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January 21, 2010

Jan. 20: 5% pay cut/ furlough bill decried

Jan. 19: LM Reporting Workshop next week

Jan. 15: Labor secures health bill changes

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Labor-backed green jobs bill passes House, 57-41

HB 2561, the Jobs Act of 2010 sponsored by Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish) and strongly supported by the Washington State Labor Council, passed the State House of Representatives by a 57-41 vote on Wednesday. Also referred to as the "Green Jobs Bill," it would create up to 38,000 jobs in every corner of the state by fixing public schools and universities, making them more energy efficient. Read more.

►  From AP -- House approves bonds for school upgrades -- Voters would decide whether to launch a statewide package of energy-efficient school makeovers under a bill approved Wednesday by the state House of Representatives.

►  Today from AP -- Washington gets $13.5 million for green jobs -- Sens. Cantwell and Murray say that three projects will receive money as part of $100 million in federal grants.


Unemployment news:

►  From AP --  Washington unemployment rate jumps to 9.5% -- The December unemployment rate jumped half a percentage point from the month before.

►  Local coverage -- Benton/Franklin (8.1%▲), Clark (14.3%▲), Cowlitz (13.1%), Kitsap (7.5%▲), Pierce (9.5%▲), Seattle metro (9.2%▲) Snohomish (10.3%▲), Spokane (9.3%▲), Thurston (7.6%▲), Walla Walla (6.7%▲), (Whatcom 8.3%▲), Yakima (10.9%▲)

►  In today's Seattle Times -- More layoffs likely next year in construction sector -- No industry has been hit as hard as construction, which accounted for nearly a third of all jobs lost in 2009. More than one of every six construction jobs that existed a year ago has vanished. And the cuts are likely to keep coming. An AGC survey finds that 47% of Washington state contractors said they expected more layoffs in 2010 -- the highest rate among the 29 states in the survey.

►  In today's (Everett) Herald -- Long-term growth concerns state's chief economist -- Arun Raha notes that the nation's big banks are in better shape and lending money again, but regional banks continue to struggle, and that's where small businesses get their money. He said small businesses account for 64% of the new jobs in this country. (This is why the WSLC is urging the White House and Congress to funnel federal TARP dollars into community banks. Sen. Patty Murray has introduced legislation to provide $30 billion for this purpose.)

►  At Huffington Post -- Obama's job #1: More jobs -- In the new year, the White House already had begun focusing greater attention on the nation's angst and anger over a range of economic issues, including unemployment persisting near 10%, government expansion, Wall Street excesses and federal deficits. Officials said that shift will intensify now.


Unemployment Insurance news:

►  In today's (Everett) Herald -- Don't make it even harder (editorial) -- Employers in our state recently learned that the rates they pay for unemployment insurance are going up. Way up. In some cases, more than 1,300%. HB 2553 would make things worse, raising business costs by expanding already generous benefits. It would broaden the reasons that an employee could voluntarily quit a job and qualify for unemployment benefits, and allow benefits for jobless workers seeking only part-time work. 

(In 2003, Boeing and the business community wrote -- and the 787-coveting Legislature promptly approved -- a new U.I. tax rate system that was heavily experience-rated. In other words, more so than most other states, U.I. rates for Washington employers go up dramatically at the worst possible time: when they are struggling and are forced to lay off workers. The WSLC warned against this volatile system to no avail. Today's lesson from our state's business lobbying groups: "Stop us before we legislate again!")

►  At -- Chopp: Business complaining about own tax ideas -- Says the House Speaker: "The (U.I.) tax system was actually their proposal from a few years ago. We adopted their tax system, so it's pretty ironic if they're complaining about their own tax system."


Decisive perhaps, but not compassionate

The governor has called for "decisive, compassionate leadership," but her supplemental budget would close institutions for developmentally disabled children and adults, essentially kicking some of our most vulnerable people out of the state's house. Plus, it would cost more money -- now and in the future. Read our Legislative Update from Jan. 15.

More legislative news: 

►  In today's News Tribune -- Clean Water bill helps both environment, state economy (guest column by WSBCTC's David Johnson and WEC's Joan Crooks) -- A coalition of more than 25 environmental organizations, the Washington State Labor Council, the Washington Association of Cities and local governments across the state have made funding for storm water infrastructure projects a top priority for this year. The Working for Clean Water bill being considered by the Legislature would create jobs, help rebuild local economies, and clean up polluted waterways such as Puget Sound and the Spokane River. That is the kind of investment we need to make in these tough times for working families, our children and the environment.

►  In today's Spokesman-Review -- State budget plans in "fuzzy zone" -- State legislators had been advised to draft state health care legislation with an eye to what the federal government would do and new money it might provide. “We’ll continue that work, but we have greater uncertainty about what may happen,” says Rep. John Driscoll (D-Spokane). “We’re in a real fuzzy zone.”

►  In today's Tri-City Herald -- Parties promote jobs bills -- Jobs are the talk of the Legislature, but Democrats and Republicans again differ on the best strategies for getting people back to work.

►  In the News Tribune -- AP needs remedial lesson in math, logic and jobs (column by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and Rep. Judy Clibborn) -- An AP report claiming stimulus spending on roads and bridges has had no effect on local unemployment is laughable on its face. Transportation projects mean jobs. Imagine all the projects funded by the stimulus spending and all the people who are working on them, and then eliminate them. That’s how many more people would be out of work, how much money wouldn’t be spent in our communities, and how much more we’d be paying out in unemployment payments for the unfortunate people who lost their jobs.

►  In today's Olympian -- Critics seeks changes to agency reorganization -- Gregoire's proposal to revamp the state Commerce Department is running into concerns from housing advocates and other community advocates, and a reform bill now is likely to be amended.


Massachusetts redux:

►  At AFL-CIO Now -- Trumka: Mass. voters say Democrats haven't gone far enough -- When Massachusetts voters cast their ballots for Scott Brown on Tuesday, they were sending a message to Washington lawmakers that they have not gone far enough to create jobs, reform health care and fix our nation’s economy, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. In a video message, Trumka says AFL-CIO exit polls found that "they believe that Wall Street’s being taken care of. They believe that corporate America is being taken care of. They believe the insurers are being taken care of. But they don’t think that workers are being taken care of."

►  In The Hill -- Voters sent message about economy, AFL-CIO says -- Exit poll finds anxiety about jobs and the economy, and about losing health benefits under the reform plan.

►  At -- Mass.ively happy: State GOP likes its 2010 chances -- "We're very excited," says party boss Luke Esser. "Republicans are going to be poised for a strong comeback this year. Scott Brown really showed us the way."

►  At -- Castillo, state Republicans celebrate Massachusetts win -- David Castillo, an Olympia Republican seeking Rep. Baird's 3rd District seat, says: "The election of Scott Brown as the United States Senator from Massachusetts is an historic event. His election shows people are tired of business-as-usual in Washington D.C." 


Health care reform news:

►  In The Hill -- Labor groups OK with House passage of Senate bill, with a caveat -- Both the AFL-CIO and the SEIU say they want the House to pass the Senate bill in its current form, but only if Democratic leaders agree to adjust the health benefits tax separately. It would be relatively easy to modify that measure using a 51-vote budget reconciliation measure.

►  Today from AP -- Democrats begin discussing smaller health reform bill -- President Obama and his Democratic allies are conceding for the first time that they may have to accept a less ambitious health overhaul bill than the massive one they've struggled for a year to assemble.

►  In today's News Tribune -- What now? Dicks, Murray, Smith unsure -- Noting that the problems with the health insurance system haven't gone away, Sen. Patty Murray wants to move forward with reform but is not sure how to proceed. Other members of the state congressional delegation said Democrats need to step back and consider changes to the current bills.


Local news:

►  In the (Aberdeen) Daily World -- "No confidence" letter released -- Frustration over budget cuts and the direction of the Road Department is what caused the Public Services Division of AFSCME Local 275 to issue a vote of “no confidence” in Road Engineer Russ Esses.

►  In today's News Tribune -- Foss hotel plan clears hurdle in Tacoma -- An enhanced design for the proposed new hotel passed a critical review on its way back to the Tacoma City Council.


National news:

►  Today from Reuters -- Supreme Court rejects corporate campaign spending limits -- The United States Supreme Court struck down on Thursday long-standing limits on corporate spending in U.S. political campaigns. The 5-4 ruling was a defeat for the Obama administration and the campaign finance law's supporters who said that ending the limits would unleash a flood of corporate money into the political system to promote or defeat candidates. The ruling by the conservative majority transforms the political landscape and the rules on how money can be spent in future presidential and congressional elections, which already have broken new spending records with each political cycle.

►  At Huffington Post -- K Street thrived in 2009; Chamber of Commerce shatters spending record -- The lobbying industry demonstrated its resilience last year in the face of the recession. The Chamber of Commerce, lobbying muscle for all manner of businesses, spent an eye-popping $71 million on lobbying in the fourth quarter of 2009 alone, bringing its yearly total to $123 million, almost double the $62 million it spent in 2008 -- and more than it's ever spent.

►  At Huffington Post -- Goldman Sachs profits hit $4.8 BILLION, pay up 48% over 2008 -- Goldman Sachs earned $4.79 billion in the fourth quarter and rewarded its employees with $16.2 billion in salaries and bonuses for 2009. For the full year, Goldman earned $13.4 billion. 

►  In The Nation -- Obama's pro-union nominees to Labor Relations Board stalled -- A pitched battle is taking place behind closed doors over the Obama administration's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It's unfortunate that the conflict has avoided the glare of the public spotlight, because the outcome of this partisan skirmish may be more important than that over the labor movement's number-one legislative priority, the Employee Free Choice Act.



'Green Jobs' bill passes House, 57-41
Supported by WSLC, Working Families Caucus, it would create 38,000 jobs

HB 2561, the Jobs Act of 2010 sponsored by Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish) and strongly supported by the Washington State Labor Council, passed the State House of Representatives by a 57-41 vote on Wednesday. Also referred to as the "Green Jobs Bill," it would create up to 38,000 jobs in every corner of the state by fixing public schools and universities, making them more energy efficient.

"Given the dire need for jobs, especially in the construction industry, this legislation couldn't come at a better time," said Rick Bender, President of the Washington State Labor Council. "We applaud the House for acting quickly on this measure and thank all of the State Representatives who supported it."

The 57-41 vote went largely on party lines, with all Democrats voting "yes," except Reps. John Driscoll (D-Spokane), Kelli Linville (D-Bellingham), Mark Miloscia (D-Federal Way) and Alex Wood (D-Spokane) who joined all House Republicans in voting "no."

The Working Families Caucus of state representatives came out in strong support of the bill prior to this week's vote. Here is a news release distributed by that Caucus on Tuesday:

Working Families Caucus backs Rep. Dunshee’s Jobs Act

OLYMPIA (Tuesday, Jan. 19) -- The Working Families Caucus of the State House of Representatives has made job creation its biggest priority for the 2010 session. That's why the caucus is leading the charge in support of The Jobs Act (HB 2561) sponsored by Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-44th. The Jobs Act of 2010 will create 38,000 jobs across the state by funding construction of energy-saving improvements at public buildings.

"Given the dire budget predicament, the Jobs Act represents our single biggest legislative opportunity to create jobs in Washington State," said Rep. Tami Green, D-28th, chair of the Working Families Caucus. "These 38,000 jobs move us on the road to economic recovery through clean energy and innovative retrofits of our schools. The energy savings will more than repay the investment in just a few years, and our schools get greener and safer in the process. It’s a win-win-win proposal and the Working Families Caucus is proud to strongly support it and applauds the House Democratic Caucus for considering early action on this bill."

The Jobs Act would take advantage of our state’s excellent bond rating -- its highest in 35 years -- to issue $850 million in general obligation bonds, which are expected to leverage some $2 billion of energy repair and retrofitting work at public schools, state colleges and universities, and other public facilities. The bond authorization would be put before voters in the general election this fall.

"This investment will immediately return more than twice that amount in matching funds for our state to maximize job creation and energy savings," said Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-32nd, a member of the Working Families Caucus. "In just a few years, the energy savings would more than pay for that initial investment and it will continue to save us money down the road. The jobs bill provides schools that are healthy for students, teachers and the environment. Our Schools will have ample natural light, high quality acoustics and air that is safe to breath."

Each year, the energy efficiency work performed on these Jobs Act projects would be the equivalent of taking 105,000 houses off the grid. They would save taxpayers an estimated $190 million in lower energy costs annually.

"The state already does this on a small scale," said Rep. Dunshee, the bill’s sponsor. “It is not just an experiment or a theory. It is proven and it works."

The Working Families Caucus is an association of Washington State Legislators who create a forum to discuss policy, develop legislation, exchange information and work with other progressive organizations on key policy issues which impact working families.


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