Local lawmakers’ bills are halfway home
Legislation championed by Reps. Rivers, Moeller, Probst now headed to the Senate
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Join state Rep. Jim Moeller for a live chat on his legislative priorities in 2012 and the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington this Friday, Feb. 17 at 11:30 a.m. at www.columbian.com/chat.
Proposals by Southwest Washington lawmakers started to clear the halfway mark last week for passing out of the state Legislature.
State Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, had success with her bill to crack down on perpetrators who hurt police dogs.
The proposal, House Bill 2191, creates a $5,000 penalty for harming a police dog and a $10,000 for killing one. Rivers has said she was inspired to introduce the legislation after hearing about the stabbing death of a Clark County Sheriff’s police dog.
Her proposal also “moves police dogs from the vicious animals classification, preventing frivolous lawsuits from criminals, who have nothing but time in jail to figure out how to get money out of the state,” Rivers said on the House floor.
The bill passed from the House to the Senate on Wednesday by a 98-0 vote.
Bills making it out of their house of origin must go through the whole process again in the second chamber, meaning they usually get another public hearing and committee vote before going to the floor.
A bill by Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, aimed at helping disabled people involved in car accidents passed out of the House by a 74-23 vote. The bill allows drivers with disabilities to put a yellow sticker on their car window alerting emergency responders to check the glove box for helpful information, such as a list of the driver’s medications.
Opposition to the legislation came in part from Rep. Jason Overstreet, R-Blaine, who has experience working as a first responder.
“I appreciate the fact that this is voluntary,” Overstreet said of the proposed Yellow Dot program.
However, first responders are moving so quickly that “we’re probably not going to be looking in the glove compartment,” Overstreet said. “I think it just adds some confusion to the situation.”
Moeller’s House Bill 2558 to provide special liquor licenses to single-screen
movie houses, including Vancouver’s Kiggins Theatre, also passed the House by an 87-10 vote on Thursday.
Another bill sponsored by Moeller, House Bill 2578, would make sure health care professionals who are being investigated for neglect or abuse of a vulnerable adult have their license suspended. Such providers are prohibited from working with vulnerable adults during their investigation but their license remains intact.
A health care provider could get his or her license back if the investigation shows no wrongdoing. The proposal, House Bill 2578, passed out of the House on Thursday with a vote of 97-0.
Rep. Tim Probst’s bill to bring the school financing process into the digital age passed out of the House 97-0 on Thursday. The Vancouver Democrat’s House Bill 2485 would allow schools’ financial paperwork to be sent to county treasurers electronically. County treasurers act as bankers for school districts, overseeing the expenses for their schools.
State Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, and state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, received a hearing for a bill they sponsored that would create stronger spending limits for the state’s general fund. The state currently faces a $1.5 billion budget shortfall.
With the exception of K-12 and higher education funding, Senate Bill 6567 would impose a spending limit similar to the one approved by voters in 1993 through Initiative 601. Benton says the initiative was weakened by lawmakers over the years.
The initiative limited state spending through a formula based on state population and inflation rates during the previous three years. Benton had a similar bill to amend the constitution to include the I-601 spending limits, but that proposal hasn’t gone anywhere so far this session.
Zarelli said the bill would make the state fund education first, but opponents questioned his approach during a hearing on Tuesday.
“We’re concerned about putting a cap on the rest of state government,” said Dan Steele of the Washington Association of School Administrators. “Many of our students are dependent on some of those other areas of government.”
“A hungry child can’t learn,” Steele added. He also said his group supports a different proposal before the Legislature that requires the state to create its education budget before it plans out any other spending.
Senate Bill 6567 remains in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, where it was introduced. The deadline for bills to advance out of their committee of origin has passed, but bills deemed necessary to figuring out the budget don’t have to follow bill cutoff rules.
The Legislature has yet to grapple over any major budget bills. It’s possible lawmakers are waiting to see the next state revenue forecast, which comes out on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 6061 to make Oregonians pay some retail sales tax in Washington and create a sales tax refund program for out-of-state shoppers is still sitting in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, where it was introduced. Two companion bills that would give transportation officials the authority to create tolls for the Interstate 5 Columbia River Crossing project are still alive but hadn’t been called to a vote on the House or Senate floors as of Friday.