I had hoped to be able to report a budget agreement today, but negotiations are continuing as I send this.
The differences between the two positions are relatively small, dollar-wise. But there are some closely-held values being threatened that I don’t think we can sacrifice for the sake of expediency. For example, I don’t believe we can afford to cut any more support for our public schools or the higher education system our growing industries are depending upon for skilled employees. At this point, it looks like both will be spared, but we need to make sure it stays that way in the final agreement.
Nor do I believe we need to be going after employee bargaining rights, and earned benefits, especially after many of them have already taken pay cuts through using the collective bargaining processes that are in place. Employees have made and continue to make the sacrifices necessary to help balance the budget. I also believe that we can use our bonding capacity in the capital budget to help kick start jobs in the construction industry where unemployment has been 30% and higher. And, closing corporate tax loopholes that are not productive of family wage jobs should be on the agenda—even though that takes a 2/3 vote under Initiative 1053.
I think that the time is now to pass a jobs package that will put thousands of workers in the construction industry – and the industries that support them – back on the payroll.
And I think it’s important to remember that a compassionate society takes care of their most vulnerable people.
Those are the values at stake here, and I think they’re worth fighting for.
New law helps groups that help folks who are vision-impaired or hearing-impaired
Back in 1925, Helen Keller delivered a stirring, inspiring keynote address at that year’s Lions International Convention. Among the points Keller hammered home that day, she challenged Lions “to become Knights of the Blind in the crusade against darkness.”
Lions all over the world answered Helen Keller’s challenge. In fact, upward of 200,000 pairs of used, good-quality eyeglasses are distributed every year around the nation to folks who are vision-impaired.
A new state policy, just signed into law, limits the legal liability of charitable organizations, such as the Lions, for providing previously owned eyeglasses or hearing instruments. This measure makes sure these organizations are able to continue their important program and public service of recycling eyeglasses.
Previous Washington law – the “Good Samaritan Act” – said people who render care at an emergency (as long as these people don’t expect any compensation for their “Good Samaritan” act) have immunity from liability in any lawsuits that might be considered against them.
The law has been strengthened over the years. Specifically, immunity is assured for physicians and other health-care providers volunteering health-care services with nonprofit organizations or with for-profit groups that regularly provide services to uninsured people. Now, service organizations that meet the criteria are also protected.
Services must be given without payment or expectation of payment in order for the immunity-protection to apply. These immunity provisions don’t protect people from lawsuits brought against them for gross negligence.
Do you know someone who needs a college scholarship?
How do you encourage students to not only go to college, but to enter science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) programs? This was the question high-tech employers, such as Boeing and Microsoft, were asking themselves when faced with the reality of a rapidly shrinking potential-employee market.
So, to address the issue, Boeing and Microsoft teamed up with the Legislature in 2011 to create the Opportunity Scholarship Board in the hopes of encouraging more high school graduates to prepare for careers in certain high-tech fields.
Fast forward to this coming fall – the Opportunity Scholarship Board will be awarding a whopping 3,000 STEM scholarships worth $1,000 each!
In order to qualify for an opportunity scholarship, all a person needs to do is meet the following criteria:
- Meet the income-level requirement – up to $102,000/year for a family of 4
- Have at least a 2.75 GPA
- Fill out the federal student aid paperwork and the scholarship application
That’s it! And better yet – since the scholarships are renewable for up to 5 years, they could potentially be worth $5,000 toward a STEM education.
The scholarship application is available here, and the deadline is April 16th.