Tacoma Fire revises hiring after firefighter’s drug death

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — The Tacoma Fire Department has revised their hiring practices in the wake of a News Tribune story about a firefighter who died of a drug overdose last summer after showing up for work impaired.

Fire officials say they plan to look more closely at a candidate’s criminal background and ask broader questions about illegal drug use.

Tacoma Fire Chief Jim Duggan told The News Tribune that the agency needs to be aware that substance abuse is epidemic.

Firefighter Ramsey Mueller, son of a deputy fire chief, was hired in December 2015. He died of a heroin overdose last July.

Before his hiring, a background check revealed an active arrest warrant tied to a misdemeanor drug charge in California. The warrant was cleared but leaders later acknowledged they didn’t examine the underlying court records or police reports associated with the charge, which included Mueller’s confession of a 10-year addiction to heroin and methamphetamine.

Inslee signs bill to improve dental care for state tribes

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a bill that seeks to improve oral health on reservations in Washington state.

The measure signed Wednesday is the first bill the governor has signed this legislative session. It allows tribes to use federal funding for dental therapists, who provide preventative care and procedures such as cleanings, fillings and oral exams.

Senate Bill 5079, sponsored by Democratic Sen. John McCoy of Tulalip, passed the House on an 80-18 vote and received unanimous approval in the Senate.

It will now become effective this summer on all tribal lands.

Washington House passes education proposal

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The House on Wednesday approved its education funding proposal, but majority Democrats haven’t yet decided how to pay for the plan, which has a price tag of more than $7 billion over the next four years.

The bill ultimately passed on a 50-47 party line vote after lawmakers had to redo the vote because two Republicans initially accidentally vote in favor. The chamber’s action comes just weeks after the Republican-led Senate passed its own plan. Both sides will now need to negotiate a final compromise.

Lawmakers are working to comply with a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that they must fully fund the state’s basic education system. Lawmakers have already put more than $2 billion toward the issue since the ruling, but the biggest piece remaining of the court order is figuring out how much the state must provide for teacher salaries. School districts currently pay a big chunk of those salaries with local property-tax levies.

Seattle mayor says Trump transgender move is ‘bullying’

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle’s mayor decried “the bullying coming from the White House” and criticized a move by the Trump administration to end federal protection for transgender students that required schools to allow them to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities.

Ed Murray said in a statement that President Donald Trump is sending a message that he doesn’t respect individual rights. Murray also said that by lifting the federal guidelines that had been issued by the Obama administration Trump was “ratcheting up the fear among marginalized communities.”

Murray, who led the push to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state, pointed to legislation passed in Seattle in 2015 that required public places to designate existing and future single-stall restrooms as all-gender facilities.

Detained ‘dreamer’ declines bond hearing for release

SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle-area man arrested by immigration agents despite his participation in a federal program to protect those brought to the U.S. illegally will not have a hearing this week for his possible release.

Seattlepi.com reports that attorneys for 23-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina have declined the hearing because it would have taken place in immigration court.

His attorneys argue that Ramirez’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program status means his case belongs in federal court and not immigration court.

The next hearing is set for federal court March 8, when the judge will hear arguments on whether the case belongs in that court.

Ramirez has challenged his detention after he was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents Feb. 10 in a raid of his father’s home where Ramirez was sleeping.

4.2 earthquake rattles Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula

SKOKOMISH, Wash. (AP) — A magnitude 4.2 earthquake struck western Washington near the Hood Canal.

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network reported the temblor hit at 8:59 p.m. about 34 miles west southwest of Seattle and about 9 miles west of Belfair.

The Mason County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter Wednesday night that some alarm systems went off but there were no reports of slides or other damage.

Washington Emergency Management tweeted that people in a wide area felt the quake.

Washington lawmakers seek help for tiny home market

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state lawmakers are considering legislation to help the tiny home market.

The Olympian reports that Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat, has sponsored a bill that lets cities and counties reduce room-size requirements so tiny house builders can create smaller homes without violating building codes.

Blake says he wants to encourage flexibility. He says not everyone wants a 5,000-squoare-foot home.

Martin Hammer, a San Francisco-area architect, says many small houses don’t comply with state codes, but in most cases they are built and used safely under the radar of code enforcers.

Blake’s bill would give tiny house owners some relief in communities that choose to reduce minimum room sizes, until new tiny house-friendly building codes begin to take effect in 2019.