Scary “Drones” or Annoying Neighbors with Model Airplanes?

I’ve gotten a lot of mail recently from ACLU members supporting regulation of drone use in Washington, which I support. However, I won’t support ANY bill on drones. I think the environment is more interesting than just the current ephemeral technology concern of cheap ubiquitous model airplanes. There was a bill last year on this topic that I thought could be kindly described as a mashup of the black helicopter concerns of the far right with bizarre changes to how the 4th amendment is interpreted. The process of getting to the floor at the last minute resulted in something that was anything but clear. I voted no, and the governor vetoed it in its entirety and said that folks should start over.

I think we should create standards that are technology independent and that affect things beyond just a remote-controlled flying platform for a camera. Any bill should include:

  1. Clear language that affects legal searches and privacy invasions from paparazzi or nosy neighbors. This would be independent of the manned or unmanned status of the airplane involved. I’m just as concerned about a cop in a helicopter as I am about a cop with a model airplane.
  2. Data retention standards for the results of surveillance. This would apply to traffic cameras, toll collection, private security cameras, airplanes that fly around pretending to be cell towers, actual data from cell towers, etc. The government certainly should not be building a huge database of information about our private lives that can be mined at their leisure.

We’re going to use the law that gets written here as the standard for criminal investigations for decades, and we should think about it in a rational way and work through the legal scenarios.

The work done by Gregory McNeal at the Brookings institution is interesting and could perhaps be the basis of a reasonable bill that would provide a more consistent platform for ensuring our privacy without becoming outdated in 5 years. It’s a long paper, but a summary available here ( might entice you to wade through it.


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Printable version of budget post

2015-17 WA State Budget (PDF File, requires Adobe Reader)

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WA Budget 2015-17: High Degree of Difficulty

Recession Job Recovery graphWhen writing about the budget it’s important to share good news as well as bad. First the good: (it’s short) the revenue forecast picked up a little bit. The bad is that we face one of the most difficult budget cycles of my time in the Legislature, and perhaps worse than we’ve seen in many decades.

The budget is showing strains from the slow recovery from the recession, we are seeing a slew of court cases that require us to spend significant amounts of money, and we are going to have to make significant progress in meeting our constitutional responsibility to fund public education.

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Super-Interesting Changes in The Amount of Driving We Do

Vehicle Miles Travelled Forecast ComparisonWSDOT released a new forecast of gas tax revenue based on a new forecast of how much people are likely to drive in the future. Less.

There are a lot of factors that drive this change, and you can read more about them on Sightline, The Seattle Times, or the actual wonky report itself, published by the Office of Financial Management.

This is a major change in how we look at the future, and will have big implications. Basically, raising the gas tax by a penny will get you a lot less revenue. Of course, you won’t have to build as much highway infrastructure if it’s true, so maybe that will work itself out. I think the uncertainty leads us to depend less on borrowing against the projected revenue stream. If we were to increase the gas tax and not borrow against the new stream of revenue we would build fewer projects at the beginning, but have more flexibility in the future to respond when we see how drivers really behave.

Changes my thinking some about how we should build a transportation package and what should be in it.

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Golden Crayon Award

Golden CrayonsThe Early Learning Action Alliance gave me a “Golden Crayon” award for my efforts last session to pass the “Early Start” bill. The bill had a lot of moving parts, but the main idea was to focus on improving the quality of the childcare we have now so that we reap the benefits down the road in improved outcomes for at-risk youngsters.

Somewhere there are a lot of children who have boxes of crayons with no gold ones.  This is the sad part of an otherwise lovely award. It came with a nice plaque too:


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Roundtable Urges Transportation Investment

Aerial Photo of 520 Bridge Construction near Medina

520 Bridge Construction near Medina

Crosscut reported today on a press conference by Steve Mullin, the head of the Washington Roundtable urging the Legislature to pass a transportation package, and touting a Boston Consulting Group study that the package would generate a lot of economic activity in the next 30 years – far more than the cost of the projects.

The Washington Roundtable argued Tuesday that passing $7 billion worth of transportation improvements in the 2015 legislative session would create $42 billion worth of economic benefits to Washington in the next 30 years.
Report: Inaction on transportation is expensive for state, public

I totally agree.

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Teen Births Decline!

birth rates by state - 2012I got email from one of our regular contributors yesterday that wanted us to follow Colorado’s example in reducing teenage births in Washington. Since 2008 teenage births (to women age 15-19) have declined almost 40% in Colorado, an amazing statistic. The website this is from ( claims this has saved Colorado $41 million in that time. This is not unreasonable – both states pay hospital costs for births to women below about 250% of the federal poverty level through Medicaid.

Colorado provided IUD and implants to women at no or low cost through 68 family planning clinics. The cost of the birth control is very low per-person (particularly with long-lasting examples like implants and IUDs) compared to the cost of a live birth, let alone one with complications. Colorado nets a pretty significant savings.

I told him I didn’t want to do what Colorado is doing. Why would I do that?

The great story here is that teen birth rates have declined precipitously across the nation. The rate of decline can obscure the relative position of the states. You can see the overall decline in the chart on the right.teen birth rate decline

In the map at the top of the post you can see that the two states are close to the same actual birth rate (the same lavender color). Colorado’s rate of decline was steeper than ours, but they started in a much worse position. Washington  was about 20% lower than Colorado in 2008 and dropped about 30% in the time since. We are still lower than Colorado today.

The teen birth rate (per 1000 women age 15-19) in Washington was 23.9 in 2012. In Colorado it was 25.4. I am not interested in getting to the Colorado level.

The chart with these numbers is available in the most current CDC report on this issue, available at the following link: The comparison data are on page 20.



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Progress Update on the 520 Project

The construction effort on 520 is about to move to the West side, after a long, long slog of a project. The last pontoons will be on the lake by November (if the creek don’t rise) and the details of the Eastside project will get finalized. The communication below is from Julie Meredith, the Program Administrator for the entire project (and one of my favorite engineers.)

If you check out some of the links you’ll see that the part of the new bridge that connects to the existing 520 is mostly temporary. it’s a complicated dance to keep the project moving forward without totally disrupting

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Every year we get the same scam

Central WA Fire

One of many fires in Central Washington this summer.

Somebody has a problem with the Ellensburg Rodeo and Kittitas County Fair. Every year he (she?) sends a similar “notice of cancellation” of the Ellensburg Rodeo and Fair with some goofy excuse. Every year it’s not true. It’s not true this year either. Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up.

(The photo is a random shot I took of one of the many fires ravaging central Washington this summer. The view North is from the outlook on the way to Yakima a couple of weeks ago. It’s “near” Ellensburg, but isn’t causing the fair to be cancelled.) Continue reading

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Visiting Bertha (Many Photos)

One of the perks of the State Rep gig is that I get some cool tours. I’ve been inside pontoons on the 520 bridge, an aircraft carrier, Sound Transit tunnel construction, and last week the orifice the Bertha is creating. I took some photos that illustrate some aspects of the visit, though it’s hard to capture the sense of the project from a single walk-through.

The entry to the tunnel

The entry to the tunnel

The entrance to the actual tunnel is a large pit that I believe will eventually form the floor of the lower level of the tunnel. Right where the red erector set-like construction is in the back the level drops down and you’re below the level of the driving surface.

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