It sounded like deja vu all over again: more bad news for beach-hoarding magnates who may employ gates, landscaping, fake garages and fake trespassing signs restricting access to public lands. A California court in late September ruled against Vinod Khosla, Sun Microsystems co-founder and clean energy investor, saying he couldn’t keep a locked gate to Martin’s Beach, reached along his Half Moon Bay property. Then Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill turning the screws on Khosla further. Still, the much-publicized case is but a speck of sand on the beach. There are 1,150 access points along the state’s 1,270-mile Pacific coastline, and many are tricky to find or use. The good news: fairly soon there’ll be a new way around that.
Collaboration in Civic Spheres
Archive for the ‘State Governments’ Category
by Matt Rosenberg October 15th, 2014
by Matt Rosenberg January 29th, 2014
Washington state legislators seven years ago set a goal to fund all-day kindergarten in all public schools here by the 2017-18 school year but a new report they commissioned says the practice can’t now be called cost-effective because the academic achievement gains associated with it usually fade fast and any social and emotional learning benefits to children from it can’t be adequately documented.
The new report to lawmakers from the government-funded non-partisan Washington State Institute for Public Policy reviewed the research literature and based on 10 rigorous studies that included control groups, found that compared to the half-day alternative, “the benefits of investing in full-day kindergarten are unlikely to outweigh the costs because the initial test score gains are not usually sustained.” However, if stakeholders can figure out how to sustain the initial test score gains then the investment “has the potential to be cost-beneficial with relatively low risk,” the report added.
by Matt Rosenberg January 17th, 2014
Several years after the allegations prompted headlines, and more than a year after he settled a related misdemeanor case for official misconduct in King County Superior Court, a former Washington State Trooper who allegedly gamed his state pension payout through misclassifying overtime hours he worked in 2010 and 2011 has quietly settled an ongoing state ethics probe by agreeing with his signature to pay a $60,000 fine, while admitting no guilt. The action came in an administrative determination known as a “stipulation” approved this week by the Washington State Executive Ethics Board, with ex-WSP Lieutenant William Blythe Gardiner, now 52. Public records show his last known voter registration address is in Sammamish.
by Matt Rosenberg January 15th, 2014
Taking a gentle approach to the often-contentious annual legislative battle in Olympia over local government transparency, a broad bi-partisan coalition of 41 State House members have signed on as sponsors of a measure to require all but the smallest government bodies to post their regular meeting agendas online at least 24 hours in advance. With sponsors including Seattle Democrats and Eastern Washington Republicans, House Bill 2105 got its first hearing yesterday in the chamber’s Government Operations and Elections Committee. The state’s Open Public Records Act lays out rules and responsibilities for making and complying with public document and data requests. The companion Open Public Meetings Act among other things says governments “shall provide the time for holding regular meetings” as determined in its laws or rules, but has no actual requirement agendas be posted, or posted online.
Prime sponsor Brad Hawkins (R-12, Wenatchee) told the committee the proposed legislation was “a modest first step at updating the Open Public Meetings Act to reflect our online society.” The Act “only requires public agencies with governing bodies to issue notice” of meetings, “but it does not require them to post agendas. In the interest of transparency in government, posting agendas is a good practice.” A co-lead sponsor is State Rep. Steve Berguist (D-11, South Seattle/Tukwila/Renton).
Bill Will, the Executive Director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, also testified in support of HB 2105, saying that posting meeting agendas online is “a common courtesy, a lot of government agencies are already doing this, and if this is a gentle nudge in the direction for everyone to do it, I think it’s a good thing.”
Victoria Lincoln, representing the Association of Washington Cities, said she signed in as “neutral” on the bill, and wants to learn more about penalties for non-compliance, and what compliance would entail for staffers.
Included under the bill’s requirements would be city and county councils, school districts, a wide range of other local and regional government bodies, and “any state board, commission, department, education institution” that has a governing body. The proposed law would not erase the existing requirement under OPMA that such public bodies provide advance notice, separately, of their meeting dates, times and places.
As our own September 2012 resource guide to online meeting agendas in Washington showed, practices vary widely across the state. Some local and regional governments not only post their agendas online, but also include item-by-item links to the agenda items. This is the one part of a robust approach to voluntary online government transparency; another is providing current and historical key performance data in structured formats such as Excel and CSV.
Other government bodies in Washington don’t bake meeting document links directly into their online agendas but do augment them with bulky .pdf files of the whole meeting’s document packet. Others simply meet the intent of HB 2015 by posting an agenda online with no accompanying meeting packet online or embedded document links.
Another category of Washington governments have web sites but post no agendas; these are the ones who would be targeted for compliance under HB 2105, unless they met the bill’s exemption threshold of having full-time staffs of five or fewer employees. Governments with no web sites would be exempt.
One additional testifier at Tuesday’s committee hearing, Arthur West of Olympia, suggested that some small cities, school districts or other bodies which could have to comply under the new law might instead try to game the exemption by making technical adjustments to lower their FTE level to five or less, and that therefore some reasonable population level for affected jurisdictions, based on the latest U.S. Census data, should be substituted as a yardstick for granting exemptions.
In the legislature in recent years cities, led by the AWC, have voiced concerns and advanced bills to regulate what they see as sometimes burdensome public records requests; and have proposed some requesters be required to pay for related staff time, prompting sharp rebuttals from records requesters and their allies. Other disputes have arisen around proposed and adopted exemptions to the Public Records Act. Voluntary online disclosure hasn’t come up much as a legislative topic, until now.
The 2014 legislative calendar hasn’t been posted yet but typically in a session starting in January, bills must pass through their originating committee with a simple majority by the end of the third week in February in order to be eligible for further consideration and an eventual floor vote. For any bill to become law it must be passed by both the State House and the Senate. If differing versions of a bill are passed in each chamber, that can be resolved in various ways including in conference committee.
Video of testimony to the House Gov Ops Committee yesterday on HB 2105 is below via TVW.
by Matt Rosenberg December 30th, 2013
Washington State Parks have a backlog of deferred maintenance projects valued at $463 million now, up from $373 million in 2001, according to a new report to the legislature from the state parks and recreation commission. Current legislative funding for the backlog is a scant $7 million. The news comes as the parks system continues to wrestle with tough new fiscal realities sure to require more reliance on outside revenue and far less from Olympia.
by Matt Rosenberg December 23rd, 2013
Every year Washington’s economic data unit takes a good look at where the state ranks nationally on more than 40 key performance measures, and the latest report card came out late last week. It shows that in 2012 Washington had the cheapest business electricity in the nation, the third cleanest drinking water systems, was fifth best on research and development spending, remained third in foreign exports, and was in the top quintile on per capita visits to state parks and recreation areas. But our performance lagged on unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation costs, unemployment rate, condition of interstate highways, and college-going rates. We could also do better on air quality. Overall, our state leans more toward the second-tier of five, than first, the report suggests.
These are among the takeaways from the Washington State Economic Climate Study for 2013, issued December 20 by the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. The idea of digging into the data, says the council, is that business is responsible for increasing productivity, but government policies help set the table for success. The study includes several dozen 50-state rankings on core indicators drawn mainly from blue-chip federal government data sources for the most recent and the four preceding years, plus explanations of how the measures are calculated and why they matter. Following are some highlights.
|Elec. Prices – Cmmrcl./Indstrl.||5||1||1||2||1||2|
|Exports, No Jets||6||8||8||8||7||9|
|State Parks & Rec. Site Visits||5||5||5||7||8||5|
|College-Going – 2 & 4-yr. schools||24||24||27||28||30||28|
Some Strong Points
Blessed with abundant hydropower, Washington’s weighted average industrial and commercial price of electricity per kilowatt hour in 2012 was 6.17 cents, the lowest in the nation. Idaho was next lowest at 6.27 cents. At the opposite end of the scale, highest prices after Hawaii and Alaska were in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and California. It was the third of the last five years that Washington had the lowest cost.
Washington in 2012 also held its rank as third greatest exporter in the U.S. measured in export dollar value as a percent of state personal income; bested only by Louisiana and Texas. Using that same yardstick but filtering out transportation equipment including Boeing foreign jet deliveries, the state ranked seventh in exports last year behind Louisiana, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Vermont and Alaska. The export data only includes trade in goods that are physically shipped, ruling out some software exports including most by Microsoft.
Clean Drinking Water
The state last year also ranked third lowest of 50 in percent of its population – just one-fifth of one percent – that was served by drinking water systems which were cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, either for exceeding maximum allowed levels of microbial, chemical or radiological contaminants under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act; or for violations of prescribed drinking water treatment methods. Only New Hampshire and Hawaii ranked better in 2012 and Washington is number one on the measure over the last five years combined, improving markedly since 2008 when it was just eighth best, according to the ERFC 2013 report.
Per Capita R & D Spending
Powered more by the private sector than government, Washington was fifth nationally in 2012 in total per capita research and development spending, exceeded only by Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Delaware. Washington’s five-year average rank is fifth.
State Parks Visits
The per capita rate of visits to state parks and state recreation sites in 2012 was far and away the highest in Oregon, followed by South Dakota, Hawaii, Alaska, Nebraska, Wyoming and Washington. The measure is based on total state parks and rec site visits including by tourists, versus the state’s population. Washington’s running five-year national rank is fifth.
But though Washington did well in some areas, it has room to improve its competitive standing in others, according to the Council’s new report.
Challenges include unemployment insurance costs, worker’s compensation costs, and unemployment rate.
Some High Costs of Doing Business; Plus High Unemployment
Washington slid in 2012 to 38th from 17th in 2008 in controlling the dollar amount of worker’s compensation costs per $100 of payroll. Over the last five years its average ranking is 20th.
It is improving somewhat in unemployment insurance cost contributions collected from employers as a percent of total wages of covered employees, from 44th best in 2008 to 28th best in 2012 but its five-year average ranking is still 42nd.
Washington’s unemployment rate of 8.2 percent in 2012 was only 33rd best in the U.S., the same as its five-year average ranking in that measure.
Our interstate highways are hurting, at least relatively. According to the new ERFC report, nearly seven percent of Washington interstate highway miles were in poor condition in 2011, the most recent year for which data were available. This puts the Evergreen State 44th of 50, a marked drop from the next most recent annual measurement in 2009 when it was 19th.
Not Competitive in College Enrollment
The state’s combined participation rate in two- and four-year colleges was another weak spot. Nationally, 6.4 percent of the population aged 18 and over is enrolled in two- or four-year colleges, versus 6 percent in Washington last year. That put the state 30th of 50, with a five-year average ranking of 28th.
Middling air quality
On air quality we ranked 22nd in 2012. The measure was percent of state population living in so-called “non-attainment areas” where the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards aren’t met. Metropolitan regions must for three years running meet NAAQS benchmarks on carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide in order to avoid being classified as “non-attainment” areas. The state ranked first in 2008 but in every year since has hovered between 22nd and 25th.
Overall, the ERFC report suggests Washington comes out in the wash looking pretty much like a second-tier state, but that’s out of five tiers, or quintiles which divide the 50 states on individual and aggregate performance metrics. Washington’s five-year average combined ranking is 18th of 50 states in 16 “innovation driver metrics” in contrast to a new report from Bloomberg News based on seven metrics and one year that ranks Washington first in innovation.
The state ERFC report puts Washington ninth of 50 over five years, or first tier, in five “business performance” measures; but 21st, or high in the third tier, over five years on seven economic growth and competitiveness indicators. On 10 combined quality of life measures over five years, Washington ranked 16th, or second tier. A handful of measures in the report were not for 50 states, but major metro regions instead.
by Matt Rosenberg December 11th, 2013
A Toll Division Operational Review by the Washington State Department of Transportation released recently raises the idea of a state-regulated but privately funded and managed public utility that in theory could replace WSDOT so road projects can be financed more easily through means including bond sales not subject to legislatively-imposed limits on state government. Yet the notion is clearly less about action soon on any sort of deep structural change. It seems more intended to subtly prod a legislature slow to address systemic barriers to the current and quite arguably failing per-gallon gas-tax-based transportation funding model.