This (May 2-9) a draft decision of the Supreme Court of the United States indicated its intent to overturn the country's decades-old constitutional right to an abortion guaranteed by the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.
Every year the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries hosts a memorial ceremony for workers who lost their lives on the job.
L&I records show 26 people passed away in 2021 after contracting COVID-19 while working in hospitals, prisons, manufacturing jobs, or other workplaces. Another 15 workers died following long battles with other occupational illnesses. This makes COVID-19 fatalities the highest work-related deaths for the second year in a row.
A total of 106 fallen workers were lost. They were all honored in L&I's annual Worker Memorial Day this week.
Chairman Willie Frank III and the Nisqually Indian Tribe hosted Senator Maria Cantwell, Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland and Gov. Jay Inslee recently for a boat tour on the Nisqually River to see the aging Nisqually Bridge across Interstate 5. They then joined a roundtable conversation with local elected leaders from Pierce and Thurston counties and representatives of the Washington State Department of Transportation and South Sound Military & Community Partnership.
In 2018, the state's transportation budget included $2.25 million for a corridor planning study of I-5 between Tumwater and Mounts Road. The 2022 Move Ahead Washington package recently passed by the Legislature and signed by Inslee includes $75 million to advance project work in the corridor.
The Nisqually Indian Tribe has been an active partner throughout the planning process, including partnering with Washington State Department of Transportation to have the U.S. Geologic Survey complete a hydrologic study of the Nisqually River related to I-5.
"The aging Nisqually Bridge across I-5 no longer meets the needs of this quickly-growing region, and is also altering the ecological health of the area. As we look to the future, the Nisqually Tribe, local, state and federal leaders are partnering together so we can seize this opportunity to restore the vibrancy of this ecosystem and ensure a more resilient transportation corridor," Inslee posted on Instagram.
Legislators approved 303 bills during the 60-day session that ended March 10. The action then turns to the governor's office where he has 20 days to sign or veto legislation. This week he wrapped up signing several dozen bills, including several at signing events with communities and legislators.
Some bills from the Legislature are intended for fun. On Monday, Inslee signed a bill sponsored by Rep. John Lovick establishing pickleball as the state's official sport. Inslee and Lovick were joined by dozens of pickleball enthusiasts on Bainbridge Island where the sport was invented in 1965.
Most bills, however, bills tackle serious and urgent issues, such as the bipartisan bill to deter theft of catalytic converters. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Cindy Ryu. Inslee also signed legislation requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson and sponsored by Rep. Debra Lekanoff to create the nation's first alert system to help locate missing Indigenous people.
Among the dozens of other bills the governor signed last week:
On Friday at events in Mukilteo and Tacoma, Gov. Jay Inslee signed several climate and clean energy jobs bills, including the historic new 16-year Move Ahead Washington transportation package.
The governor was joined in Mukilteo by Tulalip Tribes Vice Chair-elect Misty Napeahi, Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Roger Millar, Sen. Marko Liias, Rep. Jake Fey, Sen. Joe Nguyen, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, Rep. Alex Ramel, and Rep. Davina Duerr.
In Tacoma, Inslee was joined by Chairman of the Puyallup Tribe Bill Sterud, Pierce Transit CEO Mike Griffus, Sen. Marko Liias, Rep. Jake Fey, and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon.
The Move Ahead Washington transportation package is unlike any other in the state's history. It lays the foundation for a massive shift from simply building more lanes to moving people via cleaner, more efficient transportation options.
"Transportation is our state's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. There is no way to talk about climate change without talking about transportation," Inslee said during the Friday morning signing event. "This package will move us away from the transportation system our grand-parents imagined and towards the transportation system our grand-children dream of."
The Move Ahead Washington package focuses an increased share of funding on maintenance and preservation of existing roads and bridges than prior packages, and includes major projects such as the replacement of the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River. But the clear distinction is how it directs a significant share of investments towards climate and clean transportation. These investments are possible thanks to revenue from the state's cap-and-invest program that places a price on carbon pollution.
As Washington's COVID-19 response continues to evolve, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released the state's new long-term ForWArd plan to keep people safe and healthy as we co-exist with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.
To date, more than 13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across Washington, leading to one of the highest state vaccination rates in the country and helping the state maintain one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates among states. The ForWArd plan outlines ongoing actions that will allow communities and state leaders to prioritize prevention and readiness for this new phase of the pandemic.
The long-term response plan prioritizes engagement and empowerment of people so everyone has the necessary information and guidance to stay safe; prevention through vaccines, tests and masks; and system readiness that ensures public health leaders and providers can anticipate and respond to changing transmission trends.
"While we don't know when the pandemic will truly end, we do know how to protect ourselves and our communities from COVID-19. DOH is committed to following a path to recovery by empowering people, organizations, and businesses to come together to protect each other, keep our economy strong, our schools open, and our state moving forward," said DOH Deputy Secretary Lacy Fehrenbach.
The Legislature adjourned "sine die" Thursday night, ending a short session that realized many of the governor's budget goals, headlined by a once-in-a-generation transportation revenue package that will reduce emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels. The Legislature also closed on important investments in housing and homelessness, education, and salmon recovery along with key policies to improve health care.
"Sixty days ago, I asked for big action and 60 days later legislators delivered," said Gov. Jay Inslee after legislators adjourned late Thursday. "While some work remains for next session, legislators acted on some of the most urgent issues facing Washingtonians."
In addition to the budget and transportation package, legislators approved over 300 bills this session. The actions include:
Gov. Jay Inslee last Friday issued a directive to cabinet agencies that bans new contracts and investments with Russian state entities, and charges agencies with identifying and ultimately cutting existing contracts that may exist. The directive follows Russian President Vladimir Putin's unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine that began Feb. 23.
"This invasion, which continues, has resulted in grievous loss of life among Ukrainian military personnel and civilians, and it has sparked a historic refugee crisis with global impacts--including for Washington state's large Ukrainian, Russian, and other Eastern European communities," Inslee wrote in the directive. "Virtually the entire world, including governments, businesses, and ordinary citizens, have united in condemnation of this unjust invasion, resulting in unprecedented economic sanctions upon Russian state institutions and leaders.
"As the world responds to this crisis with humanitarian and military aid, Washington State must also do its part in this common effort."
The directive targets any potential contracts or investments with Russian government agencies, or with companies that are, to any extent, Russian-state-owned, or with entities or individuals sanctioned by the United States government in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Information regarding U.S. government sanctions against Russia can be found on the websites of the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Washington is home to an estimated 100,000 Ukrainians. In response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Gov. Jay Inslee reinforced his support for Washington's Ukrainian community and efforts to defend democracy.
"All Washingtonians should be outraged both by Russia's unprovoked and destructive attack on Ukraine, a peaceful nation that has embraced democracy. I stand with President Biden in his steadfast support of NATO and his efforts to protect our country at home," Inslee said Saturday. "All Washingtonians should be outraged both by Russia's unprovoked and destructive attack on Ukraine, a peaceful nation that has embraced democracy. Trudi and I are thinking of all those experiencing terrible suffering as a result of this unjust attack, especially the many members of the Ukrainian community living in Washington state. We stand united in our shared defense of democracy."
With declining case rates and hospitalizations across the west, California, Oregon and Washington are moving together to update their masking guidance. After 11:59 p.m. on March 11, California, Oregon and Washington will be adopting new indoor mask policies and move from mask requirements to mask recommendations in schools.
State policies do not change federal requirements, which still include masks on public transit.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced last Thursday that most indoor masking requirements will lift March 21 thanks to dropping hospitalization rates, improving vaccination rates, and broad access to masks and tests.
"The virus has changed significantly over the past two years, and so has our ability to fight it. While caution is still needed, we are entering a new phase of the pandemic," Inslee said. "Vaccination remains our most essential protection against severe illness and death from COVID-19. It's also crucial to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed again. If you've been procrastinating, now is the time to get the shot."
Inslee was joined in the announcement by Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, Department of Health Secretary Umair Shah, and Department of Health Deputy Secretary Lacy Fehrenbach.
"Our students, educators and school employees, and families have been incredibly resilient as we've navigated the impacts of the pandemic," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. "Our efforts over the past two years have led us to this moment. Nearly all of our school employees are vaccinated, the number of vaccinated students increases each day, and we have one of the most robust COVID-19 school testing programs in the country. Moving away from a statewide mask mandate to masks being encouraged is a safe next step as we move from pandemic to endemic."
Beginning March 21, face masks will no longer be required in most settings, including K-12 schools and childcare facilities. Masks will still be required in health care settings such as hospitals, outpatient and dental offices, long term care settings, and correctional facilities. In addition, beginning March 1, vaccine verification for large events will no longer be required.
Businesses and local governments can still choose to implement vaccination or face mask requirements for workers or customers, and school districts can still choose to have students and teachers wear masks. Federal law still requires face masks in certain settings such as public transportation and school buses.
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