washington state

Let's try this again: Washington state Senate passes a bill limiting the use of BPA

Mothers take great care to provide the best for their children, choosing nutritious formula and food for their young. So why is a chemical that may hinder a child's development allowed in baby bottles and sippy cups?

That was the sentiment behind a 36-9 vote in the Washington state SenatJennifere today for a bill (SB 6248) to ban bisphenol A, or BPA, from food and drink containers for young children. Similar legislation passed the House earlier this week 95-1, but that bill (HB 1180) went further by also banning the chemical in bottles containing sports drinks such as Gatorade.

BPA is widely used in shatterproof plastic containers for food and drinks, as well as a plastic lining in cans for food and soda. Studies have shown that when these containers become hot, whether through microwaving or by pouring hot liquid into them, BPA can seep into the food or drink. This is also occurs when the plastics get scratched over time.

Federal safety regulators have expressed concern about the harmful effects the chemical could have on fetuses and young children's brains, reproductive systems, pituitary glands, and behavior. The chemical has also been linked to a variety of cancers, diabetes, and obesity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration "believes there are great causes for concern, especially among the youngest,” said Rep.

Voices to be heard: young adults gather at Seattle art gallery to discuss tuition crisis

JenniferGathered in a packed art gallery on Capitol Hill in Seattle, was a group of mostly young adults. They sat on stairs, the floor, and they stood. All eyes rested upon a pull-down screen that was displaying President Obama's State of the Union address.

They did not assemble merely to watch the president speak from the nation's capital, but to also discuss what was going on in their own capital, Olympia. The topic of the evening – higher education.

The event, “Olympia – In a Can,” was organized by the group the Washington Bus, a politically progressive non-profit organization aimed at raising political awareness among young adults.

Joining the group via Skype, were Rep. Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver, chair of the Higher Education committee, and Rep. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, vice chair of the Finance committee, to discuss and answer questions regarding funding for higher education in Washington. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties the legislators didn't get to share much.

Filling in the gaps were Maggie Wilkens with the League of Education Voters, Mike Bogatay with the Washington Student Association, and David Parsons with the UAW Local 4121.

With the $2.6 billion deficit that the state faces, “cuts to higher education are inevitable,” explained Wilkens to the audience.

Make jobs, make schools green - Washington lawmakers think it's a win-win

Olympia- The  House passed its first bill of the session this week --  a measure that would ask voters to decide whether to create jobs by using $860 million in bonds in order to make schools more energy efficient.

JenniferThe bill “catalyzes probably about 2.5 billion dollars in work, which gives you 38,000 jobs, and will account in $190 million dollars in savings to the taxpayer every single year,” explained Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, the bills' creator and primary sponsor. If approved by the Senate, the measure, House Bill 2561, would need voter approval in November.

The bill would allow schools and universities to compete for $860 million in grants in order to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. The state will provide the money by selling bonds with a lifespan of 20 years at a cost of around 1.5 billion, which includes principle and interest. Dunshee projects that the cost of the bonds will be recouped by way of job creation, tax revenue, and reduced energy costs.

But with Washington's unemployment rate up to 9.5 percent in December and the state facing enormous budget cuts, the choice for some lawmakers boils down to creating jobs or saving money, while the energy efficiency of the schools lies somewhere in between.

“We need jobs now!”exclaimed an impassioned Rep. Kathy Haigh, D- Shelton, to her colleagues during the House floor debate.

But Rep.

UN timber deal would OK “a new form of colonialism," critics charge

By Alexander Kelly

COPENHAGEN – Clayton Thomas-Muller hails from Ontario, Canada -- a First World nation that’s loaded with timber. Ana Filippini comes from nearly the opposite end of the Western Hemisphere, Uruguay, a developing country with vast grasslands known as pampas.

Despite the differences in their homelands, both made their way here to deliver a message to a United Nations conference on climate change:

Your plans to save the Earth could kill our people.

Specifically, they fear for indigenous people who depend on natural forests and grasslands.

A United Nations proposal being negotiated here this week to govern cutting of forests – which accounts for an estimated one-fifth of the human-caused global warming – fails to distinguish between natural and manufactured forests. It’s an omission that would enable timber corporations to log virtually any intact forest on the planet, replacing it with immense swaths of industrial farmland containing only one type of tree, critics charge.

An indigenous Brazilian man addresses a forum on deforestation and native peoples at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen that ends Friday. InvestigateWest photo by Mark Malijan. 

Although the world is likely to hear on Friday that an agreement on slowing deforestation is one of the few bright spots to emerge from two weeks of UN talks on a climate treaty here, indigenous activists see the agreement as anything but a success.


Ref. 71 makes the ballot, campaigning begins

After nearly a month of meticulous signature counts, the results are in: Referendum 71, which could allow Washington state voters to overturn the "everything but marriage" law granting rights to gay couples,  has qualified for the November ballot, reports the Everett Herald staff.

Despite efforts by supporters of gay rights to halt the process, the secretary of state's office said Monday that petitioners had obtained over 1,000 extra signatures, giving voters a chance to decide on whether an extension of the state's domestic partnership law has a place in Washington.

However, the lawsuit filed by Washington Families Standing Together has not gone unnoticed. The group's request for an injunction that would block the secretary of state from officially placing Ref. 71 on  the ballot is expected to have an answer by Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Janet I. Tu of the Seattle Times reports that opponents and supporters of Ref. 71 are already gearing up for the next stage: two months of heavy lobbying. Said Anne Levinson, chairwoman of Washington Families Standing Together:

It's full speed ahead.