Saturday, January 31, 2009

Alaska on alert as volcano expected to erupt

Alaskan volcano Mount Redoubt, near Anchorage is expected to erupt any day now, according to scientists, and cameras are ready to capture it when it happens!

Alaska on alert as volcano expected to erupt

Friday, January 30, 2009

California Budget Update

Update: Sacramento CA. "A Sacramento Superior Court Judge ordered state Controller John Chiang to implement a Schwarzenegger administration plan to furlough state workers two days a month, resulting in a 10 percent pay cut.

Judge Patrick Marlette issued the ruling this morning, rejecting arguments by several state workers' unions that the governor's plan to save $1.3 billion with unpaid time off was illegal and unconstitutional.

Marlette issued a tentative ruling early Thursday and made it final after hearing additional oral arguments from lawyers for state workers in the case this morning.

Marlette's ruling said the state's current budget crisis and lack of funds represented an emergency and the governor's order was "reasonable and necessary under the circumstances."
(Sacramento Bee link below).

From the Senate:

Senate Budget Committee Vice Chair, Republican Senator Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga, today issued the following statement after the California Employment Development Department announced the state’s unemployment rate reached 9.3 percent in December:

“No one would disagree that California’s economy is struggling and this state is clearly in a recession. As California searches for effective ways to close a projected $42 billion deficit over the next 18 months, several proposals have been put on the table. One proposal is to cut the number of paid holidays, or 1 holiday plus a personal day, given to state employees. Cutting 2 holidays would reduce the number from 13 to 11.

“Keep in mind most employees in the private workforce get six paid federal holidays.

“The proposal would combine Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays into one paid holiday in February and eliminate Columbus Day. That proposal would save the state an estimated $75 million a year.

“I was told that type of cut was draconian."

The entire post can be read here:

Senate and Assembly Democrats

Members of the Senate and Assembly continue working on a solution to California's budget crisis, meeting daily with the Governor.

Cash Crisis
Without action, California will be $346 million in the red at the end of February, and $5.2 billion in the red in April, according to California Controller John Chiang.

Controller Chiang has announced that cash shortages expected in February will force him to delay some critical payments to preserve cash flow and protect payments the State must make.


Californian's Priorities
The latest survey released by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) on January 28 found that Californians support a mix of new taxes and spending cuts to solve California's budget crisis. more

From the Media:

Final ruling: Schwarzenegger can order two furlough days a month 1/29/2009 - Sacramento Bee, By Andrew McIntosh and Jon Ortiz

Spending limits would put government on a conservative course 1/26/2008 - Contra Costa Times, by Steve Harmon
Governor wants to streamline bureaucracy 1/26/2008 - San Francisco Chronicle, by Wyatt Buchanan
Budget Illusion 1/24/2009 - Riverside Press-Enterprise, Editorial
Infrastructure: It's Job 1 to Americans 1/23/2008 - Los Angeles Times, by Frank Luntz
Suspend ballot-box budgeting measures 1/14/2009 - Sacramento Bee, by Daniel Weintraub

State websites:
California Senate Republican Caucus:

California Senate and Assembly Democratic Caucus:{2754CE93-A286-4BF3-BF44-53862B9EBE4C}

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Governor Rod Blagojevich is Impeached by Illinois Senate

In a 59 to 0 Senate vote, Gov. Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office today, ending a nearly two-month crisis that erupted with his arrest on charges he tried to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.

For full coverage:

In Defense of Government

Is Government inherently bad?

Are all politicians and bureaucrats self-interested and/or self-serving?

Of course not. But bloggers and the media tend to write stories that focus on controversial government decisions and political corruption.

In fact, government routinely provides citizens with an organized system that allows elected officials, bureaucrats and citizens to work together for the common good of all.

In defense of government and the good work it does, Douglas J. Amy, Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College writes,

"democratic government is one of the greatest institutional inventions of modern Western civilization. It allows us to pool our resources and to act collectively to address the serious social, economic, and environmental problems that we are unable to deal with as individuals. The public sector is also how we provide for essential human needs that are neglected by the market – such as a clean air and water, safe workplaces, and economic security. What’s more, government serves as an essential instrument of moral action – a way for us to rectify injustices, eliminate suffering, and care for each other. In short, democratic government is one of the main ways we work together to pursue the common good and make the world a better place.

This is not to deny that American government has its problems. There are incidents of waste, some regulations are poorly designed, and some politicians abuse their power.

More importantly, our government is certainly not as democratic and accountable as it could be, and special interests have way too much political power. Such problems need to be fixed, and this site identifies several needed reforms. Nonetheless, whatever drawbacks this institution has right now are far outweighed by the enormous benefits that we all enjoy from a vast array of public sector programs. On the whole, government is good for us."

Amy's site can be accessed here:

*The New York Times Editorial Board says this site is worth checking out and I concur!

When Perplexing Questions Arise, here's your Chance to be the "GO-TO" person your Colleagues Turn To!

Deadline for applications is February 16, 2009.

Be one of 36 participants selected to attend a weekend-long intensive training conducted by a prestigious faculty.

Be assigned a mentor who will guide you in avoiding costly legal and public relations problems in the future.

Meet and interact with your peers from all levels of government around the state through activities designed to stimulate discussion of practical solutions to dilemmas you face on a daily basis in the workplace.

Receive a framed "Open Government Leader" certificate that you can proudly display upon completion of the Institute.

Presentations and Instructors:

The Press and Public Records: A Case StudyPresenter: David Seago

Navigating the Pitfalls of Washington’s Open Government Laws
Presenter: Tim Ford

An Introduction to Open Government

Presenter: Toby Nixon

Proactive Best Practices for Open Government

Presenters: Chris Leman and Donna McKereghan

Navigating the Public Records Act

Presenter: Duane M. Swinton

How Non-Disclosure Can Serve the Public Interest

Presenter: Ramsey Ramerman

For more information about the presentations and instructors please go to

Apply now for the Open Government Leadership Institute May 1-3, 2009 at the Dumas Bay Centre in Federal Way presented by the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

Tuition is $250 for WCOG members, $275 for non-members, including two nights lodging and four meals.

Application forms and complete details are available at: or by mail from

WCOG:6351 Seaview Ave NW

Seattle, WA 98107-2664

Questions? Please contact Patience Rogge:, or by phone at (206) 782-0393.** Sponsorships for this event are available.

Please click here to contact Jim Walker for more information.

The Open Government Leadership Institute is supported by grants from the Norcliffe Foundation and the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation through the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

The murder of Marvin E Schur

A former resident of Bay City wrote, “I am so happy I no longer live there. At my age, I would fear for my life… Remember, folks, you may be old some day—if your city fathers don’t kill you first.”

The American Dream. You work hard your whole life - scrimping, saving, doing your very best to prepare for the years that you will no longer be able to work.

Marvin was a veteran, a former U.S. Army Medic who received a purple heart for rescuing wounded soldiers from the battlefield - on his return from war, he was gainfully employed as a skilled trades person for the rest of his adult life.

Most Americans would assume that this man has an adequate retirement income that would allow him to pay essential bills. He did not.

If Congress does not tackle the retirement crisis in this nation, this is the kind of treatment many retirees will recieve. The only way to avoid freezing to death will be volunteering to be placed in a long term care center.

Background: Heating bills in Bay City are averaging $500 a month. Bay City estimates that 60 to 70 homes currently have electricity limiters installed on them. Bay City, a Automotive industry dependent city, has been hit hard by the recession.

Excerpt from the Bay City News:

"On January 17, the frozen body of 93-year-old Marvin E. Schur was found by neighbors at his home in Bay City, Michigan, several days after the municipal power company had restricted his access to electricity due to outstanding bills. The death has provoked outrage among residents in this working class city of 36,000, located where the Saginaw River flows into Lake Huron, about 100 miles north of Detroit.

On January 13, the city ordered the installation of a device known as a “limiter” that restricts the amount of electricity a household can use. Between the time the limiter was placed and January 17, a bitter Arctic cold front settled over Michigan, with overnight temperatures in the Bay City area reaching minus 10 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit). It is not clear when Schur died, but an obituary from the local newspaper placed the death on January 15.

Robert Belleman, Bay City’s city manager, said that Schur had accrued over $1,000 in unpaid electricity bills over the preceding months. No effort was made to visit Schur prior to the suspension.

Neighbors became alarmed when they noticed that Schur’s windows had become covered with ice. When neighbors found Schur’s body, temperatures in his house were below freezing, and water in his sink was frozen. The oven door was propped open, which suggests that Schur made a futile attempt to heat his home using the appliance.

Kanu Virani, a medical examiner who performed the autopsy, said that Schur died of hypothermia, which she described as a “slow, painful death.” “He was wearing a double layer of clothes, trying to stay warm,” Virani said."

Excerpt taken from an article written by Tom Gilchrist, The Bay City Times, Wednesday January 28, 2009.

Think I'm being overly dramatic? (I wish). By the way, heat in Iceland is provided for free by the government. Oh, right, that's socialism. I'm sure it's better to freeze to death.

This is hardly a new topic. Here are articles from 2002 and 2004

Here's a link to the story about Marvin posted on Mario Kenny's blog in Florida:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Senator Ranker sponsors Response Tug Bill to Prevent Oil Spills in Juan de Fuca Strait

Legislation introduced on January 20, 2009 in Washington’s Senate and House would require the oil, cargo and cruise industry to pay for a year-round response tug to stand by at Neah Bay to prevent vessel oil spills.

Senate Bill 5344 and House Bill 1409 would require all oil tankers, cargo vessels and large cruise ships to form a cooperative to contract for standby response tug service at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.“These bills are fair because they are based on the principle that those who create the risk to our ecosystem should be responsible for paying for preventing damage,” said Bruce Wishart, policy director of People For Puget Sound.

“The burden of paying for the tug should be taken off the shoulders of the taxpayers and assumed by industry.”A rescue tug has been stationed at Neah Bay since 1999 on a part-time seasonal basis and paid for by state and federal funds.

Since July 2008, the legislature has funded a full-time rescue tug to stand by at Neah Bay. That funding ends on June 30, 2009.Since 1999, the rescue tug has been responsible for 40 rescues or assists of oil tankers, cargo vessels, and other vessels in the region. Similar success stories surround tugs stationed in Alaska, Japan, France, Great Britain, and across the globe.

SB 5344 is sponsored by Senator Kevin Ranker(40th) and cosponsored by Senators Swecker, Rockefeller, Marr, Hargrove, Pridemore, and Fraser.HB 1409 is sponsored by Representative Kevin Van De Wege(24th) and cosponsored by Representatives Kessler, Upthegrove, Rolfes, Blake,Dunshee, Campbell, Jacks, Orwall, Seaquist, Appleton, Nelson, Roberts, Morris, Takko, Cody, Carlyle, McCoy, Goodman, Quall, Sullivan, and Liias.

People for Puget Sound memo on Oil Spill Prevention

Seattle PI Article: "State not ready for oil spill," commission reports

"Storming the Sound" Educator Workshops Begin

"Storming The Sound" brings together environmental educators to share environmental resources to further environmental education. The 9th annual North Sound session is January 30. Read more here.

"Storming The Sound" is co-organized by People For Puget Sound and brings together environmental educators to share environmental resources to further environmental education.

9th annual North Sound session is January 30 in LaConner.

A Central Sound workshop is scheduled for April 3 and a South Sound workshop will be held in late spring.
Last year's web site gives an idea of what to expect.Stay in touch with teachers and educators on the "EE" listserve, moderated by People For Puget Sound. Details here.

Environmentalists Dismayed over Lack of Sewage and Drinking Water Infrastructure Funding in Proposed Economic Recovery Plan

Albany, NY— Proposed language in the economic recovery package from the House Appropriations committee contains disappointing figures for essential clean water infrastructure. Over the next 20 years, Connecticut needs at least $5 billion and New York will need at least $36 billion for wastewater infrastructure. The national proposal contains only $6 billion.

“The economic, environmental, and public benefits of investing in clean water cannot be overstated. With national needs in excess of $202 billion for clean water infrastructure, proposing only $6 billion dollars doesn’t cut it,” said Adrienne Esposito, CCE Executive Director.

New York has 412 wastewater projects and 497 drinking water that have been reviewed, ranked and are ready-to-go as soon as funding is available. These projects serve over 11 million citizens.

Investing in clean water infrastructure to fix failing sewage treatment plants and to ensure delivery of high quality, clean drinking water is good for economic and public health. As Congress and the new administration finalize the economic recovery package, investing in upgrading wastewater and drinking water infrastructure must be a priority. Additional resources are needed to fund clean water projects to create more jobs, ease burdens on municipalities, and address the clean water infrastructure crisis facing New York, Connecticut, and our nation.

Between 30,000 and 47,500 jobs are created for each $1 billion of federal investment in infrastructure projects, which provide an unparalleled opportunity for economic recovery and long-term growth in our local communities.

While the nation’s clean water infrastructure need continues to grow, federal investment has shrunk. Since 2004, the federal government has reduced funding for New York State’s vital wastewater infrastructure by 50%, while funding for drinking water infrastructure has been cut by 40%, shifting the burden of paying for this infrastructure onto local governments. The lack of federal support for essential infrastructure is crippling, resulting in sewage contaminating our beaches, urban communities unable to remove lead drinking water pipes, and over-burdening already cash-strapped municipalities. ”Failing and aging clean water infrastructure threatens public health, weakens our economy, and will not fix itself,” said Dereth Glance, CCE Executive Program Director. “Congress must allocate adequate resources to restore our core water infrastructure."

It is our hope that the new administration and Congress will uphold the promise of clean water for everyone by delivering more meaningful investments in our clean water infrastructure,” Esposito concluded. Supported by over 80,000 members, Citizens Campaign for the Environment empowers communities and advocates solutions to protect public health and our shared environment.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

NW Citizen continues to print Kirsch's Wild Rants

What's up with Greg Kirsch? Has he finally over-dosed on conspiracy theory kool-aid? Or, is this just one more of his half-baked attempts at political satire/farce?

Regardless of the answer, for a good laugh, check out this nonsense...

And, belated Congratulations to Barry Buchanan on his election as Council President. Latte Republic wishes you a very pleasant and successful term!


Puget Soundkeeper Alliance uses Citizen Action provision of Clean Water Act to take on worst polluters

Puget Soundkeeper Alliance’s Efforts to Stop Pollution in Puget Sound Were Featured on the Front Page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on January 7, 2009.

Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Sue Joerger take on the worst polluters in a race against time to save the Sound.

Under a citizen lawsuit provision of the Clean Water Act, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance's litigation has resulted in many cases of marked pollution reduction. There is still a lot of work to be done. Read the article.

In their own words:
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is an action-oriented team dedicated to a mission: to protect and preserve Puget Sound.

We are committed to a dual approach:
reducing the pollution of Puget Sound by making polluters accountable to the law; and promoting education and cooperation in the effort to protect the Sound.

Fighting pollution on the water and in the courtroom, we carry out our work through four priority programs:
Enforcement of the Clean Water Act against polluters using the citizen lawsuit provision
Monitoring through weekly Soundkeeper on-the-water boat and kayak patrols
Engagement with business, government and other key parties, to build workable regulations on complex issues like storm water runoff permits, boatyard permits, and oil spill contingency rules
Solution-Oriented Partnerships to involve business and government in water quality improvement programs (e.g., Envirostars, Clean Marinas)

The Problem:
"Marine life is disappearing from Puget Sound, and fast" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 9, 2006)"Peter Lang and his buddies like to go diving by Blake Island, just across Puget Sound from West Seattle, where they can scoop up delectable Dungeness crabs. But when they showed up last spring, the lush meadows of eelgrass where crab like to hide were nearly gone..." (more)"Puget Sound Environmental Issues" (Wikipedia)"The environmental health of Puget Sound has a diverse and complex history.

This article discusses many aspects of Puget Sound, Washington, and how this part of the west coast has a long, involved relationship with its marine and freshwater ecosystems..." (more)

Puget Sound struggles against tide of toxins: The Olympian July 7, 2007, by John Dodge
Brief History of Puget Sound Conservation Efforts (Puget Sound Action Team)

Pollution in Puget Sound
Status, Trends and Effects of Toxic Contaminants in the Puget Sound Environment: Recommendations- by EVS Consultants for the Puget Sound Action Team, 2003 (pdf)"Toxic Contaminants in Puget Sound" (John Dohrmann, Technical and Policy Specialist, Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team)

"The industrial history of Puget Sound is only 150 years old. By measuring chemical concentrations from sediment layers in cores, scientists have shown that the concentrations of toxic chemicals in sediments follow the history of discharges..." (pdf)

Historical Pollution: A saga of neglect and unintended consequences Logging and Siltation

The first major impact by Europeans on the Puget Sound environment was through logging. In 1853, Henry Yesler built the first steam driven mill on Puget Sound; by 1883, William Renton noted that nearly all the timber contiguous to Puget Sound had been removed.

Pulp Mills
The first pulp mills in Puget Sound in the 1920's had devastating effects on the shellfish industry in southern Puget Sound. It was said that it was not necessary to use copper-based paint on boats in areas with pulp mill discharges, for nothing would grow there.

Industrial pollution
State permits for wastewater discharges were not required until 1955. Pulp mills and other industrial dischargers began treating their discharges by the early 1960s.

Modern Sources of Pollution

Point Source Pollution
Point source pollution comes mainly from industrial discharges and sewage treatment plants. Though these facilities are required to have permits to discharge into public waters, a very large amount of toxic materials still enter Puget Sound, other waterways, and our state's air. Here is a link to the state's toxic releases, by industry, for 2005, the latest year available (Learn more...)

"Nonpoint source" pollution
Nonpoint source pollution is the polluted runoff from the landscape that runs into Puget Sound after a rainfall. It contains oil and grease, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and many other things that can harm Puget Sound. The Environmental Protection Agency has made nonpoint source pollution a priority. (more...)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Citizen's Guide to 2009 Congress

"All Legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."(Article I, Section 1, of the United States Constitution)

The U.S. House of Representatives website states, "The chief function of Congress is the making of laws. The legislative process comprises a number of steps, and much information is available from this page concerning the legislation introduced and considered in the 111th Congress. To help you understand the information and how it interrelates, a very brief overview of the legislative process within the House of Representatives is presented below. There are many aspects and variations of the process which are not addressed here. A much more in-depth discussion and presentation of the overall process is available in How Our Laws Are Made. Most of the information presented below was excerpted from that Congressional document.

Forms of Congressional Action
The work of Congress is initiated by the introduction of a proposal in one of four principal forms: the bill, the joint resolution, the concurrent resolution, and the simple resolution.

A bill is the form used for most legislation, whether permanent or temporary, general or special, public or private. A bill originating in the House of Representatives is designated by the letters "H.R.", signifying "House of Representatives", followed by a number that it retains throughout all its parliamentary stages. Bills are presented to the President for action when approved in identical form by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Joint Resolutions
Joint resolutions may originate either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. There is little practical difference between a bill and a joint resolution. Both are subject to the same procedure, except for a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution. On approval of such a resolution by two-thirds of both the House and Senate, it is sent directly to the Administrator of General Services for submission to the individual states for ratification. It is not presented to the President for approval. A joint resolution originating in the House of Representatives is designated "H.J.Res." followed by its individual number. Joint resolutions become law in the same manner as bills.

Concurrent Resolutions
Matters affecting the operations of both the House of Representatives and Senate are usually initiated by means of concurrent resolutions. A concurrent resolution originating in the House of Representatives is designated "H.Con.Res." followed by its individual number. On approval by both the House of Representatives and Senate, they are signed by the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate. They are not presented to the President for action.

Simple Resolutions
A matter concerning the operation of either the House of Representatives or Senate alone is initiated by a simple resolution. A resolution affecting the House of Representatives is designated "H.Res." followed by its number. They are not presented to the President for action.
For more information on bills and resolutions see
Forms of Congressional Action in How Our Laws Are Made.

Introduction and Referral to Committee
Any Member in the House of Representatives may introduce a bill at any time while the House is in session by simply placing it in the "hopper" provided for the purpose at the side of the Clerk's desk in the House Chamber. The sponsor's signature must appear on the bill. A public bill may have an unlimited number of co-sponsoring Members. The bill is assigned its legislative number by the Clerk and referred to the appropriate committee by the Speaker, with the assistance of the Parliamentarian. The bill is then printed in its introduced form, which you can read in
Bill Text. If a bill was introduced today, summary information about it can be found in Bill Status Today

An important phase of the legislative process is the action taken by committees. It is during committee action that the most intense consideration is given to the proposed measures; this is also the time when the people are given their opportunity to be heard. Each piece of legislation is referred to the committee that has jurisdiction over the area affected by the measure.
For more information on this step of the legislative process see
Introduction and Reference to Committee of How Our Laws Are Made.

Consideration by Committee

Public Hearings and Markup Sessions
Usually the first step in this process is a public hearing, where the committee members hear witnesses representing various viewpoints on the measure. Each committee makes public the date, place and subject of any hearing it conducts. The
Committee Meetings scheduled for today are available along with other House Schedules . Public announcements are also published in the Daily Digest portion of the Congressional Record.

A transcript of the testimony taken at a hearing is made available for inspection in the committee office, and frequently the complete transcript is printed and distributed by the committee.

After hearings are completed, the bill is considered in a session that is popularly known as the "mark-up" session. Members of the committee study the viewpoints presented in detail. Amendments may be offered to the bill, and the committee members vote to accept or reject these changes.

This process can take place at either the subcommittee level or the full committee level, or at both. Hearings and markup sessions are status steps noted in the Legislative Action portion of Bill Status.

Committee Action
At the conclusion of deliberation, a vote of committee or subcommittee Members is taken to determine what action to take on the measure. It can be reported, with or without amendment, or tabled, which means no further action on it will occur. If the committee has approved extensive amendments, they may decide to report a new bill incorporating all the amendments. This is known as a "clean bill," which will have a new number. Votes in committee can be found in Committee Votes.

If the committee votes to report a bill, the Committee Report is written. This report describes the purpose and scope of the measure and the reasons for recommended approval. House Report numbers are prefixed with "H.Rpt." and then a number indicating the Congress (currently 107).

For more information on bills and resolutions see Consideration by Committee in How Our Laws Are Made.

House Floor Consideration
Consideration of a measure by the full House can be a simple or very complex operation. In general a measure is ready for consideration by the full House after it has been reported by a committee. Under certain circumstances, it may be brought to the Floor directly.

The consideration of a measure may be governed by a "rule." A rule is itself a simple resolution, which must be passed by the House, that sets out the particulars of debate for a specific bill—how much time will allowed for debate, whether amendments can be offered, and other matters.
Debate time for a measure is normally divided between proponents and opponents. Each side yields time to those Members who wish to speak on the bill. When amendments are offered, these are also debated and voted upon. If the House is in session today, you can see a summary of
Current House Floor Proceedings .

After all debate is concluded and amendments decided upon, the House is ready to vote on final passage. In some cases, a vote to "recommit" the bill to committee is requested. This is usually an effort by opponents to change some portion or table the measure. If the attempt to recommit fails, a vote on final passage is ordered.

Resolving Differences
After a measure passes in the House, it goes to the Senate for consideration. A bill must pass both bodies in the same form before it can be presented to the President for signature into law.

If the Senate changes the language of the measure, it must return to the House for concurrence or additional changes. This back-and-forth negotiation may occur on the House floor, with the House accepting or rejecting Senate amendments or complete Senate text. Often a conference committee will be appointed with both House and Senate members. This group will resolve the differences in committee and report the identical measure back to both bodies for a vote. Conference committees also issue reports outlining the final version of the bill.

Final Step
Votes on final passage, as well as all other votes in the House, may be taken by the electronic voting system which registers each individual Member's response. These votes are referred to as Yea/Nay votes or recorded votes, and are available in House Votes by Bill number, roll call vote number or words describing the reason for the vote.

Votes in the House may also be by voice vote, and no record of individual responses is available.

After a measure has been passed in identical form by both the House and Senate, it is considered "enrolled." It is sent to the President who may sign the measure into law, veto it and return it to Congress, let it become law without signature, or at the end of a session, pocket-veto it.

This information was provided by the U.S. House of Representatives site. The link can be found below.

Additional background information on our federal government:

House of Representatives
Clerk of the House
Committee Home Pages
Election Statistics
Historical Highlights
House Chamber
House of Representatives Home Page
House of Representatives Visitor Information
Member Home Pages
Rules and Precedents of the House
Splendid Hall

Senate Home Page
Committee Home Pages
Virtual Tour of the U.S. Capitol
Standing Rules of the Senate
Senate Art and History
Senate Historical Office
Senate Virtual Reference Desk
Senate Visitor Information
Senators' Home Pages

U.S. Congress from the Library of Congress
Congressional Glossary
Congressional Information on the Library of Congress Web Site
Resources for Legislative Researchers
Temple of Liberty: Building the Capitol for a New Nation Exhibition

U.S. Congress from External Sites
Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress: 1774 to Present
Biographies of Women in Congress (Past and Present)
Congressional Directory: 104th - 110th Congresses
Congressional District Maps
Congressional Pictorial Directory: 108th Congress
C-SPAN Capitol Questions
Legislative Branch Resources on GPO Access
Resumes of Congressional Activity
Roll Call
U.S. Capitol Complex

Historical Information from the Library of Congress
A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation
Primary Documents in American History
The Federalist Papers

Historical Information from External Sites
Charters of Freedom
NARA's America's Historical Documents
NARA's Treasures of Congress Exhibition
Our Documents

General Government Resources
Executive Branch
FirstGov The official U.S. gateway to all government information
Judicial Branch
Legislative Branch
Local Government Resources
State Government Resources

Thomas Library of Congress:
U.S. House of Representatives:
How our laws are made:

Want to track legislation?

Urban and/or Municipal Stormwater creates Public Health Hazard for Americans

It's no secret to local, state and federal government that the leading cause of pollution in watersheds is non-point pollution.

Urban and municipal stormwater runoff transports pollutants such as trash, hydrocarbons, sediment and countless man-made chemicals to our lakes, rivers, bays and oceans each year.

Western Washington has a number of EPA listed Pathogen-impaired water bodies, including Lake Whatcom. But most of us wouldn't even know if we had a waterborne disease. In fact, public health officials acknowledge that the vast majority of waterborne disease cases go unreported because of the difficulties in diagnosing the cause of illness.

Nevertheless, public health papers indicate that up to 99 million Americans have acute gastrointestinal illness, costing insurance companies and citizens billions of dollars each year.

They also estimate that up to 40% of these illnesses may be caused by contaminated drinking water.

(Links to documents can be found at bottom of page)

Up to 32% of people tested have evidence of Cryptospordium infection by young adulthood.

Drinking water disease outbreaks have been linked to runoff; with more than half of documented waterborne disease outbreaks taking place after heavy rainfalls and/or snow melts.

In Milwaukee Wisconsin, spring rains and snow melt preceded the Cryptosporidium outbreak and may have played a role in transporting the oocysts. Public health officials estimated that 70 people died in Milwaukee (1993) and Las Vegas, Nevada (1994) as a result of the Cryptospordium outbreaks.

Urban and municipal streets, parking lots and lawns can generate large
amounts of bacteria, heavy metals and other contaminants in stormwater runoff. Runoff to surface water bodies are associated with concentrations of bacteria, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, fecal coliform and other microorganisms.

Increases in drinking water turbidity in public drinking water systems have been linked to acute gastronintestinal illnesses among children and older adults, even though the water is in compliance with EPA drinking water standards.

In light of recent flooding in Bellingham, Whatcom County and across Washington, I conducted a search of House and Senate legislation, but did not find any legislation regarding this issue.

However, the Washington State House Republican Caucus has posted the following information on their website in Olympia under the "issues" tab describing Urban or Municipal runoff and it's potential health effects. I could not find information on this issue on the other Caucus websites.

What is Urban or Municipal Stormwater?
Urban stormwater is water within higher population densities that runs off surfaces such as rooftops, paved streets, highways, and parking lots. It can also come from hard grassy surfaces like lawns, play fields, and from graveled roads and parking lots. As the water runs off these surfaces, pollution such as animal waste, chemicals, and oil are conveyed into larger bodies of water naturally or through a series of storm drains and pipes. These sources of pollution are considered non-point sources of pollution and can pose a problem to the health of residents and the environment. However, the discharge stormwater is a point source of pollution and requires a federal permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA) known as a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit (NPDES).

Why is Urban Stormwater a Problem in Washington?

Human Health: In general, untreated stormwater is unsafe. It contains toxic metals, organic compounds, and bacterial and viral pathogens. Untreated stormwater is not safe for people to drink, and is not recommended for swimming.

Salmon Habitat: In western Washington, urban stormwater harms/pollutes streams that provide salmon habitat. Alterations to the watershed such as building homes and other structures, and clearing away trees and shrubs are the leading causes for stormwater pollution.

Drinking Water: In some areas of Washington, notably Spokane County, and parts of Pierce and Clark counties, gravelly soils allow rapid infiltration of stormwater. Untreated stormwater discharging to the ground could contaminate aquifers that are used for drinking water.

Degraded Water Bodies: Virtually all of our urban embankments, creeks, streams, and rivers are harmed by urban stormwater. Stormwater is the leading contributor to water quality pollution of urban waterways.

State Authority and the Clean Water Act (CWA)
DOE is the agency responsible for administrating and enforcing the federal Clean Water requirements in Washington State as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delegated their authority to the DOE. This state department also regulates our own state’s water quality standards found under the Water Pollution Control Act (RCW 90.48). Any water quality discharge permit, whether it is a general permit or an individual permit, an NPDES permit or a state water quality permit, must be approved and regulated by DOE. The only exceptions to these permits are federal and tribal institutions. Another point to consider is the federal NPDES permit only applies to "waters of the US" which includes all marine waters and rivers which are generally referred to as navigable.

The state water quality discharge permits which are found under the state’s Water Pollution Control Act applies to "waters of the state" which are all other surface waters, including groundwater within the state of Washington.

History of Urban Stormwater Regulations:
In 1987, congress changed the federal Clean Water Act by declaring the discharge of stormwater (traditionally considered a nonpoint source) from certain industries and municipalities to be a point source of pollution requiring National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits or water quality discharge permits.

Phase I Stormwater Permits:
The EPA stormwater regulations established two phases for the stormwater permit program. Phase I stormwater NPDES permits have been issued to cover stormwater discharges from certain industries, construction sites involving five or more acres, and municipalities with a population of more than 100,000 which have a municipal separate stormwater system (MS4s).

The public entities that are covered under Phase I Municipal Stormwater NPDES permits include: King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Clark County, City of Seattle, the City of Tacoma, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

Phase II Stormwater Permits
On October 29, 1999, the final Phase II stormwater regulations were signed into rule by EPA. The Phase II regulations expand the requirement for stormwater permits to small municipalities with MS4s located in urbanized areas, and to construction sites between one and five acres. The rule also requires an evaluation of cities outside of urbanized areas that have a population of 10,000 or more to determine if a permit is necessary for some or all of these cities. Under the new rule, more than ninety additional municipalities in Washington, were "on the bubble" as to whether they would be required to have a Phase II Stormwater permit. Some of these "bubble cities" are located in Eastern Washington where annual precipitation is very low and the likelihood of stormwater runoff is considered by many to be insignificant. As the DOE is the regulating authority for water quality permits, the director of Ecology made the decision to require all "bubble cities" to obtain and comply with Phase II Stormwater Permits.

Western and Eastern Washington Phase II Municipal Stormwater Permits:
The EPA phase II regulations went into effect in early 2003 and apply to all regulated small municipal separate storm sewer systems.

On January 17, 2007 Ecology issued two phase II municipal stormwater permits, one for western Washington and one for eastern Washington.
• The Phase II permit for western Washington covers at least 80 cities and five counties, and took effect on January 17, 2007.

• The Phase II permit for eastern Washington covers 20 cities and eight counties, and took effect on February 16, 2007.

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan
Both the Phase I and Phase II Municipal Stormwater Permits require the implementation of a Stormwater Management Program. The Stormwater Management Program is a plan for the term of the permit to reduce the discharge of pollutants, reduce impacts to receiving waters, eliminate illicit discharges, and make progress towards compliance with surface water, ground water and sediment standards.

Under current law, urban stormwater activities are regulated under the method of best management practices or BMPs. The definition of BMPs as defined in the state’s stormwater manuals are defined as "as schedules of activities, prohibitions of practices, maintenance procedures, and structural and/or managerial practices, that when used singly or in combination, prevent or reduce the release of pollutants to waters of Washington State."

Current and anticipated federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Clean Water Act stormwater requirements are only placing more demands on state and local governments for staffing and resources. Urban stormwater management represents a significant funding challenge for both local and state governments, as well as a potential outstanding liability due to third party actions as allowed under the CWA.

Additional background information:

Lake Whatcom Parametrix Report:

City of Bellingham Lake Whatcom Stormwater Management Program:
Evaluation of Stormwater Phosphorus and Recommended Management Options

City of Bellingham Stormwater Comprehensive Plan

Estimates of incidence and costs of intestinal infectious diseases in the United States. (multiple authors)

Cryptosporidiosis: An Outbreak Associated with Drinking Water Despite State-of-the-Art Water Treatment (multiple authors)

A Massive Outbreak in Milwaukee of Cryptosporidium Infection Transmitted through the Public Water Supply (multiple authors)

A randomized trial to evaluate the risk of gastrointestinal disease due to consumption of drinking water meeting current microbiological standards.

The Association Between Extreme Precipitation and Waterborne Disease Outbreaks in the United States, 1948–1994

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Skills for the Next Washington Legislation

What's happening in Olympia?

Governor Gregoire's The Next Washington is an action plan for "Growing Jobs and Income in a Global Economy" and among its three components are education and skills— "the most important investment we can make in our economic future."

The Next Washington calls for improving partnerships among workforce and economic development efforts at the state and regional levels.

The Washington State Workforce Board, in collaboration with its economic and workforce development partners, has developed a plan for coordinating workforce and economic development at the state and local levels focusing on a cluster-based approach. The recommendations from this plan has now been introduced as agency-request legislation.

Based on Governor Gregoire’s direction and a number of forums and discussions, this plan, called Skills for the Next Washington, presents a framework for coordinating workforce and economic development at the state and local levels focusing on a cluster-based approach. It does not attempt to describe comprehensively all the inter-related aspects of workforce and economic development or even all varieties of sector-based approaches. Sector strategies embody many approaches, of which a cluster-based approach is one.


1. Amend current programs to increase flexibility and efficiency in serving clusters. Before requesting new resources, it is critical to examine current programs to make certain that they are administered as efficiently as possible. In some cases, this may require statutory amendments. As an example, SBCTC is now reviewing the Customized Training Program to see whether changes would make the program easier for employers to use.

2. Codify common definitions for the terms “cluster,” “sector,” and “high demand. These terms are frequently used inconsistently, creating confusion and poor communication. By placing consistent definitions where these terms appear in state statute, it will help to alleviate this confusion.

3. Authorize the LMEA unit of ESD to conduct additional research on industry clusters. The LMEA unit of ESD is the state’s center of labor market data. LMEA, however, is not currently directed by state statute to conduct cluster research.

4. Request the Workforce Board, CTED, and the Economic Development Commission to coordinate planning for workforce and economic development, especially around industry clusters. While these three partner agencies do not need statutory authorization to coordinate planning around industry clusters, such authorization would lend a sense of long-standing commitment to a cluster approach, helping to address the state’s history of starts and stops in supporting clusters.

5. Add CTED and ADOs to the Workforce Compact describing roles and responsibilities. The parties represented on the Workforce Board formulated a compact in 2007 that delineates the roles and responsibilities of each organization. CTED and ADOs were not party to the compact. Since that time, the director of CTED has been added as a participating official on the Board. Adding CTED and the ADOs to the Compact would help communicate that workforce and economic development must work together.

6. Authorize the Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) to coordinate workforce development planning in their regions, with a special focus on industry clusters. The strategic planning responsibilities of the WDCs are not currently recognized in state statute, but are instead established by executive order and requirements adopted by the Workforce Board. While the WDCs already coordinate strategic planning and do emphasize industry clusters, placing this responsibility into state statute would reinforce this function and would be an important part of completing this state/local framework.

7. Authorize the WDCs and the ADOs to work together to coordinate planning for workforce and economic development in their area. Although the WDCs and ADOs do not require statutory authority to work together to support clusters, by placing this requirement in statute it would create a sense of sustained state support for this approach.

8. Place the community and technical colleges’ Centers of Excellence into statute. Statutory authorization would provide a foundation for ongoing support. The Centers should be described in statute without naming individual Centers in order to allow the colleges the flexibility to support Centers that match the changing economy.

The above recommendations can be implemented without necessarily requiring additional state resources. This is noted in light of the current revenue forecast for the next biennium. As things change and state leaders think about additional investments, investments in the above activities would be worthy of the state’s consideration. In addition, the State should consider the following two recommendations with clear budgetary impacts.

Provide funding for the CTED cluster grant program.The CTED cluster grant program provided resources that enabled several of the local cluster efforts to get off the ground. No funding has been provided during the current biennium.

Establish a state version of the federal WIRED grant to promote workforce and economic development in strategic industry clusters. The WIRED grant program provides flexible funds for workforce and economic development entities to work together to transform industries to be competitive in the 21st century. Local practitioners and policy leaders have frequently commented on the lack of funding that is not tied up in existing bureaucratic requirements.

2009 Legislation -- SB 5048 - House Campanion Bill HB 1323
History of Bills as of Wednesday, January 21, 2009 5:42 PM

Senators Kilmer, Kastama, Schoesler, Shin, Delvin, Kauffman, King, Pridemore

By Request:
Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board

Jan 2
Prefiled for introduction.
Jan 12
First reading, referred to Higher Education & Workforce Development. (View Original Bill)

Background Information

S.B. 5048
Background on bill Bill Digest
Get Fiscal Note
Cluster Academy Summary
New High Skills, High Wages Strategic Fund
Workforce Board preliminary statewide cluster analysis

High Skills, High Wages Strategic Fund

New grant program to fund workforce/ economic development
Support MaterialsHigh employer demand programs PowerPoint for Public Forums Tomorrow's Workforce (Draft Chapter)Employer Survey (Fall 2007)Skills for the Next Washington State Core Measures Local WDC strategic plans Workforce Compact: Partnering for Performance
Workgroup Process

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

State of California Budget Crisis Update

California budget crisis: governor calls lawmakers back for meeting ...

The governor vetoed an $18 billion Democratic plan that included new taxes and state program cuts. The governor says the plan did not have enough spending cuts or ways to stimulate the economy. State Democrats are not happy with the veto, but San ...

Strapped states plunge into budget crisis - Life-

Congratulations to President Obama!

Latte Republic wishes President Obama and his new administration every success on Inaguration Day!

"There is much anticipation over what Obama and his team will officially set out to do once their first 100 days actually start. Flush with the victory they helped Obama and congressional Democrats achieve, their allies in labor pushed to put the passage of a law making it easier to unionize high on the list of priorities. Business groups led by the Chamber, pushed just as hard to keep it off the early agenda. Others have urged Obama to move swiftly on health care, fearing his window to muscle through big policy changes will be brief.

Clearly, the major early effort will be to craft a nearly $1 trillion stimulus plan to revive the economy and see it through Congress. Pulling that off will be extremely tough, given that every lobbyist and interest group in Washington and a whole army of economists, policy experts, and pundits have widely divergent ideas about how that money should be spent. "They have a hard slog ahead narrowing all these ideas down and getting an agreement," says Daniel Clifton, the Washington policy analyst for institutional broker Strategas Policy Research."

the entire article can be read here:

Monday, January 19, 2009

County conducting Scientific public opinion survey on long range vision

County Executive Pete Kremen and Whatcom Legacy Project co-chair Roger Van Dyken announced that a public opinion survey will be conducted this month on what Whatcom County residents want their county to look like in the distant future.

The multi-question survey will be conducted from January 20 to 23, using random digit dialing throughout Whatcom County. It will be conducted by DHM Research of Portland, OR and will have a reliability rating of +/- 4.9% at the 95% confidence level.

“I want to personally encourage the 400 people who will receive phone calls to give us the benefit of their ideas,” Kremen urged. “I know everyone is busy these days, but that 15 minutes or so can help mold the future of Whatcom County. For those who aren’t telephoned but who would like to register their opinions, we’ll have the survey posted on our Whatcom County website,, so citizens can print it, fill it out and send it in to us. Everyone’s opinion is important to us.”

Van Dyken noted that DHM Research is well-versed in this type of public opinion research.

“Local governments in the greater Portland area have used DHM repeatedly to gauge public opinion on growth issues, and we liked the objectivity and yet the difficult choices their questions present. They mirror the tradeoffs that our elected officials wrestle with in making tough land use decisions.”

“This will be an invaluable tool to see what kind of Whatcom County today’s citizens would like to leave as a legacy for tomorrow’s citizens,” Kremen said. “We know that job growth and population growth are coming to Whatcom County. It’s just such a beautiful place for people to live, work and raise families. We want to know what people value as they tell us where people and jobs should be located in our long range future.” “We enjoy a wonderful place now and we want it to be even better in the future,”

Van Dyken added. “The key is to get people’s ideas on how to improve that future. Where should people live? Should we plan another city? Should growth be along the I-5 corridor or in our farming communities? What do we protect as we grow? What value should agricultural and rural areas have in the future? What should be our transportation links and where should they be?”

The survey is a cooperative project funded by the county and by donations to the Whatcom Legacy Project, Van Dyken said. He described it as an important step to help the county, both as it plans for 2031 under the Growth Management Act, and also to help paint a picture of the Whatcom County that today’s residents would like to leave as a legacy for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Van Dyken said that later in the Whatcom Legacy Project process, residents will be invited to get together with their neighbors in small groups to paint a more detailed picture of what they want Whatcom County to look like for future generations.

He noted that Legacy is developing a fun, hands-on process by which people can decide where they want people to live and work, where they want parks to be, what agricultural, environmental and forestlands should be protected, and how it should all be linked together with transportation.

The vision developed by the people would then become a long range “strategic plan” to guide future development through the shorter range Comprehensive Plans.“Predictability is critical for business,” Van Dyken said, “so that they get clear signals where commerce, industry, agriculture and residential areas should be located.”

“Predictability also keeps taxes down,” noted Kremen. “It allows properly sized utilities and transportation to be put in the right place the first time.”Both Kremen and Van Dyken stressed that they hoped that by “looking over the horizon” a consensus would develop among the people of Whatcom County regarding the future development of our community.“Fundamentally, we think the people of Whatcom County all want a beautiful, prosperous, community-oriented place – a home – for future generations,” they said. “The process of helping the people of Whatcom County to project the kind of future they would like for our county will, we hope, bring people together and reduce the sometimes contentious growth conflicts that arise. If people create the ‘big picture’ together, they are more likely to agree on the smaller pieces of that picture.”

Kremen and Van Dyken encouraged the community to participate in the important survey. For more information about the Whatcom Legacy Project or to make a contribution, please call (360) 738-2786.

Contact: Mauri Ingram 739-8039