The 2020 Washington Legislature made it official state policy to reduce production of planet-warming gases but failed to pass any significant measures that would meet those ambitious goals. Instead,
a handful of comparatively modest measures passed.
With Washington forcing a record number of traumatized foster youth into overnight hotel stays that further destabilize them — at a tremendous cost to taxpayers — lawmakers in Olympia have sent the governor a budget that seems unlikely to solve the problem. Legislators last week approved nearly $16 million in new funding to try to stem the hotel-overnight crisis. The new money has the potential to restore 26 spots for foster youth lost earlier this year at one Seattle facility, Ryther, and create perhaps more than 70 new ones. Yet, it might not be enough to fix the system: The department racked up more than 1,500 hotel overnights for almost 300 foster children in the most recent year measured, ending in August 2019. Ryther, a children’s mental-health agency, offers an example of how lawmakers’ efforts may come up short.
The latest entry in our ongoing “Covering Your Climate: The Emerald Corridor” special report looks at what the Pacific Northwest is doing to mitigate climate change, including reducing carbon emissions, limiting sprawl and congestion, pushing energy efficiency and pursuing carbon sequestration. Read the new tipsheet, plus check out our earlier report on climate impacts and our opening backgrounder.
Washington state lawmakers have just passed a budget that pays for a collaboration between the Washington
State Patrol and Washington State University to find out whether state troopers exercise racial bias when they decide to search motorists. Additional funding will aim to improve the diversity of the State Patrol workforce. Critics aren’t convinced that the steps the Legislature and the State Patrol are taking will be enough to address implicit bias.
Following revelations that Washington State Patrol troopers search people of color at rates much higher than whites, the Washington House of Representatives has proposed restarting bias studies, as well as launching a campaign to recruit more people of color into the State Patrol. Such efforts would improve transparency and help build trust with more diverse communities, proponents say.
A budget proposal in the Washington House of Representatives would replace the state’s current requirement that construction cause “no net loss” to habitat. Instead, future building projects would be held to a higher standard of “net ecological gain”; supporters laud it for leaving the environment better off. However, opponents, including the building industry and local governments, are concerned that this shift could negatively impact development and worsen the housing shortage in Washington state.
In Part Two of our ongoing “Covering Your Climate: The Emerald Corridor” special report for journalists, we take a look at the impacts of climate change on the Pacific Northwest region — and how best to cover them. Our A-to-Z Guide explores 26 neglected angles and stories, plus resource links to get you started.
Bills in the Washington Legislature would help scientists learn about storing carbon in agricultural soils, as well as letting farmers invest in GPS-guided tractors and climate-friendly cattle feed. While both bills have bi-partisan support and reflect recognition that farm soil can play a key role in slowing the rise of greenhouse gases, but some fear that it won’t benefit all farmers.
Legislation being considered in the Washington Legislature phase in a ban on plastic cutlery and other food-service products accompanying ready-to-eat food, effectively making the state’s takeout industry go compostable-only. Associated fees would fund the upgrade of state facilities to process the compostable utensils and containers. Environmentalists see the legislation as a step in the right direction, but grocery, restaurant and chemical industries feel that existing state taxes on food-service items should pay for the upgrades.