News

Bonneville Power Administration

Two eastern Washington members of Congress are promoting hydropower as a mainstay in the future of clean energy. The bill they’re sponsoring would expand hydro across the country. It’s the opposite approach of an Idaho congressman who would like to remove dams on the Lower Snake.

Grocery store employees and other essential workers in Washington, regardless of age, will be eligible to begin getting the COVID-19 vaccine later this month, followed in April by people who have two or more medical conditions and those living in congregate settings.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the target dates, along with revised guidelines on who’s eligible, during a news conference Thursday.

Courtesy of Tyson Fresh Meats court filing

The starting point of a Northwest-based saga of alleged invented cattle, a multi-million dollar lawsuit and two bankruptcies may lie in a short handwritten list of numbers scrawled on a lined sheet of three-hole punch paper that purports to show Cody Easterday’s annual losses from speculating on the cattle futures market.

Photo Illustration by MacGregor Campbell / OPB; Original prison image by Oregon DOC, 2014

Like many Americans, people behind bars are waiting to see if they will be getting checks from the federal government as part of the new stimulus bill -- provided it passes Congress this month as expected. The majority of incarcerated people in Washington and Oregon were likely eligible for the first two rounds of relief money.

Advocates for prisoners say the all too common refrain of "What happened to my check?" shows the system for the incarcerated needs to be improved. This comes after a federal judge reversed an initial attempt by the Internal Revenue Service to disqualify inmates from receiving stimulus payments.

KUOW Photo / Megan Farmer

Police officers, along with jail and prison staff, would be barred from using neck holds or restraints designed to restrict a person’s airway or blood flow, but the use of tear gas would still be allowed in limited circumstances under a bill that’s passed the Washington House.

The police tactics measure, House Bill 1054, is a major plank in a sweeping police accountability agenda brought forth this year by majority Democrats. The focus on police reform follows last year’s protests nationally over the killings of Black people by police, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Even as the state of Washington’s revenue picture improves, majority Democrats in the Legislature appear committed to a course that will, one way or another, involve raising taxes this year. Not necessarily to balance a recession-era budget, but instead to reform a tax code they view as regressive and to address gaps and inequities exposed by the global pandemic.

With the 105-day legislative session approaching the halfway mark, Democratic leaders are making clear that existing revenues, combined with the state’s $1.8 billion rainy day fund, plus any additional federal relief dollars the state may receive, likely won’t be enough to fund all of their priorities.

At the same time, Democrats increasingly appear to view the topic of “tax fairness” as a winning issue that is both a matter of good public policy and good politics.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Following a year of frequent armed protests, some of which turned violent, the Washington Senate voted Thursday to ban the open carry of firearms at the state Capitol and within 250 feet of permitted demonstrations anywhere in the state.

The mostly party line vote was 28 to 20.

“Guns and polarized politics is a bad combination and it poses serious risks to public health and safety,” said Democratic state Sen. Patty Kuderer, the prime sponsor of the bill.

ShakeAlert

Smartphone users who opted in to a test of the West Coast earthquake early warning system got an early taste on Thursday of what is to come. Mobile phones from Seattle to Olympia blared with an alarm for imaginary incoming shaking. The earthquake warning system -- already operational in California -- will launch for the general public in Oregon on March 11 and statewide in Washington in May.

Courtesy of Buddy Woodberry

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In the distance comes the echo of baying hounds. They’re on the scent of a cougar. Their howls grow more frantic as the chase picks up.

Hiking behind the pack of three dogs, Bart George follows the GPS trackers on their collars. They’ve trapped a female cougar in a tree. In hound handler speak, the dogs have “treed” her. 

Washington State Historical Society

Washington’s sprawling Capitol campus features war memorials, a granite monument to fallen police officers, a replica of a Roman-style fountain and a brass sundial.

But as soon as this summer a new monument will join the collection. It will honor George Bush, Washington’s first Black pioneer, along with his son, William Owen Bush, who was the state’s first Black lawmaker, and their family.

A fresh round of federal aid will soon be flowing to Washington businesses and individuals hit hard by the COVID pandemic.

On Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a $2.2 billion relief package funded with money approved by Congress in December.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Washington state senators have teed up a mileage-based tax for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as the first step toward changing how the state pays for road maintenance and other transportation needs. Policymakers expect gas tax revenue to decline long term. Oregon has been experimenting with a per-mile charge for years.

Courtesy of Franklin County, Washington

Just how do you miss 200,000 phantom cattle over several years? That’s what some people in the Columbia Basin cattle-feeding industry are wondering in an ongoing saga between Tyson Fresh Meats and Easterday Ranches.

“It’s hard to believe,” says Mike DeTray, who runs a 4,000-head operation outside of George, Wash. 

Bureau of Land Management / Flickr - tinyurl.com/y9glwuyq

Fishing and hunting license sales jumped in 2020 across the Pacific Northwest as more people flocked to outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Total license purchases rose even though part of last spring was crimped by stay-home orders and in some states by the suspension of non-resident permits.

Brianhe / Wikimedia - tinyurl.com/zmpz86k

As majority Democrats in the Washington Legislature lay the groundwork for tax increases to fund the next two-year budget, minority Republicans are jumping out ahead by releasing their own tax-averse budget blueprints.

The plans unveiled by House and Senate Republicans in recent days have no chance of passing the Democratically-controlled Legislature, but do offer alternative sets of spending priorities. The budget frameworks also allow Republicans to draw a philosophical line in the sand around new and higher taxes.

Courtesy of Franklin County, Wash.

In southeast Washington, the welfare of more than 50,000 head of cattle is worrying Tyson Fresh Meats

Can the herd continue to be fed and cared for while the company set up to guard over them, Easterday Ranches, files for federal bankruptcy?

Washington State Parks

Changes to a plan that would allow covert Navy training at certain Washington State Parks are further angering some park goers.

Office of Insurance Commissioner

How much you pay for auto, home and renters insurance depends a lot on your credit score. If your credit is good, you tend to pay less. If it’s not so good, you likely pay more.

Now, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler wants to ban the use of credit-based insurance scoring to set rates. He says it’s a matter of racial justice. 

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Rescheduled fall sports seasons for high school athletes are kicking off this month in large parts of Washington state and Oregon. The general happiness this brought came with a dose of consternation among some coaches and families over strict COVID-19 safety guidelines set down by state health authorities.

Courtesy of Easterday Farms' public Facebook page

Updated Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, 5 p.m. PT

The Easterday family spread unfurls across the Columbia Basin — yawning onion farms, massive potato sheds, huge swaths of ground cut into pens for cattle and a fleet of employee vehicles and tractors. 

But the Easterday family has other assets: A million-dollar house in Phoenix and a private plane and hangar. 

Courtesy: TVW

“Inconsistent.” “Disastrous.” “Senseless.” Those are just some of the words being used to describe Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan for reopening the state – and they’re the words of his fellow Democrats. It’s a sign of rising frustration over the slow pace of getting restaurants, gyms and other businesses open again.

From the start of the pandemic, Governor Inslee faced criticism from conservatives upset about his mask mandate and stay home order. But over the last week, there’s been a noticeable shift. Now members of Inslee’s own party are assailing him.

Courtesy of Nicole Berg

The case of so-called modern-day cattle rustling in southeastern Washington is getting more complex by the day. 

Now, Easterday Ranches has filed for bankruptcy in federal court. 

NWIFC, 2007/Glenn Drosendahl

Leaders of seven Pacific Northwest tribes testified this week in favor of replacing a statue of Oregon Trail pioneer and missionary Marcus Whitman in the U.S. Capitol. A proposal pending in the Washington Legislature would install a statue of the late Native rights activist Billy Frank Jr. in Whitman's place of honor.

Screenshot of Forbes real-time billionaires web page

Washington billionaires would pay a “wealth tax” under a proposal in the state House that will get a public hearing on Tuesday.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Noel Frame, who chairs the House Finance Committee, and would impose a one percent tax on intangible financial property, such as stocks and bonds, futures contracts and publicly traded options. A billionaire’s first $1 billion in “taxable worldwide wealth” would be exempt.

Austin Jenkins / NW News Network

This year, the Washington State Legislature has welcomed a record number of lawmakers of color, including a record number of Black lawmakers who are all Democrats.

Courtesy of Franklin County, Washington

In a deepening cattle war, Easterday Ranches, Inc. has sold its so-called “North Lot” property in Franklin County, Washington, to a beef competitor of Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.

Washington State Parks

Washington state has approved a request to use multiple Washington state parks to train Navy SEALs. But the move Thursday came with significant amendments to what the Navy requested. 

The permits would expand the five parks previously used for Navy SEAL training to 16 or 17. The Navy had requested access to 28 state parks as a way to diversify its training sites. Officials had said a small number of sites can become too familiar to trainees overtime.

The commissioners called their move “difficult,” “hard” and “probably the toughest decision” of a 10-year commission career.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced adjustments to his phased reopening plan that will allow two western Washington regions, comprising seven counties and nearly 60 percent of the state’s population, to move to Phase 2 beginning on Monday.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

You may be used to hearing a pushy car salesperson ask the timeless question, "What can I do to get you in this car?" But one big thing could be different in Washington state a decade from now. Proposals introduced this winter in the Washington Legislature would end sales of new gasoline-powered cars in the state by 2030.

The Democrat-backed proposals face opposition from Republicans, the oil industry and auto manufacturers. A prior version failed to advance out of committee in Olympia last session and the inside politics do not appear to have changed substantially since. However, the concept is catching on in a few other states and in countries overseas.

Courtesy of Franklin County, Wash.

It’s a modern-day rustling case. 

A major Washington state cattle operator allegedly “fed” more than 200,000 head of cattle that didn’t exist for years. Now Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc is suing. 

Tyson says in a lawsuit filed in Franklin County Superior Court this week that its losses are more than $225 million. The losses are from false cattle sales and feed costs.  

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