Eye on Olympia: Tuesday bill deadline looming for legislators

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — All three of the North Olympic Peninsula’s lawmakers in Olympia spent most of last week on the floors of their legislative chambers as dozens of bills were passed out of their chamber of origin.

The deadline for bills to move out of the chamber in which they were introduced is Tuesday.

State Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said as many 60 bills in one day were passed on the Senate floor last week, which meant many a late night for the veteran legislator.

“I think I was there until 9 or 10 Monday night, and was there late Tuesday also,” Hargrove said Friday afternoon.

Hargrove, along with State Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege, both Sequim Democrats, represent the 24th Legislative District, which comprises Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.

Hargrove said at least five of the bills he introduced this session passed the Senate last week.

These included bills that would require the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to prioritize funding for youth suicide prevention programs for schools in high-risk communities, tribal communities and areas with a high percentage of students who speak English as a second language.

This bill passed 49-0 in the Senate on Friday and is slated for a public hearing in the House Committee on Education on Thursday.

Senate drone vote

Hargrove said he expects a bill he introduced, which would regulate how unmanned aerial drones are used for law enforcement purposes, will come up for a full Senate vote today.

“My understanding is that there are more than enough votes for it to pass the Senate,” Hargrove said.

Rep. Tharinger said the House had a similar glut of full floor votes last week, adding that most passed with near unanimous votes.

“I would say 90 percent of the bills had over 90 votes,” Tharinger said.

“I think it points out that the legislative process works out a lot of the kinks so that by the time it gets to the floor there’s pretty good support.”

A bill sponsored by Rep. Van De Wege that would implement ambulance safety rules such as a mandate against fire districts altering ambulance air bag systems, passed with a closer margin of 58-40.

Van De Wege said Friday he thought this was because many House Republicans did not seem to think the bill was necessary.

The bill now will be heard in the Senate.

Van De Wege, a firefighter/paramedic with Clallam County Fire District No. 3, said the state Association of Fire Chiefs has agreed to push for the main points of the bill to be instituted in individual fire districts, even if it doesn’t become law.

“I take them at their word, and I think they’ll do that,” Van De Wege said, adding that he won’t push for the bill in the Senate.

“We don’t need to create laws if there’s agreement.”

Transportation package

Hargrove said that a $12.3 billion transportation package released last week doesn’t seem attractive to Senators from urban areas because it doesn’t provide enough money for mass transit.

“If you count on a bunch of votes from the urban areas, that’s going to have to have to be a part of that,” Hargrove said.

The Senate majority coalition, comprising most of the Senate’s Republican contingent and two Democrats, released the proposal.

It has an 11-cent gas tax increase as a main funding mechanism.

The package also seeks to redirect sales-tax money from transportation projects to a transportation fund rather than the state’s general fund.

Senate majority coalition leaders said that 13 of the coalition’s 26 members have said they would vote for the proposal.

Tharinger said he had not scrutinized the Senate’s transportation package and that he did not intend to until a measure comes to the House.

“They’ve got to vote on something and bring it over [to the House], at least that’s my view,” Tharinger said.

Van De Wege echoed his colleague.

“When they reach 25 votes, I’ll definitely look more closely at that,” Van De Wege said.

“Until they have that, I’m not wasting too much energy on it.”

The state House passed a transportation package last year that would raise the gas tax by 10.5 cents over the next two years. It lost in the Senate.

Both Van De Wege and Tharinger supported the House’s transportation package last year.

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

Last modified: February 16. 2014 7:42PM
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