Tolling bill survives 2nd cutoff deadline

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor



A bill to let the state’s transportation commission create tolls for a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River is alive and well after the Tuesday bill cutoff deadline in Olympia. Legislation to prevent government contracting abuses advanced to the next step, too.

Tuesday marked the final day that proposals were heard in fiscal or transportation committees in their house of origin.

One of the surviving bills is House Bill 2676, which would give the Washington State Transportation Commission the authority to make tolling decisions for the Columbia River Crossing. Companion legislation already passed out of committee in the Senate.

Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, added an amendment to the House bill that would forbid tolling on Interstate 205.

During a Monday hearing on the bill, state transportation officials said they do not plan to toll I-205 because they don’t expect a large number of drivers to divert to I-205 to avoid tolls. They also said they need state permission to toll the Columbia River Crossing in order to have a better chance at scoring federal funding for the project.

Rivers, who voted in support of the legislation, said she still has doubts about the project.

“My yes vote should not be construed in any way as supporting tolls or in favor of the project as it stands today,” she said.

Also surviving is House Bill 2452, which would set better guidelines that all state agencies must follow when choosing a government contract. The bill was proposed in the House by Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver. It also would create a website to make it easier for small businesses to bid on contracts and submit paperwork to the state.

A companion bill sponsored by Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, is alive in the Senate.

An amendment was added to the House bill to create a policy against contracting with companies that are deemed to use sweatshop labor. Another amendment would establish a policy for state agencies to be more inclusive of small businesses, especially those run by women and minority groups. The amendments were added to the bill, but they drew criticism from Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee.

“This bill has become so full of new hanging branches,” said Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, that it’s “going to fall over.”

Bills making the cut on Tuesday still must pass the house of origin, then go through the whole process again in the second chamber.

A bill to create a tax holiday for back-to-school shopping has died. House Bill 2644 was proposed by Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, who said it would have drawn in more shoppers.

River’s House Bill 2281, to require the government to include audits of state agencies in the budgeting process, has died. The bill would have required the governor to review all audits of state agencies and include a progress report of those agencies in budget documents.

The Senate and House Ways and Means committees worked late into the evening, so the fate of some bills in those committees remained unknown as of The Columbian’s press time.

The cutoff for bills in other committees was Friday. During that cutoff date, many pieces of legislation died, including a bill to ban plastic bags in the state and one to make English the official state language.

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.