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Shea says feds making war on rural U.S.

April 16, 2014 5:31 p.m. - Updated: 5:31 p.m.

 

YouTube video by Gavin Seim

The federal government has declared “war on rural America” with its rules and regulations on land use, a Spokane Valley legislator said in the wake of last week’s standoff between a Nevada rancher and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

In a speech on land near the center of the dispute, Republican Rep. Matt Shea called for federal land to be transferred to the states. A coalition of legislators from Western states was forming to stand up for Cliven Bundy and others in the fight against overbearing federal rules, he said.

But a spokesman for the group challenging Bundy's rights to graze hundreds of cattle on federal land without a permit or paying fees, said the rancher is trying to do something other cattlemen can't. And a federal judge's order supports that view. . . 

 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

To read the federal judge's order in the legal battle between the BLM and Cliven Bundy, click on the document below.

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Today’s fun video: Boehner opponent’s ad. Funny or over the top?

April 16, 2014 10:26 a.m. - Updated: 10:30 a.m.

 

Some folks will say that J.D. Winteregg, House Speaker John Boehner's Republican primary opponent, is pretty clever. Others will say he went beyond the bounds of good taste.

What do you think?

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Gun initiatives could load confusion into election

April 15, 2014 10:40 a.m. - Updated: 10:52 a.m.

OLYMPIA — Whether they are more likely to support gun rights or stronger background checks, Washington voters appear to be confused about a pair of seemingly conflicting gun initiatives and could approve both of them this fall.

That's the conclusion of a new Elway Poll that asked about 500 voters their support for Initiatives 591 and 594, both of which will be on the November general election ballot.

In the survey, 72 percent said they would definitely or likely vote for I-594, which would expand background checks in Washington for gun sales beyond the current federal standards for purchases from gun dealers; 55 percent said they would definitely or likely vote for I-591, which would allow background checks to be expanded in Washington state only if it's part of a national standard.

Among those questioned, 62 percent said they thought background checks should be made more extensive, while 32 percent said they should be kept as is. But here, too, there was confusion, because half of those who favor more extensive background checks said they would vote for I-591; and half who said background checks should be kept as they are now planned to vote for I-594.

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Flags going to half-staff for mudslide victims

April 14, 2014 4:56 p.m. - Updated: 5:08 p.m.

OLYMPIA — State agencies will lower flags on or outside their buildings to half-staff Tuesday to honor victims of the Oso mudslide, and keep them lowered through next Tuesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the flag-lowering Monday afternoon for all state agencies and asked other governments, businesses and citizens to join the state. A formal ceremony on the Capitol campus is scheduled for noon Tuesday.

The March 22 slide that brought mud and debris crashing down on State Route 530 and the town of Oso left 36 confirmed dead and another seven remain listed as missing.

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Rodney Tom calls it quits

April 14, 2014 1:15 p.m. - Updated: 6:02 p.m.

Rodney Tom addresses a delegation from Spokane last January.

OLYMPIA — Rodney Tom, a Republican turned Democrat who joined with GOP members of the Senate to form a ruling coalition for the last two years, will not run for re-election this fall. 

Tom, currently the Senate majority leader, announced today he concluded over the weekend “the decision not to run is the right one for me and my family.”

He called his service as leader of the Majority Coalition Caucus “an opportunity of a lifetime for me personally”. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

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Medicaid costs need better oversight, audit says

April 14, 2014 11:39 a.m. - Updated: 4:10 p.m.

OLYMPIA — The state needs to a better job of checking its Medicaid managed care programs for cost overruns, the state auditor's office said today.

A limited audit of the Health Care Authority's system to check doctors and other specialists in eight high-risk areas showed overpayments estimated at $17.5 million in 2010. Other tests showed billing error rates for administrative costs of 8 percent and 12 percent in samples from two of the largest organizations.  Those overpayments could have raised the costs to those managed care organizations, but they also could have cost the state more for higher premium rates in 2013 when the rates are calculated based on past costs. 

Because the audit was limited, and there were underpayments as well as overpayments within the areas examined the auditor's office couldn't say if the net result was an overpayment in the systems as a whole. “We cannot conclude that 2013 premiums paid by the state were higher or lower than they should have been,” the audit says.

The Health Care Authority needs contracts with its managed care organizations that allow the agency to monitor data thoroughly, and to recover overpayments when they are found, auditors said. It should also give the organizations clearer guidance on the data it sends to an actuary and have a more comprehensive monitoring system.

Better controls are becoming more important, auditors said, because Medicaid coverage is expanding under federal health care reforms and most of the people being added to the system will have managed care. The audit studied services that predated the Affordable Care Act.

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Sunday Spin: The Pew elections rankings

April 13, 2014 6 a.m.

To see the rankings by the Pew Charitable Trust for the state's elections performance mentioned in today's Spin Control column, click here. 

Haven't read the column yet? It's inside the blog.

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McMorris Rodgers events next week

April 11, 2014 3:46 p.m.

Congress is taking time next week off from its crushingly exhaustive work schedule for members to return to their districts to meet with voters and possibly cut ribbons or hunt Easter eggs.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers announced two public events for the first part of the week.

She'll have a Millennial Meetup, which is what in-the-know people would call a meeting with young adults in their 20s and 30s, on Monday afternoon at the Riverpoint Campus. Students from Gonzaga, Washington State and Eastern Washington universities, along with the Spokane Young Professionals have been invited. It will be followed by a press conference at 4 p.m.

On Monday, she'll have a “Conversation with Cathy” chat in Davenport, at 11 a.m. at the Lincoln County Courthouse.

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Today’s fun video: Hillary Clinton dodges a shoe

April 11, 2014 2:23 p.m. - Updated: 2:25 p.m.

 

Hillary Clinton comes up with some good comebacks after a shoe goes flying past her while speaking in Las Vegas. 

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State could have sold computers with personal data

April 10, 2014 12:46 p.m. - Updated: 4:10 p.m.

OLYMPIA — Some state agencies failed to wipe old computers clean of sensitive or personal data before sending them to be sold as surplus, a new state audit says. 

Random checks of computers that agencies sent to the state's surplus warehouse last summer revealed about 9 percent of them had information that was supposed be be removed before clearing them for sale. The information included Social Security numbers, medical or psychiatric histories of clients, and in one case an employee's tax return forms.

On one computer, auditors found a Post-it note that had the machine's sign-in and password, which still worked.

Auditors found flaws in the system, but no sign personal data that's protected by law was ever compromised.

State Auditor Troy Kelley said today those agencies were notified and their surplus sales of computers were frozen during the audit while procedures were changed, and there's no evidence that any private information had been compromised. He questioned whether the state should continue its practice of selling its obsolete computers.

“If we're getting very little money, and there's high risk, I think we  have to stop,” Kelley said. 

A study is being done to answer whether the risks outweigh the value of selling surplus computers, Michael Cockrill, the state's chief information officer, said.

“The state has received no reports of any data from PCs being compromised,” he said. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

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