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Filling the Gap 

Three-way partnership will benefit pediatric patients in North Idaho; plus, failure to fix Hirst takes down Washington's capital budget

click to enlarge Lack of agreement in the Washington legislature on how to best allow drilling wells on private property led to a budget standoff.
  • Lack of agreement in the Washington legislature on how to best allow drilling wells on private property led to a budget standoff.

HOSPITABLE HOSPITAL

Adults, children and families being treated for severe illnesses in Kootenai County will soon have an affordable place to sleep at night. Thanks to a partnership between the Community Cancer Fund, Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest and KOOTENAI HEALTH, plans for a new "hospitality center" are underway. The center is expected to offer 14 adult rooms and six rooms for pediatric patient families free of charge, or at significantly reduced rates, according to an announcement this week from the three organizations.

"The demand for a Ronald McDonald House at Kootenai Health stems from the recent expansion of its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as well as expanding pediatric services," says Mike Forness, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest, in a statement. "It will provide a free place where patients can stay so they can be close to their baby."

The center will have a kitchen space, laundry facilities and recreational spaces. Some guests will have access to meal programs and a pet therapy program. Construction on the multimillion-dollar project is expected to begin in the summer of 2018 on an empty lot on Kootenai Health's campus. The organizations anticipate the center will open early in 2019.

A celebrity golf fundraiser for the Community Cancer Fund is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Coeur d'Alene Resort. Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few, former NHL goalie Grant Fuhr and a handful of other former pro athletes are expected to play.

"The collaboration between the Community Cancer Fund, Ronald McDonald House Charities and Kootenai Health on this project has been remarkable," Kootenai Health CEO Jon Ness adds in a prepared statement. "The hospitality center shows the positive impact we can make when the missions of three great organizations are in alignment." (MITCH RYALS)

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Going into the 2017 session, Republican state lawmakers in Washington promised they would "fix" last year's state Supreme Court ruling known as the HIRST decision, which made it more difficult for property owners to obtain a permit to drill a well in some parts of the state. The decision, they argued, impaired property rights for individuals in rural areas and unfairly halted rural development.

Now, with no "fix" agreed upon, the disagreement over the Hirst decision has taken the state capital budget down with it. The state Legislature adjourned last week without passing a $4 billion construction budget, which pays for state-authorized projects in Washington. That includes construction and renovation of public schools and parks, and help with transportation projects.

Republicans in control of the state Senate refused to hold a vote on the capital budget until a deal was agreed upon to address the Hirst decision. House Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a 24-month delay of the Hirst ruling while negotiations on a permanent fix continued, but Senate Republicans rejected the idea.

Senate Republicans blame Democrats for refusing to hear the bill to fix Hirst, "killing the bill before the House could vote on it," the Senate Republican Caucus says in a press release. Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, who sponsored the Senate bill to overturn Hirst, says she has been disappointed with the House during negotiations.

"To say the least," she says, "negotiations have been challenging, if not frustrating." (WILSON CRISCIONE)

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