The issue of how to ease traffic congestion over the Columbia River remains alive, but a bill to tackle the topic this legislative session has died.
On Wednesday, a key deadline narrowed the number of measures being considered in the state Legislature, and barring any procedural maneuvers, House Bill 2414 didn’t make the cut. The measure would have created a coalition of lawmakers from both Oregon and Washington to discuss the possibility of a new bridge over the river.
“I think it was an opportunity for all of us to get together and start thinking about the process,” said Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, of the legislation.
In future sessions, Moeller said, there will be different players. Moeller is running for lieutenant governor and will no longer be in the statehouse. Longtime Republican Sen. Don Benton, of Vancouver, a vocal opponent of the defunct Columbia River Crossing, has announced he won’t seek re-election.
“The faces are changing, and that will probably be good,” Moeller said.
Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, a co-sponsor of the measure, said she thought the bill reminded people “how important the issue is and how strongly people feel on both sides of it.”
“I think that’s important, and there could have been some shift in positions, more people willing to talk,” Wylie said.
‘An intense session’
Southwest Washington lawmakers said they will continue to work on their legislative priorities, including tackling affordable housing problems and improving oil-train safety regulations, with the time they have left this session.
Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, played a key role in the Senate’s approval of a framework to solve the state’s public school system funding crisis.
Rivers said she was disappointed the measure wasn’t more comprehensive, but its passage showed “the willingness of legislators to stay at the table and work to a successful result.”
Benton championed a measure to help veterans receive supplemental health insurance for their families, which sailed through the Senate.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, was crucial in ensuring the passage of a Senate measure allowing local governments to create a property tax exemption for landlords focusing on affordable housing.
Overall, Cleveland said, “it’s been an intense session.”
“There’s been more contention and a lot more politics,” Cleveland said.
In a move that surprised Democrats, the state Senate rejected Lynn Peterson’s gubernatorial appointment as secretary overseeing the state’s Department of Transportation. Peterson had held the position since 2012. After a heated debate, the state Senate also voted down a measure that would have asked voters whether they wanted a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature before taxes could be increased.
Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn on March 10.