State Senate OKs bill tying teacher evaluations to layoffs

Under current statute, when budget cuts necessitate reductions in force (RIFs), it’s the newest-hired teachers who get cut loose. Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, amended a broad education reform bill to propose that teachers who score lowest on performance evaluations be first in line for layoffs instead.

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Wash. bill regulating medical marijuana advances

Washington voters made medical marijuana legal in the state in 1998, but because federal law still finds marijuana for any use to be illegal, the methods by which patients accessed the drug have existed in a legal gray area for the past decade or so. This bill seeks to regulate and license medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as provide some arrest protection for prescribing doctors and their patients.

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Higher ed takes a beating in upcoming budget

Weekender: Higher education has come out the loser in the past few budget cycles, with state universities and colleges losing about half of their state support since the beginning of the 2009-2011 biennium if the current budget proposals pass. This means higher tuition for students, fewer support services, and more out-of-state students to collect greater tuition revenue than in-state students provide. Bottom line: Get out fast.

Also in: BusinessWeek

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Think tank sues Wash. gov. in public records case

There are over 300 exemptions to Washington’s broad-sweeping public disclosure act, but conservative think tank The Freedom Foundation says the governor’s office is citing one that doesn’t exist when it withholds documents: executive privilege. The foundation is suing Gov. Chris Gregoire for release of the documents and any penalties incurred by withholding them originally.

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House unveils $3.13B capital-budget proposal

Nearly half of the construction budget is paid for by bonds. The proposal includes $718.5 million in construction assistance grants for schools, something capital budget chair Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, is excited about because it means following through for all the school districts that “busted their butts” to pass levies.

Also in: BusinessWeek

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Cougar-hunting bill still faces opposition

A bill to extend a pilot program allowing the use of hounds to hunt cougars is facing stiffer opposition than when it passed through its original committee; Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, has raised concerns over the validity of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s assertion that hound-hunting is necessary to reduce cougar complaints, and wants the department to undergo an outside peer review process to ensure that its science is sound.

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Senate transportation budget nearly $9 billion

A day after the House unveiled its transportation budget for the 2011-2013 biennium, the Senate released its version: It’s almost identical to the House’s proposal, but assumes the passage of a bill imposing a $100 car tab fee on electric vehicles to make up for lost gas tax revenue from those drivers.

Also in: BusinessWeek

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House transportation budget pares ferry cuts

A few weeks before the overall operating budget comes out, the House Transportation committee rolled out its proposal for the coming biennium. The plan includes fewer cuts to the Washington State Ferries than were initially proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, but funding for transportation is still hurting by declining gas tax revenue as fuel efficiency increases. Lawmakers admitted to “patching it through;” this budget is a bridge to get the state to 2013.

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Former US attorney in favor of legalizing pot

A bill to legalize and regulate marijuana in Washington state didn’t make it far in the Legislature, but many people think it should have: Former US attorney John McKay joins the ranks of Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson and The Seattle Times in calling for the repeal of marijuana prohibition. Supporters say that keeping pot illegal has allowed black markets to thrive and caused drug violence to erupt along the US-Mexico border; legalizing it would bring it into a realm where it could be taxed and regulated, and could generate jobs and revenue for the state.

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Bill would allow paying surrogates in Wash.

Under current Washington law, compensated surrogacy is a criminal offense. A bill introduced by Jamie Pedersen, who with his partner has four children by a surrogate from California, seeks to make compensated surrogacy contracts legal and strictly regulated as a form of protection for surrogates, intended parents and children.

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