OLYMPIA – Could 2017 be the year Washington emerges as the first state to tax emissions of a greenhouse gas? Barring some unusual turn of events as legislators finalize the state budget here, don’t count on it. But that assessment comes with an asterisk. There are signs that business opposition to the idea is softening. Meanwhile, environmentalists and their allies have made it clear that if the Legislature doesn’t act this spring, they’ll bring to issue to voters next year.
Despite the Flint, Michigan lead-poisoning crisis and the fact that Washington state officials detect 10 lead-poisoned kids a week, bills to reduce children’s lead exposure are struggling in the Washington Legislature.
An abruptly canceled meeting, a moonlighting state senator and the nascent Trump administration all had something to do with many environmental and clean-energy priorities becoming casualties before the Washington Legislature could even reach the halfway mark in its 2017 session. Other priorities soldier on, but the road ahead is uphill.
Will abused and neglected children in Washington’s foster-care system be rescued by a $10 million reorganization of the state’s state’s system to care for foster children? Even if the Washington Legislature comes up with the $10 million, what will really change?
An October Washington Supreme Court decision found that many counties had over-allocated their available water. Now thousands of rural homeowners are stuck in limbo as counties grapple with implementing the decision and turn to the Legislature for help.
Foster youth in Washington state rally at the state capitol to demand the state Legislature better fund the foster-care system and make provisions to do more for foster youth who often become homeless when they “age out” of foster care.
Washington’s shortage of foster parents to care for abused and neglected kids is so overburdened that kids who are shuffled among hotels and emergency placements often miss school, further compromising their chances to become successful adults.
InvestigateWest reached a milestone this week when we co-hosted a large public-policy forum on the State Capitol grounds in Olympia.The subject was stormwater, the polluted rainwater runoff I’ve been writing about for perhaps a decade now, with particular emphasis on its effects on Puget Sound, where it is the largest source of toxics. For two years running environmentalists have unsuccessfully advanced plans in Olympia to raise money to deal with the problem. More bills are pending in the current legislative session, so it seemed like a logical time to raise the issue’s profile and encourage a frank discussion.That we got. And while we never expected to resolve the entire issue at a lunchtime forum, it did feel like progress to hear all the panelists acknowledge that stormwater is a difficult problem that somehow we are going to have to deal with collectively.Seven legislators and several legislative aides joined environmentalists, business lobbyists and at least three journalists in the audience of 70. Overall it had the tone of a civil discussion with respect for all points of view – the kind of civic discourse often lacking in this age so seemingly dominated by vitriol. Once upon a time, news organizations did more of this kind of thing. The presidential debates of 1956 and 1960 may be the best-known examples. Journalists do still occasionally organize these events, but it seems to me that more of this sort of discussion could be helpful to citizens and policy-makers on all sides of many issues.Co-hosting were Sightline Institute and Washington Policy Center, the two think tanks that have most carefully followed the stormwater story in Washington. I was fortunate to work with Brandon Houskeeper, a policy analyst at WPC, and Lisa Stiffler, journalism fellow at Sightline.
Please join InvestigateWest, the Washington Policy Center and Sightline Institute for an informative conversation about stormwater, the biggest threat to clean water in the Pacific Northwest. It’s next Wednesday, March 23, from Noon to 1:15 p.m., Conference room B/C, John Cherberg Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia.According to state officials, stormwater pollution is the top threat to the health of Puget Sound. Over the last several years Washington lawmakers have considered various measures to protect Puget Sound, including proposals to increase taxes or put fees on chemicals, such as oil and grease, to pay for projects to clean up stormwater. But with local and state budgets stretched to the breaking point, what actions can be taken to deal with this problem? What can be done about polluted runoff that will help the environment, but won’t hamper the economy Now is the time to have this discussion. The Department of Ecology is drafting regulations to require a more widespread use of “green” stormwater solutions and the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) is receiving public comments on its draft Strategic Science Plan, which will be used by the future Legislatures.Format: Panel discussion/Q-and-A followed by moderator-led interaction with audience members.Bring your questions and suggestions!Featuring: – William Ruckelshaus, former two-time administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and founding chair of the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council- Josh Baldi, special assistant to the director, Washington Department of Ecology- Grant Nelson, Association of Washington Business, Government RelationsPanel of questioners: – Brandon Houskeeper, Policy Analyst, Center for the Environment, Washington Policy Center, www.washingtonpolicy.org