Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature is moving at a very quick pace since we are in our abbreviated 60-day session. As you recall, last year we passed a two-year state operating budget, which alleviates a lot of the contentiousness this year that we experienced in 2013. From everything I am hearing, I do not anticipate the majority party in the House or Senate will pursue a $10 billion or higher state gas tax package. I hope this is the case and that it is because legislators are listening to the will of their voters — not just for political reasons.
I have been very busy meeting with constituents who traveled to the state Capitol, attending the myriad of committee meetings on my calendar, and working with committee chairs to hear the bills I have introduced.
I am very pleased that several of my bills are on the calendar for public hearings and thrilled that two of my prime-sponsored measures have passed from their committees. Below is an update on each of these measures. Be sure to click on the links to get more information about each bill. Call my office in Olympia if you have further questions on these: (360) 786-7812.
Pike bills that have passed their committees
- House Bill 2296 would address duplicate signatures on petitions in cities, towns and code cities. Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey and a representative from the Washington Secretary of State's office testified in favor of this very good bill that would clean up an unconstitutional component of local petition signature rules and put it in line with state law. With this bill, all duplicate signatures would be counted once. This measure passed out of the House Local Government Committee last week with a unanimous vote!
- House Bill 2297 would change public facilities to include roadway, traffic and way-finding signage. This request legislation by our Cowlitz County Commissioners would assist our distressed counties by improving roadway signage, and thus increasing economic vitality to tourism areas. The measure also passed out of the House Local Government Committee and is awaiting action on the House floor.
Pike bills that have had hearings and await committee action
It has been a busy week with public hearings already taking place on these two bills:
- House Bill 2298 would change the definition of capital projects to include technology infrastructure. This would allows cities and counties to use capital project money to pay for necessary security and technology attributes in their new police and fire stations. This bipartisan bill is also at the request of Cowlitz County Commissioners. A public hearing was held yesterday in the House Local Government Committee. The committee is scheduled to take action on the bill tomorrow or Thursday.
- House Bill 2299 would permit local governments to opt-out of prevailing wage requirements on projects valued at less than $5 million. The opt-out would need a majority vote of the local government's elected councils or commissions. Various labor groups have voiced their opposition to the measure. A hearing was held today on this measure in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee.
Pike bills scheduled for public hearings
Public hearings are on the calendar for my following three bills. If you are interested in seeing any of these bills become law, I encourage you to testify at the noted committee meetings this week.
- Wednesday, Jan. 29, 1:30 p.m. – House Environment Committee
House Bill 2294 would increase highway littering penalties from $50 to $125 by changing littering from a Class 3 infraction to a Class 2 infraction. By stiffening penalties on highway littering, it is my hope this bipartisan bill would help keep our roadways litter free.
- Friday, Jan. 31, 8 a.m. – House Government Operations and Elections Committee
House Bill 2293 is one of my top priority bills this session. It is a small step in the right direction of providing some legislative review over state agency rulemaking that often goes too far. It would add duties to the Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee (JARRC) to review any new agency rule when one of any of three triggers happen: At request of at least 15 legislators; At request of cities representing 50,000 residents; Or if there would be a $10 million statewide impact. I started working on this bill at the request of the Clark County Economic Development Council, Clark County Realtors, Greater Vancouver Chamber and the Clark County Building Industry Association.
- Friday, Jan. 31, 1:30 p.m. – House Labor and Workforce Development Committee
House Bill 2295 is my “personal responsibility in the workplace” bill. It would limit industrial insurance benefits for injuries caused by use of intoxicating liquor or drugs in the workplace. Too often, workers don't take responsibility for their illegal behavior. Then they expect their employers to pay for their time loss benefits, when in fact it was their intoxication or drug use in the workplace that caused the accident in the first place. There are exemptions in the bill to protect workers. I expect there may be opposition to this measure by some labor groups.
If there is one thing I learned from last year, it is the need to be ready to introduce legislation within the first few days of a new session. For this reason, I worked on these bills over the summer and fall so that I could be ready to introduce them quickly during the start of the 2014 session. Most of my bills have garnered bipartisan support, which hopefully will allow them to move forward. The citizens in the 18th District are my boss and I take this job of representing them very seriously. This is why I am working so hard to be responsive to my constituents and represent their views with every vote I take. '
- House Bill 2414 would reduce the amount of water (or gallons per flush) on all new toilets sold in Washington. Current statute is 1.6 gallons per flush. This new bill would reduce that to 1.28 gallons per flush. It's one thing to want to conserve water, but the technology of toilets must exist in order to achieve this new standard. What good does it do to have efficient 1.28 gallon flush toilets if you have to flush the toilet two or three times to get the job done? If this bill passes, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.
- House Bill 2246 would create a new program to pay for the end-of-life costs (disposal) on light bulbs containing mercury. It's basically a new fee/tax added onto the cost of these light bulbs with the money going to the Department of Ecology to implement a new program. We don't need a state agency to perform this task.
- House Bill 2347 would give the Department of Ecology broad new rulemaking authority over vessels carrying oil in our state's waters instead of allowing elected legislators to address this emerging issue. Many stakeholders who testified complained about being totally left out of the process in crafting the bill, including tug boat operators, our freight rail partners and shippers.
- House Bill 2401 would mandate that all new fire sprinkler alarms sold in our state to have a 10-year battery life feature. This would prove very costly to the owners of multi-family housing units who just last year were required to include fire and carbon monoxide model alarms in each new system.
There were a number of other less than good measures introduced last week. These are just the ones that stood out as the worst. I will keep my eye on these and other bad bills that would create more government bureaucracy, raise taxes and fees and would be generally bad for residents and businesses in Washington.
On a more positive note, I supported several good bills this week. House Bill 1902 is one such good bill that allows residents who own a trailer to purchase an “intermittent-use” trailer license plate costing $187.50 over the life of the trailer under one ownership. This would allow a trailer owner to buy a one-time license instead of having to pay $30 for an annual renewal.
As always, I welcome your comments. It's an honor to represent and serve the citizens in the 18th District.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"