Eye on Olympia: 24th District legislators look forward to shorter session starting today

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — North Olympic Peninsula legislators are looking forward to spending less time in Olympia than they did in 2013 as the 2014 session of the state Legislature opens today.

The 24th Legislative District’s three voices in the state capitol are gearing up for a session they all hope will be considerably shorter than last year’s.

“The atmosphere in Olympia is to go in there and get done and move on,” said House Majority Whip Kevin Van De Wege, a Democrat from Sequim.

“We spent too much time in there last year.”

The 2013 marathon had a regular session from January to April and two special sessions that extended into June, called to pass a 2013-2015 biennium state budget.

The 2014 session is slated to run from today to March 13.

“It will be a busy two months and not a long four months,” said State Rep. Steve Tharinger, also a Sequim Democrat, who has been newly appointed this year to the House General Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Jim Hargrove, the ranking Democrat on the budget-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee, expects work to begin in earnest, with committees likely starting to hear bills this week.

“I think everyone’s No. 1 priority is to be done on time, after last year spending six months over there,” said Hargrove, a Democrat from Hoquiam.

The 24th Legislative District is composed of Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.

Tharinger said he expects to keep busy in the next week or so learning the ins and outs of the House General Appropriations Committee, the main budget writing committee for the House.

It will address the 2014 supplemental budget, expected to be taken up by both chambers in the capitol this session.

The supplemental budget probably will not take the form of a full budget document, Tharinger said, but have relatively small changes to reflect variations in revenue and expenditures not accounted for in the larger 2013-2015 biennium budget.

“So all that has to work through, on the House side, the Appropriations Committee,” he said.

Tharinger will retain his vice chair position on the House Finance Committee and still serve on the House committees focusing on bills dealing the environment and health care and wellness.

Tharinger sits on the health care and wellness committee with Van De Wege.

Van De Wege will remain on the House Rules Committee and those addressing agriculture and natural resources and government operations and elections.

He plans to continue to push for a bill he introduced last year that would ban the sale and manufacture of certain toxic flame retardants in children’s clothes and home furnishings.

Though it stalled in Senate committee last year, Van De Wege said the work to educate both constituents and legislators he and members of the grass-roots Washington Toxics Coalition have done since then will give the bill a fighting chance this session.

Van De Wege and coalition executive director Laurie Valeriano spoke to a group of Port Townsend residents about the bill in December.

“I concentrated on my district. I know the toxics coalition did a lot of other outreach to legislators and to the public,” Van De Wege said.

Hargrove will keep seats on the Senate committees hearing bills concerning Human Services and Corrections and Natural Resources and Parks.

Hargrove said he plans to introduce legislation that would augment U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental Design, or LEED, standards for the state to include the amount of energy it takes to produce a specific type of building material used in buildings.

Currently, LEED standards take into account only the amount of energy a building uses once its been built, Hargrove explained.

“We’re working on the draft [bill] right now,” Hargrove said. “We’re gathering information.”

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

Last modified: January 12. 2014 7:42PM
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