EYE ON OLYMPIA: Public education funding, dental services on agenda

OLYMPIA — State Rep. Mike Chapman expressed pride this week in his co-sponsorship of House Bill 1414, which would help Native American tribes pursue federal funding for dental care.

The bill, which passed the House 80-18 last Thursday, would allow dental health aide therapists (DHAT) to provide services on tribal reservations where a licensed dentist provides supervision.

Current federal law, said Chapman, a Democrat from Port Angeles, requires state authorization of a DHAT practice for tribes to receive federal funding for dental services needed for tribal members.

This authorization would open the door to federal funding and potentially save the state money, Chapman said, by reducing the reimbursement rates for procedures that DHATs can provide in the place of licensed dentists.

Some tribes already are employing DHATs through tribal and private funding.

According to the state House of Representatives Office of Program Research, the federal Indian Health Service in 2001 established a DHAT program to address the shortage of licensed dentists in remote locations where some Native American communities are located.

A DHAT is certified through a dental health aide program to practice without a dentist’s direct supervision for oral exams, preventative dental services, simple restorations, stainless steel crowns and X-rays. A DHAT can perform extractions and root canal procedures only after consultation with a licensed dentist.

The measure has already received unanimous support in the Senate; the two houses will need a concurrence vote.

Chapman is confident it will get the governor’s signature.

Chapman represents — along with Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim — Legislative District 24, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

Public education funding

The House Education Committee is scheduled to start discussions of public education funding proposals from both parties this week.

The Senate has discussed a Republican proposal for about a week.

House Bill 1059, which would extend by one year the limit — called the “fiscal cliff” — under which school districts have structured their current levies, passed 62-35 on Jan. 23. The Senate is now considering a companion bill.

Districts’ current authority to levy the local portion of total funding expires this year.

Business Bill of Rights

Both Chapman and Tharinger have signed onto a bill which would create a Small Business Bill of Rights in this state.

Chapman will testify this week before the House Government Committee on behalf of this bill, which would ask state agencies that regulate small business to work with the state attorney general and create a document outlining the rights afforded small business owners when they are selected for agency review.

Business owners, Chapman said, “don’t know what their rights are.”

Anticipated taxes

Chapman is also a sponsor of House Bill 1283, which would end the collection of anticipated taxes — some of which counties collect up to two years in advance — when changes are made to properties.

In short, the bill would eliminate the requirement that advance taxes be collected before any document is filed with a county auditor to divide, alter or adjust property boundary lines.

According to bill documents, the state currently has a statutory requirement that an advance tax deposit must be paid if a plat is filed after May 31 and prior to the date that taxes are collected.

The measure has support of county treasurers, Chapman said, because they must track the prepaid taxes for up to two years.

It has received approval from the Finance Committee but has not yet been scheduled for a floor vote.

PUD telecom

Chapman and Tharinger have signed on to co-sponsor a bill that would allow public utility districts, such as those in Jefferson and Clallam counties, to provide telecommunication services.

Van De Wege has signed onto a companion bill in the Senate. That bill, Van De Wege said, has not been heard in the Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee yet.

The Washington Public Utilities District Association supports the legislation, which it says on its website at http://www.wpuda.org/ would help ensure greater access to internet services across the state by providing community-owned, not-for-profit public utility districts with the authority to provide customers with retail services.

Steelhead guide permits

Senate Bill 5302, which would create a pilot program requiring steelhead fishery guides to buy permits, has been reworked with input from people in the Forks community, Van De Wege said.

He expects that bill, of which he is the primary sponsor, will be heard by the Natural Resources and Parks Committee this week.

As currently written, the bill’s pilot program would last until June 2022. It would require any fishing guide working in a pilot area and season to either purchase a tag or work for an outfitter that has a tag allowing participation in that pilot area. The fee for a guide tag would be $500 per year and an outfitter tag would be $2,500 per year.

Guides participating in the pilots would be required to maintain log books that include specified information including: areas worked, hours fished, number of clients and fish caught.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife would analyze the log book data to recommend fishery management proposals to the Legislature.

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Assistant Managing Editor Mark Swanson can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55450, or [email protected].