SPR News Feed
Federal officials confirmed Wednesday that they will investigate the troubled roll-out of Oregon's health insurance exchange website. The Government Accountability Office accepted a request from three Oregon members of Congress to look into the problems of Cover Oregon.
Washington’s voter-approved effort to legalize recreational marijuana reached a major milestone. Wednesday, Spokane native Sean Green became the first business owner to receive a license to legally grow recreational pot. There was a festive air at the Washington Liquor Control Board in Olympia as Sean Green received the state’s first recreational pot license.
Oregon lawmakers are hashing out a compromise on whether to allow cities and counties to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. After several days of debate, the Oregon House Wednesday approved a measure that permits communities to ban the storefront operations until May of next year.
It took four years, but Washington has now recovered more jobs than it lost during the Great Recession. But that announcement Wednesday comes with a caveat. Paul Turek is a labor economist with Washington’s Employment Security Department.
More low-income Idahoans were on Medicaid last year than ever before. While growth has slowed, more enrollees are expected. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says Medicaid enrollment increased 3.5 percent last year, which marks a slow-down in recent growth of the program.
In Central Washington, human bones have been found along the newly exposed shore above Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River late Grant County P-U-D officials are drawing down the pool above Wanapum because of a crack found in the structure.
Oregon lawmakers say they want to avoid another high-profile tech blunder like the problems facing the state's online health insurance exchange. Both the House and the Senate Tuesday approved measures in reaction to the ongoing problems at Cover Oregon.
As of Tuesday, engineers say the Wanapum Dam’s major crack is stabilizing with the drawdown of the pool behind it. The crack has decreased from two inches, down to about an inch. And it’s also shifted back into place a bit.
Washington’s Insurance Commissioner wants to notify consumers if their insurance company is on the verge of bankruptcy. But Democrat Mike Kreidler says lobbying by health insurance giant Premera Blue Cross has “gutted” his consumer protection measure in the Washington legislature.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber says he's brokered a deal that will avoid a potentially divisive battle at the ballot box this fall. The Democrat announced Monday that sponsors of a dozen initiatives on taxes and unions will stand down.
Oregon launched its medical marijuana dispensary program Monday. Nearly 300 dispensary owners signed up at this first opportunity for a state license. For the past two years, medical marijuana dispensaries have been popping up across Oregon. But until now, they weren't officially recognized under state law.
Water behind the Wanapum Dam near Vantage, Wash., is being drawn down to relieve pressure on the big crack in the structure. Officials say dozens of engineers are on site, and more around the country are studying the problem.
Towns around national parks lost an estimated $414 million dollars during the partial government shutdown last October. That's according to a report out Monday from the National Park Service. Although communities say it wasn't a complete loss.
The debate over a gas tax hike has revved up again in the Washington legislature. A key Senate Republican formally introduced legislation Monday to raise the gas tax by eleven-and-a-half cents to fund road projects. But Democrats are reacting warily.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee is preparing to take action on an issue that could secure his legacy or complicate his re-election chances. He wants to cap carbon, the biggest culprit in greenhouse gas emissions in Washington. It’s a controversial and potentially costly idea. But the Democrat believes long-term it’s an economic and, even, moral imperative.
When it comes to the many underground tanks at Hanford filled with radioactive sludge, just how much do we know? U.S. Senator Ron Wyden says not enough. He’s accusing the Department of Energy of not being forthright. In fact he says the federal agency that manages the nuclear site held back a report that would have informed cleanup negotiations with Washington State.
Starting Monday, medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon can apply for legal recognition. So far, they've operated under a grey area of the law. But the future is unclear for some dispensaries as local governments across the state move to ban the storefront operations.
Washington Speaker of the House Frank Chopp supports a minimum wage hike. But he says the issue wasn’t ready for a vote on the House floor this year. The Democrat made his comments Friday in a rare meeting with the capitol press corps.
Northwest potato growers say they've been snubbed in a federal nutrition program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Friday finalized changes to the Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC . And it will cover all fruits and veggies … all but potatoes.
Amidst the debate over the now-vetoed Arizona bill that would have protected businesses that refuse to serve gays and others for religious reasons, gay rights groups in the Northwest say similar legislation could surface here.
State colleges and universities across Idaho are appealing to state lawmakers' fiscally conservative side in an attempt to sideline a proposal to allow guns on campuses. A House committee is scheduled to consider the bill Friday morning. But schools say it could cost hundreds of thousands – even millions – of dollars a year.
Washington is now the fourth state in the nation to give college students who are in the country illegally access to state-funded financial aid. Wednesday, hundreds of students cheered as Governor Jay Inslee signed the “Real Hope” act in as a bill.
The Northwest wine industry, along with region’s grape vines, is getting older. Right now, many of the distinct wine grape growing regions are celebrating 30 years since the federal government recognized them as distinct growing areas -- also known as “appellations.” Next up with a birthday is Walla Walla.
Today , Washington state students who are in the country illegally have reason to celebrate. Governor Jay Inslee plans to sign into law the state’s Real Hope Act. Under the measure, undocumented students will become eligible for state-funded college financial aid. Only a handful of other states have passed similar laws.
The final two weeks of the Washington legislature may come down to a battle over tax breaks. Democrats want to eliminate a series of tax exemptions to fund teacher cost-of-living raises and other education priorities. Republicans propose just the opposite. They want to renew several tax incentives with the goal of creating or preserving jobs.
Minority Democrats in the Washington Senate want to tax oil refineries, bottled water prescription drug resellers and out-of-state shoppers. The proposal releasedTuesday could generate $100M a year for public schools.
A couple and their teenage sons in Pocatello, Idaho, were killed over the weekend by a carbon monoxide leak in their home. Local officials say it's one of the worst tragedies in recent memory in the southeast Idaho community. Idaho, Washington and Oregon each have laws requiring carbon monoxide monitors, but those laws haven't been around long enough to cover many homes.
Fighting wildfires would be funded more like hurricane and flood response under a proposal out of the Northwest that won President Obama's endorsement . The plan is being advanced by a bipartisan team of Oregon and Idaho senators in reaction to the growing cost of massive wildfires.
Within the next year marijuana taxes will start arriving in Washington state coffers. But how much money can the state realistically expect to take in from legal, recreational pot sales? Washington’s revenue forecaster recently unveiled his first estimate, but the numbers may be a bit hazy.
Athletes with ties to the Northwest won three gold and two silver medals at the Winter Olympics that just wrapped up in Sochi, Russia. If Idaho, Oregon and Washington were a separate country, we'd be right behind Poland and tied with Finland on the medal table.
Washington is about to get a new stream of revenue into its coffers – from marijuana taxes. But how much money can the state realistically expect to take in from legal, recreational pot sales? Revenue forecasters recently unveiled their first estimate. But a national tax expert cautious the numbers may be a bit hazy.
Hard alcohol is much more convenient to buy in Washington these days. That was the whole point of the voter-approved initiative that shifted liquor sales away from state control. But two public health researchers say that the wider availability has come with a societal price tag: They say surveys of Washington youth show increased acceptance of drinking among high school age teens.
Beekeeping is an up-and-coming hobby in the Pacific Northwest. More and more people are applying for permits and plenty of people are flying below the radar with unpermitted backyard beehives. And even though the practice has been around for more than 4000 years, there are some new innovations in the world of beekeeping.
Short track speedskater J.R. Celski of Federal Way, Wash., led Team USA to a silver medal in the men's 5000-meter relay Friday, ending a medal drought in the discipline for the Americans. Russia took the gold. The relay silver is the only medal won by the U.S. in either long track or short track speedskating at the Sochi Games.
The Sochi Games Opening Ceremony took place on February 7. Competition continues through this Sunday.
The latest figures on who's signing up under the federal health care law tell a surprising story about one of the most conservative states in the country. Even though Idaho politicians regularly condemn Obamacare, Idahoans are signing up at one of the highest per capita rates in the country – second only to Vermont.
Oregonians could soon notice more alerts about people with Alzheimer's or dementia who have gone missing. Oregon lawmakers Friday sent a measure to the governor that would require law enforcement agencies to create plans to alert the public using any technology of the agency's choice. More than two dozen states use a similar strategy, which is often called the Silver Alert program.
A measure that seeks to bar animal rights activists from making undercover video in Idaho dairies is moving ahead in the state House. What critics call the “ag gag” bill is a reaction to a 2012 video that showed workers abusing cows at a farm near Twin Falls. Farmers say they need protection from what they call “vigilante” tactics.
This summer marijuana stores will open for business across Washington. The new legal pot market is modeled on a system the state adopted 80 years ago when prohibition ended.
When prohibition was repealed in 1933, business began to dry up for the gangsters, bootleggers and rumrunners. So when legal marijuana sales begin in Washington, how long will it take for the black market for pot to go up in smoke?
The value of Idaho’s agriculture products went up more than two billion dollars in five years. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Ag census (preliminary results) released Thursday. The USDA does this count every five years and this one covers 2012. The big increase in farm profits is the most eye catching thing. But Idaho mostly continues to follow trends that have defined its ag sector for decades.
Oregon's Attorney General says she won't defend the state against federal lawsuits challenging the state's same-sex marriage ban. Ten years ago Oregon voters changed the state's constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. A ruling in the case could come this spring.
More Olympic hardware is coming home to the Northwest, but it comes via a heartbreaking loss. Team Canada beat the U.S women’s ice hockey squad 3-2 today (Thurs.) in Sochi. That means the U.S teammates - including Hilary Knight of Sun Valley - receive silver medals. Correspondent Tom Banse watched the Olympic final with hockey players from Knight’s home town in Idaho.
After a shaky start to winter, Washington’s snowpack appears on track for normal levels. That’s good news for skiers…and farmers.
Applicants to grow recreational pot in Washington could have their state licenses in hand two weeks from now. But they won’t be able to produce as much marijuana as they originally thought. Washington’s Liquor Control Board Wednesday instituted new limits designed to avoid a market glut.
Powerful members of the Washington state Senate are on board with a new plan to tax crude oil shipped into the state by rail. The money raised would pay for oil spill response and clean up. The proposed legislation would expand an existing barrel tax paid only by seaborne oil tankers.
A Pacific Northwest snowboarder is predicted to be a medal contender when snowboard giant slalom racing begins tomorrow (Weds.) at the Winter Olympics. But don’t look for Vic Wild on Team USA. The American-born, former Columbia River Gorge resident is competing for the Russians.
The Idaho family of captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl is welcoming an effort to get their son home through a prisoner swap. Bergdahl has been a captive of the Taliban on the border lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan for nearly five years. Past attempts at negotiations have stalled out.
Now to southeast Washington, and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. There, a prominent whistleblower was fired from the federal radioactive waste cleanup project today . Safety manager Donna Busche was very vocal about what she calls problems at a massive treatment plant under construction at Hanford.
U.S. diplomats are reportedly renewing their efforts to arrange a prisoner swap for a Northwest soldier who's been in Taliban captivity nearly five years. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl would be exchanged for five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl's family in Hailey, Idaho, Tuesday welcomed the news and said they're cautiously optimistic their son could finally come home from Afghanistan.
There’s a group in Idaho gathering signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot. They want Idaho voters to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. There has been public support for medical marijuana in Idaho. In a 2011 survey by Boise State’s Public Policy Center, 74 percent of people said they support allowing seriously ill patients to use medical pot. But the ballot initiative is failing spectacularly.
The avalanche center in Idaho's Sun Valley area is urging people to consider cancelling their plans in the backcountry. A snowmobiler died on Sunday when he was buried in an avalanche in the Sawtooth Mountains. George Gilbert Martin, Jr., of Bellevue, Idaho, was 64 years old. Lesley Dianne Martin managed to survive for 90 minutes under the snow before being rescued and transported to the hospital.
At the winter Olympics in Sochi, the U.S. has collected no medals so far in speedskating - an uncharacteristic result. The Americans' best remaining hope for hardware rests with short track speedskater J.R. Celski and the men's relay team. Celski began his career at a skating rink in Federal Way, Washington - the same one his former speedskating idol Apolo Ohno started at. But it's a roller rink, not an ice skating rink.
Idaho midwives say the state's decision five years ago to officially license midwives has brought the practice out of the shadows. And they're encouraging lawmakers to approve a bill that would extend the law for another 10 years.
The Washington Senate passed a bill this week that’s had a tough time in recent years, even reaching the floor for a vote. The proposed bill bans teens under 18 from using tanning salons. This time it passed overwhelmingly in the Senate.
Marijuana businesses in Washington may soon be able to open a bank account. The Obama administration Friday issued new guidance to banks regarding drug proceeds. The three-page Department of Justice memo signals that banks that do business with licensed, above-board marijuana businesses likely won’t face prosecution.
Governor John Kitzhaber has declared drought emergencies in Harney, Klamath, Lake and Malheur Counties. The announcement comes with just a month to go in what's been an unseasonably dry winter.
In the midst of the Tri-Cities there’s a dramatic group of mountains known as The Rattles. Their close proximity to the city means urban dwellers can hike a 15-hundred-foot peak and enjoy dramatic views on their lunch break or even after supper. But it also means these ridgelines are prime turf for expensive view-homes.
The Northwest wine industry has matured to the point where certain regions are trying to set their wines apart -- think the Willamette pinots, or Columbia Valley cabs. Winemakers also want to court upwardly mobile city-dwellers while their still developing their taste for wine. So they’re taking their show on the road in increasingly flashy style.
The National Weather Service says the recent snowfall combined with rain over the next few days has set the stage for flooding in parts of the Northwest. Forecasters have issued flood warnings in western Oregon, southeast Washington, north Idaho and areas along the Idaho-Oregon border.
Negotiations on a gas tax package to fund roads and transit in Washington stalled out in December. Now members of the mostly Republican majority in the Washington Senate say they want to jumpstart those talks. They unveiled a revised funding proposal Thursday, but also acknowledged they don’t have the votes to pass it.
U.S. Congressman, Doc Hastings, announced Thursday he’s retiring at the end of the year. Political watchers are already speculating on who might run to replace the long-time U.S. representative. The district is considered strongly Republican, so a Democratic upset is unlikely.
Doc Hastings served two decades as southcentral Washington’s Republican congressman.
It's so warm in the mountains above Sochi that the U.S. Olympic cross country skiers are going sleeveless, hatless and gloveless. The temperature during Thursday's Winter Olympics racing rose above 50 degrees. Two skiers with Northwest roots finished in the middle of the pack amid the slushy conditions.
Safety experts say there are historically three big killers on the road: drunken driving, not wearing a seatbelt, and speeding. Public views have changed dramatically about seatbelts and driving drunk. But states are having a harder time changing attitudes about driving too fast, as anyone who’s ever zipped down I-90 can atest. There's still very little known about this ubiquitous bad habit or what to do about it.
Snow continues to pound ski resorts across the region and large numbers of Northwesterners are expected to hit the slopes this holiday weekend. But with the increased snowpack comes the risk of avalanches. Already this week, two Seattle cross-country skiers died in an avalanche in northeast Oregon.
A snowboarder raised in Sun Valley (Idaho) soared over better known and more experienced rivals to grab the gold medal in women's halfpipe at the Winter Olympics. You could say a pipe dream came true Wednesday for 24-year-old Kaitlyn Farrington.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee says as long as he’s in office the state won’t execute death row inmates. The Democrat made that announcement Tuesday morning at a news conference in Olympia.