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Marijuana barred in 40 Percent of Washington

 Nieto, LiliaSince the passage of I-502 in 2012, a number of local governments have made the decision to bar the growth, processing and/or sale of recreational marijuana within their city limits. The Municipal Research and Services Center has been tracking the implementation of these bans and notes that they now span more than 40 percent of the state.

That figure combines both municipalities that have laid down straight bans as well as those that have issued temporary moratoriums. 41 cities have now banned the sale of recreational marijuana within city limits, as have Pierce, Clark and Yakima County. Another 80 cities have put a hold on all permits associated with the recreational industry while they determine what other policies are needed to accommodate such stores.

The growing number of bans and moratoriums comes after an August ruling by a Pierce County judge affirming their legality. The City of Fife’s ban was challenged by an aspiring marijuana retailer whose business application was denied, claiming that the ban violated the rigorous regulatory system established under the initiative. The judge sided with the City, saying that I-502 allowed, but didn’t mandate, recreational marijuana.

The case is being appealed and could wind up in the State Supreme Court.

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New report: big corporations worried about shrinking middle class

The average American family makes less today than it did 15 years ago, while bills for a family of four went up by $10,000.

Those two facts are hitting home with the top 100 retail companies in America, says the Center for American Progress, which analyzed statements big retailers made in official stock filings.

Here’s part of the story from Huffington Post:

Researchers analyzed the most recent SEC 10-K filings of the largest 100 retailers in the country and found that more than two-thirds of these corporations issued warnings to investors that profits could be hampered by flat wages, high unemployment and low consumer spending.

Sixty-eight percent of the top 100 retail companies in the U.S. — a group that includes, Walmart, Apple, McDonald’s and J.C. Penney — say the country’s stagnant wages pose a major threat to their bottom lines, according to a new report by the Center For American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

“Both corporate America and our relentlessly squeezed middle class are stuck in a vicious cycle of low wages and low demand, an economic crisis that trickle-down solutions can never fix,” wrote Brendan V. Duke and Ike Lee, authors of the CAP report.

Corporate profits are at a record high and the stock market is soaring. Yet the gains in wealth are being concentrated at the top, and the gap between rich and poor growing bigger than any time since the Great Depression.

Retailers feel the pinch of the shrinking middle class, since 70 percent of economic activity is based on consumer spending.

More from the HuffPost story:

Even chains like Burger King acknowledge their sales are dampened by low wages.

“We believe that our sales, guest traffic and profitability are strongly correlated to consumer discretionary spending, which is influenced by general economic conditions, unemployment levels, the availability of discretionary income, and, ultimately, consumer confidence,” the burger chain wrote in its 2013 filing. Big companies are worried about the decline of the middle class.


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Crowds flock to Seattle Center for free health care

Seattle Center is gearing up for an onslaught of visitors this weekend, many of whom will begin waiting in the ticket lines before dawn. But it’s not a music festival or championship game that’s drawing thousands to Key Arena this time. This weekend the crowds will be made up of individuals and families from across the region standing in line for free medical care.

Despite the fact that our state recently signed up 1.3 million people for free or subsidized health coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder, there are still thousands who can’t afford regular visits to the doctor or dentist. Without routine preventative care, like regular teeth cleanings and wellness check-ups, these folks live in fear of illness and injury, sometimes with chronic pain.

Thanks to a bill passed last session allowing out-of-state volunteers to participate, the four-day clinic will offer a wide range of services to over a thousand patients each day. Still, countless families will be turned away at the end of the weekend, and even more uninsured people around the state won’t be able to make the trek to Seattle for free care.

Washington has made great strides in expanding access to affordable health care but about 10% of our population continues to go without coverage. The crowds at this weekend’s clinic will be a testament to just how much work we have to do before every Washingtonian can access the health care services they need—without waiting in line at 4am.

Watch this short video for more information:

 Nieto, Lilia

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A simple, elegant way to reduce crime and save money

More than half of inmates in state prisons and local jails are mentally ill.

They get medicine for those illnesses while behind bars. So what happens when they get out?

This is a big problem for Washington state and for America, which releases 650,000 prisoners a year. As this piece in shows, about 40 percent of those ex-cons will wind up back behind bars.

The cost to taxpayers is high, since it’s $100,000 to build a single prison cell and about $40,000 to guard and feed one prisoner for a year. That doesn’t tally other costs for judges, prosecutors, police officers and courts.

What if a simple, cheap step could help stop that revolving door?

Iowa is one state experimenting with such a reform.

Here’s how the story describes it:

Iowa is experimenting with an elegantly simple solution. Under the Central Pharmacy Pilot Project, an inmate is still given his 30-day supply of medication upon his release but is also handed prescriptions for an additional 60 days of medication.

The pilot program has been running for less than two years, but the early returns are promising. Through the program’s first nine months—the last time the stats were compiled—none of the 165 participants had been charged with a violent crime in the first 90 days after his release, compared to 1.6 percent of a similar population of severely mentally ill former inmates who were not in the program. The gains were even more pronounced when it came to the type of smaller violations that can land an ex-con back in prison for violating the conditions of his release. Less than 3 percent of participants suffering from less severe but still chronic mental illnesses had their releases revoked, compared with 11.3 percent of nonparticipants with similar conditions.

There’s also a case to be made for substance abuse treatment, since a large percentage of inmates either committed their original crime while high or got involved with property crimes to feed an addiction.

A study by the Pew Trusts showed the benefits of a two-pronged approach along those lines. Here’s a short summary of their conclusions:

Research has shown that health care, particularly in the areas of substance abuse and mental illness, reduces the likelihood of ex-offenders returning to prison.

Researchers and advocacy groups say the benefits of providing health care to ex-felons do not end with the ex-felons themselves. Prisons have high rates of hepatitis C, HIV and tuberculosis. Untreated former prisoners carry those diseases into communities on the outside and spread those infections.


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Is German higher-ed really tuition free?

Yes it is!

And not just for Germans.

All German universities are now free to Americans and all other international students. Just this week the last German state to charge tuition eradicated those fees. Countries like Norway, Sweden, Argentina, France, Greece and Finland are among several nations that offer free higher education to their students.

German colleges had been tuition free up until 2006 when their supreme court ruled tuition could be charged. But that decision triggered a huge crush of criticism from the electorate. Lower Saxony was the last region to phase out tuition.

When explaining the reasoning for the move, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a Hamburg senator, she said the fees were “socially unjust” adding that tuition fees “discouraged young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study.”

Things are different in America when it comes to ensuring everyone can afford an education. State budget writers, including Washington’s, have been dipping into higher-ed budgets to cover shortfalls brought on by the recession. Now with the recession technically over, those funds have yet to be reinvested into the higher-ed system.

The de-investment in higher-ed by the states (and subsequent rise in tuition rates) has not been just a recessionary phenomenon. It has been going for over thirty years.

This has led to crushing debt loads being taken on by students and their families to cover the cost of their education.

So how much would it cost the U.S. to make higher education tuition free? According to recent studies, if the federal government were to kick in the money they already spend on its cornucopia of financial aid programs (Pell grants, student loans, etc.), that would cover it.



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