Politics

Brown commutes juvenile sentences of more than 70 offenders

Gov. Kate Brown has commuted the sentences of more than 70 people convicted of felonies while juveniles, but the action doesn't mean they are about to be released. The governor’s commutations grant some adults in custody who committed serious crimes as juveniles the opportunity to appear before a state board to argue for their release after 15 years in prison. The list includes people convicted between 1988 and 2019 for crimes such as murder, assault, rape and manslaughter while juveniles. A 2019 bill made changes to the mandatory minimum sentences for minors sentenced on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

WA house facility access limited to vaccinated through January

Under a rule adopted by a House committee last month, lawmakers and legislative employees at the Washington state House must prove they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to access House facilities through early January. The policy took effect Monday, the same day that a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline passed for many state workers and others to provide proof of vaccination in order to keep their jobs. Legislative staff and lawmakers are not covered by Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccination requirement so policy for the House and Senate facilities are left up to leaders within each chamber. The Senate has not adopted a similar rule, but both chambers are expected to come up with policies in the coming weeks for the upcoming legislative session that begins on Jan. 10.

Federal judge rejects bid to block Oregon vaccine mandate

A federal judge has denied a last-minute bid by more than three dozen state employees, healthcare providers and school staff to temporarily block the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon rejected their motion for a temporary restraining order. It marks the first federal judge’s ruling after several state court decisions thwarting similar efforts to block Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s and the Oregon Health Authority’s power to require certain workers to get the vaccines or risk losing their jobs. The judge’s ruling does not end the lawsuit. It allows state enforcement of the vaccine mandates as the case proceeds.

Proof of vaccination to be required at all large events in Washington starting November 15

Ted S. WarrenWashington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks Wednesday, May 12, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., before signing a bill into law that prohibits openly carrying guns and other weapons at the state Capitol and protests statewide.OLYMPIA, Wash. — Proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required at all large events in Washington starting on November 15.  Governor Jay Inslee…

Washington's border with Canada will re-open in November

OLYMPIA, Wash. — After a 19-month freeze caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. formally announced that it will re-open its borders to nonessential travel for fully vaccinated individuals starting next month. That means travelers will be allowed to enter…

Republicans sue over new Oregon U.S. House maps

Former Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno and three other Republicans have filed a lawsuit to challenge new congressional districts recently passed by state lawmakers. They say the new maps are partisan gerrymandering, unconstitutional and contrary to state law. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the suit, filed Monday in Marion County Circuit Court, is the first such attempt to alter the six-district map that Democrats pushed through during a contentious special legislative session last month. Democrats passed a map that could lead to Democratic control of five of the state’s now-six seats in the U.S. House. Oregon picked up an additional seat because of population gains recorded by the recent U.S. Census.

Spokane native to be first woman U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane native Vanessa Waldref has been confirmed as the new U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. Waldref, an environmental lawyer for the Justice Department, is the first woman to hold the role. President Joe Biden nominated her on the recommendation of Democratic Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Waldref is a trial attorney in the…

Oregon school board adopts stricter political symbols ban

An Oregon school board that had banned educators from displaying Black Lives Matter and gay pride symbols has broadened the policy to prohibit district employees from displaying all political symbols. An original move last month by the Newberg School Board to prevent staff from displaying BLM or gay pride flags prompted strong criticism and threats to boycott the town and its businesses. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the board rescinded that rule Tuesday night and opted for a more sweeping policy. It ban all symbols deemed political, including those supporting BLM or LGBTQ issues. Newberg is a town with about 25,000 residents southwest of Portland. 

Washington Supreme Court unanimously OKs tax on big banks

The Washington Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a new tax on big banks aimed at providing essential services and helping improve the state's regressive tax system. The 1.2% business and occupation surtax — a tax added on top of other taxes — was passed by the Legislature in 2019. It applies to banks that make more than $1 billion in annual profits, but it is assessed only on their economic activity in Washington. The banking industry sued, saying the tax discriminated against banks engaged in interstate commerce, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The justices ruled Thursday the tax doesn't discriminate against out-of-state banks because it applies equally to those based in Washington or elsewhere.

WA worker vaccination increases ahead of mandate deadline

Data shows that vaccination numbers for Washington state workers subject to a vaccine mandate are about 20% higher than earlier this month. The Seattle Times reported that more than two-thirds of Washington workers have gotten their shots. By Oct. 4, most workers must show that they have gotten all their shots in order to be considered fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. State agencies have granted nearly 800 accommodations to state workers whose religious or medical exemptions from the mandate were approved. The accommodations allow workers to avoid getting fired for not being vaccinated, and allow them to work in a role that does not put others at potential risk.