Washington’s ‘joints for jabs’ vaccine program falling flat
SEATTLE (AP) — Washington’s new “joints for jabs” vaccination incentive program is off to a rough start. Officials announced Monday the state’s nearly 500 licensed marijuana retailers could begin hosting vaccine clinics and offering a single, free pre-rolled marijuana cigarette to those who get a shot. Cannabis retailers say many don’t have the space to host a vaccine clinic. Some health care providers are queasy about setting up a clinic on the site of a marijuana business because they don’t want to jeopardize federal funding. And the retailers say it’s unfair breweries and wineries can give away drinks to customers who merely showed proof of vaccination — no onsite clinic required.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-SEATTLE VACCINATIONS
Mayor: Seattle 1st major city to fully vaccinate 70%
SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says 70% of city residents ages 12 and up have been fully vaccinated. She said Wednesday that makes it the first major city in the U.S. to hit that COVID-19 milestone. Her office says now that Seattle has reached the 70% fully vaccinated goal, the city and its partners will launch efforts throughout the summer to support Seattle’s reopening. The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States was north of Seattle in Washington in January 2020. The state also saw the nation’s first deadly outbreak at a nursing home. There have been more than 440,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington state and more than 5,700 deaths.
EMPLOYMENT SECURITY DEPARTMENT-LEADER
Gov. names Feek as Employment Security Department head
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee has named Cami Feek as commissioner of the state’s Employment Security Department, which temporarily suspended unemployment benefit payments after discovering that criminals had used stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent claims. Inslee named Feek commissioner on Wednesday. She has been acting commissioner since February when former Commissioner Suzi LeVine left to work for the Biden administration. In 2020, officials disclosed that $650 million had likely been stolen in a fraud scheme that law enforcement officials said was partly based in Nigeria. Nigerian citizen Abidemi Rufai was arrested in May and is accused of stealing over $350,000 in unemployment benefits. His lawyer has said Rufai “denies any involvement in these transactions.”
GOVERNOR VETO-SUPREME COURT
Washington state high court to consider if veto went too far
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — State Supreme Court justices are considering whether Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee violated the state constitution when he vetoed single sentences in the transportation budget in 2019. The Daily Herald reported Tuesday that lawmakers sued the Democratic governor, claiming he exceeded his authority and trespassed onto their legislating responsibilities by removing a sentence pertaining to grant funding for transit services. A Thurston County judge invalidated the vetoes last year, concluding Inslee exceeded his veto powers. Alicia Young, a deputy solicitor general representing Inslee, argued against that decision on Tuesday. Young said that the move was unusual, but was a legal and necessary response to lawmakers’ improper manipulation of the budgeting process.
Man on electric scooter dies after being hit by semi-truck
KENT, Wash. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a fatal collision involving a man on an electric scooter who was struck by a semi-truck in Kent. Officers were called for an accident involving a semi-truck and a man on an electric scooter just after 2:15 p.m. Tuesday. Emergency crews said the man in his 50′s was speaking after the accident, but he died of his injuries. Witnesses said the man was weaving in and out of traffic and did not see the semi-truck making a right turn onto Washington Avenue South from West Meeker Street. The semi-truck driver is cooperating with the investigation.
DEBT COLLECTION AGENCY LAWSUIT
Debt collector to return $475K to Washington consumers
SEATTLE (AP) — A Denver-based collection agency must return about $475,000 it collected improperly from up to 5,000 Washington consumers after state Attorney General Bob Ferguson prevailed in a lawsuit alleging unlawful debt-collection practices. The Seattle Times reports Ferguson’s office says Machol & Johannes must also forgive as much as $250,000 in fees and costs for hundreds of people, and pay $414,000 to the attorney general’s office to cover the costs of the investigation. Ferguson filed the lawsuit in King County Superior Court in 2020 after a judge notified his office that the company had filed improper wage-garnishment applications. Machol & Johannes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bellingham woman gets 17 years in prison for fatal stabbing
BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — A judge has sentenced a Washington state woman to nearly two decades in prison for fatally stabbing her father to death during an argument over a cigarette in April 2020. The Bellingham Herald reported that Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson sentenced 34-year-old Kali Marie McConnell on Monday to 17 years in prison with three years probation. McConnell accepted a deal and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May in the death of her 57-year-old father, Dale M. Henefin. McConnell apologized during her sentencing hearing and said she regrets what happened.
AP analysis: COVID prolonged foster care stays for thousands
SEATTLE (AP) — An Associated Press analysis shows that thousands of families’ reunifications have been delayed nationwide as the pandemic snarls the foster care system. Courts have delayed cases, gone virtual or temporarily shut down, leading to a backlog. Services such as visitation, therapy and drug testing that parents need to get their kids back also have been limited. The AP found at least 8,700 fewer reunifications during the first nine months of the pandemic compared with the same period the year before. Adoptions slowed to a trickle. Overall, tens of thousands of fewer children left foster care compared with 2019. State officials acknowledge the data but say each case has unique circumstances and that they’ve done their best in unprecedented situations.
Oregon Legislature expands options for affordable housing
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Legislature has approved a measure expanding options for the development of affordable housing. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that the final version of Senate Bill 8 was passed by the Senate 25-5 on Tuesday. It previously passed the House and now heads to Gov. Kate Brown. The bill will restrict local jurisdictions’ ability to deny affordable housing developments on land not zoned for residential use within urban growth boundaries and allow for increased density in certain situations. The bill will make it easier for public housing authorities, nonprofit organizations, and religious institutions to push affordable housing projects through local zoning and conditional use development processes.
Feds could restrict West Coast salmon fishing to help orcas
SEATTLE (AP) — Federal officials are proposing to curtail nontribal salmon fishing along the West Coast in especially bad years to help the Northwest’s endangered killer whales. NOAA Fisheries is taking public comment on the plan, which calls for restricting commercial and recreational salmon fishing when Chinook salmon forecasts are especially low. The restrictions would extend from Puget Sound in Washington to Monterey Bay in central California, and they would be triggered when fewer than 966,000 Chinook are forecast to return to Northwest rivers. The last time forecast Chinook returns were that low was in 2007.