The Hopper

Report shows hazardous chemicals still in children’s products

OLYMPIA – Following the release of a report by the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) on the presence of toxic chemicals in children’s products, Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, is calling for renewed attention to the dangers of poisonous chemicals in household goods.

“The report released today once again proves the inability of chemical companies to put people before profit,” Nelson said. “Ecology evaluates products and chemicals based on evidence and science – not profits and bottom lines. They already use these proven methods to develop the list of chemicals of high concern to children; they now need the authority to act on what we know is in the best interest of the health of Washington families.”

The report by DOE follows the testing of 125 children’s and consumer products, including seat cushions, mattresses, upholstered furniture for children, electronics, clothing and baby carriers. The results showed some manufacturers continue to replace banned toxic flame retardant chemicals – known to cause hormone disruption and developmental complications – with other products that are unregulated and “potentially toxic,” according to the DOE .

Eight samples from children’s products actually contained flame retardants above the reporting limit for chemicals that have been banned.

Including Nelson’s Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, several attempts have been made in the Legislature in recent years to allow the DOE to ban chemicals from products as they are found to be hazardous. Despite wide bipartisan support, every effort to grant this authority has been blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate.

“Toxic chemicals in our homes and nurseries is not a problem for the future – it is a deadly reality now,” Nelson added. “I am sad to say 2014 was another lost year when it comes to passing common-sense legislation, and every delay only prolongs this legacy of contamination we leave for our children, our firefighters and our environment.”

To learn more about the fight against toxics in Washington, click here.

To view the database of manufacturers’ reports, click here.

To join the children’s safe products email list, click here.

June 26th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Sens. Ranker, Rolfes call for full disclosure of ALL shipments of volatile Bakken crude

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, and Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, sent a letter to the heads of two major American railroad companies as well as U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx requesting comprehensive reports of ALL shipments of volatile Bakken crude oil anticipated to be transported through Washington state be made available to first responders and impacted communities.

The letter follows a recent decision by US transportation officials that requires rail companies to disclose shipments of a million gallons or more of Bakken crude.

“That’s a start, but it doesn’t go far enough,” Ranker said. “Disaster after disaster has shown us that safeguards must be put in place so that if the worst-case scenario does come to pass, our first responders are ready to act.”

The letter urges the USDOT to lower the threshold from a million gallons, stating that, “shipments on a train of any less than about 35 rail tank cars need not be included, yet several recent derailments and spills and/or explosions of crude oil involved fewer tank cars while causing considerable damage.

“An incident involving release and ignition of Bakken crude from even one rail car could potentially cause the loss of life and severe damage in some of our densely populated communities…”

In fact more oil has been spilled from trains in 2013 than in the previous 37 years combined.

“These trains run through the heart of our communities,” Rolfes said. “Public safety is one of the top priorities of state government and recent derailments and disasters throughout the U.S. are a constant reminder that oil trains are a very real threat to the public good.”

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

June 23rd, 2014|Uncategorized|

June revenue forecast shows increase in general fund revenue

The June revenue forecast, released Tuesday, shows an increase of $157 million in general fund revenue for the current biennium and projects a $238 million increase in the next.

During the next session, the Legislature will have many potentially costly issues to address, including fully funding K-12 education.

June 17th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Lawmakers to focus on oil transport safety at Spokane hearing

OLYMPIA – The Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee will meet in Spokane on June 17 to discuss oil transportation safety.

The hearing will take place at Spokane City Council chambers at 10:30 a.m. and include public testimony on Senate Bill 6582.

Washington state has seen an enormous increase of oil moving by rail and water in recent years, including volatile crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada. State estimates show crude oil shipments by rail increased from zero in 2011 to 17 million barrels in 2013. The stark increase presents communities with a new risk for accidents and spills like recent derailments – including one in Quebec last year that killed 47 people.

In the early days of the 2014 legislative session, Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, introduced the Oil Transportation Safety Act to provide common-sense measures to protect our communities. The chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee refused to give the bill a hearing.

(See timeline of legislative efforts to improve oil transportation safety).

“Here we are, nearly six months later, and people are still waiting for the right to know what is being moved through their towns, cities and waterways,” said Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, the ranking member on the committee. “If the chair had taken action, new regulations would be in place now and communities would know that safety standards are being updated to meet changing conditions.”

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order requiring railroads to notify state officials about the volume, frequency and routes of trains carrying large amounts of crude oil, but two railroad companies are trying to prevent the public from receiving those details.

“I’m pleased the people in Eastern Washington will have the opportunity to be heard,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane. “The public has every right to know the amount and types of oil traveling through their city. Transparency is an important first step towards keeping our communities safe. “

 

June 12th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Kohl-Welles releases statement following Seattle Pacific University shooting

OLYMPIA – Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, released this statement following news of a shooting this afternoon at Seattle Pacific University in Queen Anne.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families, students and staff at Seattle Pacific University. Of course we don’t have a lot of information right now, but it is appalling yet another shooting has taken place, and shocking it has happened in our neighborhood.

“I commend the first responders who are at the scene and have taken care of the victims and students, and thank the law enforcement who quickly apprehended the suspect. People come to the city of Seattle and the 36th District for the strong sense of community, and I trust this will get us through such a horrific event.”

Sen. Kohl-Welles is the state senator from the 36th District, which encompasses Ballard, Greenwood, Queen Anne, Magnolia, Interbay, Belltown, and parts of Phinney Ridge and Fremont.

June 5th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Rolfes, McCoy: New oil train rules a step in the right direction

OLYMPIA – Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, and Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip said Wednesday’s changes to oil transportation safety standards by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) are important first steps in protecting Washington’s communities.

“The enormous increase of oil through Washington, particularly the dangerous Bakken oil, is not a theoretical threat,” Rolfes said. “We cannot further risk a scene in Spokane, Bellingham or Seattle like there was in Virginia last week, or Quebec last summer.”

The U.S. DOT echoed these concerns in a safety alert issued on Wednesday, calling the hazardous Bakken oil shipments in North America an “imminent hazard.” Unfortunately, their encouragement of companies to retrofit or replace the outdated rail cars (DOT-111) is nonbinding.

More promising is the emergency order the DOT released the same day, as it carries more enforcement weight and includes some key community right to know provisions that Rolfes, McCoy and other state lawmakers tried to get through the state Senate this session.

“I am pleased federal officials are now moving to provide reasonable and overdue safeguards. These are the type of protections the Senate Republicans chose to kill last session,” said McCoy. “We are starting to see signs of progress, but many safety gaps remain.”

Rolfes sent a letter on Monday to DOT Administrators, urging concrete action on the replacement or retrofitting of dangerously inadequate rail cars. It was co-signed by a bipartisan group of fourteen Washington State lawmakers, and urges expeditious adoption of regulations to these rail cars that are at the center of recent spills and explosions in North America.

Wednesday’s order only applies to large shipments of oil coming from the Bakken region.

“Strong language about communities’ rights to know by the federal government is important, particularly for emergency planning,” Rolfes added. “But tanks on trains going through our communities that leak or cannot withstand derailment is unacceptable. This is really only the first mile of a marathon.”

May 8th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Statements from Sens. John McCoy and Sharon Nelson on passing of Billy Frank Jr.

McCoy: Billy Frank Jr.’s ‘legacy will live on’

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, released the following statement on the passing of Billy Frank Jr.

“Billy Frank Jr. will be remembered for the important work he did as a tireless advocate for tribal rights and the environment.

“His courage to stand up for the fishing rights of American Indians has served as an inspiration to tribal members in the U.S  and indigenous people around the world.

“He will be missed, but his legacy will live on.”

Nelson: Our state lost a ‘true legend’

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below on the passing of Billy Frank Jr.

“Today our state lost an activist, an environmentalist and a true legend in Billy Frank.

“He put his own personal safety at risk time after time, willing to sacrifice everything for what he believed in.

“It is a sad day, but it allows us to reflect on a life well-lived, a life that was spent dedicated to others and to making our world a better and more equal place.”

May 5th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation adopts education report

The Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation has adopted the education report it will send to the Washington State Supreme Court. (TRT: 1:08) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD

SCRIPT:

On Tuesday, the Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation unanimously adopted a report to send to the Washington State Supreme Court. The bipartisan, eight member committee was established in 2012 as a way to communicate with the Supreme Court. Sen. David Frockt from Seattle is a co-chair of the committee.

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle: (TRT: :35 ) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: “The role of this committee is to report on what we did. That’s always been the jurisdiction. That’s what we did last year, that’s what we did the year before. This is the third report we’ve filed. We’re not a policy making committee. I think that this report is important because one of the things that the committee talked about doing, and I think we had bipartisan support for doing this, was to try to foster the inter branch dialogue that the Court first spoke of in its original McCleary order. And so what we tried to do in this report is not only describe what we did in the context, but also um, kind of a roadmap of where we intend to go.”

The report identifies 2015 as the “next and most critical year” for the Legislature to meet its paramount duty to fully fund basic education by the Court’s 2018 deadline.

Nicole Vukonich reporting in Olympia.

April 29th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Democratic lawmakers host retirement insecurity work session

OLYMPIA – State legislators held a work session today, casting a light on the growing problem of retirement insecurity in Washington.

One in four Washington residents between the ages of 45-64 years old has $25,000 or less in savings for retirement. In addition, 77 percent of employees who work for small businesses lack the option to save through a workplace retirement plan. Nationwide, the majority of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings and a third of working people say they have even less than that saved for retirement.

There were nine presenters from business, labor, finance and research sectors. They discussed a wide variety of issues ranging from defined benefit pension plans, to small business options and worker retirement readiness.

Even though the economy is recovering, Americans remain concerned and anxious about retirement, and they want help. In fact, 89 percent of Americans have indicated that they are seeking some form of retirement assistance or guidance. More and more employers are offering 401k plans instead of traditional defined benefit plans, making retirement even more difficult to navigate.

Click on the links below for more information and to view the documents and presentations from today’s work session:

Overview of Retirement in Washington (Millman)

How Washington Rates on Retirement Security and Defined Benefit Plan Issues (National Institute on Retirement Security)

Can you afford to grow old in Washington State? (Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging)

State Based Social Security (AFSCME)

Are Washington Workers Ready for Retirement? (The New School)

Retirement Plans that Work for Small Business (Small Business Majority)

Public Sector and Non-Profit Retirement (TIAA CREF)

Work and Save (AARP)

Work Session Agenda

Legislators who participated: Sen. Steve Conway, D-South Tacoma; Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle; Sen. Maralyn Chase, D- Seattle; Sen. Karen Fraser, D- Thurston County; Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D- Seattle; Sen. Karen Keiser, D- Kent; and Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater.

April 8th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Senate Dems: Democratic core values strongly represented in budget

Members of leadership and the Senate Democratic budget negotiating team issued the statement below following the announcement of a deal on the 2014 supplemental operating budget Thursday:

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam:

“I said it from the beginning: this budget was not going to contain any cuts to our safety net. I am pleased that we have come together to pass a budget that accomplishes just that.

“Not only did we prevent cuts, we actually were able to add some money that will strengthen mental health services.

“This supplemental budget has my full support but it should also be considered a launching pad for further budget next year and beyond.”

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island:

“When you factor in every aspect – no new tax breaks, strengthened protections for our environment and our most vulnerable citizens, huge new investments in mental health programs and nearly $60 million more in K-12 funding – all improvements over the original Senate proposal – this is a strong Democratic budget that protects and advances our core values.

“While I am proud of the work that went into this budget and its components, I believe that the hardest work is still ahead of us as we must significantly increase education funding.”

Sen. Nelson:

“Sens. Hargrove and Ranker worked to put together a budget that more than represents Democratic values – it is very nearly a Democratic budget.

“While we are pleased with the final product, there is no question we have a staggeringly large bill coming due for K-12 funding in our state in just a few short years. If we are to meet our constitutional obligation to our kids – and meet it responsibly – new revenue and dedicated funding sources must be part of the conversation next year.

“Most estimates are that we’ll need to invest at least $5 billion more in K-12 education by 2018. We simply cannot do that by raiding funding from other programs that also exist to indirectly help children and families.

“Tough decisions await us all next year.”

 

March 13th, 2014|Uncategorized|