Health Care, The Economy, Boeing

Health Care

It was no surprise that the mental-health insurance parity bill was approved by the state Senate on March 2 by a margin of 40-9. What was surprising was that so many Republicans—14—voted in favor of the bill, which now moves to Gov. Christine Gregoire to be signed into law. Such a bipartisan majority in the Senate augurs well for the law, which business groups and some insurance companies stridently opposed. Now their chances of having the Legislature make changes in the future will likely fall on deaf ears. Among the Republican state senators who voted in favor of the bill were Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee and Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, who was instrumental in killing the bill during the 2004 legislative session. Looks like they finally saw the light. PHILIP DAWDY

The Economy

The state reported last week that Washington's jobless rate declined in January to 5.5 percent, showing signs of a turnaround four years after we were kneed in the economic groin by the dot-com bust. Where are the new jobs? Conservatives might have every reason to be alarmed at a trend reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Washington has 40,000 more public-sector jobs than four years ago. How could that be, in a time of Tim Eyman, budget cuts, and trimmed sails? Are stealthy government make-work programs bailing us out of the employment slump? Hardly. Turns out government jobs have increased by only a modest 2.3 percent total over the past four years. But during that time, the state also reclassified anyone who works for an Indian tribe as a public employee, according to a spokesperson for the state's Employment Security Department. That accounting move shifted 15,000 jobs from the private to public sector. In other words, we're not talking about a boom in bureaucrats, just the fact that your friendly local blackjack dealer—just like your mail carrier—is now officially performing a public service. KNUTE BERGER

Boeing

In a move that suggests that Boeing has gone from one ethical extreme to another, the scandalized aerospace giant this week fired Chief Executive Officer Harry Stonecipher for having an office affair. The personal transgression breeched a corporate code of conduct the CEO was brought aboard to enforce and comes 15 months after the forced resignation of CEO Phil Condit, whose seven-year reign was plagued by ethical lapses in dealings with Pentagon contracts. In effect, Condit was fired while making war; Stonecipher was ousted for making love. James Bell, 56, Boeing's chief financial officer, was appointed interim president and CEO. Board of Directors Chair Lew Platt spoke obliquely about why a company with so many critical ethics problems felt its ranking executive deserved to be sacked for an office dalliance. "We saw things surrounding the relationship that we thought were potentially embarrassing," he told reporters. Ironically, the scandals that helped drag down Condit might also have nailed Stonecipher. Stonecipher and others may have raised the ethical bar so high that a once-minor transgression has been elevated to felonylike status. As Platt put it in an interview with CNBC: "It's a new time in American business where everyone is held to a pretty high standard." RICK ANDERSON

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