Initiative 522 would require labeling on foods showing if they are genetically modified products or contain such genetically engineered ingredients. The Seattle Times’ Melissa Allison went over some of the arguments on both sides in a Sunday report that noted California's big, similar ballot fight last year.
“There’s a lot of uneasiness among consumers on the topic,” said Amy Sousa, managing consultant at the consumer research firm Hartman Group in Bellevue. “They don’t like the sound of it but have a difficult time articulating exactly why.”
That may mean the public is susceptible to high-cost ad campaigns. We reported last month that a lot of out-of-state money is lining up on both sides. The high-cost battle is shaping up one year after the food industry and allies raised nearly $46 million to defeat a California labeling measure by less than 3 percentage points.
Jerry Cornfield of The Herald in Everett freshened up the picture of dollars flowing into the campaigns with a piece on Sunday predicting the two sides will end up spending more than $10 million this year in Washington. A second piece in The Herald itemized the high-spending initiative campaigns of recent years – including last year’s battle over same-sex marriage that drew nearly $14.8 million in favor and just under $3 million opposed.
Cornfield reported on Sunday:
As of this week, the Yes on I-522 Committee had raised nearly $2.5 million, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Six other political committees backing the initiative have pulled in another $1 million, though half of that was spent getting the signatures to reach the ballot. Opponents had raised $951,000 as of this week, with a quarter of the total coming from Monsanto.
"California was a frustrating fight. As a movement, we learned a lot," said David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps.
The organic soap company has contributed $700,000 to back the initiative, which is roughly $150,000 more than it gave to the Prop. 37 campaign. And starting next month, labels urging support of the measure will be placed on eight soap fragrances sold in Washington.
One poll released last month by the Yes on 522 campaign showed voter support for labeling.
But election day is Nov. 5 and almost all of the campaign is yet to happen.
The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council’s monthly report on tax collections says Washington’s treasury grew by $72.6 million more over the last month than was forecast. That brings total revenue collections through Aug. 10 to a cumulative $80 million higher than the last quarterly revenue forecast on June 19.
See the report covering July 11 to Aug. 10 tax receipts here. In a $33.5 billion two-year operating budget, the changes have minor impact on the overall general fund health – although budget writers always welcome gains.
State economist Steve Lerch said timing was part of the reason for the better-than-expected report. A $22 million tax refund was assumed in the forecast but did not occur yet, so the actual adjusted gains are closer to $50.1 million above forecast for the month and $57.6 million cumulatively since the June forecast. The latter gain is 2.3 percent higher than the forecast.
The gains continue to be fed by sales of commercial property, for which real-estate excise taxes accounted for $34 million of the good news.
The report says business-occupations and retail sales taxes are still growing compared to a year ago, indicative of the ongoing economic recovery.
“The preliminary estimate of B&O tax growth is 9.5 percent year-over-year and the preliminary estimate of retail sales tax growth is 6.4 percent,” the report says.
Employment also is improving, as this report excerpt explains:
According to the preliminary estimate, the state’s economy added 6,600 jobs in June, the most since January. The June job growth was 2,900 more than the 3,700 expected in the June forecast. Manufacturing employment unexpectedly increased 1,200 (the forecast had assumed a decline of 800) mostly because the aerospace sector added 500 jobs (we had expected a decline of 1,000 jobs). Outside of aerospace, the manufacturing sector added 700 jobs. Construction employment grew by 1,000 during June but government employment remained weak with a loss of 200 jobs. Washington’s private service-providing industries added 4,600 jobs in June, which was slightly stronger than the 4,000 expected in the forecast. The state’s unemployment rate held steady at 6.8% in June.
The surprising increase in aerospace employment in June was likely a one-off event. We believe the trend is still negative though this downturn will be relatively mild due to the large backlog of orders. The Institute of Supply Management - Western Washington Index (ISMWW) continues to indicate sustained, moderate growth in the broader manufacturing sector.
Perhaps this is what “Give Congress Heck” looks like. U.S. Rep. Denny Heck looked on at the White House Friday as President Obama signed bills into law that included the first-year lawmaker’s first piece of legislation to pass the House and Senate.
H.R. 2167 is known formally as the Reverse Mortgage Stabilization Act of 2013 and is the first bill from a freshman to change federal law in nine years and one of only 31 bills to pass both chambers in 2013, Heck’s media office said in a news release. It was co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and passed both the House and Senate on voice votes.
Heck, an Olympia Democrat in the state's new 10th Congressional District, campaigned against congressional gridlock – specifically Republican “Tea Party” members – and his slogan was “Give Congress Heck.’’
H.R. 2167 gives the Federal Housing Administration new tools for making sure that the loans are in the interest of elderly owners of homes who borrow against their home value. Heck expects it to reduce the number of problem loans in FHA’s future portfolio, which has a disproportionately high number of troubled reverse mortgage loans.
Without the changes that take effect in September, Heck said last month that FHA was “perilously close” to having to shut down the reverse mortgages program or make changes that would have made far fewer loans available to seniors. The loans help many seniors stay in their homes longer as they age.
Heck had downplayed the chances of a White House ceremony. His spokesman Phil Gardner called it a welcome surprise and said they didn’t expect it to happen until a few days ago. Present for the signing were Heck and Fitzpatrick; Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Carol Galante, Federal Housing Administration commissioner.
In a news release, Heck said:
“I want to thank President Obama for signing this bill into law today, and I also want to thank my colleague from Pennsylvania, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, for his work on this bill. It’s still possible to get things done in Washington, D.C. if you’re willing to reach across the aisle and focus on the substance of issues …
“Today’s winners are senior citizens and bipartisanship. The FHA can now act quickly to make necessary and common sense reforms to the federal reverse mortgage program. Hundreds of thousands of seniors currently utilize federal reverse home mortgages, and the FHA will now be able to continue this useful program into the future.”
Freshman U.S. Rep. Denny Heck is gearing up to meet the public in five sessions over the next two weeks – all devoted to a different topic. The Olympia Democrat – elected last year to a new 10th Congressional District that ranges from Thurston County north to Shelton, University Place and Puyallup – is calling them “bipartisan conversations.’’
They range from the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan to the budget and how to let banks legally finance marijuana businesses that comply with state law under voter-approved marijuana legalization measure, Initiative 502.
Here is a description of the public events – taken verbatim from an email that Heck’s office put out announcing the events:
Afghanistan and the United States: The Past, Present and Future
Tuesday, August 13, 10 AM
Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, Fireside Room in Cascade Building
9401 Farwest Drive Southwest, Lakewood, WA 98498
Balancing the Budget: Setting our National Priorities
Wednesday, August 14, 6 PM
Pierce College Puyallup, Multi-Purpose Room in College Center Building
1601 39th Avenue SE, Puyallup, WA 98374
This is an interactive simulation.
Puget Sound Cleanup: Protecting our Shared Heritage
Tuesday, August 20, 1 PM
326 East D Street, Tacoma, WA 98421
Women, Children and Families: The Impact of Federal Policy on Domestic Violence Prevention, Equal Pay and Healthcare
Wednesday, August 21, 6 PM
South Puget Sound Community College, Building 26, Room 101
2011 Mottman Rd SW, Olympia, WA 98512
Preventing Violent Crime and Tax Evasion: Letting Legitimate Marijuana Businesses Use the Banking System
Thursday, August 22, 6 PM
Olympia City Hall
601 4th Ave E, Olympia, WA 98501
The recent decision by state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler to reject some insurers’ applications to list policies with the Washington Healthplanfinder exchange is drawing fire. Kreidler rejected several insurers’ applications last week because the offerings did not meet legal requirements.
The Washington Health benefit Exchange is scheduled to take up a review on Aug. 21 of 31 plans from four insurers that were approved by Kreidler’s team for offering when the Healthplanfinder exchange starts enrolling consumers on Oct. 1.
Republican Sen. Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee said Thursday the options are too few and that insurers like Molina, which she said have been approved in eight states, were rejected here.
In a statement posted on Parlette’s legislative site, the Senate Republican Caucus chair said:
“The stated goal of insurance exchanges – as we’ve repeatedly been told – is to increase choice and competition for health insurance … Dismissing the majority of the prospective insurers out of hand before the Health Benefit Exchange Board even has an opportunity to consider them seems to be a step in the wrong direction. After all, don’t we want as many options as possible for people who are purchasing health insurance?”
Parlette went on to say it means that “companies that have dominated Washington’s insurance market in recent years will likely operate without new competition in the exchange. She said the four companies include Premera, Lifewise, Bridgespan and Group Health Cooperative and that, because Lifewise is a subsidiary of Premera, “there are really only three different companies offering plans.’’
The rest of her criticism is here.
Commissioner Kreidler’s office has said that bids received by his office from insurers are better - as in lower priced - than feared. Kreidler, a Democrat who supported ObamaCare, noted Thursday that despite the rejection of some plans for the exchange, other insurers' plans will be available on the open market - outside the exchanges - if they meet state standards.
In a formal statement meant to rebut Parlette, Kreidler said:
I’m very pleased with the 31 plans we approved for the Exchange – they’re quality plans with good benefits. More people will be able to get covered than ever before and the plans are higher quality and offer better value. Many people will qualify for subsidies to help with the costs.
Unfortunately, not all of the insurers who applied were approved. Some of the plans were new to the commercial market and it’s a big challenge to meet the criteria to enter that market.
For more than a year, we went to great lengths to help these companies succeed. We held dozens of meetings and discussions with their staff and CEOs. We held 14 webinars, starting as early as June 2012, to help them get through this process. Our staff worked until midnight on the final night to give the carriers every possible minute, but in some cases, they didn’t succeed.
Examples of specific problems include:
ï‚· Molina – Didn’t allow adequate access to certain providers such as HIV/AIDs specialists and proctologists. It also had no approved retail pharmacy.
ï‚· Coordinated Care Company – Had no pediatric hospital in its network and no approved vision network.
ï‚· Community Health Plan of Washington –Couldn’t adjust its benefits to meet the new cost-sharing requirements. It also required people – even those living in an urban area – to drive more than 47 miles to see a cardiologist and 123 miles to see a gastroenterologist.
ï‚· Kaiser – Had several Health Savings Account (HSA) plans that didn’t meet the federal requirements of an HSA.
ï‚· Moda – Wanted to charge the same rates for plans with different benefits.
Kreidler went on to say he supports “competition in the market” but has responsibility to ensure plans meet state and federal legal requirements.
“It’s also critical that if consumers buy a plan, they’re actually able to use the benefits they’re promised,” he stated. “While I wish all of the companies who applied had succeeded, I had to hold everyone to the same standards. I remain optimistic about next year, when I fully expect more insurers to apply and more to succeed.”
Freshman state Rep. Drew MacEwen, a Republican from Union, has opened a new district office today in the big city – Shelton. He’s holding a grand opening and open house this afternoon at 4 p.m. with a ribbon cutting and remarks.
An announcement from House Republicans says the new office is at 327 W. Railroad Ave., in downtown Shelton. MacEwen plans to provide refreshments - and a few words.
In his first session, MacEwen passed a bill (House Bill 1209) to extend a licensing and inspection program for Chrismas tree growers another six years to 2020. It includes licensing of growers, inspections of crops, and rules for destroying diseased plants that if unchecked could lead to a state quarantine, according to testimony on the measure.
MacEwen also voted for a $3.6 billion capital budget that included money for projects in the 35th district. His press release on projects had this list:
· City of Shelton wastewater treatment plant: $1.5 million
· Mason County Transit and Community Center: $800,000
· Safe Harbor, an enterprise to strengthen youth and families: $100,000
· Belfair Senior Center: $500,000
· Skokomish River floodplain restoration and management: $1.38 million
· Boys and Girls Club of South Puget Sound: $800,000
· Deschutes River hatcheries: $7.3 million
MacEwen serves in the 35th district, winning the open seat left by the retirement last year of Fred Finn, a Thurston County Democrat. The 35th includes northwest Thurston County and a sliver of suburban areas south of Olympia, all of Mason County and parts of Bremerton in Kitsap County.
After illness forced him to step aside as House Republican leader in mid-April, state Rep. Richard DeBolt of Chehalis enjoyed a short stint as a rank-and-file member. Time is up on that role: The Republican caucus just appointed the nine-term Chehalis lawmaker as ranking GOP member on the House Capital Budget Committee.
DeBolt, who he led the Republican caucus in 2004 and again during 2006-13, moves into the role formerly played by Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake. Warnick was named caucus chair during the reorganization that put Rep. Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish into DeBolt’s old role after he stepped down.
In his new role DeBolt will work with Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, on state construction budgets.
Earlier this year, Dunshee and Warnick had worked with Senate counterparts to craft a $3.6 billion capital construction budget for 2013-15 that included about $28.2 million for flood-control efforts along the Chehalis River, which DeBolt had sought.
DeBolt and Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said at the time the funding came out of a recommendation by a governor’s work-group that represented the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis and Thurston, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties, and it had endorsement of all members of the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority.
“Too often in government we see partisan fighting instead of problem solving. On this issue all 12 legislators whose districts the Chehalis River runs through came together with a unified voice to help get this done,” DeBolt said in a statement.
Dunshee said the flood-control money was for projects, including a weir rather than a large dam high up on the river’s headwaters. It also had money for some home buyouts.
Despite the comity on this year’s capital budget, DeBolt sometimes tangled with the liberal and outspoken Dunshee, who has a strong environmental record that often is at odds with the House Republicans’ deregulation goals.
DeBolt's role change comes as his onetime 20th district seatmate, Rep. Gary Alexander, says he plans to leave the House after the Nov. 5 election. Alexander, who is running for re-election to a second position, Thurston County auditor, first was elected to the House in 1996, the same year as DeBolt, but redistricting moved Alexander into the 2nd district for the 2012 elections.
State Rep. Gary Alexander of ThurstonCounty says he’s leaving the Legislature at the end of the year – win or lose in the Thurston County auditor’s race. That departure will open up a seat in the libertarian- leaning 2nd district that usually favors Republicans.
The Republican confirmed Monday his plans to step down – even if he loses re-election to the Thurston County auditor’s job he was appointed to in January to replace Kim Wyman (who is now secretary of state).
Alexander faces Democrat Mary Hall in the election deciding who serves the final year left in Wyman’s original four-year term. Hall lives in Lacey and is Pierce County’s elections supervisor.
“I intend to leave my seat in the Legislature when I am elected auditor,’’ Alexander said. If he loses to Hall on Nov. 5, “I’ll finish out the year but not the term.’’
Both candidates’ names are on Tuesday’s primary ballot and both automatically move on to the November election.Alexander won re-election to a two-year term in the House last fall in the 2nd district after serving eight terms in the 20th district, which is centered in Lewis County. When he first ran he embraced a three-term pledge but decided to stay longer, and voters agreed with that decision.
Key House and Senate Democrats put out a statement Monday saying their reading of the law is that full funding of basic education – in response to a state Supreme Court ruling – must be completed in the 2017-18 school year.
The question came up last week during a discussion by the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation. The Associated Press story on the meeting suggested some lawmakers might seek to add an extra year to the timeline.
But the joint statement by Democrats – including Sen. David Frockt of Seattle, Sen. Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge Island, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan of Covington, and Rep. Jamie Pedersen of Seattle – makes clear that they think 2018 means the school year that begins in September 2017 and ends in June 2018.
Rep. Gary Alexander, the House Republican lead on budget matters, said Monday he also agrees 2017-18 is the target date lawmakers must hit.
“I’m fine with that,’’ Alexander said. What it means for budget writers is that the 2017-19 budget must include the funding upgrades in the first year of the biennium.
The Democrats cited a school reform bill from 2010, House Bill 2776, as pegging the date that the state Supreme Court would look to in enforcing its McCleary decision that said the state was failing to meet its constitutional duty to fully fund K-12 schools:
“We believe that the Legislature’s top priority over the next four years must be implementing the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision and fulfilling our constitutional and moral obligation to fully fund basic education.
“The Court pointed to HB 2261 and HB 2776 as reforms that, if implemented and funded, would fulfill that obligation. While some may argue that the language from the original HB 2261 passed in 2009 was ambiguous in terms of the exact full implementation date, it was clearly stated in HB 2776 (in RCWs 28A.150.260 & 28A.150.315), passed the next year and clarifying the timing of some enhancements to basic education, that the intended completion date for implementation was the 2017-18 school year.
“Democrats are committed to fulfilling our constitutional and moral obligation to fully fund basic education, and believe doing so on the schedule called for by the Supreme Court allows for differential phase-in of some enhancements but ultimately requires full implementation of all components of the program of basic education by the 2017-18 school year.”
Alexander said Republicans took the lead this year in making sure $1 billion in new funds went to K-12 without general tax increases.
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