Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Pricing Model, Part 2

Last week’s newsletter on Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Action Pricing Model got a lot of comments – about three times the normal amount. Thanks for reading it! The bill has arrived in the Appropriations committee and we will spend some time looking at it before taking action, so I have time to work through all the details.

Readers of my newsletter and blog brought up a few concerns that I felt I should respond to. Here are my responses to the most common ones.

Why should we act – China, India, etc. are far larger than us and aren’t acting…

There are two ways to respond to this concern. First, I can quote Mahatma Gandhi “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  This may be unsatisfying to some readers. :-)

Second, I can point to how much of the world’s economy (and carbon emitters) will soon be covered by some kind of carbon pricing scheme, including China. The following graphic from Sightline shows the expansion of carbon pricing strategies, including planned rollouts over the next few years. We would not be acting alone. For more detail read the Sightline article.

Sightline: All the World’s Carbon Pricing Systems in One Animated Map

Cap and Trade or Carbon Tax? Why one over the other? Continue reading

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Advice from 4th Graders – Week 4

More pearls of wisdom from 4th graders in Linda Myrick’s class at Somerset elementary in Bellevue. not sure if this is a McCleary reference, but it’s probably pretty good advice in general.Advice Card 4

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Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Pricing Proposal

I’ve gotten a lot of email this year about Governor Inslee’s climate proposal, both pro and con. Mostly pro, but a number of questions have come up and I’d like to take the opportunity to address them.

  1. I have no personal doubt that the globe is warming up, and that human activity contributes to this.  If you are confused about this there are lots of excellent pieces that work through the science in great detail, such as the information on NASA’s website:  http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
  2. I support the general direction Gov. Inslee proposes: using a market-based solution as the organizing mechanism to drive changes in our behavior to address this over time. People on the left and the right tend to agree that getting the markets to include all the costs of decisions is much more efficient than writing extensive regulations.
  3. I am open to using either Gov. Inslee’s proposed “cap and trade” mechanism or the simpler but less focused “carbon tax” strategy. Both are economically similar, but have different implementation concerns.

The basic idea is that we impose a tax or fee on activities that produce atmospheric carbon, as close to the source as we can. This fee will result in less of the activity (bringing fossil fuels in to produce power of some kind.) The Sightline Institute has a great summary: http://daily.sightline.org/2014/12/18/why-the-carbon-pollution-accountability-act-is-a-big-awesome-deal/

If you want a primer on how a cap and trade or carbon taxes work I urge you to look at the one Sightline publishes. http://www.sightline.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/02/Cap-Trade_online.pdf

Continue reading

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Advice from 4th Graders – Week 3

Week three of the series “Advice for Legislators from 4th Graders” created by Linda Myrick’s class at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue.

Advice Card 3

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High-Quality Early Learning Rocks

Low quality childcare is actually bad for children. Not “less good.” On the other hand, high quality opportunities can improve school readiness in low-income children by two years and make significant improvements in all kinds of non-academic indicators like incarceration rates, family income, etc.

There is a ton of research in this area, and it all points to the conclusion that only high quality programs move the school readiness needle in the right direction. A good, readable summary of the research can be found here.

Early Learning 1-7 inforgraphicWhy does our state fund childcare for about 60,000 low-income children every year? Almost 20 years ago President Bill Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich struck a deal on welfare reform. They required single parents (mostly moms) to hold down jobs, and in return the government committed to subsidize childcare for those families. This prevented a disastrous scenario for low-income kids. Today the state provides vouchers for very low-income parents to get childcare so that they can go to work. However, this system is wildly inadequate – in the quality of care it affords and the quantity of families it covers.

Continue reading

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Advice from Fourth Graders – Week 2

Advice Card 2Week 2 of excellent advice from fourth graders in Linda Myrick’s class at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue. Again, I’ve fuzzed out the name of the student so I don’t violate federal privacy rules. (This is too bad, as it’s truly excellent advice and they should get credit, but…)

This particular concept is a good one – organizing your thoughts prior to speaking, either in public or in small group conversations shows respect for your audience and doesn’t subject them to random wandering. I often try to do this in writing on a 3×5 card or some other small piece of paper.

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Ringing the Gong for Homeless Kids

aThe Committee to End Homelessness rents a gong every year and has people volunteer for stints ringing it once for every unhoused person found in King County during the annual count on January 23rd. I stopped by for a few minutes and was able to take a few whacks.

As you can see from the sign held up in the background there were 3,772 “unsheltered” people in King County in the one-night count done earlier in the month. This is a subset of the “homeless,” as many of the larger group can find a shelter spot on any particular night. Unemployment in Bellevue has recently dropped into the “full-employment” range, but the count found 134 unsheltered people on the Eastside, amidst our cornucopia of plenty.

I chose to hit the gong 19 times to commemorate the 191 children in the Bellevue School District who were homeless in 2012-13 school year. Lake Washington had 247 the same year. It’s hard to imagine these kids making much progress in school while worried about where they are going to sleep that night.

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Compelling Speech from New Rep. Tom Dent (R-13) on Mental Health

We passed our first two bills today. It’s always fun on the first day – lots of people feel moved to speak and there’s always been some minor change to the voting software that is weird to figure out. The first bill typically tries to make a statement about priorities, but is usually pretty simple because complicated bills take longer.

Joel’s Law was first passed last year by the house, but not taken up by the Senate. I wrote about it last week. It passed the House unanimously, with compelling speeches, particularly the one from Freshman Rep. Tom Dent (R-13). He spoke compellingly about his struggles with his son’s mental illness. I don’t usually pay much attention to the (lack of) eloquence on the floor, but Rep. Dent’s comments were spellbinding. It’s less than 5 minutes and well worth watching – click the clip below.

I was also super-pleased that our initial supplemental budget passed 83-15, with strong bipartisan support. Rep. Chandler and I worked closely together to get the bill done in a way that would work for both of our caucuses. The comment I made below is in addition to the press release I put out earlier this week when we introduced the proposed amendment to the bill together.

Ross sig small

Legislative News: Washington House Democrats – Olympia, Washington

Statement from Rep. Ross Hunter on supplemental budget passage

Statement from Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) on the passage of HB 1105 – Making 2015 supplemental operating appropriations.

Sen. Andy Hill and I made a commitment to Governor Inslee last summer that we would take swift action to address problems in the mental health system. Adopting this budget will settle the state’s legal obligation in the single bed certification lawsuit. The House made good on that commitment in a strong, bipartisan fashion today. It is my hope that the Senate sends this bill to the Governor soon so that we can address immediate and urgent problems within the state’s mental health structure.

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For interviews or more information: Rep. Ross Hunter, 360-786-7936 or ross.hunter@leg.wa.gov Staff: Andy McVicar, 360-786-7215 or Andy.McVicar@leg.wa.gov

For broadcast-quality audio or TV/radio interviews: Contact Broadcast Coordinator Dan Frizzell at dan.frizzell@leg.wa.gov or (360) 786-7208.

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Advice from 4th Graders – Week 1

Advice Card 1

I recently spent a fair amount of time working with Linda Myrick’s 4th grade class at Somerset. After my visit they sent me a stack of cards with advice on them. In general, it is EXCELLENT advice. I’ll be posting one a week until I run out. Perhaps at that point another 4th grade class somewhere will feel a need to contribute.

I erased the names of the contributors due to federal privacy regulations, but I know who they are. :-)

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Joel’s Law and dealing with lawsuits, disasters, and an increase in child abuse reports

The House Appropriations committee is planning to hear two bills Today, (Jan. 26, 2015):

HB 1258 – Concerning court review of detention decisions under the involuntary treatment act. This is “Joel’s Law,” a bill creating the ability for parents and other family members to provide information to the court in involuntary treatment act cases. The House passed this bill 97-1 last year and it was blocked in the Senate.

The law is named after Joel Reuter, a bright, beloved software programmer who lived on Capitol Hill. When he spun into a severe manic episode of bipolar disorder in 2013, Washington’s fractured mental-health system offered no cushion, despite pleadings from his parents and friends to have him involuntarily hospitalized.

Instead, Joel, believing he was fighting zombies, was killed by Seattle police. He was 28.
Seattle Times Editorial | January 22, 2015

Joel’s Law is a targeted intervention in the mental health system. It will allow parents and family members to provide input to a judge making the final decision to commit someone involuntarily. Parents often have the most information about the situation, enabling the judge to make a more informed decision. It’s heartbreaking to hear the stories of parents who watch children drift in an out of severe mental illness, getting worse at every turn. We’re better than this, or at least we should be.

HB 1105 – Making 2015 supplemental operating appropriations. This is a super-early, super-small supplemental budget responding to lawsuits, child abuse caseload increases, and natural disasters (Oso and the big fire season.) Rep. Bruce Chandler (R-Granger) and I are jointly introducing the proposed bill, and I expect it to get significant bipartisan support.

The state lost a lawsuit ten years ago on how the homecare system for low-income seniors and the disabled is paid for. It finally made its way through the Supreme Court and the state lost. We’re paying tens of thousands a day in interest on the judgment and I’d like to get it paid off.

Last summer the state Supreme Court said that we can no longer keep patients waiting in emergency rooms because we don’t have capacity in our mental health system to evaluate and treat them. In many cases these folks are shackled to gurneys in hallways. Even in more humane cases they’re not getting the treatment they need and often get significantly worse waiting for a space.

We expect to lose a third case when a federal district court judge makes a decision in March and we are therefore taking corrective action now. This is similar to the emergency room case above, but occurs when local police arrest someone and ask for a mental health evaluation to see if the person is competent to stand trial. The law says we can’t keep them for more than 7 days in jail without an evaluation and a room at the state mental hospital. In many cases we’re keeping them in solitary confinement in county and city jails for months. People without mental issues are badly affected by solitary confinement, and for the mentally ill it’s torture and they just get worse.

Again, the Seattle Times (or at least editorial writer Jonathan Martin) is unsparing in their disdain here:

The $90 million cut from the state’s mental health system from 2009 to 2013 directly led to a state Supreme Court’s ruling in August banning very sick patients from being warehoused in hospitals, and probably will lead to a similar ruling next year regarding a lack of treatment in jails. A wavering financial commitment to court-ordered foster care reforms in the same era resulted in an extension of court oversight.
Seattle Times | November 14, 2014

With this supplemental budget we create more space at the mental hospitals, more treatment slots outside the hospitals, raise compensation for psychiatrists so we can actually hire some, and a bunch of other items that fix problems with the system. It’s not everything we need to do to have the system be functional, but it’s a step towards repairing the damage we did during the recession.

I expect the bills to both pass out of committee on Wednesday relatively unchanged and to pass out of the House either Thursday or Monday. I hope the Senate will give both serious consideration.

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