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Legislation to automatically restore the voting rights of convicted felons when they are released from prison has died unexpectedly in the Washington Senate.

Majority Democrats abruptly ended debate on the controversial bill Wednesday evening when they realized they lacked the 25 votes needed to pass the measure.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz is in Spokane building support for her proposal to create a state fund for wildfire prevention and forest health projects.

Franz toured a parcel of private land near Riverside State Park this morning [Wednesday] where crews are thinning trees and removing debris.

Photo from Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group

A local group has formed to try to save 48 acres of farmland in the Vinegar Flats neighborhood in southwest Spokane.

The current owner of a parcel known as the Pilcher property has applied for and received conditional approval for a permit that would allow for 94 homes to be built on land that is zoned agricultural. There are no immediate plans yet to build the development.

Strong opposition and intense lobbying by Washington’s health insurance industry has resulted in a key change to a consumer-oriented measure designed to address rising premium costs.

The proposal from Democratic state Sen. Christine Rolfes originally aimed to require the state’s Office of Insurance Commissioner (OIC) to factor in a company’s surplus funds when deciding if a proposed rate increase was reasonable.

Kenichi Wiegardt can really shuck oysters. His hands work at a dizzying pace opening the shells, a rhythmic thump, thump, crack, slice. Then oyster meat blurps into a colander over and over.

Wiegardt, a fifth-generation oysterman, makes his living in the mud of Willapa Bay on Washington’s coast. 

“This time of year we should be shucking 40 to 45 hours a week, and we’re down to 15 to 18 hours,” Wiegardt says. 

Washington Legislators Act On Wide Variety Of Bills

Feb 18, 2020
TVW

On Tuesday, for a second day in a row, Washington legislators continued to approve or deny a pile of bills.

The House voted today to double the penalties for drivers stopped for using phones and other electronic devices while driving through school zones.

Idaho Public Television

Both the Washington and Idaho legislatures were on duty during this federal Presidents’ Day holiday.

In Olympia, Washington legislators used Presidents’ Day as an opportunity to approve a large number of bills. At least three focused on health care and prescription drug costs.

Spokane Puts Wrap On Another National Sports Event

Feb 16, 2020
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The national curling championships hosted by Eastern Washington University last week are now in the books. The event gave local officials a chance to prove Spokane can host high-profile events in yet another sport.

Spokane has an impressive track record when it comes to hosting regional and national level sporting events.

A new federal grant aims to improve wildlife habitat and migration corridors in the Northwest. About $100,000 is going to a project related to a wildlife underpass that will be built under U.S. Highway 95 in North Idaho.

A Portland comedian originally from Libya is taking legal action U.S. Customs and Border Protection after he says he was illegally detained in Spokane.

Mohanad Elshieky says federal officers took him off a bus and questioned him at Spokane’s Greyhound station in January 2019.

Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman announced his bid for Washington Governor in November as an independent. But Wednesday, in his home town of Yakima, he announced he’s now running as a Republican.

AARP photo

A new AARP survey asks respondents about their experiences with prescription drug prices, and it finds support for some legislation pending in the Washington legislature to deal with those costs.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Today on Inland Journal, we wade into the world of sports with two stories, one a visit to Cheney, where the U.S. Curling Association is holding its 2020 national championship. And correspondent Tom Banse tells us about the potential expansion of sports betting in Washington. We’ll also talk with Eastern Washington Democratic congressional candidate Chris Armitage.

But first, pregnant women and marijuana.

Chris Armitage is the first announced challenger in 2020 to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who is running this year for a ninth term. Armitage is a Democrat.

A group that wants to bring back wild sea otters to the Oregon Coast is taking a big step forward. The federal government has awarded them a grant to launch a feasibility study for a possible reintroduction effort.

Beachcombing was a blast for soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord earlier this week. An ordnance disposal unit was called out after unexploded military munitions washed up on the beach north of Ocean Shores, Washington.

For nearly half a century, people with severe brain injuries have found a home in a nursing facility housed in a Swiss Chalet-style former tuberculosis hospital in Snohomish, Washington.

Delta Rehabilitation Center began as a traditional nursing home in 1959, but found its calling serving brain-injured clients in 1975 after the owners’ 20-year-old son suffered a debilitating traumatic brain injury in a car crash.

Over the decades, Delta Rehab developed a reputation as one of the few facilities in Washington willing and able to serve the unique, long-term care needs of these often younger and sometimes difficult-to-manage patients.

But now, after years of financial challenges, the third generation, family-run nursing home is preparing to close its doors. The facility’s staff was notified of the impending closure Wednesday afternoon.

Curling Works To Elevate Its Profile In The U.S.

Feb 12, 2020
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

On Saturday USA Curling will crown its men’s and women’s champions after a week of competition at Eastern Washington University.

The game is in growth mode. It’s flying high after an American team won Olympic gold in 2018. Its governing body hopes this newfound popularity will allow curling to become more established, long term, in the U.S.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The presidential election process is well underway with the New Hampshire primary now in the books.

Down ballot races are starting to come to life too with candidates announcing their campaigns, introducing themselves to voters and raising money.

One of those candidates is Democrat Chris Armitage, who is challenging Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Armitage is an Air Force veteran who spent his time stateside at Fairchild.

Photo by Steve Jackson

The Spokane City Council Monday night heard from several residents upset with plans to expand the Centennial Trail in their neighborhood.

The city is poised to begin work on the trail from Boone Avenue along Summit, through Mission and West Point.

City of Spokane

A two year long debate has led to a new name for an old community center in Spokane.

The Spokane City Council on Monday night renamed the longstanding community center in the city’s East Central neighborhood after the late civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each year in Washington, opioid overdoses kill approximately 700 people. In response to this crisis, a state lawmaker is proposing to repeal a tax break that benefits opioid distributors. The money raised would fund drug treatment services. 

A couple of years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states beyond Nevada to have sports betting. Oregon dove in last year. Idaho, Washington and California have held back. Now, Washington state lawmakers are taking a hard look at legalizing sports betting. But they do not seem inclined to copy much from Oregon's playbook.

Eastern Washington’s U.S. attorney was in Seattle today (MONDAY) to support a federal lawsuit against King County.

The Justice Department sued King County Monday for banning flights with federal immigration detainees into Seattle’s Boeing Field.

WSU Study Surveys Pregnant Women Who Smoke Marijuana

Feb 10, 2020
WSU College of Nursing

Washington State University researchers have tackled the issue of why pregnant women use marijuana. They’ve released a new study that explores the reasons. They also looked at the confusion among the women about how their marijuana use affects their babies.

Copyright 2020 Northwest News Network. To see more, visit Northwest News Network.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The best men’s and women’s curling teams in the U.S. are competing for national championships this week in Cheney, Washington. The sport features four-person teams sliding heavy rocks down a sheet of ice toward a target. It’s one of the most popular sports in Canada and it’s slowly gaining in popularity here in the States.

Flood waters in southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon are starting to recede. But this relatively good news follows days of bad news and inundated towns – along with collapsed bridges, dozens of helicopter rescues and washed-out roads.

It’s all caused by recent heavy rainfall and fast-melting snow.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has issued an emergency proclamation for 20 counties as major flooding inundated Washington and Oregon.

The original proclamation of 19 counties in western Washington was updated Wednesday to include Walla Walla County in southeastern Washington.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington legislators marked an important deadline day today [Friday]. Bills must have passed out of their initial committees or else they’re eliminated from consideration for the session.

Not all of the bills introduced have big, sweeping ramifications, such as this year’s proposal to officially eliminate the death penalty in Washington.

Most bills are smaller in scope.

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