Tuesday, December 7, 2021
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Dec. 7 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 784,129 infections (14-day average of cases per day: 1,299) and 9,436 deaths.
► From the NY Times — Omicron is fast moving, but perhaps less severe, early reports suggest — The Covid-19 virus is spreading faster than ever in South Africa, the country’s president said Monday, an indication of how the new Omicron variant is driving the pandemic, but there are early indications that Omicron may cause less serious illness than other forms of the virus.
► From the Yakima H-R — Labor a top issue as state agriculture group meets in Yakima this week — The most pressing concern for just about everyone at the Washington State Tree Fruit Association opened its annual meeting and horticulture expo in Yakima remains labor — how to find workers, and how much they will cost… Labor issues will be important next year in Olympia, noted WSTFA President Jon DeVaney, especially seasonal flexibility regarding overtime for agricultural workers. “There needs to be some flexibility about the 40-hour work week in an industry affected greatly by labor shortages and weather (which affect scheduling),” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE — “Seasonal flexibility” = “Not paying overtime after all.”
► From the (Everett) Herald — Ruling may not be last word on state redistricting (editorial) — The Supreme Court of Washington — in ruling unanimously last week to accept the maps for legislative and congressional districts that had been agreed to by the state’s redistricting commission — acted with due deference toward a political process that should be a model for other states that are now embroiled in disputes alleging partisan gerrymandering of district boundaries. But the courts’ work may not be done, considering legal challenges to the maps and the commission’s process that already have been filed or may soon be filed.
► From Roll Call — Courts may play outsize role in redistricting fights — North Carolina faces several gerrymandering lawsuits over its new congressional map, part of a legal deluge facing almost all 18 states that have finished redistricting so far. The Justice Department added to the storm Monday, suing Texas over its map. Similar fights playing out in state and federal courts may end up determining more congressional maps than usual this year, experts say.
► From the Tri-City Herald — Attorneys seek to move Latino voting rights case from Pasco to Olympia, fearing bias — Three Tri-Citians looking to change how Franklin County commissioners are elected want to take their case to the state capital. They say a combination of political influence, fear of retaliation and publicity will make it questionable whether they will get a fair hearing.
► From the News Tribune — Employment Security Department audit finds unmonitored claims allowed $315K in fraud — The Auditor’s Office announced that an investigation into a now-terminated unemployment insurance specialist found the employee misappropriated at least $315,282 in unemployment insurance benefits between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020.
► From the NY Times — The crash of two airplanes and the crisis at Boeing — In October, a federal grand jury indicted a former Boeing test pilot named Mark Forkner, accusing him of deceiving the FAA and scheming to defraud airlines during the development of the 737 Max, two of which crashed within five months of each other, killing 346 people. It might be tempting to view the indictment as a sort of resolution to the 737 Max ordeal. But as Peter Robison demonstrates in “Flying Blind: The 737 Max Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing,” ultimate blame for the crashes lies with the highly paid executives who waged a decades-long campaign to transform Boeing from a company “once ruled by engineers who thumbed their noses at Wall Street” into “one of the most shareholder-friendly creatures of the market,” a company that “celebrated managers for cost cutting, co-opted regulators with heaps of money and pressured suppliers with Walmart-style tactics.”
► From the Washington Post — Senate revs up work on $2 trillion spending proposal, aiming to complete vote on Build Back Better before Christmas — Senate Democrats are aiming to vote and approve a roughly $2 trillion package to overhaul the nation’s health-care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws before Christmas, hoping to muscle through a jam-packed schedule to deliver the remaining piece of President Biden’s economic agenda. Writing to lawmakers on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) affirmed the aggressive timeline, warning that there are “more long days and nights” on the horizon as the chamber races to resolve a wide array of fiscal and economic issues before the end of the year.
TODAY at The Stand — Urge Murray, Cantwell to finish the job, pass Build Back Better
TAKE A STAND — Thank Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for supporting the Build Back Better Act, but also urge them to ACT NOW to get it passed in the Senate. Working families can’t afford to wait. Send a message urging our senators to FINISH THE JOB! You can also call 1-844-994-4554 to leave them this message.
► From Politico — Dems weigh forcing Manchin’s hand on their $1.7T megabill — Some Democrats, eager to pass their social spending bill before Christmas, want to move forward on a vote before they get a firm commitment from the West Virginia centrist.
► From The Hill — Minimum tax proposal drives wedge between corporate interests — Corporate lobbyists are aggressively pressing Senate Democrats to scrap a minimum tax on corporations’ income included in the House-passed $2 trillion climate and social spending package. The proposal, which would require around 200 of the nation’s largest companies to pay a minimum 15% federal income tax, has swiftly become a top priority on K Street. But unlike with other tax hike proposals, corporate America isn’t united in opposition to the minimum tax.
► From the Guardian — Biden accused of ‘doubling down’ on Trump move to strip U.S. immigration judges of union rights — The head of the federal immigration judges’ union has accused the Biden administration of “doubling down” on its predecessor’s efforts to freeze out their association even as they struggle with a backlog of almost 1.5 million court cases and staff shortages, which exacerbate due process concerns in their courts.
► From the Seattle Times — Supply chain woes ease, but challenges remain (editorial) — The supply chain woes that led to late deliveries and empty store shelves this year have started to ease, but don’t call it a holiday miracle just yet. Challenges remain, and more needs to be done to restore short-term order and to ensure the long-term competitiveness of West Coast ports… Ports will benefit from the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $5 billion for port programs and a share of $27 billion for port-related projects, as well as billions more earmarked for roads and rail.
► BREAKING from the NY Times — Kellogg workers prolong strike by rejecting contract proposal — About 1,400 striking workers at four Kellogg cereal plants in the United States have rejected a tentative agreement on a five-year contract negotiated by their union, the company said on Tuesday. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents the workers, did not reveal the vote totals but said in a statement that its members had “overwhelmingly voted” against the agreement. The strike began on Oct. 5 and has largely revolved around the company’s two-tier compensation structure.
► From the LA Times — Facing record labor shortage, trucking firms battle for drivers — Recruiters dangle large pay increases and sign-on bonuses, but a big rig driver still gets little respect. It’s a “gold prison,” said one.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.