Local lawmakers' bills beat deadline

A range of ideas now need just governor's signature to be laws

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

 

Another key deadline hit the Washington Legislature on Friday, prompting a flurry of activity in Olympia this week.

Several bills introduced by Clark County legislators are on their way to Gov. Jay Inslee's desk for final approval. Most bills had to clear the House and Senate by Friday to survive the session.

A partial list of local lawmakers' bills that both chambers passed by Friday's deadline:

• Senate Bill 6419 requires the state to expand access to care for Medicaid patients living in border communities, including Clark County. The bill, introduced by Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, would allow Washington residents in the program to receive care across state borders -- in Oregon, for example.

"In our community, that's pretty important," Cleveland said last month. She added: "Mental health services continue to be a tremendous challenge."

The bill passed the House on Wednesday.

• House Bill 2163, introduced by Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, aims to curb the abuse of over-the-counter cough medicines by minors. The bill bans the sale of nonprescription drugs containing dextromethorphan, or DM, to anyone younger than 18. DM is a common cough suppressant, but prone to abuse, according to Harris. He's called the trend a "public safety issue, particularly for young people," and said youths may buy large amounts of drugs containing the substance to get a high.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously with amendments on Tuesday.

• House Bill 2296 changes a state law that landed a local light rail petition in court last year. The bill, introduced by Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, would allow duplicate signatures on local petitions to be counted once -- just the first signature -- rather than thrown out entirely. The change mirrors a separate law already in effect for state petitions.

The law that Pike's bill changes was successfully challenged in court last year, but the petition aiming to block light rail in Vancouver was ultimately ruled invalid on other grounds.

The bill "protects voters' intentions on the petitions, and it upholds the spirit of the state constitution," Pike said in a released statement. It passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday.

• Senate Bill 5775, introduced by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, allows qualified veterans to have their veteran status designated on their driver's licenses or identicards. The change will make it easier for veterans to verify their service without carrying multiple forms of identification, Benton said.

"We offer special benefits to our veterans to show them our appreciation for their sacrifices," Benton said in a released statement. "This bill will make it easier for them to access those services and benefits."

The bill passed the House on Thursday.

• House Bill 2700, introduced by Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, creates a special breast cancer awareness license plate featuring a pink ribbon. Drivers can get the special plate for a $40 fee, or renew it for $30. Proceeds from the plates go the state Department of Health to fund breast, cervical and colon cancer screening for those who don't have access to screening, according to Stonier's office.

The bill passed the Senate on Friday.

Also passing were a trio of bills introduced by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center.

Senate Bill 6069 aims to add an extra layer of protection for victims of sexual abuse by giving them the right to ask for notification when the offender is released or transferred. Senate Bill 6016 spells out new notification requirements regarding the status of patients enrolled in a health exchange under the Affordable Care Act. And Senate Bill 6007 expands the exemption preventing public utility customer information from being released under the state's public records law. The bill would exempt customers' addresses, phone numbers, electronic contact information, utility usage and billing information from release.

The three bills all cleared the House by unanimous or near-unanimous votes on Wednesday. The proposals are headed to Inslee's desk for final approval.

"All three measures affect real people and their quality of life," Rivers said in a released statement. "Getting to make a positive difference in the lives of my friends, neighbors, and fellow Washingtonians is one of the things that I love about my job as a senator."

The 2014 legislative session is scheduled to end next week.