Deadline hits most committees, winnowing out the year’s measures

Surviving bills from local lawmakers include those on alcohol in theaters, police dogs, state cellphones

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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By the end of last week, several Southwest Washington lawmakers had to face the reality that some of their bills had died.

Friday was the last day for bills to advance out of the committees in which they were introduced. Proposals left standing after the state legislature’s first cutoff date include a bill by Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, to crack down on automated campaign phone calls, a bill by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, to lighten up on punishments given to high school athletes, and a measure by Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, to create a liquor license for single-screen movie houses.

Although Moeller’s bill made it out of committee, it was opposed by the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention. Seth Dawson, a lobbyist for the organization, said lawmakers should stop any bill that increases the visibility of alcohol in the community.

The bill would send a negative message to children that “alcohol use is a normal part of daily activities,” Dawson said during a hearing on the bill. “Is there no end to this? Please stop this proliferation.”

Kiggins Theatre owner Bill Leigh has said the legislation would help his business compete with multiple-screen theaters, which are allowed to serve alcohol in designated theater rooms.

The Friday cutoff did not apply to bills in fiscal committees; the cutoff for those is next week. Proposals that survive will advance next to the gatekeeper House and Senate Rules committees, where members from both parties will determine which ones make it to floor votes.

Pridemore’s bill to help homeowners associations facing attendance problems because of home foreclosures survived, as did Moeller’s bill to create an alert program for disabled people involved in car accidents; a bill by state Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, to prevent abuses within the state’s government contracting system; and a package of proposals by state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, aimed at growing the economy by improving career training and easing regulations on small businesses.

Also still alive is a bill to require more testing of locks on gun safes given to law enforcement officers for home use. Senate Bill 5697 was prompted by the September 2010 death of former Clark County Sheriff’s deputy Ed Owens’ son, 3, who shot himself after opening a department-issued gun safe. Owens was fired Nov. 29, 2011, after a department investigation found that he tried to blame his stepdaughter, 11, for the accidental death and coerced a false confession from her.

No lawmakers representing Clark County signed onto the gun-safe bill.

State Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, saw her bill to create higher penalties for harming a police dog make it out of committee. House Bill 2191 also would exempt police dogs from vicious-

animal laws, which quarantine dogs after they bite someone.

Rivers also has a proposal affecting the legal process, and the House already advanced it to the Senate. House Bill 2195 adopts the federal Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act, which makes it easier for legal parties outside Washington to obtain discovery information.

State Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, saw the death of his bill that would have suspended most agency rule-making until July 1, or until the economy improves. His bill to eliminate duplications of effort in natural resource management also died.

Orcutt did see some success though with House Bill 1157, which would lengthen the number of years a forest practice permit remains valid. That bill received a public hearing last session, but didn’t go anywhere at that time. It was advanced out of the House Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

Because the state works on a two-year lawmaking cycle, bills from the 2011 session may be carried over into the current session.

A bill sponsored by Wylie that would speed up some college construction projects advanced out of the House Capital Budget Committee. House Bill 2735 would raise the limit for “minor works” projects to $5 million and would allow projects that cost between $5 million and $10 million to skip some pre-design steps.

Pridemore’s bill to make it easier for adopted people to access their birth certificates died, but its companion bill in the House is still alive. His bill to block public records requests for video and audio recordings of closed executive sessions survived. So did a bill to make television political campaign ads more transparent by requiring them to reveal more information about their sponsor.

Benton’s bill to limit the number of state employees with state-funded cellphones survived. So did Benton’s Senate Bill 6172, a proposal to make the state’s rules on business franchises conform to federal law. A bill Benton introduced last session to make English the state’s official language has died.

Two proposals to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores died, too.

For a bill, death doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone forever. Lawmakers can revive dead bills, and they use amendments to graft language from a dead bill onto a bill that’s still alive.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523; http://facebook.com/reportermathieu;http://twitter.com/col_politics;stevie.mathieu@columbian.com.