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End of death penalty, new hockey team among top 2018 stories

December 26, 2018
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FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2008, file photo, the execution chamber at the Washington State Penitentiary is shown with the witness gallery behind glass, at right, in Walla Walla, Wash. Washington state's Supreme Court ruled Oct. 11, 2018, that the death penalty violates its Constitution. The abolishment of the death penalty was voted the state's top news story of 2018 by Associated Press staff and member editors. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — The abolishment of the death penalty was voted the state’s top news story of 2018 by Associated Press staff and member editors.

Other top news items of the past 12 months included the awarding of a new professional hockey franchise for Seattle, the death of Microsoft co-found Paul Allen and the end of a long-running court battle over education funding.

Here are 2018′s Top Washington stories:

1)DEATH PENALTY: In October Washington’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state’s death penalty as arbitrary and racially biased, making Washington the 20th state to do away with capital punishment. Execution was already extremely rare, with five prisoners put to death in recent decades and a governor-imposed moratorium blocking its use since 2014.

2)DROPPING THE PUCK: The National Hockey League announced in December that it was expanding to the Emerald City. The league’s Board of Governors unanimously approved adding Seattle as the NHL’s 32nd franchise, with play set to begin in 2021.The as-yet unnamed franchise will be the city’s first major winter sports team since the NBA’s SuperSonics left town in 2008.

3)STOLEN AIRPLANE: An airline ground agent stole an empty commercial airplane from Sea-Tac International Airport, was chased by military jets and was killed when he crashed into a small island in Puget Sound. The spectacular August theft of a Horizon Airlines plane illustrated what aviation experts have long known: One of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel is airline or airport employees causing mayhem.

4)PAUL ALLEN: Paul G. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates before becoming a billionaire philanthropist, technology investor and owner of the Seattle Seahawks, died in October. The 65-year-old had announced that the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that he was treated for in 2009 had returned. Allen and Gates met while attending a private school in north Seattle. The two friends would later drop out of college to pursue the future they envisioned: A world with a computer in every home.

5)DEMOCRATS WIN 8TH DISTRICT: Kim Schrier in November became the first Democrat to win the sprawling 8th Congressional District that stretches from Seattle’s eastern suburbs to central Washington farm country. Schrier, a 50-year-old pediatrician, beat Republican Dino Rossi, a former state lawmaker who has run for governor and U.S. Senate in past elections.

6)EDUCATION FUNDING: In June the Washington Supreme Court said lawmakers had successfully finalized a long-running case on state funding of basic education. The justices said the high court would no longer retain jurisdiction in the case. The state had been in contempt of court since 2014 for lack of progress on a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling known as the McCleary decision that found that K-12 school funding was inadequate. Subsequently lawmakers funneled billions more dollars into education.

7)PUBLIC RECORDS: Following a public outcry, Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a bill in March that sought to exempt Washington lawmakers from the state’s Public Records Act. The measure would’ve retroactively removed the legislative branch from the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act so lawmakers would be able to shield records sought by a coalition of media groups, led by The Associated Press, who mostly prevailed in a lawsuit. A legislative panel continues to work on the issue and the underlying lawsuit will be decided by the state Supreme Court.

8)NET NEUTRALITY: Washington in March became the first state to set up its own net-neutrality requirements after U.S. regulators repealed Obama-era rules that banned internet providers from blocking content or interfering with online traffic. The new law also requires internet providers to disclose information about their management practices, performance and commercial terms. Violations would be enforceable under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

9)TYLER HILINSKI: In January Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski committed suicide. Police say he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. An autopsy revealed the 21-year-old Hilinski suffered from Stage 1 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the earliest stage of the disease that has been linked to the repeated head trauma common in football and other contact sports. His parents continue to share the story of his suicide as a way to convince sports programs to commit more resources to mental health issues.

10)ORCAS IN PERIL: Over the summer whale researchers kept a close watch on an endangered orca that kept her dead calf afloat in Pacific Northwest waters, a display that struck an emotional chord around the world and highlighted the plight of the declining population that has not seen a successful birth since 2015. The distinctive black-and-white orcas have struggled since they were listed as an endangered species in the U.S. and Canada over a decade ago. They’re not getting enough of the large, fatty Chinook salmon that make up their main diet.

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