Eye on Olympia: Legislators make last push on drones, pot, toxics bills

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA –– As bill season closes for the 2014 Legislature, the North Olympic Peninsula’s contingent of lawmakers spent the past week trying to finish off bills to regulate marijuana, government drone usage and cancer-causing chemicals in children’s furniture.

And representatives of the 24th District have been doing it all with an extra $30 a day.

Regulating drones

“It’s an area of new technology that I think should have some regulation on it,” Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said of bill to restrict drone usage.

Hargrove’s bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants from judges before deploying drones to collect information in criminal cases.

He said it appears his bill will get through both houses of this legislature, though he noted there has been some resistance from moderates in both parties “who think the government can’t get anything wrong.”

The deadline to get policy bills through each house was Friday. Tuesday is the deadline for bills that require funding.

In the House, the “toxics” bill proposed by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, to ban certain carcinogenic flame retardants from child products and upholstered furniture appears to be hung up in the Senate, having passed the House on a 72-25 count.

Van De Wege worried Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, chairman of the energy, environmental and telecommunications committee, has blocked the bill because he objects to having the state Department of Ecology enforce the law to ban the sale, manufacturing and distribution of furniture with the Tris flame retardant.

“I think his problem with it, probably, is giving that much control to Ecology,” Van De Wege said.

Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, meanwhile, focused his work Friday on shoring up regulations on the state’s new recreational marijuana industry in the House Finance Committee.

“This is very much a work in progress,” Tharinger said. “Bills are being formed in the house, bills are being formed in the Senate, and then we’re going to have some work to do to put them together.”

Bills to clarify taxation on medicinal marijuana and whether an account should be setup to share new recreational taxes with local jurisdictions will be sent to the Senate by Tuesday, he said.

Tharinger and Van De Wege also voted with the majority of the House in passing legislation that would require Washington insurers offering maternity care to also cover elective abortions on a 55-44 count Wednesday.

“I voted for it, as Steve did, last year,” Van De Wege said.

“It simply says plans need to cover abortion issues, as most plans do.”

The house passed the same bill last year, but it died in the conservative Senate.

“I don’t know what’ll happen this year,” Tharinger said.

The Seattle Times reported Thursday that members of the House have been receiving an extra $30 a day for their daily stipend since the start of the year.

Deputy Chief Clerk Bernard Dean told the Times an increase from $90 a day to $120 a day effective retroactively to Jan. 1 was approved last month.

“I’m sure we’ll make it up in taxes,” Tharinger said.

The per diem, usable for expenses incurred while lawmakers are at the Capitol, has been $90 since 2009, when it was cut from the $100 representatives received in 2007 and 2008.

“Certainly it’s nice to have,” Van De Wege said. “I don’t know what happened in the Senate.”

“Our clerk didn’t approve it,” Hargrove said.

“I hope Kevin and Steve can put it to good use.”

Legislators are paid $42,106 a year.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 09. 2014 6:37PM
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