing.
► In today’s NY Times — As Boeing confronted a swelling crisis, it had little to say
► In today’s Washington Post — As Boeing prepares to explain safety upgrades for its 737 Max jets, some ask will it be enough?
► In today’s Washington Post — Trump surprises Republicans with push to revive health-care battle — In a new court filing, the Justice Department argued that the ACA, also known as Obamacare, should be thrown out in its entirety, including provisions protecting millions of Americans with preexisting health conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health-care plans.
► From KUOW — Here’s what repealing the ACA could mean in Washington state — More than 800,000 people in Washington state get health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act. They stand to lose that coverage if the law is repealed, as the Trump Administration wants to do.
► From The Hill — Surprise Justice move on ObamaCare puts GOP in bind — The Trump administration’s surprise call for the courts to strike down ObamaCare upended Capitol Hill on Tuesday, putting Republicans in a bind while giving Democrats new talking points on one of their favorite issues for the 2020 elections. If the courts agree with the Justice Department, it would dramatically change the way health care is now delivered in the country, and insurance companies were among those criticizing the administration’s decision. If the entire law were struck down, it would eliminate protections in the law that forbid insurance companies from denying insurance to people with pre-existing conditions.
► In today’s Washington Post — A job-scarce town struggles with Arkansas’s first-in-nation Medicaid work rules — This community — scarce on jobs and among the poorest in a poor state — provides an early reality check on how hard it is to carry out President Trump’s vision of a social safety net that requires most able-bodied people to work, or try to work, in exchange for government health benefits. The view from this Delta town is that confusion about the program is rampant, and people scoff at the idea that jobs are waiting for those willing to work.
FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE
► In the Washington Examiner — Unions step up push for $15 minimum wage in Congress — Labor unions and their allies on Tuesday stepped up their push to get Congress to approve a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, up from the current rate of $7.25, urging rank-and-file members to press their congressmen on the issue. House Democrats have pushed legislation to more than double the federal rate but it faces a likely obstacle in the Republican-controlled Senate.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Washington’s Republican representatives have historically opposed minimum wage increases in our state, arguing that it makes us less competitive and jobs will move to cheap-labor states. (Of course, that hasn’t happened, but it’s still what they believe.) But if they truly believe that, they would enthusiastically support “leveling the playing field” and having other states catch up with the higher minimum wage Washington state’s citizens have demanded. You know, to protect our competitive advantage. When they finally get to vote on the first minimum wage increase in a decade, will they choose their party’s dogmatic reflexive opposition to wage increases, or their own talking points? But then, there’s the Democrats…
► From Politico — New rift exposed as Democrats clash over minimum wage — Several red-state Democrats have threatened to oppose their party’s hallmark $15 minimum wage bill, imperiling a key plank of the progressive platform and revealing another schism in the sprawling caucus. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a member of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, bluntly told Scott that a number of members in his group would not support the current bill on the floor…
Supporters include Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), the chairman of New Democrats. “The really good news out of the meeting is that there’s unity around increasing the minimum wage,” the Washington State Democrat said in an interview. “There’s even unity, I think, about getting to $15 at some point. There was debate and discussion about the time frame for that, and whether regional concerns ought to be taken into consideration, but I think that’s healthy part of the process.
► From Politico — McDonald’s halts lobbying against minimum wage hikes
► From The Hill — House fails to override Trump veto on border wall — The House failed Tuesday to override the first veto of Trump‘s tenure, a vote led by Democrats seeking to uphold a measure unwinding the president’s national emergency declaration at the southern border. The chamber voted 248-181 to override the veto, falling short of the roughly 290 votes, or two-thirds majority, needed. The vast majority of Republicans in the lower chamber stood with Trump on Tuesday over the veto. But 14 GOP lawmakers opted to break party lines and rebuke the president’s emergency declaration for a second time.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The lone member of Congress from Washington state to support Trump’s emergency — and the diversion of tens of millions of military funds from job-creating in-state projects necessary for military readiness to a pointless “border barrier” — was Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers meets with Trump, top Republicans to push new trade deal with Mexico and Canada — McMorris Rodgers is part of a team of Republican lawmakers that will try to sway several dozen Democratic votes in Congress to support Trump’s proposal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Dubbed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the deal faces an uncertain future in the Democratic-controlled House amid concerns about its provisions pertaining to Mexican labor and a feature some lawmakers say could drive up the cost of a specific set of prescription drugs in the United States.
ALSO at The Stand — AFL-CIO announces opposition to NAFTA 2.0 in its current form
► From CNN — Trump finds Democrats a tough sell on NAFTA replacement — Trump’s top trade officials regularly argued the US-Mexico-Canada agreement, with its new labor and auto manufacturing requirements, would be an easy sell for newly empowered House Democrats, but the task of persuading members to support it is proving more difficult than they initially suggested.
► From The Hill — McConnell again blocks resolution to release Mueller report
► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Energy secretary calls Hanford cleanup cost “shocking” — Energy Secretary Rick Perry called the latest estimate of remaining Hanford cleanup costs “a pretty shocking number,” at a budget hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. The budget request made to Congress last week asked for about $2.1 billion for the Hanford nuclear reservation in the next fiscal year, down from current spending of about $2.5 billion. It’s a proposed decrease of $416 million.
EDITOR’S NOTE — What’s remains shocking is that Trump would put a guy who vowed to eliminate the Energy Department in charge of it (even though Perry couldn’t remember its name.) And speaking of Trump’s horrible cabinet members…
► From HuffPost — ‘Shame on you’: Betsy DeVos slammed for trying to defund Special Olympics — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tried to defend the department’s proposed budget cuts ― including the elimination of funding for the Special Olympics ― in a hearing before House lawmakers on Tuesday. It didn’t go well.
EDITOR’S NOTE — As one Capitol Hill reporter points out, cutting five Trump golf trips would save the Special Olympics.
► From Politico — Trump’s travel ban faces fresh legal jeopardy (by Robert Tsai) — New lawsuits challenging the ban have two things going for them: Real-world evidence of the ban’s effects, and precedent showing how it violates the Constitution.
► In today’s Washington Post — GOP legislator prays to Jesus for forgiveness before state’s first Muslim woman swears in — Pennsylvania state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz was on the ninth “Jesus” of her opening prayer in the Pennsylvania statehouse when other lawmakers started to look uncomfortable.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Apparently, some freedoms are more important than others for radical right-wingers.
► At YouTube — The talk of two tickets — Robert Reich and W. Kamau Bell explain the criminalization of poverty and the flaws in our criminal justice system.
► THIS in today’s Washington Post — Teen boys rated their female classmates based on looks. The girls fought back. — Lists like this one had silently circulated among teen boys for generations, and it has happened in more recent years at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, too, the students said. But it was happening now, in the era of the #MeToo movement. Women had been standing up to harassment in workplaces and on college campuses and the high school girls, who had been witnessing this empowerment, decided they weren’t going to let the issue slide.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.