Local lawmakers' bills advance ahead of cutoff

Proposals address county treasurers sales of beer, over-the-counter meds

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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A flurry of activity in the Washington Legislature this week saw several bills proposed by Clark County lawmakers win approval in their respective chambers.

Local legislators' proposals address everything from technical education and over-the-counter medication to county treasurers and growler sales. A partial rundown of active bills that advanced ahead of a key deadline this week:

• House Bill 2163, introduced by Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, aims to curb the abuse of over-the-counter cough medicines by minors. The proposal would prohibit the sale of non-prescription drugs containing a substance called dextromethorphan, or DM, to anyone younger than 18. DM is a common cough suppressant, but it's prone to abuse by minors who may buy large amounts of drugs containing the substance to get a high, according to Harris.

"This is a public safety issue, particularly for our young people," Harris said in a statement. "Rates of abuse of this substance have increased significantly over the last decade. There are educational resources available to parents, students and the industry to make people more aware of the problem. However, we can reduce the abuse by addressing this issue at the point of sale."

The bill passed the House on Monday.

• House Bill 2540 would direct the state to develop curriculum frameworks for Career and Technical Education courses and require school districts to grant academic credit in science or math for certain CTE courses starting in the 2015-16 school year. The bill, introduced by Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, aims to bring more uniformity to course credit and help students pursuing high-tech careers.

"A student from one district can receive credit in a skills center math class while sitting next to a student in the same class whose district doesn't award the same credit," Stonier said in a released statement. "That's not equal access. That's not equal opportunity."

The bill passed the House on Tuesday.

• House Bill 2371, introduced by Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, would allow grocery stores that sell bottled beer to also sell growlers of beer made by small Northwest breweries.

Vick's bill passed the House on Monday.

• Senate Bill 6114, introduced by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, establishes new practices for county treasurers. The proposal

spells out new education requirements and rules on credit card transactions. It also addresses tax collection and fraud protection.

The bill was prompted by recommendations from the Clark County treasurer's office, according to Benton. It passed the Senate on Monday.

• House Bill 1027, introduced by Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, makes changes to the state's child support system based on input from a work group that studied the issue in recent years. Those changes include a new economic table -- data that helps determine child support payments -- that doesn't differentiate amounts based on children's ages.

The bill pass the House last week.

Two other bills that cleared the Senate last week have already seen action in the House. Senate Bill 6419, introduced by Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, would expand access to Medicaid programs for enrollees living in border communities, including Clark County. The bill would allow patients better access to care in another state when appropriate. Cleveland's proposal received a committee hearing in the House this week.

Another bill introduced by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, would create new protections for victims of sexual abuse. Senate Bill 6069 also was the subject of a public hearing before a House committee this week.

Tuesday marked the deadline for most bills to pass their chamber of origin to stay alive. Legislators logged long hours to approve dozens of bills in the days leading up to that cutoff.

The 2014 legislative session, now past the halfway point, is scheduled to end March 13.