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May 25, 2022

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What bills are local lawmakers backing?

State legislators Benton, Moeller, Stonier each have several proposals

The Columbian

OLYMPIA — Here is a look at some of the bills being proposed by some Southwest Washington lawmakers.

Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver

• House Bill 1001: This bill would give the Liquor Control Board authority to permit theaters, including the Kiggins in Vancouver and the Liberty in Camas, to serve alcohol with children present. The bill applies to performing arts and concert halls as well as theaters under the current language, though the Liquor Control Board has expressed a desire to more strictly define what a theater is.

Small or one-auditorium theaters cannot serve alcohol as Cinetopia or McMenamins do because they do not offer food service, nor do they have separate 21-and-older auditoriums.

Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, said the liquor control commission has gone down to Oregon and looked at the McMenamins pubs to gather information. “I think we have a stronger bill” he said. “I haven’t had any organized opposition to it.”

Many small theaters have reached out to Moeller in support of this bill. “They see the bill as an opportunity to have a more functional business plan” he said.

• House Bill 1002: This bill has been pulled from the floor. It would have put a yellow dot on vehicles signifying that the individual in the car had a mental disease such as autism or schizophrenia. According to Moeller, he has had opposition from first responders who said it is unlikely to be of genuine help to them. Moeller is now working with first responders to come up with a new bill that would be more helpful for first responders.

• House Bill 1003: This bill is intended to clear up discrepancies between the Department of Health and the Department of Social and Health Services. Under current law, an individual who is under investigation for abuse by the DSHS maintains their license and may continue to work.

The Department of Health licenses adult caregivers, but DSHS conducts investigations of them in cases of abuse or misconduct.

“DSHS can put you on a list, but that doesn’t mean your license is suspended” Moeller said. This bill would make a DSHS investigation suspend a caregiver’s license, pending due process.

This bill was proposed after the reported abuse of Midred Newman by her assisted caregiver Susan Meade, whose license was not suspended for two and a half years after the first reported incident in 2009.

• House Bill 1004: This bill would allow individuals who are behind on their property taxes to make monthly payments.

This bill is intended to benefit lower income or fixed income individuals who may be behind on their taxes.

Moeller said: “It is another [payment] tool, and not mandatory. … Smaller counties don’t have to participate if they don’t want to, if it doesn’t make economic sense for them” he said. The decision will be made by the county as to whether to enact this type of payment plan, should the bill pass.

• House Bill 1005: This bill would require lobbyists to file records of their spending online, and mandate a small fee to be paid by lobbyists. The fee is intended to be used for upkeep for the online site where the information will be made available. The bill is intended to create a more transparent government and allow the public to more easily access records of spending.

Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver

• House Bill 1251: This bill is intended to increase the number of individuals on the opportunity scholarship board to nine. The board is responsible for allocating funds related to scholarships, and enacting legislation related to scholarships. The change is intended to include more people from the business community who have a stake in the education system.

• House Bill 1252: The bill would establish an online resource forum that is intended to give teachers and principals a tool to improve education techniques. The bill itself states, “forums for discussion should be harnessed so that all teachers and principals in all districts within the state have free, open access to high-quality, robust, and relevant professional development.”

Stonier called this bill “an effort to make professional development for teachers more accessible and diverse.”

“Teachers can do it in their own time, when they find it most useful” Stonier said.

The bill would assist with the new teacher evaluation system established by the Legislature. “The Legislature didn’t fund training; teachers have no way of knowing how they will be evaluated” Stonier said. This bill is intended to be a low-cost way to get information to teachers, ranging from teaching practices to evaluation expectations.

Upcoming bills:

Stonier intends to propose a bill that helps students to better understand their options related to graduation requirements.

“If we can give students a stronger frame for choosing their classes and credits … it will be clearer what classes they should be taking,” she said.

The changes are intended to allow students in the skills center to focus on the job they want after they graduate.

Stonier is also contemplating a bill that would make it easier for small businesses to offer internships to give teens job experience needed to be competitive in the workplace.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver

• Senate Bill 5090: This bill would prevent the Legislature from proposing a Columbia River Crossing bridge plan that included light rail. This bill is cosponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center. The language of the bill calls the addition of light rail to the CRC “unacceptable.” The bill cites Coast Guard protests that the bridge will “inhibit the free movement of maritime freight,” as well as costs to taxpayers and the rejection of Clark County Proposition 1 as reasons to suspend light rail. Proposition 1, intended to fund maintenance and operations costs for light rail, was voted down in November.

• Senate Bill 5093: This bill is aimed at counties or cities that intend to add a vehicle fee to their area. Currently, a city council can add a $20 per car vehicle fee. The money collected from that fee can be allocated however the council sees fit. With the passage of this bill, “the funds could only be spent on roads and highways” Benton said.

• Senate Bill 5143: This bill would allow individuals older than 18 to legally ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. Benton said he had been approached by several motorcycle groups on this issue.

• Senate Bill 5013: In cases of annexation, this bill would require that the voters in the area must approve to be annexed by a majority vote. Benton introduced this bill in response to concerns from citizens of Brush Prairie about being annexed into the city of Battle Ground without their permission.

• Senate Joint Resolution 8200: This is a constitutional amendment, and would require that any tax increase be approved by a two-thirds majority in the Legislature or a majority vote by the people.

“That’s based on the premise that [Initiative] 1185 passed overwhelmingly in a majority of the districts” said Benton. “We shouldn’t make constituents repeatedly ask for this and not give it to them” he said. “I just think it’s wrong to keep ignoring the people we are supposed to be representing.”

The two-thirds tax requirement has been passed by Washington voters four times since 1992, according to the Associated Press. The initiative passed with 71.3 percent in Clark County in 2012.

Upcoming bills:

Benton intends to shortly introduce two new bills to the Legislature.

One will allow members of SWAT teams to carry flash or stun grenades as long as they are in a locked box in the trunk of their vehicle. Currently, trained SWAT officers cannot store flash weapons outside the SWAT van.

The other bill modifies election campaign hiring rules to allow experienced, retired individuals to return to work for 60 days without losing their retirement payments. This bill is intended to facilitate a “smooth elections processes for citizens” said Benton.

Both bills were intended to be submitted by Wednesday.

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