by Cara Gardner and Joel Smith

Family Leave Bill Falters -- OLYMPIA -- There's a lot of heavy sighing going on over the controversial Paid Family Leave Bill this week -- some are sighs of relief, others of agitation. Many guessed that after several years of trying, this was the year Washington state's legislators would pass a paid family leave bill, but the speculation may have been much ado about nothing.

"[It's] too soon to say for sure that it can't happen, but my judgment and impression is that it's a bit of a long shot at this point," sighs Tim Ormsby, (D), who represents Spokane's 3rd District in the House. Ormsby was one of several co-sponsors of the House's version of the family leave bill, which would offer employees some financial and job security if they had to leave work for an extended period of time to care for a family member or due to their own illness. He says the chances of the bill getting a final hearing in the House is fading; by this Friday, if it hasn't gotten a vote, it will most likely be shelved for another year.

The Senate's version of the family leave bill passed successfully, spearheaded by Sen. Karen Kaiser (D) and supported by the Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D).

For the many critics of paid family leave, news of its probable defeat brings relief. The Association of Washington Business has been a vigorous critic of the bill, claiming it would simply add to a long list of anti-business laws in Washington state.

After multiple compromises from its original form, the current family leave bill would give $250 a week for up to five weeks of leave for full-time employees under the following circumstances: if an employee gave birth, adopted a child, needed to care for an immediate family member with a serious medical condition or had a serious medical condition him/herself. The money would be generated by a 2-cent-per-hour tax from employees' pay in all businesses with more than 50 employees.

Though advocates of the bill say it won't cost businesses and is cost-effective for the state, critics such as the AWB claim the bill would cost up to $80 million to operate and create another level of bureaucracy in Labor and Industries.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the United States is one of only five countries in the world (out of 168 countries studied) that does not guarantee paid family leave to all workers after the birth of a child.

Ormsby says in the end, passing the bill just wasn't the Dems top priority. "Time and other factors limit the ability of being able to take up everything that comes out, and we're trying to save our political capital to get a budget passed that will reflect what we want the state to look like. And that takes a considerable effort." -- Cara Gardner

To read the House and Senate versions of the Paid Family Leave Bill, visit and enter the bill's number (House Bill 1173 and Senate Bill 5069). To support or oppose this bill, dial the legislative hotline at (800) 562-6000.

Over the Hills, Far Away -- SPOKANE -- If you've ever been in a band, you know how hard it can be to get everybody on the same page. The guitarist is busy with his other group; police are still searching for the bassist; nobody can stand the drummer.

All of these troubles may be a thing of the past. On Monday, a handful of well-known area jazz musicians -- including Dan McCollim on piano, Paul Plowman on sax and flute and Eugene Jablonsky on bass -- are getting together for a little jam session. The catch is that half of the musicians will be playing in the SIRTI boardroom in Spokane, while the other half plays in the choir room at Eastern Washington University in Cheney. Nonetheless, the two groups will play as one, using a high-speed audio and visual connection.

It's all part of an experiment in "distributed music" being carried out by Virtual Possibilities Network (VPnet), a consortium promoting education, research and development in the Inland Northwest by hooking up its members (universities, research facilities, health care networks) to a private broadband network. The point, we suspect, is that if musicians, who need complete synchronicity to blend together, can harmonize using the network, the possibilities for collaboration between academics, doctors, businesspeople are endless.

The technology isn't exactly common yet, but if it becomes so, imagine the possibilities for rock 'n' roll. Billy Bragg, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco: they all could have benefited from relegating Jeff Tweedy to a different zip code. -- Joel Smith

Publication date: 04/14/05

American Inheritance: Unpacking World War II @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

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