Washington Ledge

KNKX Photo / Kari Plog

Calling it a "moral mandate,” Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed into law a dozen bills that backers hope will improve policing in Washington, reduce the use of deadly force and ensure that when deadly encounters do occur the investigations are thorough and independent.

"These bills are all going to work in coordination with one another to create a system of accountability and integrity stronger than anywhere else in the nation," Inslee said in remarks before he signed the bills.

Washington State Department of Corrections

The state of Washington will soon offer an alternative to prison for people with a serious mental illness who commit a crime. Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law Monday.

Under the new Mental Health Sentencing Alternative, judges will have the option to sentence a person to community supervision and treatment in lieu of prison.

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For the second time in less than a year, Washington’s Corrections Ombuds (OCO) is warning that the state’s prison system needs to do more to prevent inmate suicides.

In a 15-page investigation released Monday, the OCO found that two inmates died by suicide in 2020 after prison staff failed to recognize signs of mental distress and didn’t follow suicide prevention policies.

“Suicides are preventable. There should be zero, that should be the goal” said Assistant Ombuds Dr. Patricia David, the investigation’s author and the OCO’s Director of Patient Safety and Performance Review.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed into law a new tax on capital gains aimed at the state’s wealthiest residents.

But the future of the tax is uncertain.

Washington DSHS

For the first time in its 40-year history, the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) will be led by a woman.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee named Cheryl Strange as the agency’s next secretary.

WSDOT - tinyurl.com/yddspl8b

Just days after the Washington Legislature gave final approval to a new capital gains tax aimed at the state's wealthiest residents, the conservative Freedom Foundation has filed a lawsuit on behalf of five individuals and one couple to overturn the tax. 

In the complaint filed Wednesday in Douglas County, Washington, lawyers for the plaintiffs said the 7 percent tax on gains above $250,000 from the sale of such things as stocks and bonds is an unconstitutional income tax. They also said it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

Austin Jenkins / NW News Network

Fifteen weeks ago, majority Democrats in the Washington Legislature convened a 105-day session vowing to address the fallout from COVID-19, police accountability, greenhouse gas emissions and issues of racial justice.

On Sunday, Democrats adjourned the session having accomplished much of what they set out to do, including passage of a number of sweeping bills that Gov. Jay Inslee, in a statement, called “historic” in nature.

"This session's accomplishments are as important to the long-term well-being of our state as any session I've seen," Inslee said. 

Austin Jenkins / NW News Network

The state of Washington will beef up security around the governor’s executive residence following a major breach of security on January 6, the same day a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Money for the upgrades is included in the state’s next two-year capital construction budget which the state Senate approved Friday.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

The Washington House has approved a bill to institute a seven percent tax on capital gains over $250,000 from the sale of such things as stocks and bonds. 

The 52 to 46 vote followed an hours-long debate that spanned two days. 

WSDOT - tinyurl.com/yddspl8b

Washington House Democrats on Friday unveiled a proposed two-year state budget that seeks, among other things, to head off a wave of mass evictions once the state’s eviction moratorium expires.

“Our goal is to wipe the slate clean for landlords and tenants,” said state Rep. Nicole Macri, a vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Former Washington state Auditor Troy Kelley has exhausted his appeals and now faces the prospect of having to report to a federal prison to serve a 366-day prison sentence after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for review of his case.

KUOW Photo / Megan Farmer

Washington’s eviction moratorium will be extended through June and two million more Washingtonians will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 31.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the moratorium extension and the speeded-up vaccine timeline at a virtual news conference on Thursday.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Last June, Washington’s chief revenue forecaster delivered the bad news to state lawmakers and state officials.

“The longest economic expansion in U.S. history is, unfortunately, over. We are now in a recession,” Steve Lerch told the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

At the time, Lerch projected the state would lose nearly $9 billion in revenues over four years. But he also emphasized there was a lot of uncertainty in the forecast.

Sure enough, the September and November forecasts weren’t nearly as bleak. Taken together they reduced the almost $9 billion drop to a projected $3.3 billion reduction.

Then came Wednesday's March revenue forecast. It showed the state returning to pre-pandemic revenue levels.

KUOW Photo / Megan Farmer

It's the news many have been waiting for. Starting March 22, all 39 Washington counties will advance to Phase 3 under a revised COVID-19 reopening plan Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled on  Thursday.

Austin Jenkins / NW News Network

Washington’s 105-day legislative session has crossed the halfway point and a key deadline for policy (non-budget) bills to clear their chamber of origin has passed. Majority Democrats are moving swiftly to enact a pandemic-era agenda focused on issues like tax reform, police accountability, racial equity and global climate change. Minority Republicans, meanwhile, are seeing a few of their bills advance while also objecting to much of what Democrats are pushing forward. So, what’s moving and what’s not? Let’s take a look.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Courtesy Providence SW Washington

The state of Washington, hamstrung as many states have been by a slow distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, will deploy the National Guard, set up mass vaccination sites and create a new public-private partnership to lead a renewed effort to get the vaccine into the arms of people.

The move comes as the state prepares to immediately advance to the next phase of people eligible for a vaccination beyond health care workers, first responders and those living and working in nursing homes.

PARKER MILES BLOHM / KNKX

A proposal to impose sweeping restrictions on police tactics and techniques in Washington is highlighting stark differences of opinion between police and reform groups.

Austin Jenkins / NW News Network

Amid the ongoing pandemic and threats by far-right protesters to "occupy" the Capitol, Washington lawmakers will convene Monday for what will ultimately be a mostly remote 2021 session with a focus on the ongoing response to COVID-19, police reform, addressing climate change and writing a two-year state budget.

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