EYE ON OLYMPIA: Derelict vessel bill passes state House

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — The state Department of Natural Resources could have a new set of tools to deal with derelict vessels after a bill supported by two North Olympic Peninsula legislators unanimously passed the state House of Representatives last week.

State Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege, both Sequim Democrats, are cosponsoring a bill with 21 other Representatives that would, among other things, raise more money for DNR to deal with derelict vessels throughout the state’s waters and establish a program allowing DNR to purchase obsolete vessels before they become derelict.

“It’s a big bill for our district,” Van De Wege said, “really all of the Washington coast line.”

Tharinger and Van De Wege, along with state Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, represent the 24th Legislative District, which comprises Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.

The vessel turn-in program would be allowed no more than $200,000 per year to assist private boat and ship owners in disposing of their near-derelict vessels before they become an eyesore or a human health hazard, according to the legislative staff report on the bill, HB 1245.

The bill also would make permanent a $1 derelict vessel removal surcharge, set to expire in 2014, tacked onto the fee for registering a vessel in the state.

In other House news, Tharinger’s bill maintaining tax credits for companies that buy and burn wood waste known as hog fuel for energy passed unanimously out of the chamber and is on its way to committee discussions in the Senate, with Tharinger cautiously optimistic that the bill will do well.

“[The Senate] is a little bit unpredictable these days, but that we had good support [in the House] would portend that we get good support over there,” Tharinger said.

Two bills, one banning a certain type of toxic flame retardants from use in various children’s products and the other requiring high schools to offer CPR classes, that Van De Wege has been especially championing this year also made it out of the House after a flurry of votes last week.

The flame retardants bill passed on a relatively close 53-44 vote, which Van De Wege said he expected, while the CPR bill passed 83-14, encountering resistance Van De Wege said he did not predict.

“I was a little surprised people voted against it,” Van De Wege said. “But there’s a really conservative group of folks [in the House] that vote against anything like this.”

In the Senate last week, Sen. Hargrove’s education bill that would make a number of targeted changes to the state’s education system passed unanimously with most of its key parts kept intact, Hargrove said.

The proposed legislation would, among other things, change the state teacher salary system so that a teacher’s salary is tied to the teacher’s ability to positively affect student learning rather than the current salary method, which is based on years of service and academic degree achievement.

Hargrove said this bill is meant to help take the additional state funds the State Supreme Court has ruled the Legislature must use to improve basic education and make specific changes rather than continuing to fund the same, unaltered programs.

“It fits pretty well with the theme we’re all working on down here, which is [asking] not only how are we funding education, but is that funding delivering the outcomes we want,” Hargrove said.

When asked about the bill’s chances in the House, Hargrove said the bill’s wide-ranging nature should give the opportunity for representatives to add meaningful amendments to it, which Hargrove said will improve its chances of passage.

Also passing the State Senate unanimously last week was a Hargrove-sponsored memorial bill that would rename the roughly 1.5-mile stretch of state Highway 117 between Marine Drive and U.S. Highway 101 in Port Angeles the POW/MIA Memorial Highway.

Dan Retella, president of the Korean War Veterans Association, and Don Roberts, both veterans and Port Angeles residents, walked into a Senate Transportation Committee meeting last month to testify in favor of the naming and walked out with the support of everyone present for the hearing that day, Hargrove said.

“They got a standing ovation not only from the Transportation Committee, but from everyone in the room,” Hargrove said.

If approved in the state House, state Highway 117 would join four other stretches of state routes in Clallam County named in honor of Korean War, Vietnam War and Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm veterans.

Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 10. 2013 6:22PM
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