April 15, 2019
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Microsoft: Federal government greatly underestimates number of Americans without high-speed internet

Microsoft has recently highlighted new research that shows as many as 163 million Americans lack access to high-speed broadband internet. That's a huge difference compared to the Federal Communications Commission estimate of about 25 million people. Microsoft is calling for a new approach to measure the situation.

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Marijuana use among workers climbs to 14-year high, new report shows

More American workers, including those that work in safety-sensitive jobs like pilots and train conductors, are testing positive for marijuana, a report from the drug-testing company Quest Diagnostics shows.

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Douglas County PUD looks to produce hydrogen from surplus hydroelectricity

Officials from the Douglas County PUD seek to branch out to produce hydrogen fuel with excess power generated by the Wells Dam on the Columbia River, Northwest Public Broadcasting reports. Hydrogen power is often created from burning natural gas, but the Douglas County idea would create "renewable hydrogen" from hydropower instead.

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Spring Meeting
State Funding

Lifting levy lid violates spirit of McCleary deal

By The Columbian Editorial Board

Efforts in the Legislature to remove a lid on local school levies represent a step backward for school funding in Washington. Rather than invite a return to inequitable funding and open the door for lawsuits, lawmakers should provide state funding where necessary and adhere to a hard-fought agreement.

Following the 2012 state Supreme Court ruling in McCleary v. Washington, lawmakers took five years to hammer out a compromise in which the state would fully fund public K-12 education. That compromise limited local levies to $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value or $1,500 per student, whichever is less.

That was the promise lawmakers gave to taxpayers in 2017 -- state property taxes would increase in order for the Legislature to live up to its "paramount duty" of funding basic education. In exchange, local levies would decrease. The adjustments would prevent inequalities between districts that were at the heart of the McCleary decision; local levies had been used to fund basic expenses such as teacher salaries, creating disparities between wealthy districts and poor districts.

Now, school districts want the Legislature to keep both state and local property taxes high. Senate Bill 5313 would allow districts to tax up to $2.50 per $1,000 in assessed value -- a 67 percent increase from the current law -- or $2,500 per student, depending on a district's enrollment.

Passage of such a plan would put the state on the road to McCleary 2.0. It would invite the return of an unfair funding system that triggered the lawsuit in the first place and that had the amenities of a public education determined by a student's ZIP code.

Read the full editorial in The Columbian
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