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Have you heard of JZ Knight?  She’s the Yelm-based spiritual leader who claims to channel a spirit named Ramtha.  Back in 2012, a video surfaced of Knight using hateful language in reference to homosexuals, Jews and Catholics.

Seattle Weekly summarizes Knight’s background:

Knight, now 68, says she’s been channeling the Ram since 1979, when he emerged one day in her Tacoma kitchen. That led to a multimillion-dollar business called the Ramtha School of Enlightenment at the gated site of her former Thurston County horse ranch in 1988, which this year has blossomed into a globe-trotting expansion of her teachings she calls the 2014 Ramtha World Tour.

Hers is not a religion or a cult, she insists, but an “academy of the mind” that supposedly involves the latest discoveries in neuroscience and quantum physics…

JZ Knight with her granddaughter and President Obama

JZ Knight and (apparently) Ramtha are very political, giving thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates.  Two years ago, the State Democratic party gave back $70,000 in donations from Knight after the aforementioned video surfaced.

Knight is back in the news now with revelations that she donated $65,000 this year to the Thurston County Democrats.  This is from the News Tribune:

The county party organization accepted $65,000 from Knight earlier this year. Its leaders thoroughly examined the matter and concluded, as county Chairman Roger Erskine put it, “JZ Knight is a very good strong Democrat, and she totally supports our platform and our goals, and I think that’s good enough.”

Survey: Should Thurston County Democrats Return Knight’s Donation?

It’s only fair to stipulate that accepting campaign money in no way means the recipients agree with the donors.  But many have nonetheless called for political contributions from Knight to be returned.  What do you think?

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Did you know that Governor Jay Inslee signed an agreement with California and Canada to achieve a low carbon fuel standard?

Did you know that this standard will do absolutely nothing to improve our roads, crumbling bridges, or provide congestion relief?

And did you know the Governor’s own consultants estimate that these new standards could cost Washingtonians $1.17 per gallon in increased fuel costs?

Calculate how expensive the gas increase will be for your family

Use this calculator from Shift Washington to estimate how much Inslee’s radical environmental agenda will cost your family.  Then sign the petition to stop Inslee’s Increase!

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Here’s a question for you, Friend: if King County voters solidly defeat a transportation tax increase that would have funded local transportation, where would one be popular?

On Tuesday, King County voters voted 54.5% to 45.5% to defeat Proposition 1, which was a 10 year measure to increase the sales tax by .01% and enact a $60\year car-tab fee.  The $130 million measure was to primarily be devoted for bus service, but with a significant portion also going to local and county road maintenance.

This little tidbit from the Seattle Times tells you volumes about what mattered in this election:

The measure enjoyed massive support among politicians, labor unions, environmentalists, social-equity groups and business coalitions.

The Move King County Now campaign raised $654,922 in contributions, compared with $7,700 for the opposition, called Families for Sustainable Transit.

Remember, this is King County. So why would a tax increase for something as important as improving transportation fail here?

Transportation Taxes: A Legislative History

A little background on transportation funding:  In the last couple of years (and really, beyond) there has been quite a lot of talk about the need for new transportation funding.  This battle has primarily been fought in the Legislature.  But up to this point there has been no sweeping transportation package.

This last session the Senate Majority Coalition’s mantra was: Reform before Revenue. The largely Republican-led Senate Coalition proposed a higher gas tax increase than House Democrats did but also included significant reforms in their package.

In the end, the two sides couldn’t agree and session ended.

Fast forward to this week’s failed ballot measure: Washington’s most tax-friendly county just declared their disdain for a tax promoted by a highly funded, well supported campaign.  King County transportation tax advocates had decided to do things their own way and fund projects locally…but to no avail (so far) in the end.

Taxes: Where Do We Go From Here?

We here at Washington Focus think there are at least a couple of lessons to learn from Tuesday night:

  • Voters (even King County voters) aren’t going to signup for just any tax
  • Maybe the Senate Majority Coalition was on to something with their idea that Washington should first better spend existing tax dollars before asking for more

In the end, the tax increase failed by 10%.  Next year there will undoubtedly be a push for more tax increases in the Legislature for transportation as well as for K-12 education, if not for more projects.

Our advice?  Legislators should not rush in where King County fears to tread.

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Every year, the Washington State Board of Education releases an index of how each of the state’s public K-12 schools achieved during the previous school year. The School Achievement Index contains data on student performance including rates of on-time graduation and standardized test scores and has become one tool parents can use to compare schools, or for designing feedback about how their children’s school is either meeting or failing on certain standards.

But although the report is usually released by this time each year, one has not yet materialized from within the Board of Education.

Liv Finne, director of the Washington Policy Center’s Center for Education, wrote Monday about her fruitless effort to get an explanation about the missing report:

It is March 31st and the Washington State Board of Education has still not released the School Achievement Index for 2012-13.

This is unusual.  The State Board of Education usually releases the new Index to parents and the general public early in the year, normally near the end of January.  Now the Index is two months late. …

We have made several inquiries to the State Board of Education about when the Index would be ready.  The State Board first said it would be released by mid-February. That did not happen.  Next we were informed it would be released in mid-March. That date also came and went.  The State Board then said the Index would be released by March 28. That date passed with no action.

We can only hope that students are taking a lesson from the Board of Education’s unwillingness to provide an explanation.

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On Thursday, the last official day of the 2014 legislative session, budget chiefs in Olympia representing caucuses from each body of the Washington state Legislature announced agreement on a 2014 supplemental budget that represents a modest $155.1 million increase over the 2013-2014 budget enacted last year.

The supplemental budget agreed to on Thursday combined with other legislation passed during session is proof positive that “no” is not always a bad word.

  • No changes to taxes.
  • No changes in tuition at state-run colleges and universities.
  • No gas tax increases due to the lack of resolution on a transportation budget.
  • No new 95% tax on electronic cigarettes.
  • No COLAs for teachers, a move that continues a slow evolution to allow local economic conditions and individual merit to govern teacher pay rates rather than automatic increases.

The last item is certain to exacerbate tensions in what increasingly seems to be a marriage of last resort between Democrats and the Washington Education Association. For Republicans, it will stand out as another example of Democrats marching lock-step with the Washington Education Association to block reforms, even at the costs of taking funding off the table. Others may even see no COLAs as a bit of karma biting back at the WEA.

Two weeks ago, the WEA worked hard to kill a teacher evaluation reform bill in the Senate that would have preserved $40 million in federal education dollars for special needs students received through a No Child Left Behind waiver. Democratic senators were seen celebrating on the Senate floor after the bill was voted down. That action will undoubtedly become part of the conversation in elections later this year when each candidate will message around the court-ordered McCleary to prioritize basic K-12 education funding.

Although a McCleary fix was never going to be an agenda item in this short session, state Sen. Andy Hill (R-Issaquah) believes that the four-year outlook provides evidence that work is already being done to address the Court-mandated McCleary burden to prioritize basic K-12 education. $600 million in additional K-12 spending is already in the four-year outlook, Hill told reporters Thursday afternoon.

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