Thumbs up to putting computers in the hands that need them

September 23, 2013 

Thanks for the memory -- drive

To Fluor Federal Services for making its surplus computers available to worthy causes in the Mid-Columbia as it reduces staff at its Richland office.

Over the years, Fluor has donated used computers to Tri-City organizations that help seniors, veterans, students and others.

One of the most recent beneficiaries was the Military Retiree Activities Office and Veterans' Service Center in the Federal Building in Richland.

"The donation is particularly timely," said Jim Kion, the director of the center and a Navy retiree.

The office relies on donations for equipment and furnishings, but its only computer died. It was temporarily making do with a short-term loaner.

Volunteers need to be able to look up benefit information on a computer and help veterans seeking help fill out the required online forms.

The latest donations were made after Fluor announced this summer that it would shrink its Richland office from about 200 employees to 15 or 20. The company employed about 3,500 workers in the Mid-Columbia when it was a prime contractor for the Department of Energy at Hanford.

Other Fluor computers have been donated to the Richland Senior Center, the Safe Harbor Crisis Nursery, the Washington State STEM Education Foundation, the Washington State Migrant Council, the Quest Youth Center, Columbia Basin College, Delta High School, the Skills Development Mission, the Benton-Franklin Community Action Committee and the Children's Developmental Center.

The lives of thousands of Mid-Columbians are improved as a result.

Outdated privilege

To a state law that exempts legislators from speeding tickets if they're heading to work.

A spokesman for WSP told the Associated Press that Washington lawmakers are constitutionally protected from receiving noncriminal traffic tickets during a legislative session, as well as 15 days before.

Article II, Section 16 of the state constitution says lawmakers "shall be privileged from arrest in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace" while the Legislature meets.

The privilege not only applies to moving violations near the state Capitol in Olympia, but potentially anywhere in the state, said State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins.

The logic? Detaining lawmakers on the road may delay them from getting to the Capitol to vote, Calkins said.

Hugh Spitzer, a Seattle lawyer who teaches state constitutional law at the University of Washington, said although protecting legislators from traffic tickets seems "pretty weird," there's a historical reason for the constitution's privilege from arrest provisions, the AP reported.

The Stewart kings in 17th-century England were known for arresting political opponents and keeping them from reaching Parliament to vote, Spitzer said. The authors of the Declaration of Independence had similar complaints about King George III interfering with their regular legislative meetings, he said.

But King George and the Stewart kings haven't caused much trouble around Olympia lately. The protection from traffic tickets looks more like a special privilege than a safeguard against rogue royals.

It ought to be abandoned, at least until lawmakers can demonstrate a plausible rationale for the practice.

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