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SPR City Council Interviews: Zack Zappone

Apr 12, 2021
Courtesy of Zack Zappone

This week Spokane Public Radio is talking with every city council candidate from the city's Northwest district.

City Council District 3 Candidate Zack Zappone and reporter Rebecca White discuss economic recovery, homelessness, affordable housing, public safety and the environment. Interviews with his opponents, Lucrecia "Lu" Hill, Mike Lish, Christopher Savage and Karen Kearney will be posted over the course of this week.

Idaho legislators gave a sympathetic ear Monday to an Oregon group that wants to redraw state lines so that conservative eastern and southern Oregon would become part of the expanded state of "Greater Idaho." A separate group formed by Washington state farmers is pursuing the same idea for eastern Washington.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are opening a two-day mass vaccination event to any resident age 16 and above who resides in the 11 counties that span the tribes’ ceded territory. The offer is open to anyone, not just tribal members. 

The 11 counties include: Benton, Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties in Washington and Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Grant, Baker and Malheur counties in Oregon. 

Spokane County Hires New Medical Examiner

Apr 12, 2021
Courtesy of Spokane County

Spokane County has hired Dr. Veena Singh as the new Chief Medical Examiner.

The medical examiner’s office does autopsies and forensic investigations into the causes of people’s death in Spokane and the surrounding counties.

Dr. Singh most recently served as a medical examiner for Anoka County, Minnesota and previously has worked in New Mexico and Arizona.

She is also Board Certified in Forensic, Anatomic and Clinical Pathology and is originally from Portland.

Idaho Public TV screenshot

The Washington and Idaho legislatures are passing a flurry of bills as they race toward their respective adjournments.

In Boise on Monday, the Senate approved, by one vote, legislation that would allow the state to accept a $6 million federal early learning grant that has been dogged by arguments over the underlying intent.

Washington State Governor's Office

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Monday that Whitman, Cowlitz, and Pierce counties have failed to meet the state’s re-opening metrics and will face more restrictions.

Those counties will go from Phase 3 of the governor’s re-opening plan to Phase 2, which means businesses must operate at reduced capacity and both indoor, and outdoor gatherings must be smaller.

Peter Lancaster has always had a love for rabbits. But when he first saw a pygmy rabbit – perhaps what would become the most influential animal throughout his life – he didn’t know what it was.

One spring break as a kid, Lancaster went camping with a few friends a little ways from his home in East Wenatchee. 

Out in the sage, they saw this little creature.

“We looked at it, and we all said … Pika?” Lancaster recalls.

The son-in-law of the Washington State Patrol chief resigned as a trooper after investigations into allegations of on-the-job sex and sexual assault. He is now fighting to keep his badge, testing the state's narrow law for decertifying police.

Washington Covid Vaccine Finder

For the last few months, Washington has limited who has access to coronavirus vaccines. But those limits go away on Thursday. All adults and 16- and 17-year-olds will be eligible to apply for vaccination appointments.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The Washington Senate has unanimously approved a wildfire prevention and forest health bill.

The legislation has several components. One creates a wildfire account into which the state would deposit $125 million each biennium. That would pay for programs that help to make communities and forested areas less susceptible to wildfires.

Courtesy of Washington Department of Health

Washington state health officials plan to announce today [Monday] whether any of the state’s 39 counties will have their Covid phase status changed.

“The good news is that we’re making progress in communities across the state, but there are communities or counties where we are seeing increases that are of concern," said Health Secretary Umair Shah.

Screenshot from Idaho Secretary of State video

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office has entered the civic education business. The office administers elections in the state and, last week, released the first in a series of videos that explain how those elections work.

Chad Houck says, after the 2020 presidential election, it became clear to him that people, in general, don’t know much about how elections work in the United States.

Rebecca White/SPR

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Friday that counties now must fail in two metrics to be moved back a phase in their reopening – and some counties may have if the guidance had stayed the same.

Lowering the amount of carbon that comes out of your tailpipe has become a quest for some Washington lawmakers. Now, new standards that would promote biofuels over gasoline are closer to becoming law than ever before.

If signed into law, the low carbon fuel standard would make fuel coming out of tailpipes cleaner and cleaner through 2035.

The space agency NASA has chosen a small Tillamook-based aerospace company to design and test robotic balloons for future scientific exploration of Venus. Near Space Corporation is working on the Venus project with some of the same NASA team members currently managing an historic helicopter drone flight on Mars.

Rebecca White/SPR

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Friday that counties now must fail in two metrics to be moved back a phase in their reopening. The governor says the state won't act unless counties have both a high hospitalization and case rate.

Previously, a county could be forced to regress to more restrictions if they had more than 200 cases per 100,000 people. Now they also must have more than five hospitalizations per 100,000 cases for the state to regress a county to a more restrictive phase.

Courtesy of State of Idaho

The Idaho Senate has voted to put limits on the governor’s powers during declared emergencies, such as the pandemic.

Legislative leaders came to Boise this session unhappy that the governor has kept Idaho in a state of emergency since the start of the pandemic.

Spokane COVID Response

Spokane County topped the 100 mark in new Covid cases for the second consecutive day. The timing isn't good, given that Washington state health authorities will soon decide whether counties will continue in Phase 3 of the state's reopening protocols or slip back to Phase 2.

Courtesy of Idaho Secretary of State

Idaho legislators are considering several election-related measures this year.

One requires people who register to vote on Election Day to present identification with a photo and current address.

Spokane Launches 2021 Construction Season

Apr 8, 2021
Rebecca White/SPR

The city of Spokane will soon break ground on several new construction projects, including a massive overhaul of East Sprague and a partial demolition of the Post Street Bridge.

During a news conference Thursday, Mayor Nadine Woodward said the new projects would provide jobs in a time of economic challenges, and benefits for both motorists as well as cyclists.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

After a devastating January windstorm knocked down hundreds of trees in the city, the Spokane Park system plans to replant them – two trees for every one that fell.

ID Senate Committee Moves Tax Relief Bill Forward

Apr 8, 2021
Courtesy of State of Idaho

An Idaho legislative committee has moved a big tax relief bill to the full Senate.

The Local Government and Taxation Committee approved a two-part proposal Thursday.

Courtesy of University of Washington

The Washington Senate has voted to help property owners remove racially-discriminatory language from some of their homes’ documents.

The bill was approved unanimously and sponsored by Issaquah Democrat Mark Mullet.

"This bill does two important things," he said.

Courtesy of Reclaim Idaho

The founder of Idaho’s successful Medicaid expansion initiative yesterday [Wednesday] filed another ballot measure — about initiatives.

Luke Mayville, who co-founded the group Reclaim Idaho, acted on the same day that the state House voted 51-18 for a bill that would toughen initiative signature gathering requirements.

Washington apple growers are shipping about 20 percent less fruit abroad now compared with this time last year.

The result is a drop to export levels not seen since 2003-2004, according to Washington Apple Commission president Todd Fryhover.  

Rebecca White/SPR

Health officials are concerned about rising COVID-19 cases, especially in younger people, that could put the county of compliance with the governor’s re-opening metrics.

To stay in Phase 3 of the governor’s re-opening plan, Spokane County must have less than 200 cases per 100,000 people. As of Wednesday, the county had 183 cases per 100,000. Spokane County Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez said that was concerning.

Flickr Commons

Every Sheriff’s Deputy in Spokane County will soon have a body worn camera, a purchase law enforcement and public officials say will make policing more transparent.

On Tuesday Spokane Valley City Council unanimously voted to divide the cost of purchasing body worn cameras with the county. That vote means the Sheriff’s Office has the funds to equip every deputy with a camera by the end of this year.

“This is a tool that will serve as good insurance for our office, to be able to protect them and highlight the good work that they’re doing.”

Idaho Public TV screenshot

The Idaho House Wednesday approved a bill that could make it more challenging to get a state-wide initiative on the ballot.

The bill requires that sponsors collect signatures from at least 6% of registered voters in each of the state’s 35 legislative districts. The current standard is 6% in 18 districts.

Idaho's Governor Says No Vaccine Passports In His State

Apr 7, 2021
Idaho Public TV screenshot

Idaho Governor Brad Little is not a fan of the concept of a vaccine passport.

“Vaccine passports restrict the free flow of commerce during a time when life and the economy are returning to normal. Vaccine passports violate individuals’ freedom to choose the vaccine," Little said.

TVW screenshot

The Washington and Idaho legislatures are in the homestretches of their respective sessions. Lawmakers are working to finalize budgets and put the finishing touches on a variety of bills.

In Washington, the Rules Committees [chaired in the Senate by Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, above] have an important role in determining which bills move on and which ones die. Today we get a Civics 101 lesson from Sen. Andy Billig [D-Spokane], a Rules Committee member.