News

Anti-Tax Group Wants To Force Elections On Tax Hikes

Dec 20, 2012
Kevin Mooney / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. – Initiative activists in Oregon are already looking to the 2014 ballot. One of the early ideas: Require voter approval for nearly all tax increases.

The Taxpayer Association of Oregon is a long way from qualifying its initiative for the ballot. It would require any proposed tax increase that would raise more than $5 million a year statewide to go before voters. The current requirement for tax hikes is that they have to be approved by at least three-fifths of the legislature.

High Desert Warrior. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales

The top forces commander at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord has decided to seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. He’s the 39-year old soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year.

Bales is accused of conducting two predawn raids on villages in southern Afghanistan. The victims were mostly women and children and the Army says some of the bodies were burned. Prosecutors had asked for a death penalty trial and top commanders at Lewis-McChord agreed.

GenoaPhoto.com

Travel experts say holiday driving around the Northwest will be especially treacherous this year. Snow, wind, rain and ice are predicted through Christmas. This week, a man from Kennewick died in a car wreck on I-90 during snowy weather in central Washington.

First rule? Yes, you’ve heard it before: “Slow down.”

In case you didn't get that, Alice Fiman, a spokeswoman from Washington’s Department of Transportation adds, “And even if you think you’re going slow enough, slow down again.”

Andreas Klinke Johannsen / Flickr

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s jobless rate has dropped below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years. The November jobs numbers out Wednesday peg Washington’s unemployment rate at 7.8 percent. That’s down from 8.2 percent in October – the largest one month drop since 1977.

But chief labor economist Joe Elling cautions the state is still far from what he would consider full employment.

Army Orders Sgt. Bales To Capital Court Martial

Dec 19, 2012
High Desert Warrior. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales

The U.S. Army announced Wednesday that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will face a general court-martial on 16 counts of premeditated murder and other charges. If convicted, the maximum penalty is death. The decision follows a pretrial hearing last month.

An attorney for  Bales says she's "disappointed" by the Army's decision to seek the death penalty against the Washington-based soldier accused of massacring Afghan villagers in March.

Staff Sgt. Jason van Mourik / Oregon Military Department Public Affairs

SALEM, Ore. – The state of Oregon is at odds with the federal government over how to use money from Japan meant for cleaning up tsunami debris. It can’t be used to reimburse the state for money it’s already spent.

The Japanese government donated $5 million to the US this fall to help pay for the cost of cleaning up debris from last year’s deadly tsunami. But Oregon hasn't seen a penny of that money so far.

Feds To Review Endangered Status Of Northwest's Reindeer

Dec 18, 2012
US Fish & Wildlife Service

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho - The protected status of a small population of reindeer in the Northwest is getting a second look. Snowmobilers and an Idaho county that depends on winter snow sports petitioned the government to delist the animal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to do a status review on woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains of Idaho and Washington. They’re part of a larger herd from Canada.

Alan Vernon / Wikimedia

As winter begins, humming bird experts say more of the tiny birds may be sticking around the Northwest instead of migrating south.

There are three types of hummingbirds Northwesterners might be seeing more of at feeders or in their yards this time of year: the Rufous, the Anna’s or the Allen’s hummingbirds. These little birds are able to survive the cold by lowering their body temperature, hiding in the lees of tree trunks, shivering to warm up and eating a lot.

Washington Governor Proposes Taxes For Schools

Dec 18, 2012
Austin Jenkins

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Outgoing Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is proposing to extend two temporary taxes for three-and-a-half years in order to make a $1 billion down payment on a recent Supreme Court ruling that found the state is not adequately funding public schools. Much of that new money would go to reduce K-2 class sizes, speed up the phase-in of all-day kindergarten and help districts with basic operating and maintenance costs.

Google Earth

SALEM, Ore. – Some of Oregon’s voter-approved criminal sentencing laws would get a second look under a series of recommendations approved Monday by a high level commission. It’s part of a package of ideas aimed at slowing the growth of Oregon’s prison population.

The Commission on Public Safety didn't wholeheartedly endorse the proposal to scale back some voter-approved mandatory minimum sentences. Those include some types of robbery, assault and sex abuse. But the panel did list the strategy as one way for lawmakers to avoid having to open a costly new prison.

University of Washington

Researchers have discovered something they didn’t expect in the air above an Oregon mountain: hundreds of tiny organisms from Asia. The study suggests the atmosphere is filled with life capable of traveling long distances.

The trans-Pacific winds are certainly capable of carrying pollution across the ocean. That’s long been known to climate scientists and air quality experts.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Governor Chris Gregoire will leave office January 16th. During her eight years as governor, the Democrat often referred to herself as a “recovering lawyer.” Polls showed the former attorney general struggled to connect with voters. She could come off as a fierce technocrat. But her two-terms in office were marked by challenges that affected her on a deeply personal level.

State of Washington

2005

Jan. 12 - Inaugurated over Republican objections
May 17 - Signs 2-year, $26B budget, includes tax hikes on liquor and cigarettes
June 6 - Chelan County Judge Upholds Gregoire Victory – 133 votes

2006

Feb. 15 - State Revenue Forecaster warns housing market showing signs of a correction
Feb. 16 - Signs landmark Columbia River water deal to protect fish and farms

2007

State of Washington

When Governor Chris Gregoire leaves office in January, she’ll take with her nearly a quarter-century’s worth of expertise on one of the most contaminated places on earth. Cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has been one of her top priorities. Before Gregoire was governor, she worked on Hanford issues as the state’s attorney general and before that as ecology director.

Gregoire knows cleaning up Hanford is no easy task. She’s been involved longer than many of the top federal site managers. And despite all of the problems and complexities she’s still optimistic.

Hanford Nuclear Reservation
US Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. – The federal government is reviewing three years of payments to a major contractor at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The review follows growing concerns about a nuclear waste treatment plant at the southeast Washington site.

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers will consider a bill next year aimed at improving security measures at K-12 schools. Representative Mitch Greenlick says he has 16 co-sponsors on a proposal to create a state grant program for districts to tap into.

The Portland Democrat says the money could be used for things like video monitoring and keycard access systems for school entryways. Schools could also build perimeter fencing. Greenlick says even if the grant program doesn't cover every school in Oregon, it could still spur changes.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

A massive fire that burned 61 homes in Central Washington was likely caused by Department of Transportation contractors. That’s the upshot of a report issued Monday by Washington’s Department of Natural Resources.

The aptly named Taylor Bridge Fire started August 13 right after transportation contractors did some welding work on that bridge. It happened near the mountain town of Cle Elum.

SALEM, Ore. - Governor John Kitzhaber called the Special Session after he said Nike was being courted by other states for a major expansion. The Democrat said he wanted lawmakers to authorize the governor to extend Nike an offer: In exchange for freezing the way Oregon calculates its taxes for as long as 30 years, Nike would agree to spend at least $150 million in capital improvements and expand by at least 500 jobs. Lawmakers grumbled about the short timeframe to consider the proposal, but in the end relatively few voted against it.

Oregon House Passes 'Nike Bill,' Sends To Senate

Dec 14, 2012
Jessica Paterson / Flickr

SALEM, OR. - The Oregon House has passed a bill designed to give sports apparel maker Nike special tax status. Governor John Kitzhaber called the legislature into Special Session in order to act quickly to ensure the Beaverton-based company didn't locate a major expansion in another state.

The measure allows the governor to guarantee that the state won't change the way Nike's corporate income taxes are calculated. In exchange, the company agrees to spend at least $150 million on its expansion, and create at least 150 jobs.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

RICHLAND, Wash. – We’ve heard a lot about whistleblowers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. Some workers there have gone public with serious concerns about how the government is cleaning up radioactive waste.

But this story is about a different kind of Hanford Whistleblower.

Every Sunday evening at 7:15 p.m. sharp, Chris Doran welcomes several Hanford Whistleblowers into his book-filled home. His wife Nancy brings out the tea and homemade baked goods. They sit and chat politely. And then, they start to play.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Governor-elect Jay Inslee says in the days to come he will be listening for ideas on how to prevent the kind of school violence that occurred in Connecticut Friday. Inslee did not indicate if that would include gun control proposals.

Mike Donlin heads Washington’s School Safety Center. He says all Washington schools now have safety plans -- but normally a visit by the adult child of a teacher would not trigger alarm.

The White House

OLYMPIA, Wash. – President Obama’s first comments about marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado leave more questions than answers. The President tells ABC News that federal agents have “bigger fish to fry” than recreational pot users.

In the interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, President Obama says about marijuana enforcement: “It would not make sense for us [to go] after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.”

Brandon Carson / Flickr

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers are meeting in a rare Special Session to consider a proposal to give Nike a unique tax deal. The measure has passed out of committee but its ultimate fate remains unclear Friday afternoon.

Governor John Kitzhaber called lawmakers to the capitol and asked them to do this: Pass a law right away that would allow the governor to freeze the way Nike's Oregon income taxes are calculated, at least for a certain period of time. The Beaverton-based shoe-maker says it will launch a major expansion in the state in exchange for the tax freeze.

Protestors Urge Oregon Lawmakers To Reject Nike Bill

Dec 14, 2012
Chris Lehman

SALEM, Ore. – Protesters outside the Oregon capitol building Friday are urging lawmakers to reject a bill to give Nike special tax status. Lawmakers are meeting in Special Session to consider the measure. It would allow the governor to freeze the way Oregon calculates the shoe giant’s corporate income taxes. In exchange, the Beaverton-based company would promise to invest at least $150 million and expand by at least 500 jobs in Oregon. Protester Peter Bergel says Nike and other large companies don't need any special deals.

IFRC

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Chances are, you've heard the public service announcements that say "It's up to you to be ready. Get a kit. Make a plan..."

For years, emergency managers have urged people to stockpile enough food, water and supplies to last 72 hours after a disaster. In the Northwest, basic assumptions like that are now under scrutiny, especially when it comes to the risk from a big earthquake. Two committees in Oregon and Washington have been working for more than a year to come up with wide-ranging recommendations to improve the region's disaster resilience.

Office of the Governor

OLYMPIA, Wash. – When Washington Governor-elect Jay Inslee is sworn in this January he’ll get more than just the keys to the office. Outgoing Governor Chris Gregoire plans to leave behind a book for future governors to consult when it starts feeling lonely at the top.

In the midst of the Great Recession, Gregoire went in search of wisdom from past governors. Her chief of staff Marty Loesch says Gregoire consulted the state archives.

“And found there’s just precious little there to provide guidance to somebody like her who was facing those kinds of challenges,“ Loesch says.

Gregoire campaign photo / Flickr

"I want to get in a car and just drive."

That's one of the freedoms Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is most excited to reclaim when she leaves office in January. For the past eight years, Gregoire has been relegated to the backseat of a Chevy Suburban chauffeured by the State Patrol. "I like driving and there's something that's freeing about [it]," says the governor.

But before Gregoire gets behind the wheel, she'll get a refresher course on how to drive - from the State Patrol.  

Virginia Alvino / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon high school students would be required to learn CPR to get a diploma, under a bill being considered by state lawmakers. A group of students were in Salem Wednesday to lobby on the issue Wednesday.

Eighth grade students from Valley Catholic School in Beaverton came to the Senate education committee to show off their CPR skills. They demonstrated on inflatable mannequins with internal clickers that let them know they’re pushing down deep enough.

Nike Proposal Cheered, Jeered At First Hearing

Dec 13, 2012
Brandon Carson / Flickr

SALEM, Ore. – The proposal to give Nike certainty on the way its Oregon income taxes are calculated is winning both cheers and jeers at the state capitol. Lawmakers and interest groups are suggesting several changes to Governor John Kitzhaber's plan, which will come before a Special Session of the legislature Friday.

The bill would allow the governor to enter into a contract with Nike. The bargain? If Nike or any large company expands by at least 500 jobs and invests $150 million, the state would guarantee it wouldn't change the way its corporate income taxes are calculated.

Oregon, Washington Consider I-5 Bridge Toll

Dec 12, 2012
Colin Fogarty / Northwest News Network

One of the biggest traffic choke-points in the Northwest is the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver, Washington. Replacing it will be one of the region’s most expensive construction projects in a generation.

Lawmakers in Salem and Olympia are considering funding packages to replace the bridge. A key question is whether enough drivers will pay the tolls planners say are needed to finance the project.

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