Issaquah lawmakers rank high on missed votes tally

June 14, 2011

The lawmakers representing Issaquah and the 5th Legislative District in Olympia ranked near the top for the number of missed votes during the 2011 regular and special sessions.
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Legislators salvage funding for Issaquah arts programs

June 7, 2011

Shakespeare on the Green is due to return to the Issaquah Community Center next month — and the “Macbeth” performance is safe, after state legislators approved a last-minute measure to shore up funding for the King County cultural services agency, 4Culture.

In addition to Shakespeare on the Green — from the Seattle Shakespeare Co. — dollars from 4Culture fund dozens of other programs in the community. Overall, 4Culture allocated more than $50,000 to arts, cultural and heritage organizations in the Issaquah area for 2011. Some organizations, such as the Seattle Shakespeare Co., could not offer Issaquah programs without the funding.

City Arts Coordinator Amy Dukes said funding from 4Culture is important because dollars allotted through the Arts Sustained Support Program can be used for operating costs.

“That’s really hard funding to replace,” she said. “Most funders want their funding to go toward specific programming, so the fact that 4Culture gives out this funding that’s unrestricted is a huge benefit.”

Lawmakers passed the 4Culture legislation as the last bill before the special legislative session adjourned May 25.

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Legislators preserve dollars for trail projects

May 31, 2011

Plans to acquire land for a Cougar Mountain trail and upgrade trail bridges in the Tiger Mountain State Forest received a last-minute boost from state lawmakers before a special legislative session ended late May 25.

Before sending the $32 billion state budget to Gov. Chris Gregoire, legislators allocated $42 million to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The slice for the Issaquah area amounts to more than $1.5 million.

In addition to the Issaquah Alps projects, lawmakers directed funds to Duthie Hill Park and the East Lake Sammamish Trail.

The proposed budget recommends $500,000 for King County to acquire land for Precipice Trail near Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park and $247,870 to upgrade Tiger Mountain trail bridges. In addition, the proposal recommends $500,000 for the East Lake Sammamish Trail project and $317,477 for Duthie Hill Park.

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State removes hurdle for cities in need of disaster assistance

May 24, 2011

Floodwaters inundated Snoqualmie in January 2009 and, even as nearby Issaquah dried out from a major flood, officials sent equipment to the other flood-plagued city.

Issaquah and other local governments previously needed to negotiate a patchwork of interlocal agreements among local governments, law enforcement agencies and emergency service providers in order to receive aid from other jurisdictions during a disaster.

Under legislation signed last month, asking for help from other agencies in Washington is simpler for Issaquah and other local governments.

Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said the measure allows local governments to request aid from other jurisdictions in Washington, even if the parties do not have interlocal agreements in place.

“Prior to this, it was easier to bring resources in from out of state than it was from other counties,” he said.

The measure could serve a crucial need during a regional disaster, such as a major earthquake.

“Typically, during those types of emergencies, all of the jurisdictions in King County are in the same boat, if you will,” Heath said. “We’re not in a position where we can share resources with each other, because we’re all maxed out. So, we need to bring resources in from outside.”

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State shores up funding for King County Flood Control District

May 6, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. May 6, 2011

King County leaders praised state legislators and Gov. Chris Gregoire for supporting a measure to shore up funding for the King County Flood Control District, the agency responsible for flood-protection policies, programs and projects.

Gregoire signed a measure Thursday to protect funding for the district. The bill exempts the district from the statewide property rate tax cap by protecting up to 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The exemption is in effect from next year until 2017.

Until the governor signed the measure, the district faced a steep drop-off in funding due to the decline in housing values and a state cap on property tax rates.

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Legislators approve $30 fee for state recreation lands, open spaces

April 26, 2011

Outdoors enthusiasts could start paying $30 to park at state trailheads and use state parks starting in July.

In a party-line vote April 21, the state House of Representatives passed legislation to create a Discover Pass for state parks and open spaces, including Lake Sammamish State Park and Tiger Mountain State Forest near Issaquah. The state Senate passed the measure in a bipartisan vote the previous day.

The legislation now heads to the governor. Gov. Chris Gregoire also proposed a user fee for state parks in a proposed budget released in December.

Once the legislation reaches the governor’s desk, she has 20 days to sign the measure into law.

Users could use the annual Discover Pass to park at trailheads and other state-managed lands. For users uninterested in the annual parking pass, the legislation proposes a $10 day-use fee for using the lands. Otherwise, violators could face a ticket.

The proposal attracted broad support from outdoor recreation groups, including the Washington Trails Association.

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Legislators approve $30 fee for state recreation lands

April 21, 2011

NEW — 6:45 p.m. April 21, 2011

Outdoors enthusiasts could start paying $30 to park at state trailheads and use state parks starting in July.

In a party-line vote Thursday, the state House of Representatives passed legislation to create a Discover Pass for state parks and open spaces, including Lake Sammamish State Park and Tiger Mountain State Forest near Issaquah.

The state Senate passed the measure in a bipartisan vote Wednesday.

The legislation now heads to the governor. Gov. Chris Gregoire also proposed a user fee for state parks in a proposed budget released in December.

Users could use the annual Discover Pass to park at trailheads and other state-managed lands. For users uninterested in the annual parking pass, the legislation proposes a $10 day-use fee for using the lands. Otherwise, violators could face a ticket.

The proposal attracted broad support from outdoor recreation groups, including the Washington Trails Association.

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Issaquah senators introduce bill to nix teacher seniority

February 3, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. Feb. 3, 2011

The state could require school districts to use evaluation ratings to determine teacher layoffs, under a bill introduced by Issaquah legislators Steve Litzow and Rodney Tom.

The state senators aim to scrap the “last in, first out” seniority rule used to determine teacher layoffs during budget cuts and enrollment slumps.

“When we lay off newer teachers who have proven their effectiveness in the classroom, we are not only denying today’s students access to a quality learning experience, but future students as well,” Bellevue Democrat Tom said in a statement. “Many of those teachers never return to the classroom, seeking new professions that reward great performance and going the extra mile.”

The senators cited a recent study by the University of Washington Center for Education Data & Research, and said the research indicated the practice is inefficient economically and educationally.

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State panel tackles congressional, legislative districts

January 25, 2011

The process to reset the state’s legislative and congressional district started Jan. 18, after the members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission took office.

The bipartisan commission includes four voting members: Democrats Tim Ceis, a former Seattle deputy mayor; and Dean Foster, a former chief clerk for the state House of Representatives; and Republicans Slade Gorton, a former U.S. senator, and Tom Huff, a former state budget chairman.

The commission must select a fifth member to serve as a nonvoting chairperson.

Washington is in line to add a 10th congressional seat in 2012. Most political observers expect the district to be created on the Eastside or in the South Puget Sound region.

The change reflects the population figures released as part of the 2010 Census. The state population has swelled by 14.1 percent, since the 2000 Census, to 6,724,540 people.

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Panel prepares to redraw state’s legislative map

January 18, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Jan. 18, 2011

The process to reset the state’s legislative and congressional district starts Tuesday, as the members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission take office.

The bipartisan commission includes four voting members: Democrats Tim Ceis, a former Seattle deputy mayor, and Dean Foster, a former chief clerk for the state House of Representatives, and Republicans Slade Gorton, a former U.S. senator, and Tom Huff, a former state budget chairman.

Chief Justice Barbara Madsen is scheduled to swear in the redistricting commission members at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The commission then selects a fifth member to serve as a nonvoting chairperson.

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