Local lawmakers have proposed slew of bills
Friday is cutoff deadline for them to move on
Sunday, February 17, 2013
OLYMPIA — Here is a look at some of the bills being proposed by Southwest Washington lawmakers.
Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center
• Senate Bill 5099: This bill concerns a part of Initiative 937 that mandates that all public vehicles owned by the state switch to electricity or biofuels by 2015. The bill would remove the requirement for the switch.
“This bill is a huge priority to me” said Rivers, who added that the problem lies in the lack of technology available to make such a switch practical. The public fleet includes ambulances, fire trucks and dump trucks. “The technology does not exist because of the high energy demands of emergency vehicles,” she said. Rivers mentioned that the single ambulance she knew of that ran on condensed natural gas actually ran out of fuel on its way back to the hospital. “We’ve created a bar that they can in no way reach,” she said. “We need technology to catch up to our ideas.”
• Senate Bill 5325: This bill would reclassify Clark County as a rural county, which would make it eligible for a 0.09 percent return on taxes from the state. The return amount is between $4 million and $7 million. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver. Rivers said the point of getting the money back to Clark County would be to help create jobs and infrastructure.
“In these tough times, when the state’s looking to save every penny, it’s hard for them to give up the money, even though it’s going to be used for economic development,” she said.
The bill has a companion in the House, HB 1553, sponsored by nearly every Clark County representative.
• Senate Bill 5529: This bill would create a statewide sales tax holiday in the second weekend of August. Rivers said this would encourage back-to-school shopping and help businesses in border counties compete with sales-tax-free Oregon.
• Parity for State Troopers: Rivers said she is considering a bill to improve pay for state troopers. According to Rivers, state troopers are the second-worst paid officials in the state. Rivers said that many troopers go through training, stay for about a year, and then leave for better-paying, similar jobs.
“It’s a real problem for the agency because they’re finding it harder to find good recruits, and to have so many people leave,” Rivers said. “Their fund has been raided to the tune of some $60 million.”
Rivers’ bill will be submitted sometime next week. Because it’s a bill tied to figuring out the budget, it would be exempt from the bill cutoff deadline on Friday.
Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver
• House Bill 1824: This bill would reduce the penalty for online Internet gambling. Conviction of online gambling in Washington results in a Class C felony, but Harris’ bill would reduce the penalty to an unlawful Class 3 civil infraction.
“It’s like a parking ticket, a $50 fine,” Harris said. “We are the only state in the U.S. that has a felony for someone going online and participating in that.”
Harris said he hopes the state could consider legalizing online poker in the future and creating some state revenue off of it.
“If some guy gets caught for playing online poker and he has a class C felony, that’s just absurd,” Harris said. “That puts him in the same class as arsonists or sexual deviants, a bunch of people he shouldn’t be around with.”
• House Bill 1565: This bill would mandate any fines paid by individuals committing Medicaid fraud be deposited into an account that would pay for the prescription-monitoring program.
The program’s purpose is to improve patient care and stop prescription drug misuse by collecting all the records for Schedule II, III, IV, and V drugs, according to the Washington State Department of Health’s website. “It gives a good funding stream to the prescription-monitoring program, which helps to curtail use of drugs in the state,” Harris said. “Before, it didn’t have a steady stream of funding.”
• House Bill 1182: This bill would allow pharmacists to participate in prescribing drugs involved in the drug legend act, when permitted by the Board of Pharmacy. Legend drugs are any drugs that are required by state law or regulation of the state board of pharmacy to be dispensed on prescription only or that are restricted to use by practitioners only, according to the Legislature’s website. “It’s a minor fix,” Harris said. “We get up here and create laws, and we spend about 30 or 40 percent of our time going back and fixing small things like this.”
“Most of my bills are little, tiny fixes,” Harris said.
Harris said he does not intend to propose any more legislation before the cutoff because the “chances of it getting through a committee are pretty remote.” However, he said that if his gambling bill passes, he might consider introducing a law concerning the legality of online poker. “It’d be a lot of work, getting the tribes and private enterprise involved,” he concluded. If the bill contained a new source of revenue for the state, it would not be subject to the cutoff date.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver
• Senate Bill 5435: This bill would create a pilot project for Clark County to explore different ways of meeting current stormwater regulations. Liz Pike, R-Camas, sponsored the companion bill, House Bill 1237.
“In Clark County, we have challenges and barriers, one of them being our stormwater regulations,” said Cleveland. “We have struggled with compliance.”
The bill would let Clark County try and meet similar environmental regulations through different means. Cleveland hopes it will hope create jobs.
• Senate Bill 5464: This bill would allow dental hygienists to administer local analgesics to patients. Under current law, only a dentist can administer local pain-relief drugs. “This bill represents a collaboration between dentists and hygienists,” Cleveland said, adding that oftentimes a dentist is not readily available to administer the drugs, while a hygienist may be. Cleveland said it “just didn’t make sense” that hygienists were not able to administer pain relief. Cleveland’s bill has a companion in the House, HB 1330, sponsored by Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, and Paul Harris, R-Vancouver.
• Senate Bill 5424: Similar to SB 5464, this bill would allow prescriptions issued by physician’s assistants in other states to be filled in Washington. Cleveland said this bill is aimed straight at Clark County, because it is a border county. “People should be able to go to the doctor in Portland and get their prescription filled at home,” Cleveland said.
• Senate Bill 5740: This bill would allow nonprofit organizations to hold events by third parties on their property without losing their nonprofit status. Cleveland said this bill is aimed specifically at religious organizations. Currently, if a nonprofit religious organization has an event on its property, it cannot make any money, and any profits made have to be returned to the third party. Cleveland said this bill is not currently being enforced, but could jeopardize an organization’s nonprofit status. Cleveland mentioned the annual Sausage Fest that St. Joseph Catholic Church hosts as an example of an event that could jeopardize nonprofit status. “My bill attempts to align current law with current practice,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland does not intend to submit any more bills because of Friday’s cutoff date for legislation to pass out of committees in their house of origin.