Washington state Capitol reopening to public July 1

The Washington state Capitol building will reopen to the public on July 1 after being closed since March 2020 due the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement Thursday state officials said the Department of Enterprise Services is working to re-establish public tours and is recruiting tour staff. Security fending around buildings on the Captiol campus was removed in early May, four months after the barriers went up during national unrest tied to the presidential election. A crowd of supporters of former President Donald Trump breached the gates to the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia on Jan. 6, the same day a pro-Trump mob stormed the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Judge dismisses Washington state governor recall petition

Washington state officials have said a petition that was filed last month to recall Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic was dismissed this week. KOMO-TV reports the governor’s office said Wednesday that a judge ruled to dismiss the petition filed by a citizen group known as Washingtonians to Recall Inslee. The residents could appeal, but it wasn't immediately known if they planned to do so. The group alleged in its May petition that the governor’s order that limited activities in the state during the pandemic interfered with their rights to assemble, work freely and participate in religious activities.

Washington unemployment rate dipped to 5.3% in May

Washington’s unemployment rate dipped slightly to 5.3 % last month, and the state added 8,300 jobs. The Employment Security Department said that May’s rate was down slightly from April’s revised 5.4% rate. Private sector employment increased by 7,000 jobs and government employment increased by 1,300 jobs. Leisure and hospitality, professional and business services and government saw the largest gains, and construction, retail trade and manufacturing saw were among a handful of sectors that saw a downswing. The national unemployment rate decreased from 6.1% in April to 5.8% in May.

Company drops plan for $2.3B methanol plant in Washington

A company backed by the Chinese government says it is ending its seven-year effort to build one of the world's largest methanol plants along the Columbia River in southwestern Washington. Northwest Innovation Works on Friday told the Port of Kalama it will terminate its lease, ending the $2.3 billion project following several legal and regulatory setbacks. The company proposed to take fracked natural gas from Canada and convert it into methanol, which it would then ship to China to make ingredients for plastics. The state Department of Ecology denied a key permit for the project in January, saying it would create too much pollution.

WA panel approves sports betting; sends to governor

The Washington State Gambling Commission has approved amendments to gambling compacts for 15 Native American tribes that are a major step to allowing those tribes to offer sports betting at their casinos. Commissioners on Thursday voted 7-0, with two excused, on the requests from all 15 tribes to approve the amendments and send them to Gov. Jay Inslee for his approval. This was the next step in the complicated process of allowing sports betting, following approval last year by the state Legislature. If the governor approves, the issue will be sent to the federal government for approval.