Death Penalty Recommended for Inmate Convicted of Killing Prison Guard

A Washington state judge has sentenced an inmate to death for killing a state corrections officer in a prison chapel two years ago.

Byron Scherf is a convicted rapist who already was serving life in prison when he attacked officer Jayme Biendl and strangled her with an amplifier cord at the Washington State Reformatory in January 2011.

A Snohomish County Superior Court jury took about an hour to convict him of aggravated murder last Thursday, and the same jury this morning recommended the death penalty.

The judge formally imposed the sentence this afternoon.

WA Unemployment Rate Hits Lowest Mark since  2008

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state's unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent in April, the lowest it's been since the end of 2008.

Numbers released today by the state Employment Security Department also show that an estimated 3,800 jobs were added last month. Economists revised job loss numbers for March significantly, from an initial estimated loss of 5,500 down to 1,600 jobs.

More than 243,000 people were unemployed and looking for work last month, including nearly 130,800 who claimed unemployment benefits. A total of 138,997 have exhausted their benefits since extended benefits were activated in July 2008.

State Lawmakers Try to Make it Easier for Citizen Recall Campaigns of Elected Officials

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington lawmakers are looking for ways to make it easier for citizens to recall elected officials.

A state Senate panel held a work session that explored the hurdles people face when they try to pursue a recall campaign. Republican Sen. Pam Roach says she'd like to pursue changes to state law and the Constitution to make the process clearer and less daunting.

Citizen activist Chris Clifford described how he faced financial peril for pursuing a 2009 effort to recall a Port of Seattle commissioner. Clifford went before the state Supreme Court in order to get approval for the recall campaign but then later fell short in his effort to collect enough signatures.

Roach says she'd like to see changes made in special session this year but says it may need to wait until next year.

Oregon Governor Says Time Running Out for New Budget

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. John Kitzhaber says time is running out for lawmakers to decide on a new budget. The governor said today that Legislative leaders have until the end of tomorrow to tell him whether they'll search for a compromise on pensions and taxes. Otherwise, he will press to pass a budget based on existing state resources, which could mean teacher layoffs and higher college tuition.